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This article is part of a series on the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Discovering the Word of Wisdom.

Last time in Discovering the Word of Wisdom I addressed A Key to Success in the New Year. Check out the article to learn how adopting a change in identity can help you achieve dramatically better health and well-being.

Is This the Year to Radically Improve Your Diet?

As a lifelong member of the Church, I learned about the Word of Wisdom as a small child, but I was much older before I learned how powerful this revelation is. The month I turned 50 was the month I discovered that at least one diet that is in harmony with the Word of Wisdom, a “whole food, plant-based diet,” prevents (and even reverses) heart disease, the #1 cause of death.[1] Then I discovered it does much more than prevent heart disease. When I learned it also prevents most of the other chronic diseases we’ve all assumed are an inevitable part of life, I knew I had to make a change.[2]

Studying the principles of a whole food, plant-based diet opened my eyes to the Word of Wisdom. For the first time, I saw dietary principles in D&C 89 that I couldn’t see before, because I saw how they impacted the lives of real people who practiced them. Surely it is not coincidence that the nutritional ideas dramatically improving the lives of people all over the world can be found in the Lord’s revelation to the Prophet Joseph in 1833. After all, as President Spencer W. Kimball told us: “We believe that the Lord, when he gave the Word of Wisdom, was speaking to all the people in the world.”[3]

Are you ready for a radical improvement in your health and well-being? Whether you adopt a whole food, plant-based diet or another way of eating you feel is in harmony with the Word of Wisdom, are you ready to take a leap of faith and practice what you believe or hope to be true? What would it take to increase your motivation? Here, for example, are some of the blessings routinely experienced by people who adopt a whole food, plant-based diet:

  • Prevention and reversal of disease
  • Healthy and permanent weight loss
  • More strength, energy, and vitality
  • Freedom from confusion about competing health claims
  • Heightened enjoyment of delicious foods
  • Joy in a life that honors the human body, the earth, and the animals [4]

Thousands of people around the world are adopting more nutritious diets because they want to be healthy, but as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have many more reasons to embrace the wholesome foods the Lord has ordained for our use. Here are just a few mentioned in the Word of Wisdom itself:

  • To obey the “order and will of God” (see D&C 89:2)
  • To prepare for our “temporal salvation” in the “last days” (see D&C 89:2)
  • To invite the Lord to work with us in our weakness (D&C 89:3)
  • To be protected against the “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days” (see D&C 89:4)
  • To please our Lord (see D&C 89:13)
  • To receive health in the navel and marrow to the bones (see D&C 89:18)
  • To receive “wisdom and great treasures of knowledge” (see D&C 89:19)
  • To run and not be weary, walk and not faint (see D&C 89:20)
  • So that the “destroying angel” will pass us by (see D&C 89:21)

I invite you to compare these blessings with the benefits of eating convenient, cheap, but relatively unhealthy foods. The benefits of eating these foods are also real, so when you create your list of the benefits, be as generous as you wish. Make the list as long as you want. Then compare this list with the blessings and promises in the Word of Wisdom. We can each decide for ourselves which blessings and benefits we value most.

If you are convinced that a whole food, plant-based diet (or some other diet you feel is in harmony with the Word of Wisdom) is the way to go, why not embrace it this year and realize the promised blessings in your life? Whether you take baby steps or go cold turkey, the aim is to give your chosen diet a full and fair trial so you can witness the impact in your life and decide whether the benefits are worth possible sacrifices.

Resources to Help With the Transition

When you make fundamental changes to your diet, there are two basic strategies: Cold Turkey or Baby Steps. Going “cold turkey” certainly has its benefits (quick changes result in quick and motivating results), but many people find a “baby steps” approach easier psychologically.

Here are some articles that outline each of these approaches and provide strategies for success:

Will the Lord Deliver Us While We Sit on Our Thrones?

One of my favorite Meridian Magazine columnists, Ted Gibbons, shared this insightful thought that I believe is relevant to our quest for better health and well-being:

In a critical time of warfare and national danger, a military commander in the Book of Mormon wrote to a leader of the people with a demand for additional supplies and reinforcements. In the text of his epistle, he asked a question which brings to mind diabetics refusing to inject themselves with insulin, and Israelites refusing to look at the brazen serpent. “Do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?” (Alma 60:21).

In all of our mortal battles, the Lord has provided us with resources to protect and deliver ourselves, and we ought not to “suppose that the Lord will . . . deliver us” if we “do not make use of the means” he has put in place for us.[6]

The Lord gave us D&C 89 at the foundation of the Restoration to serve as a “plan for healthy living,” as President Thomas S. Monson described it at the last General Conference.[5] How could we logically pray for the blessings of good health while ignoring this important counsel, which includes, as President Monson reminded us, “specific direction regarding the food we eat”? Will the Lord grant us our desires if we “do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?”

If you aren’t convinced you completely understand D&C 89, don’t let that discourage you. I doubt there is anyone who completely understands this counsel from the Lord. I certainly don’t. The Lord doesn’t require that we understand perfectly before we obey. We first exercise our faith to obey to the best of our ability, and then He is able to further enlighten our minds with additional truths and understanding. Let’s use what we’ve been given to move forward with confidence, knowing that the Lord will continue to guide us as we put our faith in Him.

Getting Started

To learn more about whole food, plant-based nutrition and how to get started, see: Getting Started.

Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom. Watch the video “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film.”


[1] For more on what constitutes a “whole food, plant-based” diet, see: Jane Birch, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Discovering Joy!” Meridian Magazine (April 15, 2014). For more on how this diet can prevent and reverse heart disease, see: Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (New York: Avery, 2007).

[2] For the scientific evidence that demonstrates that a whole food, plant-based diet prevents chronic disease, see: T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health (Dallas: Benbella, 2006). For the story of how I changed my diet, see: Jane Birch, “An Answer to a Question I Did Not Ask,” Discovering the Word of Wisdom website (November 26, 2013).

[3] Spencer W. Kimball, “Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?” Ensign (May 1975): 4.

[4] I’ve addressed all of these benefits in previous articles published in Meridian Magazine. For a full list of the articles, see: “Meridian Magazine – “Discovering the Word of Wisdom” series by Jane Birch.”

[5] Thomas S. Monson, “Principles and Promises,” LDS General Conference (October 1, 2016).

[6] Ted Gibbons, “Make Use of the Means,” Meridian Magazine (January 20, 2015).