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Note From Carolyn: As we launch the summer, I’m also launching my own 12-Week Sugar-Free Challenge. The herbal detox we share at Meridian is often very helpful for managing cravings of all kinds. So, for Meridian readers only: Get $1 Off plus a free week of our herbal detox in capsule form (with our new name and LDS packaging – “CTR VITAL”) with every order! It’s perfect for summer-time traveling and so convenient. CLICK HERE.

Happy Memorial Day! Unofficially, it’s a day to mark the beginning the summer. Officially, it’s a day set apart to honor those who have departed, particularly soldiers who have died in battle. My mother-in-law, who passed away in January of 2000 at age 82, records happy memories of “Decoration Day” in her life story. Born in 1916, she writes that in her beloved home town of Beaver, Utah, they tidied, weeded and decorated the graves in the cemetery, then picnicked afterwards.

My own mother passed away the day after Memorial Day just last year. This year is her first to join my Dad (gone for over 25 years) at a cemetery in Bountiful, Utah where a local mortuary provides hot dogs and a live bagpipe player for this special holiday. It’s a way to comfort those who have come and ease what could be a sad day with a smile and a treat. Mom dearly loved a hot dog. I’m sure she’ll be tickled to look down and see our own family visiting her and Dad. Memorial Day is, indeed, a special, family day.

Where did it all begin? How did the last Monday in May become the first “Decoration Day,” and then, in 1971, evolve into “Memorial Day?” History.com has a well done short video that tells us how the deaths of 600,000 soldiers in the American Civil War presented the need for such a day to not only honor the dead, but to comfort the grieving families, communities and nation as a whole.

We lived in and raised our family in the Washington, DC area, where Memorial Day is a very special thing. Late on Memorial Day afternoon, after the crowds had settled down, we would often drive over to Arlington Cemetery and quietly walk among rows upon rows of white crosses and see the gently waving flags at each marker. It was and will always be incomprehensible to fathom the vast number of sons, brothers, husbands and fathers who have given so much for their country and for us. The foundation for this sacrifice is a willing and courageous heart, coupled with a disciplined and fit physical body, for only the physically fit are qualified and allowed to serve. Truly, they died that we might live.

The Savior also died that we might live.

How marvelous it is to consider that the consequence of death is life itself, even a more abundant life!

The Savior expressed this strikingly as he told his disciples of his own impending death. (John 12:20-26) Naturally they were greatly saddened, confused and surprised and asked to know more. To these queries he responded:

“Verily, verily I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

James E. Talmadge elaborates:

“The simile of the wheat seed is an apt one; and at once impressively simple and beautiful. A farmer who neglects or refuses to cast his wheat into the earth, because he wants to keep it, can have no increase; but if he sow the wheat in good rich soil, each living grain may multiply itself many fold, though of necessity the seed must be sacrificed in the process.

So said the Lord, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it into life eternal.

The master’s meaning is clear; the man that loves his life so well that he will not imperil it, or, if need be, give it up, in the service of God, shall forfeit his opportunity to win the bounteous increase of eternal life; while he who esteems the call of God as so greatly superior to life that his love of life is hated in comparison, shall find the life he freely yields or is willing to yield, though for the time being it disappear like the grain buried in the soil; and he shall rejoice in the bounty of eternal development.
(Talmadge, Jesus the Christ pp. 518-519.)

Of course the Savior was talking of both His own supreme sacrifice and his desire that we each be generous in sacrificing our own time and needs in order to serve Him and his children. But for simple-minded people like me, I have to go back to that little seed. If you have ever planted a vegetable or fruit seed and waited for it to sprout, it is a startling realization to understand that burying that little seed in the dark earth is an act of faith that creates both the death of the original seed and the birth a living entity. This new life will extend far beyond the original seed, and eventually create seeds of its own!

Truly, death can and does create life! For those of us who struggle with health and eating issues, reducing or eliminating unhealthful, but oh-so-delicious foods feels like almost too great a sacrifice. It’s hard to imagine living without them and easy to ignore how harmful they can be. It’s equally painful to learn and embrace new scientific facts that prove that the popular (and government approved) foods we love so much are extremely harmful when eaten over a lifetime and that the Lord has outlined a better way. This better way is the “do’s” of the Word of Wisdom outlined in D&C 89, and can be closely compared to a whole food plant based diet.

For nearly all of us who have been raised and enjoy the Standard American Diet, it does indeed feel like too much to even consider giving up (or greatly reducing) meat and dairy products, i.e. ice cream, cheese, milkshakes, steak and french fries. It is far easier to put our heads in the sand and ignore the science that proves that these foods promote cancer, heart disease, and strokes. It is far easier to allow the truth to be unimportant, and continue eating in blissful ignorance.

But what about the fact that long-term-consumption of these foods are the root source of countless deaths every year? They cause disease, suffering and loss on every level for individuals, families and entire nations. Furthermore, treating these diseases also demands an incredible outlay of billions of dollars each year that could be used in more important ways for the betterment of our society.

For those who are new to the information regarding a whole food plant based diet, it is very hard to believe that there may be more value in spinach and mangos than medicine, that eating dairy and meat is not healthful, and that one of the best ways we can help to strengthen our country is simply to become healthy.

It was three years ago, in the Spring of 2014, that my husband and I received Jane Birch’s book, “Discovering The Word of Wisdom.” (You can now read Jane’s many articles here at Meridian and visit her website, www.discoveringthewordofwisdom.com.)

We did indeed discover a new world filled with delicious and filling healthy food along with dynamic websites with guides that have a passion for sharing the good things that only a whole-food plant-based life can bring.

It was a sacrifice, of sorts, as we put aside a number of the foods that we considered part of a normal, healthy life, including meat, cheese and eggs. It’s been three years, and we now rarely eat or even miss these items. Some of them now taste odd, and we don’t think about them much any more. Has this sacrifice made a difference???

Oh, yes. At ages 63 and 66, we are on no medications to speak of other than a small dosage of high blood pressure medicine for Bob and a plant-based supplement for my genetic-based osteoporosis. We take a few supplements that we trust.

After routine tests, our doctors are full of hail and hearty congratulations. At my last colonoscopy, a routine 5-year exam since my Dad died of colon cancer, the technicians jokingly said, “So, what medicines are YOU on?” When I replied, none, they said, “Oh, we know. We’re just teasing as we can see it on your records. How do you have the blood pressure, weight and fitness you’re at for your age without any meds?” When I told them about a whole-food plant-based diet and regular time exercising, (both aerobic and weight lifting for 30 minutes five times a week) at the gym, they all just stared at me and shook their heads. These are medical PROFESSIONALS, surprised and impressed with what a whole-food plant-based diet and exercise can do.

Good genes are no doubt a part of this all, but so is proactively eating right and exercising because it’s not only the right thing to do, it brings LIFE and it brings FUN for Bob and me!

What has sneaked in, in the two years since we moved to Tennessee, is Southern style eating…. With lots of barbecued meat, fried foods and sugar. We love our new friends and living in the South. Most of them know we don’t regularly eat meat or cheese, but just in very small amounts when we are guests. For Bob and me, eating meat as guests when someone else has prepared it is our “sparingly” that the Word of Wisdom refers to.

The sugar is harder for me. For such a long time I had kicked this and the freedom it brought was truly indescribable. Without constant vigilance, it has a way of springing up, like old weeds in an untended garden.

I yearn for that freedom again and am inspired by several of my Ward sisters who have launched, independently, their own sugar-free challenges. Some for 30 days, others for 60.

With the beginning of the summer, I’m declaring my own 12-Week Sugar-Free Challenge to re-discover the freedom I thrive on when sugar doesn’t have me in its grips. The beginning of summer is the perfect time to leave the chocolate behind and bring new life and energy into my spirit as well as my body.

During my Sugar Free 12-week Challenge three years ago, I created a blog. Though I haven’t made any entries in exactly three years and do not plan on doing so now, I’m going to go back and re-read them. Feel free to check it out yourself at www.beat-sugar-cravings.blogspot.com.

Of course, I’m well aware that not everyone is ready, willing or interested in either being sugar-free or focused on plant-based eating. No problem and no judgments. (Most of the early Church members and leaders ignored the entire Word of Wisdom, including coffee and tobacco for a very long time. It was not until 1860 that even Brigham Young regarded the “don’ts” as important to not consume.)

But if trying out a whole food plant based diet or launching a sugar-free challenge is even remotely interesting and the Spirit of our Heavenly Father (and the state of your current and future health) is nudging you to bury some old ways in order to create a new and healthier life now, then read on!

Perhaps even a temporary sacrifice of foods you know do not bring life to your days or years to your life, will provide insights into your health needs and encouragement. I read recently of a woman who, on a strict two-week vegetarian detox program recommended by her doctor for numerous health reasons, found that pain from arthritis was greatly lessened, almost immediately. She and her husband were amazed at the endless variety of vegetables and exciting ways to cook and eat them, once they made the effort to do so. As the strict vegetarian stage of the detox diet ended and they began to slowly introduce small amounts of meat and dairy, her pain quickly returned. It was such an eye-opener for her that she knew she was on to something really important for her own health and pain management.

It’s food for thought, isn’t it? And that thought is food for LIFE!

On this Memorial Day, I am choosing to honor the strong, healthy and noble soldiers who kept themselves physically fit in order to be of service to me by following their example of making my own physical fitness and health a priority in order to best serve my family, my country and my Heavenly Father.

What about you? Ready to make a few small sacrifices of old habits to honor those who sacrificed so much more to improve your life? I hope so! Happy Memorial Day!

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online since 1999, having presented for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups while living in the Washington, DC area. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents to a growing number of darling grandchildren. They are now happy empty-nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox and reflexology power socks.

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