Rocket Fuel for Runners
Have you ever felt the desire to teach greater truth to your family, only to have them rebel and oppose you in your efforts or simply disregard you? Have you ever wanted to follow the dietary teachings of the Word of Wisdom, only to experience opposition from a spouse or child? I want to share some painful but important experiences I have had as I have blundered in my attempts to "do what is right" personally and to "teach what is right" to my family.
One time we were having a family gathering at my sister's home to celebrate my oldest daughter's near departure for the mission field. Attached to my sister's kitchen area of the house are double-wide sliding doors that open up into a sprawling backyard. Her yard includes a great patio for dining, a big lawn for playing volleyball or soccer, and a swimming pool. In addition the setting is perfect with a wonderful panoramic view of the mountains. It's a favorite gathering place for our family.
This was the setting of my daughter' send off into the mission field. She was heading to the MTC and then off to Denmark. Colleen and I had recently completed the first edition of Original Fast Foods and we were teaching a series of food-prep classes across the Wasatch Front. We made the decision that we would provide all the food for the event and we would include several of the entrees that had become favorites in the classes we taught. My extended family had never read my book, nor had they experienced our recipes to any extent. Moreover, prior to moving away for several years, we had been known to throw pit barbeques, chicken bakes, and meat fests. Whenever we cooked, everyone gahered! It was so fun that the left-over fireworks from the Stadium of Fire were brought down for one such food fest on our farm.
I wanted to take this opportunity to have my family experience good tasting food that was far more healthful than what our extended family was accustom to eating. We planned to prepare similar entrees to those we had shared in our classes. We went all out with salads, soups, pasta dishes, rice dishes, sprouted crunchy treats, amazing fruit platters and so forth. When mom heard Colleen and I were providing all the food, she offered to help. We told her to just come and enjoy and that we had it all planned. Our intentions were to have our family experience the good others had experienced and enjoyed.
Even though my family knew I had written a book and was teach classes, they had busy lives and didn't really know much about the true nature of dietary changes that we'd gone through. Frankly, what I was teaching was a bit foreign to a die-hard meat and potatoes family from Idaho. Moreover, I had been an avid hunter and fisherman and brought home a lot of game in my youth. I did it with such passion, love, and skill that some of my siblings were seriously worried about me when they learned I no longer did these things. What is Jim the hunter and fisherman doing? Has he gone insane? What could have happened to him? Some were seriously worried about me and it hurt.
Mom apprehensively asked me what we were serving and I enthusiastically told her of the array of fine foods that everyone would get to enjoy. I thought she would be impressed. To the contrary, she panicked and believed we were about to ruin an otherwise perfectly good family gathering. Mom called the calvary to save the event and piles of meat and potatoes made their way to the buffet table. The day was saved and Grandmas many growing grandsons would not be deprived of the King's fare of meat and wine. So much for our intentions and efforts.
I became frustrated and hurt that she had forced her will on the event, rather than come as an invited guest to celebrate our daughter's mission in a manner that we desired. Word got around that my feelings had been hurt and this did not make a good impression upon others regarding what it was that I might be doing in classes and with my book. While scores of people outside my family were reading and benefiting from the book and loved the food, not one family member had taken the time to read it. Worse, some believed there must be something wrong with what I was doing, especially if I was bothered by Grandma bringing all the "good stuff" to the party.
I learned a hard lesson from this event. The best way to influence family and friends is not to impose change upon them, but is to simply bring the best you have to offer and include it in the family buffet offering with whatever else happens to show up. As your ability to make truly healthful and tasty offerings improves and increases, some who try them become naturally drawn and even become advocates for needed change. Also is is common for more and more of the family to ask, "How did you make this; it tastes so good and looks so healthy?" These can become fun sharing and edifying moments.
Section 42 of the Doctrine in Covenants teaches that we are to teach only as directed by the Spirit; and that if the Spirit is not given, we are not to teach. Similarly, in section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord poses a question asking if we have ever received spirits which we can not understand, and received them to be from Him? In otherwords, have you ever taught truth by any other Spirit than God's Spirt; He then asks if we are justified to teach by these other spirits.
In this discourse we learn that only when the teacher and receiver of truth teach and receive truth by God's Spirit can they be edified together; and, as we continue to teach and receive light and truth in such a manner, both teachers and receivers of truth continueth in God and receive more light; and it grows brighter and brighter until the perfect day. Teaching in any other manner is unjustified and often heaps unnecessary opposition, persecution and ill-will upon us.
Imagine the Lord asking you the following: "Have ye ever placed healthy food in front of your family by any spirit other than My Spirit, and in this are ye justified? Behold, ye shall answer this question yourseves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto your for doing so; he or she that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.
Interestingly, the Lord taught the Word of Wisdom by invitation and not by constraint and we must follow His perfect example in love and by invitation. Since our initial blunders with family we have changed our approach considerably. We make sure that a wonderful selection of food exists to support the dietary recommendations of the Word of Wisdom, but we do not ever seek to prevent others from adding other choices that are perfectly normal for them. Just because your version of "normal" radically alters, and even though your normal aligns far better with truth than the family's normal, it doesn't mean that imposing that truth on others will be a good experience for anyone.
Impressively, extended family gatherings have continued in our family, and since 2005 the nature of the food offering at these events improves with each passing year. Healthful food offerings are sincerely appreciated, furnished, and enjoyed by everyone. Meat is still included in the buffet, but a noticable shift has occured. Where once meat occupied a more dominant presence, it is now suprisingly sparing when compared to the many other wonderful entrees. Without planning for such an outcome, we have gradually moved in a more healthful direction as an extended family, and everyone is on board and enjoying it.
In my direct family, my son-in-laws have shared with me that they were concerned when they first came to our home because our plates were not filled with meat, as they were accustom to. They said at first they were nervous, but that they now love to eat at our house. By going out of the way to include a little chicken or shrimp on the side that can easily be added as a condiment to otherwise very complete and healthful dishes, they have willingly tried our healthful dishes, where otherwise they would not have done so without feeling somewhat constrained to do so. Now they love coming to dinner and also enjoy eating a larger quantity of healthful food options in their diet. What a difference it makes to use invitation without constraint.
Similarly, when we've invited the missionaries for dinner, they have expressed that it is the best food they have had as missionaries and that we should come and teach all missionaries how to eat. They watch how we build our meals on our plates for dinner and do the same. We let them know that they are welcome to add meat over their haystack, or eat it without, like the prophet Daniel. It's lots of fun to watch others truly enjoy a large satiating Hawaian Hastack salad or a bowl of Daniel's Chile, and to enjoy a chocolate banana shake for dessert. Every bite is delightful and when they are done, not only are they satsified at the gut level, they feel noticibly better than usual.
Why Have I Shared these Stories?
Since 2005 we have taught many people in enrichment groups and other group settings. Sometimes the spirit is very strong and the truth of what we say is very inviting to those seeking for the help we offer. Sometimes sisters go home afterwards, filled with righteous desire and jump too far, too fast with their families. Often this creates rebellion and resistance. Some sisters even feel persecuted for doing the right thing. My recommendation for anyone wanting to do the right thing, which is to upgrade your family eating patterns to reflect the principles taught in the Word of Widsom, is to master just one new dish as a time. Make sure your selection is something your family will like. Practice making it until it is good enough that it could be served in a restaurant. Then, present it to your family as a part of any other meal. Don't be surprised when they say something like, "Mom this is really good, can we have it again?" Let that be your aim.
For example, lets say you want to introduce smoothies to them. Try a few of the smoothies personally, until you know you are begining with one they will love. Rather than change their whole breakfast, just introduce the smoothie while keeping all other things the same. It doesn't take long for things they like to take up permanent residence. Then add a breakfast option to go with the smoothie that they like. Work your way through breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a similar manner. If you do this right, you will never experience serious opposition or push-back from your spouse or family. To the contrary, it becomes a very pleasant journey.
If you will exercise the kind of patience Elder Uchdorf spoke of recently in conference, and keep all things the same, except the occaisional introduction of a new healthful and great tasting offering, all will move in the right direction. Also, study the story in the book of Jacob, of the allegory of the olive trees. The Lord of the vineyard was careful to not cut out too much of the bad all at one time. There is a lesson here, and as you direct your righteous desires toward improving the health of your family apply these lessons and becareful to shift their version of normal at a pace that does not cause them to feel they've gone from norm to wierd. Also, remember the Lord always teaches by invitation and not constraint. Make each new healthful choice you introduce as inviting as possible and maintain the "restaurant rule." Treat your family as important customers that you want to satisfy and please at the dinner table.
This is such an important topic that I have opened this forum in the hopes that members of LDS Health Today will begin to share what they have done to more gracefully introduce the important dietary aspects of the Word of Wisdom in their homes, extended families, and even ward families.
Please share what you do and have done to make this a pleasant journey for those you love. Also, do not be afraid to share your failures, especially if you can help us all laugh and learn from our mistakes. Sometimes when I think of my father who has passed away, I vividly recall the smile in his eyes that flickered with humor. When I think of him, I believe that God too has a great sense of humor and at times, watches us try so hard, and sometimes too hard and laughs with delight. Then I feel His spirit remind me that invitation is the ordained manner of the Lord. It is not my duty to constrain anyone to go to heaven or to improve their health; it is only my duty to invite them in the most pleasing and enjoyable ways possible.
It is good to become converted to any truth; it is also difficult to transcend from conversion to a practical application of truth in everyday living. It takes time, patience, and love. Seek to invite and resist the natural man in you that might otherwise constrain, manipulate, or force. And again, please ask your questions, and share your experiences for overcoming needless opposition and experiencing success with others.
All Our Best,
Jim and Colleen