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.  

 

Family Gatherings

 

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.

 

Lessons Learned

 

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

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thank you! This is just what I needed to hear.
Thank you. My entire family thinks I am crazy and I needed to hear this too.
I really see the wisdom in what you say. I experienced the same thing but with doctrine. I was a new convert at 19, so excited about the gospel, went home to tell my family all about it. I laid the whole thing out on the buffett table with much exuberance and excitement. It was not a pretty thing. They rejected all of it with equal gusto, and after 38 years they are just now accepting my conversion, and still a very long way from theirs. Thanks for your insight
Because the Lord has not yet asked us through His prophets to abstain from meat, I have no qualms about making it available to son-in-laws or even those we serve who need a lift. Respect can also include understanding where a person is today and what is normal to them. Allow me to share a personal anecdote to share why I believe this is right and good. I had been through a very stressful period moving up from California to Utah after a colossal business failure. Across the street from my home in Alpine, Utah was a cemetary where I would often see beautiful deer. As I mentioned in the article, I was an avid hunter. It may be more appropriate to say that I was an addict when it came to the bloodsports of fishing, tracking, hunting, and gathering game of all kinds. One day as my heart was nearly breaking because of the aftermath of the business failure I saw four bucks directly across my street and I remembered my love of venison. I knelt and apologized to the Father that although I hadn't eaten meat for a very long time and hadn't killed an animal for 19 years, I was still a hunter at heart and I still loved venison, even though I did not partake of it. I told him that I was going through a hard time and that I needed comfort, that so much of my life was different and so many of the things I loved were gone from my life (hunting, running, and some other important things). I told Him I would like a piece of venison if He could provide it without me having to kill another deer. My telephone rang instantly and I was asked if I could help with a move in our ward. I could not because of a prior engagement, but offered to bring help on my way to the office. I dropped off two of my daughters, who are both exceptional workers. When I picked them up after my appointments a few hours later, they had a black garbage bag with something in it. Excitedly they told me that one of the boys in the family who was moving, came home while they were there with a 4-point buck. He not only offered them some venison, but gave them the loins from the back of the deer, my favorite part of a deer. I began to cry. God is so personal and knows us so perfectly and cares so much for us and accepts us where we are in our growth today without causing us to feel guilt or shame. He just encourages us towards greater light. From that experience, I decided that I am more like God when I act the way He did toward me in that moment, than when I act in any other manner. I don't pretend to know what is best for anyone, but I wanted to share that experience if it can be of any use to anyone. Jim
We are a family of two, these days, since our children have all grown and left home. When I told my husband I wanted to follow this diet, he was willing to be supportive of my efforts, but did not care to join me in it. So, when I went shopping, I continued to buy things he wanted to eat; eggs, milk, cheese, ice cream, etc. However, most meals that I prepare are on my diet. We always have fixings in the fridge for him to lunch on ham sandwiches if he wants. If I make chili, he is likely to top his with shredded cheese. If I make Creamed Beans (a real favorite, especially served with Guacamole and Fresh Salsa, salad greens and whole grain tortillas) he may add chicken to his. He enjoys the meals I prepare, he just "soups them up!" And gradually I believe he is incorporating more vegetables and less meat in his diet, also. His blood pressure is lower than it was and he has lost a little weight.

Occasionally I will fix a meal more reminiscent of how we used to eat, but I try to incorporate more veggies into it; bigger salads, healthier sauces, etc.

This past week he was diagnosed with a mild form of type 2 diabetes, to be controlled with diet and exercise. Since then, he has chosen to cut out the sodas and ice cream, and is incorporating more of my diet into his. It is working! I believe that not only was this diet an answer to prayer for me, but now it is a blessing for him as well, because I learned enough to be able to help him eat well without having to starve himself while maintaining healthier blood sugar levels.

So far as my extended family is concerned, I make it a point to bring healthy food to family gatherings. Many of them have the same weight problems that prompted me to find this diet. I have lost about 30 pounds thus far, and have mentioned in letters and conversations that I really like my diet. I included links to this website in family letters. Whether they are motivated to make any changes will be entirely up to them; but I intend to set an example worthy of emulation! (50 more pounds to go!)

I like to volunteer to provide food for ward dinners, because then I can be certain that at least one thing on the menu will be something I can eat without violating my diet!
Our first green smoothies were terrible without a vita-mix. We chugged the chunky messes anyway, gagging all the way. My youngest son (18) was with us on the extended vacation, where this took place. He drank them and gagged. One day I added frozen blueberries. He wouldn't drink it, because he said it looked like it belonged in the toilet. After months of this, he finally wouldn't drink them anymore at all, even though he knew they were responsible for his improved health.

Yesterday, I made a blueberry-banana smoothie with buckwheat greens. I went in the other room and came back in to see him drinking my smoothie. It was like the three bears return to find Goldilock's acts of mischief. He said he didn't know it was a green one. Today he asked to be included on the green smoothies again, because yesterday's was delicious, and he needed the nutrition to better prepare for his upcoming mission!!

Moral--get a vita-mix and blend them until very smooth. Use ice or frozen fruit to improve taste.

Question---are frozen fruits still good for us?
BTW-I loved your article. Very pertainent and helpful.
I really needed these comments too. I not only thought about my first attemts to change our diet two years ago, but how I am still in those first stages! I used the excuse of a new baby and reluctant kids, but I think I overwhelmed myself too. I enjoy the healthy foods and felt great after only a week of eating this way, however I got busy and instead of easing into it I gave up the fight. What a whimp!
I also thought of how these words helped make perfect sence of what is going on with our oldest son at the moment. It's not about food though. He is a very inteligent kid and an A+ student who is not living up to his potential. I want to say, "we can't get him to so anything." However after reading this I need to say, "we can't force him to do anything or become what we think he should be!" He does need to eat better too.
Thank you so much for your encouragement. I know I can do this and I really want to change my habbits. I hope I can be patient with myself as well as the family.
Thank you for this article! I was one of those people who was introduced to this way of eating through an enrichment night in my ward several years ago. (I think it was the first one you spoke at after writing the first edition of "Original Fat Foods.") I immediately felt the truth of what you said, but it has taken me a long time to actually incorporate the principles. I never was successful at doing Daniel's Challenge completely until starting it this month, but by just having it in my mind over the last several years, I have gradually added a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables and removed the processed stuff. I still make a lot of my old recipes (though healthier most of the time) for my husband and 2 daughters (ages 4 and 5), but they're eating a lot more vegetables and fruit, also. I absolutely agree that the best way is to just keep adding more and more healthy foods as you learn new recipes that everyone likes. I'm still pretty new at this way of life, so I feel like for me I just need to do it 100% myself before trying to share it with everyone else. I've been really surprised at how much my daughters and husband are liking a lot of the new foods we try. The kids love green smoothies, salads, and even veggies in dip. My advice to anyone who struggles with the change is to just keep trying, and your tastes will change. I rarely crave or want the old things that I used to eat at all.

Thank you for all your comments! I read a lot of them, and it has really helped me to hear other people's experiences!
Great story!

Frozen Foods? I read a report on research that was conducted at BYU. Various food preservation techniques were compared for preservation of nutrients, with fresh whole foods being used as the control group. Naturally fermented vegetables maintained over 90% of original nutrient value. If my memory serves me correctly, dehydrated food was about 60 percent, frozen was about 50 percent and canned foods were about ten percent. Hope this is helpful!
These articles are great, thank you for sharing.
Oh, I can relate: I've been a green smoothie fan for a couple of years. Last year I was visiting my daughter, and my granddaughter asked me to make them one, since she has had them at my house before. I put together a really good chocolate one, but they don't have a vita-mix or blend-tec.It's a brand I'm not familiar with and they assured me that it does a really good job: Well, not quite good enough. The greens weren't blended well, and it was really quite yucky. My granddaughter took a couple of tastes, and said, "I think I need to go outside and play now." Oh, well.

Great essay, Brother Simmons, and oh, so true!

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