Faced with her husband’s liver failure, Amy Jones turned to the resource she knew best: homeopathic medicine. As a doula and childbirth educator, she had spent many years teaching herself about the body’s many wonders, but in the time of her husband’s crisis Amy taught herself about herbs, essential oils, and, most importantly, the divine powers that come from living the Word of Wisdom to the fullest. As the founder of the LDS Holistic Living Conference, Amy helps others discover the “hidden treasures of knowledge” that come from God’s natural gifts.
You’re interested in the way that the gospel plays out in our relationships to our bodies. Can you tell us how that interest developed?
I grew up in a holistic household in Las Vegas. I was the youngest of six and I had an interesting glimpse into alternative medicine when some specific health issues of my mom’s weren’t responding to traditional treatments. There was a physician in our ward who was a medical doctor but he was also a homeopath. My mom began seeing him and saw improvement in her own condition. One morning when I was in fifth grade I woke up and didn’t have the use of my legs. I could stand briefly, but couldn’t hold my weight. My mom kind of tripped out a bit! So she immediately took me to this brother in our ward who had treated her and within a pretty short amount of time he diagnosed me with over 50 different allergies. The main one was mercury toxicity, which was causing muscle degeneration. I spent about a year with him getting better and taking homeopathics. Once I got my silver fillings replaced, I regained all the use of my muscles.
After that experience, my mom’s trust in treating with alternative methods was very much strengthened. This was the mid 1980s and being a homeopath wasn’t exactly the most popular thing to do. Being the kid who ate rice cakes and carob brownies wasn’t the norm! I didn’t realize that what I was doing was that much out of the norm until I got pregnant with my first baby. Of course I wanted the smartest, healthiest, prettiest baby ever. And I began researching how one gets the smartest, healthiest, prettiest baby ever. There isn’t one magic pill that makes a healthy baby. It all comes down to eating and nutrition.
I took childbirth classes, I read books, I had a natural birth in a hospital with a doula and it was a fantastic experience. After the birth, I kept on reading birth books. I’d had the baby, but I couldn’t get enough of learning about birth. About a year after I had my baby, I knelt down and asked the Lord, “I have all this knowledge about birth. Should I be doing anything about this?” I got a very clear answer that I needed to become a doula and childbirth educator. I had an associate degree in business but that was it, so I didn’t have professional focus or background at that point. My first step was to look for doulas and childbirth educators in town and try to apprentice with them. But this was in the early 1990s when doulas were something of a new concept. I opened the phone book to look for them in Las Vegas, but there weren’t any. They weren’t nearly as popular as they are now. So then I tried contacting midwives.
Would you explain the difference between a midwife and a doula?
A doula is hired by the couple to work with a medical team, and she is there to give informational, emotional, and physical support to the couple. She doesn’t do anything clinical like fetal heart checks or blood pressure monitoring. She’s not responsible for any clinical outcome; she is there purely for comfort measures and information. A doula does what mothers or grandmothers used to do in the old days before childbirth moved into hospitals and we lost that aspect of maternity care because of health care policies and modern culture.
It was with great disappointment that I realized there were no doulas in Las Vegas and that I was on my own if I wanted to do this. So again I went to my knees and said, “Lord, there’s no one here. What should I do?” With His encouragement, I just started on my own.
Here I was this 22-year-old girl with one child and no formal training! I started writing out a curriculum for my own childbirth education classes, and I started attending births with a local midwife. I asked midwives to refer women to my classes. Every series of classes I held, I got more and more referrals until pretty soon the class was too big to hold in my little living room. I started a childbirth education association in Las Vegas because I was getting calls from other women who wanted to become doulas or childbirth educators as well. If there were others who wanted to train or get support I wanted there to be something to support them. There are now 40 other women in Las Vegas who are part of that organization. It grew pretty rapidly.
In 2005 we moved to Cedar City for my husband’s work, which we thought was going to be temporary, so I continued my practice in Las Vegas. But after a year and a half, my husband was diagnosed with liver failure. It was pretty ugly. There were a few moments when I thought, “What if he dies?” It was a point in my life in which my belief systems were put to the test. Here I had been teaching people about health and nutrition and passing on my little knowing of essential oils, and I had to ask myself if I really believed in this stuff. From the time we started dating, I knew his health wasn’t a hundred percent. Over the years, from my own reading, I had suggested my own diagnoses, but we’d never gotten a formal diagnosis. But then in January of 2007 his liver just stopped functioning. I just wanted my husband well.
Did your husband share your same interest in holistic approaches?
Yes, we had kind of gone down this journey together, although I had done most of the legwork on educating ourselves. He definitely was on the same page I was on, but when he got sick we were open to anything that helped him get better. We finally got a diagnosis from a friend of mine who was a master herbalist and gave my husband a protocol to follow. Before he did this, we prayed if this was what we were supposed to be doing and we both felt great about it.
Because my husband was the breadwinner and was sick and couldn’t work, our money went out the door really quickly. Even though the herbs weren’t expensive compared to conventional treatments, it was still money we didn’t have. So I had to find ways to cut costs where I could. I learned to tincture my own herbs and come up with my own formulas. I had a few friends who helped me along the way over the phone, but it was mostly trial and error trying to make this stuff. A lot of it was inspiration: I’d kneel down and ask the Lord how to make something and with what quantities. It was very much a hands on lesson by God.
Were these formulas just for your husband’s treatment, or did you make these for other people as well?
I started primarily making them just for him, but I always have treated my kids herbally. So when my kids got colds or infections during this time, I couldn’t go to the health food store to buy anything so I had to figure out how to make a cold formula from the herbs I had. I learned along the way.
It took my husband about a year and a half to get back to his completely functional self. He healed completely herbally. What I learned through this process is that the liver completely regenerates every seven years if cared for properly, which was a great comfort because I knew it could fix itself if I could give it the right nutrients. And that’s what it did.
I had all this knowledge about herbs and essential oils and I had a testimony of their abilities, but at this point I had a strong prompting that I needed to start teaching out of my home about how to use herbs and essential oils in addition to my childbirth classes. So I figured out how I wanted to structure the classes and what I could teach and my neighbors and people in my ward started trickling in. I just put it out there and people showed up! A few months after I started doing this, I proposed to a friend that we have a class that was on a bigger scale; an all day thing. So we launched an LDS health class, and that’s when we started the LDS Living Holistic Living Conference in the summer of 2009. We thought, if we get 50 people showing up, we’ll be happy. Instead, 450 people showed up. I turned to my friend and I said, “I think we have something here.”
We realized there was a strong desire among the LDS community to marry the two worlds of our faith and our health. I’m a huge believer in the Word of Wisdom. It promises you “hidden treasures” if you obey it. We know that the Word of Wisdom is far more than not drinking and not smoking. My personal testimony is that it’s futile to heal physically without the Savior’s help. I knew I wasn’t alone but I didn’t realize how much company I had.
Would you talk about the connection you see between the Word of Wisdom and holistic healing?
I feel that the Word of Wisdom is a living entity to me. It’s like my friend. Eating fruits and vegetables in their season, eating meat sparingly, using herbs ordained for the “use of man”…. After I started adhering to the Word of Wisdom more closely during my first pregnancy, I fell in love with the grains that aren’t used as much – millet, barley – and I started getting these really cool revelations. I’d be doing the dishes and all of a sudden answers to questions I’d had for years came to me. There is truth in the Word of Wisdom scripture that says hidden treasures of knowledge will be revealed to you. I started experiencing that and it almost became addicting. It was just one light bulb moment after another. It became clear to me that the connection between our bodies and our spirits is much more intimate than we can imagine.
A lot of people looked at me and thought I was being extreme. I went off of sugars, started using wheat flour instead of white flour. But I didn’t see it as being extreme. I thought, all I’m doing is what I think the Word of Wisdom is telling me to do. My husband wasn’t as into it as I was, but he was supportive and would eat my millet taco pie even if he didn’t want to! I believe that the Word of Wisdom is not just a suggestion; it’s one of God’s greatest blessings. The revelation and insights and knowledge it gives us are not only about our health; they’re for accessing knowledge and God’s support in any part of our lives.
What do you think it is about Mormonism about this point in time that is sympathetic to alternative medicines? Why did 450 people come to your conference?
I really feel the gifts that God has given us, the plants He’s provided, the knowledge He’s given us over the centuries about how to treat our bodies, complement our knowledge of the gospel perfectly. He didn’t just give us plants to make the earth look pretty, He gave us plants for our use. If you look through the scriptures you’ll see reference after reference to plants being used for medicinal reasons. Just because we’re in these modern times doesn’t mean the efficacy of what He’s given us is no longer valid. He put all these resources on the earth for modern-day diseases as well. He knew our day; He knew what we’d be facing. These plants have been here for centuries and they are for use on our modern day illnesses as well as ancient illnesses.
Homeopathic medicine is about the connection with nature, not forcing or manipulating the body but working with the body instead of against it. Herbs typically don’t work as fast as allopathic medicine (although I’ve seen some herbs work incredibly fast), and so there is an exercise of patience involved. With my husband’s liver failure, for instance, we had to wait six weeks with him doing his herbal therapies before we even saw a result. That was just six weeks of us praying and relying on God’s answer; I trusted this was right, but I didn’t see results for six weeks! He could have taken a pill and we would have seen results in a day, but I don’t believe it wouldn’t have been as sustainable as our method.
There’s definitely massive validity to using God’s gifts for our health. Why would He put us on this earth without tools for being healthy and therefore happy? The healthier we are, the more time and energy we have for fulfilling God’s missions for us here on the earth. If we’re sick and tired all the time, that’s time we could be using to preach the gospel or parent our children or whatever mission He has for us. This interest from LDS people in alternative health is a full circle return to connecting with the tools God gave us. I feel the decades we spent away from alternative healing have been the deviation from the norm. Allopathic medicine dominating our thinking exclusively was the deviation; herbs, essential oils, those are not a trend. They have always been there, and they’re not going away.
Have there been trends in the broader culture that have brought attention back to homeopathic medicine?
As a broader Western culture, we have realized that traditional medicine generates lots of empty promises. There’s so much in our popular medical community that says if you take this pill you’ll get better. I’m not discounting modern medicine; it is a huge complement and I wouldn’t want to be without it. On the other hand, to have the pendulum swing so far away from using God’s bounties as well to treat major and minor illnesses, is, I feel, naïve and arrogant. There are a lot of great things that modern medicine can do for people but there are a lot of things it can’t do. I think people are finding the limitations of modern medicine. There are always risks with modern medicine, so to go to a method where there is little to zero risk of injury or death—that’s a very attractive option.
God has given us remedies that, if we learn how to use them properly, can cure us without side effects. To be given a huge diagnosis like liver failure or cancer and to experiment with modern medicine, that would be scary to me. I understand that herbs and essential oils are scary too because they’re not tested, but Christ is the master healer. He’ll tell you what to do. If you’re following His path for you, He’ll take care of you. My experience is living proof that God has all the answers for our health and our happiness.
At A Glance
Location: South Jordan, UT
Marital status: Married since 1995
Children: 5 kids, ages, 15, 13, 9, 6, 3
Occupation: SAHM, co-founder/director of LDS Holistic Living, birth professional (doula and childbirth educator), health professional (SimplyHealed practitioner, alternative health instructor)
Schools Attended: UVSC
Languages Spoken at Home: English, babytalk
Favorite Hymn: “I Need Thee Every Hour”
On The Web: www.ldsholisticliving.com, www.birthologie.com