“Is it outdated to ask a blessing on all the food we eat today?” New Era, July 1977, 12–13
Answer/Carolyn Dunn Newman
The best rule I have found in my life is to follow the example of the Savior in everything I do. With all his power and authority on this earth, he still paused a moment to give thanks and ask a blessing on the food before performing the miracle of the loaves and the fishes:
“And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
“And he took the seven loaves and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.” (Matt. 15:35–36. Italics added.)
“Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.” (Luke 9:16. Italics added.)
If the Savior stopped to bless the food before eating, then this is my pattern, too.
In doing this the Savior recognized, as we must, the most important reason for expressing gratitude at each mealtime. We are eating food our Father in heaven has provided. We may produce it, process it, or purchase it with money we make, but we are all living on rented property, and the food we eat is borrowed. What an opportunity we have to return our gratitude directly to him.
King Benjamin also had a clear understanding of our indebtedness to God:
“And now in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.” (Mosiah 2:23.)
And clearer still is the admonition that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
Along with the prayer of gratitude, a familiar part of many LDS blessings on the food is the request to “bless this food that it might nourish and strengthen our bodies.”
Asking for a blessing lets our Father know that we are aware of the extent of his power and that we are willing and desirous to use it in building and perfecting our physical and mental powers.
The words of 2 Nephi 32:9 easily apply to the importance of “blessing” the food:
“Ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” [2 Ne. 32:9]
The word bless means to make holy, or consecrate to one’s good, or sanctify. One pertinent meaning of sanctify is to purify. This is a great promise for us today—to know that the food we eat can go beyond its regular nutritive power to bless us even more and give us added stamina to meet our required assignments and serve diligently in the kingdom. (“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” [D&C 89:20.])
This is being fulfilled every day as we see the limitless energy expended by our prophet, the General Authorities, Church leaders and teachers, and missionaries everywhere.
This does not mean we can be any less particular about the food we eat, the preparation in our homes, or the selection of foods when we eat out. There is much good information available. We should follow it closely.
It doesn’t mean that a blessing on the food should be used to erase our own carelessness or neglect. The Lord expects us to use common sense and plan well-balanced meals, keeping in mind the theme of moderation given in the Word of Wisdom. Then, the additional purification by the Father is an even greater personal blessing.
Not long ago, as a full-time career person, working and traveling across the country, I was not always where I could say a formal blessing on the food I might eat during the day (one example: breakfast in Chicago, lunch in Boston, and supper in Little Rock, Arkansas), so I always blessed the food of that day in my morning prayer.
While in Provo, I’ve seen many residents and students alike bless the food in public restaurants. It is a wonderful experience. But when there is noise and the atmosphere does not permit, the morning prayer or a prayer in the heart should do.
When meals are served in social and service organizations, LDS members have had influence in suggesting a blessing on the food.
Now, how can we make the saying of the blessing on the food more respectful and carry greater meaning? You might try these suggestions:
Regardless of how many shifts there may be at a mealtime, it is a good experience for each family member or roommate to bless his or her own food as each prepares to eat alone.
Set a good atmosphere for the blessing, even a moment of quiet talk or silent thought before approaching your Father in heaven. You might assign a person ahead to say the blessing and make it an important, sacred moment. This is an on-going learning experience in the value of being grateful in which even the smallest children can participate.
Turn off all the noise (radio, TV, phonograph, dishwasher, etc.), at least during the time of the blessing.
An effective communication can be short and sincere by simply expressing thank you to our Heavenly Father and asking his blessing. Our 11-year-old boy, Rich, has added his own, unprompted postscript to his blessing since he was eight: “And please bless the people who don’t have any food that they will have some.”
Even if you eat alone at home or with your family, set a nice table, encourage good eating manners, and let the spirit of this blessing on the food be an uplifting and edifying experience.