Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

And the Topic Is…. (no joke)

Posted by BrianJ on July 1, 2007

My wife and I were asked to speak in sacrament meeting next Sunday. The topic: “Feasting on the words of Christ.”

Seriously. Not kidding at all.

Now, my bishopric—as far as I know—has no knowledge of this blog or the wiki, let alone my participation in them. While I find it ironic that this would be the topic, I mostly see it as exciting: here is my chance to really think about what these tools (blog and wiki) should represent to me. (Just to be clear: I’m not planning to talk about the blog/wiki, but rather talk about something which they also are focused on.)

Here are some of my initial thoughts—please add your own!

Rough Thoughts

Nephi’s meaning

The phrase “feasting upon the words of Christ” comes from 2 Nephi 31:20 and 32:3. What would Nephi have meant?

feast — Perhaps Nephi had in mind the Jewish feasts held throughout the year: Passover, Tabernacles, Unleavened Bread, etc. In those cases, “feast” meant much more than a party with a lot of good food. The feasts had a religious and cultural significance and the food often had a symbolic nature. The feasts weren’t really about the food. In fact, one of my Jewish friends always laments when it is time for the “feast” of unleavened bread, because when he is faced with the choice of matzo or fasting, he chooses the later.

words — There is a lexical note on this word on the wiki (linked above), but I’m not sure how Nephi is using it. Rendering it “things” seems so vague—“thing” is the word I use when I can’t come up with the right word. But there is certainly merit to expanding this beyond merely those words which find themselves printed in ink (or etched in metal, as it were). Indeed, Nephi just introduced the idea of the Holy Ghost acting as a witness of God, and in chapter 32 he states that angels speak the words of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless, I wonder just how Johannine Nephi intended to be.

Christ — Just a question here: why say “Christ” instead of “God”? I think it may be Nephi’s focus on Christ as the one who is “mighty to save” (31:19).

My own feasts

“Feast” does not necessarily mean “binge.” I happen to enjoy cooking, particularly on a grill, and one of the reasons I like it is because I like to see how people respond to something very nicely prepared. There are a couple of ways people show appreciation. Ranked in order:

  1. If they say they like it, well, that’s one form of praise.
  2. If they eat a lot of it, that’s another
  3. When I here from someone else that “so-and-so says you do a great barbecue.”
  4. Even better is when I catch them sitting across the table slowly chewing some morsel, ignoring the conversation around them, forgetting every other time they ever had pork tenderloin or corn on the cob or whatever came off the grill that day.
  5. But the highest praise anyone can give me—anyone has ever given me—is when they learn how to grill also.

I’m making a conscious effort to stop myself from taking this analogy too far—from turning this into a cooking show—but I hope I’ve made my point: whenever there is a feast, there is a chef, and there are different degrees of appreciation for the chef’s efforts.

How to feast

In Brazil, a popular restaurant style is the churrascaria, where various roasted meats are paraded around the dining hall on spits and sliced warm right on your plate. There is also a self-serve vegetable and grains bar. The novice ignores the veggies entirely, hoping to focus all of his attention—and room in his stomach—on the meat. The experienced gourmand, however, knows that more meat be eaten if it is interspersed with selections from the salad bar, and that each meat will be more pleasing after cleansing the palate. (Let’s ignore “moderation in all things” for now….)

I don’t want to draw parallels between my gluttonous talents and scripture study, except to say that there are techniques to feasting that make it more than just pigging out. How do you know the difference, and what difference does it make?

I caught myself studying scripture lately in a way that feels very “feast-like”—I tell myself from the start that everything that I think I know is wrong. This forces me to read the scriptures without preconceptions which may in fact be wrong. It also lets the scriptures surprise me. For example, when I recently studied the chapter where Jesus washes the feet of the Apostles, I told myself, “This chapter isn’t about service or humility at all. It’s about something else.” And I was really surprised by the result: the chapter became for me a time to see how Jesus used Passover symbolism to illustrate his “new” testament message. (I’ll hopefully have time to post those thoughts in the next few days.) I no longer find myself reading with an “oh, man, chicken again?” attitude, but rather with renewed interest precisely because my attitude makes the scriptures new to me.

What are your feasting techniques?

Tradition

In my own culture’s (American) feasts, tradition plays a strong role. Thus, every Thanksgiving is met with turkey and stuffing, even though I find turkey to be a pretty boring meat and stuffing to be…well, I don’t want to offend. But I could never bring myself to give up the turkey—not because it would seem wrong, but because I would feel like I lost my connection to all the other Thanksgiving celebrators. I know that this point might contradict what I just wrote above, but is there some element of tradition in how we study scripture that is essential? Do we miss out on something important if we feast alone? Can we feast alone? Should we extend our dinner party to include all Christians, or merely all Mormons, or not at all?

8 Responses to “And the Topic Is…. (no joke)”

  1. robf said

    I’m all for extending the food analogy as far as you can, which is what I did when my wife and I had the same speaking assignment a couple months ago. And I like the “cleansing of the palet” analogy of assuming you don’t already know what a scripture means. Last night, when I couldn’t sleep in the middle of the night, I was pondering D&C 76 and realizing there is so much more there than I’ve even considered, and that I can’t claim to really understand it yet after over 30 years of living with it. Feast away!

  2. robf said

    Looks like I flubbed up the HTML tag on that last one, and I can’t seem to find where I can edit my comments. Sorry ’bout that.

  3. BrianJ said

    robf: I can’t find your old post, so I can’t fix the link for you or read what you wrote there. Help!

  4. robf said

    My old post was here.

  5. Robert C. said

    BrianJ, great post. I, unfortunately, developed quite a taste for fine dining when I worked as a waiter in some pretty nice restaurants (my wife also blames this experience for my staying in school for so long, and for usually tipping more than I probably should—so there’s a real sense in which I’ve spent more money as a result of waiting tables than I ever made!).

    Here are some related thoughts I posted on the wiki a while back (under the “Tone of site” heading). I think the wedding feast is an extremely rich metaphor for many of the reasons you’ve suggested. I esp. like how you discuss the different ways others can show their appreciation….

  6. BrianJ said

    robf: thanks for the link. Your thoughts there are so profound—I remember the original post, but I wasn’t able to follow the rest of the discussion when it was first posted (it was a very hectic time for me).

  7. hollywoodheidi said

    Hi! I just found this forum and it looks really cool.

    Now, I gotta run off and read some posts. :)

  8. Jim F. said

    Rob, I’m not sure why I missed this post the first time around, but I did. I’m glad that hollywoodheidi dropped by, not only because its nice to have another reader, but also because it pointed me to your post.

    I like the analogy. With robf, I agree that the “cleansing the palate” part is very helpful. I’m likely to steal this for a talk some time.

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