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This article is part of a series on the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Discovering the Word of Wisdom.
Reminder: The 10-day jumpstart begins January 1
Last week I announced a 10-day whole food, plant-based jumpstart beginning January 1. Everyone is welcome to join. No matter what your current diet is, and where you want to end up, all of us have room for improvement. See: Join the 10-Day January Jumpstart.
Celebrating Christ Through Food
Christmas season is a time for celebration. We celebrate in many ways, but Jesus Christ is the center of it all. Jesus is the reason for the season. He is the reason for our celebrations, and He provides us with all we need to celebrate, including the food. He tells us in D&C 59:
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. (D&C 59:18-19)
How do you decide what foods to prepare for Christmas celebrations and other meals during this season? Of course, we want to provide food that is delicious and shows our love for our family and guests. In addition, since Jesus is the very reason for our joy and celebrations, we can also consider eating in a way that celebrates Him.
How can we celebrate our Savior through the foods we choose to eat? Fortunately, He has given us some clues. In D&C 89, the Word of Wisdom, He reveals “the order and will of God” regarding the foods we consume (D&C 89:2). If the counsel in this powerful revelation is important to us at other times of the year, should it not be all the more important during the very season when we celebrate His birth? Perhaps as an annual tradition, this can be a season when we are extra careful to pay heed to His will for us as our gift to Him.
Sometimes when we want to give a gift to someone we love, we don’t have a clue what they would like, what pleases them. Fortunately, when it comes to our food choices, the Lord has given us many clues about what would please Him. In fact, He has ordained three foods for our use and explained how these are to be used: wholesome plant foods without restriction; the flesh of animals sparingly (if at all); and grains as the staff of life, the foundation of our diet (see Three Foods Ordained by God).
How Can We Please the Lord by How We Eat?
I’m especially interested in the fact that the Lord uses a form of the word pleased twice in the Doctrines and Covenants in reference to food to explain what pleases Him. Since we are celebrating His birth, how wonderful it is to think about pleasing Him through the foods we eat.
First, there’s the verse in the Word of Wisdom where the Lord tells us it is “pleasing” to Him if we do not use meat except under certain situations: winter, cold, or famine (D&C 89:13). Some of us may interpret this verse literally (Christmas is in the winter, though we are rarely in famine). Others interpret it to mean that it pleases the Lord if we forgo meat except in times of need (times when plant foods are unavailable due to winter, cold or famine). However we understand this verse, doing what we believe is pleasing to the Lord can be one of the gifts we give to the Savior during this season. Unless we take thought, meat is often the center of the celebration, so it may be helpful to review His counsel to use it sparingly (if at all) and when we do, with thanksgiving (D&C 89:12).
But I’d like to spend a bit more time with the second scripture about what pleases the Lord, which is found in D&C 59. After the Lord describes giving us “all things which come of the earth . . . both to please the eye and to gladden the heart,” He tells us:
And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. (D&C 59:20)
I love food, so I’m happy to know that it pleases God for me to have this food, and it makes me want to pay close attention to the way it should be used:
- with judgment
- not to excess
- neither by extortion
First, according to the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, the word judgment as used in scripture means:
the spirit of wisdom and prudence, enabling a person to discern right and wrong, good and evil. [All definitions in this article come from Webster’s Dictionary 1828 – Online Edition.]
The words wisdom and prudence also appear in D&C 89 in relation to how we are to use food. This must be important! Webster’s defines prudence as “Wisdom applied to practice.” Further, Webster’s explains:
Prudence differs from wisdom in this, that prudence implies more caution and reserve than wisdom, or is exercised more in foreseeing and avoiding evil, than in devising and executing that which is good.
When we eat “with judgment” we use both wisdom and prudence to choose the foods that are good and avoid those that are not wise for us to consume.
Second, the Lord has given us the bounty of food this earth produces, but He tells us it is to be used “not to excess.” According to Webster’s, excess in a moral sense is:
any indulgence of appetite, passion or exertion, beyond the rules of God’s word, or beyond any rule of propriety [such] as excess in eating or drinking
Of course, excess is often the very thing we do during the holiday season. How can this season be different? How can we avoid eating in excess? Perhaps knowing this is pleasing to the Lord can give us added motivation.
Last, Webster’s explains that extortion means:
the act or practice of wresting any thing from a person by force, duress, menaces, authority, or by any undue exercise of power
What might this phrase imply for how we use food? Most of us are small players in the marketplace of food, but even as small players we may unknowingly play a role in practices that could well be described as extortion in terms of the way the food of this world is produced and marketed. This might especially be true for the practice of animal agriculture, which appears to be particularly prone to abuse of both animals and the environment. Surely this abuse cannot be pleasing to the Lord. No wonder we are warned against it.
Eating the Lord’s Way Makes the Season Even More Celebratory!
I am the first to admit that I often did not allow this counsel from the Lord to guide my use of food during holiday seasons in years past. While I was mostly blissfully ignorant of how much my food choices might have contributed to extortion, I was well aware that many of my food choices were not made with judgment and definitely were in excess. I say this not to condemn myself (and certainly not to condemn others); I do not think shame is a useful emotion to help motivate us. I do think it is helpful to ponder these verses and consider how we might do better.
I find it interesting and motivating to realize that when I use both judgment and restraint in the type and quantity of foods I eat, I feel so much better! I feel lighter, freer, and closer to God. In fact, I feel more celebratory! In other words, by celebrating Christ through the foods I eat, I feel more of the spirit of joy and celebration. And of course, these blessings count as yet another of the Savior’s gifts.
Sign Up for the January Jumpstart!
No matter how much judgment you are using during the holidays, January is always a great time of the year to step it up in terms of making important changes that have the potential of becoming significant lifetime habits — blessing you for the rest of your life.
Is it time for a healthy change in your life? It is much easier to do this with others and get a little support. For more information on the jumpstart, see: Join the 10-Day January Jumpstart. Go here to join the 2017 10-Day WFPB Jumpstart. By signing up, you’ll get periodic email reminders and encouragement!
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I’m excited to support you in this jumpstart.
To learn more about whole food, plant-based nutrition and how to get started, see: “Getting Started.”
Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom. Watch the video “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film.”