This article is part of a series on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Featured Author Jane Birch.
I love thanksgiving. I love giving thanks to God for all His blessings, large and small. Giving thanks is all the more wonderful because God loves it when we are thankful. He even asks us to give thanks: “Give thanks unto God . . . for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with” (D&C 46:32). What a great commandment!
Do you ever think about the fact that giving thanks is a central part of the Word of Wisdom? We are told twice that the foods God ordained for us should be used with “thanksgiving.” First, when describing wholesome plant foods, the Lord tells us, “all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving” (D&C 89:11). Again, in regard to the flesh of animals, God tells us that when this is needed, it too should be used “with thanksgiving” (D&C 89:12).
What does it mean to eat with thanksgiving? For almost a year now, I’ve had sticky notes located strategically around my home and work environment that remind me to “Eat with Thanksgiving,” so I’ve had some time to think about this phrase. I’d like to share some thoughts today. I conclude with links to dozens of wonderful whole food, plant-based Thanksgiving recipes!
Prepare With Love
Eating with thanksgiving begins, I believe, by not begrudging the time it takes us to prepare wholesome foods. Our time belongs to the Lord, and since He created a world such that wholesome foods take time to prepare, He obviously plans for us to use a good part of the time He has given us to prepare food. Who are we to argue with how we should use the time we have already consecrated to the Lord?
Rather then preparing our food with a heart full of annoyance at the time it takes, what if we prepared our food with a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity to have and handle wholesome foods that truly nourish our bodies? Dr. Garth Davis talks about the wonderful food he once encountered at a yoga resort. He could not get over how delicious the vegetarian fare was. He records:
Eventually, I decided to find out from the chef how he made this food so nourishing on so many levels. I entered his kitchen, and it was like out of a movie. Birds were chirping, beautiful vegetables and fruits lay everywhere, and the chef was radiating joyful attention, chopping the food and whistling. I asked him why I felt so great eating his food, and his response changed my life: “Because I make it with love!” *
Set the Table with Joy
Part of enjoying food is enjoying the environment we eat in. When we eat on the run or eat from paper plates or our hands, food becomes a side issue and not something we slow down to enjoy. By setting the table with nice plates and silverware, we make eating an occasion where we can better enjoy not only the food by also each other’s company. Even when we are by ourselves, setting a nice table demonstrates the feeling we have toward our food: that it is something special that we are grateful for and want to take the time to enjoy.
Give Thanks to God in Prayer
Sometimes we eat on the run and forget to pray. Sitting down to the table to enjoy our food can help us remember to first offer our heartfelt thanks to our Father. We are blessed if we slow down enough to offer a meaningful prayer that helps us genuinely connect to Him.
By eating wholesome foods, we can with sincerity ask our Father to bless the food to our health, knowing we have done our part by choosing foods that are good for our bodies.
I’ve wolfed down my food since I was a child. This has always been easy to do because I have a huge appetite and no problems digesting food. But after considering the injunction to use food with thanksgiving, I’ve come to realize that we are missing out on some very important blessings when we eat quickly or mindlessly.
The Lord delights to bless us with food “both to please the eye and to gladden the heart . . . for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul” (D&C 59:18–19). As I’ve learned to slow down and eat more mindfully, I’ve discovered that I’m better able to appreciate and feel grateful for every aspect of the food God has blessed us with. It does “please the eye” and “gladden the heart,” but only if we are paying attention!
Now, I enjoy taking time to admire the beauty of the food and the wonderful smells. I try to remember to take smaller bites and to chew them more thoroughly. When I concentrate on how the food tastes, I find it tastes even better! As a bonus, eating mindfully helps us be aware of how much we are eating and when we are full, so we don’t overeat.
Eat Without Regrets
We’ve all experienced occasions when we’ve gathered to eat some very unhealthy food or refreshments and the usual prayer is given to ask Heavenly Father “to bless the food so it will nourish and strengthen our bodies.” Sometimes this provokes some sheepish smiles or laughter. We all feel this is rather insincere. We know that it is unwise for us to make poor food decisions and then ask God to make up the difference for us.
A key to eating with thanksgiving is choosing the type of food that makes us feel good, both physically and spiritually. When we eat the wholesome foods the Lord has provided us, and we eat them in the way that is pleasing to Him, we are demonstrating our gratitude for the wonderful foods He has given us. These foods really are amazing! Scientists have barely begun to understand the intricate, sophisticated, and complex ways wholesome plant foods nourish our bodies.
When we eat wholesome foods, we are also expressing our appreciation for the bodies God has given us. We are acknowledging that we believe our body temples are priceless gifts and demonstrating that we are willing to take good care of them.
Word of Wisdom Promises
We can never repay the Lord for His bounteous blessings. As soon as we try, new blessings appear. Certainly this the case with embracing a healthy Word of Wisdom diet. As soon as we think we are making a “sacrifice” by forsaking the unhealthy foods we love and eating the wholesome foods God has ordained, we discover that the new foods are just as delicious. In fact, we learn they are even more wonderful than the former foods because we can truly eat them with heart and soul filled with thanksgiving . . . and no regrets!
By eating the Word of Wisdom way, the Lord can bless us with many amazing blessings. Just consider the promises He gives in the Word of Wisdom:
- health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
- wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
- run and not be weary, walk and not faint;
- the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. (D&C 89:18–21)
Certainly these are blessings that should fill us with thanksgiving!
The Blessings of Gratitude
Not only is it a pleasure to be filled with gratitude, but unbelievably, giving thanks itself triggers immeasurable blessings. I consider the following promise from the Lord as one of the most amazing in all scripture:
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness
shall be made glorious;
and the things of this earth shall be added unto him,
even an hundred fold,
I added emphasis to the last two words of this scripture found in D&C 78:19 because every time I read them, I get choked up. When we are grateful to the Lord for all things, we are “made glorious” and given “the things of this earth,” but God does not even stop there. He promises: “even an hundred fold, yea, more.”
Oh what reasons we have to be thankful!
Real Mormons • Real Stories
As a young mother, Shara Mitchell quickly lost the battle to feed her family healthy foods and soon joined them in eating poorly. She began to hate almost everything about food and wondered why God made it. Then her health took a serious nosedive. Fortunately, intense investigation eventually led her to whole food, plant-based eating, opening her eyes to the Word of Wisdom and to the glorious reasons why God created food. Her relationship to food has gone from hatred to reverence and respect for its divinely ordained role in our lives. Truly the transformation Shara experienced is one of the “hidden treasures” in the Word of Wisdom! Read Shara’s story here: “Why did God invent food?!?”
Whole Food, Plant-based Diet Thanksgiving Recipes
I love that we have a holiday that celebrates giving thanks. I wish everyone a hearty Thanksgiving! Here are a several sites that contain a wide variety of whole food, plant-based Thanksgiving recipes.
Susan Voisin (Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen): Thanksgiving Recipes
Will and Bonnie (Potato Strong): Thanksgiving Vegan Recipes
Anja Cass (Cooking with Plants): 10 Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes That Are Easy to Make!
Mary McDougall (DrMcDougall.com): Holiday Meal Planning & Recipes
Forks Over Knives, 2012: Recipes for a Plant-Based Thanksgiving 2012
Forks Over Knives, 2013: Recipes for a Plant-Based Thanksgiving 2013
Forks Over Knives, 2014: Recipes for a Plant-Based Thanksgiving 2014
Forks Over Knives, 2015: A Plant-Based Thanksgiving Menu To Be Thankful For (2015)
For Help Getting Started
For more information on a whole food, plant-based Word of Wisdom diet, see: “Getting Started.”
Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (2013) 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.”
* Garth Davis & Howard Jacobson, Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession With Meat is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It (New York: HarperOne, 2015), pp. 283–284.