Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching


Posted by robf on April 3, 2007

Since I’m preparing a talk for sacrament meeting in a couple weeks, and I’m the ward sunday school president, I’ve been thinking a lot about feasting upon the word. How does the metaphor of feasting influence your own scripture study?

One of the things that strikes me about feasting is that it isn’t a private or individual type of activity. You can pig out by yourself, but feast? What does that tell us about how we might should be partaking of the scriptures?

I’ve been thinking about an analogy to a ward potluck. Isn’t the ward sunday school class sort of like a ward potluck, where we gather together to feast upon the word? Would you show up at a ward potluck without bringing something to share? Do we do that when we attend the ward scriptural feast (sunday school class)? How often when we go to the ward potluck, do we just grab a last minute bag of chips to bring with us? How is that different than puting time and care into preparing something special and unique to share? Can we relate that thought to our scriptural feasting? What do we bring to our ward scriptural feast?

So, when we are studying our scriptures, how often are we merely nibbling, snacking, or plain pigging out, rather than preparing a sumptuous fare to share at our ward scriptural feast?

How far can we take this metaphor or analogy of feasting?

25 Responses to “Feasting”

  1. Robert C. said

    I love the potluck analogy. I think it is also an interesting metaphor to consider the hermeneutic questions we’ve been discussing lately (that is, just like everyone has different favorite foods and dishes, everyone might have favorite scriptures and even different ways of reading scripture). I also think the metaphor might be extended to think about the ways in which we are to become chefs, waiter staff, bussers, etc. at the feast. In fact, I’ve been thinking a bit about whether “feasting upon the word” as used in scripture really means reading and studying the scriptures. In 2 Ne 31-32 it seems “the word” applies more generally to any words that are spoken by servants of God (angels in partcilar, though I wonder if angels refers only to extra-mortal beings…). (You’ll recall I brought this up when we were discussing how we wanted to define the scope of this blog.) Elder Holland’s talk (I think, anyway, my kids distracted me through much of Conference!) got me thinking about this more, about what words should be considered the “words of Christ” upon which we are to feast, and I’m not so sure that the words we speak to each other should be excluded….

    Also, I’ve been thinking for a while about the feast imagery in general as used in scripture (BrianJ and I have discussed this a fair bit on past Sunday school posts; in particular I’ve suggested the sacrament might be thought in terms of a joyous feast/celebration of remembrance rather than simply a morbid remembrance of death and suffering…).

    I think Margaret Barker discusses this in interesting ways, though I can’t give you specific references or remember anything in particular. Wherever I got this from, I tend to think of “feast” referring to the heavenly wedding feast between Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as his bride (I’ve also wondered if this imagery might open doors to thinking about polygamy in interesting ways…).

  2. robf said

    Thanks Robert, I definitely see the sacrament as a communal feast. Perhaps the ordinance is the first course, and the talks the second course? Sunday school becomes a third course? Followed by the shared MP/RS lessons as another? That’s some heavy duty feasting–with all of us playing multiple roles as chefs, servers, feasters, etc.

    Makes me wonder about the nature of “Church work”. Sometimes we think of preparing lessons or running sunday programs as the work we are to do–and there is a lot of preparation and all involved. But perhaps that “work” should be seen as more celebratory and festive, while the real work of ministering happens during the week.

    Then of course, ministering in reality is probably another form of feasting as well. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds home teaching to be one of the highlights of my month.

    I think the main thing here is that feasting is a communal activity. Solitary scripture study can be rewarding, and can help in feast preparation, but maybe we shouldn’t see it as feasting in and of itself.

  3. BrianJ said

    I love the analogy! This may become a centerpiece in an upcoming Gospel Doctrine lesson (I’m thinking of having a lesson on how to study and prepare a lesson; I don’t really want to do it, but I’m feeling compelled/inspired). Thanks!

    Robert: I still often reflect on the sacrament festival imagery. That still ranks as one of the best scripture discoveries for me. (That’s worded strangely, but you get my point).

  4. Todd Wood said

    “Feast upon the Word” is a terrific title. Who came up with this title? Robert C.?

    I tell others, “When it comes to the Word, the more you feed, the greater your appetite grows.” :)

    People are not hungry because they don’t feast.

  5. Robert C. said

    Tood, the title came from Matthew who did all the work of setting up the wiki and most of the work/research setting up this blog. It’s a quote from 2 Nephi 31-32, perhaps it occurs elsewhere too.

  6. nhilton said

    This whole “feast” metaphore is captured in the Passover that so many are celebrating today. The Messianic Jewish Seder I went to last night embodied the Passover & sacrament. It was beautiful to have Passover with a group of people who believe Jesus to have atoned, or completed the message of the Passover. Tho they don’t have the sacrament in their lives, the Passover filled much of this celebratory aspect for them. When they got to the shank bone and then spoke about the cruxifixtion, the Spirit bore witness that Jesus did die for us all. The passover lamb, sacrificial lamb typology was so clearly understood by those in attendance, about 1,000 people & only 2 LDS in the group.

    Historically, sharing a meal with another person is a symbol of friendship & love. The Savior demonstrated this during the Last Supper and we do it as we share the bread and water during the sacrament. The word “sacrament” comes from the Latin meaning of oath of allegiance, obligation or to consecrate. Our family mealtime should be a sacrament where we renew our oath of allegiance & obligation to one another and consecrate that portion of our day to the strengthening of family bonds.

    This feast metaphore for the scriptures has the potential to renew our oath of allegiance & obligation with the Lord and to our convenants.

  7. Cherylem said

    #6 nhilton,
    I’ve been interested in your comments regarding your experience with the messianic Jewish community. Interestingly, I have a friend who is a messianic Jew: Mark S. Kinzer, rabbi of the Congregation Zera Avraham (Messianic) in Ann Arbor MI. His 2005 book is POST-MISSIONARY MESSIANIC JUDAISM. Mark is a very very good guy, very intelligent, very committed, very active within this group of people.

    If you are interested, his website is http://www.cza-annarbor.org/

  8. nhilton said

    Cherylem, then perhaps you can tell me why they don’t embrace Mormonism when all the M.Jews are lacking is the priesthood & its ordinances. I don’t know any M.Jews well enough to ask this pointed question.

  9. Todd Wood said

    Then I tip my hat to Matthew for the title.

  10. Rob, thanks for this post. The communal aspect of feasting really speaks to me. I’ve found the wiki to be quite helpful because of its communal aspect: I do not eat alone, but with so many others. I inevitably find that I learn a great deal more about the scriptures as I discuss them with others (my wife is an amazing student of the scriptures). I suppose one of the reasons I enjoy teaching so much is because it allows me this communal feast. And yet so many classrooms (and I suppose I have seminary in mind here more than anything) are simply a forced feeding of one kind of health food.

  11. ed42 said

    “Isn’t the ward sunday school class sort of like a ward potluck, where we gather together to feast upon the word?” I wish. The ward SS class is mostly like sucking on baby formula. Where’s the beef? The lesson manual (and hence the teacher) brings up the most mundane, boring, and formulistic questions. Do we really need questions a primary child can answer?

    “Would you show up at a ward potluck without bringing something to share?” If the only thing you were allowed to bring to a potluck is baby formula would you even show up?

    I want to feast, but sadly we are not allowed, and even non-church discussion groups have been discouraged.

    Feed me

  12. ed42, are you aware of the wiki?

  13. ed42 said

    Which wiki are you refering to Mr. Spencer?

  14. Joe Spencer said


    This blog is a companion to the wiki. The main page has some links to tutorials, etc., but the discussion we carry on there is rather fascinating (watch the “Recent Changes” link).

  15. nhilton said

    ed42, If you REALLY want to be fed, you’ll need to figuratively set the table, sit down on a comfortable chair, put a napkin on your lap, pick up your utinsels and eat. This isn’t a spoon feeding (or bottle feeding) per your analogy. :) The beauty of this fact is that you can nibble or feast, whatever your appetite. The Sunday School lesson posts here are wonderful! I’ve been using Jim F.’s posts for years to supplement my own study to teach Gospel Doctrine lessons. Get out your scriptures & go through Jim’s posts verse by verse. There are other posts you can do this with. You can also do this with the Ensign articles–something I love to do, or study a talk found at lds.org on a given subject you’re interested in or use a side-by-side commentary. I noticed your kind comment at my personal blog on a SS lesson. These are just a taste of what you can do on your own. I begin a Biblical Greek study group tomorrow night. This will be an adventure! Bon Apetite!

  16. nhilton said

    Ed42, additionally, I probably wouldn’t take to the ward potluck anything really ethnic or gourmet for fear it wouldn’t be appreciated (pearls before swine kinda thing). Ward potlucks are notorious for funeral potatoes, mushroom soup green beans & jellow. Sometimes SS class is bland, or at least super predictable, because no one knows just what is “safe” to share or worth their emotional energy or risk. We sit like drones just listening with hopes that there will be something worth mentally digesting. Unless WE (as students)venture something, we’re unlikely to really get anything delicious back. I’m not advocating controversy or contending within SS class, but rather something of MEAT. (OR MAYBE I SHOULD SAY CHOCOLATE.) Something that is worth savoring or chewing on for a while. Moments of silence where everyone is pondering, with the reality of an ultimate response being required, is a sign of a wonderful SS class. More than one response per question, things unanswerable & tabled for a future discussion, homework required before answers are available–these kinds of things make for a terrific SS class. You as the teacher OR the student can make this happen.

  17. Robert C. said

    (nhilton #16, speaking of chocolate, if you haven’t tried Amano chocolate, you simply must! Clark Goble who writes the Mormon Metaphysics blog started the company here in Utah, which happens to be a great altitude for making chocolate, with his partner Art Pollard….)

  18. Matthew said

    re: 4, 5 & 9. Credit for the title “Feast upon the Word” goes to my wife, Angela.

  19. robf said

    I’ve added a little bit to the wiki on this, just some initial thoughts about the “word” as the Hebrew “dabar”, which might also be translated as “thing”. I’m interested in the Old English sense of “thing” as an assembly or council meeting. I’m seeing feasting on the word as having very little to do with sitting and pondering the scriptures, but more to do with entering into a dialogue, council, “thing” with the LORD. Pondering can sometimes bring one to the council, and that should be the purpose of the pondering. I’m wondering if scripture study that doesn’t induce that kind of an experience and build that kind of relationship, may be looking beyond the mark?

  20. I really like this reading, Rob. I’d like to think about it more, especially in the context of 2 Nephi 31-32, as you’ve centered it there on the wiki. I’ll have time in the morning… I think.

  21. I wrestle with the meaning of the phrase “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.” How on earth are we to understand this phrase? Especially in light of our recent discussions of the nature of the Spirit. I sense, in the Book of Mormon at least, a kind of division of labor between the Spirit and the Holy Ghost. The latter seems to be involved, more or less directly, with a kind of unique doctrine of the Godhead, while the former seems to be something more like a universal influence of some kind (without getting into the metaphysical weirdness of some discussions of the Spirit!). If the Holy Ghost plays the role of sealer, of binder, especially between the Father and the Son (or between the Father and a son/daughter), then what role do the angels play here, and what does it mean to say that they are “speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost”?

    In fact, what does “the power of the Holy Ghost” have reference to? I’m obviously acquainted with the common distinction between “the power” and “the gift,” but, frankly, that interpretation makes no sense of the appearances of the two phrases in the Book of Mormon. If the phrase “the power of…” is taken quite literally, does it not point to something beyond the gift, to something more than the ritual or token reception of Holy Ghost? In the end, doesn’t “Moroni’s promise” promise precisely more than a nice feeling of peace?

    But enough questions, now a couple of thoughts. In looking more closely at the passage, as well as what you are trying to suggest about it, Rob, I remembered a rather fascinating article worth reading: “The Understanding of History in the Old Testament Prophets” by Hans Walter Wolf (it can be found in Claus Westermann, ed., Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics). It is only twenty pages long, but it explores the meaning of precisely the Hebrew word dabar. Here are a few excerpts from it that might open up further thinking:

    “The future of God is anticipated in the prophetic word. ‘Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revelaing his secret to his servants the prophets’ (Amos 3:7, R.S.V.). Consequently, a revealing of coming history takes place in the prophetic word. In this it must be noted that the Hebrew dabar denotes word as well as event; in this it can only be compared to our word ‘history,’ which we use for that which is spoken (recounted history) and for that which occured (experienced history)…. istory is imparted to the prophet in the word.” (338)

    “What follows from this? Since the future appears first in the historical event of the prophetic word, history is understood here as a dialogue of Yahweh with Israel…. The nature of history as dialogue is shown quite directly in that Yahweh’s word for the future very often confronts the voice of the contemporaries in a quotation. ‘But you said, “No! We will speed upon horses,” therefore you shall speed away; and “We will ride upon swift steeds,” therefore your pursuers shall be swift’ (Isa. 30:16, R.S.V.).” (338-9)

    “By these observations a misunderstanding of history as the ‘work of Yahweh’ is avoided, namely, in reference to the function of man in history. He is certainly not the antagonist of God, nor yet the proper subject of history, but neither is he a simple object; he is to be understood as a partner in conversation with the God who creates history.” (339)


    Do we speak the words of Christ to the Father (in the role of the Son… as angels/sons of God) in a conversation that amounts to “salvation history”? Is history itself woven into the veil as we speak with the Father? Is the council always going on? Do you remember that scene at the end of Lewis’ The Great Divorce where he sees, for a moment, so many gods (us) standing around a chessboard, silent and still, as a kind of council gathered? Might that be the eternities in which even now we participate (Abraham sees himself in the council, etc.), though we can’t see it for a moment? What is the temple trying to tell us, anyway? Am I not standing in that council every time I enter the celestial room?

    A great deal to think about here.

  22. robf said

    And I’m thinking about Amos 8:11, the famine of hearing the word of the Lord which occurs if we don’t “feast upon the word” or partake of the divine council discussion. Maybe we have a choice–partake in the ongoing discussion, or choose to live in a famine situation.

    I’m thinking more and more about the “word” and what that might mean. In preliterate societies, the word is an embodiment and participation of wind through breath–both related in Hebrew thought to spirit (ruach). You couldn’t separate word from breath or spirit. The thoughts, emotions, feelings were all expressed through words as breathed. To feast on these words is to partake of the same spirit and breath.

    In the Hebrew aleph-beth, without vowels, a reader had to voice the consonants and animate them (give them breath) through vowels, which are sounds shaped by the breath moving through the mouth. The written words were animated and interpreted at the same time by giving them voice, breathing life into them. In later Greek writing, with vowels, there is less interpretation and intention needed to give life to the written words (because a reader didn’t have to choose the vowels), but one still had to animate the words, give them breath.

    Perhaps the angels speak with that same spirit or breath. Can we see the Holy Ghost/Spirit as a Holy wind/breath/spirit (ruach) that animates (puts life into, through breath) the words of both angels and Christ? Is there something about this Holy Wind that is different than, though part of, the regular wind or spirit that gives life and light to everything? Perhaps a sanctifying and purifying wind or force?

    Some of these thoughts came while thinking through the very interesting phenomenological discussion of language in David Abram’s “The Spell of the Sensuous.”

    Sorry if this is a bit muddled. Hopefully some of this will become more clear in my mind when I’m giving my sacrament meeting talk on studying the scriptures/feasting upon the word this afternoon!

  23. Let us know how it went!

  24. robf said

    Well, it may not have been a typical sacrament meeting talk–what with mixing references to Wawa, Tastykake, and the Council in Heaven, but it all felt pretty good. I was asked at the last minute to substitute in the 10 year old primary class, and got to continue the discussion about the word of God in reviewing the parable of the sower (Primary 7 lesson 17). The kids were really eating it up–which was perhaps the most powerful experience of the day. OK, so we started the lesson trying to hang Darth Vader in a game of hangman, but we ended up talking about the mysteries of God, the revelation of the secrets of the Council in Heaven, and ordinances.

    There were some good hallway discussions sparked as well, about the Word, creation, and the Spirit. I ended up pushing the Sunday School=spiritual potluck/feast metaphor, so we’ll see if anything from that sticks. I wasn’t able to draw upon even half of what I had been thinking about, which is probably good, as I still have a lot to think about on this topic of feasting.

  25. Robert C. said

    Great discussion here. I like this link between conversation in the Great Council and the raw, physical, taste-sensation conjured in the image of feasting. That is, it’s not just a council blowing hot air, but something that is jointly experienced. I have in mind a very content-looking elderly couple we were observing the other night at a restaurant, a couple that didn’t have much to say to each other because it seems everything had been said between them, and yet we envied their unsaid, conversation in enjoying a meal together, adding to their already rich life of experiences shared together….

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