What? Startled, the sibling who was reaching for the food before being served pulled back his hand
with a jerk.
My father gave us his best mock glare. "If you eat the food before it's blessed, it will turn to stones in
"Mom, will it really turn to stones in my stomach? Won't I die?"
"No dear, but your father's right. You need to wait for the blessing."
Properly blessed, the food was passed around to all of us. We were careful to demonstrate patience
under scrutiny for this moment, even if there was no guarantee for tomorrow. Dinner was a time when
everything else was laid aside, and we all gathered. The only reason you didn't come to the table was
that you were too sick. We had actual conversation, and the television was never allowed.
"Stones in your stomach" became one of our standard family lines. It was likely to be uttered by any of
us catching another jumping the gun on dinner, or by my dad as a reminder to impatient children. It has
been continued to another generation as a joking constraint declared to my own children, and likely
some of my brothers' or sisters' households as well. For all I know, my grandchildren will hear it at
Thus are family traditions born, for good or ill. We never want to waste a good line!
There is a reason to ask a blessing on the food when we gather for a meal. Actually, there are several.
It is one of the things that help to form a pattern of prayer in our lives, and a pattern of gratitude. We
need to acknowledge the hand of our Father in Heaven in providing all we have, and his care.
We may say much the same phrases, but that's all right, the injunction against "vain repetition" in our
prayers notwithstanding. How many ways are there to thank the Lord that we have food to eat and ask
him to bless it? If we are striving for novelty, that's a distraction from our purpose, which is to pause in
our busy-ness and acknowledge our Heavenly Father.
What matters is that we are sincere in our moment of acknowledgement, and that we do stop and
It is part of the pattern we establish in our ordinary, daily lives: not to take what we have for granted;
not to take our Father's care and presence for granted. We bring all things to him, even the ordinary
ones. It gives us the opportunity for a moment of peace to touch us, and don't we all need that?
Conscientious as we were while raising our children, sometimes we might be tempted to let it slide now
that we are alone. My husband slipped into the habit -- I guess was losing the habit he should have
had -- of not bothering to ask a blessing alone when he sat down to eat. Too many times he was
grabbing a sandwich on the fly, anyway, so when he did sit down for a minute, alone, he would just
If I came home for lunch while he was in the process of eating his, I would ask if it was blessed. When
he said no, I forgot, I would stop both of us and ask a blessing. Or he would say no, go ahead, and
pause. But it was happening too often for me to feel sure that he was ever bothering to do it if I wasn't
there, so one day in these circumstances, no, I didn't bless it, what burst out of my mouth was, "What
kind of a high priest are you?"
Abashed, he replied, "Not a very good one, I guess. Sorry, please say the blessing for both of us."
Last Sunday, we had driven to church separately because he had an early morning meeting. We have a
deal in those circumstances that we check in with each other before one of us leaves the building, and
we did, but then I was delayed in leaving because there were a couple of people I needed to talk to.
He did not wait for me to arrive before he rustled up lunch. I think boys never grow up in some things,
and food is always an instant quest once he walks in the door. (In fairness, he is diabetic and
sometimes needs to eat quickly, especially since he keeps forgetting to take a snack with him.)
So I walked in to find him at the table with tomato soup and a sandwich, and I asked the question, "Did
you say the blessing?"
"Yes, I did," came his answer with a firm grin. "Because I knew you would ask."
Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her
father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always
partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family
took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.
The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always
included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions
at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or
poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and
service, were the family currency.
Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the
University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was
graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law
student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother
always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years
later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends,
and her opportunities to serve.