I don’t bless the food. The last time I remember blessing my food was sometime in April 1994. Lunch on a Tuesday, if I remember correctly. Don’t get me wrong—I say a prayer before every meal and give thanks for the food that I’ve been blessed with. But I don’t bless it. I stopped after realizing that it was not only pointless, but quite likely a “vain repetition” (3 Nephi 13:7). I strongly believe in the importance of giving thanks for my food, but what does blessing my food accomplish? What am I blessing it for? To “nourish and strengthen” my body? If I eat healthy foods, they will nourish and strengthen my body; if I eat unhealthy foods, they won’t. I can see petitioning God in prayer for the wisdom to make good choices regarding what I eat, or to bless me with economic prosperity to afford a healthy diet, but I don’t think that even the most faithful, articulate blessing is going to make my ice cream less fattening, my potato chips less full of sodium, or my soda less sugary. Indeed, blessing food reaches it’s height of absurdity in LDS culture at church functions where we are always careful to “bless the refreshments to nourish and strengthen our bodies.” Sorry, but if the refreshments are punch, cookies and brownies, I’m betting God will not grant that one. Seems to me that such a blessing is expecting God to divorce the natural consequences from our poor choices.

There are two narrow exceptions to this rule: First, if you have a sincerely held belief that the food you eat will somehow cause harm to your body. Second, if you do not have the means (economic or otherwise) to eat a healthy, balanced diet, and you are sincerely petitioning God to have the food you eat nourish you beyond the food’s natural capacity.

I witnessed both of these exceptions on a number of occasions when my wife and I were working in Africa. First, there were times when I was served food that I had reason to believe could threaten my health. Under these circumstances, I can understand blessing the food to not cause me harm (I still didn’t bless it, but I can understand someone doing so). Second, there were many people with whom we worked who did not have the economic means to maintain a healthy diet. I can understand those people blessing their limited amount of food to provide nourishment beyond what it would naturally.

All injunctions by Church leaders to bless food that I have found are using the phrase colloquially, to mean offering a prayer over one’s food—but not literally blessing it. I’m certainly willing to change course and resume blessing my food if someone can present a compelling justification to do so. To date, I haven’t found one. Anyone?