How Family Table/Dinners Saved our Family

Reshare from Passing Down the Faith (See www.passingdownthefaith.org for more inspiring articles)

As a child, my mother taught me manners when it came to the dinner table, as we had many lessons on etiquette for our homeschooling. “No elbows”, “no pots and pans on the table”, and to “use a tablecloth for Sunday meals.” My mother loved to set the table with different tablecloths and to create a nice place for our family to gather. Sometimes she would even set the mood for the day and set the table in the morning for that evening dinner time. She also would say: “You can be poor, yet still create beauty for your family.” I have hung onto those words, especially at times when the budget was stretched while raising my own family.

A Thanksgiving table setting focusing on our Scandanavia heritage

EVERY MEAL WAS ITS OWN UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

I married into a ‘Martha Stewart’ type home where I learned not only to use a tablecloth but how to decorate the table! My mother-in-law has a new cloth for every meal, and the table is always decorated with candles, greenery, ribbons, and cute objects from her collections from their world travels displayed down the middle of her table. We always wanted to know where the ‘secret room’ was that held hundreds of tablecloths and different sets of dishware. Not only was the setting exquisite, but people lingered around longer than we thought was usual, due to the warmth it created. Every meal was its own unique experience. From my mother-in-law, I have learned how important these details are in pleasing a crowd; along with rich foods and calculated conversation, the family is drawn in.

Celebrating Joseph Smith’s Birthday with his symbols and the House of Joseph

TABLE IMPORTANCE FOUND IN THE BIBLE

As a mother, I have used these ‘do’s and don’ts’ from both of these great teachers at different times with my own children, but it hasn’t been until recently that I have learned about the importance of the dinner table conversation. On a quest to restore the Biblical family, and reach and rescue our children as best as we can—and in a timely way as we can—we have now found a way to bring it all together in one place!

“We also counseled parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities.” 

First Presidency letter of October 4, 1999

The table is not only a place to gather, but a PATTERN for us to follow. We see in the scriptures that Christ taught that a table is a place of peace, instruction, and discipleship.

We also find hospitality, culture, and reformation that takes place at the table. Where men give loyalty, treachery can be revealed, the doctrine is given, heresy rebuked, and so forth. This table pattern is what Christ modeled for the family; far more than merely having a meal, He set an example.

The table was decorated with 200-year-old bibles and an old spoon of ancestor John Howland

Jesus Christ uses the table to teach us vast significant and spiritual implications. No wonder the table is under attack with the fast food and TV culture we live in. In scripture, families would stay at the table and feast for lengthy periods of time—sometimes even for days. Now we are blessed if dinner is 15 minutes long, or even that. No wonder we have a society that is disobedient to the father, and rebellion has become a plague as we move further and further from this doctrine Christ set forth for us to pattern our homes from, with the father leading as Christ did.

“Set in order [our] family, and see that they are more diligent and concerned at home, and pray always, or they shall be removed out of their place”. The admonition, even the rebuke, given by the Lord to Joseph Smith and the leaders of the Church in 1833 to “set in order [our] own house”.

Doctrine and Covenants 93:43, 50

HEARTS WERE TURNED

We won’t lie—the first week of having dinners together so formally was a bit awkward, as we were not used to sitting at the dinner table more than our traditional allotted rush time of 15 minutes. The preparation alone became equal to that of cooking time, as tablecloths were selected, napkins were ironed, and a centerpiece was created. But as we pursued this new tradition, the family began to linger longer a little more each night. 

Our granddaughter Alivia enjoying her Scottish dinner

Brad began to feel more and more comfortable leading dinner conversations, reaching out to each family member regarding current interests and projects, and giving assignments. we would never have guessed that the role of the Patriarch begins at the table as he leads the feast. As doctrine has begun to be expanded, and false teachings rebuked, we came to realize how important the table really is to a family and its future. Someone once said they thought that the table is where the ‘spirit of Elijah’ begins and when the hearts of the children turn to their fathers. I agree! 

“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. ” 

Malachi 4:5–6

Together, both my husband and I have learned that the home is a breeding ground for how the Church will someday be. Learning and applying patterns found in the scriptures—and seeing results—could not bring me more joy than it already has. And to show our children how to do this will not only strengthen their homes but eventually the Church, as our families become leaders. 

The Spirit that has come into our home has been amazing and still lingers now 4 years later. We can testify that restoring the dinner table can revolutionize an entire home and posterity as we now watch our son-in-law do the same in his home with our grandchildren. This is one more way (or place) to pass down the faith to the next generation.

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