Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Ethics for Young Girls: Lesson 6: Ethics of the Table

Ethics for Young Girls: Lesson 6: Ethics of the Table

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 03, 2012

Ethics for Young Girls

Young Woman’s Journal, 1900-1901

Lesson 6: Ethics of the Table

Usually the only time the entire family is together is at meal time. How necessary it is, then, to understand the ethical principles underlying this custom, which even the savage observes.

It is a time when the mind and the body are free from labor, and the family and the friends meet together for social pleasure, and to gratify the cravings of nature. If it were only for the latter cause, why has it always been a custom for a number of people to eat together instead of eating separately? Even in ancient times when it was as convenient for one person to have his meal alone, as for all to have it together, all waited and had their meal at the same time.

The first thing to consider is the ethics of the table furnishings. Is it possible for the family to enjoy the meal hour if they are seated around a table over which is thrown a soiled tablecloth, or on which are scattered cracked dishes, without any regard to beauty of arrangement? Is that the kind of table husband and children linger at, telling experiences? Or is it the table which is vacant in a few minutes?

What pleasure one gets from pure clean table-linen, neatly arranged dishes, a vase of flowers! It is from such a table that mother finally has to send husband and children away in order to attend to her duties. And what is the ethical significance of this?

It is the custom among Christians to ask grace before eating. Has this an ethical significance? It is done that order, peace, may be established, that the mind may be taken off worrying things, so that its influence on the body may help to produce the best conditions for digestion.

Then comes the consideration of food. Husband is tired and hungry. He takes a mouthful of potatoes. Bah! slushy and lumpy. Unless he has the patience of Job can he be cheerful after that? Sour bread, dried out meat! Are they so unusual that you are surprised to hear them mentioned? Can he and the children live rightly if they have such things to eat? When people consider that the art of right living depends largely upon good digestion, nutritious, well-cooked food will be given to the hungry.

Husband hasn’t much spare time, so he reads the papers during meal time. Is there any barrier stronger or more formidable than a newspaper? How shut-out and alone is the wife! Even when she wishes to serve him with food he answers her questions absent-mindedly. Can a man be selfish and live rightly? The results of such selfishness on the part of the husband makes the meal hour a most unhappy one for wife and children, who are afraid to make a noise for fear of disturbing father.

In one beautifully organized household, the father and the mother made a resolution that each of them should have some new thought to express at each meal; sometimes it was a joke, or a thought of a poet, a novelist, or a scientist. They also made the resolution that neither should mention a disagreeable thing at the table. The results were that all in the family looked forward to the meal time with pleasure. And what an object lesson for the children! Instead of gossip, bitter words, they heard things which were even of more value to them than the lessons they learned in school.

God has given us the desire for bodily food. Why not gratify the desire in the most elevated manner? Why not make of the meal hour something more than a time merely to satisfy the cravings of hunger and thirst?


1. What is the significance of the term “break bread with one another?”
2. Relate instances showing that Christ understood this significance.
3. Name ten things which would elevate the meal hour.
4. Name five duties the wife should perform in order that the meal hour be the most profitable.
6. Name five duties of the husband in connection with the meal hour.
7. Should the children eat at the table with grown folk? Why?
8. Why is it a good plan to invite friends to dinner occasionally?



  1. “Forgive me father, for I have sinned. It has been a week since my last confession.”
    “Tell me, my child. What is it that troubles you so?”
    “I set the table with soiled linens and cracked dishes. And what’s more … *sob* … the roast was DRY!”
    “It’s worse than I thought, my child. May God have mercy on your soul.”

    Most of the discourse I hear these days (if at all) about family meals doesn’t raise it to the level of ethical duties and failures, but frames it as an opportunity for family bonding to be taken, improved on, or lost.

    Comment by Capozaino — July 3, 2012 @ 9:30 am

  2. That’s funny, Capozaino!

    I’ve missed the last couple of installments of this series. They are so deliciously, pompously opinionated.

    Comment by Amy T — July 3, 2012 @ 9:41 am

  3. I wonder if a variant of the Broken Window Hypothesis doesn’t apply here. This is the hypothesis that neighborhoods where windows are broken and not fixed are neighborhoods that soon see an explosion of crime, because of the implicit message that it is a dysfunctional neighborhood.

    Broken dishes lead to broken homes?

    Comment by Vader — July 3, 2012 @ 10:41 am

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