Ad

8/1/11

Gluten-free Mormonism

Sometimes, it is easy to enter a Zen-like* state during church meetings. A lot of the stuff, while sometimes meaningful and faith-affirming is simply a repeat of last weeks, months, and years meetings. In Relief Society, I had just settled into my center, breathing slowly to the familiar mantras spoken by the instructor: Faith is like a seed, there is always one conference talk that I believe was "just for me," conference is intended to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable, so it is important that we don't become "Cafeteria Mormons" who try and pick and chose what doctrines to follow....

Hold the phone.


What does it mean to be a "Cafeteria Mormon?"

Like the title implies, a "Cafeteria Mormon" is someone who doesn't like the "yucky" food that comes with the Lunch Of Mormonism. For instance, a Cafeteria Mormon probably tries to pass on the brussel sprouts of tithing, and goes instead for seconds on the "yummy" stuff like Ward Ball and Super Saturday. Bad, bad, Cafeteria Mormon! You cannot go to recess (Celestial Kingdom) unless you eat the brussel sprouts (pay tithing.)



There are several things wrong with the Cafeteria Mormon analogy, starting with the basic assumption that if you do not clean your plate, you aren't a "true" Mormon. But if we extend the analogy even further, it reveals some disturbing ideas about what it means to eat in the LDS cafeteria:

1. God is a grumpy lady in a hairnet, who does not care about your individual nutrition needs or desires; you are simply one of many "customers," who paid for the same meal as everyone else. If you want special treatment, or need an extra serving of mercy, grace, or forgiveness, you're out of luck. The God of the Cafeteria does not see every sparrow that falls, or number the hairs on your head.



2. Not only is there no accommodation for those who would like some extra chocolate pudding of the Atonement, but there is no recognition of individual allergies, implying that an inability to digest certain foods is a faith issue, not a blessing of personal revelation.

For the record, I am allergic to modesty lessons that teach people certain body parts are "bad” and set-in-stone life "roles" based on gender. I cannot tolerate the gluten found in polygamy (Apparently, most people are born moderately gluten-intolerant, but their body adapts over time..)

I wish the cafeteria would serve more talks by Uchtdorf, and am sad the cafeteria seems out of talks Elder Faust. I loved that man.



3. The Cafeteria does not serve "spicy" food very often. "Spicy" food must be cleared by a priesthood holder, does not pray in General Conference. It is naturally more "spiritual" than regular food, and therefore doesn't need to be served very often, even in the Young Women manual.



4. Even when laced with preservatives, all food eventually goes bad. You wouldn't eat moldy canned tomatoes, so why do some members still claim the counsel against inter-racial marriage and women working outside the home as their favorite food? We have fresh tomatoes now! President Hinckley and Elder Cook grew them outside in their gardens! They may even be organic...


Trying to eat both the moldy and fresh tomatoes leads to indigestion. There is no shame in passing on the moldy food in favor of the fresh stuff, especially when polygamy is involved.


Lastly, the "Cafeteria Mormon" analogy is flawed since we all know Cafeteria food is bad for you. Eating all of it simply means you ate a lot of preservatives in the form of frozen chicken nuggets. Not exactly what we want to be serving under the auspices of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


In reality, the best cooked meals are made from scratch, using fresh ingredients, and cooked al dente. When you make your own food, you can use as much spice as you want, and just a pinch of the stuff you don't want. You can be a vegetarian, should your own personal revelation guide you there. You can use recipes passed down by people that love you, or create your own. Either way, when you pray over the food, you can rest assured that it wasn't made by an angry lady in a hairnet, but with the aid of Heavenly Parents that care about your nutrition.



And know that you are allergic to polygamy.

44 comments:

Breanne said...

*jotting down notes* Allergic to polygamy. Got it.

I wonder if there is some sort of cafeteria food fat-flush-detox-diet?

Maggie said...

As always, you provide a delightful read. But I wonder if the cafeteria metaphor does not imply that we eat everything that the cafeteria offers (in all of its preservative rich and nutrient poor splendor) but instead eat the meal that was specifically prepared for us (with our individual needs in mind) by a loving Heavenly father.

The metaphor has its limits and could surely be misapplied, but I think that there is some truth to it. The truth being that we need to trust in God while learning to appreciate and digest all that he gives us (which may or may not include polygamy ;)).

Ru said...

:)

I have to say, I am A-OK being a "cafeteria Mormon" and honestly, all Mormons fall in this category to one degree or another. It's just that some people want me to like mushrooms just because they are OK with mushrooms, even though they are passing on the rootbeer milk or whatever just like everyone else.

The implication that bothers me most when people denounce "Cafeteria Mormons" is that either you have to eat everything or get the hell out of the cafeteria - no middle ground. "Don't support Prop 8? Well, you can just take your faith in the Jesus somewhere else then, missy." I just don't think that attitude remotely jives with the gospel as I understand it.

I just wish people in church focused more on the things you should do as opposed to all the things you shouldn't do. I don't understand how people can understand that positive reinforcement applies to kids, pets, and coworkers, but somehow not to people at church.

geoffsn said...

Spicy food is too delicate for things like administration. My mission president would stop the video recorder when spicy food was served at general conference and then start it up again after the spicy parts. It always made me wonder why spicy food was so unimportant that we didn't even bother recording it.

Vivian said...

This is AWESOME! I am so sharing, seriously one of the best analogies ever..and I'll have to completely agree with all of it :)

Michemily said...

Nice. I'm just going to go ahead and assume you've never been a Google cafeteria.

Trevor said...

Great development of this analogy!

Stephanie said...

@Michemily: I had to, well, google the google cafeteria. Amazing. I'd convert to that.

islandgirl said...

I think this is one of my favorite blog posts ever!

Katrina said...

brilliant! this is gonna go viral among liberal "cafeteria" mormon types. :-)

Sister NotSo said...

LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Thank you so much! This was perfect!

ChristyLove said...

If "spicy" = "vagina," these comments are hilarious.

Papa D said...

Excellent description. I definitely will be linking to this post in the future.

Ray

Natalie | The Bobby Pin said...

I love you so much for this right now.

"there is no recognition of individual allergies, implying that an inability to digest certain foods is a faith issue, not a blessing of personal revelation."

Love the whole thing, but that my friend is my fave.

And can cafeteria mormons go on a cleanse? Because that is where I am at right now.

Stephanie said...

@Natalie (the bobby pin): I am a big believer in cleanses...

Karissa said...

I really like this post! I think the cafeteria analogy you stated works PERFECTLY for current vs. dated statements from "the Brethren."

Drees009 said...

Love it. I think the most dangerous part of labeling someone as a Cafeteria Mormon is that it implies that the other person is not.

I've given up all of my sins except for my favorite ones.

Eliza R. Snitch said...

ALL Mormons are cafeteria Mormons. If we weren't, our heads would explode from all the cognitive dissonance. (Journal of Discourses, anyone?)

Chino Blanco said...

Yup, the LDS blogger at T&S who coined "Cafeteria Correlation" was on to something.

Erin Leigh said...

Perfect. ;-)

tetisheri said...

I had never heard the phrase Cafeteria Mormon before, I wonder if that's just because of the differences in where we live.

Anyway, I'm glad that my cafeteria serves a liberal helping of President Uchtdorf, mostly because most of the Relief Society presidency has a crush on him.

Definitely allergic to polygamy too.

McGee said...

Thank you!

This is why I left the church and will not raise my children as active Mormons. I could no longer tollerate the message that it was all or nothing and if it wasn't all then I was doing it wrong.

I long for the day when it's different but until then me and my house will find worship, peace and faith elsewhere. It's not because I'm not good enough at being Mormon-it's because there are too many "good mormons" who turn their noses up at those who question and challenge.

thanks for putting it out there!

Cynthia said...

Love this post! And I couldn't agree more...except could I be polygamy intolerant? Somedays the idea of a "sister wife" to help out (but not have "relations" with the spouse) seems like a wonderful idea...but usually only when I am really tired and the kiddlets are driving me insane :)

And I much prefer the fresh tomatoes we have been given in conference lately. Also, you and my sister...you could be best friends - she has gone as far as meeting with General Authority types to press the issue of the Young Women needing more spicy food.

Heather said...

Love this, Mormon Child Bride. You should come check us out at Doves & Serpents (http://www.dovesandserpents.com). I think you'd like it there--and we'd love to hear more from you!

Christian said...

Pat self on back

"Yay! I've just rationalized away and made look silly another thing I don't have to agree with!"

Neglected observation: you don't "have" to agree with anything. You don't need to go to great rhetorical (well, mediocre really, but I'm no prize either) lengths to basically affirm the fact that you have your agency and can decide as you will.

You certainly do forfeit certain blessings though if you pick and chose over those things which God has specifically given to you for your good.

I sometimes wonder what all these great analogy-busters would do if the Savior were here teaching in parables. Could you do me a favor and turn your zeal toward rhetorical and dissection to his words so I can further assess the merits of your approach?

LC said...

I like Maggie's sentiments.

Unfortunately, we can't choose other things we're "served" in the cafeteria either, like a death in the family or some other sort of trial. We never know when those doctrines or lessons we heard that weren't easy to digest at first will be exactly what we need to work through what life hands us later. God has given us plenty of agency to be like children and refuse to eat our vegetables, but that doesn't mean the meal wasn't balanced to begin with.

Christi said...

I'm not sure if I'm allergic to polygamy. Someone who stayed home to clean my house and cook me dinner while I am at work would be nice...

I'm kidding. Mostly.

nyorker218 said...

One of my favorite posts yet. You're awesome. Forget the haterz; keep writing. ;)

Stephanie said...

@Christian:

No.

No, I will not change my opinions, the subject of my posts, nor my delivery to suit your needs, or your standards of "merit." Why?

Because this blog isn't about you.

Surprisingly, I do not write my blog to please you, or any other random internet personality.

This blog is about me. My struggles, my thoughts, and my reactions. I enjoy interacting with others, but it is not the primary purpose.

If you do not like what you see here, I suggest you find another blog more suited to your standards of "merit." Or, better yet, write your own.


Lastly, while I am no expert on the teaching of the Savior, I do not recall any point in which he suggested using insulting and patronizing internet comments in order to foster Christ-like love among his followers. He required a broken-heart and a contrite spirit, if I recall.

tetisheri said...

@Christian,

An ironic name to be sure.

It's attitudes like the one you are projecting that can drive people from the church.

Stephanie said...

@Maggie and LC

I agree, I believe in a God who knows our nutritional needs perfectly, even if we do not like or understand some of the items on the menu.

I feel we may disagree (please feel free to correct,) on whether or not those things are always readily available in the church (Cafeteria) setting. Sometimes (some may say many times,)church can provide the food God wants us to have. Other times, because the church consists of imperfect humans, the food offered may be stale (irrelevant) or replaced by healtheir chocies (modern revelations.) I don't believe you are "acting like a child" if you don't eat everything the church offers you.

I think the biggest challenge in life is sorting through all the options to find the meal God prepared for you. It will be different from your neighbor's food, or even your family's food, but like LC said, it is perfectly balanced.


Lastly, I want to thank you both for offering constructively critical comments, questions, and insights. It makes blogging interesting, instead of painful.

Aubrey said...

New favorite blogger! I hope it's ok that I follow you even though I don't know you.

For those who are against Cafeteria Mormonism - Why does it bother you so much that there are people who are ok with their status as a cafeteria mormon? You seem to want to rebuke and call them to repentance but last time I checked that wasn't your job. My Heavenly Father loves me the way I am, picky eater and all.

Stephanie said...

@Aubrey:

You are more than welcome here.

Also, well said: I believe God loves the picky eaters too.

LC said...

Stephanie, I appreciated your response, and wanted to first say that I hope my "acting like children" comment didn't seem like a personal jab. We all refuse our veggies from time to time.

I've commented here before that I think the church offers everything we need. And there are modern revelations which freshen up some of the things we've received in the past.

Like you said, there are ample lessons or talks at church where someone makes a remark that leaves you in "Huh?" mode for the rest of the hour. I've been in a few in recent weeks. I think that's why we are urged to have a personal relationship with God to help us sort out the true merits of what He would have us learn.

I've said here before that I do believe that the gospel is perfect and that the organization of the church is correct. Certainly, it's populated with imperfect people, and we're all left to sort through one another's clutter to get to the right things sometimes.

I love a story by President Eyring. He said that whenever he heard a bad talk at church, he'd always find his father smiling. When he asked his Dad how he could smile about a bad talk, the father would reply, "Whenever I hear a talk and someone is struggling to say the right thing, I just give myself a talk about the Isame subject." (My words, but that's basically the message.)

I'm trying to remember now if he might also have said, "And I never give a bad talk." :)

Stephanie said...

@LC, loved the Eyring story, I am going to try that...

Crystal said...

I had to go home and collect my thoughts so I sound a little smarter when commenting... I was reading your blog and all the wonderful comments while at work and almost missed going home time because I was so involved.

Ru said...

Stephanie - my apologies for going off on your blog again.

Christian - What we have here is a failure to communicate.

"You certainly do forfeit certain blessings though if you pick and chose over those things which God has specifically given to you for your good."

I avoid some things in the Great Cafeteria O' Life because I don't like them (boo for me), and some because I DON'T BELIEVE that God wants me to try them (good for me).

The proponents of labeling others "Cafeteria Mormons" seem to forget that everyone has access to personal revelation.

I'm not sure what in Stephanie's post you took most offense to, so I'll just choose one: a dislike for outdated, racist teachings that have been refuted by modern-day leaders.

People who choose not to be racist do so because they believe God prefers us to NOT be racist d-bags -- not because they're willfully missing out on all the blessings God supposedly has in store for the racist D-bag contingent. I believe that if men shall be punished for their own sins, and not their forebears transgressions, that negates the possibility of any sort of "curse" that could fall one race of people. I believe that if Gordon B. Hinckley denounces racism, that trumps racist teachings from the past. And I believe that the Spirit and the good sense God gave me tells me personally that all God's children equal. So no, I don't have to take any of that at the cafeteria.

Instead of challenging Stephanie to apply her logic to the Savior's parables (What, you think she's going to argue against feeding the hungry? Mourning with those who mourn? Coming to the rescue of the downtrodden? Being prepared? Multiplying our talents? Growing faith from small beginnings?) why don't you please point out which of HER examples from THIS post that have greatly enriched your life? Bear your testimony of not having women pray in General Conference, isn't that how you're supposed to respond to supposedly "anti" people? I would like to know what blessings have come to you because of that issue.

MJ said...

@McGee--come back!!! The reason church isn't filled with people like us is because we keep leaving!!! It's like my ex-boyfriend's dad says--If we stop going to church, then only the @$$holes will be there.

@Stephanie--I totally agree with you. We ALL are Cafeteria Mormons in that case, because the ones who insist it's all or nothing are forgetting the basics. It's not up to me to decide whether you are worthy, it's GOD'S. And just because I *think* I'm enlightened, doesn't necessarily mean I am.

I was discussing this very thing with my husband the other day--when I get a "feeling" about someone, I don't just assume I'm right, but I log it into my "things I wonder if I was right about" category for when I get to the other side.

I'm not always good at accepting others' differences (ask my mil sometime, we've butt heads a few times), but I try to remember that everyone is doing their best.

@Ru--one more reason why I stalk your blog. You are awesome.

Mary said...

So, this has nothing to do with this post, although I find it brilliant. I just found this video of Matt Damon defending teachers. I'm a teacher and know you are, so I thought I would share. I would not be at all offended if the comment isn't posted.


http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/actor-matt-damon-defends-teacher-tenure-testy-exchange-211042801.html

CaLLie.ANN said...

I'm in LOVE with this analogy. I love analogies and I LOVE your take on Mormonism. It's perfect and it's exactly what I need in my life. :)

The Kooky Queen--Rachel said...

LOVED these analogies!!! Hahaha, so awesome! I participate in REAL gluten free mormonism by bring my own corn chips to church so they can pass them to me on the tray. Awesome. :)

Shum Girl said...

This is absolutely wonderful

Christine said...

I am still trying to figure you out. I am pretty sure I like you either way. I consider myself a KMA Mormon.


You know I attend church most weeks, but find time in the mountains to be a far better way to worship God. When I am in church I do a lot of KMA thinking. When someone raises their sweet little hand to say how much happier LDS people are than our Catholic counterparts I just think KISS MY A@*. Priesthood clearance over my YW activities KMA, women who work, blacks and the priesthood, my 12 year old son has more authority than I do.... yep KMA.

Stephanie said...

@Christine: My go-to phrase has always been, "Nope, not buying it." I think I like KMA better.