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.