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Cafeteria Mormon? Try Take-out Mormon

September 15, 2009

The Exponent’s recent post “Are Cafeteria Mormons Starving?” (and to an extent, the Mormon Matters post “Wherein I stop being liberal and stand up for what I believe in,” — although I’m not 100% sure if that’s about the same issue at all) interested me because it describes what can happen when one focus too much on reacting, too much on the distasteful things, and not enough on things that one truly believes in.

Jessawhy’s claim that nearly every member is a Cafeteria Mormon was not too surprising to me — I personally don’t think it is possible to accept all that there is or was or will be to Mormonism, so out of necessity, one emphasizes and deemphasizes.

But what I thought was interesting was how Jessawhy detailed that so much pickiness can cause one to fail to enjoy the meal one has.

As she wrote:

The humanitarian service looks great, but I’ll pass on polygamy, noticing that it is served on the same plate as celestial marriage. Hmm, that’s troubling.  Curiously, I find myself drawn to less desirable dishes of history, like Mountain Meadow’s Massacre, and the church’s involvement in the ERA.  Perhaps this is because these are hidden under the counter.  I won’t touch the frequently over-served accounts of the first vision. I’ve been eating that every week since I was three.   The more closely I look at the food, the more troubled I become.  It seems that every plate of doctrine, policy, practice, and history are tainted with something that is unappetizing.Then I realize my stomach is growling. I’ve been so critical of the food (and sometimes those who have prepared and served it) that I’m not actually enjoying that parts that are healthy and delicious. Perhaps my diet is more limited than some, but I hope it’s good enough for me as long as I focus on what IS helpful for me and not on those things that are hurtful.

In some ways, I can see what she means…but in another way, I don’t. Or at least, I feel I have moved past that.

I feel that in the analogy, I was alienated by the environment. The cafeteria itself seemed gross and unsanitary to me, and that unnerved me from the food I wanted to eat. But instead of letting it ruin my dining experience, I decided to take-out. I wonder about cafeteria Mormons…how can they tolerate the griminess of the tables? The dimness of the lighting? The flies that buzz around? I’m not saying they shouldn’t eat — some of the food is admittedly good. Instead, I’m wondering: why not just take out?

But I also must look at some of my fellow take-out friends. Some of them seem to dwell on the poorness of the cafeteria for lengthy periods of time after leaving the cafeteria. They write bad reviews, denounce the food in its entirety (I guess if the cafeteria has a health hazard…maybe it’s right to be skeptical of any of the food, no matter how tasty it is.), and continue to let the experience in the cafeteria — long past — drive them.

But I turn back. Who can blame them? Their friends and family still go to the cafeteria all the time. The cafeteria solicits for new customers, advertizing not the cafeteria but the full package meal. We see many people who still buy that full package meal instead of the eat-what-you-want buffet.  It’s a tough place to be in, even though it’s a sunny day outside and we would simply like to picnic.

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  1. Yeah, I don’t get why our parents are all upset that we want to dine al fresco. It’s so beautiful out after all. 🙂

  2. Excellent analogy!

  3. I loved the cafeteria post, as well as your response. I work in school food service (which in spite of public opinion, is awesome), and anyway I find everything analogous to food, so…struck home with me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Considering that I was raised in a home with elitist “home lunch is best” ideas, should it be so surprising that I’ve left the cafeteria of the LDS church and returned to a “home lunch” way of life? 🙂

  4. Thanks for all the comments everyone.

    (Speaking about cafeterias…My university’s cafeteria has never ceased to amaze me. The one thing I don’t like — which actually applies to the analogy — is how they don’t let you take out cookies. Since the cafeteria is all-you-can-eat, they want you to eat what you can inside rather than stockpiling for later. It’s probably a good call, because the cookies are DELICIOUS. Like, I don’t even know how they do it, but everyone who goes to Texas A&M knows of Sbisa cookies).

    Good point on the home lunch idea. That actually reminds me of another way this can apply. My mom used to make my sister lunch every day when she was in elementary school (she was a very picky eater and my mom didn’t want her to starve all day). But eventually, the other parents got frustrated with my mom, because after a while, all the other kids in school wanted home lunches too.

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