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Read This: The Closest Thing to a Cafeteria Mormon Manifesto

September 1, 2013

I just saw this post from Young Mormon Feminists: “a letter to the mormon on the fence.” It begins:

Growing up Mormon, you’re taught you either have to accept everything the Church teaches or reject it entirely. And now, you’re on the fence trying to figure out which side you want to be on, trying to figure out if you believe the Church is true or not (whatever that means).

I am not writing this in order to be one more person trying to persuade you towards one side or the other. I am writing this, however, in order to tell you that I think the best option is to be yourself, to be honest about what you do or don’t believe, and to do what you think is best for you.

This isn’t some grand binary decision, some major either or. In reality, there probably is no fence, there probably is much more than just two sides when it comes to these complicated social and religious decisions.

I think the best thing is to find out what you believe about Jesus, what you believe about the scriptures and the priesthood and the law of chastity, what you believe about evolution and fate and psychology and gender and sexuality. You can address each of these subjects individually! You can find that you believe in Jesus but not in the priesthood. You can find you believe in the priesthood but not in the law of chastity. It’s O.K.!

And in choosing what you want to do, if you enjoy praying, pray. If you enjoy having a drink, have a drink, too. If you enjoy going to church, go to church. And if you don’t enjoy those things? Don’t do them.

I don’t think life is about total obedience or total rebellion. I think it’s about finding out what works best for you.

On the one hand, I just want to give Curtis a huge round of applause. It’s the message I want people to internalize — whether they are Mormon or not.

However, I can definitely see some of the counterarguments. Maybe life isn’t simply equating what one enjoys with what works best for one. For example, see this comment:

I like this article because it doesn’t give any answers, it doesn’t take a stance, other than against the church. There is no truth, no reality. Just whatever you feel like doing is what you should do. What if i have a natural inclination to steal? Should i ? according to this article, yes. its who i am, its how i was born, its what i feel like doing. i think thats fair to say since we have tossed out right/wrong and replaced it with our own impulses and feelings. What if I feel like I don’t like gravity? Will that have any bearing on its reality, on its effects? The same goes for the law of chastity, the priesthood and Christ, your opinion of whether or not you like it or want it to be true has no bearing on the reality of it. Your job is to find what truth is so you can live the principles of truth, not find what you like and do that. The brethren are no more restricting your agency by preaching the happiness of the gospel and the effects of sin than physicists teaching the effects of gravity. And the brethren do teach true principles and let the people govern themselves , the same true principles Joseph taught, namely Christ and how the organization of the church is designed to bring us closer to him.

I guess my main issue for people who want to push people to make things black or white is that, in a world of gray, if you make someone feel like the only options are black and white, then they are eventually just going to bolt.

For example, if the options are to be within the church, out of the church, or cafeteria, then if you tell a person who might be enticed by a cafeteria approach that instead, they should either be “all in” or “all out,” then what will happen in most cases is that those people will just decide to be all out.

The commenter I quoted above says, “Your job is to find what truth is so you can live the principles of truth.” But when someone gets to the point of being a cafeteria Mormon, what this means is that the black and white conventional truth claims of Mormonism have been found wanting…so the question is whether someone will seek truth in the grey or in the cafeteria or whether they will reject it  all.

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