I was planning a great entry today on how hymns illuminate some early Mormon doctrines, but then I read a rather disagreeable blog entry a friend had linked to on facebook. Leaving someone uncorrected on the internet is just unacceptable, so I postponed the hymns for another day. There’s really only one thing I’m going to take issue with, and that’s the “buffet Mormon’s” metaphor. Usually it goes something like this, “one thing is for certain. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a ‘buffet’ that you can compile your perfect plate from,” in response to anyone suggesting something outside the norm.
It’s not a bad metaphor when, as it has been used by apostles, it is applied to commandments: “You cannot approach the gospel as you would a buffet or smorgasbord, choosing here a little and there a little. You must sit down to the whole feast and live the Lord’s loving commandments in their fulness.” Anyone who’s read the scriptures realizes they aren’t a choose your own adventure book, so no problems with this use. No, the problem I have is when it’s applied to the gospel anytime a doctrine or change is brought up different from the speakers views. It’s time this usage died, and I plan on pulling it apart in the most violent way possible. If the gospel isn’t a buffet, what is the acceptable metaphorical alternative?
Let’s start with the obvious, the “some other kind of restaurant” metaphor. Unfortunately, most successfull restaurants suffer from the same pitfall of a buffet: you can choose what you want to eat. The “snow-cone shack” metaphor would work, but in this metaphor the gospel should be something that’s good for you.
Well, what about the “family dinner” metaphor. Also known as the “shut up and eat everything on your plate if you know what’s good for you” metaphor. If that seem’s a little harsh it could be called the “be quiet and eat everything on your plate if you want dessert” metaphor. It’s a pretty accurate representation, right down to getting a timeout on the stairs if you don’t behave yourself. That would also make the gospel a metaphorical “noodles with peanut sauce” about once a month. No thank you.
Modifying the original metaphor, but with a Mormon-y spin, the gospel is like a potluck. The gospel is a main course with more types of funeral potatoes than you could possibly sample on the side, and a mish-mash of all other kinds of food. It may not fit the gospel, but I think it fits the church pretty well. Everyone brings their individual piece, and with a little planning and organization it actually works out pretty well.
So get rid of the take it or leave it attitude. If you’re going to compare the gospel to food, it may not be a buffet, but then it must be food of some sort. Maybe “the gospel is like food. Eat some of it,” or “the gospel is like a meal, if you aren’t enjoying it you messed up the instructions.” I think I’ve succeeded in beating the metaphor to death, so I’ll leave it here.