What does the Church Handbook say about selling concessions during Sacrament Meeting? Anything? (if it helps, I'd be willing to set up my hotdog cart in the Foyer and offer a 2-for-1 discount to anyone with "President" or "Elder" in their title.)
I mean, who can argue with the fact that Fast and Testimony Meeting would be more enjoyable if we had popcorn and Milk Duds while listening to our neighbors?
And before you accuse me of sacrilege, remember we already pass envelopes filled with money to the Bishopric on The Stand ─ so financial transactions are happening next to the Sacrament Table whether we like it or not (see Matt. 21:12-13).
What's more, don't forget we allow children to eat Cheerios and fruit snacks in Church; why not adults? So it isn't much of a stretch.
I kid you not, I sat behind a family in Sacrament Meeting a couple of weeks ago whose teenagers were munching on a bag of Doritos Cool Ranch. Crunch crunch.
Like our cousins, the Southern Baptists, who throw a good Sunday picnic, we used to have "Break the Fast" potlucks in the Cultural Hall. I think it's safe to say Mormons love to eat (I'm still waiting for those Jewish feasts to find their way into the restoration-of-all-things).
How often is service in the Church equated with taking a casserole to those in need? Through sharing food, we show others we care. I am grateful for all of the meals my family has received after my wife had a new baby. I like a good casserole as well as the next person (and once, accompanied by what I think was food poisoning, bless the Relief Society's hearts).
So I wanted to share with you The Parable of the Casserole.
The Parable of the Casserole
Sister Jones was humbled to be called as the Relief Society President in the Majestic Mountain Fourth Ward.
As an older woman of experience and good taste, she believed she had been chosen to impart her wisdom to the younger sisters in the ward.
It so happened that Sister Jones was gifted as a cook; alas, the rising generation had grown up on fast food and take-out. But Sister Jones believed she could help them learn to cook homemade meals and bake homemade bread, the way God intended.
After all, eating together as a family around the dinner table was an important part of the gospel, Sister Jones believed with all her heart. She sacrificed daily to prepare healthy food for her children from fresh ingredients. It was her way of showing how much she loved them.
And it came to pass, there was one particular "signature dish" Sister Jones loved baking. Over the years she had received countless compliments for her Calamari Casserole.
It was an old, well-worn recipe passed down from her great-grandmother and Sister Jones prized it as a great treasure. How better to honor her pioneer heritage than to share this dish with the other sisters?
Now, it was the tradition of the Majestic Mountain Fourth Ward on Sundays for the Relief Society to pass around a sign-up sheet for volunteers to take meals to families in the ward in times of sickness or need.
One of the first policy changes Sister Jones made was to do-away with the sign-up sheet. Everyone needed the blessings that came from taking a meal, and thus an orderly rotation was created in which each member was assigned to take casseroles.
The second change was this: Sister Jones insisted each volunteer learn to make her special Calamari Casserole so that every family would be treated equally by receiving the same food, regardless of who was assigned to take the meal.
The Correlated Casserole (as some called it) was not universally popular. "I don't like Calamari," some said; "I am allergic to seafood" and "What if they're vegetarian?"
Some sisters cynically commented that Sister Jones implemented the policy after Sister Alma received glowing feedback for taking a bucket of the Colonel's fried chicken to her last family.
The solution to the growing dissent was simple: leadership set more meetings and trainings to hammer-in the importance of making the same casserole for everyone. Wasn't Zion of "one heart, one mind" and one casserole?
Sister Jones did not begrudge her duty, spending many evenings away from her children in order to teach the sisters how to cook the casserole in the Church kitchen (which Physical Facilities made sure had a proper thermostat).
Weekly, the sisters rehearsed the recipe in reverent tones.
They followed the recipe's instructions to the letter (and if they didn't, Sister Jones would point out their unauthorized modifications and lovingly ask them to start again).
The members of Relief Society grew to love Sister Jones and they truly wanted to sustain her; over time, many of them mastered the Calamari Casserole. But still others struggled ─ no matter how they tried, their dishes just didn't turn out the way Sister Jones said they should.
Some of the sisters began to entertain doubt: why couldn't they take eggplant parmesan or lasagna, some asked (although those who voiced their complaints soon obtained a "reputation" for not following the Calamari).
Contention over Calamari
Not wanting to wound Sister Jones's feelings, but seeing how their comrades (who had objected to the whole business) were treated, some of the younger sisters began to surreptitiously alter the recipe, tailoring it to their individual tastes or the family's needs.
When Sister Jones learned that some of the households in the ward were receiving counterfeit casseroles, she cracked down during a 5th Sunday Lesson:
"Sisters, I am mortified. I love you dearly, and cannot tell you how hurt I am to learn some of you do not appreciate the great Calamari Casserole as much as I do (and my pioneer ancestors before me)."
"We do love you," one cried out, "But we want to be able to cook other kinds of meals, too."
"Well," said Sister Jones, "if you truly sustained me (whom God called), then you would humble yourselves in the kitchen and be obedient to my Great-Gram's recipe. All who speak out against it, or who do not follow the recipe with exact obedience, are unworthy."
Sister Jones Has a Vision
Deeply troubled in her spirit, Sister Jones prayed. She pled with the Lord to soften the hearts of the younger sisters. "Help them see!" she cried.
That night as she slept, she dreamt she was in her childhood kitchen baking the casserole. To her delight, her Great Gram appeared, wearing a tidy apron with her white hair pulled back as Sister Jones remembered it as a young girl.
They embraced and Sister Jones felt her heart suffused with love. "Here, Great Gram," she said, taking a slice of Calamari Casserole and offering it to her.
Great Gram accepted the plate of food and took a bite. Her mouth curled downward and she spit the food out in the trash. "That's disgusting!" she said, "Why did you put squid in it?"
"Because I was following your recipe!" Sister Jones wept. "Look!" She handed the recipe card to her Great Gram.
"Oh honey, this is not my handwriting," Great Gram said, shaking her head. "All of my recipes were written in Spanish, which I inherited from my grandmother who emigrated to America from Calama, Chile. Who told you this was mine?"
Sister Jones shrugged. "It's a family tradition. So you don't like Calamari Casserole, then?" Sister Jones said, feeling like her whole life was a lie.
That very night, Sister Jones died with a broken heart.
A New RS President
The Bishop called one of Sister Jones' counselors to succeed her.
The new president, Sister Encornet, carried on the tradition of the Calamari Casserole; over the next few years, the sisters found great meaning in the dish (while others never "got it").
Leadership was invariably chosen from the ranks of sisters who could cook the Calamari Casserole in a manner that would have made Sister Jones proud.
Obediently, the families of the Majestic Mountain Fourth Ward learned to respect the Calamari Casserole (while those who didn't like squid bit their tongues). The recipe found its way into the cookbooks of the sisters who would, one day, pass it along to their children.
Samuel the Lamanite:
Many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them.
"I leaned over to President Oaks and quietly asked, 'Is flattening your plastic water bottle a new recycling requirement of the cafeteria?' President Oaks responded, with a smile on his face, 'Well, Allen, you need to follow the prophet.'
"Brothers and sisters, unlike vintage comic books and classic cars, prophetic teachings do not become more valuable with age.... Follow the counsel of President Russell M. Nelson.... Trust the Lord's anointed.... Our seemingly small deviations, quiet neglect, or whispered criticisms in response to prophetic counsel may result in our only walking dangerously near the edge of the covenant path."