Recurring Guest and BCC Man-Crush Kyle M returns with honor.
I haven’t had a carb in over a week now, and you know, it hasn’t been that bad. December might be the perfect month for Atkins or South Beach Diet, because I’m literally surrounded by carbs and sugar for a whole month—sugar cookies, candy canes, hot chocolate, seasonal peppermint ice cream (the best kind). If I can forgo all the carb temptations of December, that’s like skipping carbs for two regular months, and as a reward to myself, I won’t set New Years resolutions.
There’s something appealing about a diet that requires me to say “No” in absolute terms for a fixed period of time, after which I can resume my normal activity. I’m sure a lifetime of sensible eating and regular exercise would be healthier for me in the long run, but it also requires a Taoist devotion to regimen and moderation, and those are NOT my strong points.
But I’m a lifelong Mormon so (let’s be real here) I’m excellent at saying no to things—a no-carb diet definitely plays to my strengths. All I gotta do is add sugar, grains, fruit, and certain vegetables to the existing list of Things I Absolutely Say No To In Every Situation, and the pounds come off! The more moral weight I can attach to saying no to apple cider at a Christmas party, the easier the diet becomes.
In all honesty, there’s something comforting about a binary system, and it might be because of my religious upbringing. Choose the Right. Not “Choose Right,” but “Choose THE Right.” And look at our modern expression of the Word of Wisdom. Two lists, and you can always have what’s on one list and never have what’s on the other one (meat should probably sit between the two lists, but I don’t know anyone who thinks of meat as a winter-or-famine indulgence).
The Yes/No, Good/Evil, Jesus/Satan, BYU/UofU binaries of Mormonism are tidy and absolute, and I think that’s comforting to people who are looking to make sense of a messy world. Even our “metrics” of righteousness are binary—temple recommend questions and the commandment to be baptized. Are you or aren’t you?
So my question is: Do binary systems attract a certain type of person, who then becomes religious? Or do religious people overlay binary systems on top of their religions? Or is the universe actually an inherently binary system, dating back to the War in Heaven? Or–gasp–all three?
Because I think we have to admit that, if you read the scriptures a certain way, the people who have exerted the most influence on our religion tended to reject some of the black-and-white thinking religious people tend to cling to. In many ways, Jesus and Joseph Smith muddied the waters of absolutism, expecting us to encounter situations in which we had to ask God for answers and listen to the Spirit for guidance. The Atonement itself addresses the cosmic binary requirement that we must be either perfect or banished.
And I wonder if a more absolutist Joseph would have been open-minded enough to consider the questions that led him to the sacred grove. Or to preach a religious system by which people who hadn’t been baptized in life could be saved by proxy ordinances.
And the flip side: Perhaps it was Joseph’s quest for One True Church that led him to the grove that day; and aren’t baptisms for the dead an acknowledgment that, in the end, those who are dwelling in shades of gray must pick a side?
It’s a tricky question. I think the church (and almost ANY church) instills in us a reflex to embrace absolutism, which can lead to stubbornness and pride if we’re not careful. On the other hand, despite the nuances and complexities of life, there is an iron rod we’re supposed to be holding onto.
Perhaps an absolutist approach to absolutism itself is the wrong approach, in which case absolutism is something we can neither wholly embrace nor wholly reject. All I know is, if you want to lose weight fast, try three weeks on Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. But be warned that it might go against the Word of Wisdom, depending on your interpretation.