Are you fixing the plumbing, or building a mansion? Part 2 of 2

At church Sunday, someone was making an announcement about a care center that wants us to bring them snacks for the mentally handicapped residents: “The care center staff said they want HEALTHY treats, like fruit snacks and Gushers.” I don’t know what Gushers are, but the fact that they have a brand name is a bad sign. The person making the announcement turned to the side of the room where I was sitting and said, “Robyn would not approve of these ideas as healthy snacks, and neither do I, but anyway, that’s what they want.”

(I love how at church I seem to have a “rep” even though I never talk about food there.)

It’s a throwback to my days as a grad-school intern on the State Hospital Children’s Unit 15 years ago. I went to the director to plead for less sugar on the unit. I could see that the kids were constantly ill, incessantly fed antibiotics, most of them overweight, because the school and therapists rewarded them with candy, the hospital cafeteria’s nutrition was appalling, and after-school volunteers brought cookies and junk nearly every day. I was brushed off by the psychiatrist director who said, “Sugar is the only love most of these kids every get, and it’s not a big deal. We’re dealing with REAL issues here.” In other words, he was saying: nutrition doesn’t matter for these kids.

I don’t want to roll my eyes. I want to educate patiently. I hope I am always tolerant. I hope I always teach to the knowledge level of the audience. I hope I never act superior.

Whatever knowledge I have, I gained it as God was building a courtyard in my cottage, while I would have much preferred just a little cleanup. I lean on others in their areas of subject-matter expertise where I am shaky. (Computers. Applied math. Spatial puzzles and maps.)

God is making a mansion of me. When He knocks out a support beam, I want to grow from it instead of shake my fist at heaven.

Last Sunday at church, Carla, in our women’s organization, gave a lesson on the Word of Wisdom scripture. I attend a lay church, where the parishioners are also the teachers. She said my name three times during the lesson, as if she had no right to teach on nutrition because I happened to be there.

Fact is, as I told her later, it was the best lesson I’ve ever heard on the Word of Wisdom, my religion’s scripture about nutrition. I told her, “I don’t think I would have had the courage to be so bold.”

She’d researched statistics about the health risks associated with red meat, caffeine, carbonation. She indicted Utah’s prescription drug dependency (especially anti-depressants) as fueled by the culture, even reading a quote from our attorney general. She read stats about the benefits of whole grains, the benefits of drinking a lot of water.

She didn’t cover sugar, she didn’t cover the Word of Wisdom’s counsel to “eat meat sparingly,” she said that poultry and fish are good for you. But overall, I found the whole lesson to be starkly committed to the truth, relative to most lessons I hear on that topic.

She did cover the closing line of D&C 89, that if we eat whole foods, “I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” This seemed to have a profound emotional impact on the teacher. No wonder, as her husband has battled prostate cancer this past year. Who doesn’t want to put that amazing promise to the test?

She was so stunned when I gave her a hug and told her I would probably have soft-pedaled the topic, myself. Why? I hate offending people. And, as I said to her, “People are more emotional and opinionated about food than they are about religion and sex.”

Anyway, thanks for the food for thought, Jennie, and the Word of Wisdom lesson, Carla.

5 thoughts on “Are you fixing the plumbing, or building a mansion? Part 2 of 2

Leave a Comment
  1. wish that lesson could be in my ward, this one lady has to bring up how not all of us are heros and “birth are kids at home” as she stares into my eyes-

  2. Wonderful, Robyn. This really resonated with me: “People are more emotional and opinionated about food than they are about religion and sex.” I’ve been drinking green smoothies as part of a whole foods-only omnivore’s diet for about a year now. I LOVE to cook and eat food and I think it has a lot of familial significance that should generally be embraced.

    Lately, however, the level of self-imposed ignorance needed to justify eating factory farmed meat has become unbearable. So I’ve been making many small changes in my life, working in that direction. But for every time I pass on the chicken, and eat my plain yogurt, someone inevitably points out that the milk used to make my yogurt was probably from factory farmed cows too (it isn’t). Defending my decisions are exhausting. People are so unwilling to see dietary responsibility as anything but an all-or-nothing decision, that I think a lot of people give up on it quickly.

    They see me as pretentious or a hippy or rich enough to afford to eat whole foods. I am none of these things, and like you, try to avoid preaching. But, for example, I know that if I find myself in a food-related conversation with an obese person, even my most softened opinions must come off as hurtful. Do you have any suggestions?

  3. Well down here in St. George, we too had the Word of Wisdom lesson. And I’m proud to acknowledge that I sat silently for the rest of the meeting after I acknowledged that this topic was my “high horse” and “I’ll get off it now.” Everyone laughed. The lesson was taught by a senior RN so since I felt outranked, I kept quiet. However, I was able to hand out a “China Study” and have a brief meeting about it. I felt like a special kind of missionary. I really wish the Church would devote more time to “very little meat.” I understand that in the grand scheme of things, relationships and salvation and faith in the Lord are at the top of the list, but somewhere, somehow, maintaining our “temples” should get some air-time too. I’m grateful for all you do, Robyn. thanks so much.

  4. I wish there was more emphasis on eating the right foods at church. We sometimes think we’re doing great by just avoiding alcohol and tobacco without talking about what foods we should and should not be eating. Since it’s not spelled out for members (what you can and can’t eat, well it is but it’s pretty general) there is an attitude of anything goes. I had no idea that the foods I was eating had any impact on my life. I guess I figured if it did I would have learned that at church. However, I have since had many experiences that taught me that what you eat is of the utmost importance. I have been able to find “hidden treasures” along my journey and I can tell you that my family and I have been blessed spiritually and temporally. I want to share this knowledge with others and I have been trying through a blog that I created and by my example.

  5. Our our primary children’s class we had the same subject. The teacher had the kids come up and choose a picture of a food and then put it in the healthy or not healthy category. There were chicken nuggets, tacos, big pretzels, and macaroni & cheese on the healthy side of the board. We debated that one for a while. Another teacher said “Of course it’s healthy, you’ve got your protein and your dairy!” I so wished it had been my turn to give the lesson. But then I’m sure I’d get an earful from all the mom’s, so maybe it wouldn’t have been such a good idea after all.

Leave a Reply