As Latter-day Saints, we've got a lot of things figured out. And we're pretty good at talking about our beliefs in a way that makes sense. So why is it that we keep using this outlandishly common four-word phrase that we don't even really believe in?
A while ago, we posted a mouthwatering collection of funeral potato recipes on our Facebook page.
Seriously, if you haven't seen the recipes, prepare to drool.
They were a total hit. Among the many comments we got back from our readers, we also noticed an interesting conversation between a few people. It went something like this:
Person A: "How dare you post recipes with so much cheese, butter, and fat!? It's clearly against the Word of Wisdom."
Person B: "No it's not. Remember, all things in moderation."
First of all, I'm not here to debate whether or not funeral potatoes are against the Word of Wisdom. (I sure hope they aren't—they're so tasty.)
But I am fascinated by the little four-word phrase that we in the Church seem to use all the time:
"All Things in Moderation."
After all, if you pause for just a minute and think about it, what member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actually believes in "moderation in all things?"
Am I right?
We use it to justify eating too much pie at Thanksgiving (it's only once a year. That's moderation.); we use it when we need our afternoon Diet Coke (Do you drink caffeine?).
We use it when a movie has one too many swear words ("it's just one scene"), and we use it just about any time we want to indulge in something delicious. (You're thinking about those funeral potatoes again aren't you? Okay. Stick with me here.)
But why do we use it so often if we don't actually believe it?
Admittedly, prophets and leaders of the Church have used the phrase before–even in general conference. But what we're really saying when we say "moderation in all things" is "moderation in all things (that aren't prohibited)."
I mean I can count a bunch of things which we, as Latter-day Saints, don't allow at all–even in moderation.
Zip. Zero. Nada.
Take coffee for example. We don't drink it. Not even in moderation.
No premarital sex.
No illegal drugs.
No illegal anything.
No non-members in dedicated temples.
No carrots in green jello. (Okay, maybe I'm just hoping here.)
No, no, no. The list goes on.
So why do we find ourselves constantly using "moderation in all things" as an excuse for indulging a little too much in the birthday cake, or even as a reason we simply "shouldn't" go to the gym every single day?
The answer is simple: it's our culture.
You know that moment when you find yourself raising your hand in Sunday School and saying something like, "The scriptures teach us that with great power comes great responsibility" only to realize a few minutes later that you've actually quoted a Spiderman movie by mistake?
It's just like that.
We're a social people. We rely on one another to perpetuate stories, teachings, moral lessons, and inside jokes (like that carrot/jello thing I mentioned before).
And we've heard our leaders and fellow Saints use the expression "moderation in all things" a million times before.
I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about moderation. I'm not even saying we shouldn't use that particular phrase. But when we do, let's make sure we're using it right and not as an excuse to just do anything we want.
Let's just try to use it in uh…well…moderation.