In the 1990’s, I recall a strong movement against a pernicious offense in church education. The spiritual twinkie was soundly criticized as a useless item of spiritual nourishment, bringing only temporary satisfaction, but failing to build a solid diet. (It is likely that such discourse persists today, but I am not in those circles, so I speak here in the past tense). Like the the milk before meat metaphor, the twinkie came to occupy a particular kind of spiritual nourishment that was seen as neither preparatory, nor advanced, but somehow negative. This kind of spiritual junk food described, well, faith-promoting rumors, false stories, non-scripturally based teachings, etc.
The spiritual twinkie was a sort of open-ended category that could describe a whole host of different kind of objectionable material. Perhaps the most interesting feature, however, was that it served as a critical tool for regulating the discourse of CES itself, and even applied to many of the teachings of the General Authorities. This criticism emphasized that church leaders and teachers should teach doctrines and information.
The category of “spiritual twinkie” raises for me an interesting question about criticism of church leaders and teachers. It provided a way to regulate and reform a certain style of church teaching, and it was a kind of criticism that was embraced internally. I am wondering what made this kind of criticism acceptable, while other kinds of criticism are not. Further, I am curious about how this category came to be populated. Why do some kinds of teachings get the label of “spiritual twinkie,” but other kinds do not? Given the fungibility of its definition, I wonder whether the term was deployed differently to various, even competing ends. Did certain ideological use it to criticize each other?