I think most of the people that frequent the Bloggernacle believe that classes such as Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society fall short as far as how engaging they could be. This has been discussed in numerous places. Most recently at BCC; and earlier here at FPR under the rubric of “Consequentialism”. “Engaging” of course means different things to different people, but it often is expressed along with the idiom of “milk before meat”. I want to argue in this thread that employing the “milk before meat” rhetoric will not solve the problems people are trying to articulate.
As far as I see it, the paradigm of milk before meat is heavily attached to the following ideas:
(1) Hierarchy and pride. “Milk” is often understood as the fundamentals–faith, repentance, etc. “Meat” is that which is beyond the fundamentals. Those who claim to be ready for meat imply that they have mastered the fundamentals, and are ready for a “higher” teaching. To claim to have mastered the fundamentals also implies that one is on a “higher level” of gospel understanding/living/righteousness than other LDSs. This is the hallmark of pride.
(2) Humility. This is basically a further implication of the point above. Since milk are the fundamentals such as faith, and my faith always has room to grow, I’m not ready for meat and would not (and perhaps should not) claim otherwise.
(3) The esoteric. “Meat” refers to things that are not essential for my salvation, at best; and at worst is nothing better than navel-gazing.
(4) Scholarly enterprise. “Meat” refers to skills that take long amounts of time to develop (language training for instance, or time spent reading/researching history). That’s fine for professional scholars and those who want to spend the time doing it, but not all members have the desire, the time, or perhaps the capacity to do it. The “meat” therefore is not practical.
Ultimately speaking, I do not believe that those looking for more engagement in SS/RS/PH necessarily buy into this paradigm (at least not entirely). However, it seems very much entrenched in the culture of the church. Given how prevalent this paradigm is, I do not believe that arguing in its terms will lead to the changes hoped for.
Theoretically speaking the problem(s) should be approached by avoiding the milk before meat rhetoric altogether. In other words, there would be something like a two step solution:
(1) Clearly identify the problem(s)
(2) Couch the problem(s) in terms more socially acceptable than milk before meat
The problem in SS is that the same old answers are given after the same old passages of scripture are read.
Solution: We are still under the “condemnation” of D&C 84 for not taking the BoM seriously, and part of escaping this condemnation means reading it closely and understanding it more. What exactly does Nephi mean when he says that “we lived after the manner of happiness” given that the same chapter talks about severing their family ties (and God cursing those severed), building weapons, and waging wars?
Admittedly this is more of a theoretical solution (and the solution isn’t so much of the point of this post). Which is to say that there are still practical issues this doesn’t resolve–do I stand up in SS and announce that we are still under condemnation? Or do I use it as my justification when accused of searching for “meat”? It would be interesting to hear some of the practical applications of this, and other thoughts perhaps challenging my premise that the argument cannot be won (at least probably not in this generation) by playing in the terms of milk before meat.