I don’t claim to be a great storyteller, but humor me for a few minutes, eh?
The Parable of the Combo Meal
by Nate Benincosa
One afternoon, two friends found themselves waiting in line at Mo's Burger Joint.
"I'm starving!" grumbled Gay Ray.
"Me too," replied Straight Kate. "You're going to love this place! Thanks for letting me choose."
“It’d better live up to the hype, Kate. You’ve been trying to get me to eat here for months.”
Kate turned to Ray, placed her hands on his shoulders and with conviction, she offered, “Mo’s Burger Joint is the only true burger joint on the face of the earth.” With wide eyes and a grin, Kate approached the counter and placed her order. "I'll have a Mo’s all-star cheeseburger, please."
"Would you like that in a combo meal?" asked Norman, the Mo's employee.
"Um, sure. Why not?"
"Fries or onion rings, ma'am?"
"Fries! And, instead of a drink, can I upgrade to a shake?" Kate requested.
"Chocolate or vanilla?"
Ray could hardly contain his excitement. After all, he skipped breakfast that morning. "I'll have a hamburger with no cheese," said Ray when it was his turn to order.
"Oh, uh...sorry. But you can't order that," said Norman, with an uneasy look on his face.
"Why not?" exclaimed Ray.
"It's our policy. We can only offer you a cheeseburger, not a hamburger."
"Seriously? A hamburger is the same thing as a cheeseburger, just leave the cheese off of it. Please, I'm not supposed to eat any dairy."
Somewhat perplexed, Norman stuck to his guns. "Those are the rules. Sorry."
Ray was shocked. With frustration, he continued to ask Norman to allow him to order a hamburger, but there was no budging. Ray then asked for a manager. Eventually, the manager came and backed up what Norman had already said to Ray. No other alternatives were offered. "Stop discriminating against my employee. He’s just doing his job! So, do you want a cheeseburger or not?" huffed the manager.
"As I told Norman, no, I don't. I can't eat cheese. This is unreal. Ok, fine. I'll just have an order of onion rings, please."
The manager sighed and responded, "Your friend here gets to choose between fries and onion rings, but you'll have to make do with fries. But you'll like them, they're really tasty."
"But I want onion rings! How can you offer them to Kate and not to me?"
"Sorry, those are Mo's rules, and I have a job to keep."
Ray was irritated and gave Kate a look of utter disappointment. Kate shrugged, not knowing what to do. "Ok, let me get some fries and since I'm lactose intolerant, I'd better not get a milkshake. How about a Coke?"
Reluctantly, the manager and Norman looked at each other and explained to Ray that it was policy that Norman could not order a drink or shake. Just then, another Mo's employee handed Kate her order: a Mo’s all-star cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake. Kate took the tray and found a table while Ray struggled to finish placing his order at the counter.
"Just the fries," Ray said in a defeated tone. Ray joined Kate at the table with only his side of fries in hand. "Can you believe what just happened, Kate?"
"Yeah, it was kind of embarrassing, Ray. You made a scene."
"A scene?! Are you kidding me?"
"Well, yeah. Mo's rules are clearly posted and you totally ignored them. It's clear that Mo's doesn't serve hamburgers. They serve cheeseburgers, and yet you kept pushing the issue. Why not just order a cheeseburger and take the cheese off? You can be so dramatic, Ray."
"Wow. Really, Kate? Ok, what about you getting your choice of a chocolate or vanilla shake, OR soft drink, but I don't get a beverage of any kind? You got to choose between fries and onion rings?"
"That's how Mo wants it. It's his restaurant and he can set whatever rules he wants. Who are we to question them?"
Ray sat there in disbelief. They sat across the table from each other in silence for a moment or two. Kate then picked up her all-star cheeseburger, taking big bites while chasing the cheeseburger down with sips of her chocolate shake. She then pulled her phone out of her pocket and took a picture of her meal. Kate was so eager to share how delicious her meal was that she went on Facebook and posted the picture on her wall with the following tagline: “My true, eternal love. So grateful, God is good!” She then showed Ray her status and laughed as she continued to devour her cheeseburger.
At this point, Ray was so hungry that he started wolfing down his side of fries. He watched Kate as she took her fries and dipped them into her shake. "I'm so full, but I love doing this. My dad always used to dip his fries in his shake."
Ray's mood picked up. "Can I dip my last few fries in your shake?" he asked with a hopeful expression.
"Um...this is awkward, but...no. Mo has established from the beginning that people like you don't get shakes. Besides, fries deserve to be eaten by people who can give them the best home in their belly. I can offer that, but you can't."
In a rage, Ray stood up and yelled, "That's it! I can't just sit here, starving, and watch you pig out on your cheeseburger and dip your fries in your shake when I just sit here with fries. That's not fair, and you know it!"
"You could've had a cheeseburger too, Ray. Just eat the cheeseburger and if you get sick, you get sick. Cheese is yummy! I believe in a traditional burger and traditional burgers have cheese on them. That doesn’t make me a burger bigot!”
"What part of 'no dairy' don't you understand, Kate? I'll get sick. I wanted the same thing you wanted. A burger. Just one little detail is different. No cheese. So, I'm gonna go next door to Dexter's Burger Stop and get a hamburger there and bring it back and eat it here! AND...I'm gonna get an extra-large Coke because I'm thirsty, dammit!"
"Don't you dare, Ray. I'll be so embarrassed!"
Just as he threatened, Ray got a hamburger and an extra-large Coke from Dexter's and returned to Kate's table at Mo's. He started eating his burger and taking huge gulps of his Coke. "Mmm, this is so good. Finally, I get to eat and drink, too."
Tears started forming in Kate's eyes. "How could you be so selfish? You are totally threatening my fast food freedom right now! If you keep this behavior up, I might not get to eat at Mo's anymore. Mo will either kick me out or they'll shut the place down. Or worse, Mo will start serving hamburgers to people like you. Is that what you want? To force Mo to put his beliefs aside and serve hamburgers to your people?"
"Kate...I just want what you want. I want a burger, you want a cheeseburger. We're both hungry. Why can't you let me eat my burger the way I want it? And, seriously, you're cool with sipping and dipping with your shake while I am parched and am not offered anything to drink? How can you eat at Mo's or even be here when they treat me this way?"
"I can't change Mo's laws! Don't you get that? You are welcome to come inside and sit here and order fries and even embarrass me with the food from Dexter's. Isn't that enough for you? It's absolutely ridiculous and even sinful for you to expect more than that. I don't approve of this...this...lifestyle of yours!”
"Lifestyle?! So, you get your full combo meal, no questions asked. Your order just conveniently goes along with Mo's policy. You're happy, he's happy. You'll continue eating here and want others to eat here as well. But, at the end of the day, they wouldn't serve me a hamburger without the cheese. One little detail is different. No choice of onion rings and no drink offered? You're cool patronizing a place like this that treats your friend this way?"
"Yes, Ray. Because I know that this food is true with every fiber of my being. And if that causes you sadness, I'm sorry. But I'm not as concerned with your level of hunger as I am keeping Mo's rules. I love Mo and I want him to love me and be pleased with my decisions. Besides, I’m SO close to becoming Mo’s Customer of the Month.”
At that point, Ray got up to leave. He knew there wasn’t any getting through to Kate. He looked around Mo’s and realized that it was a really nice restaurant. People seemed really happy, the décor was cool, the seats were very comfortable; he really liked the environment. It made sense to him in some ways why Kate was so taken with the place. But at the end of the day, Ray knew that he could never enjoy Mo’s Burger Joint as much as Kate could.
This story may be a little over the top, but it expresses to some degree how I feel belonging to the LDS Church as a gay man. Some of us get the full package deal as part of our Church experience. Others are expected to get by on much less. Kate was able to enjoy her combo meal without any violation to Mo’s rules. But as soon as Ray requested what Kate had (albeit one minor difference), he was made to feel unwelcome. Instead of taking a moment to fully appreciate Ray’s plight and overall experience at Mo’s, Kate was preoccupied with Mo’s rules and how inconvenienced and embarrassed she was by Ray’s persistence.
I feel like Ray, sometimes. As long as I’m content with my side order of fries and just ignore how hungry I am, one day, I'll get the same blessings that Kate gets. Meanwhile, Kate gets to gorge on her combo meal while I just watch. It can be tricky to watch your brothers and sisters “pig out” on love, marriage and the gift of having and raising children when your very membership is threatened by seeking the same thing (but without the cheese). My heart gets heavy when the “Kates” of the Church lash out at the “Rays” of the Church for having the audacity to want (and voice this desire for) the same things.
I’ll close with a quote from the late Boyd K. Packer that actually makes me smile:
“Romantic love is not only a part of life, but literally a dominating influence of it. It is deeply and significantly religious. There is no abundant life without it.”
See the correlation to my little story?