5 Cool Things I Wish the LDS Church Were Doing

Clay Whipkey5CT, education, meetings, missions, mormon, music, Priesthood, sacrament meeting, service, spirituality, surviving, women 64 Comments

This post is another installment in my “5 Cool Things” series. Today I’m giving a list, again in no particular order, of some things I would love to see happen in the LDS Church (which I attend actively). I’m not presenting this list as a set of demands or to declare what is wrong with the church. Its just a handful of things I think would be pretty cool.

  1. Service Missions
    I’m talking about Peace Corps style service work, full time. I honestly believe that if 75% of our full time missionaries were doing strictly community service, the church would see higher teaching and conversion rates… and perhaps even retention rates, too. The physical aspect of “raising the bar” would not have to be so severe as the less physically capable missionaries could do the teaching and the stronger missionaries could do the service work. Think about the impact that could have on the world.
  2. Women in Priesthood
    This one might be controversial, and its definitely the least likely to happen anytime soon, but I think it would be cool. The talent pool for leadership and administered spirituality is more shallow than we realize since we can only draw from the men in the church, and we constantly hear how men are spiritually weak compared to women. I’ve seen women operate within priesthood in other churches and its very impressive.
  3. Consolidated Sunday School – Relief Society – Priesthood
    For about a year, my stake had too many members for the amount of chapels available so they had to fit five wards in one building. In order to make that work, the block of meetings was reduced from 3 hours to a little over 2 hours. In this scenario, Sacrament meeting was still the same but Sunday School and the Relief Society/Priesthood meetings were each reduced to 30 minutes. The short block was fantastic, although with young children the length of Sacrament meeting is still a real issue. However, keeping separate Sunday School and RS/PH meetings ended up limiting the effectiveness of teachers in either meeting. I’d like to see a shorter block, with Sacrament meeting reduced to maybe 45-50 minutes, and then a consolidated Sunday School/RS/PH, with men and women together. The idea of men and women in separate meetings is a theory that doesn’t really bear out anymore since both are giving the same correlated lesson anyway.
  4. More Musical Performance
    Without question, my favorite LDS Sacrament meetings have been the ones dominated by musical performances. A few years ago I visited a relative’s ward for Christmas and the Sacrament meeting had NO talks at all. After the Sacrament was administered, the remainder of the time was given to several musical numbers and it was my favorite church experience in a long time. I’d love to see at least 50% of Sacrament meeting time given to musical performance (aside from the usual congregational hymns), although I’d like to see a wider range of musical styles allowed (as opposed to mostly MoTab-style choir numbers and Janice Kapp Perry solos).
  5. Less Administrative Meetings
    There are probably not many active LDS folks who need an elaboration here. In recent years there have been General Conference talks, letters to bishops, and programs developed to try to reduce the amount of meetings taking time away from families, but it seems to make little difference. We still have tons of meetings and many of them are way too long.

Comments 64

  1. Clay,

    Amen, amen, amen, amen, and amen!

    I’ve argued for many of the same innovations you’re suggesting here before.

    I would add some details:

    Add a longer break between sacrament meeting and your proposed consolidated Sunday School/RS/PH meeting so that members can relax and get to know each other without feeling rushed. Have the ward provide snacks. The Primary budget is used to buy snacks for nursery, why not spread the love to adults?

    Stake conferences have gone from quarterly in the nineteenth century to twice a year in the twenty-first. Cut them in half again. Why two stake conferences a year? When you consider all that goes along with a stake conference, you save two days worth of meetings plus all of the associated fol-de-rol of preparation. It would also reduce the travel burden on General Authorities.

  2. Post

    “Why two stake conferences a year?”

    Stake Conference with young children is nearly insufferable. Its basically Sacrament meeting x2. But… ordination to the Melchizadek priesthood have to be sustained by the Stake priesthood body, so that is probably a major reason for the frequency. I think if you combine semi-annual SC with the other Stake priesthood meetings, I think they are probably covering these priesthood advancements on at least a quarterly basis.

  3. Our stake conference approaching is one of those broadcast ones. This alleviates the travel burdens on the general authorities as John mentioned, but is still only tolerable with kids if you have audio piped into the nursery. I was seriously thinking of using that Sunday to fulfill my cultural goal of attending a Community of Christ worship service.

    I would love to hear more quality musical performances from a broader musical library in Sacrament meeting. Your Christmas Sacrament meeting story, however, takes me back to my old ward where they had 4-5 musical numbers and, as Christmas was on Sunday, had a lengthened Sacrament meeting only. By the 3rd and 4th number, I was thinking to myself, “not another musical number!” Again, that experience was influenced by restless kids.

    Not to be a grinch…but snacks on Sunday for the entire congregation means more work for the membership cleaning the building each week.

  4. Rigel,

    “Not to be a grinch…but snacks on Sunday for the entire congregation means more work for the membership cleaning the building each week.”

    Sixth cool thing:

    Hire back all those laid off church custodians!

  5. “The idea of men and women in separate meetings is a theory that doesn’t really bear out anymore since both are giving the same correlated lesson anyway.”

    I don’t think there’s ever been a Sunday when my wife and I compared notes and the lessons we received had much in common, despite being based on the same “correlated lesson.” And funny – often the RS lesson was more pertinent to her and the HP lesson more pertinent to me. I think both of us would miss the different perspectives we receive from our sex-segregated groups.

  6. Another great list, Clay! I am loving this recurring feature.

    #1 – agree, but it could be done within the context of proselyting missions, also, just by devoting 2 days of each week to 100% service (or the time equivalent). Perhaps time could be split 1/3 for teaching, 1/3 for working with existing and new members, and 1/3 in service projects (with investigators and members when possible).
    #2 – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m not looking for more work.
    #3 – I love this idea. I think it could just be how the meetings are handled – e.g. move to a 2 hr block (or even 2.5 hrs) and rotate the lessons between the scriptures and the RS/PH topics.
    #4 – I love this idea.
    #5 – far more of this should be handled via email, shared calendars, and phone calls.

  7. #3 – My wife says that the reason you need men and women separate (even though they are teaching the same lesson) is that there are some women who will not speak up when the men are in the room.

    #4 – Agreed. My favorite Christmas program was music with SHORT (30 seconds to 2 minutes) talks in between each number. The talks were either just 2-3 verses of scripture or a short poem or story.

    #5 – Amen.

  8. I think the prospects of women having access to the priesthood prerogatives without increasing their work (sorry, Hawk) could start gradually with an extension of the existing priesthood roles performed by women in the temple as ministers, not administrators.

    For instance, two areas where women might be able to participate would be:

    1) Standing in the circle at baby blessings, and even offering the prayers. This practice is a rite of passage, not a mini-patriarchal blessing, but I think we get caught up in the tradition of it and think women shouldn’t have a place there.

    2) Mothers could be instructed in the old pioneer practice of ministering to their sick children.

    I think these two changes would be welcomed by the rank and file, although they are not likely to happen before I am old and grey.

  9. John N. – I’m sure you’re closer to old & grey than you think. 🙂 I agree that your two suggestions are not at all onerous. Especially since I’m too old for #1, and #2 really just saves everyone time.

  10. Great ideas,

    Women in Priesthood: should have happened ages ago. They could call it ‘Mary’s Priesthood’ or ‘After the order of the
    Virgin Mary’ 🙂 then the women can go do all those home teaching blessings.

    Consolidated Sunday School – Relief Society – Priesthood: Na, they ought to just delete sunday school. And it would make it
    one meeting less. And make sacrament 45min plus priesthood 45min, gives us more time to actually finish
    the class

    Less Administrative Meetings: needed urgently, especially at the ward level. Stake isn’t that bad.

  11. Get rid of 3-5 and make #1 the mission for the whole church and not just full time missionaries. No more ridiculous meetings, musical numbers, 3 hour blocks, nonsense activity this, nonsense eat and get fat activity that. Turn the enormous human resource and skill of the church membership into a service machine. Roll up the ol sleeves and watch the baptism numbers explode.

    Do that and you’ll also have the great perk of a 100% active Nazenail… =)

  12. Post

    #1 – agree, but it could be done within the context of proselyting missions, also, just by devoting 2 days of each week to 100% service (or the time equivalent). Perhaps time could be split 1/3 for teaching, 1/3 for working with existing and new members, and 1/3 in service projects (with investigators and members when possible).

    I think this is still rooted in the current [mission = proselyting] paradigm. When I say 25% of the missionary force would be teaching and 75% doing service, I am not including traditional proselyting at all. No more tracting or street contacting. All teaching would be by referral through members or request of the investigator. I really believe that if (as Nazenail pointed out) the incredible organization and efficiency of the LDS church membership were turned towards dramatically changing the communities of the world, i.e. making it on Earth as it is in Heaven, then the floodgates of people being really interested in the church would be opened. We wouldn’t be known for proselyting missions (arguably the defining image of Mormons worldwide), we’d be known for changing the world.

    Nazenail, 🙂 We have to start somewhere, friend. Music/art can be really powerful and important. The right kinds of community activities are also very important to building relationships and human connections. Life is noisy, especially in our media-driven modern world. Sometimes it is nice to be able to go somewhere that is distinctly for a spiritual purpose (the point of church meetings, even if they don’t meet the goal).

  13. People kill me sometimes. All around the Bloggernacle, I read complaints that the Church doesn’t do enough in the roughly 72 hours/year available (48 classes x 45 minutes each in SS and PH/RS/YW/YM) to teach its members every little aspect of church history that possibly might shake someone’s faith at some point down the road; many ex-members and disaffected members blame exactly this for their struggles; then “eliminate Sunday School” or “consolidate Sunday meetings to only 2 hours” is one of the first suggestions made in conversations like this. Which is it? A) Teach us more!; or B) Don’t teach us as much!

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the 3-hour bloc became a 2-hour bloc – with PH/RS/YW/YM and SS alternating each week. I can say that and remain consistent, however, since I don’t expect the Church to inoculate me against every possible challenge to my faith. Too many people want the best of both worlds, and this is one case where you have to pick an option in order to be consistent. Whining about one while pining for the other? Indefensible, imo.

  14. Ray – Whoa! Down boy! Personally, I think there are two different things here: content and quantity. The extra time that is spent now is not going to cover that “inoculation” content anyway; it’s been correlated out (if it was ever there in the first place). Frankly, I think distilling the quantity down is a good idea. There’s a lot of repetition of concepts in the current block. We all know the “right” answers. It seems there is not much focus on teaching or discussing anyway. If it’s about regurgitating the same basic concepts and then bearing testimony of them, we can certainly do an hour less of that.

  15. Post

    Ray, I’m not personally whining for the church to inoculate members in church meetings, even if I may have done so in the past (can’t remember if I ever wrote it publicly.) I am resigned to the fact that the church has to do what it’s own mission and theology dictates is best, and currently inoculation content is not part of that. They see it as more dangerous than helpful. So if we are being realistic about what kind of content will be in the church classes, I see no problem in thinking about ways to optimize it in its current form.

    Also, shortening the amount of time spent in church classes does not have a direct correlation to having less useful content. If the 2 hours of relatively mediocre content is replaced with 45 minutes of really quality content (whatever the definition of quality is) then I don’t see the two arguments you pointed out as being in conflict.

    On the concern about consistency: consistency can also be a form of stubbornness if one fails to adapt to new information or a new perspective.

  16. I see Ray’s point. There was recently a blog about making Sunday School a School of the Prophets. Others think it should be dropped. Are everyone’s Sunday School teachers really that bad? I would LOVE to go to Sunday School and sit/listen to a lesson without interruption. Seems I’m getting my child to stay in nursery or primary, helping my child with a talk/prayer in primary, holding the baby so my wife can do her primary calling, or doing the church handbook ‘forbidden’ activity of conducting Bishopric duties during Sunday School. At least when I’m missing my HP quorum lesson because of a responsibility to sit in with the Deacons quorum, I can catch Hawkgrrl’s virtual lesson! And yes, I DID discuss Hawkgrrl’s virtual lesson with my wife. (She has always avoided R.S.) Church lately has not a time for me to have introspection.

    I say, make Hawkgrrl a sealer in the temple! (Following John’s suggestion of extending existing priesthood roles performed by women in the temple) She would be as cool as that Vulcan High Priestess that put Spock’s soul back into his body.

  17. …school of the Prophets…
    That was me. And I would be all for a Sunday 2-hr meeting composed of Sacrament Meeting, then Primary/YMYW/PH/RS. Then we could hold optional small group scripture study groups at different times during the week.

  18. Clay,

    You’re right. A musical fireside that I attended when I was 16 kept me in the church for another 10 years or so. It was heartfelt and amazing. I still remember most of the songs today. The problem I have with most of the music in Church is the lack of quality control. You have to survive 9 punishing numbers to finally get to get to somebody with any business perfoming in public. Can’t a musical number be a 5 minute calling from the ward music director rather than the volunteer system that plagues my past wards? I know I’m nit picking here.

    I love your post. Very interesting topic. Women with the priesthood though? I have absolutely zero problem with it (as I don’t even go to Church), but doesn’t that completely change some of the fundamental LDS beliefs? I guess what I’m asking is wouldn’t this be a docrinal change rather than a policy change?

    Rigel Hawthorne,

    You are such a nerd. I can’t believe that you’re talking about Star Trek in your post. You could have at least had the respect to call the Vulcan High Priestess who performed the ‘Katra’ restoration by her name, T’Lar.

  19. Post

    Women with the priesthood though? I have absolutely zero problem with it (as I don’t even go to Church), but doesn’t that completely change some of the fundamental LDS beliefs? I guess what I’m asking is wouldn’t this be a docrinal change rather than a policy change?

    Actually, there is no scripture that says women cannot hold priesthood. I am not even aware of any LDS prophets’ statements which explicitly forbid it. Its just how it is, and unlike giving the priesthood to blacks, if a mildly progressive LDS prophet were to be interested in giving women priesthood and examined the doctrine closely enough he would see that it would not even require contradicting past prophets. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime LDS women performed blessings of healing.

    The major roadblock in today’s church is probably the Proclamation on the Family, and the LDS view of gender roles. Current LDS gender views suggest that men are perfected through the priesthood in learning to be like Heavenly Father, while women are perfected through bearing and nurturing children in learning to be like Heavenly Mother.

    So its not technically a doctrinal change, but it is a HUGE cultural change. Even in the Community of Christ (RLDS), which was already a much more progressive church, the extension of priesthood to women resulted in them losing 25% of their membership.

  20. Yeah Ray, you’re right. If we cut the block to two hours, it would give the church less time to dissimulate certain “un-useful” historical facts; facts that they are going to leave out anyway – and we wouldn’t want to make less time available for dissimulation. Yep, I’m sure if we’d expand the block to 6 hours, we’d get all those details. The church is the victim on that one. Held down by the man ’cause there just ain’t enough time. Gotcha.

  21. Clay,

    Wow. I’ve never thought of it like that. I guess I always ASSUMED that there must be some hard core doctrine about gender and the priesthood. Your post reminded me about that flick in the JSM building where that lady blessed the cow (ok, ox) so it could pull the wagon. It seemed so racy to me at the time!

    I supposed that if I were a feminist, I would be somewhat offended by the Proc on the Fam. I suppose though, that it just depends on how much respect you give to the work of bearing and nurturing children.

  22. Hi,

    Here is my list.

    1. To expand on your service mission idea. Open this up for families and youth to do 2-4 week service missions to various areas of the world. Similar in concept to what is done in most other churches. I would love to have my teens go to South America for a month to build a school or something like that.

    2. Have all the incorrect history, painting, and folklore clarified by just coming out and saying: “Oops, we got some things wrong. We make mistakes occasionally. Here is how things really happened”.

    3. The 2 hour block would be pretty cool, but not a major one. I just go home early or arrive late. What I would suggest is complete elimination of the SS program. That would do the same thing and solve several issues.

    4. Eliminate garments. (Again, pretty open if a person just wants to stop wearing them, but would be great to have gone.

    Thats it for me.

  23. On the first one, we’re already doing that. I know of missionaries who are called on agircultural missions to Australia. There’s a little bit of proeslyting, but that is after-the-fact. Baptisms or no baptisms, they called to help them improve farming techniques.

  24. Oh and women with the priesthood…I personally don’t care (and I’m about as active as they come). Let them have it…we could probably have better home teaching numbers that way! 😀 And we would have some exciting priesthood meetings as some of the stauncher men had the old methods of doing things questioned.

    But there is absolutely no doctrine saying that women can’t have it. It’s not in the proclamation or in the standard works. We have the “reason” for the practice, but as Elder Oaks has noted, those “reasons” are almost always off-base. It could be changed tomorrow and the gospel would function as it has functioned…it would be a policy change just as there have been numerous others (and don’t get me started on how there never was any consensus on the doctrinality of polygamy or the priesthood ban)

  25. Holy Cow, people. Read the entire comment. I said I wouldn’t mind at all if the bloc was reduced to 2 hours instead of 3, adcama, so feel free to lose the “let’s attend for 6 hours to accommodate Ray’s suggestion” diatribe. It’s silly and totally out of context and simply ridiculous.

    My point is valid: It’s a problem that needs to be addressed when people complain that the Church doesn’t use it’s available time to teach history and doctrine (Sunday School) to inoculate its members then turn around and say the solution is to eliminate the one meeting that is supposed to be for Gospel instruction. I don’t mind either option (strengthen SS or reduce the time we spend there), but you can’t have it both ways. That simply isn’t practical, and that’s all my comment said. It wasn’t pointed at anyone here; it didn’t mention anyone here; I tried to make it clear I was talking of people “all around the Bloggernacle”. I apologize for not being even more clear – that some people thought I was taking exception to the suggestion in the post to reduce the bloc. I thought I covered that possible perception by saying I wouldn’t argue with a reduced bloc.

    Sorry; it’s late; I’ve had a rough day; I am up late with a fever; my patience is shot.

  26. Post

    Ray, I think the point being made is this, you said:

    Which is it? A) Teach us more!; or B) Don’t teach us as much!

    I think the suggestion could just as well be:

    Teach us more, in less time.

    That would not be as impractical as you make it sound. That said, I’m not arguing for that myself. My bottom line is that the church is going to teach in a very particular way, which is not a Sunstone Sunday School, and they have very specific reasons for it. Its not going to change without a massive change in leadership culture. So I figure that if SS/RS/PH is going to be taught that way, it might as well not be so long. I know you weren’t accusing me directly, BTW. I just want to make clear what I meant in the original post.

  27. “I think the suggestion could just as well be: Teach us more, in less time.”

    I agree with that sentiment completely. If that were the universal experience in SS, I doubt most of us would be pushing to eliminate SS, however. That means I think our individual perceptions about that issue are determined largely by our actual experiences being satisfied or not in SS (and RS/PH). I live in a ward where SS teachers are a serious focus of the Bishopric, and we nearly all of our SS teachers really are excellent teachers. (Our SS Pres. is a wonderfully humble college Dean, for example, and his 2nd Counselor was an Asst. Minister before his conversion.)

  28. I shall attempt, in the morning chaos with kids begging for a ride on my laps (What am I doing on internet in the morning rush? you lazy father!)to give my views.

    1/ Many stories clearly show that when the Church serves through members or missionaries, the positive effect on people perceptions of the Church is great. There are lots of charities and churches out there doing that. They serve certain needs of a certain world.
    We believe to have the fulness of the Gospel, hence we should endeavour to serve but never at the expense of a spiritual approach to conversion. A solid conversion is based on a deep and meaningful process, service would remain peripherical to this process. Service is good, but it doesn’t matter how many times my hometeachers invite me for dinner or give me a blessing, they are not the one keeping me excited or interested in the Gospel. Only the Spirit does. (I still love you James!)

    2/ I have often pondered the great truth: that the female touch in the Church is what keeps things together. Perhaps men have the priesthood to have a sense of responsibilities superseeding their very carnal and anthropic nature (chaos and decay all around? So what! Doughnuts still taste good). Men wear a suit and show up at Church, women wear dresses and build the Church. But NO PRIESTHOOD FOR WOMEN. God’s views are not our views, and we must let him handle that one.

    3/ Meetings: Boy, do I love my kids. They drag me into the corridors at times when I hear the clock ticking hopelesly into eternity. I have never been bored in a meeting when I tried to access the thinking of the speaker, the good and the bad ones. I agree for a long break between meetings. I agree for meetings during the week, like Sunday school and lunches together every Sunday. I don’t want ward council anymore, and PEC and Missionary meeting after SM which is useless at stimulating anyone to do anything.

    4/ More music? I remember visiting the Palma de Mallorca branch where a guy played a flamenco song on Joseph Smith. Outstanding. The American Conservative visiting in his navy blue suit kept his eyebrows raised in a world record fashion while moving uncomfortably on his plastic chair. The Spirit dwells in many styles: pan pipes, a great blues, French accordeon (What? You’ve got a problem with that?), Tzigane airs…Church music is usually uplifting, but how come sometimes I feel nauseous?

    5/ Sorry, already talked about meetings.

    NB Let’s try, on an individual basis, to make cool changes within our lessons (when we teach) or cool comments we can make. Let’s come up with coll ideas for cool ideas, etc. But the Church cannot become a social club where Spiritual is relegated to the second row and becomes a laughable point for those standing in the great and spacious building.

  29. 1) Do you really believe that the mission is to help the church grow? Tell me you don’t truly believe it.

    2) I don’t want the priesthood. I like the fact that the priesthood is for you men. So we would have the good looks, the brain AND the priesthood?
    Just give us the priesthood and then the church would turn out into the perfect world I imagined ten years ago: a world without men only “penis vegetables” to satisfy our biological needs. When the fruit is ripe to harvest it would enable us to have babies and then when it has been used we’d just throw it away…

    3) I like the seperated teachings. See the previous answer.

    4) all right there is a biological issu that I need to bring up for you all to know. Yes it is linked to #4 indeed.
    When I was a child I remember that the sister missionnary (all american or else it would not have been fun) had amazing voices. It is not so true anymore but it could easily be again. the reason is that speaking english requires to train and develope parts of your “apparei phonatoire” that are not the same when speaking french. thus enabling beautiful sounds to come out with a lot less training than it would take with someone who has been raised speaking french. It is not my made up theory. I read it somewhere and it was very serious. To have more musical numbers in sacrament meeting would just drive the spirit away in France. Most people would perform numbers that would have me beg the Lord to lose my hearing (which would probably happen after being only once in sacrament meeting).

    5) This is the only thing I aggree with. With the different mesenger developing I hope that some of these meetings will soon be held through this mean. the major ones would still require physical presence but the small ones could be held this way.

  30. I am going on the side of Ray with regard to the quality issue in teaching, etc. Most members want to be acted upon rather than active in the very sense of the word. Excellent instruction does not take the place of lack of preparation on the part of the membership. When I bother to ask in class, ” How many studied/read the lesson?” you can guess what kind of response I get. Sometimes, I feel like saying, “How many have a clue what we are even talking about?” I find I have more fun teaching in HP because an off the wall comment can launch us right to Kolob and beyond.

    But their are members who genuinely want to learn about the gospel and put the time into it. Those would be OK if SS were eliminated. Eliminating SS will make most members dumber about the gospel and give them one more hour of sports time with the TV.

  31. Wow! Maybe with your 5 cool ideas and the collective whole that agree with you, we can see things get better!
    We do not have enough music worship. Other churches build a wonderful spiritual atmosphere through 20 minutes of praise music. I believe Gladys Knight has made similar suggestions.
    I have four children. Enough said about the length of Church meetings. 2 hours and 1/2 is plenty of time to gather, fellowship, and worship!
    Great Post all around!!!!

  32. “Eliminating SS will make most members dumber about the gospel and give them one more hour of sports time with the TV.” Fair point. OTOH, I also like TV, and there are so many other meetings on Sunday aside from the block.

    Gwennaelle: #4 LOL!

    Rigel: Not sure that’s going to work out, but I am available for Vulcan mind melds and neck pinches.

    I think BiV’s suggestion is best for the content/quantity question – reduce the block, but add higher-education level during-the-week courses (or even online group discussions).

  33. “reduce the block, but add higher-education level during-the-week courses”

    Wow, back to separate meetings again? I didn’t see gas prices fall THAT much!

  34. I’m particularly attracted to proposal 4. I have never been a member of a ward such as the one I belong to now where the musical talent seems endless. It is rare to have a sacrament meeting without a musical number. The majority of these numbers are not choir performances, but performances by individual ward members. Wonderful diversity, all of it spiritually uplifting. In a recent Primary program, one of our Deacons accompanied the Primary on the violin playing music he wrote himself. If music is indeed a form of worship, the right musical number can do more to introduce the Spirit than any talk.

  35. I have a great idea; we could all get together and vote on something that we believe (by definition) is divinely inspired!!!! We could then act surprised and offended when the leaders of the church (whom again, we believe are divinely inspired) don’t follow our every whim, even though those whims change on a weekly basis.

    Honestly, I don’t get it. If you think a church is divinely inspired and led by God, then why would you think you have a better way to run it? That doesn’t strike anybody as just a little bit arrogant and presumptuous. If you don’t think it is divinely inspired, then why bother going at all? If I thought I had a say in how a church were run, that would mean the church was not divinely inspired, but open to suggestions of imperfect men. I see no reason to attend a church like that.

    Maybe that’s just me. I’m not saying your ideas are necessarily BAD ideas, I just don’t get even the thought that you should be able to opine about God’s church. If you don’t think it is led by God, that is a different story, but then again, why participate at all if you don’t believe it to be true??

  36. Post

    If I thought I had a say in how a church were run, that would mean the church was not divinely inspired, but open to suggestions of imperfect men. I see no reason to attend a church like that.

    I remember feeling this way. Things were certainly easier as I didn’t have to evaluate every doctrine and policy to determine if it felt right. I could just let divinely inspired men do that for me.

    Whatever you do, don’t look into the divinely inspired program of Baseball Baptisms.

    If you don’t think it is divinely inspired, then why bother going at all?

    I used to think that, too. It becomes a very different scenario when your family is involved and your choices and actions have far-reaching impacts. BTW, we are just talking here. Its not like anyone is building a petition to present to the church leaders.

  37. nigel – God didn’t author every program or write the GHI. Some things are more inspired than others. This church changes constantly, not because of grass roots efforts (which this isn’t as Clay pointed out). Just because people are inspired to do different things, and some are more inspired than others. It’s just fun to discuss and speculate.

  38. While our stake was waiting for a new chapel to be built, we had to squeeze 4 wards into a building. The stake presidency felt inspired to cut blocks to 2.5 hours, with shorter Sunday School and RS/Priesthood meetings. It was heaven. We held all the same lessons, but they were short and to the point. Teachers didn’t feel obligated to fill out the material with useless stuff so we’d be in the room for the full 40 or 50 minutes. Then an area authority got wind of it and told the stake presidency, 3 hours. No exceptions. That’s how the church works. This was right around the time when Elder Ballard gave his conference talk encouraging local leaders to act on their own initiative when inspired to do so. Whoops, I guess that area authority didn’t get the memo. I can assure you, however, that a 2.5 hour block loses nothing at all in terms of quality, and makes for much happier members.

  39. MY experience is the more that we see the Church as a conglommerate of indidivuals working with divine truth, rather than divine truth working through them, the more likely we are to be able to stomach its very human elements.

  40. More music? Yes, but be careful what you wish for. I’ve heard many wonderful musical numbers over the years — “cultivating talents” is one of my favorite Mormon pasttimes — but for every wonderful musical number, I’ve heard at least two maudlin/sappy/cring-inducing musical bombs. Just last Sunday I heard a fluffly LDS piece performed by a posse of young adult men that was indistinguishable from a Backstreet Boys song, but not as good (if that is possible).

    As for musical instruments… more guitar please, and less piano, violin, and flute. Seriously, what is wrong with the guitar? Is there some fear someone is going to bust into an LDS version of Stairway to Kolob?

  41. I second Clay’s recommendations. Here are some changes I’d like to see:

    1.) Four “Family Days” per year. On that Sunday there would be no church. Families would have “church” at home, or at the park, or at the beach, or in the mountains — wherever. Just one week per quarter when Dads and Moms didn’t have to prepare lessons, talks, etc. and could spend the time relaxing with the family.

    2.) Two “Visit Another Church Days” per year. Just an opportunity for members to visit other churches and interact with people of other faiths. The benefits to individuals and the community are obvious.

    3.) Paid janitors/building managers. Plenty of tithing to cover this, and there are tons of people out there are without jobs who would like this job. Does members cleaning the church really help anyone? Seriously?

    4.) Reduce reliance on lesson manuals.

  42. I forgot to mention that I have grown a little these past ten years and I don’t think this would be a perfect world anymore.

    Who would we fight against if men were not around? How could we be aware of our superiority without you all?

    I am funny like that.

  43. Clay (#42), that is a great way to rationalize away anybody who disagrees with you, just accuse them of being naive. You think that the only way somebody could believe the church is divinely inspired is if they haven’t heard of some of the darker moments in church history, or if they didn’t know about changing church doctrines.

    The problem with that is that you are assuming you are more educated/intelligent/knowledgeable than church members that don’t nit pick and disagree with every church doctrine and try and justify how they can accept certain parts of doctrine while ignoring others. You are assuming that if those other “complacent” members only knew as much as you did, they would feel the same way.

    Let me assure you that there are many, many members who are more educated/intelligent, and knowledgeable about church history than you, and yet still have the faith to accept church doctrine without questioning everything.

    Like I said earlier, it comes down to whether you believe it is divinely inspired or not. There is a very distinct dichotomy. Either it is inspired, and you HAVE to follow it or risk eternal damnation, or it isn’t inspired, and you should distance yourself as much as possible. There isn’t another alternative. I am not saying you should stop thinking and analyzing. What you are doing here is completely different than that, you are not trying to learn more for knowledge sake, you are trying to learn more to point out faults. That is what I don’t get.

  44. What a breath of fresh air just to have people talking about change and presenting new ideas. I constantly think about service missions. We work in construction and I am surrounded by young men who are amazing with a hammer and look very dignified coming to work each day in a hard hat and just cannot make that leap to sales and white shirts and ties. The church needs their talents and these young “prodigals” need the church. My dream is to find a place for them myself because they often express to me that they would love to serve but they want to take their toolbox when they go. (Most of my hardhat brigade does not have the patience to sit three hours either.)

  45. Post

    “Let me assure you that there are many, many members who are more educated/intelligent, and knowledgeable about church history than you, and yet still have the faith to accept church doctrine without questioning everything.”

    Nigel, its not about questioning everything, the problem is in questioning nothing. For me personally, the history of the Baseball Baptism program is a very strong example that not everything that comes from church leaders is inspired. I agree that there are a lot of people more educated and intelligent than myself, and a lot of them question less than me, but I suspect they question a little more than you think (even if only privately).

    BTW, I would recommend that you re-read D&C 18: 10, 15-16 and re-consider your approach to telling people that if they can’t take everything as divinely inspired without questioning then they should just leave. To this point, I’m glad I don’t have a bishop or stake president like that. Know this, there are MANY people all around you who appear to be fully active and faithful who struggle with things about the church. Would you want it on your head to drive them all out of the church?

  46. Nice response, Clay.


    Fear is a powerful emotion we would all to well to become more aware of in our lives. What makes us afraid, and how do those feelings govern our behavior?

  47. #1: Interesting idea. I’d be interested to see how it played out. I am also interested in the suggestion of sending kids to foreign places or other states to perform service for weeks at a time. While the best service is often performed next door, separating a group of kids from their homes and giving them a common mission could form strong social and emotional ties to the Church, in addition to the spiritual ties of service.

    #2: I didn’t have an opinion one way or the other on this one, but Gwenaelle has struck fear in my heart that if it is implemented I may become a penis vegetable. I’m picturing summer squash, and I don’t like it.

    #3: I like the idea of consolidating meetings, but I prefer to separate men and women in Priesthood/Relief Society. I know my wife likes her woman time, and I like my manly time. I like the first 15 minutes of it anyway.

    #4: Amen to more music. In my last ward, the ward music director had this vision, and thought it would be great to have the youth sing a number. Unfortunately, not one of the youth could hold a note (out of 20 or so youth). Her face when she heard them was priceless. But I am all for good musical numbers.

    #5: Not terribly controversial. In some cases, reducing meetings would reduce person-to-person contact that can be valuable, but technology could be used to reduce scheduling and planning during meetings and increase time spent talking about individual needs, etc.

  48. John, that must be it. I disagree with you, so I must be afraid. That must make you feel justified. Clay, if it isn’t the fear thing, again, it must be the naive thing. Seriously guys, you can do better than that.

    Clay, I know that not everyone is 100% content, and that people struggle with their faith. Everybody does, that is the very nature of faith. If it weren’t a struggle, it wouldn’t be an issue of faith. What I am saying is not that faith should come easy, and without logical questioning.

    I don’t know how you did it, but you blew my cover that I am not a bishop or stake president. I agree that they wouldn’t tell people to leave the church if they had doubts. Just one of the many reasons I am not a bishop or stake president. Again, I am not saying you have to be a thoughtless sheep to be a content member. Doubts are natural, probably even beneficial. What I see goes beyond that. I guess maybe I am grouping you in with a whole group of bloggers that I have recently discovered that spend all of their blogging time and energy disagreeing with the church and explaining why the church is wrong and behind the times and should align itself more with their personal views. That is what I don’t understand. It goes beyond a simple sincere doubting of faith based issues. It comes to point where (at least how I see it) the church HAS to be wrong to allow the kind of logic used. For example, if I were to say I think that God is really a spirit so he can be omnipresent. That thought requires me to acknowledge that the church leaders have taught otherwise, and openly say I disagree and think they should change their mind. That is what I don’t understand. If I thought the church leaders were completely wrong on something that I felt important, I would leave the church and find one that agreed with me. That isn’t saying I understand everything within the church, it is saying I have enough faith to follow even the things that I don’t understand completely yet. Again, it is faith based. If we understood everything, faith would be unnecessary.

    It seems to me that faith in a religion has as its very core faith that the religion is divinely inspired. For this group of bloggers to come and say that church leaders are behind the times, and flat out wrong in their interpretation of doctrine REQUIRES one to first believe that the church is not divinely inspired. That is what I don’t get. It isn’t the questioning or discussion or doctrine, it is the setting aside of core doctrine necessary for membership.

  49. Nigel,

    None of the 5 things Clay mentioned, with the possible exception of #2, involve doctrine. They are all practices.

    Wouldn’t you tell your bishop the heat wasn’t working in the chapel? Where would you draw the line of refraining from constructive criticism?

  50. I like the heated building analogy, let’s look at that. If I believed that God controlled the heat in the building, I wouldn’t comment on it. Its his building, and his heat. I would wear a jacket, or find some place where I was warmer. If I didn’t think that God controlled the heat in the building, but that the bishop were purposely keeping it cold, then I would feel free to tell him so. My point is, if I think God controls the heat, I don’t offer constructive criticism, because to do so first requires me to assume that I have figured out a better way than what God is doing. If I am offering criticism, it means I don’t think God is in control. Why would I come to a church I didn’t believe in?

    I reread the first paragraph of this post, before the 5 suggestions. I apologize to Clay, you mentioned that you weren’t saying the church is wrong, just some things you would like to see changed. That is fine, you are obviously entitled to think things should be different. I guess I just get confused when it seems to cross over into the “I know a better way than God” discussion that seems to happen. There is room for criticism in this church, it just seems to me that if we believe the church to be divinely inspired, that the criticism should come from the top down, not the bottom up.

  51. I would have served a mission if it could have been a full time service mission. I longed for a service mission. I joined the Coast Guard instead! 🙂

  52. I Love your ideas Clay!
    I have long said that I wished church were about 2 hours instead of 3. I think we would get more out of it.

    Less mtgs would also be awesome. For several years I was in callings that required me to attend PEC every week and a host of other mtgs and it really started to wear on me and I found myself really resenting the church. So I totally agree that less mtgs is a fantastic idea.

  53. Why is it that the LDS semi-annual conference trumps the holiest day of the year in all Christendom? Whenever Easter falls on the first Sunday in April (approximately 25% of the time), the Mormon church conference proceeds on track as if it were any day BUT Easter, and LDS General Conference never has given way to that very holy day. Ever. No wonder people have a difficult time referring to Mormons as real Christians.

    Easter is a movable feast determined by the phases of the moon after the vernal equinox, and it’s been that way since the advent of the Savior himself. So, why do the LDS leaders mess with it? Ignorance? No, highly doubtul. Disrespect? No, not likely. Arrogance??? Bingo. The “one and only true church on the face of the earth” needs to do things the way it sees fit without regard to the feelings and positions of others. Why? Because it can, and it’s just one more way of separating itself from the mainstream religions while proclaiming itself to be just that – mainstream. And therein lies the rub.

  54. Mr. Smacker,
    I have heard dozens of talks about Easter during April general conferences for years. Instead of mocking President Packer’s name, you should actually listen to what he says.
    The shear fact that you mock a church leader’s name shows that you are more arrogant than he ever was, or just plain immature. I hope you change for the better, as that is what everyone inside and outside of the church needs to do.

  55. I love this! I actually am preparing a post on the LDS women and the priesthood that will be coming out this week.

    I was in leadership for a few years in the LDS church and all i can say is Amen! to point number 5!

  56. Point #2
    Are women trying to usurp the authority of man?

    One entry found.

    Main Entry: usurp
    Pronunciation: \yu̇-ˈsərp also -ˈzərp\
    Function: verb
    Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French usorper, from Latin usurpare to take possession of without legal claim, from usually (abl. of usus use) + rapere to seize — more at rapid
    Date: 14th century
    transitive verb
    1 a: to seize and hold (as office, place, or powers) in possession by force or without right b: to take or make use of without right
    2: to take the place of by or as if by force : supplant
    intransitive verb
    : to seize or exercise authority or possession wrongfully

  57. Pingback: Zelophehad’s Daughters | My Nacle Notebook 2008: Funny comments

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