LDS worship skills

guest church, diversity, doubt, feminism, inter-faith, temple 15 Comments

Today’s post is by The Chorister.  I just read a book called In the land of invisible women: A female doctor’s journey in the Saudi kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed, M.D. Absolutely amazing read. I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know. Qanta is a British-born Muslim physician, trained in the U.S., who takes a position at a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She goes to Saudi Arabia feeling pretty comfortable. Not too worried about how it will feel to live there because, after all, she is a Muslim. However, once she gets there, she quickly discovers that many of the Saudis are practicing a different kind of Islam. She doesn’t fit in. She rubs people the wrong way. She is puzzled by their beliefs, practices, and customs. She feels like she’s suffocating underneath the abbayah.

I feel like that sometimes at church. I’m a Mormon—born and raised—but sometimes I look around and think: “Hey, wait – this is a different brand of Mormonism.” The church I grew up in doesn’t forbid 3-year-old girls to watch “The Little Mermaid” because Ariel dresses immodestly. The church I belong to doesn’t have men in leadership positions pull a woman aside and call her out for wearing a professional pantsuit to church. It doesn’t teach 12-year-old girls that “men are in charge” (and that’s a quote). I sometimes wonder whether there’s a place for me inside this church that I sometimes don’t recognize.

Qanta felt like this, too, during her sojourn in The Kingdom. She tries to fit in; she tries to understand people’s motivations; she tries to live by the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” adage. It was hard for her and never really got easier—at least I didn’t get that impression. Still, she tried. She decides to go on a hajj. She wants to experience this pinnacle of Muslim worship. Several chapters in the book are devoted to a vivid description of her pilgrimage. It reminded me much of the endowment ceremony—rich with symbolic meaning and ritual. She wants to be a good Muslim. She struggles to keep up, to follow along, to say and do the right things, watching her fellow pilgrims.

At one point, she says: “This was part of Hajj, to be allowed to improve and develop one’s skills of worship.” This really struck me. What kind of skills of worship do we (Mormons) have?? I honestly don’t know what to think of this. What are things that we have to be good at to travel the Mormon road?

What about obedience?  Is that a skill?  How about acquiescence?  Those are both negative things, which is not my intention at all.

How about serving others – is that a skill?  Patience (we do have a LOT of long meetings).

Thoughts?

Comments

comments

Comments 15

  1. I grew up in the LDS Church in Southern California in the 60s and 70s. Subsequently, I have attended Church all over the nation. One often hears the phrase “The Church is the same where ever one goes.” Hmmm. That has NOT been my experience. Maybe different locations are not associated with changes in doctrine, but there are definitely changes in personality and implementation. So, if asked, I usually respond, “I am a Southern California Mormon of the sixties.” It is 2009 and I am not likely to change, either — well, at least not my basic identity.

  2. One thing I believe is somewhat problematic in the Church is the idea (whether expressed or implicitly held) that everyone in the Celesital Kingdom will be identical. Thus, we must all act, dress, and even believe the exact same thing now. This is doctrinally wrong, and hurtful even, as your original post describes.

    As Ray mentioned on another post, Elder Wirthlin specifically said we are not to all be the same instrument. Heaven forbid we should have only piccolos with their shrill shrieking voice at Church exclaiming that because she wore a nice pantsuit to Church, she’s doomed. That would be the time when some mello cello also takes the woman aside, and tells her she looks very nice, and can wear what she wants, and then the cello also reminds the brother who took her aside the exact same thing. I would be happy to be that cello if needed.

    Finally, I can believe what I want, mostly, and still be a worthy active member. I go to a church where most people believe very very closely what I do, but I am still unique, and that’s ok. If I have a different idea about what clothes equals showing reverence, so what? If I believe that there are a lot more hymns that are worshipful than are in our green hymnal, so what? If someone doesn’t like how I’m running my calling, then I just remind them that I was called by the Spirit, and if I feel good about, then that’s what we’re going to do.

    I guess in summary, I feel the ‘Mormon road’ is a personal one. It is unique for each of us, and may *not* be the same for everyone. For me, I must have a lot of patience for some more … traditional … mindsets. Each road will test and try us differently. Obedience, patience, service all are important, though each of us will have our own mixture of what we have to develop.

  3. You know, this is a bit off the subject, but I read here (and on other blogs) so many things that I’ve never heard or seen happen in any of my wards (items mentioned in the 2nd paragraph). Maybe thinks are different up here in liberal Seattle.

    Oh, wait! One time a bishop of mine made a weird comment about how I should dry my hair before coming to church. I said, “Eh, at least I’m here.” I got over it. My faith is intact!

    As for the skills of worship, I agree with the above poster. Mormonism is personal, but we have guidelines. The folks in charge and the scriptures seem to emphasize certain things (we all know what those are), and some people are more effective than implementing it than others. I’m grateful that all I have to fear from not implementing them “correctly” is perhaps enduring a foolish comment from another member.

  4. S. Faux & Jana, geography is everything. I agree that where you live dictates a lot of the church experience.

    Andrew, we need more cellos like you. 🙂 So the skill set that each person needs is different? Are there any skills that one really needs to develop to BE Mormon?

  5. “Are there any skills that one really needs to develop to BE Mormon?”

    Military understanding, seeing into the future, large muscles . . . Time travel and body jumping would help. 🙂

  6. In all seriousness, to be a strong Christian, as was mentioned in the last General Conference, I think the most important “skill” is a charitable outlook – and I think that’s critical to being a strong Latter-day Saint, as well.

    When others look back on my life when I am old – and especially 150 years later (after all who knew me personally are dead), I hope they read my words and are charitable. I know much of what I have said and written will be laughable by then, but I hope they don’t laugh, regardless. I hope they nod and say, “He did his best to understand – and he was charitable in how he viewed and spoke of others.”

    I try to give that charity to others, largely because I want it so desperately for myself.

  7. You could restate obedience and acquiescence as submissiveness which is more palatable. There is also a huge focus on commitment and covenants as worship.

  8. Charity is absolutely essential, more than anything else, as Ray so eloquently put it.

    Also, as another point to consider, (although I am not sure what to call this skill – bringing ourselves to worship?), I can think of times (including today), when a class was started with, “I didn’t really prepare anything, so we’re just going to have a movie day.”

    I was quite disappointed today when that happened, and at some of the comments that followed. I recalled, however, this quote that has been making the rounds lately in discussions of the quality of our meetings (thanks to those who have shared it):

    “We do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or even solely to be instructed. We go to worship the Lord. If the service is a failure to you, you must have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord” (“The Sabbath—A Delight,” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 45).

    Acting upon President Kimball’s advice, I ended up being tremendously uplifted and edified by the movie, despite the challenges in the external environment. My own attitude and approach made a big difference in what I got out of the lesson today.

    Please forgive me if that comes across as sounding self-righteous or anything, as that is certainly not my intent. It’s just that I had never heard the connection between worship and church made so clearly and so powerfully, and I wanted to share with you all how well it worked for me today.

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  10. I feel like that sometimes at church. I’m a Mormon—born and raised—but sometimes I look around and think: “Hey, wait – this is a different brand of Mormonism.” The church I grew up in doesn’t forbid 3-year-old girls to watch “The Little Mermaid” because Ariel dresses immodestly. The church I belong to doesn’t have men in leadership positions pull a woman aside and call her out for wearing a professional pantsuit to church. It doesn’t teach 12-year-old girls that “men are in charge” (and that’s a quote). I sometimes wonder whether there’s a place for me inside this church that I sometimes don’t recognize.

    Funny. I’m Mormon-born and Mormon-raised, but sometimes I get on the Bloggernacle and read the accounts and think, “Hey, wait – this is a different brand of Mormonism.”

    The Church I grew up with, and know and love currently, doesn’t do anything of those things either…

  11. #12: queuno, I know exactly what you mean about reading crazy stuff on the Bloggernacle. I often wonder, then, whether participating in various sites on the Bloggernacle is a net positive or not. ???

  12. Applying the term “skill” to worship suggests to me that the worship isn’t something that comes completely from the heart, like a memorized prayers and “going through the motions” and placing too much emphasis on Mormon culture rather than the real gospel. So I agree with those who are commenting about feelings and attitudes rather than conforming to certain steps and practices.

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