Why do you go to Church?

Mormon Heretic church, Culture, LDS, Mormon, religion 34 Comments

I have left messages on this and other blogs about how boring church can be. This has prompted the question, “Well, if it’s so boring, why do you even bother to go?”

First of all, let me state that I am a believing Mormon. I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, I believe in the Book of Mormon, I believe in the Bible, I believe going to church is a good, worthy endeavor, and I am very supportive of the good service that is performed in every ward in the church. (I guess you could call these my personal Articles of Faith.)

For many, Church is a social club. If they don’t feel welcome in a congregation, then keep shopping around until you find one they like. I think there is some merit to this. For people who are not strong believers in Christ, it is important to be in a welcoming, Christian environment. Christian fellowship is an important and powerful tool for good. Church should be very welcoming, or people will not want to come to church. We are told that fellowshipping builds stronger bonds, and aren’t we there to help each other become more Christlike?  I do go to church for social reasons, but it is not the only reason I go.  Sabbath observance is an important reason I go to church.

The Sabbath Day has a very interesting history. According to the Bible, God created the earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th. Jesus observed Sabbath on the 7th day. On my mission, I had an interesting experience. I was talking to someone on the phone who told me they believed that the Book of Mormon was the Word of God, as well as the Doctrine & Covenants, and felt that Joseph Smith was a prophet. However, this man refused to be baptized, because he couldn’t figure out why Mormons didn’t observe the Sabbath on the 7th day (Saturday.) I asked him if he would change his mind if I could find a revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants stating that the Sabbath should be on Sunday. He said if I could find it, he would be baptized.

At first I thought this was an easy challenge. I decided to research, but couldn’t find anything specifically commanding Joseph to observe the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday. Then I remembered that Joseph was commanded to organize the church on April 6, 1830. I figured that of course that day must be a Sunday. To my surprise, I discovered that Joseph Smith organized the church on Tuesday, April 6, 1830. (To verify, here is a link–of course I didn’t have the internet on my mission, but found it another way.)

Thus began an interesting search into Sabbath Day observance for me. I learned that early Christians continued to observe the Sabbath on the 7th day, as Jesus did, but as it says in Acts 20:7, they also met on the first day of the week, “to break bread” and Paul preached until midnight.

The most important reason to attend church is the sacrament. This is one of the first church services that is specifically mentioned on the first day of the week. Why did they choose to meet on the first day? That is the day Jesus was resurrected. It is in remembrance of Jesus. So in a sense, every Sunday is Easter. (Now you know why I think Easter should have more importance in our church.)

The change of the Sabbath from the 7th day, to the 1st day fulfills Old Testament prophecy in Hosea 2:11, which says concerning Israel, “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.” So the 7th day Sabbath worship was too cease, and we don’t celebrate Jewish feasts any more either.

I got transferred before I found this information out, and never talked to the man again. Since he was a staunch 7th-Day Adventist, I’m not sure how convinced he would be anyway. Are you convinced? (I can provide more scriptures, but I think this will do for now.)

So, I go to church to remember Jesus. I go to remember the resurrection. I go to partake of the sacrament. The resurrection is especially important to me–I have lost a brother and sister within the last 10 years, and I am extremely grateful for the gift of the resurrection so that I can see them again.

As for the social reasons of going to church, I have been in many different wards. Some are very spiritual, some social, some with really odd people, and some quite boring. In my teenage years, I lived in a ward that I referred to as the “Nursing Home ward.” There were maybe a dozen teenagers in the ward, and it was full of really old, retired, wealthy people. The funeral to baby blessing ratio was about 20 funerals for every baby.

My current ward is just the opposite. We have about 3-5 baby blessings every month, and except for a few infants who have died at or near birth, we haven’t had any funerals. There is an excellent primary program in my ward, and my kids love to go because they have great teachers. On the other hand, sacrament meeting is quite noisy, and the teachers for Sunday School and Priesthood generally say things like, “I’m not a very good teacher”, “I hope you can make a lot of comments today or we will get out really early,” and are generally quite unprepared.

I suppose I’m a little jaded, because I was the Gospel Doctrine teacher until about a year and a half ago. I taught every other week, and often spent about 10 hours preparing my lessons. (Ok, I’m one of those weird people who actually likes to teach, and study the scriptures.) I often had videos like “Mysteries of the Bible” which illustrated a specific point of the lesson. Often I had powerpoint slides. When studying Isaiah, I even referenced non-King James Versions of the Bible to help us understand the archaic language. (The Blue Letter Bible website has KJV and about 14 other versions of the Bible.) I stayed on the topic of the lesson, and tried to ask pointed questions to elicit thought.

I frequently got compliments, but apparently my use of materials outside the LDS church made people uncomfortable. I was called into the bishop’s office, and told not to use non-KJV bibles, because “a stake visitor” (who I think was a member of the bishopric) thought it might harm some of the weaker testimonies in the ward. Are you kidding me? I thought Joseph Smith said we were supposed to “study the words of Isaiah”. How can we study it if we can’t even understand what he’s saying? Anyway, I was released soon after this.

So, I was replaced with people who didn’t want the calling (unlike me, who loved the calling), and they practically read the lesson manual, asking all the same questions we’ve all answered 100 times since seminary. So that’s part of the reason I complain, because I care. But I still go to church, because remembering the Savior and the Sacrament are much more important to me than teaching Sunday School. Helping my kids gain a testimony of Jesus Christ, learning Christian ideals, and being a good person is very important to me.

I still watch “Mysteries of the Bible”, read non-KJV bibles, and use the bloggernacle to edify me for my Sunday School lessons.  I’ve been known to bring a book to church and read instead of going to Sunday School, and I do find my personal study of much higher quality than Gospel Doctrine. I can already hear some of you saying I should add my insights into the lessons, but I feel I was released for doing that.  It seems to me that the bishop would prefer I stay quiet, and he hasn’t mentioned anything about my lack of attendance (he sees me in the clerk’s office, because he doesn’t go to Sunday School either.)

So let me pose some questions to you: Why do/don’t you go to church? For the non-religious types, does the Bible/BoM/Koran trouble you? Does religion in general trouble you? Are my reasons good/bad/off-base?

Comments

comments

Comments 34

  1. We are all different shaped Pegs, It is impossible to create one single service that would accommodate everyone, In the early days of the Church they may have had the Church, I think they had the same problem which is why they had such meetings as the school of the Prophets, and other very unstructured, unorthodox meetings in comparison to today. perhaps there is a lot that we can learn and implement. I don’t think there is any thing that says meeting outside of three hour Sunday could be arranged. I would love it, there are just many questions that I would love to ask but just don’t feel comfortable doing it with all the “square” shapes in the room. just to note I think I would be a rectangle almost square but just does not seem to fit in.

  2. I have 2 main reasons:
    (1) I believe the injunction to “meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in bremembrance of the Lord Jesus.” Church is the main (but not only) structure provided for that.
    (2) The only real guiding principle that got me out of adolescence successfully was finding out “it ain’t all about *me*.” I think if I want to grow out of my spiritual adolescence, I have to remember that whether or not *I’m* entertained/enlightened/edified/whatehaveyou is immaterial to having a successful experience with church. If I go 80 years and *someone* is brought closer to Christ because of me being there, and I haven’t been entertained/enlightened/edified/whatehaveyou, it is successful and I have been a disciple.

    Well, this gets *me* through the week. 🙂

  3. Your KJV story is a little discouraging. I’ve seen GAs and LDS scholars use non-KJV Bibles regularly when it helps understand a topic or passage they are commenting on.

  4. The sacrament is probably my number one reason as well. Second, at least half the time I come away with some personal insights or added inspiration. Third, I think the church is a great place to learn how to love those who are difficult to love. Whether one has a difficult time with incompetent leaders, weekend members, members who still believe the blacks/priesthood folklore and share it at every opportunity, etc. we could go on, but the church is a great place to learn how to love and serve everyone, especially those who are difficult to love and serve. It always confuses me when people say “I don’t go because I can’t stand the hypocrisy.” I always want to reply, “THAT is WHY you need to go!” Fourth, if I have a calling where I think I can help, I enjoy it even more, like the marriage class I did a few months ago.

  5. Re: 4 AdamF
    I agree. I suppose a lot of it is habitual, but when I don’t go, I miss it and wish I was there. I need to go because it challenges my heterodox views. No one ever grew personally by only associating with a group with which they are always in agreement. I also love to serve others. And, at the end of the day, on the whole, I think Mormonism produces good people with whom I wish to associate.

  6. I go because when I don’t, I feel bad. Physically (because it means I sleep in), emotionally, and spiritually. I haven’t really deconstructed it more than that. By the third hour of Church I’m usually climbing the walls and incredibly bored, but when I don’t go I feel even worse.

    It’s the same with exercise (to a lesser extent, because I hate exercise). Presumably one exercises not because it’s fun but because the alternative FEELS bad, especially in the long-term.

  7. The Sacrament. The rest is usually a long, slow descent into madness. The Sacrament meeting talks are hit or miss, the Sunday School lessons are often painful (except for one teacher — his lessons are standing-room-only), and Priesthood… well, I would usually rather hatchet off one of my own limbs. (I understand that this is not really the teacher’s fault; those manuals are difficult to make a decent lesson with.) As a result, I always bring a book; I’m working on the Pope’s “Jesus of Nazareth” currently. For major feasts — Christmas, Easter, etc. — I usually just go to mass.

  8. The OP said: “I frequently got compliments, but apparently my use of materials outside the LDS church made people uncomfortable. I was called into the bishop’s office, and told not to use non-KJV bibles, because “a stake visitor” (who I think was a member of the bishopric) thought it might harm some of the weaker testimonies in the ward. Are you kidding me? I thought Joseph Smith said we were supposed to “study the words of Isaiah”. How can we study it if we can’t even understand what he’s saying? Anyway, I was released soon after this.”

    Funny, similar thing happened to me. I basically announced in class: “Okay, I’m not going to use non-KJV texts anymore. But if there is a scripture that I feel is particularly twisty or confusing, I’m going to call on random people to explain them in plain English, so I can be sure we all understand before we move on.” I was still frustrated but that solution at least helped me meet my teaching objectives (to study and understand the Word, and bring people closer to Christ).

    As for your question: I go to Church 1) because I have to, in order to remain a member in good standing, and 2) to fulfill my calling. When I’m between callings (say, after moving into a ward) my attendance has become a bit spotty from time to time. I’ve only ever been in 2 or 3 wards where the fellowship was strong enough for me to consider that a reason for going.

    Only rarely have I actually felt closer to the Savior as a result of going to Church. I’m one of those lunatic fringe types who’d rather take the Sacrament outdoors and then spend Sunday doing community service work than in Churn.

  9. ~*~Apostate Answer Time~*~

    Why do/don’t you go to church?
    I don’t go to church because I don’t feel it’s important. I don’t feel I’m learning anything there, particularly. Or rather, what I am learning is not related to the gospel. If I enjoy something in church, it’s some kind of gossip or social news I’ve found, or something stupid/funny someone said. I’ve said this before, but if the church were like the Bloggernacle, I think things would be more fun as far as religion actually goes.

    For the non-religious types, does the Bible/BoM/Koran trouble you?
    Not really. I know a lot of people who are really bothered by a lot of things in the scripture, but I’m not. Rather, what gets me about the scriptures is that to me, it is either boring or intensely inconsequential to my life. If something in the Bible/BoM/Koran/other religious text bothers me, it’s actually because I’ve started reading in that day-dreaming kind of way, where I’m not really thinking about the words on the text, but I’m going on a tangent. Like, if I see something about steel in the BoM, I’ll think, “Wow, that BoM guy must’ve been really misinformed to think it was steel.” and then I’ll go, “unless it was just Joseph Smith’s translating.” and then that’ll go off on a tangent of what it means to translate, etc., and I’ll want to read more about translation. From there, I’m not really in the mood to read scriptures and it’s difficult to get back into things.

    Does religion in general trouble you?
    Not really (or maybe), but for different reasons. I think that religion doesn’t trouble me because I already recognize that it is humane. So, it’s not like God is doing stupid things. It’s that people are doing stupid things. And I think people have a track record of doing stupid things so it doesn’t really faze me.

    Are my reasons good/bad/off-base?
    I think it all gets down to one thing. If you want to go to church and go, you have good reasons. If you don’t want to go to church and don’t go, you have good reasons. Whatever it is that makes you, not your mom or dad, not your bishop, not the Lord, not the Prophet, but makes YOU want to go to church is enough.

    1. I believe in Jesus Christ and want to follow Him. I believe He organized his church and gave men the priesthood while He was here on the earth…so although it might be boring or filled with less-than-perfect humans…I don’t feel it was optional when He commanded we take the sacrament each week to renew the promises we’ve made and fully have his spirit with us (plus it is how we accept His gift to us of giving his life!) We need that renewal and we can’t do it without the priesthood authority (or the Savior’s power). He was our greatest teacher and now needs His faithful to help him teach others – another reason why I feel we need to go to church: to serve others and learn more. A teacher often learns more than the student. Organized religion may seem silly unless you truly believe in Jesus Christ and His sacrament.

  10. #7 “The Sacrament. The rest is usually a long, slow descent into madness. ”

    I’m with you. I still feel an importance of the sacrament each week, the rest is fluff.

    Because I have 4 kids, I feel we benefit as a family by going together. They learn things, we talk about lessons over the dinner table, and it is a good to be doing as a family.

    I NEVER feel bad when I don’t go, but there are some Sundays I feel better having been there.

  11. I have not had the opportunity much for the “long slow descent” because I have played the piano in primary for 3.5 out of the last 4 years (in two wards). Actually, this has provided ample time to read, not unlike MH (usually during sharing time). Once that calling was over, I found that Gospel Doctrine was really good depending on the teacher, and Priesthood was usually rather poor, with the best of it being 40 min. discussions–but even those are difficult because everyone wants to comment so I don’t usually bother. We will be going to a university ward starting next month though, which I am looking forward to (this is the first time for us).

  12. To be honest, even from my days as a believer I would feel guilty because I never had the right attitude about sacrament. I would try and feel the importance of what was going on there, but while I recognize the symbollism behind that ordinance, I never really got the relevance behind this ordinance, or any other ordinance for that matter. Sacrament meeting talks, and Gospel Doctrine lessons are really what do it for me. Unfortunately, my current Ward doesn’t provide much that is thought provoking. It is generally just “make you feel good”, “keep the faith” type of mentality, so I generally find myself bored to tears. Elders quorum, has never been great – it’s generally 40 minutes of encouragement to fulfill callings, be a good husband, do hometeaching, and raise your family in the Church.

  13. #9 Andrew: I agree that the Bloggernacle seems to provide some level of learning and interaction that I feel is lacking in my current ward, and so I have enjoyed some of these sites to stimulate my learning and challenge my beliefs.

    On the other hand, don’t you see there is value in going to church so you can serve others in a calling (teaching, participating in class, interacting with others)?

  14. re 13:

    Heber13, maybe I’m stone cold-hearted, lol, but no, I don’t really see much value there. Or rather, I don’t see much value that couldn’t be achieved elsewhere, or value that is persuasive. If I taught, participated, and interacted, I would probably get axed for heresy (Mormon Heretic likes to talk about heresy like “using non-KJV Bibles” and that makes me chuckle) and raising seeds of doubt and dissent.

  15. MH–

    Interesting post. I can relate to your experience and understand how you feel.

    I have a great deal of respect for your attitude and willingness to accept the Bishop’s decision. I don’t agree with his decision, but I sustain decision I don’t like because to do otherwise creates dissension and contention in my heart and the Lord has warned us that that is the greater concern (3 Nephi 11:28-30).

    The Bloggernacle is composed of many who cannot understand this simple lesson. They allow their hearts to get hard and become critical of those things that matter least, and let those things that matter most slip away from them. We need to do whatever it takes to keep our hearts in tune with the Spirit. It can be very difficult to do and requires repentance, faith, humility, and persistence.

  16. re:14: very funny!! that made me chuckle.

    Ok, so maybe there is value in going to church to stir it up and watch all the TBM stare with their mouths open?? Ok, maybe that isn’t a virtuous reason to go to church after all (even if that sounds deviously fun to me!).

    I’m sure there would be no long-lasting value to that motivation.

  17. 11, Primary piano is the best! I got to do that in a couple areas on my mission — I hope to get that calling again someday.

  18. Many years ago, I attended a singles ward (I wasn’t in the boundaries), and loved both Sunday School and Priesthood meeting. The teachers were well-prepared, and it was obvious they put much time into their lessons (though I admit one particular priesthood teacher didn’t pay much attention to the manual.) Well prepared teachers can really make church enjoyable.

    I also enjoy listening to my kids tell me about the things they learned in primary. I think these lessons are incredibly valuable to help them understand right and wrong.

  19. re 19:

    I went to a singles ward (well, student ward for college kids, but it was surreal), and I will remark that Sunday School was much better from my home ward, but priesthood was WEIRD. It was all about going on missions, for people who hadn’t gone mixed in with advice from those who had gone mixed in with advice about finding a wife ASAP, etc., It was freaky to see some guy who was only like…a senior (ok, so he’s actually older than a regular senior, because of the mission), who was married and had a kid and was lecturing us about getting married now and not waiting until after establishing a career.

    I sat there and was like D:.

    Then the bishop got on me for being at the wrong ward (two student wards for the university), and we worked out an arrangement so I could get a ride with someone else, but that fell through with a few weeks of being stood up LOL.

    and that’s when I realized how much stuff you can get done in a 3 hr block on a Sunday.

    But I will say that but for the marry-now-ask-questions-later weird, I agree about the better preparation.

  20. Yes, every ward is different. The singles’ ward I went to was 31-45, so there wasn’t much encouragement to go on missions, since we were generally out of that age bracket. Many of the people were divorced, and weren’t considering rushing into marriage again, and I will say this particular ward had more BMW’s in the parking lot than any ward I’ve ever seen in my life, so the careers were well established already.

    On the other hand, my Nursing Home ward talked an awful lot about death. The temple attendance was excellent, and there were a few older members caught snoring during sacrament meeting. Every ward is different–I’d love some peace and quiet during sacrament again–we have 200 primary age children in my current ward–it’s much noisier than the Nursing Home Ward.

  21. This Sunday was my fifth in 5 years due to illness.I have really learnt in that time to got to church for the opportunity to worship,and to do what little I can to contribute to unity.

    I now know,from bitter experience,how many attend with broken and hopeless hearts.I try hard to be a friend in the few moments of energy I have.There’s no reason for me to assume this may be my last sacrament meeting,but it could be nevertheless.I’ve spent thirty years alongside these souls.Spent too much time disappointed in other’s behaviour,and not enough time appreciating their struggle.

    I try to compliment at least one young family on how great or creative their kids are-anyhow it’s true.

    I love the old folk,they’re always so complimentary,and grateful to be spoken to.How bad is that.I’d like to change that.

    Inactives.It really,really is good to see them.I know where they’re coming from.It’s OK with me.I’d love to talk about it.

    Investigators.Always the meek of the earth.Don’t you just love those missionaries naivete?More interesting people who i would maybe choose never to meet.What an education.

    Sorry guys,I think I may just be mellowing.I hope God likes His handiwork.

  22. I go to church for three reasons:

    1) To partake of the Sacrament. This really is the begin and end of my week, my self-examination and reset point.

    2) To be of service to others, which currently means teaching the Gospel Essentials class (as ward mission leader).

    3) To see all my closest friends here in Parker, viz., the ward members. I really do love them dearly, and vice versa. My wife and I had about 100 of them over for dinner last Saturday (no, really), along with some of our neighbors and about 20 people (co-workers and customers) from Curves, where Sandra works. We all had a blast.

    ..bruce..

  23. And, by the way, when I taught OT and NT in Gospel Doctrine a few years back, I heavily used non-KJV resources, mostly to help the members understand what the KJV was actually talking about. The class attendees loved it, and I still have members who come up to me and tell me that they wish I were still teaching Gospel Doctrine (A few simply attend my Gospel Essentials class instead.) ..bruce..

  24. This is a bit off topic, but I’m curious: Why is it that some wards have their ward mission leader or ward/stake missionaries doing double duty as the Gospel Essentials teacher? Not one other ward member is capable of teaching? The WML and w/s missionaries need to be attending the class with their investigators and new members, but it doesn’t make sense to me that these folks should be asked to teach Sunday School too! These are very demanding callings, after all.

    Please explain this to me….

  25. Why is it that some wards have their ward mission leader or ward/stake missionaries doing double duty as the Gospel Essentials teacher? Not one other ward member is capable of teaching? The WML and w/s missionaries need to be attending the class with their investigators and new members, but it doesn’t make sense to me that these folks should be asked to teach Sunday School too! These are very demanding callings, after all.

    Ah, you misunderstand several things. First, being WML is not “a very demanding calling” — at least, I’ve never found it such. I’ve been one five (5) times over the past 35 years; I’ve also spent several years as an honest-to-goodness Seventy (back when we had 70s quorums on a stake level) and was even a (stake-level) President of Seventy (yes, stakes used to have their own 7 presidents of 70), and I’ve also been a stake/ward missionary on several occasions.

    Second, I love teaching. If I had my druthers, I’d spend the rest of my life as a Gospel Doctrine teacher. Next favorite class to teach is Gospel Essentials. Next favorite after that is Course 17. And, based on feedback from class members over the years, I do a good job of teaching. (When I was released as Gospel Doctrine teacher a few years ago, I had a small group of older ward members come up to me afterwards and tell me that they collectively refused to raise their hands for the “release-with-a-vote-of-thanks” because they didn’t want me released. I was quite touched.)

    Third, I tend to be very sensitive about what gets said in front of visitors, investigators, and new members. I’m a convert myself, and I listen to every talk and lesson with a part of my mind thinking, “How would I react to this if I were an investigator or new member?” I often have occasion to wince. I keep that in mind whenever I talk or teach.

    So my teaching Gospel Essentials is part self-indulgence and part protectiveness towards the non-members, new members, and newly active members who attend the class. I could very easily have someone else do it, but I don’t want to. There’s a small set of people I will turn the class over to when I have to be out of town, and that’s about it. ..bruce..

  26. Bruce,

    I don’t know where you live, but I have seen that some WML’s go on lots of splits with missionaries (taking much time), while others do not. In my experience the Utah WML’s don’t spent much time going on splits, but one’s outside of Utah do spend more time. Perhaps it also depends on how certain people perceive the calling as to how much time they put into it.

    Either way, some WML’s enjoy teaching, and others do not. I can see that some would enjoy teaching Gospel Doctrine, while others don’t, so I think choosing to teach is dependent on the WML’s personal preference. In my ward, it seems like there were quite a few stake missionaries along with the WML who rotated teaching. I don’t see anything wrong one way or the other.

  27. I live in Colorado; the elders in our ward are the zone leaders, and they serve both our ward and another one. Over the past 18 months or so that I’ve been WML, they frankly haven’t had a lot of occasions for me or the other ward missionaries to go out with them (though we all have when the opportunity has arisen). The previous time I was ward mission leader (about 10 years ago, District of Columbia Branch), we had sister missionaries almost all the time, so clearly I couldn’t go on splits with them. 🙂

    To get back to Designated Conservative’s original point, there’s nothing that compels the WML to teach Gospel Essentials; it is pretty much up to his discretion as to how that’s handled. As in my case, there are some WMLs who enjoy teaching Gospel Essentials and don’t see it as a burden. ..bruce..

  28. I would have to say that through my experience as a seminary student that Isaiah was hard to understand, but I learned it. I’m not trying to sound rude by any means but if you are teaching Isaiah then TEACH Isiah, not another translation of it. Even if it is simpler terms, it’s more challenging and rewarding to learn it correctly. That’s what the Bible Dictionary, footnotes, and other members are for! So don’t feel bad about what happened because we all make mistakes, that’s why we all go to church. If we were perfect we wouldn’t need to be there. So it’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Good on you for trying your best and giving it your all ! 🙂

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