Worship or Whine?

Jeff Spector accountability, Charity, children, christ, church, faith, families, General Authorities, Happiness, LDS, meetings, Mormon, orthodox, Priesthood, sacrament meeting, testimony 85 Comments

This post was inspired by David Stout’s series of posts on LDS Worship, Part II and Part III as well as HawkGrrrl’s post entitled “More Christ at Church.”

I’d like all the whining about the LDS Sacrament Meeting to stop.  I’d like to focus on how to make it a better and more meaningful weekly experience.

Among the chief complaints one hears about Sacrament meetings are the following:

  • Sacrament meeting is boring
  • The music is boring, not diverse enough
  • The speakers are boring
  • It is always the same
  • It is too quiet, not enough emotion
  • It is too loud, kids make too much noise
  • The Speakers are unprepared.
  • They just read conference talks
  • There is too little focus on Christ, not enough discussion of Him
  • We don’t start on time
  • We don’t end on time
  • Aaronic Priesthood members must wear white shirts and ties

What I have seen as a member of the congregation and from up on the stand:

  • Members arrive late, some are chronic
  • Loud conversations before start of meeting
  • Not singing hymns
  • Playing with cell phone, texting or whatever
  • Preparing lessons
  • Talking, especially during the Sacrament Service
  • Reading other materials
  • Eating and drinking
  • Sleeping, no matter what time church starts
  • Lack of attention, just not listening
  • Distracted by caring for children, some avoidable, some not.
  • Refusal to remove children from Chapel, no matter how loud and disruptive.

What I have also seen:

  • Members arriving early, taking their seats, listening to prelude music
  • Singing hymns with enthusiasm
  • Actively participating in prayers, saying Amen
  • Listening, paying attention
  • Singing the Sacrament Hymn
  • Appearing contemplative during the Sacrament Service
  • Heads bowed, but not sleeping
  • Reading Scriptures
  • Not talking to others
  • Listening to talks
  • Taking notes

The Lord gave a revelation to Joseph Smith specifically regarding Sacrament meeting when he said,

Thou shalt offer a asacrifice unto the Lord thy God in brighteousness, even that of a broken heart and a ccontrite spirit. And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself aunspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of bprayer and offer up thy csacraments upon my dholy day; For verily this is a aday appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High; (Doctrine and Covenants 59:8 – 10)

The responsibility for a meaningful Sacrament Meeting experience rests with us as individual members. As we come prepared to partake of the Sacrament in remembrance of Our Savior Jesus Christ, offer up a broken heart and contrite spirit and seek to receive forgiveness and repentance for our sins, we can’t help but improve our own experience. In spite of the shortcomings of those who speak to us, in spite of the fact that topics may not be presented to us well, we need to remember that most everyone who gets an assignment to speak in Sacrament meeting WANTS to do a good job and uplift the members of the congregation.  We need to be chartable toward them.  If we are in the right frame of mind, we can surely receive at least a single bit of instruction or inspiration that we can make useful to us!

The Bishop and his counselors are responsible for assigning the topics to be spoken during Sacrament meeting and insuring the members are prepared to give a talk, which is Gospel and Christ-centered, no matter what the topic.  By its very nature, all Gospel topics should be tied back to the Savior at some point.

I think this quote from President Kimball says it all,

“We do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or even solely to be instructed. We go to worship the Lord. It is an individual responsibility, and regardless of what is said from the pulpit, if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and truth, he may do so by attending his meetings, partaking of the sacrament, and contemplating the beauties of the gospel. If the service is a failure to you, you have failed. No one can worship for you” (“The Sabbath-A Delight,” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 4-5).

There is a story in the Church is may be Church lore or maybe not, but it goes somewhat like this,

A General Authority attended a Ward during a Sacrament Service. During the Sacrament Service he was offered the Sacrament, we refused it and it was passed to the next person.

A sister, observing this, approached the General Authority after the meeting,

“You, a General Authority,  not worthy to take the Sacrament?

“Dear Sister, I am sorry, but during the singing of the hymn, my mind wandered ever so slightly away from the Savior and as a result, I did not feel worthy to partake of the Sacrament.”

I hope that we can try to have a more meaningful Sacrament meeting rather than focus on the shortcomings of the meeting itself.  After all, the shortcomings are really ours.

And for heaven sake’s, stopping whining about it!

Comments

comments

Comments 85

  1. Thank you. This post says what I’ve been feeling.

    I think many of the problems that we see with sacrament worship are OFTEN (not always–let’s be honest) self-induced. Are there times when a meeting could be better run, more spiritual, have better speakers, and generally be more perfect? Obviously. But then again, when I think about it, the purpose of this whole exercise is to uplift and perfect everyone involved, not just the congregation.

    That Bishop, those speakers, everyone. They are all learning some lesson and are somehow improving by virtue of their service. Or, at least, that’s the plan. Does it always work? Of course not. But often enough.

  2. –“I’d like all the whining about the LDS Sacrament Meeting to stop.”–

    And I’d like a pony, but that’s not going to happen, either.

  3. And for a more productive comment…

    It is true that each member bears responsibility for what they get out of sacrament meeting.

    However, this should not be used as a cop-out for church leaders and speakers to ignore suggestions for improving sacrament meetings. The critiques you listed above may be considered “whining” or they may be considered constructive criticism that, if heeded, could improve members’ worship experience.

  4. I agree that each person has a responsibility to bring a worshipful attitude and do their best to get something out of the meeting. I also understand that this is a church staffed by lay clergy and volunteers and nobody is perfect. I get all that.

    And despite my best attitudes, many of the meetings are still boring, the hymn singing usually lackluster and unenthusiastic, the members (mostly the adults) shamefully noisy and un-reverent and setting a very bad example for the children, and too many meetings without a Christocentric focus. One can have the best possible attitude about eating dinner, but the attitude doesn’t change the clear differences between a McDonalds hamburger and the Thanksgiving buffet at a 5 star hotel. We have the restored gospel and ought to be enthusiastic about preparing something like the latter, but I get the feeling so many of us are so exhausted with the demands of life and of the corporate Church that the former is all we either care to do or are capable of.

    The result for me, at least, is that when I want a truly reverent, contemplative, Christ-focused worship experience, I have started going elsewhere.

  5. The responsibility for a meaningful Sacrament Meeting experience rests with us as individual members. As we come prepared to partake of the Sacrament in remembrance of Our Savior Jesus Christ, offer up a broken heart and contrite spirit and seek to receive forgiveness and repentance for our sins, we can’t help but improve our own experience.

    This sentiment has some validity, but it appears to me that many religions exercise control over their devotees by shifting blame. A sociologist who infiltrated a “UFO cult” noted how, when the prophesied spaceships didn’t come to take believers away to paradise on schedule, the leader quickly informed followers that they hadn’t been fully prepared (and that someone must have had metal on their person, which the UFO-people didn’t like). When things don’t seem to go as the religion promised, believers resolve their cognitive dissonance by finding fault with the individual(s) concerned.

    In the LDS case, if John Doe doesn’t receive a spiritual witness that The Book of Mormon is the word of deity, the “faithful” reaction is to diagnose what’s wrong with John Doe—he didn’t ask with “real intent,” or he wasn’t being “worthy of the spirit,” or he “wasn’t really listening,” etc. If John Doe thinks last week’s sacrament meeting was painfully boring and full of false doctrine, the “faithful” reaction is to diagnose John Doe as “not having the spirit with him in the meeting,” or “not being prepared,” or “probably needing to repent of something.” Invariably, John Doe is characterized as less worthy, less spiritual, less competent, all in the name of upholding the faith (and often, helping the person who diagnosed John Doe consider themselves more worthy, more spiritual, and more competent!).

    This isn’t to say that John Doe couldn’t have come to sacrament meeting after having a big fight with his wife over her discovery of his pornography stash. That’s certainly possible. It should not, however, be the “default diagnosis” every time someone has the slightest criticism regarding his or her faith.

  6. While I do agree with the individual responsibility idea, there are things that can be improved. In my current ward we sometimes have a “congregational choir” which basically is half the ward on the stand, singing with a little more enthusiasm than normal.

    As for speakers, it would be nice if there was a little more (any?) training. E.g. short sunday school classes on public/sacrament meeting speaking, for example. The congregation certainly has a responsibility to “worship” but the speaker also has a huge responsibility to deliver.

  7. Post
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    So far, the responses have pretty much fallen in line with my expectations:

    1. Not my fault. If only the leaders and speakers were better.
    2. Nick’s unusual response that having a meaningful Sacrament meeting experience is LDS mind control.

    So, in missing the point, so far, most of those who have responded, have actually made my point.

  8. I think there are defenitely legitimate things that leaders can do to make sacrament meeting better. But there are also a lot of legitimate things members can do to make it better. I think as a member I have no right to give constructive criticism unless I am doing all I can to make sacrament more spiritual.

    For example, don’t complain about people not singing if you aren’t singing out loud and with spirit.
    Don’t complain that testimonies/talks are not Christ centered enough if you haven’t gotten up in the last few months and given a Christ centered testimony or talk.
    Don’t complain about kids being too loud without first getting off your high horse and trying to exercise some Christ-like love to the parents who are trying to enjoy sacrament and teach their kids the importance of the sacrament.
    In other meetings, don’t complain about pseudo doctrine and non Christ centeredness unless you are actively participating in classes and adding uplifting thoughts the discussions.

    I guess to summarize, remember Christ’s words “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again”

  9. I must say some of this smacks of political correctness. Being in the Bishopric we all agree that some sacrament meetings are just better than others. Some speakers more engaging and some musical numbers more inspiring. Yes we should look at it as “it is what I make it” but maybe we consider this phenomenom as “it is what it is” and just deal with it.

  10. Jeff, my points were that there are some things that some wards do that are pretty good, imo, like the choir I mentioned. Also, I’ve heard plenty of speakers who sound like they really put an effort into creating a good talk. Whether it gets delivered well is not as important to me–I just think they have a huge responsibility to do the best they can. I say this because I have heard plenty of talks that felt like the speaker (often teenage boys, sorry) put it together 5 minutes before the meeting. I agree, I AM responsible for my attitude in the meetings, but speakers like that have failed, and need to do better. It is a serious job, imho.

    Another example, take the Sunday School teachers who start lessons like “well, I’m not very qualified, so we’re going to take turns reading from the manual” as an excuse to not even prepare. I see your points Jeff, and I agree. But those points must be balanced out with the responsibility of the speaker or teacher as well. There are no excuses on either side.

  11. If you think Sacrament Meeting owes you something, a spiritual experience or a meditative moment or whatever, then you’re missing the point. If it is about you at all, then you’re missing the point. The more you work on “getting something out of Sacrament Meeting” the more frustrated you will get because that means the more you are focusing on yourself. It boils down to the simple question of whether you are giving or taking. Taking relies on others to fill your expectations, while giving allows an adjustable system of fulfillment (with only yourself to blame if not fulfilled).

    But you don’t have to look at it this way. Keep bringing everything back to you, keep focusing on other peoples’ responsibilities to fulfill your needs, and I’m sure those needs will soon be met. If they would just do this one thing to fix it, THEN your needs will be met. Yes, I think that’s how it works.

  12. Post
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    Adamf,

    I think I tried to present the point that the Bishop has the duty to insure that speakers understand their obligation when they give a talk over the pulpit. But, let’s face it, some folks are better at speaking than others. What do we do, have the same five people talk in Sacrament Meeting simply because they are better performers?

    I think that members like some who commented above should cut those people a bit of slack and figure out for themselves how to make the meeting means something to them.

  13. Jeff, agreed. Most of the meetings I’ve been to that I have enjoyed have not necessarily been better, but my heart and mind were in better places… I would say that 9/10 of the congregation could do a good enough job if they all put their heart into it, and had some basic pointers or brief training, e.g. “never start a talk with, “when the bishop called me, I was _____”

  14. Post
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    “had some basic pointers or brief training, e.g. “never start a talk with, “when the bishop called me, I was _____”

    Yes, definitely, we call that using the first 5 minutes to “talk about the talk.” When I was in the Bishopric, we had a prayer meeting before Sacrament Meeting and particularly stressed the need to stay on time and on topic.

  15. I think the point is that the “success” of the meeting for each member (from Bishop to child) is going to be a direct reflection of how seriously that member takes his or her responsibility to have a “successful” meeting – and how each member defines “success”. Also, the degree to which each person takes this responsibility seriously has a direct impact on the degree to which the congregation as a whole can “succeed” in the purpose of Sacrament Meeting – to worship.

    I attend a wonderful ward. The most recent and current Bishops have worked hard to make Sacrament Meeting a spiritual, worshipful experience each week; the members (generally) are warm and accepting; I see most weeks something close to the ideal we teach. I understand how fortunate I am, but I also understand that it didn’t happen accidently or randomly. It happened because it was made a top priority – and was discussed openly and directly by the Bishop. A need was identified and it was addressed – not harshly, but gently and steadily for months and months until it changed.

    In the end, people “got it” – and Sacrament Meeting now in my ward is amazing, usually.

  16. Church is an invesment, and the LDS Church is a sizeable investment. Keeping the commandments and living the Mormon way of life is an investment. When you feel that you are not getting returns on your investment then it easy to become discouraged. As members and missionaries we stress the importance of Church attendance as a place and way to draw closer unto Christ. We stress that full activity in the Church through the fullfillment of callings furthers us on that process. When members find themselves, after considerable investment, unfullfilled and unsatisfied the Church losing it’s savor, so to speak. In other words, the insistence from the board of directors that dividends will be paid and the stockholders have nothing to worry about, doesn’t really do anything for market confidence at 4th quarter when yield comes in at $0.02 per share. The worst decision the board can make at that point is blame the low dividend on the Stockholders. When most companies start losing their yield the begin to start downsizing and cutting expenses. I think the Church should do the same by cutting down all of the junk meetings, auxilaries, activities, and other mind numbing minutia, that is largely ineffective in the first place, and just get back to the basics of teaching the gospel through the scriptures.

  17. Jeff, your #8 is utterly uncalled for, as any literate person can tell I did NOT say what you claim. Oddly enough, your wilful misrepresentation lends considerable weight to what I really DID say.

  18. #8 – I think Nick’s point is worth considering. It’s true that organizations do shift blame to individuals in order to maintain the status quo, although my one caveat is that with the BOM promise, the issue isn’t that the UFOs didn’t show up, just that they were not seen by all.

  19. “Sacrament meeting is boring ”

    If it’s boring, maybe you have too much stimulation in your life.

    “The music is boring, not diverse enough ”

    See above.

    “The speakers are boring ”

    They are not professional speakers and are not trained to entertain.

    “It is always the same ”

    I’ve never seen two the same yet.

    “It is too quiet, not enough emotion ”

    That’s called reverence.

    “It is too loud, kids make too much noise ”

    Sounds like family to me.

    “The Speakers are unprepared. ”

    Maybe they’re nervous…there isn’t a professional clergy.

    “They just read conference talks ”

    If that talk really meant something to him/her, the message may help us as well if we listen carefully.

    “There is too little focus on Christ, not enough discussion of Him ”

    Maybe it’s the spirit telling you to ask your bishop if you can give a talk and emphasize Christ.

    “We don’t start on time ”

    It’s the Sabbath…you’ve got all day.

    “We don’t end on time ”

    See above.

    “Aaronic Priesthood members must wear white shirts and ties ”

    Oh the horror of it.

  20. Post
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    To Hawk and Nick,

    I do not accept Nick’s premise because of the use of the word “blame.” Holding one responsible for one’s own feelings and actions is a pretty standard part of the Church and most of society except for those who want to blame organizations for the shortcomings of its own members. Somehow equating the Church with a “UFO Cult” is insulting at best and ridiculous at least. While I always appreciate Nick’s dramatic representations, everything in the LDS church does not have an element of mind control and finger pointing against the member.

    It can just be as I said, you get out of it what you are willing to put into it. There doesn’t have to be a conspiracy. Besides, you miss the point that you can have a meaningful experience at Sacrament meeting no matter what the speakers say.

  21. I could get meaning out C-Span if I really wanted, but the truth is they don’t care if I participate or not it is federally funded so the show is going to run with or without viewership. If you wanted to make a conspiracy argument out of Church it really wouldn’t be hard anyway, all of the commitments to meaningless organizations and activities are akin to what sales organizations refer to as “golden handcuffs” or the “golden hooks”. Again, just meaningless ways of integrating a client into your firms system for the sake of making separation more difficult. But if the Church isn’t offering a invigorating spiritual experience, then what are they offering? Quite frankly, serving as a Ward Clerk was one the most spiritually depressing periods of my life.

  22. Just to consider, perhaps blogs like this don’t have more massive participation among church members because LOTS of members have experiences in church that are like mine – that many members actually get good out of Sacrament Meeting and enjoy the overall experience.

    I mean nothing more by that than the words themselves say, but it’s worth considering.

  23. Jeff,

    I don’t think saying “It really is the member’s fault” is an effective counterargument against Nick’s claim that the Church and its members tend to say that it’s always the member’s fault.

  24. Jeff,

    Your second paragraph said, “I’d like all the whining about the LDS Sacrament Meeting to stop. I’d like to focus on how to make it a better and more meaningful weekly experience.” You are contradicting yourself. What you call whining other people call suggestions “to make it a better and more meaningful weekly experience.”

    I agree with you that each member should do their best to have the right attitude, etc., to get the most out of the meeting but I think it’s poor form to basically tell everyone to just maximize their spiritual receptors in order to get as much as possible out of the meetings and don’t you dare suggest ways in which it could be better or I’ll call you a whiner! I think members discussing ways that sacrament meeting could be improved (what you would call whining) is a great way to improve the meeting. And I think these discussions should take place, especially among the leadership. I think Ray alluded to success in his sacrament meetings due to a focus by the leadership to improve the meetings. I think this came as a result of discussing problems and moving forward with solutions. I don’t think success would come from a “no more whining” platform.

    And I agree with Nick and Hawk that you were a little harsh in your dismissal of Nick’s point by simply calling it “unusual” and not addressing the points Nick made.

    And as a final point, why did you include the story about the GA not taking the sacrament? I’m sure you had a point there but I don’t think it was worth telling an odd anecdote that strays from the goal of the sacrament. I doubt any Bishop would want readers to think: if my mind strayed for a moment during a hymn should I not take the sacrament?

    Again, I agree that members need to do their best to get out of sacrament meeting as much as they can, but they should have a voice for improvement and leaders should recognize that they have a greater burden: to deliver the best possible meeting. I don’t know about you all, but the collective attitude of the wards I have been in mirrored the attitudes of the respective bishopric. If the bishopric doesn’t seem to care about the quality of the meeting, the meetings weren’t very good. If the bishopric leads by example, and shows a genuine interest and love for the members, the members have followed his lead and done the same. Whether I was sitting in the back texting or sitting on the front row praying in my heart the entire meeting, the difference based on the bishopric was stark.

  25. “I think Nick’s point is worth considering. It’s true that organizations do shift blame to individuals in order to maintain the status quo, although my one caveat is that with the BOM promise, the issue isn’t that the UFOs didn’t show up, just that they were not seen by all.”

    Hawkgrrrl—to me the jury is still out as to whether the UFO showed up or not. I’m only writing to say I REALLY like to read what you write. Great extension of Nick’s analogy.

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    Kuri,

    “I don’t think saying “It really is the member’s fault” is an effective counterargument against Nick’s claim that the Church and its members tend to say that it’s always the member’s fault.”

    I don’t either. That’s why I wouldn’t have said that. Nick is just being Nick.

  27. While I’ll probably become blasted as a whiner, but I think that the idea of “look within yourself,” while noble, is possibly *too* noble for some members.

    For example, if I have the choice between being engaged somewhere else or being bored at church…not saying everyone’s going to take the blasphemous heathen answer, but if someone *does* skip out or fall away, can we really blame them? (Why, yes we can!) Or rather, if we do blame them, how is that going to entice them to continue being bored? It is very noble to say, “Look within yourself” or say “Sacrament isn’t about you,” or whatever…but realistically, you may be alienating a lot of people with this message.

  28. Besides the fact, can we really say that church is *not* about us? This is the time and place where we encounter the alter of Sacrifice on behalf of *our* eternal welfare. It is where we go to be healed, but it doesn’t take long to feel like there is no balm in Gilead. Suffice it to say, this would probably be one of those argument’s where shooting the messenger (ie, whiners) is not the best idea.

  29. We had a great leadership consultant at work several years ago. He came in to meet with our team of directors and VPs, and at one point he stood up and said, “You people are boring. You’re boring each other, and frankly, you’re boring me. Wake up. Quit boring each other.” People really put more effort to break the old habits after that. It became okay to address boredom head on. If we want to “endure to the end” why does that have to be boring and monotonous? It should be okay to shake things up a bit. I believe it can be invigorating to attend church, but it’s usually due to a very committed individual (or sometimes a happy accident). We talk a lot about the need to drive out doctrine not from authorized sources, the need to testify, and the need to be quiet and reverent, but not as much about how to make the meeting spiritually invigorating. It’s not going to happen accidentally very often.

  30. “We talk a lot about the need to drive out doctrine not from authorized sources, the need to testify, and the need to be quiet and reverent…”

    All contributing factors to the boredom being discussed here I might add.

  31. I’m not sure if Jeff is saying Hawkgrrrl and David Stout’s previous post were whining or not–perhaps he can clarify. But the fact of the matter is that in both posts, people did represent Jeff’s view that church can be made better if the individual changes his/her own attitude about church.

    Having said that, my mission president used to say, “when a fish goes bad, it goes bad at the head.” What he meant was that the “head” (leadership) has a great amount of control over the success of the district/zone. Not all stake presidents are so active as in Ray’s stake is making worship a meaningful experience. From Ray’s comments, I wish his stake president was my stake president.

    My SP is a jolly fellow, but when he speaks, I have no idea what the point of his stories are. His favorite method of motivation seems to be a funny story, followed by using guilt to get people to go to the temple, work on the stake farm, etc. I don’t hear much about putting Christ in the center of our lives from him, and I think that shows in the lack of emphasis for our wards.

  32. As a member of a bishopric and as someone who has the actual responsibility of which you are all speaking, that is, to plan Sacrament Meetings, I would love to know what you would do if you had the same responsibility. Remember, you need to satisfy both those who are currently happy and those who go on blogs and complain that it’s boring.

  33. Hawkgrrrl,
    Please tell me how, specifically, do we communicate to our members that they are boring and need to quit being so? When I make the call to ask someone to speak, should I say something like, “…and don’t be boring”? Or do I teach a special lesson about how everyone can quit being so boring in their talks? I don’t understand how you hope to resolve this problem.

  34. Rusty, that’s a fantastic question. I’m sure there are many ideas out there, but one that I really liked (for other meetings, anyway) is not allowing anyone to sit down, like in meetings with the Bishop and etc. I’ve heard that being done and that it really made things go fast. No one wants to wax on if they can’t sit. 🙂

    For sacrament mtg, I have found that the quality of the music makes a huge difference, hence the congregational choir thing I like in my ward.

  35. Rusty,

    My Bishop preached the nature of Sacrament Meeting openly. He spoke (and asked his counselors to speak) on that topic in Sacrament Meeting. He talked about how sometimes the talks we share in that meeting form the spiritual foundation for some members for the upcoming week and are a literal life-line for others. He stressed worshipful reverence – not quietude. He revised the letter that is sent to each speaker to include not just the topic and length of time but also to have a paragraph asking the member to pray and study carefully and prayerfully, since their talk was a critical part of worshiping God.

    It has worked in my ward explicitly because my Bishop made it a priority – without being a jerk and a Nazi. He was (and our current Bishop is) a soft-spoken man, and he didn’t “preach at the members”. He shared a vision of the purpose and potential power of meetings, and then he hand selected the speakers for the first couple of months to model what he hoped to achieve long-term. He mentioned every first Sunday for over a year the counsel to focus testimonies on Christ and the principles of the Gospel – and to be brief so more people could participate. He then modeled that and insisted his counselors do the same when they shared their testimonies while conducting. I don’t remember him or one of his counselors bearing a testimony that lasted more than 1-2 minutes. They were direct and focused and powerful. He privately asked certain leaders (a handful of men and women) to get up and bear testimony immediately after anyone who droned on or rambled or gave a thankimony or travelogue – requesting that they return the meeting to the worshipful structure.

    I can’t explain everything he did, but he made it a real priority – and he was open about it with all the members, explaining WHY he was doing so. We still have a few people who just don’t get it, but the difference between now and five years ago is night and day. I will be moving to a new area next month, and the one thing I will miss the most is the legacy he created in this ward.

  36. #24:
    Somehow equating the Church with a “UFO Cult” is insulting at best and ridiculous at least.

    I did no such thing, Jeff. Rather, I cited a book which is often referenced by social scientists, to demonstrate a very common human behavior.

    While I always appreciate Nick’s dramatic representations, everything in the LDS church does not have an element of mind control and finger pointing against the member.

    Nor did I say any of this, Jeff. I’m more than happy to have you disagree with me honorably, and explain why you disagree. This sort of blatant misrepresentation, however, (not to mention the asinine “Nick is just being Nick” remark) should be far beneath you.

  37. Rusty – it would very easy to improve the quality of our meetings, and mostly this is done through example and sound advice that is kindly and thoughtfully given beforehand. Did you ever notice how the youth speakers and converts are often the most interesting speakers? That’s because they haven’t let learned how to be boring. They are not yet fully indoctrinated in the droning cadence and cliches of our worship. So, my advice to speakers and teachers would include several things: know what you are talking about, approach your topic in a fresh way, share the new insights you gained as you researched it (not just regurgitating some GC talk), learn how to bring the Spirit into your talk (not just how to make yourself weep–learn how to invigorate others spiritually), and connect with others by making it personal to you and them. I would also say add humor, but only if you can do it in a way that is actually funny and brings the spirit and isn’t just a cliche (like “I’ll get those guys for making me speak.”)

    What I think is interesting about pitting worship and whining against each other is that there needs to be room for improvement (“perfect the saints”). To call it “whining” is dismissive of the content of the discussion (which is doubtless warranted sometimes), but furthermore, it’s ironic to whine about the “whining.” Instead, why not hold everyone accountable? Speakers should be accountable to be good speakers. Listeners should be accountable to be good listeners. Leaders should be accountable to be good leaders. Parents should be accountable to be good parents. And all of us should hold ourselves accountable to be all of these as well as compassionate toward others. Just because I hold myself accountable to be a good listener, that does not absolve the speaker’s accountability to be a good speaker. Just because I am accountable to pay my tithing, that does not absolve leadership of their stewardship of “the widow’s mite.”

  38. Rusty – it would very easy to improve the quality of our meetings, and mostly this is done through example and sound advice that is kindly and thoughtfully given beforehand.

    Oh. These last four years I’ve been struggling week-in and week-out to improve the quality of the meetings, I never realized that it was “very easy”! I guess my good example and sound, thoughtful and kind advice was the wrong good example and sound, thoughtful and kind advice. Damn. I hate it when I miss out on those silver bullet solutions.

    Hawk, the second half of your first paragraph is still a list of things you would like to see, not a list of ways to help members do those things. It’s one thing to find fault with the way things are, but it’s an entirely different thing to figure out how to change it. It is in fact not “very easy”.

    I completely agree with your second paragraph. Everyone should be accountable. However, nobody on here is trying to suggest that either speakers or listeners AREN’T accountable. We all agree with you. But their accountability is not your problem. What I was trying to say in my first comment is that when you are a taker rather than a giver then you are putting the givers in a position to satisfy your needs. And they will inevitably fall short. The leadership is very aware of “the widow’s mite” whether or not you remind them.

    Ray,
    Your bishopric sounds amazing. Inspiring.

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    First of all, I am in line with what Ray has written about his Ward and the success they have had in improving their Sacrament meetings. I do think that the Bishopric has the ability to drive the improvement by a more hands-on approach to setting the tone and assisting the speakers in understanding their role, among other things.

    Secondly, it is also interesting to me that the majority of the posters here have not been willing to hold themselves or the congregation accountable for their behavior during the meeting including getting there on time. Of course, the rationale is that members are bored and so they do other things during the meeting.

    Thirdly, no one has mentioned that the Sacrament IS the reason why we even go to the meeting in the first place and should be our focus of worship. Most of just commented on the lousy speakers.

    Fourthly, There is a bit of self-righteous indignation among the group with regard to folks assigned to speak in Sacrament Meeting. The members asked to speak are usually not public speakers or trained to give talks. They didn’t volunteer. Some folks are nervous in front of big crowds and some do not feel even the least bit qualified to talk to their ward members about the gospel. And yet, they do it anyway. Because that is what we do in the Church.

    And it seems a bit uncharitable for you all to be so critical of those folks who do not have the “gift.” After all, most members want to present something worthwhile to the Ward.

    Are you sure you can pass the same test?

  40. If the sacrament is the reason why we go to the meetings, and it’s not meeting needs for whatever reason (I guess it would be easy to say we’re just being prideful and selfish, and it’s our faults and we shouldn’t blame the speakers)…then…why go to the meetings anymore?

    This thought process, defeatist as it is, is why I think, regardless of if it could the congregations’ (or our) fault, no one’s going to attribute it here. Because when you put the spotlight on the congregation, if it’s too hot, we can always decide to just go somewhere else.

  41. Rusty – it IS easy to address these issues. I don’t know why you are not getting through to your ward. Maybe you have gotten through to some, but not others. Every group of people is different. I can only speak from my own experience in the generalities of what is effective to improve the quality of speakers and teachers.

    By your tone (very emotional and contemptuous), I wonder how you got to this level of frustration. You seem to agree that the speakers and teachers need improvement, but you’ve been unable to effect this change. It can be frustrating when you feel your efforts aren’t yielding results. I wish you luck.

  42. “if it’s too hot, we can always decide to just go somewhere else.”

    I have had two vendors in my office during the month who basically said the same thing we are saying here. They had what they felt was an amazing product that should out perform the competitors brand. However in both cases the products were just not succeeding in the market, and after a long analysis guess who’s fault that was? Where you going to the vendor? That’s what I thought too, but I was apparently wrong, it was the customers fault. Yeah those idiots weren’t learning how to properly use these products to get the maximum value out of their respective advantages. All of this notwithstanding though, at least one of those vendors will be pulling the product immediately which is going to a result in a financial loss for the company, a closed department – which means layoff’s. So, what’s the post game analysis? Well, the vendors may have been right, had the customers been better students of their product perhaps they would have seen the value. But that is not how the market works, instead companies are under the necessity of competing for their customers money, it therefore behooves them to take responsibility for addressing the needs of their customers rather than placing the blame on them, because as we can see being right doesn’t win business. So, perhaps the members aren’t contributing to an enviroment which leads to a better experience, so what? If Church cannot be an experience that delivers on what it promises, I’ll guarantee you that in short time it will lose it’s foothold in the religious market.

  43. Hawk,
    I’m emotional because it is my calling and my stewardship and I love my ward and want to do that which is best for it. I don’t mean to come off as contemptuous though. But I also don’t mean to imply that I haven’t been able to effecuate change, quite the contrary, I think we’ve done a great job and I quite enjoy our Sacrament meetings. Perhaps not in the same way or to the same level as Ray’s ward, but I think we’ve learned a lot over the years and have created something quite nice. What I AM trying to say is that it ISN’T easy, contrary to your insistence. It’s not a matter of just sitting everyone down and telling them to quit being boring. What’s easy is diagnosing the problem (everyone here is very good at it). But the task of communicating the best solutions to 200 volunteers (and communicate it so well that they actually change their long-held habits and inclinations) is not only difficult to figure out how to do tactfully (a hugely overlooked issue) and effectively, not only difficult to figure out how much more time you will be away from your family so that you can do this, but it’s also emotionally taxing. And I’m not saying, “poor me” I’m saying, “much harder than you think.” That’s all.

    Andrew,
    If you are relying on talks and music in Sacrament Meeting to meet your needs, then you should probably re-assess your needs (and the manner in which you expect them to be fulfilled). I’m not saying you are wrong about the quality of the meetings, we can all agree that they need to be improved, but unless the deacons are spitting in your water cup the quality of Sacrament Meetings shouldn’t be determining your attendance.

  44. Cowboy,
    If the Gospel were a commodity then you would be right. But it’s not and you’re not. Obviously, how many people just on this thread alone admit that the “product” (Sacrament Meetings) is flawed, yet still insist on consuming (attending) regardless. And how many would go no matter how boring it got? Many (most?) members continue to go despite the quality of speakers. And you know why? Because we are all volunteers trying to become better, therefore any ward is a cross-section of people in various stages between imperfect and almost perfect. So even when you improve the overall quality of the meetings, it will only be by degree, not kind. And if you are only improving it by degrees (which we can agree is a good thing), then it once again comes down to where on the sliding scale of personal satisfaction are the individuals’ needs.

  45. Rusty:

    Convert retention rates would suggest otherwise. Waning globabl activity rates would also suggest otherwise. If many of the entrenched, BIC, members (such as me) are coming with the experiences, boredom no less, that have been related on this board, what do you think the liklihood is that the un-entrenched convert will want to call this home for the rest of their life?

    I am not trying to diminish the spiritual value of Church and religion by drawing comparisons to the business market, what I am trying to illustrate is that religion, like all products, is still subject to the principle of demand. People must want it bad enough to invest in it at higher level.

  46. Cowboy,
    Are you attributing waning activity rates to the low-quality Sacrament Meetings? I’d love it if that were so because it would mean only one thing we would have to focus on improving…but I have my doubts. If I were an Elders Quorum president I’d probably be likely to blame the waning activity rates on poor home teaching. If I were an Activities Chair I’d be inclined to blame it on the poor quality of activities nowadays versus the way it used to be. And on and on.

    You may be right that some people might be put off by the boring meeting, but isn’t it just as much of a responsibility to help these folks understand that Sacrament Meeting shouldn’t determine their activity as it is a responsibility to increase the quality of Sacrament Meeting? In other words, we all need to increase the quality of the meeting while at the same time decreasing our spiritual dependence on that meeting.

  47. Since activity rates are a measure of Sacrament Meeting attendance, followed by Sunday School, and Priesthood/Relief society, all of which are meetings contained in the three hour block each Sunday that we call *Church*, yes I am attributing low and waning rates to the quality and percieved value of said meetings. At the expense of sounding tired, I am stressing that if people feel like they are wasting their time in boredom by coming to Church, it wouldn’t take more then 10-15 years, one generation, for Church numbers to drastically fall. The responsibility belongs to whoever cares, and is in charge of making sure that doesn’t happen. You can blame those who are bored, but it really doesn’t matter, attendance is still down.

  48. Rusty, a few points. “It’s not a matter of just sitting everyone down and telling them to quit being boring.” I certainly never suggested this. The least effective remedy IMO is teacher inservice, esp the one put together by church HQ.

    “What’s easy is diagnosing the problem (everyone here is very good at it).” Actually, this is much more complex than implied. The causes are varied. There is no one-size solution. Each person has their style and potential, and if they were all the same, that would be boring (it’s one reason they are). It is easy to point out the problem, but much more complex to diagnose it.

    “But the task of communicating the best solutions to 200 volunteers (and communicate it so well that they actually change their long-held habits and inclinations) is not only difficult to figure out how to do tactfully (a hugely overlooked issue) and effectively, not only difficult to figure out how much more time you will be away from your family so that you can do this, but it’s also emotionally taxing.” There are auxilliary heads for a reason. Church leadership isn’t a one-man band. Inspiring often works where instruction fails.

    “And I’m not saying, “poor me” I’m saying, “much harder than you think.” That’s all.” Rusty, bear in mind that you are not the only person on the board with decades of church leadership experience and stewardship. Maybe I find it easy because it’s an area of natural ability for me. My job requires me to lead leaders, and I’ve got decades of facilitation experience. So, it doesn’t seem that hard to me. But it does need to be individually driven, not just a shotgun approach. I’m glad you are making headway.

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    “Maybe I find it easy because it’s an area of natural ability for me. My job requires me to lead leaders, and I’ve got decades of facilitation experience. So, it doesn’t seem that hard to me. But it does need to be individually driven, not just a shotgun approach. I’m glad you are making headway.”

    No offense, but I’ve found you cannot equate work leadership with Church Leadership. Work requires you to follow the leader or you are fired. At Church, there is no real penalty for not following the leader. At least not in this life. People follow because they are either motivated to follow or inspired to follow.

    There is no comparison to being a Manager or Director imploring the staff to do the work or else and an Elder Quorum President trying to motivate and inspire the Elders to do their Home Teaching. I’ve been in both places, and it is not even close.

  50. “Work requires you to follow the leader or you are fired. At Church, there is no real penalty for not following the leader.” Wow, that’s a draconian leadership philosophy at your work. Let me just say that at my company, if a leader led this way, their days would be numbered. And you could extend your analogy to say that at work your boss can fire you, but if you don’t support your church leaders you lose your salvation.

  51. Cowboy,
    If your analysis were true (that poor meetings is the reason for waning activity rates), then I would expect that improving the meetings would be the Church’s top priority. Perhaps I’m not reading the right Conference talks (and otherwise correspondence from Church leadership) but most of what I read talks about individuals gaining personal testimonies through personal prayer, reading the scriptures, service and attending our meetings. I’m not disputing the waning numbers, nor am I disputing poor quality meetings. What I am disputing is the direct connection you are making between the two at the expense of both personal responsibility and other external reasons (has issues with Joseph’s polygamy, bad encounter with a gossipy member, is sick of paying tithing, etc.).

    Hawk said, ”Actually, this is much more complex than implied. The causes are varied. There is no one-size solution. Each person has their style and potential, and if they were all the same, that would be boring (it’s one reason they are). It is easy to point out the problem, but much more complex to diagnose it.”

    This I completely agree with. Diagnose was not the right word for me to use.

    ”There are auxilliary heads for a reason. Church leadership isn’t a one-man band.”

    I can’t figure out what to write in response to this comment so I will just say that I know this and work actively to promote its principles.

    ”Rusty, bear in mind that you are not the only person on the board with decades of church leadership experience and stewardship.”

    I hope I never implied such. I didn’t think that asking for tangible suggestions and saying things are harder than suggested would imply that I’m the only one with experience. I was actually hoping for anyone with any useable advice to weigh in and I’m grateful for Ray’s response (and subsequent email). Very practical, very useful.

    ”Inspiring often works where instruction fails…Maybe I find it easy because it’s an area of natural ability for me. My job requires me to lead leaders, and I’ve got decades of facilitation experience. So, it doesn’t seem that hard to me.”

    For this reason I lament that there are not more women (I’m assuming your a woman based on your name) as leaders because I’m sure you would be a much better bishop’s counselor than I. We need more of people like you in leadership positions and I hope you are serving in a capacity in your ward that does so.

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    “Wow, that’s a draconian leadership philosophy at your work. Let me just say that at my company, if a leader led this way, their days would be numbered.”

    Hawk, C’mon, I was speaking in the very general sense about what is expected in the work environment versus Church. If you want me to spell out the entire process of leadership and performance management, I can.

    My point was the environments at work and Church are totally different and the methodology of leadership in one does not necessarily apply to the other.

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  54. Rusty:

    The point of discussion here is not, “what is the #1 thing that is causing people to leave the Church”. I am responding to the argument that is calling for members to “stop their whining about Sacrament meeting”. My point is that if you push it back to the congregation and blame them the affects will be adverse. Jesus didn’t say, “shut-up you sissies, mabey if you did something to pitch in around here things wouldn’t be so bad for you”. Rather he said:

    28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
    29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
    30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-29)

    Can you imagine how effective he would have been had he offered to provide “rest unto your souls”, but no one ever found that. As shepherds, as such we like to claim, this is the charge to provide “rest”. I agree with you the task is hard, yes Jesus taught accountability, he also assumed a lot by declaring that he is The Good Shepherd. I am not trying to be overly critical of your plight, but would encourage you to try and work miracles, inspire others, that’s what religion is all about.

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    Cowboy,

    It seems you think that the members should be “acted upon” rather than have to “act.” While you quote the Savior’s invitation, you need to remember that the first word is COME. We are required to come to the Savior and ask and He will give us rest. I might remind you of the quote I used in my post regarding Sacrament Meeting,

    “Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High; (Doctrine and Covenants 59:8 – 10)

    It seems we diverge at the point where the Savior asks us to offer up a sacrifice. Our action is required to invoke His action.

  56. Frankly, I think we all agree on this one – at least, generally. Different people just are emphasizing different things – and the word “whine” gets in the way of seeing the general agreement that surrounds the semantic disagreement.

  57. I don’t argue that we need to “come unto him”, but implicit in the invitation is an offer worth coming unto. If people feel like there is no value to come to Church, or that it represents to them three hours of drudgery and boredom, then there is a problem. I have no problem with the Saviors invitation, but whereas the Church claims to represent this promise in our day and time, the meetings should have greater appeal than a stale board meeting. So, Jeff, it’s not that I entirely disagree with you, but rather think that “management” should do everything it can to live up to the promise that Sacrament meeting is a place where recommitments are born, rejuvination happens, etc. If people feel that it is worth while they will come, and do so with happy hearts. The Church claims to possess the fullness of the Gospel, and the source of Gods Priesthood and authority. That’s a tall order to live up to, but the claim has been made, so what choice do we have.

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    Cowboy,

    I suspect you are right. What apparently didn’t come through in my post is that it is a combination of the members and the leadership. Ray pointed out what his leadership did and I think that helped the members act differently as well.

    I purposely used the word “whine” to provoke the discussion because of its unique connotation.

    Hawk: I am not sure how Jesus would play to the MTV generation. He would not be boring, but would the people be bored nonetheless?

  59. For the first time in my life, I find myself completely agreeing with Cowboy, in #65. I take it as my mission on Sundays to make sure that if someone comes to Church looking for Christ, I’m providing as many opportunities as possible to find him.

  60. I take it as my mission on Sundays to make sure that if someone comes to Church looking for Christ, I’m providing as many opportunities as possible to find him.

    Perfectly said, Andrew.

  61. Thanks, Ray, for #64. I agree 120%. I haven’t posted on this yet because I did not want to speak without considering carefully. It seems that one faction here says Church is often boring and dull and it hurts retention rates and needs to be fixed, while the other side says that people should take the initiative to not be bored and it must not be a huge issue anyway or the Brethren would mention it more often, besides if boring talks are making people not want to come they need to repent. Both parties have, I think, a good point.

    Now, I do disagree that work leadership paradigms cannot translate successfully into church leadership. While there are differences, often good leadership is just good leadership — in any setting. For instance, in one stake I lived in, they radically restructured the home teaching program based on supply/demand market principles (of course with prayer and fasting as well!). It was very, very successful. Similarly, some of the most helpful training I ever received on my mission was given by an ex-Harvard Business School professor. He approached missionary work by collecting data, and performing group “case studies” examining missionary work, often using basic principles of economics. Again, the trainings were successful; their conclusions were sound, and their recommendations worked well when applied.

    I think poor Sacrament Meetings (and poor church meetings in general) are similar to other kinds of poverty. While we can gain experience, receive the Lord’s blessings, and learn from being poor, there is no special virtue in poverty per se. The Church’s approach to poverty, then, is a wise one. We emphasize education and self improvement and offer many resources to this end. Similarly, I think that “Quit yer whinin’!” and other similar messages, seemingly intended to encourage the congregation to pull themselves up by their spiritual bootstraps, might not be the most effective approach to use in a ward setting — particularly, when we might instead offer aid and possibilities for improvement.

    A few suggestions which I think might be of use:
    1. The Bishopric should carefully choose the themes, scriptures, and subjects for meetings well in advance. Specifically, meetings week-to-week might be chosen to work together as a kind of spiritual story-arc built up over a few months. (My personal preference would be “No Talks About Other Talks.” Regurgitated GC addresses are usually fairly painful. Rather, a talk should be assigned on the same subject, and the speaker pointed to the GC address as one resource to use.)

    2. Assignments to speak should go out earlier — perhaps a month or more in advance — with periodic check-ups to make clear to the speaker that the extra time is not for the sake of longer procrastination.

    3. The ward library should be augmented with good resources for decent scriptural interpretation. This doesn’t need to be a massive expense; a few, well-selected volumes can make a world of difference. (Perhaps a philanthropically-minded member of the ward could be approached for help; he/she would, of course, get a nice “Donated by” sticker in the cover, if they wanted.) 🙂

    4. A short-term class (similar to a temple or marriage-prep class) should be organized. The curriculum could be put together by the strongest teachers/speakers in the ward and be approved by the bishop. In an eight-week session, a few couples (4 or 5) could go through basic principles of preparation, interpretation, research, rhetorical tools, and speaking — writing a talk and a lesson as a model for future assignments. The ward could rotate through the class, creating a pool of better-trained speakers to draw from. The teacher(s) of the class would also then be available as a resource for those who are preparing talks. Class-discussion could include (charitable) postmortems of that week’s addresses, and others from various meetings (perhaps particularly successful GC talks) for the sake of real-world examples.

    5. As was suggested by Ray, it would be very important for the Bishop/leaders to not make these efforts a secret. Let the ward know (early and often) that they are concerned about the quality of the meetings (very bluntly, if necessary). Perhaps a special, 5th-Sunday, combined meeting could be on the subject of why adequate preparation is so important, in conjunction with a ward fast on the following Sunday, and frequent reminders.This way the sacrifices offered up at church would not only be the patience of the congregation with a boring meeting, but the more-careful, more-thoughtful preparation of those who present either talks or music, and, in turn, better personal preparation by entire ward.

    Those are just a few ideas that I think might be helpful. I’m sure someone wiser than I am could add many more!

  62. I think Latter-Day Guy’s point number 4, for a short term class could actually be a great idea, particularly if it was followed up with actual speaking assignments.

  63. In the Book of Mormon in 3rd Nephi, the people are instructed to go home and prepare their hearts and their minds for what they’ll be taught the next day by Jesus.

    We have a responsibility as members to do the same thing today. Revelation comes to us many times as we’ve prepared our hearts and mind for the revelation. This means praying for the speakers who will speak in church, praying for our hearts to be open to the Spirit, praying for discernment and humility, reading scriptures during sacrement and relfecting on the grace and mercy of Jesus, reading scriptures during the week preparing to take the sacrament, living our lives in humility each day, being true Saints for Jesus.

    If we’re doing these things then I’m confident we’ll have a “born-again” experience every Sunday regardless of who’s speaking

  64. (I’m late to the discussion, like I’m always late to my meetings…but I should still be welcomed when I show, right?)

    The boring nature of this thread is similar to the lack of substance in many sacrament meetings. Just a bunch of opinions, you said this, I think that, I don’t have a problem you have a problem… where is the substance? If many are “whining” – you can tell them to stop whining, or you can realize after enough feedback, maybe there are some valid points to consider.

    Here is D.B. Haight’s words on the matter (this was back in the 80’s so it ain’t a new topic):

    “The object, of course, is not merely to hold a meeting of the required length but to plan and execute each one in a way that will provide the spiritual uplift and the sound doctrinal teaching which the Church members need in these critical times. Toward this end, speakers should be urged to relate faith-promoting experiences, to bear testimony, to expound doctrinal subjects, and to speak in a spirit of love and brotherhood. At the same time, they should be urged to avoid travelogues, argumentations, criticism, and the discussion of controversial subjects which have no direct bearing on the saving principles of the gospel. In planning your Sacrament Meetings, you should also make good use of choirs and the available musical talent to add variety and interest.”

    It seems to me that we need to frequently reemphasize fundamental principles so we never lose sight of the purpose and moorings of our faith. …

    We encourage local Church leaders to see that the sacrament meetings of the Church are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit. The spirit in our sacrament meetings should be a matter that is continually emphasized and stressed by stake presidencies and bishoprics. Our members must be reminded of the need for a worshipful atmosphere. Bringing investigators to irreverent meetings has proven embarrassing to our members and missionaries.

    …The primary objective of a bishopric for sacrament meeting is to see that the Saints are edified and strengthened in their faith, and that through their prayerful efforts and planning, the Holy Spirit is felt in their sacrament meetings.”
    -Ensign, April 1988

    Clearly the members need to be prepared and be reverent, but the focus of Elder Haight’s words were the leaders need to focus on preparing to have it EDIFY the congregation who is coming to seek edification in times of need. You can tell me its my fault if I don’t feel the Spirit, but all I can say is I’m honestly seeking for it, craving for it…but too often I just pull out my scriptures and read cause I don’t get enough out of it.

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    KG McB,

    If you are sayingthat it goes both ways, that it is a combination of the leaders and congregation which make the meeting meaningful, I am in agreement with that. but, if you see the tone of the thread, you’ll see most focused on what they call boredom, which I would call simply being unprepared to worship.

  66. No, I’m leaning towards the point of Elder Haight’s talk, which while mentioning members need to be prepared, the onerous is on leaders to really make sure the talks have substance. The word “EXPOUND” says it best, not retell, not mention, not lightly gloss over…but something members need to uplift them in these times of need.

    “The object, of course, is not merely to hold a meeting of the required length but to plan and execute each one in a way that will provide the spiritual uplift and the sound doctrinal teaching which the Church members need in these critical times. Toward this end, speakers should be urged to relate faith-promoting experiences, to bear testimony, to expound doctrinal subjects, and to speak in a spirit of love and brotherhood.”

    I know what you’re saying, Jeff. I’m just saying I go to be edified and really want to be uplifted. This last week the high councilor really nailed it and gave a great talk. I recognize those when I see them. I am saying I see them too infrequently and it makes me sad. That is just my experience in the area I’m living in now.

  67. …sorry, I meant, “onus” or burden on the leaders.

    When I sat on the pulpit, I took that responsibility seriously. I even interrupted a speaker once to have him sit down and I would bear testimony instead and end the meeting early. That came after he said, “Wow, I just finished my talk and still have 10 minutes left. I guess I could read it again.” …that is not the congregations responsibility to be prepared to listen to a speaker like that, it was our responsibility to stop that train wreck from happening, and we did.

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    KG,

    While I am agreeing with you and I also took the responsbility very seriously, how do you deal with the situation that some members just aren’t gifted speakers? They have just as much right to speak in church as those who are good at speaking. It seems to me that the onus is as much on the members sitting in the congregation to understand the intent of the message as much as it is on the leadership and speaker to deliver it.

    I am also afraid that the same folks who are eternally bored at sacrament meeting are likewise bored during General Conference. Let’s face it some of the GAs aren’t great speakers either. If you just take Elder Wirthlin and Presdient Hunter, they were rather dry, but delivered wonderful messages.

    Once has to look beyond the “performance,” and focus on the message.

  69. I would not agree that those bored in sacrament meeting are likewise bored in GC.

    I guess we could take a poll and see, but I don’t think that is commonly true. However, there are some GC talks that are dry (as you said) and seem to be a better read in the Ensign than listening to a monotone delivery, but there is never an entire conference of them, in my experience.

    I am also not suggesting we need professional speakers. Yes, everyone gets their turn, and some are just not as gifted speakers as others. That is EXACTLY why the leaders have the onus to make the meetings spiritual. Prepare speakers, select topics and give materials that guide speakers on how to deliver a talk. Balance youth or new members or those who are dry with others that help make sure Christ is being taught, and as powerfully as possible.

    In missionary work, time and money was spent on Preach My Gospel because Missionaries needed to be trained to teach better, not put the responsibility on investigators to be golden.

    Have you not heard the brethren talk recently on Fast and Testimony meetings? Children who like to play with the mic and say they love mommy is cute but is NOT meaningful to the congregations spiritual uplifting. The brethren have lovingly sent this message and people needed to be taught that those children should practice testimonies at home or in primary and share them in sacrament meeting only when they are ready to deliver an honest testimony. We are not expected as a congregation to come prepared to hear travel logs or children talking and it be OUR responsibility to gain something out of that. Sure we can be Christ-like and understand some testimonies are at different levels, and not all speakers are as gifted as Jeff, but the leaders need to guide the meeting to make it as meaningful as possible. It is the bishop’s responsibility. It is in the handbook.

    I don’t think enough bishops do that now. They call someone to speak and give them a topic and that is it. There should be training and coaching on how to deliver a class lesson (teacher improvement courses) as well as speakers prepared to deliver a talk, as well as how the congregation should come prepared to worship. And that coaching message should not be, “If you’re bored, it is your own fault because we can’t do anything about it. Accept mediocrity in the church and don’t murmur about it, you bunch of whiners.”

    One can look beyond the performance ONLY WHEN THERE IS A MESSAGE to focus on.

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    “It is the bishop’s responsibility. It is in the handbook.”

    Absolutely true, no argument there. There is always room for improvement. The church used to train the youth in speaking and have speech contests.

    You quoted Elder Haight’s talk about the responsibility of the leaders, but I used the President Kimball quote in my post which is just as valid, IMO.

    The worship portion of our meeting is the Sacrament and how we approach that as individuals is strictly up to each of us. Since that is the main purpose of the meeting, I think there is also much improvement to be gained. As that part improves, I think the other parts improve.

  71. I have actually come to like some of the so-called “travelogues”. They are usually a refreshing break from the liturgy of the Mormon pledge, “Brothers and sisters, I would like to bear my testimony…”. Travelogues often will bear a spiritual quality, some don’t, but they are interpersonal explanations of events that have recently occured in that persons life, followed by an explanation of what that meant or why it’s important.

  72. Cowboy – me too in a way. I guess I’ve actually just gotten to the point where I think the personal stories people choose to tell are just intrinsically interesting, even if they are religiously pointless. I guess I just have grown to like people.

  73. Ok, Jeff. So, the last 2 Sundays have been very uplifting and meaningful to me. I can’t say I did better at preparing myself specifically to go and worship, I just seemed to feel better while there. I don’t think the speakers were particularly better or the bishop did anything different to prepare the meeting.

    It has made me think a lot of your words, and how individual the meeting can be. I think I agree with that now. However, the solution wasn’t to just tell myself to stop whining and start coming prepared to worship.

    I think unintentionally, outside of thinking of church meetings, I have just been trying to get closer to God and have had good experiences lately. Coincidence that now my church meeting is all of a sudden “more meaningful”? Hmmm..

    Perhaps the preparation to make meetings more meaningful is not about the meetings at all, or about how leaders focus on speaker performance, or listeners focus on good attitudes going into the meeting, but instead, outside the meetings the individual is striving to know God, and leaders are reaching out with love to show them God loves them.

    Its kind of a self-fulfilling thing…when I’m in a good place and find I’m striving to do good, I like being at church and get stuff out of it. When I’m struggling, people bug me.

  74. Pingback: Religion vs. relationship « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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