Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reinventing Your Sundays, Part 2: An Alternative To Staying Home

In part 1 of Reinventing Your Sundays, I lamented how our once-vibrant religion has devolved into Sunday meetings that are lackluster, impotent, and largely devoid of spirit.

The day after that post appeared, over at Feminist Mormon Housewives a discussion took place entitled “The Church Is Losing Us.” That article generated over 200 comments similar to those here, evidence that there is a rumble of dissatisfaction within the membership that is much broader than I had supposed.

And similar discussions seem to be taking place all over the Bloggernacle. Here's a quite typical comment from a single father, left on Mormon Matters:
I have to ask myself why I sit in sacrament meeting every week holding my spiritual bowl and hoping for crumbs of spiritual nourishment...but at the same time, I love what Mormonism theoretically has to offer. I know if I left it, I'd never really leave many of it's teachings. The Church seems to me, at times, to be an irrelevant corporation standing like an eclipse in front of the light of it's Gospel. I feel like the church has so much to offer us, but settles for easily digestible platitudes.”

“I love Christ, I love God, I love my daughter, I love creation, I love people. I'm not sure anymore how the church helps me foster any of that love.”

Tens of thousands of ordinarily devout Latter-day Saints are slipping away out of boredom and disaffection -and who can blame them? The lively, spirit-filled community that was evident at the time of Joseph Smith -and still present to a degree during my own youth in the 1950's and '60's -is all but gone. I suggested  earlier that if church  meetings weren't working for you, you might think about taking a sabbatical. Do what the young Joseph Smith did when he found the local churches weren't stimulating him: sit outside under a tree and read the scriptures.

But for most people, that solution is no solution at all. We have within us a God-given need to gather with like-minded souls. Just staying home is not the answer for everyone, as typified by this letter I received from an LDS attorney in Salt Lake City:

Over the last ten years or so I have become more and more bored. Every week I struggle to get through those three hours. I go for my kids, but my head is elsewhere. So my question is: what is my alternative? Inactivity would be one option I suppose, but that's not really a solution.”
Well, I think the only real solution will be for Bishops and Branch Presidents to reclaim their autonomy and begin to serve their members rather than behaving as though their allegiance is to the corporate headquarters in Salt Lake. The corporate institution that is the modern LDS Church operates as though the members exist to serve it, rather than the institution existing to serve the members.

I'd like to see local congregations experience the spirit of community that existed within the church at the time of Joseph Smith. But I don't think that's likely. Not until control is removed from the corporate usurpers and diffused back among those who honor the Holy Ghost and the scriptures over men with offices and titles.

D&C 121 tells us that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood,” yet who can deny that their priesthood” is the very power by which those in high station currently claim authority over the rest of us?

How The Suits Took Over

In 1963, N. Eldon Tanner, a wealthy Mormon industrialist, was leapfrogged into the First Presidency because at that moment in time what the Church needed more than anything else was someone with his connections and business acumen.

Tanner's predecessor in the presidency, Henry D. Moyle, had brought the Church to the very brink of bankruptcy with his program of building chapels in areas where few members even lived. Moyle was not the kind of man who was capable of expounding on Mormon theology, but he enthusiastically believed in “the Church” and he was downright zealous about seeing it grow in his lifetime to “fill all the earth.” 

Since the early 1900's, men of vision like Moyle had been called into leadership due to their tremendous success in the business world, a success that was seen as evidence of God's blessings upon them.These men would lead the Church into the twentieth century just as they had ridden American industry into the twentieth century.

Guided by a philosophy akin to “build it and they will come,” Moyle's plan for growth was simple. First, we build the chapels. Our missionaries will provide the converts to fill those chapels. Tithing receipts from those new converts will be used to replace the money that was used to build those chapels, and as seed money to build new ones. One eternal round.

It was genius.

Except it wasn't. 

If chapels were restaurants or retail stores or gas stations, customers might wander in once those establishments appeared in their neighborhoods.  That's how business works.  You build it, then you advertise it, then they come.

But chapels aren't businesses.  They're meeting houses you build for the already existing members of the body of Christ. First you start with an existing community of Saints, then you "advertise," to gather more converts, then when you have enough additional converts, you build the chapel. Henry Moyle had considerable success in the business world, but you can't run a church like a business.

In the early 1960's the LDS Church boasted that ground was being broken on a new chapel somewhere in the world every single day. When a sufficient number of converts failed to materialize fast enough to pay for those chapels, Moyle did what any good shepherd would do: he flew around the country scolding the missionaries for not working hard enough.

Eventually, with the Church 32 million dollars in debt and having to borrow to make payroll, President McKay relieved Henry Moyle of his administrative duties.

Enter the Super-Suits

Eldon Tanner was the right man to pick to put the Church's finances back on track. Like Moyle, Tanner admitted to having a scanty knowledge of the scriptures, but he did know how to make money. Having created a personal fortune in oil and banking, Tanner used his influence to arrange loans with the big New York banks, promising the member's future tithes as collateral. Then he set about readjusting the Church's investment portfolio.

Where previously Church holdings focused largely on farms and ranches (in my opinion entirely appropriate endeavors for a church to be involved in), Tanner expanded the portfolio to include banks, insurance companies, public utilities, commercial real estate, money market funds, treasury bills, and of course oil companies, including Exxon, Standard Oil, and Phillips Petroleum. Tanner had hisself some mad skillz. He bought a million dollars worth of stock in the Los Angeles Times.  Four years later it was worth four million.  Before long the church was not only out of debt, it was billions in the black.

Tanner held his position as counselor to the president through four separate administrations, effectively acting as the de facto Chief Financial Officer for The Corporation of the President. He saw to it that others with corporate savvy and investment instincts quickly rose to positions of prominence within the Church hierarchy until the entire quorum of the twelve apostles was top heavy with former insurance executives and corporate lawyers.

Tanner was entirely devoted to the Church heart and soul. But like Moyle and others, to him “The Church” meant the organization for which he worked, rather than the collective membership below. Indeed, Tanner did not believe the common tithe-paying members should be privy to how their donations were spent. “I don't think the public needs to have that information,” he was reported as saying.

Although ostensibly the leaders of the Church are engaged in ecclesiastical affairs, behind the scenes many of them keep extremely busy managing the financial side of things full time. My hat is off to these men. I imagine it must take quite a lot of talent to be able to serve both God and Mammon.

A more serious concern is that this corporate mentality has been bleeding down into our local congregations. Every Bishop and Branch President is provided a two-volume set of the company's Standard Operating Procedures which he is expected to follow without question. Your bishop is no longer the shepherd of his flock, he is the manager of a local corporate franchise.

Pity the poor LDS man or woman who has been working all week in an office. When Sunday morning  rolls around, they have to dig in the closet for the same style dress, or suit and tie, that they've been wearing all week and slog through one more set of dry, unproductive meetings. Where is that promised “day of rest” they've been hearing so much about?

I guess that was Saturday.

I am a firm supporter of free enterprise and a believer in the capitalist system. But corporate capitalism should not be the model upon which we run our church or conduct our meetings. 

What then should be the model? Well, that's already been given to us in D&C 20:45:
The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God.”
We have traded the Holy Ghost for a program of structured conformity, and "the commandments and revelations of God" have been put on the back burner in favor of excerpts from conference talks read from the Ensign. Is it any wonder our meetings feel hollow and impotent?

Conformity or Unity?

So let's get back to that question posed by our attorney friend who asked “what is the alternative?” Is there a modern model we can look to that could take us back to the feelings of inclusion once felt by the early latter-day Saints?

Well, we could look to the Church of Unity as one possible model.

I had read in J.J. Dewey's book The Immortal a suggestion that the Church of Unity (not to be confused with Unitarian-Universalism) tended to conduct their services in a way most closely to that of the early Christian church. All are welcome and accepted, no matter one's personal creed. At Unity, there is no dogmatic requirement that attendees adhere to a specific set of doctrines.

This reminded me of the words of Joseph Smith when he refuted the idea that to be a Mormon you had to believe a certain way or adhere to a specific set of concrete doctrines.  He rejected such notions. “It looks too much like the Methodists,” the prophet said. Methodists have creeds that a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please.” (History of the Church 5:340)

Where the LDS Church today seems to require uniformity of thought and action among its members, the Church of Unity rejects conformity in favor of simple unity. Unity of the heart. Unity of the soul. That unity that acknowledges all God's children as brothers and sisters. Like Joseph Smith, no one there will require you to hold the same opinions they do. What matters at Unity is love. Love and acceptance. Of all people.  

This Unity thing sounded to me like that long-gone, old-timey, pure Mormonism:  To each his own. Live-and-let-live. Be who you are. When I heard from two other sources that the Unity model was the way they felt church ought to be, I thought maybe it was time to check this thing out.

Connie wanted to go too, so as soon as her health allowed, one Sunday morning in January we got ourselves dressed and showed up for the 11:30 service at the Sacramento Church of Unity, more commonly known as the Spiritual Life Center of Sacramento.

When we arrived, we could hear music coming from the chapel. There was the distinctive sound of a jangly guitar, drums, and keyboard. Were we late? No, just in time for the prelude music, which happened to be that classic '60's song by The Youngbloods, “Get Together.” Those who were in the chapel were already standing and singing together, even swaying back and forth:

Love is but a song we sing, and fear is how we die,
You can make the mountains ring, or make the angels cry.”

Well, this was different. If this is the kind of stuff they pick for their prelude music, I might like it here. 

I could already sense a feeling of camaraderie in the room, of happiness and friendship, a feeling that everyone who was here actually belonged here. Funny, though it was our first time, we didn't feel like outsiders. People smiled at us and made room for us on a pew.  A few minutes after we were seated, I looked around. The place was packed.

After another song, announcements were made.  The center is led by a pair of co-pastors, male and female. Reverend Mike asked if there was anyone here for the first time. Connie and I raised our hands, as did several others. Someone appeared beside us and presented us each with a necklace made of tiny seashells. I thought this was a good idea. It identified the newcomers so that others could recognize and welcome them. We should do something like this in our own church, I thought. No matter how long I've been in a particular ward, I was never certain who was a visitor and who was not.  Something like this would be helpful.

Attached to the necklace was a tiny slip of paper like a fortune cookie. It read, “Just as God has a design for every shell in the sea, so has God a design for your life.”

Mike asked those who were called as ambassadors to stand, and a half dozen men and women rose. “These are the people to go to if you have any needs or questions, or if you just want someone to talk to,” Mike said. I later learned that the church also had several men and women who were trained chaplains, each devoting a year to the church in that capacity, making themselves available for one-on-one prayer, counseling, and any assistance anyone might come to them for. This was clearly not a church in name only, but a tight, Godly organization. No one who was lonely, sorrowful, or dejected was likely to slip through the cracks here.

The band accompanied a young lady named Ann Roach. She had a very versatile voice and  her singing was sweet and lovely, a combination of praise, joy, and wonder.  Connie recently remarked that Ann is one of those people who is so beautiful and talented, it's a wonder she isn't famous (I often wonder the same about Connie).The lyrics were in the program, and all were invited to join in.

Co-pastor Christine then came to the pulpit and explained the vision of the center:

Spiritual Life Center is a loving, vibrant family that welcomes home people of every age, race, culture, sexual orientation and people with disabilities -all people.”

Then she repeated the last two words for emphasis. “All people.” I felt power in those words when she spoke them. There was Godly intent. Clearly, unconditional love and acceptance is the moving force here. “Together,” Christine concluded, “we transform lives.”

I was beginning to believe that.

Unity attracts an eclectic collection of souls. Very few members were raised in this church.  Rather, this is the kind of church people from other religious backgrounds end up escaping to. In the congregation we attended there were disaffected Christians (particularly from the more authoritarian denominations such as Catholics and Baptists), Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and even [gasp!] the dreaded Muslims. A local radio preacher is forever railing against the Sacramento Life Center for casting such a wide net and not requiring doctrinal purity. He often refers to Unity of Sacramento disparagingly as "that church of misfits and mavericks."

If he thinks he's offending anyone with that label, he clearly doesn't know this congregation.  "The Church of Misfits and Mavericks" is a nickname they would unhesitatingly embrace. On the whole  these are people who, I suspect, have known sorrow and they have known joy. These are people with deep life experience, and as a result, a deep capacity for love and understanding.  Misfits and Mavericks.  I'd wear a label like that with pride myself. 

Okay, so there's Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Misfits, and Mavericks.   What I wanted to know is, were there any Mormons?

You'd be surprised how many Mormons we have here,” Reverend Mike told me later, “At first they used to all sit on the same two rows together in the back, but now they've pretty well integrated to where you can't tell them apart from anyone else.”

Of course, if you really want to meet a lot of Mormons at the Church of Unity, you should visit the one in Salt Lake City. I called Jim Peterson, pastor of that congregation and asked him what the percentage of Mormons was there. The answer surprised even me. “93 percent,” he replied, But we usually just say 90.

If you're a believing Mormon like myself, you'll find that at the church of Unity no one will try to dissuade you from your beliefs or try to convert you to theirs. Your beliefs are considered a part of  who you are.  And "who you are" is what matters at Unity, not your doctrinal baggage. I can arrive at Unity with an appreciation for the divinity of the Book of Mormon and an affinity for the early teachings of Joseph Smith, and easily find common ground among those who do not share those particular beliefs, because no one cares. A person's religion is his personal business. It just doesn't matter to anyone else. Lif'e is just  too short to be concerned with who's right and who's wrong.


Indeed, what I find most attractive about Unity is that their creed would have fit perfectly alongside that of many of the earliest latter-day Saints:

  • God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere.
  • We are spiritual beings, created in God's image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore all people are inherently good.
  • We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.
  • There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our connection to God.
  • Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them.
Although the LDS church has become dogmatic in modern times, you'd be hard pressed to find  anything in the creed above that Joseph Smith would disagree with. The ability to love unconditionally and learn from people of diverse faiths was basic to Joseph Smith's worldview.  “Friendship,” the prophet taught, is the grand fundamental of Mormonism.” 

Sitting in that pew for the first time, listening to the music, I was beginning to feel that spirit of friendship in the air about me. The Center receives an influx of first-time visitors every week, so at one point everyone was asked to stand up and introduce themselves to the people around them.  Among those Connie and I exchanged handshakes and hellos with was a smiling young woman named Tamar, whose name I remember because it was printed on a name tag which hung around her neck. I assumed because she wore a name tag that she was some sort of official here.

We were next led in a quiet, calming chant/song song that prepared us for the meditation that was also led by Reverend Christine. This was a very soothing experience, as it allowed us to quiet our minds and let our hearts connect with the spirit. This is, to me, an experience hard to duplicate in LDS sacrament meetings with the distraction of children.  Here, there is a nursery, so that your experience at church can be distinct from your everyday hustle and bustle at home.
 
It so happened that the day we attended, a guest pastor from one of the local black churches was the guest speaker. Apparently the Spiritual Life Center regularly invites speakers from other religions in order to foster understanding. What a change, I thought, from my own inclusive religion, where few thoughts or statements not approved through proper channels ever get presented to the membership. I was reminded how far we've come from the days of our founder. Joseph Smith did not presume that the church he founded contained all truth. He would listen with interest to the thoughts and ideas of those outside his own sphere of knowledge and belief. “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up,” he counseled, “or we shall not come out true 'Mormons'.”

After the speaker concluded, children were filed in from wherever they had been keeping them, and  gathered on the stand as we all stood to sing the closing song, which, it happened, was a song I already knew. It was that old classic from the '60's, “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” We all stood and held hands, swaying easily as we sang, “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

 Near the end of the song the band took it up a step, beginning the dramatic ritard toward the powerful  finale:

To take each moment,
And live each moment,
In peace eternally,

"Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin..."

And there it was. Out of nowhere, a sweet, soothing, wave of emotion washed over me and filled me up. It was a feeling of pure love. Of belonging. A knowledge from deep within me that I was connected heart and soul with every single person in that room, and that I loved them and they loved me.

I couldn't finish the last two words. My throat choked up and my eyes filled with moisture and my heart was overflowing with...something. 

Joy? Love? Acceptance? It was all of that, and more than that.   It was peace.

Here I stood in a strange chapel, with Connie's hand in my left and some guy's hand in my right, singing a song that was so ubiquitous in high school that I was damn sick of  hearing it, and I was having a moment of pure spiritual bliss. When was the last time I felt anything like this in one of my own ward meetings? I couldn't tell you.


Certainly I'm no stranger to the spirit.  Connie and I experience that sweet feeling washing over us both together and separately in little incidents here and there almost daily.  But there is something ineffably satisfying about standing hand in hand with a group of fellow sons and daughters, and feeling the love, and light, and power of God made manifest within all our hearts together. 

How To Make Your Ward A Friendlier Place

A little more than an hour after the meeting had started, Church was over.

Wow. That was easy.

But it was not quite over.  Now came the reason “church” was invented in the first place. The first century Christians didn't gather together to slog through any boring routine or because they felt they were supposed to, or expected to "be in attendance."  No, they gathered together for one overriding reason: They craved that sense of community. Fellowship. The chance to associate one with another.

We filed out of the chapel and reconvened informally in the Fellowship Hall. Here, people visited with one another and strangers introduced themselves to us.  There were cookies and refreshments available, and displays set up around the room to notify attendees of the various classes, seminars, and workshops available throughout the week.  Children were here present (especially around the refreshment table). It was a wonderful, welcoming, familial experience.

There was also a table where, for a donation of a dollar, we could get our own name tags printed up by next week, complete with a lanyard to hang around our necks, so next time we wouldn't be strangers. It turns out Tamar wasn't some church “official” after all. A lot of others were wearing name tags just like hers. It certainly helped in learning their names.

(Note to those members of Unity who may be reading this who weren't wearing their name tags: please get on the stick. It's one of the most unique and important things about your church.)

Name tags in church struck me as a terrific idea. Just think if we did this in our local wards. We'd finally know the names of all those members we pretend to know the names of, but really don't. I think if we furnished name tags in Mormon wards, our meetings would be much friendlier places.

But to tell you the truth, I don't think approval for something so simple and beneficial would ever make it through the bureaucracy.

Connie and I have been back a couple of times since that first visit. (We got our name tags!) We even decided to join the choir so we could sing with that band on Easter Sunday. There was going to be strings and horns and everything. Sadly, Connie suffered a mild stroke before Easter, so we couldn't even attend the service. (Connie doesn't feel the stroke was all that “mild.” by the way.)

A Reformation For The Restoration

You know what I'd like to see in the LDS Church? I'd like to see us get back to having those remarkable experiences that were once common to the early Latter-day Saints. Feeling the spirit in church should not be a once-in-a-while thing. It should be an every time thing. Wouldn't it be something if, instead of the stultifying dullness so many of our members decry as routine, we could once again arrive at our meeting houses expecting to feel the spirit of God wash over us like a river? I know it's possible because every single time I've attended the Spiritual Life Center, I've felt it.  So, we know the spirit of God is alive and well.  We Latter-day Saints have just forgotten, as a community, how to really tap into it.

I think it would be something if a lot of you readers found the Unity Church nearest you and paid a visit. Check it out, then take what you learn there and see if you can begin to institute that feeling in your home wards. Maybe in a generation or so we can take things back. Remember, the church is not some distant institution made up of self-appointed, so-called “leaders.” The church is you. You are the church.

And yes, I did say “self-appointed” leaders. (Or, more accurately, appointed by each other within a system of cronyism not seen since the days of King Noah.) If you really believe every single corporate officer of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has come into his position because Jesus Christ personally called him to that position, you haven't been paying close attention to what's been going on around you. 

Here's a recent article from the Deseret News reporting on the Prophet of God dedicating a bank. Yes, that's right. A bank. The Prophet of God. Read it to your loved ones and tell them it's a parody. They won't believe it isn't. 

(P.S. You'll never guess who owns stock in that bank.)

The Experiences We've Lost   

LDS historian Don Bradley reminds us that the grand principles of Mormonism that Joseph Smith declared have never been revoked.
These principles provide foundation stones...for defining the 'pure Mormon' -for distinguishing between what is and what is not purely, or legitimately, Mormon.”
Bradley goes on to remind us that in its final formulation by the Prophet, Mormonism is generous, open, and expansive. Whether it continues in that embodiment “depends on the willingness of individual Latter-day Saints to continue their prophet's reformation by reforming Mormonism as it exists in their personal faith and lives. 

Mormonism will...build a heaven on earth no faster and more effectively than individual Mormons shoulder this responsibility themselves.”

Feel like shouldering that responsibility? Well, first you'll have to re-experience what we've lost. Unity is one way I've found. If you live in Utah there are Unity Churches in Salt Lake City, Park City, and St. George. Search here for Unity in other locations. 

This site, Pure Mormonism, has been receiving anywhere from fifteen to twenty thousand visitors each month. Wouldn't it be something if next Sunday a whole bunch of you visited this other church and then brought back that spirit of unity to your home wards? 
 
We might actually have a chance of continuing the restoration Joseph Smith started.
_

135 comments:

Gaybob Spongebath said...

Rock, what makes you think that anyone who visits Unity will ever go back to the old, boring, three hour block? I've been to Unity. Giving that up would be like telling a kid who has been to Disneyland that your backyard miniature golf course is better.

The exodus from the Church is just going to increase at a faster rate once Mormons find out there's something better for them out there AND it's consistent with their own beliefs. How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen Paree?

Stake Pres. said...

Brother Waterman, asking members to visit other religions will only confuse them and cause our numbers to shrink even further which will affect our budgets. As a stake president I would suggest asking those of other religions to visit with us that they may feel the spirit of the one true church upon the face of the earth.

andrew said...

amazing. just the past week i have been thinking to myself how i would describe my religious beliefs to someone. i would certainly say i grew up in mormonism, but that i no longer felt comfortable tying myself to any sect, because it would confine me to a predetermined set of principles or doctrine, and limit what i could believe in. then i read this new article, and your mention of joseph smith's rejection of what would suppose to define a mormon

i can no longer believe coincidence has led me to your blog, or others like it. this is not the first time something has been weighing on my mind when the very same subject suddenly shows up on my RSS feeds, and in your case rock, in much more eloquent language. i would very much like to someday shake your hand and sit down to a beer

i hope your wife's health improves, if it hasn't already. i'll send some love and good vibes your way

andrew said...

mr stake pres,

i was going to donate some money to a humanitarian or disaster relief fund, but since hearing from you that the church's budget might be compromised which could postpone another ward building from being built in utah for a month, i have decided to start paying 15% of my net income to the church. thank you for all the service you provide. i hope i will receive untold blessings in the form of lip service and other sundry intangibles

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Andrew, thanks for the love vibes. Connie still has not recovered, but we expect it will happen.

I'm touched that I was of assistance to you. I would be very happy to sit down for a drink some day with you. too bad I don't like beer...

TruthSeeker said...

I just knew it was unity you were going to talk about. I was right, wasn't I?

I clicked on the deseret news link and it did seem like something right out of the Onion.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Yep, you pegged it, TruthSeeker. One day I plan to write a piece about The Immortal. I didn't even know until much later that Dewey was former LDS.

The Onion is what came to my mind also when I read that piece. The guy who put me onto it told me he covered up the banner and showed it to his mother, who did think it was satire. Then he showed her it was real-right out of the Deseret News.

I notice Monson's words were all designed to give the impression that he was just supporting some local business that would be good for the neighborhood. These guys have become so arrogant they think the membership is too dumb to notice what they're up to. I mean, really. Endorsing a A Bank?!

Well, if Hinckley could invite Dick Cheney to BYU and have a friendly chat with him in front of photographers, we shouldn't be surprised at anything Monson does. These guys wouldn't recognize evil if it shook hands with them.

Dave P. said...

Especially when those handshakes come in the form of the patriarchal grip (or sure sign of the nail) in front of that same camera.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Yep.

RasJane said...

Yay! You got the post up before Sunday. Thank you. :)
I love it. I looked for a Unity Church near me and the closest is about 45 minutes away. I just might have to give it a try! Community is the reason I still attend my local ward as I truly have friends there. I am wondering though if it would serve my family better if we cultivated community elsewhere. Thanks for this option--I didn't know about the Unity Church. DH may even be able to go for this option.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

You never know, Jane. There may be some who live right in your community who make that 45 minute drive to the Unity church. So you may already have friends nearby of a like mind. I hope you and your amazing hubby will check it out and report back your experience.

Paul B from Cali said...

I appreciate the time and thought you invested in writing this informative post. My credo:

“What is the true religion?”

“Whichever one brings you closer to God.”

Ahh... and God is Love.

Spektator said...

Earlier this month, the stake had a regional stake conference with the talks beamed in from Salt Lake. The regular meeting schedule was replaced with this 75 minute 'video conference.' I was talking to the bishop after the meeting and several members passing by remarked about how happy they were to have extra time not taken up in the standard meeting schedule. Not a rousing affirmation of the value even TBMs put on the Sunday schedule.

In my opinion there is little that the current correlated meeting schedule offers in terms of a spiritual feast. While a group like the Unity church can satisfy the need for community, can it also fill the need for teaching people how to come unto Christ? Can it offer the spiritual meal that our spirit needs?

I believe that there is more than just community that is needed to keep us going; we need to create a venue that lifts us continually closer to Christ.

I wish there were a way to bring those who 'hunger and thirst after righteousness' together to share in a spiritually uplifting way, unfettered by tightly scheduled and oft repeated platitudes.

We are promised that the spirit will be where two or three meet for this reason. What I really crave is the small home based meeting with just a few like-minded people where the Holy Ghost dictates the agenda. Where we are able to conduct the sacrament in a way that is truly in line with the original plan.

I think this is best addressed by implementing LDSA's tribal meetings in our homes, not in the sterile atmosphere of the local Mormon franchise.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I agree. The sacrament my wife and I hold together is much more meaningful, as we are able to do it right, and make it more of a feast, i.e. eating our fill, rather than take a snack-size bite and pass it on.

Ironically, the Church discourages members from meeting in homes in a venue that it cannot control. It even presumes that the sacrament of the Lord is something that should take place only under institutional supervision.

Steven Lester said...

Well, from a personal stance, and after investigating the local Unity Church of Kent (Washington), I know that I will never go to visit it. The reason why? It is too scary a place for me to get anywhere near. There's too much emotion going on. Too much friendliness that I could never trust completely. Too much alternative healing going on led by the local pastor, no doubt a nice lady with magical hands and heightened intuition. It could probably destroy easily the many walls I've built around my own heart and in realizing this I know that I must keep a wide berth from that port of calm and respite. (Is that last sentence what they call a mixed metaphor? I think so.) Even if I were to actually feel what you did at the end of that song, I would never return to it. Never, never again. Too much emotion.

So, thank you for the tip, but it could never work with me. Maybe I'll go back to being a Catholic. Being a closet pyromaniac, it always was a thrill whenever I would light a candle, or ten or twenty of them at a time. Ah, indeed!

And after I die and have to dwell within an absolute atmosphere of love, love, love I sure hope I have some control over how much I have to have around me, or maybe I'll just leave and seek what peace there may be in silence of every kind, unless, of course, the place is just some kind of perfect tyranny and what choices I'm granted aren't real choices at all, in which case I will just be misery itself.

Dave P. said...

It's also indeed something that the general membership doesn't understand. When I ask someone to show me, from the scriptures, where it says I need permission from the bishop to administer the sacrament, the only thing they could actually refer back to is the Church Handbook of Instructions. And of course we already know that that ain't scripture.

Dad said...

Good article, but the bridge connecting N. Eldon Tanner saving the church from bankruptcy to boring meetings doesn't exist. The church focus on solvency through sound financial practices does not result in boredom in Sacrament Meetings. I think you have a problem with corporate types, so you're trying to castigate two unrelated church warts at once.

I like their stated creed. Good fundamentals. You summarized, “Clearly, unconditional love and acceptance is the moving force here.”
However, if a member of the Church of Unity becomes spiteful and doesn't accept another member, are they socially excommunicated because they don't live the creed? Human nature being what it is, I suspect so. Unity does not equal Utopia.

“…no one there will require you to hold the same opinions they do.” They don’t where I attend, but there is a tendency to be surprised if you express a differing view – same as if a republican went to a rally and expressed support for abortion and big government.

“This Unity thing sounded to me like that long-gone, old-timey, pure Mormonism: To each his own. Live-and-let-live. Be who you are.”

What are you smoking? I’d like some. Defection and excommunication for differences of belief in doctrine were common early in Mormonism. It was a rancorous and volatile time, a time when the doctrines and articles of faith were still being formed. Perhaps you’re dreaming about that brief period when Joseph was gathering theories that he later sifted but later settled on the set of beliefs that made Mormonism distinctive.

The musical selections appealed to you: The prelude was the”.. classic '60's song by The Youngbloods, “Get Together.” The closing was another 60s oldies classic. Maybe a 20-something would be more inspired by Lady Gaga.

Sounds like you like the Unity church because they played music from your youth that reminded you of the heady, idealistic days of the 60s where we dreamed all the world will live as one. Then we grew up and realized we had to work to make a living.

“This was clearly not a church in name only, but a tight, Godly organization. No one who was lonely, sorrowful, or dejected was likely to slip through the cracks here.”

Really? Who is responsible to care for each one who walks through the door? How do you know, as a church, that you haven’t missed one? What happens when they go home? If it’s like any other church, membership and attendance is fluid. (So what is Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching? Chopped liver?)

...more...

Dad said...

You liked the bead necklaces. Okay sea shells -- reminiscent of our sixties teen and pre-teen youth. And the name tags. How about, instead of name tags, we actually have the interest enough to take time to learn people’s names and remember them? Then ask them again if we forget their names. When we make an effort to learn them, we go deeper than just reading a name tag. We actually increase our interest in and love for them.

Did you get emotional because it was novel? What if you were to do that same routine and sing 60s hippie songs every Sunday for the next 30 years. Don’t you think that would get dull and spiritless for you after all that time? I don’t see a difference between that and any other church you attend for life. We often look for entertainment or something new and different. It’s in our curious nature.

Why not opt for the dull workaday opportunities to be useful to another of God’s children? An opportunity to do something different in my neighborhood came Saturday morning at 8am. 30 or 40 men and women packed two semi-trailers with supplies headed to Joplin, Missouri. Days after the tornadoes hit, the gym was filled with donated goods that needed to be shipped. It was backbreaking work that was no fun. I’d rather have been playing golf. I didn’t even get that goofy good feeling of service. It was just work. But it was work and time well spent for people who may later do the same for me, since I too live in Tornado Alley.

“Check it out, then take what you learn there and see if you can begin to institute that feeling in your home wards. Maybe in a generation or so we can take things back. Remember, the church is not some distant institution made up of self-appointed, so-called “leaders.” The church is you. You are the church.”

Best quote of the blog.

What did you bring back to your local ward? Tell me a story about how you or someone successfully affected change in a ward by bringing in Unity influences. Templates and patterns are more useful than precepts.

What does the Unity Chuch actually do? How are their donations spent? Is it just a social linger-longer every Sunday? I’m sure they must have some charitable cause. (Cynical me says, “Or maybe they’re building their version of a mall – a newer and bigger arena-sized sanctuary.”)

Yes we should feel good after a Joel Osteen style meeting. But do we then actually become something new and better? Do we organize and act for good around us? I like orgs that proactively find good work to do in the largest community possible. But if 90% of what we do is help individuals in our own congregations and 10% is reaching out to a larger community then that’s a good place to grow from.

Best thing about this blog is that I think it achieved your objective with me. I’ve spent my early morning devotion time contemplating the ways I can bring the change you espouse. I disagree with many of your arguments, which tend to encourage people to abandon their current wards in favor of greener grass elsewhere. But your overall message works for me.

Zion is where you live. You can make it better where you are.

Anonymous said...

As I expected, once again, masterfully done! But dang, Rock, have mercy! Can't you ever change this break-neck speed my mind is more fully-awakened by writing something a little less articulate and well-supported, and throw in some mindless-mediocrity now and then? My inner-eyes just need a little time to adjust to all this brilliant Light, ok?

Truly-felt smarmary aside, as a post-LDSer I appreciate a lead of where to find a nice li'l God-loving / God-living community of like-minded lovers! As soon as I click out of here, I'm going to see if there are any in Valley Center, CA area. And I like your suggestion of finding a riding-buddy...thanks Rock, for rockin' this one!

~Sheila

P.S.--"Dad", if pure, unadulterated love, light and friendship in a joyful, lively environ would become mundane to you after 'x' amount of weeks, I feel very sorry for you! Nope, sounds like you are JUST where you're s'pose to be at this point in time -- well-acclimated to the 'safety' of pure unadulterated sheeple-ness. Different strokes for different folks...God bless ya, man! I will keep you in my prayers.

And while the concept of home teaching/visiting teaching works on paper, let's face it, most groan about it in private murmurings and it's a letter of the law thang. Sure, there's some efficacy there, but is it coming from pure love-centeredness or a matter of duty? Perhaps a touch of both?

'Less organized' churches or love-centered groups operate with a slightly different, less-forced or less guilt-invoked paradigm. The cohesiveness of the group which has been fostered by rampant love puts them deeply in-tune with one another, and they often 'sense' each other's needs and rise to the occasion even before they're expressed -- truly living from spirit. Another thing I've noted, the social/spiritual climate is such that folks aren't afraid to directly ask for help, and there is always someone who can offer support or insight. No dictated 'service-structures' such as home/visiting teachers needed.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Oh Dad, you always try to ruin everything...

It wasn't the '60's music that I found fulfilling. As a straight arrow, short-haired, Nixon-loving, warmongerering teenager, I actually rejected most of that hippie-dippy stuff coming out of the radio back then. Hence the eye-roll every time I heard that insufferable anthem promoting peace on earth beginning with me. Yeah, right. Get a haircut, hippies.

Clearly, Dad, you did not read Part One of this essay. There is a very large segment of our membership -devoted believers in the gospel- who are simply no longer finding fulfillment in our Sunday meetings. Many are seeking an alternative. If they can find something that speaks to them elsewhere, so be it. If feel they can return to their home wards and shine a light, so be it. If, as Gaybob suggests above, they never come back to the three hour block, so be it. We should not react with horror if someone chooses a mode of worship not in line with our own.

The background on N. Eldon Tanner and the gradual conversion of the leadership from a group of theologians to more business types was meant to represent the shift that has taken place in the halls of that institution within my lifetime.

From the 1960's on, Leadership positions were being filled more and more by men who had demonstrated worldly success that could be expected to be translated into success for the church. This is not in and of itself a bad thing. Businessmen are not devils. But I ask, "where are the theologians?"

Many members assumed that Eldon Tanner, by dint of his calling, was a spiritual giant. He was not. He and many like him were -and are- woefully ignorant of the scriptures and history of their own religion, and he acknowledged this privately. I think that's notable when we search for the reasons that this Church seems to have drifted off center.

I do not present Unity as Utopia. But to answer a question you posed, I also failed to present an entire list of the types of service the members are involved in. Nor did I explain how the members' contributions are used to assist others, and the importance of financial transparency as key in that church.

Just this past Winter, for instance, Unity partnered with several other churches in the community and provided its facilities as a place to sleep for the homeless in Sacramento. Members were present to feed and offer assistance during these service projects. They were not assigned to participate. They wanted to.

Ican't even imagine our local LDS churches participating in helping people in this way, because approval from Salt Lake would take forever, if it was forthcoming at all.

You may have noticed that the pieces I write are rather long. Had I included a discussion of the services performed by and available through the Sacramento Spiritual Life Center, it would have been a LOT longer.

My account was an attempt to convey the impressions of a first-time Mormon visitor to a Church in which Mormons would be made to feel quite welcome. The fact that my account did not include everything a person could know about Unity does not imply that what I wrote is all there is to know about it.

Tom said...

Doesn't the link between worldly successful leaders in the church start much, much earlier than Tanner? Reed Smoot, back in the early 1900s, was described as being of "little faith" or something like that, yet was called as an Apostle chiefly because of his prominence outside the Church.

Nevertheless, what I'd like to bring to this discussion is perhaps one which focuses on brokered salvation.

If we go back to historic Christianity, this might make some sense:

“You are healed healers, he [Jesus] said, so take the Kingdom to others, for I am not its patron, and you are not its brokers. It is, was, and always will be available to any who want it….Bring a miracle and request a table…”

The phrase “you are not its brokers” stunned me almost as much as the phrase “I am not its patron”. It is almost the exact, egalitarian opposite of everything I’d been taught about the Restoration; we believe we receive the gift of salvation by grace (patronage), and fulfill the purposes of that grace through strict discipline supervised (brokered) by the proper religious authorities and rituals. It was getting the brokers authorized and the rituals right, we think, that the Restoration was all about.

But Crossan is making the argument that “restoring things” (in our terminology) would mean getting back to the Jesus who, for a brief moment, stood against the encrusted religious shell of the established Temple order just as He stood against the encrusted empirical shell of the established political order. The apostasy (again in our terminology) would then have to consist of the very reestablishment of church institutions to broker access to salvation The problem was the existence of brokers, not the correctness of the institutions or rituals they created to facilitate the brokering.


Perhaps the deadening of meetings had its genesis much, much earlier... the minute we started brokering the Kingdom.

Home said...

P.S. Here's another post from a fine blog on this same topic...

http://justandtrue.com/?p=242

His conclusion, borrowed from an analogy Ballard used at a recent multi-stake conference pleading members not to abandon ship when they find something in the church they don't like:

So… my message is simple. Use the church as a vehicle to bring you closer to your ultimate destination, but at the same time, prepare to leave the ship and move forward on your own.

Jean said...

Rock; once again a wonderfully articulated piece of journalism - you just know how to ‘say it’.
You wrote: “Well, I think the only real solution will be for Bishops and Branch Presidents to reclaim their autonomy and begin to serve their members rather than behaving as though their allegiance is to the corporate headquarters in Salt Lake. The corporate institution that is the modern LDS Church operates as though the members exist to serve it, rather than the institution existing to serve the members”.

This is the problem as I see it. Bishops and Branch Presidents have NO autonomy; the CHI is an intimidating tome and is the ‘real bible’ of Bishops and BP’s. They are afraid to upset the apple-cart by going against the Church Handbook of Intimidation. It contains all the rules and regulations that members are to abide by if they want to be in good standing and what obedient bishop would not want to be in good standing?
Why would they be afraid to make a decision based on what their soul, spirit, compassion or empathy tells them?

When we were missionaries in South Africa and had that awful accident on our second day out – we felt zero compassion emanating from our ecclesiastical leader, the mission president. Did he need to check the mission president’s manual to see if he was allowed to give compassion? 'Spiritual Joy' is a term with which the leadership of the church is completely unfamiliar. They know obedience, endurance, belief and obedience; oh, and did I mention obedience?

Out of that whole accident scenario came a lawsuit against the church by me, which of course I could not complete because I am in need of money (hence the lawsuit)and they are not. In the affidavit that came from the church’s lawyers, they claimed that we did not pay the mission back for the initial medical costs incurred by this accident in which we were passengers in the back of the Church owned van. We were in no physical condition to pay at the time and had not even unpacked our suitcases – we were so new.

It takes a long time to put in medical claims to insurance companies, especially when you are seriously injured and requiring more surgery and more physiotherapy etc. We had to borrow from our ward back home to repay mission medical which we did and we have 'absolute proof' of that, yet the affidavit claimed that we didn’t pay it. As soon as my husband’s claim was settled (about 2 years before mine was) my faithful husband repaid our ward the whole amount which was just under $10,000 Canadian. After my failed law suit and the lies that were in the affidavit I wanted evidence that we had paid our ward back too, but the bishop could not go against Salt Lake and print off a copy from the computer. My husband went to the stake president who is a lawyer and he says that this is not unusual when a law suit has taken place. It is over, I got nothing from the church despite my lasting injuries and our faithfulness in staying on our mission and working to the detriment of our health, AND they still will not give us the evidence that they possess that clearly shows that we paid our ward back. If they were willing to lie about our repayment to mission medical, it seems I need proof that we paid our ward back too.

This IS a corporation; not a loving church; not a warm nest. If you have found peace, joy and happiness in another group, that is where you belong. Life is for living, loving and enjoying not attending corporate meetings every Sunday.

andrew said...

if/when this meeting happens, rock, i am determined to find a beer you like :)

@dad,
while the excommunication issue is a valid point, let's not forget how easy it was to regain full fellowship. nothing at all like the long, drawn-out process it is today (you know, just to make sure they've learned their lesson). and that's if you even believe that a confession needs to be brought before an ecclesiastical leader

Aprillium said...

I really wish one of these congregations was near me... SE Idaho kinda sucks in the diversity department.

~Clint~ said...

This statement was already made, but I think a relevant question is: does the Church exist for the people, or do the people exist for the Church?

Growing up in the LDS Church, this is a question that I was not even capable of framing in my own mind. I don't remember where or when I first read something related to this, but I do remember that the concept of a Church that oriented itself to people, seemed at the very least foreign, and probably more like blasphemous.

While I would not claim to know what historical events have caused the extremely high degree of bureaucracy and corporatization present in the LDS Church, I certainly would never deny that it exists, even if it is by way of "The Unwritten Order of Things".

I'm probably like Steven in that too much friendliness (and/or emotion) would make me uncomfortable. At first I would be suspicious of people’s motives (feeling they had some mandate like: "every member a missionary”, or “if you save one soul how great shall be your joy…”) but if I got past that, and felt people were genuine, I’m not sure that wouldn't make me even more uncomfortable.

I personally would probably never want to go to the Church of Unity, but I am a self-acknowledged emotional cripple, so that probably doesn't mean very much.

@Jean, I read your blog a while back (and along with your comment above) it is a very strong confirmation of the corporatism that drives the LDS Church. It is telling to see that the LDS Church handles such things the same way that any (or at least many) large corporation would.

@Dad, in response to the comment at Rock of “What are you smoking? I’d like some.”
I don’t think the Church of Unity would be your best bet for this, perhaps try the Church of Cognitive Therapy, although you might want to bring some munchies for after sacrament.

Rock, care to do a review of a church where you really can answer the question “What are you smoking?” ;-)

Anonymous said...

Interesting thread. I attended a Unity church back in the day once...very impressive. Personally, I enjoy the AUB sacrament services. They are usually conducted by a High Priest, Seventy, or an Elder. I've never seen one conducted by a Bishop since that's not his job. (wonder who came up with that one) The most interesting thing is that pretty much anyone in the congregation may be asked to come up and share some thoughts....it keeps you on your toes and you don't get any prepared talks. They tend to subscribe to the belief/teaching that meetings are to be led by the spirit...not someone reading something out of a publication or off a teleprompter.

Bruce in Montana

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Tom, right you are that the influx of "influential men" started much earlier than the 1960's. Aside from Smoot, the propensity to see those with experience in worldly matters as a way to bring the church into the twentieth century really started to flower in the 1930's.

I use the example of Tanner because I see that time as the point when a definite full-on shift transpired as to what kind of people it took to steer this ship. There is no question that Tanner single-handedly saved the institution from financial ruin, and that made him top dog. Worldly success came to be seen as proof that God smiled upon a man, and men with resume's were the kind the church was looking for.

And that's what they got. Aside from the occasional doctor or similar professional, there's nothing in there but corporate hacks. Not a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker in the lot. Certainly there is no room among the apostles for a lowly fisherman.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Jean, if the general membership ever got hold of a history of how the lawyers in the church treated their own members, they would stop paying into that corrupt institution immediately.

One may still give the benefit of the doubt to the leadership of the church and dismiss criticisms with the line, "they're only human, and their intentions are noble." But the weasels these guys retain to fight their legal battles betray the downright meanness of the institution.

There is no depths to which church lawyers won't go to "defend the Church." They are as mean and nasty as you'll find in any giant corporation. When a member is legitimately harmed in the performance of her duty as you were, and expected no more than the minimum assistance entitled to, it's shocking to learn that these bastards will bend over backwards to make certain they win and you lose. They have no desire to dispense justice, and certainly no mercy.

When this Church(tm)is judged before the Great Barrister, it will be the legal acrobatics it employed against the innocent that will speak most loudly as a witness against it. You definitely can judge a company by it's legal department.

TuNeCedeMalis said...

Great post Rock. Thanks!

Clint, I'd love to attend your "church" for an afternoon.=)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Home,
Thanks for that link to The Fulness. That was a spot-on piece.

And Andrew,
Your "confession" link to LDSA was also very helpful. You've got to to email me and show me how I can embed links into words like that in the comment section. I didn't know it was possible.

Clint,
Our friend Steve is mildly autistic, so that's why an overload of emotion would strike him as just a bunch of unbearable noise. On the other hand, for a self-described emotional cripple like yourself, Unity might be just the ticket. Don't sell yourself short; give it a try.

And as for being suspicious of their motives, I can tell you that all the service in that group is performed by volunteers who WANT to do it. No is assigned, and no one works because they are guilted into feeling they should.

And Dad, Connie and I dragged our butts out of bed this morning and went to Unity (see how my own writing can motivate even me?)and guess what? They're already on top of this Joplin, Missouri thing. There's an assistance project already in the works, and a couple of members are already headed out there to help.

So there.

Sunbeam said...

@ Anon/Sheila, a resident of Valley Center, CA holding the atmosphere which
"fostered by rampant love puts them deeply in-tune with one another, and they often 'sense' each other's needs"
in such high regard as she pities a brother who selflessly works to serve his fellowman in a truly Christlike fashion in their time of need, going so far as to pray for him as he is
"well acclimated to the 'safety' of pure unadulterated sheeplen-ess" is at once both hysterical and sad.
What do they put in the water there in Cali? :)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Bruce, what's AUB? I know I should recognize it but I don't. One of the fundamentalist groups, I presume?

Kudos to them for not putting the bishop in charge of the ward. You're right, that's not his job. I intend to look into how we ever elevated the bishop to chief cook and bottle washer, since it isn't scriptural for him to be the honcho.

I haven't checked, but I'll bet there isn't a Unity within a hundred miles of you in Montana, just as with our poor Aprillium in Idaho. It sucks to be in the great, wide open expanses of nature, don't it?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Sunbeam, I know Sheila personally. She was just giving Dad a gently ribbing.

zo-ma-rah said...

Great post. it wasn't quite what i was expecting. But I guess that leaves room for me to come in and clean house. hahah Just kidding.

That was interesting learning about the Unity church services.

I think ~Clint~'s questions, "does the Church exist for the people, or do the people exist for the Church?" is perhaps not phrased the best it could be. The church IS the people. Now grants the church is a group of people so it might better be phrased, "Does the group of people that is the church exist to help the individual?" In which case I would agree.

As Rock pointed out meetings are so the church can gather and meet with each other. When each person bring their spiritual gifts, be it healing, prophecy, tongues, or whatever; then those people who do not have those gifts can benefit.

The AUB is the Apostolic United Brethren. It's a pluralist organization.

As far as excommunication and creed. The scriptures point out that excommunication is used at times when a person is not repentant.

Eh. That's about all I have for now.

Anonymous said...

Lighten up, Sister Sunbeam, and chase those self-inspired emotional rainclouds away! ;-p Y'all be taking this Pappy-Dad thing a tad too serious here.

About our water here in VC, haven't yet requested a chemical comp of what's flowing from our pipes, but I'm venturing a guess that the water in your City could perhaps use a dash of lithium for a little happy-happy joy-joy!

First paragraph, gentle ribbing. Last two paragraphs, my pure and utter observation/experiential truth (and please note, I left room for folks like "Paps" there to Home Teach with 'love' (or 'Christ-love')...did you note that, or just respond reactively as opposed to rationally? ;-}

Wrapping up here, the first time I noticed the phenom of pure love & service covering the bases adequately sans HT/VT structures was when a friend who had left the LDS church mentioned her delight regarding service in her new church. She said she would barely let a prayer of 'need' leave her lips and a member of her new church would call and say, "The Lord just 'told me' to call you to offer my help. What's up?" She said this was the norm, and since then, in my own experiences/'experiments', I have found this to be true. My 'needs' are met with prayer and people-connection alone. No church service-structure necessary...beautiful!

That was my primary point(along with good-natured ribbing ;-).

Blessings to you and yours,

~Sheila

Sunbeam said...

@ Anon/Sheila, quite rationally as evidenced by my "hysterical" response.

Amazing how sensitive some post-LDSers can be to ribbing even as they expect carte blanche on they're ribs ie calling people sheeple, reactive, emotional, without light, uninspired,...yep, both hysterical and sad.

Ribbing is truly only fun if it is received as well as it is dealt otherwise we must call it by a different name altogether. :)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Now, now, girls. Settle down.

Hugs to both of you.

Anonymous said...

I have never posted, but have followed your blog from some time. I would highly recommend that you look into an old program started by church members called Project Temple. It was a highly spirit based ()program started by members back in the 60's, to prepare inactive LDS members for the temple by teaching them how rejuvenate and worship spiritually. It almost sounds a bit evangelical and became very popular. It was adopted later into the uninspired official temple preparation seminar(the official program removed the emphasis on learning how to be spiritual as part of preparation for the LDS temple experience)and is one of the few programs that started with members not the hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

Ms.Sunbeam, if one's manner of response includes a light-hearted way of examining another's words, is that not 'allowed'? Doesn't the very nature of Rock's blogs inspire a bit of insipidness now and then? Ye Gads, Girl! Where's ye sense of adventure?! ;-p

Me thinks me must've hit a (conscious/unconscious)'precious spot' of yours, and for that, I apologize. But only for (tentatively) 'causing' you some pain, not for purely authentic expression which bears a purely authentic affect of good-natured facetiousness. Tis my style,and believe it or not, something I've prayed about, wondering if it's ok to be 'me'? Yep, it is. Anyway, if it you bugs you, maybe just don't read my posts, ok? I respect your style, though.

I'm not sure what your 'sensitive' reference quite meant, as there's nothing to be sensitive about here, is there? And so you know, I'm not anti-Mormon or anything of that ilk...for Jiminy Cricket's sake, Sunny, my best friend is LDS, and I respect many, many aspects of the LDS faith. Just not all, ya know?... ;-p

So, we cool? In the words of that song from 'Hair', "Let the sun shine! Let the sun shine!" so we can see those Sunbeams once again, for real, Missie.

And let's end this on a "Sheila-style" note below just for sillies, ok?

Me oh my, you are sooooo right, Rock! Gotta settle down, now(tho hadn't realized I 'settled up'! Just havin' fun...sniff sniff...lol). Ya know...dang nabbit...I deserve to be punished for my honesty and light-heartedness here. Please, someone send some of them thar Mormon missionaries over to mah doorway, quick!

Punishment effected. ;-}

Hugs to you and Sunbeam both,

~Sheila

aka said...

Although this is interesting and I have never believed in the 11th article of faith more strongly, to me this is not the most direct way to God.

In D&C 93 we are told:
19 I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.

To me any time we depend on the actions of other people (in any church)to dedicate what and how we worship, the road back to the Father will not be as direct as if we receive the direction from the Holy Ghost.

After pondering on how much of the three hour block is worship and how much is just polite church behavior, I have come up with a way for me to define when the time is worship and when it is not. As you can guess, the vast majority of the three hours I do not consider worship.

That being said, the few moments of worship, brings light and understanding that far outweighs the other time.
You see I feel worship is done on an individual bases. And so is the light that comes from above.

Godspeed to all of us as we find our back.....

jen said...

I can't imagine finding peace in a building... Although your description of the Unity church almost has me convinced...

Dad said...

Rock, Thank you for responding to my earlier Tolstoy-ish post. I sincerely appreciated your article, and let me say again - it moved and motivated me to examine my own approach to worship and how I may inject some life and spirit back in to my own congregation. I did not react in horror over the idea of someone leaving to go elsewhere, I promise! :)

I DID read Part I of your essay and let me clarify my opinion. I am in support and agreement with the notion that our meetings have become too mechanical and sometimes oppressively boring. My disagreement with you is more about trying to solve the issue by going to another church, which will likely cycle through the same problems as any other ward or congregation if you wait long enough.

Rather than leave, I wish good and thinking people would stay and build Zion where they are. Or if it's a Unity Church, build the love where they are. The point is, I want to encourage people of this mindset to stay if they can see an opportunity to effect a change. I understand that some may feel the need to find another place that is more compatible, but to them I say have the proper expectations – there is no Utopia. People are people.

I see your connection between the corporatization of the church which you believe has trickled down to the local levels. I see how it is possible that business leaders have been selected to be the heads of congregations, rather than theologians. I disagree that there is a causal relationship. Are they mutually exclusive? Can’t a successful businessman also be a theologian, a thinker, led by the Spirit? I've seen it. I do however, concede that N. Eldon Tanner was the dullest of the dull GC speakers. I usually cringed, rolled my eyes and tried to sleep when he came to the pulpit. ;)

I knew your investigation into the Unity Church would have uncovered the charitable work being done. I wanted to hear more about it. We don’t do enough of that at the local level. We should learn from them and work with them. I do know of at least one Bishop and Stake President who routinely join up with other non-LDS congregations in our community to raise funds, food and supplies for various causes. In my area at least, it is changing quickly for the better in that regard. I applaud them. LDS wards can and do autonomous good works without waiting for SLC to approve.

@Anonymous (Sheila?) I like the picture you paint of a love-centered church or group. I believe they are relatively common and I concede that HT/VT structures can feel forced. However, despite the tight-knit nature of these love-centered groups, there is still a likelihood that fringe members who don’t fit in will slip away unnoticed and un-served. The wisdom in HT/VT is that we are often matched with people we would never associate with in our normal circles. We have an opportunity to love people that are hard to love as well as the ones we have much in common with. This kind of organizing reduces the possibility that someone will be missed.

Real love, real charity is hard work. It rarely comes easy. One of the best things about organizing that way is learning to love as Jesus did – unconditionally. Loving people different from you, not just those you get along with.

And BTW, I smiled at your 'sheeple' label. But I certainly don't feel safe or well-acclimated in my sheepleness. ;)

@Andrew – Great point. The return process is difficult. No question in my mind that the entire process of formal confession, disfellowshipment, excommunication and re-baptism is over-engineered. But then, my idea of what actually should be confessed is probably very different from most.

@Clint – Munch ‘n Mingle sounds far out to me, man.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Anonymous at 8:23,
That sounds like an interesting program. Started from the grass roots and then accepted by the institution. Not the kind of thing the Church encourages today.

I got an email not long ago regarding a member, very TBM, who started a little study group in his home because he and some friends thought it would be nice to expand their understanding of the gospel, church history, etc. Took their information straight out of the Seminary manual too, just to make sure they weren't drifting from authorized sources.

Well, the local leadership put the kibosh on that right away. Not an approved church program. You're not allowed to study the gospel with friends in your own home, apparently, and if you do, the Church will shut it down.

Today, the young Joseph Smith would catch all kinds of hell for reading the bible in the woods instead of attending his meetings.

The Church Handbook of Instruction (or as Jean above puts it the Handbook of Intimidation) makes it clear the corporate church is very concerned about extracurricular activities it cannot control.

Hey buddy, you got a license for that triple combination?

Home said...

Rock:

I thought I might share something with you. Someone, recently, has introduced me to Crossan's book entitled "The Historical Jesus." In that book (supposedly, as I have not yet read it), Crossan argues (using our terminology) that the apostasy happened (and happens) because we restrict the flow of the Spirit, no matter how well intentioned we might be.

“You are healed healers, he [Jesus] said, so take the Kingdom to others, for I am not its patron, and you are not its brokers. It is, was, and always will be available to any who want it….Bring a miracle and request a table…”

The phrase “you are not its brokers” stunned me almost as much as the phrase “I am not its patron”. It is almost the exact, egalitarian opposite of everything I’d been taught about the Restoration; we believe we receive the gift of salvation by grace (patronage), and fulfill the purposes of that grace through strict discipline supervised (brokered) by the proper religious authorities and rituals. It was getting the brokers authorized and the rituals right, we think, that the Restoration was all about.

But Crossan is making the argument that “restoring things” (in our terminology) would mean getting back to the Jesus who, for a brief moment, stood against the encrusted religious shell of the established Temple order just as He stood against the encrusted empirical shell of the established political order. The apostasy (again in our terminology) would then have to consist of the very reestablishment of church institutions to broker access to salvation. The problem was the existence of brokers, not the correctness of the institutions or rituals they created to facilitate the brokering.


If that's the case, then it's without question that the LDS church is in apostasy...because many (if not most) of the rules we create (and are creating) are designed and implemented as restrictions to the flow of the Spirit - be it in-home study groups, who can/cannot participate in baby blessings, who can/cannot speak at church, who can/cannot pray in church, and on down the line.

It's an interesting thought...and one we might want to investigate a little further.

Anonymous said...

"Dad", you're a darned good sport!

And I was/am in complete agreement with the intended efficacy of HT/VT...sometimes, though, it just felt as if something got lost in the translation, that's all. And yes, a well-constucted church will have an outreach program of some sort in place for the 'lost' and forlorn, and they go by many names.

I really enjoyed your intelligently and articulately-written commentary, by the way. You leave no stone unturned! (even if they are a little moldy...juuuuuuuuust kiiiiiiiiiiiidding, Daddio! ;-p

~Sheila

(and I really have no desire or need to be 'anon'...I just don't have a google acct. or other hook-ups. How does one do that?)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Dad,
We are certainly in agreement there. I too wish and hope people will stay and build Zion. (As for me, I'm still not an active participant either in my home ward or at Unity at the moment, but that has largely to do with my wife's medical condition. So someone else will have to build Zion until I get back.)

I've re-read my post and can see how I might have come off so enthusiastically about Unity that I probably gave the impression that I believe this model will be our salvation. That's not what I intended to convey.

I have heard, though, from members and former members who have sought out other churches to fill that niche they feel is missing from our worship services. My friend Mike, whose conversation I share at the beginning of part one, is a perfect example. Things did not work out for Mike in the long run at the church where he thought he had found what he was looking for.

Invariably, when the members of these other denominations learn that their visitor is a Mormon, and worse, a BELIEVING Mormon, they try to change them. Or ostracize them, or eventually want nothing to do with them. We Mormons are, after all, the devil's spawn, in case you haven't heard.

What I find refreshing about Unity is they don't care if you're LDS. Come on in, the more the merrier. They don't want to change you.

So for those devout Latter-day Saints who are looking for an experience they are not currently getting, or for those who are drawn to a worship service that includes real musical instruments and expressions of joy, I recommend they try Unity before they wander into some other venue that judges them unrighteously and despises them for their convictions.

I would hope these people stay LDS. I certainly don't intend to abandon my religion. Still, I think we're so conditioned that attendance at our meetings is absolutely essential to our salvation that we are reluctant to even test the waters at other churches for fear we will be captured and neutralized.

Yes, many will wander away for good, but look how many are leaving anyway. Better they find a spiritual home that's not so judgmental as others. Unity seems to me to reflect the libertarian outlook of our own religion in the Missouri-Nauvoo period. If you gotta go somewhere, might as well go there. A guy could do worse.

By the way, my comment about how we should not be horrified when someone chooses another mode of worship was not directed in response to anything you said. I meant it as a general statement aimed at a common point of view I often encounter, and I should have made that clear when I wrote it.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Sheila, and others,
When you post a comment, all you have to do is go to the drop down menu to Name/URL. Put your name in the "name" box, and ignore the box for the URL. Voila! You are now Sheila, and no longer anonymous.

Sheeple-less Sheila ;-p said...

Ahhhhh...thanks mucho!

Anonymous said...

That's great if a Church can become rich, but I'd be happier & safer attending some little white chapel down the road that really did what God intended Churches to do, protect women & children from abuse.

As Pres. Hinckley said, 'that' is our Church's #1 responsibility to focus on, not making money.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Church generally protects abusers instead of those who are abused.

And without this protection for especially women & children, the Church is disintegrating as rampantly as it's marriages & families, despite it's huge bank accounts, which by the way, will never save it.

Dad said...

Rock, I too went back and re-read my first post. Kinda wish I could be like a GA and go back and edit my "conference talk" for the final printed version. I'd make it a LOT shorter and a little less snarky.

@Sheeple-less Sheila (the author formerly known as Anonymous): No moldy stones unturned? Pffff! They're not moldy. I prefer to call them seasoned. Experienced. Classic.

Anonymous said...

Rock: yes, Project Temple was a very interesting program. How often do you hear an LDS program that is advised to have, "No long announcements, no dry speakers"? The whole goal of the meetings was to provide inactive members with a heightened spiritual experience. The program recommends having prayer during the meetings by someone who offer a "heartfelt prayer." it also asked that, "Absolutely do not segregate 'leaders' or 'actives' from the students." "SPIRITUALITY: The Instructor's overall job is really to help these people get in tune with the spirit."

On a different note: One of the things that has always bothered me in sacrament meetings is the Bishop receiving the sacrament first (a practice started as of May of 1946, by a letter sent out by the first presidency at the time, George A. Smith [pres.]J. Reuben Clark and David O. McKay). The purpose? "It is the duty of the Priest officiating to determine who is the presiding authority present: thus, whenever the sacrament is administered, members of the Aaronic Priesthood officiating will have a lesson in Church government" (Aaronic Priesthood Handbook 1947, 65-66). The Church needs less leaders, who have more authority the higher they climb, and more servants. We need to scrap the idea that Christ is at the head of the Church and replace it with Christ at the feet,willing to help wash us. bishops, stake presidents, G. A., apostles and prophets are not above members but should be seen as servants of the members. The sacrament itself has become dry. Where is our communal meal where members gather as a family? Where we share our food, in celebration or simply to remind ourselves that we are not alone. I have been to after church potlucks that are more up lifting, warm and sacramental, without rubbing of chain of chain of command in members faces. If Christ was to come to either a sacrament meeting or a pot luck, I think he'd choose the potluck.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for pinpointing the origin of the practice of serving the bishop first. It sounds like the original instructions were pretty benign, but they apparently didn't point out that the presiding authority in the meeting was one of the elders, not the bishop. Looks like the practice took hold in error from the get-go.

This church should have no VIP's, but this tradition of the deacons serving the Bishop first before anyone else gets the tray passed to them has created a hierarchy on the local level.

There's no question the bishop is seen as an authority figure. Being called to the bishop's office is akin to being called to the principal's office. Your friends wonder what trouble you're in.

This sacrament practice tells everyone that the bishop is more important than anyone else. It goes much further than simply respecting the office. Why else should every one else be required to postpone the taking of the Lord's sacrament, if the Lord does not want you to kowtow to the Grand High Master of the ward?

zo-ma-rah said...

We have but to look at the Kirtland temple to realize that in any congregation there are two "presiding officials": The Elder's Quorum President and the Bishop. Both sitting on opposite sides of the room.

Lynn said...

Wow! What an uplifting article! Your experience at the Unity service was like what I used to experience at an Inter-denominational Church called the Fellowship of the Inner Light, at Virginia Beach, VA. Singing with a real band, meditation, a spiritual message,and fellowship. Each service started with the singing of the "Great Invocation". It was like Unity, and all were welcome, no matter what your belief was. We had Jews, New Agers, Native Americans, Christians, and even pagans. The church was near the ocean front, so it was very casual, and people came in shorts, jeans, sweats, even bathing suits, because people would just walk in from the beach. That was back in the 80's.

Then, in the 90's a more conservative leadership took over, to get a more-moneyed crowd in. And the spirit went right out the window, along with the casual, carefree, hippie atmosphere. I guess you could say a "corporate spirit" took over. I was sad to see that happen.

Dave P. said...

I'm not quite done catching up on all of the comments, but I can name one successful businessman who became a prophet: Lehi. However, he proved that his heart was set upon God first as he sacrificed all of his material wealth to flee into the wilderness.

It's not a sin to be rich, but for those who put their riches or desire for worldly power over the things of God... yeah, there's the problem.

Michael S. Keeney said...

Rock,

Great article! I was telling a friend of mine that what I appreciate most about your blog is your ability to motivate your readers to at least think outside the box of so-called mainstream Mormonism. That is what I appreciate most and why I keep coming back.

I regard to an earlier poster referencing the AUB, I believe that is a reference to Apostolic United Brethren, which I believe is currently headquartered somewhere near Draper, Utah. They're one of the fundamentalist groups. I've heard, in passing, that others have attended their sacrament meetings and found them to be overwhelmingly uplifting.

I didn't know if you'd taken a look at the comments connected to that Deseret News article regarding the Zion's Bank branch. I found a couple of them to be laugh-out-loud hilarious.

I extend to you best wishes for the recovery of your wife.

Anonymous said...

zo-ma-rah:"We have but to look at the Kirtland temple..." however they all received the sacrament together, unlike today where church authorities receive it first. You might be surprised to learn that the Kirtland temple was originally just a chapel, only later after Nauvoo temple was built was it called such. (see Joseph's references in his journals. The Church has forgotten this and in some cases removed references to it being called a chapel. For example see J. S. papers project, Journals vol.1 page 167 compared to page 164 in Church History in fulness of times student manual where it is quoted. I think it would be amazing if we tried to modeled our sacrament meetings after those held in the Kirtland Chapel?

Rock: not all of the Church handbooks are controlling, but rather it was a trend that took place around the 60's. Number 19 allows for (although discourages)a nonmember father to stand in the circle and hold his child when it is blessed, p.63. Now it is common for bishops (at least in my experience)to ask for temple recommends of participants(although not required in the current handbook).

On a different note, I would like to hear your your opinion on women and the priesthood. I know the community of Christ now has women with priesthood. Joseph F. Smith is quoted as saying that during his time, that although women don't have the priesthood if requested she could "with perfect propriety" lay hands on the sick with someone who does and that "it is no uncommon thing for a man and wife unitedly to administer to their children" (A to Gospel questions vol.1 p149). The reason I ask is that in the D&C it mentions that passing out the sacrament is a duty of deacons, but if a duty why can't women/girls trade off with the deacons occasionally? Your thoughts?

Christine said...

How timely your article was! I was just at a Unity church on Saturday night for my son's music recital and I felt so comfortable and at home there. I started reading the hymnal and thought to myself that I could go to a church like this. The feeling in there was one of love and acceptance. After reading your article, my husband and I are going to check it out.
Thanks for that!

Rock Waterman said...

My thoughts on women and the priesthood are not yet fully formed, but I take a libertarian view of most things. Certainly a woman should not fret about there not being a priesthood holder around when she needs one, and channel the power of God already within her. A lot of what we call "priesthood authority" these days has been misconstrued.

It's worth noting that in the early LDS church, deacons were usually grown men, and there was no shortage of deacons around, so it seems entirely appropriate to me that the sacrament be one of his duties. But that is a "duty" of the deacon, not so much an "authority" question, I would think.

zo-ma-rah said...

@ Anonymous 4:16 PM

I agree that they all took the sacrament together. And I mean no offense, but it actually comes as no surprise to me that the Kirtland Temple functioned more as a chapel. I've discussed in some of my articles the other functions of the Kirtland Temple. It also functioned as a civic and cultural center. Likewise the temples in Zion will function in the same way including religious, cultural, and civic purposes. I believe that the L-DS practice of building temples exclusively of sacred ordinances is a move away from the true purpose of temples.

Additionally, again I do not mean to offend, but D&C does not mention deacons passing the sacrament,that I'm aware of. It does however specifically bar them from "administering" the sacrament. If administering includes passing, then it is exclusively the responsibility of Priest or Elders. If it does not include passing then there is no reason why any member of the congregation should not be able to do so.

My hypothesis is that "passing" as a duty at all, much less priesthood duty, is a more modern construct. Perhaps intermediaries between the Priests/Elders who bless the sacrament and the congregation is unnecessary. That once the sacrament is blessed it may be handled by anyone.

I agree with Rock. Most if not all of the important things do not require priesthood. Healing, prophesying, speaking in tongues, etc require only faith NOT priesthood.

On a side not the Book of the Law of the Lord translated by James J. Strange includes women as Priests, and Teachers. As Priests the women were included as part of the "Singers"(A rank of priests included in Old Testament Temple worship). A woman is included in all levels of teacher, Doctor, Rabbi, and Rabboni.

Rock Waterman said...

I stand corrected on the deacon thing, Zamorah, and defer to your superior knowledge on such matters. What you say about the sacrament being permitted to be handled by anyone after being "administered" certainly makes a lot of sense to me.

BTW, to those of you unfamiliar with Zomarah's blog, he is one of the unparalleled experts on the early LDS temples, what they were used for, and how their use today bears little resemblance to the early days. Check out his blog:

http://zomarah.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/i-love-to-see-the-temple-part-1/

Anonymous said...

Why would there be any 'spiritual' difference between a Prophet & a Prophetess, or a Priest & a Priestess, or a Father & Mother.

I think we still have alot to learn about women & their totally equal power, position & privileges.

Anonymous said...

Articulate! Intelligent! Thought provoking! And most of all, uplifting!

I especially like how you didn't just stop at the problem, but also offered a solution; one you personally experienced and that was beneficial to you--basically, you gave us your testimony!

I left the LDS fold more than a decade ago and now I'm completely indifferent towards that organization. I wasn't born LDS though. At age 15, I chose to be baptized a Mormon (in Catholic Italy nonetheless), because of the more profoundly spiritual teachings the LDS had to offer.

16 years of strong membership later (did my mission, went to the Temple, paid my Tithing, did my fasts and my prayers) I was now left confused because what I still believed was no longer what I attended. It was gone. And when I finally came to that realization, it was indeed a very sad day for me. But church or no church, I had to stay true to myself and my spiritual yearning.

Today, I continue to be a very spiritual person. I established a very personal and intimate spiritual relationship with the Divine, and in response I feel more at peace and serene. But something is still missing. It's the "camaraderie" element that only a congregation can provide.

I will most definitely look into the Church of Unity and hope to find my new home there.

Again, thank you!

Fabio

Steve said...

Reading Sunbeam's comments made me think of the Savior's visit to the Nephites. What would have happened to them and us if the children had gone to Nursery/Primary? We would have lost out on some of the greatest miracles ever witnessed and recorded.

Sunbeam said...

"This sacrament practice tells everyone that the bishop is more important than anyone else. It goes much further than simply respecting the office. Why else should every one else be required to postpone the taking of the Lord's sacrament, if the Lord does not want you to kowtow to the Grand High Master of the ward?"

This statement reflects an ignorance of the sacrifice made by not only a bishop but his entire family.

It shows not only a lack of gratitude for this service but shows the wisdom in David O McKay's instruction.

President David O McKay quote:
There is one other point which might be associated with the passing of the sacrament. It is a beautiful, impressive thing to have our boys administer it. They are the servants; they are waiting upon the Lord; and have come there because they are worthy to officiate if the bishop has spoken to them properly. ". . . be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." (Isaiah 52:11.) If every deacon could sense this, quietly and with dignity he would pass the sacrament to us.

Sunbeam said...

cont.

The Aaronic Priesthood bearer should carry the sacrament to the presiding officer, not to honor him, but the office, as you would honor the presidents of the Church. That presiding officer may be the bishop of the ward; if so, let the young man carry the sacrament first to the bishop. After that, pass it to one after the other who sit either on the left or the right of the presiding officer, not going back to the first and second counselors and then to the superintendent. The lesson is taught when the sacrament is passed to the presiding officer. The next Sunday the president of the stake may be there, who is then the highest ecclesiastical authority Do you see what the responsibility of the deacons and the priests is? There is a lesson in government taught every day. It is their duty to know who is the presiding officer in that meeting that day. Next Sunday there may be one of the general authorities. Those young men will have in mind the question, "Who is here today, and who is the presiding authority?"



In our FFA meetings in jr high school we learned parliamentary procedure which ensures civilized
government of meetings.

It is this type of government that is referenced in this instruction which does respect the office not the person.

Very timely instruction and we would be wise to ponder the implications to society of it's failure to grasp this simple concept.

Anonymous said...

It is perplexing why Bishops, etc., (men) are honored 1st before the women or the Relief Society Pres.

God has always instructed men to honor women 1st & give to them '1st' all blessings, rights privileges & power & honor they the men would want for themselves.

Though I revere & practically worship truly righteous men, it seems to me that God would want to honor the women of the congregation 1st, because of their great sacrifices, as wives & mothers, which are usually far greater than even a Prophet's sacrifice.

Bishops & Stake Presidents & all other Church leaders are just servants to the people, who must prove their righteousness by how they protect & care for the members of their ward.

Spektator said...

In regards to the administration of the sacrament, I would suggest people re-read 3 Nephi, chapter 18, where we find a description of the institution of the sacrament by the Savior among the Nephites. The twelve disciples were first given bread and wine until they were filled. Then the disciples took the sacrament to the multitude. If this practice were followed today, the bishop and other leaders would partake of the sacrament then they would give the sacrament to the congregation.

This approach would fulfill the responsibility given to the disciples ( 3 Nephi 12:1 ) to be the servants to the members of the church. In like manner, it was Christ that washed the feet of the apostles in the meridian of time.

As a reminder, when the sacrament was completed, Christ told the disciples and the multitude that anything 'more or less than these are not built upons my rock.' I would suggest that the 'creative license' we have employed in the administration of the sacrament is building on a sandy foundation.

ldsanarchy said...

Spek,

As I read that chapter, the instructions given by the Savior were to have the one that was to be ordained, to break bread, bless it and give it to the CHURCH, even as the Savior broke bread, blessed it and gave it to the DISCIPLES. So, I don't see any instructions to have any priesthood holders eat/drink first and then give it to the church. Instead, I see that one priesthood holder is to break bread, bless it and give it to everyone in the church. One is to serve the many. There is nothing in that chapter that shows that Jesus partook of the bread or wine first or even at all, so if we follow the pattern exactly as Jesus showed it, the elder or priest who administers the sacrament will not partake of it, but will merely break, bless and pass out the bread and wine to the entire congregation, first the bread until all are filled, and then the wine until all are filled.

(As the elder or priest administering the sacrament is also a member of the church, I see no problem with him partaking of the sacrament, but if anything, I would say that he would be the very last person of the congregation to partake and be filled, not the first person.)

Sorry, Rock, for going off-topic.

LDS Anarchist

zo-ma-rah said...

Spektator. I'll agree with you on the giving the twelve disciples first. But I don't think that necessarily extends to the Bishop or a Stake President. Or any other official.

I have to disagree with David McKay, "Those young men will have in mind the question, 'Who is here today, and who is the presiding authority?'."

Three reasons. First, Young men does not equal deacons. Scripturally and historically Deacons were not limited to a certain age, in fact most were adult males.

Second, I already mentioned, Deacons don't have authority to "pass"(administer) the sacrament, "passing"(not administering) is open to all membership, or "passing" itself is a non-scriptural modern construct.

Third, Deacons (and everyone else) should be examining their relationship with Christ during the sacrament, not playing "Presiding Authority Bingo." (although that's not a bad idea. Hahaha)

Spektator said...

LDSA,
I can understand why Christ would not partake of the sacrament, just as he did not participate in the (re)baptism of the disciples. How do you do something in memory of yourself???

Verse three and four seem to indicate that the 12 disciples ate and drank first then extended the bread and wine to the multitude. If we assume the one stands in place of the Savior, given He blessed and broke the bread, I would suggest that the pattern has the first 'filling' going to the disciples. Can I extrapolate that to the bishop? Kinda...

As far as the 'one' is concerned, I do understand how you could restrict the administration to one person. I was on a similar bent but after reading Moroni 4:1, I backed off:

"THE manner of their elders and priests administering the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church; and they administered it according to the commandments of Christ; wherefore we know the manner to be true; and the elder or priest did minister it—..."

Here we have the elders and priests (plural) administering the sacrament to the church - in accordance with the commandments of Christ. One elder or priest would recite the prayer with elders and priests administering to the the members.

Z,
The Book of Mormon is consistent with D&C 20 in terms of priests and elders involvement (administration) in the sacrament - no deacons allowed. I would say the wheels came off the wagon before McKay.

My apologies also relative to this hijack. I did a blog on the sacrament a few weeks ago if it would make sense to kick us out...

zo-ma-rah said...

Spek. Yes I agree with you on the consistency. I should have clarified, my McKay comments where part of my reply to you. I'll agree with you again that stuff was happening long before McKay.

Anyway, how 'bout dem Bears?

Spektator said...

Z,
Which Bears? Cal or Chi?

ldsanarchy said...

Spek,

I used to think as you do, that the elders partook first and then gave to the congregation, but now I don't. Let me explain...

Here is the scripture:

"And when the multitiude (congregation) had eaten and were filled, he said unto the [12] disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you [12 disciples], and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people (congregation) of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name. And this shall ye [the 12 disciples] always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you [12 disciples]."

Now here is how I would expound the above:

All 12 disciples had priesthood authority to administer the sacrament, however only one of them was to be "ordained" to administer it. It was the people who "ordained" the one through their keys of the church, meaning the law of common consent, by vote (see D&C 20: 63-66). Whichever of these priesthood holders who was chosen to administer the sacrament by the vote of the congregation, now had both set of keys activated: both priesthood keys and church keys. This man was then fully authorized to administer the sacrament. After the congregation had ordained (chosen) the "one," Jesus states that He would give power to this "one" to do three things: break bread, bless it and give it (pass it) TO THE CHURCH. This was to be done following the example of Christ, as He did the very same thing to the 12.

The scripturse themselves define the word "administer", in Moro. 4 and 5, in D&C 20 and in 3 Ne. 18. These scriptures state: "the manner of administering"... and then they say what administering consists of. Moro. 4 and 5 and D&C 20 only define the blessing part of administering, but 3 Ne. 18 also explains that administering also consisted of breaking bread and giving it (or passing it, as we would say today.)

So, the instuctions of the Savior are very specific, namely that only one of the 12 was to be ordained (meaning chosen by the congregation by vote to administer the sacrament) even though all 12 had priesthood authority to do so. Then that man was to do three things with the bread: break it, bless it and pass it out to the congregation, until they were filled; and two things with the wine: bless it and pass it out to the congregation until they were filled.

So, there wasn't just one person in the entire church who had priesthood authority to administer the sacrament, but a body of "elders and priests" who had this authority, which is why Moroni states in Moroni 4: 1 "the manner of their elders and priests (plural) administering the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church." Nevertheless, Moroni continues by saying in the same verse, "and the elder or priest (singular) did administer it." A body of elders and priests held priesthood to administer the sacrament, but when it came down to the actual administering it, only one of them in any congregation was voted to act as Christ and break, bless and give out bread and wine to all.

Moroni further says that "they adiministered it according to the commandments of Christ." His commandments were to give it TO THE CHURCH, not to the presiding priesthood authority, and also that only one was to do this to the entire congregation.

This means that the singular Catholic priest who administers the eucharist to his entire congregation is actually performing the rite closer to the original instructions than we are, at least in this particular.

LDS Anarchist

Spektator said...

LDSA,
Not sure I am ready to accept the idea that it was by common consent that dictated which singular disciple had the power to administer the sacrament. While common consent has it's place in the church, I wouldn't automatically assume it applies here.

The easy way for me to reconcile Moroni 4 and 2 Nephi 18 is to assume that only one person would be responsible at a time to bless the bread and wine. It could be a different elder or priest each time. It also appears that the 'elders and priests' participated in some way in the ordinance. Either they helped administer the sacrament or women/children weren't partakers leaving only the priests and elders. I prefer the former.

I am not steadfast in the idea that the disciple were to be 'filled' first, especially in light of the lack of such direction in the statement in Moroni. I do like the symbolism of Christ blessing the emblems, feeding the disciples (servants) and the servants then serving the multitude.

Comments made in this blog entry are subject to further light and knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Rock, I'm curious, if you were in charge what would you have the LDS church service look like? I know you have mentioned the Unitarian service, but what would bring back into the LDS tradition and what would it be like?

-SufferingSaint

ldsanarchy said...

Spek said, "It could be a different elder or priest each time."

Here is how I see it possibly happening. A group of saints would gather to partake of the sacrament. The elders would be asked to announce themselves by a show of hands. If nobody raised their hands, the priests would be asked to show themselves present by a raising of hands. Once it was determined that there were elders present (or priests, if there were no elders present), a call for a volunteer elder (or priest) to administer would go forth. There might be several volunteer elders that would raise their hands. Then the church would take a vote as to which elder (or priest) was to administer the sacrament.

Once the elder (or priest) was chosen, he would break, bless and give out bread to everyone (including himself) until filled, then do the same with the wine. The singular, one-serving-many nature of the ordinance would serve to point their minds even more to Christ.

Each time the saints gathered to partake of the sacrament, a different elder or priest could be ordained (chosen), so the ordination was not something permanent, but just for that occasion.

This would also explain why Christ said, "there shall one be ordained among you" and not "I shall ordain one among you." The call of ordination would come from the body of believers, by vote, and not from Christ, and would vary each time the sacrament was partaken.

Okay, I think I'm done with this topic. Thanks for bringing it up, Spek. It has been stimulating.

LDSA

Inspire said...

Wow, this is an interesting debate regarding the sacrament. I can't wait to see how 3 Ne 18:38 is worked into the conversation:
"And I give you these commandments because of the disputations which have been among you. And blessed are ye if ye have no disputations among you."

Anonymous said...

3 Ne 18:38? "And it came to pass that when Jesus had touched them all, there came a cloud and overshadowed the multitude that they could not see Jesus"? I don't disagree with Inspire, I can't wait to see how it fits as well. Why don't you enlighten us? ;)

-SufferingSaint

ldsanarchy said...

Inspire has a good point.

Is this conversation that Spek and I have been having considered a disputation? If so, does this mean that the instructions that Jesus gave were insufficiently clear?

Here we have two people looking at the same texts and coming up with two entirely different procedures for the rite. Can it really be this hard to come to an agreement on instructions that were designed to end arguments over how it was to be done?

I had thought to end this topic but I'll take it up again and explore it further and maybe Spek and I can come to some agreement over it, fulfilling the word of the Lord.

The 12 disciples went around preaching and baptizing the people (see 3 N. 27: 1). This means that they held the office of either Aaronic priest or elder after the order of Melchizedek, either one of which offices had sufficient priesthood authority to administer the sacrament. Therefore, the saying of the Lord that "there shall one be ordained among you" could not have been referring to ordination to a priesthood office, such as the office of elder or priest, as all 12 of them held one or the other office when they went forth ministering to the people. So, the Lord cannot have beeen talking of a priesthood ordination, meaning an ordination to a priesthood office or a bestowal of one or the other priesthoods. He must have been talking of something else.

If you look up the word "ordain," you'll find seven shades of meaning, one of which is "to appoint to a duty." So, the Lord could have meant, "there shall be one appointed to this duty among you." We moderns tend to think of the word "ordain" as meaning only priestood ordination, but Joseph utilized Bible English for the Book of Mormon and so this word may not be referring to a priesthood ordination, at all, but merely to an appointment to a duty. But who is doing the appointment?

[To be continued in the next comment]

LDSA

ldsanarchy said...

D&C 20: 63-65 says that elders are to receive their licenses by vote of the church to which they belong and that no person is to be ordained without the vote of that church. This is an eternal principle (the law of common consent) therefore it must have been in effect during the times of the Nephite church. So, the one who was to be ordained among the 12 had to have the vote of the congregation he pertained to. But this must have been an appointment to a duty, not a priesthood ordination, for they already, as elders/priests, had authority to administer the sacrament. In other words, the one receiving the ordination to administer the sacrament could not have been receiving additional priesthood authority to do so, nevertheless, it was additional authorization. From what source did the authorization come from? It must have come from the vote of the congregation in the exercise of their church keys.

Finally, Jesus states explicitly that the one who is ordained is to administer the sacrament to the people of the church. Not just to the 12 disciples, nor to any other select few, but to "all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name."

Now I realize that you are stuck on verse 5 and that you feel that verse 5 is attempting to teach a sacrament disbursement pattern of Jesus-to-12-to-all, but verse 5 does no such thing. If Jesus meant to teach such a pattern (which goes against the instruction given to the one ordained, who was to administer the sacrament to all), He would have said the following instead:

"And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done AND YE HAVE DONE, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you, AND YE HAVE GIVEN IT UNTO THE MULTITUDE."

In other words, Jesus would have included the acts of the 12 as part of His pattern to follow. But He didn't. The pattern He gave as instruction was the pattern of the One serving the many, not the One serving the few who then serve the many. The object lesson was, "Just as I have prepared and blessed a meal and acted as your waiter, serving each of you this meal, so one of you will do the same to the entire congregation." His instructions to them to give to the multitude after they had partaken of the bread and wine was just a training exercise, to get them to understand that they would be doing this very thing when He was gone, even serving the people in this manner. It was not meant to be a pattern to follow, otherwise he would have included it into his saying in verse 5.

Okay, I think I'll rest my case now.

LDSA

Steven Lester said...

What does the phrase, "until they are (were) filled" mean? Does this mean spiritually filled, or physically filled? If spiritually filled specifically, than perhaps one tiny, little, piece of baked white flour that has all of the nutrients bleached out of it might be enough for the basic human soul. If physically filled, than that tiny piece of bread wouldn't satisfy a bird, much less a human being, unless he or she were dieting that day. Does this imply that we should have giant rounds of bread baked every time we do the Sacrament thing and that each person gets a large chuck of bread instead? And the same with the wine, or at the least, grape juice? Everybody could walk up to the spray-top dispenser and fill their cup full? With a ward chapel filled with 300-400 people in some cases, mightn't this be kind of hard to accomplish in an hour and ten minutes and still get in a speech or two, or even a choir song? Please advise, because I don't know the answer myself.

Jusitn said...

"With a ward chapel filled with 300-400 people in some cases, mightn't this be kind of hard to accomplish in an hour and ten minutes and still get in a speech or two, or even a choir song?"

The pattern given in the scriptures calls into question the current structure of the church as large wards of unrelated persons meeting for three, one-hour meeting blocks.

Instead of letting the scriptures dictate how we should meet -- we usually take a look at how we are meeting together and say, "Well it would be impractical for 300 people to eat and be physically filled, so it must mean spiritually filled." Etc.

Maybe things could start by wards not being so large.

Jusitn
ldsanarchy

Spektator said...

Inspire,
I assume you were refering to 3 Nephi 11:28 concerning disputations. Here is my perspective. Many of the great revelations have come out of questions. The Lord did say that we are not to have disputations among us, yet just a few chapters later in 3 Nephi, chapter 27, we find the disciples fasting and praying to resolve a disputation among the people as to what the church should be called.

What transpired out of that disputation was one of the most important sermons of the entire body of scripture; the Lord gave the criteria for the church and He gave the most complete definition of the gospel found anywhere.

I try to follow that example. Where there are discussions about scriptural topics, I feel a need to test my ideas and listen to the responses. I will then make it a matter of prayer. Many times I have changed my current perception because of the other perspectives presented to me in the interchange.

I truly value the thoughts and ideas of LDSA and others. It helps me to 'vet' my own ideas and formulate my questions in my study and communication with God.

So... perhaps we should have a disputation about what constitutes a disputation.

Spektator said...

Steven,
How does one become 'filled' with the ordinance of the sacrament? What if it does mean both spiritually and physically. It doesn't directly call this out in 3 Nephi 18 but I would suggest that the bread and wine brought back by the disciples was not adequate to 'normally' fill the estimated 2500 people that had gathered for the occasion. What if this was another miracle of the loaves as Christ demonstrated during his ministry?

If we are to follow the guidelines of the Lord (no more and no less) are we to expect a miracle of the loaves each time we administer the sacrament? Possibly. I would expect that would boost attendance at sacrament meeting. But seriously, we can't expect miracles to occur among the Church of Christ to occur on a regular basis.

The one description I found of the early implementation of the sacrament is this from a description of the School of the Prophets:

"The students usually fasted during the day and broke their fast before leaving for home by partaking of the sacrament together, eating some bread (often freshly baked, about the size of a man’s fist according to Zebedee Coltrin), and drinking a glass of wine, in harmony with the pattern practiced by Jesus and his disciples."

Spektator said...

LDSA,
Thanks for your comments. I do see how your description can reconcile 3 Nephi 18 and the other scriptures dealing with the sacrament. I do feel a strong desire to have the sacrament properly administered in my circumstances. I want to follow the word of the Lord with exactness, I just can't see clearly enough to accomplish that without help.

Now. back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Inspire said...

I'll admit that the comment was made partly tongue-in-cheek, (although I was curious to see everyone's thoughts on 3 Ne 18:38). My take on it is this... the Savior gave some specific instructions on a few aspects of the sacrament. Moroni and Mormon clarified a few other things. Joseph Smith added some more. Right now, I'm strictly adhering to the Book of Mormon (and the D&C up until 1835) as the source of instructions. So the question has to be asked, "Why would the Lord be so specific with some parts of the instructions and so vague with others?" For example, it never outright says that the bread was blessed, passed and partaken first, and second was the wine. It only says the bread was blessed, passed and eaten, and then the wine was passed and drunk. Where is the blessing of the wine in all of this? Couldn't it be immediately following the blessing of the bread?

I agree with Spek in that much can come out of searching and asking to fill in the gaps. Perhaps that is something that will be a part of restoring the sacrament to its proper order, if that ever happens in our time. It seems, though, that there is a hint of how the unclear aspects of the doctrine are to be resolved:

"But it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, HAVING MANY REVELATIONS DAILY, therefore they did preach unto the people, insomuch that they did put an end to their strife in that same year."

Maybe in the future, as we have smaller, more intimate gatherings for the sacrament, the unclear points of the process will be dictated by the Spirit, and might potentially be different each time. Is that such a bad thing? The Lord says, "Here is the outline of how my flesh and blood should be administered. The rest is something you can create in the moment, via revelation, in a spirit of true worship."

Inspire said...

One thing to add... it's the inflexibility of our current "marching orders" for the sacrament that has lead to the loss of the Spirit in our weekly meetings. What was once a beautiful and simple event, has now become an efficient mass distribution of the "snackrament." There is no leeway or ability to customize (to the extent allowed) as directed by the Spirit. IMO, this is what creates the dogma we have now (not just in the sacrament, but the other areas too).

Alan Rock Waterman said...

First guys, please know that there is no such thing as going off topic here or hijacking the thread. I created this blog as a place where I could participate in free dialogue with like-minded Saints, and that dialogue is neither moderated nor controlled. Let it go whither it will.

Secundo, I am finding this particular dialogue on the sacrament extremely enlightening. And it IS a dialogue, not a disputation. Having the privilege of sitting back and watching a conversation like this among such minds as Spektator, The Anarchist, Zomarah, Inspire, and Justin is akin to sitting at the feet of Gamaliel. I hope some day I can get back to Utah and listen to you guys around a table while I just take it all in.

As Sunshine pointed out, parliamentary procedures exist to support this kind of give and take, but I believe the scriptures provide us for the groundwork for our "Roberts Rules of Order" in the church. They show us the way things are to be done. Further, there is nothing wrong with a civil discussion like this as an attempt to arrive at the proper meaning of the scriptures. It is the scriptures that are to be our guide, not the policies or traditions that have developed over time.

That's why, as much as I love and admire President McKay, his opinion on the importance of our young men recognizing the presiding authority in a meeting just doesn't matter. It cannot override scripture or revelation. Indeed, my beef with passing the sacrament to the bishop first while all others wait their turn is that it tends to solidify in the member's minds that there is a hierarchy in this church that we are required to always be conscious of and defer to.

As this discussion has shown, recognition of a presiding authority who is to receive the sacrament first is simply not supported in scripture. If we are serious about belonging to a church that is guided by revelation and not by every whim of men, we need to get away from this presumption that "policy" or "tradition" equals doctrine.

On the same wise, I don't take much stock in "respecting the office," whatever that means. I'm not all that sure respecting the office is the responsibility of the people. In the political arena, for instance, I have no ability to respect the "office" of the president, but I am capable of respecting or disrespecting the man holding it.

I have immense respect for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson because they DID respect the office they held. They saw their presidencies as a sacred trust they were not allowed to abuse. That office was not a playground that gave them carte blanche to do as they pleased.

Even John Adams acknowledged later that he was not the man he thought he was when he attained the reins of power. Adams was unable to restrain himself from becoming tyrannical against those who criticized him, attempting to have them arrested for treason because they did not respect his "office."

Conversely, I hold no respect for men like Clinton, Bush and Obama, who saw the presidency as their private kingship. In all this I neither respect nor disrespect "the office." That is a meaningless phrase devised by those who demand that others respect for them while they hold the office.

In the Church, I hold respect for David O. McKay who, despite his human failings, for the most part kept his pride and power in check, and encouraged such restraint in others.

For similar reasons I do not respect Boyd Packer, who is on record again and again teaching that because of the office he holds, he is entitled to honor and deference from the members below, whose place it is to serve and obey.

Jeremiah Stoddard said...

You mentioned: "It so happened that the day we attended, a guest pastor from one of the local black churches was the guest speaker. Apparently the Spiritual Life Center regularly invites speakers from other religions in order to foster understanding. What a change, I thought, from my own inclusive religion, where few thoughts or statements not approved through proper channels ever get presented to the membership. I was reminded how far we've come from the days of our founder. Joseph Smith did not presume that the church he founded contained all truth."

Don't forget, also, that Joseph Smith invited an Episcopalian minister to at least one Sunday meeting (History of the Church 5:427), and I'm pretty sure that's not the only occasion that something along these lines happened. The prophet mentioned attending a later sermon by the same minister, though it is not clear from the narrative if this second one was a meeting of the Saints (6:223).

My pity goes out to the brave Bishop who would dare follow the Prophet's example in inviting outside clergy to speak in Church meetings these days. At the very least he wouldn't be a Bishop for long...

Lynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn said...

@Dad://How about, instead of name tags, we actually have the interest enough to take time to learn people’s names and remember them? Then ask them again if we forget their names. When we make an effort to learn them, we go deeper than just reading a name tag. We actually increase our interest in and love for them.//

I think name tags is a great idea. I have ADHD, and I am very bad with forgetting names. It's just part of being plagued with a few quirks due to ADHD. Rather than be embarrassed having to ask someone their name because either I didn't get it in the first place, or I have forgotten it five minutes later, I have a tendency to just be friendly to people that I know by face,and hope to goodness that I somehow find out their names and remember them the next time I run into them at Walmart.

It gets frustrating sometimes to run into former co-workers,or even people from Church. Once this past year since I've been inactive, the bishop sent a couple to my apartment to check up on me, and, darned if I could remember them.I knew them by face, but I kept wondering who the heck they were. It seems like on an official visit from the bishop, they could wear name tags. That might even be a good thing for HT and VT, especially those who have been assigned to the in-actives who might not have been to church for a long time.

Anonymous said...

As far as being filled, I think we could learn something from the early Christian community where they combined a potluck meal with the sacrament.

-SufferingSaint

Anonymous said...

No one is obligated to respect, follow, sustain, support, honor or listen to any church leader who is not righteous & worthy of such respect & who does not fulfill their duties toward the members in a righteous manner.

Simply being called to a leadership position in the Church does not mean a person is righteous & worthy. We must be the judge (by the Spirit & knowledge of the Gospel) if they are or not & are worthy of our respect & support & adherence to their counsel & teachings.

As Pres. Hinckley said, the #1 responsibility of all Church leaders is to protect the members from the abuse of other members. This is generally not happening, thus most leaders seem to be unworthy of the members sustaining support.

ldsanarchy said...

Inspire,

What about the New Testament accounts of the sacrament? Don't they seem to indicate that the Savior prayed over the bread first, then gave it out, then prayed over the wine next, then gave it out? The Lord may have done the same thing among the Nephites, but Mormon may have neglected to include that detail. The Book of Mormon is, after all, an abridgement.

LDSA

LDS Anarchist said...

Oh, and btw. The disputation scripture referred to by Inspire is actually 3 Ne. 18: 34, not verse 38. Lol.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

LDSA,
I don't think it would be a violation to bless the wine/water directly after blessing the bread, since the idea is to eat and drink one's fill. It's awfully difficult to eat most of a loaf of bread without something to drink with it. So I don't think it improper to have them both together as they did at the last supper. The last supper was just that -a meal, and I believe that's how we should approach it, as the feast of the sacrament.

Inspire said...

Oops, I always get my scripture numbers mixed up. Good thing for the Telestial Urim & Thumim (the web) or I'd spend all my hours in the index trying to remember where I saw things.

I'm with Rock.. the Lord's Supper is exactly that... a supper. I see people gathered around a table partaking and talking to each other about whatever is dictated by the Spirit. Or maybe they sit in silence and solemn prayer. Regardless, I think that if we got caught up in the mechanics of it, we would lose many opportunities to be taught by the Spirit, or for fellowship.

Now if someone in a group was determined to do things a certain "way," one that isn't clearly outlined in the scriptures, (specifically the B of M), I would say, "Sure, if that feels right to you, let's do it that way." Because the bottom line is to avoid contention and disputations. So who's to say that that my way is "right" or "wrong"? It could be that there is gray area exactly for that purpose. So that we have the opportunity to work through any disputations.

So, the very clear things, that I don't see as optional to tweak are:
1. The words of the prayers
2. The use of wine (not water, unless you're threatened to be poisoned)
3. Persons who have repented and taken on the name of Christ (and baptized)
4. Pure intent
5. The administering of it by a priest or an elder
6. Partaking until "filled"

Are there others that aren't gray area?

Dave P. said...

That sounds like something worth trying. Next time I administer the sacrament at home I'll pray over the bread and then the water immediately after, then partake of the two in tandem.

LDS Anarchist said...

Rock,

I agree that partaking of bread alone without anything to drink can dry you out. I find it curious that the Lord had the 12 and multitude do just that. My guess is that He did this because, once filled with bread, you need a drink pretty badly, especially if it is dry bread. Then, what do you get? Bitter wine (new wine) to drink. That sequence can really nail home the Atonement. Of course, I'm just thinking out loud. For all I know, there is no significance to the sequence and no reason not to partake of them together.

Steven Lester said...

But I hate bread. I do love shrimp, though. I also hate the taste of wine, except for plum wine. Can't I do the Sacrament with lots of shrimp and plum wine while making sure I say the prayers in Japanese, as long as I do it with pure intent? I don't have the Priesthood, I'm afraid, but isn't that okay as long as I do it "with pure intent"? "Pure intent" makes everything okay no matter what, or so I've been told.

Anonymous said...

Steven, if you are thinking that the sacrament is your own personal teppanyaki barbeque, your intent might not be exactly "pure." Seems like mockery to me. To each his own.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Although Steven was being largely facetious, he does bring up a dilemma: Can a person engage in a personal sacrament at home who does not hold the priesthood? I'm inclined to say yes.

Jesus taught how and by whom the sacrament should be administered to the church at large. In that venue I'm convinced the priesthood should take the point. But couldn't a well-meaning non-priesthood holder have a holy communion with God on his or her own? I have a difficult time believing that Jesus would frown on that.

Inspire said...

I was talking about this with a buddy recently. Why is it that we are fearful of worshiping God, even the ways He has outlined for us? It's like the Church has put a © or ® next to baptism and the sacrament and outlawed it outside of their walls. What's next, prayer? If someone, heaven forbid, actually took it upon themselves to create an expression of worship via baptism or sacrament without "approval," from the guys sitting on the stand, then that person would be considered criminal (or the equivalent in the Church -- APOSTATE).

The Lord looks upon the heart, not how well someone adheres to the rules. That being said, there are guidelines set forth on how to do His ordinances and witnesses, so shrimp on the barby instead of bread might be a bit of a stretch (even with pure intent ☺ )

Anonymous said...

Along with Steven's comment, why not replace the bread with steak? If it is cooked rare then you are covered in both areas? LOL (this sounds to gruesome, but isn't this what the sacrament is suppose to represent, Body and blood?)

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that one of the critiques made by atheist about the sacrament is that it represent symbolic cannibalism (where people act out the eating of Jesus body and blood). It seems to me the the main goal of the last supper was to be Reminded of Jesus. Thus maybe the sacrament can be proving and eating with the marginalized. Maybe by doing things, the things that the savior would do, in remembrance of him, is to perform pure sacrament?

SufferingSaint

Lynn said...

@Inspire: Why is it that we are fearful of worshiping God, even the ways He has outlined for us? It's like the Church has put a © or ® next to baptism and the sacrament and outlawed it outside of their walls. What's next, prayer?

This is one reason I am on my way out of organized Christianity:Too many rules and regulations (the Corporate LDS Church is a good example of that), and too many boxes. It is difficult to worship God, let alone have a personal relationship with Jesus, when authority figures are telling you how to do it,or how not to do it, and when the prevailing culture goes right along with it, without thinking about it, or deviating from it. Case in point, the folded arms during prayer, the formal prayer language,and the dirge-like quality of our music. Where is the JOY, and the FREEDOM, that should be part of the Plan of Happiness?

Forraging said...

Inspire:

You stated this:

The Lord says, "Here is the outline of how my flesh and blood should be administered. The rest is something you can create in the moment, via revelation, in a spirit of true worship."

Have you ever read The Shack by William Young? It was a decent book, but the one thing I took away from it was our penchant for relying on fixed, daily rituals which restrict the Spirit to direct us in any meaningful way. Instead of allowing the Spirit to, for example, let us do a spontaneous prayer we take that instruction from the Spirit and think, "If once is good, 7x/week is better" and form rituals.

This reminds me of that teaching, which I'd forgotten. Too often we get caught up in the HOW and WHERE and HOW OFTEN and forget about living in freedom and spontaneity.

Dave P. said...

Forraging,

One of the parables from the Savior that people tend to conveniently forget about is the parable of the pharisee and publican in Luke 18. It supports Young's ideas as well.

reb said...

If we did have name tags the decree would come that they could not use first names but must say Brother and Sister. They would not allow us to be so informal as to use (and actually learn) first names

Me: Hello Brother Waterman welcome to our ward.

You: Well thank you, Brother Reid, so nice to meet you.

Just isn't the same, is it...

John said...

Fun and interesting to read the thread. My own thoughts and comments:

LDSA makes the strongest case by his scripture explanations of how the sacrament should be administered, but a restructuring of the size of the wards would need to be done as suggested in order to have one person serve the congregation in a timely manner. Even though a good case was given for only one passer, 3 Ne 18: 4 states that Jesus commanded that “they” (referring to the 12 disciples) give unto the multitude, which doesn’t follow the pattern of only one person passing to the whole congregation; so the pattern of one passer may not be a firm requirement.

Inpire’s list
1. Words of Prayer: Agreed but would someone need give that slight nod to the Elder as an indication that he said the prayer correctly? Ha Ha. Which, by the way, reminds me of what was once explained to me why the sacrament is passed first to the presiding authority, which is a symbol that the sacrament was blessed properly; not that I believe it, but I was once told that non the less.
2. Use of wine: Wine is most symbolic and preferred liquid for the ordinance but I’ll allow for the intent of section 27:2 and say that it mattereth not what is used.
3. Repentant and Baptized people partake: Agreed
4. Pure intent: Agreed
5. Administered by Priest or Elder: Agreed. I’m not inclined to think that anybody can administer the sacrament as some had suggested in the Link. 3 Ne 18 seems to make it clear that authority is needed since he commanded his 12 disciples (who He had give authority) to administer the sacrament. Section 20 also states the Elders and Priest are to minister the sacrament.
6. Partaking until filled: Agreed; both physically and spiritually. What a great experience sacrament meeting would be if we centered it on being filled; and continued being filled by spiritual words or manifestations of the spirit or outwardly love. I'm interested in how many readers of this blog actually have their own tribal or family sacrament meeting. Did the first time doing it include a spiritual manifestation of it being a good/great thing or did it take getting use to, or maybe it was a turnoff. I'd like to get a better feeling for doing it as a family/tribe.

Of note is that on the first day of Jesus’ appearance, the Nephite disciples didn’t seem to have problem getting enough food for the sacrament. One possible reason is that if the congregation had originally gathered for a New Year temple ritual/celebration as suggested by Denver Snuffer in his first book, then food for such a large crowd would have already been planned and ready for the large group. On the second day, the multitude was larger and the food appears to be eaten up the first day, so Jesus performed the miracle of producing food and wine for the sacrament when there was none originally available. Thus a pattern was shown that both preparation for the sacrament or miracles during the sacrament are acceptable.

As for making the Sunday block more meaningful; I for one still enjoy meeting with the saints on Sunday. I often get restless, and more than not I slough Sunday school, but I still like meeting with the saints, singing hymns, and partaking the sacrament; and feel something positive by attending church. For me I believe the Sunday block ritual has some power to it. Rock’s experience at the Unity Church is certainly an indication of our LDS meeting shortcomings and it could be much more powerful if done differently. I really wonder what would happen if a bishop was to start doing none traditional things during sacrament meeting, like use bigger pieces of bread, or being more spirited or calling people to speak by the spirit ext. Has anyone heard of such a bishop being released for doing such things?

John

Aaron said...

Hey Rock -

You have a reference to the quote about the Methodists and believing as one pleases?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Aaron, thanks for catching that; I meant to reference it. That's part of a response the Prophet made when the Nauvoo High Council attempted to discipline Pelatiah Brown for erring in doctrine. The source is History of the Church 5:340. You can find Joseph expounding on the correct doctrine on the topic Brown got wrong in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg 287-289.

John said...

Here is a more complete quote from Joseph about Pelatiah Brown:

"I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine." (DHC 5: 340.)

Steven Lester said...

Really? Section 27:2 says that Jesus said that it "mattereth not what is used"? Well, hey, guys and ladies, if the Big Man Himself said that then why not Shrimp on the Barby and Plum Wine for Sacrament? Plus pure intent, of course. Come on, folks. This is Scripture!!!

spektator said...

Steven,
If it didn't matter what should be used then why did the Lord state in section 89 (almost 3 years later):

"5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

It would seem to me that, at best, the use of water is acceptable in times when the use of 'wine of your own make' is not feasible, as described in section 27.

I would think that if the church is able to spend $3B on a shopping center, it should be able to make its own wine for the sacrament.

Dave P. said...

It still didn't matter what's used. What's said in Section 89 is that wine is something that shouldn't be drunk regularly, except when used for the sacrament. But nothing's said about, "Oh, and you can only use wine and nothing else for the sacrament," there.

Remember in Section 27 that the Lord warns about buying wine from the church's enemies (not explained why but various reasons can be figured out).

spektator said...

Dave,
I was keying off the comment in verse 6 which states that the sacrament 'should' be wine made of grapes. I guess I thought that was reasonably clear on what 'liquid' should represent the blood of Christ based on that scripture.

Justin said...

When settling the Utah territory, Brigham Young sent men to what is now St. George with the mandate to plant grapes so that they could produce wine for the sacrament. However, the current LDS church no longer has a mechanism for making/providing wine for general congregational use during sacrament services.

The “wherefore” in D&C 27:5 is there to indicate that Christ is saying that the reason He wants wine/strong drink to be made new among the saints in the kingdom on this earth — is that He will be drinking wine with the saints on this earth when He returns.

I’ve heard missionaries use the scripture, “He will suddenly come to His temple,” as a evidence that the LDS church will be the only Christian denomination fit to receive the Lord b/c only we build temples for Him to come to.

However, the same is true for theses verses in D&C 27 — we can only have claim on being the people fit to receive the Lord when He comes if we are making wine new among ourselves for Him to partake of when He arrives.

Justin said...

Spek:

I find it interesting that D&C 89 also prescribes strong drink to be used in sacraments [plural, i.e. not just referring to the Lord's supper].

It is my belief that this is referring to the washing ordinances as began in the Kirtland temple -- and brings a different perspective to the instruction that strong drink is for the washing of the body.

Mr Lonely said...

thanks for sharing this wonderful post... =D
Regards,
Mr Lonely from www.lonelyreload.com ~ XD

whitehusky said...

I didn't see anything in the Unity Church experience that indicated the church rejoices in the joy of our salvation through the Lord our God. Neither did I see anything about praising the Lord's goodness or honoring and obeying him. Jesus Christ is the God of all creation. The problem with the Mormon church now is they've shoved Jesus in the back seat and tried to put another member of the Godhead in the driver's seat, all the while ignoring what the Lord wants (or what Heavenly Father wants, for that matter).

I'm afraid the celebrate-diversity-touchy-feely church service just isn't for me. If you're not praising the Lord and rejoicing in his goodness, I don't see the point.

So while the Unity Church is probably nice, it's not doing what really needs to be done.

My opinion is if you don't agree with the Lord and run things the way he wants them run, you're not doing a good job. The Mormon church certainly isn't paying much attention to the Lord, but it could. There's nothing much wrong with the hymns. The Lord likes them. They could be sung with more zest, that's for sure. As for the talks, they are insipid most of the time. I really wish someone would get up and quote from Isaiah with the fire of the Spirit. When was the last time someone did that?

I bet the Unity Church didn't do it either.

spektator said...

Justin,
I believe that D&C 89, verse 6, qualifies the strong drink statement to allow only wine made from grapes as the component of the sacrament.

I would be interested in any references you have of the Kirtland ceremonies. I haven't studied that topic.

Me from Cali said...

Hey, Rock, I really like your posts. Having said this, after reading what you said about ‘Unity’ my wife and I went to a service this Sunday. However, we did not have the same experience :-(

You can read about it here and I’d be interested in any comment(s) you may have:

http://forum.newordermormon.org/viewtopic.php?p=299499#299499

Oh, well, back to drawing board.

Rock Waterman said...

Me from Cali,
That was indeed an odd experience you describe. On the other hand the service we just attended was stranger than usual too. The regular pastor was out of town and the guest was a bit eccentric for my taste. Not the kind of service I would have been comfortable bringing a first time visitor to and telling them that was typical, as it was not.

But then, I guess oddity is to be expected in an open faith like Unity.

I'm guessing Unity is a loose affiliation with very little emphasis on "doctrinal purity" so perhaps things are quite different in other parts of the country. I don't know, I can only speak of my limited exposure here in Sacramento.

Whitehusky, your point is well taken. But keep in mind I don't present my experience at Unity as a panacea, just something quite a bit more spirit-filled than I have experienced in LDS meetings in the past 3 decades. Emphasis in the Unity I've attended is on "Spirit;" I presume because no matter one's personal dogma, the reality of a spiritual presence is that one unifying experience most of us relate to. Lack of a central conforming view of God I think is what attracts many adherents. They don't want to be told how to believe.

Doctrine is not taught in the Sunday meetings, though classes are available throughout the week that tend to be geared to particular outlooks. For instance, on Thursdays there is currently a study group on The Way of Mastery which I understand focuses on Jesus as the Master.

My guess is that Unity exists to allow people with disparate views of God to assemble together without judgment to celebrate the higher spiritual power in the Universe. It's probably assumed that members study and learn from the scriptures they are most comfortable with on their own time. There is no central doctrinal authority at Unity to tell people what is right about their beliefs and what is wrong. You're expected to work that out on your own if so inclined. Unity is more of a gathering together.

ldsapostasy said...

I'd like to bear my testimony. I know the Corporation of the President of the Church is true. I know it's the only true and living corporation on the face of the earth. I know we have a living CEO today who speaks with World Leaders face to face, and gives them secret handshakes. I know the Corporation is guided by modern consulting firms and lawyers, and that the words we hear in general conference were approved of by public relations experts. In the name of Thomas S. Monson. Amen.

WasatchIntercept said...

This serves as a very good demonstration of how different people are looking for different things.

What I am looking for causes me to hold sentiments similar to recent commenters "whitehusky" and "Me from Cali". I have long held a negative view of Unity (a Jackson County, Missouri based organization, hmmm) because it doesn't lead people to Christ. Unity teaches that people are inherently good, as opposed to my core belief that, as a human being, I am corrupt by nature, needing a savior, because I could never be good enough to deserve a positive afterlife on my own merits. To me, any feel-good-ism or humanitarian service that a religious organization may engage in are peripheral, facilitating salvation is the real objective.

As a youthful religious seeker making the rounds in the Bay Area, I once showed up at a Unity building for a class advertized on a telephone recording. (How did we manage in the days before websites?) The recording didn't mention that they charge money for the class. I didn't expect that from a church so I didn't bring any. Even the Scientologists didn't charge admission at the door on first contact. I looked around at the others waiting outside, they didn't seem particularly religious, some were even smoking cigarettes. They were more like what I was used to seeing in line at any secular function. Unimpressed, I left.

Rock, if Unity is a community that provides an atmosphere that enhances your own personal spiritual experiences, good for you for finding it.

I've got my eye out in case I discover a new Joseph Smith, with a better restoration. I doubt there is, so Utah Mormon culture is the best I could find.

Unknown said...

This reminds me of when the Lord praised the unjust steward, because he had done wisely, saying, "For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."

In other words, Christians who should know the Lord are not even fellowshipping as well as the heathen.

mormonismo said...

I think the same

TheChief said...

Rock. First comment on one of your posts. Been reading quite a few over recent days, and really like your style and views. Your sentiments about church meetings are well considered, and applicable, certainly down under in Australia. Maybe they are less so in some of the less developed "markets", where everything is new and exciting. But in terms of the Sacrament and sunday school meetings I attend, my feeling is that what's missing is the light and truth pure mormonism contains. And that it is, and was, the expounding of those principles that drove the joyful interactions of the saints, and therefore their enthusiasm to be a community. Gospel scholarship is so dead it's not funny. And this has left us all feeling rather BLAH about church meetings. Giving lip service to each other about how much we enjoyed bro. this or that's talk, or lesson. What a bunch of donkeys we can be at times.
My observation is that three things bring the rushing of the spirit into the sacrament meetings I attend: 1) Pure testimonies of the gospel, and conversion. Not travel logs or platitudes by gratitude. But pure unadulterated testimony. That comes in our ward via recent converts, and is delivered in the same spirit that this whole restoration was underpinned by. 2) Sermons on the precious doctrines of the restoration - and I'm not talking about principles. But doctrine. However, getting a bishopric with enough insight and understanding themselves to give out a talk topic that draws out these teachings is sadly too rare. 3) Honesty. People who have the courage to get up on the stand and tell us where they erred, and how the gospel of jesus christ, and his atonement, helped them to overcome their errors. Heaven forbid anyone should ever CONFESS to a failing...but I guarantee that when that does happen, and someone admits to an imperfection, the spirit is there, the love towards each member is raised, and we are all left feeling better people. Which is precisely the point of our sunday meetings.

Anonymous said...

After reading the profile of the "stake pres" and reading a bit of his blog, i only have one question: Are you for real?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

The Stake President's website is satirical. He is not a real stake president.

brb said...

Financial transparency would cause so many problems for our church. It would rip away the wool from people like my TBMs husband's eyes and maybe finally he would let me help choose where are alms go to support the needy.

What you haven't touched on in what the three hour block does to kill all joy in children. We focus so much on behavior that the only spirit most children feel is the spirit of disapproval. Ask any eleven year old boy what they think about primary and you will not hear joy and excitement

MrHFMetz said...

I read Jean's comment (29 may 2011) and Brother Waterman's response. It makes sense enough to get your feet back on the ground. Thank you.