Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reinventing Your Sundays

I used to be pretty good friends with a guy in a ward I once belonged to here in California. A devoted convert of several years, he attended every week with his two daughters, both active in the Young Women's program. After a while I was seeing his daughters at church, but Mike was not showing up with them.  Eventually, they sheepishly admitted to me that their father had started attending a local evangelical mega-church on Sundays.

I couldn't believe it.  Mike was one of the stalwarts of the ward. Why would he be ditching us to join the sectarians?  I went over to his house later that day to find out. How was it, I asked, that he could abandon all the great truths of the restoration in order to take a step backward into mere protestantism?

Oh, I still believe in the church,” he replied, "I have a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and everything. None of that's changed. I still consider myself LDS. ”

This baffled me. “Then why,” I asked, “are you going to a church where they don't share your beliefs? Why have you stopped attending the church you do believe in?

Well, the fact is, I'm tired of going to a church every Sunday where we never do any worshiping.”

What?!”

Well think about it, Rock. We show up every week and hear a couple of talks from the podium. The speakers are unaccustomed to speaking in public, so most of the time what they do is stand there and just read from some general authority's conference talk from the Ensign. We sing our hymns half-heartedly just to get through them, yet we sing them at half the speed they were intended for, so they drag on forever. We're given a reading of ward business, including the same announcements that have already been written in the program. Then we go to class for instruction on the same lessons we got last year; then we go to priesthood for more of the same. More announcements and another uninspired lesson somebody reads from the manual.  Even our prayers are forced and too formal. When do we ever get around to praising and worshiping God?"

That was ridiculous.  Of course we worship God. “What about the sacrament?” I asked, “isn't that important?”

Well yes, that's meaningful, at least for those who aren't busy trying to keep their kids occupied the entire time. Where I go to church now they have Communion, and guess what? The kids are all in the nursery so people can quietly meditate on Christ instead of being distracted because they're forever shushing their children.”

I still couldn't wrap my head around why a believing latter-day Saint could be happier at a church that would try to convert him away from his own religious beliefs if they knew his secret.

Look Rock, when I go to church I should expect to feel something. I want it to be a joyful experience. I want to sing and shout hallelujah without embarrassment.  I don't want to waste my day just showing up and going through the motions like a bored Catholic. I want to feel the spirit of God at some point while I'm there.”

I uttered some lame platitude about how he'll only get as much out of church as he was willing to put into it, but I could see he was too far gone. I shook my head. Another good friend on the road to apostasy.

What Happened To Our Sundays?

That conversation took place several years ago, and since then I've kind of come around to Mike's way of thinking. Our church services are dull, they're too long, the spirit is lacking, and when you get right down to it, many of us attend mainly out of a sense of duty. We go to church because we know we should, not because we really, really want to. The first century Christians gathered together because they couldn't wait to get with their like-minded friends. They actually ached to be in each other's company. They looked forward to those times when they could meet together and worship as fellow believers.

It was the same for the early 19th century latter-day Saints. People pulled up roots from far and wide not just because they believed in the doctrine of the gathering, but because they felt a longing to be in the company of kindred souls, a part of a movement that mattered. Today you can grow up in the same ward all your life and never know the names of all the people you attend with year after year.  Most of the time you wouldn't know if visitors were present unless they introduced themselves. You go to church every week and come home, and now and then there's a spaghetti dinner some Tuesday evening and even then you sit at a table with the same people you already know.  In a ward of five hundred members, you may be on more than simple handshaking terms with less than half.

What I want to know is, how did a once-vibrant religion end up with church services that make many members feel dead inside?   I can tell you what happened to the institutional Church. For starters, our base of operations was long ago purged of charismatics and theologians and taken over by a cabal of lawyers and former corporate hacks. The headquarters in Salt Lake City is a mere shell, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, in favor of something they like to swing around that they call their "priesthood authority."  

But what happened to the LDS church on the local level, what we used to call The Body of Christ and The Gathering of Saints? We regular rank and file members of the church of Jesus Christ?  How did it come to be that we allowed the corporation to dictate everything that happens in our meetings down to the tiniest detail?  Is it not apparent to everyone by now that the top-down program of controlled correlation has sucked the life right out of our Sundays?

A Three Hour Bore

In the January-February issue of LDS living magazine, the editors presented a feature titled "Reinvent Your Sundays!"  I wish I hadn't mislaid my copy because I wanted to quote some of those ideas here. (Yes, I subscribe to LDS Living. Does that surprise you?)

Some of the ideas offered were actually pretty good, but the majority of them dealt with the usual problem of getting the kids ready on time or keeping them occupied while you're there; or about being better prepared the day before so that Sunday is not such a frantic and harried experience.

What was not addressed was the elephant in the room, that unspoken reality underlining all those great ideas, and the very reason we even need articles like this to help us get through Sunday in one piece, and that reality is this: Church is a bore, Sundays are a chore, and what most of us want is to just get it all over with.

We don't even enjoy leisurely fellowship with each other anymore, because by the end of that stultifying three hour block of meetings, all any of us wants to do is just go home.

A few weeks ago I had the missionaries over and we got to talking about the high rate of attrition among converts to the church. We are actually losing more converts than we're gaining these days. The average convert family attends for about nine months, and then stops coming entirely. I told the elders I believed the reason so many converts are falling away is because they're no longer feeling the spirit.

That's why it's important," one elder insisted, “to keep them coming to church, so they can keep feeling the spirit.”

I begged to differ, and told him why. It's precisely because they attend our services that they're losing the spirit. It doesn't take long for a convert to realize that the warm witness he felt so strongly while in the presence of the missionaries is almost completely lacking in our meetings. There is nothing pulling at our converts to keep them coming back to church.  The spirit of truth they felt while studying the gospel under the missionaries is very rarely found in our meetinghouse services, so a good number of our newcomers -a majority now, actually- slip quietly away and are never seen again.

I've written about this loss of the spirit elsewhere on this blog.  I've even posited what I think are some of the reasons why this is.  But it's not only converts whose enthusiasm for Sunday services is waning. Here is a devout member named Paul writing on one of the many LDS message boards:
"I go to church on Sunday and feel I'm on the outside looking in...Then during the week, after reading good books about Mormonism, scriptures, theology, history, philosophy, science; talking to all of you people and working out my ideas and frustrations, I feel I'm back inside Mormonism. Then I go to church and the process starts all over after I leave the church building. Some weeks it's exhausting."
Whatever efforts the leadership is making is to keep our members stoked, it doesn't seem to be working.

In the early days of the LDS church, our gatherings were exciting, almost pentecostal in their fervor.  Visions and healings were common, singing was joyful, and the Relief Society ladies were giving each other blessings and prophesying through the laying on of hands.  The sacrament prayer was always offered with arms upraised to heaven, and there was even speaking in tongues. Back around 1840 if you stumbled onto a gathering of Mormons in worship, you knew that you had discovered a religion that was alive. 

There's little question in my mind that today Joseph Smith wouldn't recognize the very church he founded.  In an early post on this blog, I reprinted a short story by Samuel Taylor wherein he imagined what it would be like for Joseph Smith to attend a modern LDS meeting.  Sometime afterward, I received a personal email from a reader named Lynn.  I've known Lynn to be a stalwart defender of the Church and all its programs.  She has maintained three or four separate blogs promoting Mormon faith and culture.  But now, she says, she's throwing in the towel.  Is she disavowing her faith completely? I couldn't tell.  But it's clear she's taken all she can of our insipid Sunday services, and agrees that our church today would no longer be recognized by the very man who started it:
"The unscriptural traditions and the corporatism have taken away the Spirit! When you look at the front of the chapel on any given Sunday morning, it looks and feels more like a business meeting than a worship service.  I have found a non-denominational Christian church, with a live band and an emphasis on praise, and quite frankly, it will be a welcome change. Where in the scriptures does it say we are to sit quietly, sing funeral dirges, not lift hands in prayer and supplication, or praise and worship? Quite the opposite; the bible is full of joyous expressions, singing in jubilation, and even dancing for joy."
When someone as devoted to the church in every way as Lynn has always been finally throws up her hands in frustration and walks away, that tells me this church has a problem.

Taking A Step Back

What would be your advice to someone who loves this religion yet can't stand going to church?  Well, I'm the wrong person to ask, since I've only attended a handful of times in the past three years myself.  I have an excuse, though.  My wife's health is such that she cannot attend, and I'm required to be near her pretty much all the time.

But truth to tell, I can pretty well assure you that if both Connie and I were to finally find ourselves in perfect health once again, you couldn't get us to sit through that entire three hour block of meetings anymore.  We've been away too long.  We've seen life on the outside. We've been liberated from any notion that devotion to the gospel is tied to weekly attendance at meetings that do little more than emphasize the importance of obedience to leaders.

The great irony here is that ever since I've become technically "less active," I've been more devoted to the teachings and theology of my religion than ever before in my life.  I mean, really: what Jack-Mormon would maintain a blog dedicated to promoting the theology of the Restoration?  I'm immersed in Mormonism every day.  I love it's doctrines, it's theology, its history.  I love everything about it except the way the gatekeepers have been coating it with layer upon layer of their own philosophies and opinions until they have nearly completely hidden its glorious, shining message of love.

After reading my previous post on The Metaphysics of Mormonism, I received the following comment from someone named Chris:
"You did it my friend. You made Mormonism awesome. This is the one that makes me think Mormonism is potentially kick ass at its core. Thank you for this. I might actually start to like my religion now!"
Well, there it is.  That's what I've been trying to say for the past two years, and this guy nails it in a few words:  Underneath those layers of dross and detritus lies a religion that really kicks ass.

Time For A Moratorium On Mormon Meetings?

So if Mormonism is such a kick-ass religion, why aren't our Sunday services overflowing with joy? Why don't we really, truly enjoy church anymore?  And most importantly, why aren't we learning anything worthwhile?

In his youth, Joseph Smith had no more use for the stodgy New England revival meetings than he would likely have for our own today.  He felt he could find better uses for his time. "The year after Alvin's death," writes his biographer, "a revival struck Palmyra and nearby towns. Even Joseph Sr. attended two or three meetings before refusing to go again, but Joseph Jr. held back. He told his mother he could learn more in the woods from the bible than from any meeting."
-Richard L. Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling (pg 46)

I can certainly relate to young Joseph.  I learn more in one day here at home from my books and scriptures than I ever did in a month of Sundays at church.

So you want my advice?  Before you get so suffocated by the church that you finally run screaming in terror from the religion of your youth, why not just take a hiatus?  Allow yourself a vacation from church.  I don't mean a vacation from your religion, I mean take a vacation from attending meetings.  See if that doesn't reinvigorate you and your entire family.  You may, like me, come to appreciate your religion all the more.

Now I realize that this advice will ruffle the feathers of a lot of true believers.  To many of the devout, it's a sign of apostasy to stop coming to church.  To advise such action in others is worse than heresy.  Sadly, we have been so indoctrinated to believe that church attendance is a key measurement of our faith that it may be hard to recall that in Joseph Smith's day there were no regular Sunday services as we know them today. Regular weekly sacrament meetings were not even instituted in the church until the late 1850's, long after our founding prophet was dead.

Keep in mind that when I recommend you take a vacation, I'm not saying take off to the beach. The word "vacation" is derived from "vacate."  You vacate the place where you're accustomed to being and place yourself somewhere else.  In this case you will be vacating the chapel for period of time, taking a step back and assessing the local congregation's role in your life.

And it does indeed have an important role. The initial first century Christians met together primarily for fellowship one with another.  The word "Church" is derived from the greek "Ecclesia" which means "come out," or more broadly translated, "come out of her, my people" -the her being in reference to the Babylonian worldly system.  What today we call "church" was a way for believers to occasionally take themselves out of the world and join with like-minded disciples of the Christ. To the early Christians, church was literally a vacation from the world.

Today we tend to bring the world back into our meetings with our tacit insistence on formal business attire for both men and women.  We conduct our meetings by the book, according to a long established order: Opening song, opening prayer, announcements, administration of the sacrament, two talks, closing closing song, and closing prayer.

All participants conduct themselves in a respectful, businesslike manner, just as they would in a corporate board meeting.  No one spontaneously shouts "amen" or "hallelujah" anymore, as that's not how things are done in the world these days.  We keep our arms folded so we don't inadvertently clap our hands for joy, since we are trained to believe that would somehow disrupt the spirit, which we have been taught is always quiet and still, never joyful and spontaneous.

If "Ecclesia/Church" today meant anything like it did to the first century Christians or the 19th century Mormons, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

In my view, the purpose of Sunday meetings is to provide the following:

1.  The opportunity for fellowship with other disciples.
2.  The opportunity for praise and worship through joyful song.
3.  The opportunity to experience or witness the spirit of God at work.
4.  A means for receiving edification and instruction in God's word.



If you are not getting any or all of the above out of your church service; if you feel you're just spinning your wheels every Sunday, you may be better served by emulating the founder of our faith.  Perhaps you, like Brother Joseph, can learn more by reading your scriptures alone in the woods than by attending any meeting.

That would make a nice vacation, wouldn't it?

                                                                                         *****
For a suggestion as to an alternative to staying home on Sunday, click here for part two of Reinventing Your Sundays.

173 comments:

Arnold said...

I'll bet I know. And I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Doesn't anyone ever see the irony in that oft used testimony phrase "everywhere you go, the church is the same"? It's meant in a positive way but it always grates on my senses.

Gaybob Spongebath said...

Rock, you keep getting so close to the truth of things, it's a wonder they haven't kicked you out yet.

darkdrearywilderness said...

I completely agree with you. I was recently interviewing a family as part of my job here in Utah. They attend a nondenominational Christian church, and the wife is in charge of the preschool on Sundays. I asked a bunch of questions about their church, and it sounded like something I would like to check out. The thing I was too ashamed to tell them, though, is that I would be afraid to bring my kids with me. She made the children's worship service sound so fun that if they went, they wouldn't want to go back to Primary. It's enough of a struggle to get them to go already :D

Lex(y) said...

I love your blogs, and have especially loved this one. I converted about 4 years ago now, and have been having a hard time with the church. This was one thing that has always bugged me. I would always ask my friends, "When do we actually worship?" They thought I would grow out of it, but I still haven't. I am glad to see I am not the only one that finds church to be a complete bore.

lifelongguy said...

This is an excellent post. While I have all but divorced myself from the Mormon tradition for a variety of reasons, you touch on very fundamental problems in the church that I can relate too. I am 41, and I have NEVER found the 3 hour block, (I am old enough to remember when it was not a 3 hour block), appealing. there was neve a draw to attend, only an obligation. Worship never felt core to Sunday meetings - boredom and endurance seemed more applicable terms.

This is more pertinent today as I watch my daughters, (3 or which are currently in the YW program), struggle to find any excitement or appeal. Instead, it's a constant fight with their TBM mother in protest to everything from Sunday meetings to mutual activities to firesides... they don't just find them dull, they abhor attending. They are bored, they are tired of the repetitive programs.

Only a 1/2 hour ago I asked what they learned in SS today, only to be met with blank stares. They don't pay attention, they try to put their mind into an idle state to help the time float by until they can get back home and take a nap.

That the church is losing the youth should be so obvious. Reading the book "American Grace" I am starting to see how other denominations are picking up on the problem and making real changes to help put some appeal back into the religious experience for youth and adults alike, but alas the Mormons are slower to change than their counterparts in faith. In summary, I dare say that my girls do NOT think that Mormonism kicks ass. Quite the opposite. I see in them my own struggles but amplified and less constrained by a sense of orthodoxy. I see them abandoning the church much faster than I did.

I most readily identify with your quote from Bushman. I have said as much to many friends and family over the past few years - I find God and feel the spirit more distinctly in the woods an while hiking than int he pews. So long as this is the case, Mormonism will continue to hemorrhage.

Spektator said...

I think you have touched on the core problem with the membership in todays LDS church. We have boring talks about revelation and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. We sing songs about the Spirit of God as if we were reciting a homework assignment. We hear the same lessons because someone in the correllation program heard that we need to hear something seven times before it will sink in.

We are teaching the next generation that they only have to provide the rote answer to the rote question to be labeled spiritual. At the same time we are denying our children any opportunity to truly seek the spirit. When they come out of that experience, few are willing to keep up the 'face' for public purposes.

In short, you have broached a topic broaching on heresy. The idea that our meetings are not spiritual feast they are supposed to be is the elephant in the room.

I wish we could return to the simple statement in the D&C that states the meetings should be run by the spirit, not the letter of corporate protocol.

karl waterman said...

Vacations. living the mormon drean since 94

ff42 said...

This is a great article (like always), but I believe you missed one important 'fact'. Fellowship (as I understand it), except for a brief handshake, is HIGHLY discouraged in the chapel and even discouraged in the foyer. No asking about your neighbor's sick father; no questions about little Johnny; NO VISITING/FELLOWSHIPPING ALLOWED!!!

Chris said...

"The thing I was too ashamed to tell them, though, is that I would be afraid to bring my kids with me. She made the children's worship service sound so fun that if they went, they wouldn't want to go back to Primary. It's enough of a struggle to get them to go already"

This comment is actually pretty accurate. Like the person mentioned in this blog I have found myself attending an evangelical church the past few weeks. The (paid) pastor is engaging and inspiring. The music (played by a live band) is beautiful and stirring. The prayers are heart-felt and genuine and the children's ministry is awesome and my kids don't want to go back to the primary now.

There was a time when I would have been very judgmental of this type of approach but now (doctrine of biblical infallibility aside) this community really has a more inspiring spirit of worship. They don't do community as well as Mormons and they acknowledge it openly but their services are great. There is a stronger element of honesty and being real that I enjoy there. There is not such a strong social pressure to pretend to be perfect. It is barebones open, accepting Christianity and it is very refreshing. I feel like we lose sight of that simple beautiful Christian message and, in its place, over-emphasize our conviction of the reality of legitimate authority and sole ownership of truth. The substance in our meetings and classes is lacking.

Rock, as you have pointed out in many previous posts, Mormonism has a sophisticated and beautiful theology of its own to add to the Christian tradition. I think it would do wonders to learn from these other faiths. i agree that we should teach Mormon doctrine with the passion of the Evangelicals, not to one-up them, or claim superiority, but to add to the conversation. They are doing a lot of things right in my opinion.

Katrina said...

great post, rock! our meetings can be so boring sometimes. i've been in wards that are much better than what you described, but boring does seem to be the norm.

Anonymous said...

The thing that really perturbs me is that we cannot even select a congregation we feel comfortable in... we are compelled to attend a specific ward based on where we live, end of story.

Dave P. said...

Being a young single adult (YSA) here in the belly of the beast that is Salt Lake, I recently got caught up in the shuffle that involves re-organizing all of the various YSA wards in the valley into their own stakes. Since I was attending a YSA ward outside of my home stake, I fully expect to be "re-assigned" to one of the newly formed ones today. However I can also see that as a potential benefit: My old ward will very likely move my records out, but I'm hoping that the new one doesn't request them. Given my complete dissatisfaction with the corporate church, I'd much rather be in limbo right now.

Here's hoping I'm able to move to St. George sooner rather than later.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Well, they'll track you down, Dave, if they can't find you. I frequently get calls from nice elderly women presumably serving what they now call missions in SLC asking if I know the whereabouts of my son. Either that, or your new ward will be ambitious and send someone out to welcome you.

On the other hand, I would think a YSA ward would still be a good place to meet wimmin. There are surely like-minded, single women as disaffected as the rest of us lurking there.

FF42,
Tell us more about this move to discourage fellowshipping. Is this just intended to keep things "reverent" before church, or what's the deal. I hadn't heard of this. Is it CHI policy, or just some local trend?

Dave P. said...

Sadly that is true in a very scary way. Reportedly this is a direct quote from Ballard at the recent YSA conference as reported in the Salt Lake Tribune:

'“We hope you’ve got the message: You have no option to bounce around,” he said, referring to a common practice dubbed ward-hopping in which young Mormons shop around for congregations they like. “We know where you are. We’ve got our radar focused on you.”'

Apparently "1984" isn't just for the government.

As for your question to FF42, from what I've seen it's basically a ward-by-ward basis and depends on the bishop.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Geez Louise, Dave that is controlling, even though I'm sure Ballard meant it to be humorous.

When I was single, (and I was until I was 28)it was absolutely imperative to have the option of bouncing around. How else to find the right girl?

So now they seem to be assigning you to your specific geographical ward and expecting you to find Ms right there or nowhere else?

This is where I'd say, look, I'll go to church wherever the hell I want, or I won't go at all.

Dave P. said...

That's pretty much my stance right now. I abstained from all voting during the conference to organize the new YSA stake and wards in the area yesterday.

Anonymous said...

It's hilarious that you brought up the fact that the sacrament prayers were originally given with the speaker looking up with arms outstretched (and the congregation used to kneel as well). Due to my own stake conference and lack of transportation to visit another ward, I didn't have a ready option to attend a sacrament meeting and really felt the need to take it. So I administered it to myself at home using the prayer as it reads from the scriptures and in the manner of the early saints. And this was before I read the blog post! LOL!

The other thing that's going on is I am breaking ties off with the corporate church as much as possible right now. It's simply gotten to the point where I feel disgusted at wearing the masonic garments and carrying around my temple recommend. As soon as I can find some knee-length briefs and undershirts that don't contain the masonic symbols, I'll be replacing my garments with them, burning the temple recommend, and will feel much more free as I wait out the time when I can move out of Salt Lake, begin my next job, and truly be liberated from the shackles of the corporate church. Come that time I will not only be able to speak out against the corruption and false doctrine of the current leaders, but I'll be able to do so without fear of repercussions not only to my job, but potentially my family as well. As it is now, if I'm branded as "anti" or "apostate" while living in SLC, the judgmental rumors will pretty much all-but destroy my family's reputation.

The church is afraid of losing the singles because they're the ones who are thinking and can afford to. They don't have a spouse or kids to keep them "held down" as blindly obedient, tithe-paying members for life. Why else would they want the singles to rush into marriage like this?

Heather said...

I guess I'm in the minority here. I actually enjoy Sunday services. I even attend occasionally now that I'm an unbeliever. I attend because I WANT to attend, not because I think I have to. I like the quiet friendly feeling of church. I go because I enjoy the thoughtful discussion and insights into people's personal journeys and faith.

Personally, I'm turned off by pentecostal type fervor. To me it comes across as whipping yourself into an emotional frenzy and then equating that emotional frenzy to "feeling the spirit." I much prefer solemnity and seriousness in relation to religion. Reverence, quiet reflection, and thoughtful discussion reach me more than emotional displays.

But I'm with you on one thing... I wish the singing was more joyful. :)

Porter said...

Great post as usual, Rock. I'm not sure what's in the cards for Part II, but I would love to see some discussion among those of us who live in Salt Lake City about some good alternatives. Are there churches here in the shadow of the great and spacious building where members who love LDS doctrine but are looking for true worship and fellowship would be welcomed?

On a separate note, I want to praise those few, brave Sunday School teachers who are willing to risk sanction and/or a release to reintroduce (gasp) serious gospel discussion into the second hour. You know who they are; they don't stick religiously to the questions in the manual, they teach from original texts, they are willing to entertain unique and even fringe views, they love the theology more than the manual. And sometimes when they are permitted to speak in sacrament meeting its a wonderful fulfilling meeting. Those are the brave souls who make it all worth it. Too bad there are so few of them.

Tom said...

Rock:

Good article. One thing I disagree with is the original discussion you had with Mike is how we forget and/or want to get children out of the chapel so that we can worship in peace and serenity. There's a book I absolutely love that I would recommend to everyone... and in that book is a good discussion on children and religious meetings.

===============

“Do you all not have children, or was I supposed to get a sitter?” Diane asked. Laurie jumped in. “No, he’s fine. We have lots of kids around here, but we thought it would give us more freedom to talk if they weren’t distracting us.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Please, don’t be concerned about it. We’re glad you’re here and glad Jason is too,” Marsha broke in.

Jason had settled into John’s arms and was mesmerized by the spoon John was using to entertain him. As I was trying to think of a segue into a more substantive discussion, John spoke, “I’m not sure it’s best to look at children as distractions. Jesus didn’t. They were drawn to him and he enjoyed it. When others tried to chase them away, he told them not to. If we’re not ready to receive the littlest ones in their weaknesses, we’re probably not ready to receive each other in ours.”

“So what should we do with children?” Ben asked. “That’s been a big issue around here.”

“Did your family get together last Easter?”

“Yes. We had a huge bash here with our relatives, probably 50 or more.”

“When you planned for that, did anyone ask what you should do with the kids?”

“No,” Ben chuckled. “They’re just part of the family.”

“Why is it any different in Father’s family?”
Ben hesitated so Marsha jumped in, “Because we’re trying to have a meeting and the children get bored. I think we should provide something for them, as well.”

“Then maybe I wouldn’t try so hard to have a meeting.” John said still playing with Jason.

“Be a family and let them be a part just as you do at your family get-togethers. Include them where you can and let them be kids together at times, too, when you’re involved in things they may find less interesting.”

“But there’s too many just to turn them loose. It’s hard to get people to go out with them when no one wants to miss the meeting.”

Tom said...

...Continued...

“Who said anything about turning them loose? Love them. Include them as significant parts of the family however you can. Let me ask you a question. Do you usually eat together?”

“We often do. We think it is part of sharing the Lord’s Table.”

“Do you have a kid’s table when you do?” I sensed this wasn’t going to be good, but the other folks had no idea how differently John thinks.

“Of course we do, doesn’t everyone?”

“Well, actually no. Eating together is one of the simplest things a family does. If you’re already dividing up by then, you’re missing something extraordinary. Mix it up, and don’t have families sitting together. Sit down with a child that is no your own and get to know what makes him tick. What do they enjoy? How is school going? Or grab some blocks and hit the floor with a two year old.

“And if you have them with you for singing or sharing, don’t have your own child on your lap where you’ll struggle with them to make it look like they’re participating. Get someone else’s child on your lap and make it playful for them.
Do you realize the most significant factor in helping a child thrive in the culture is for them to have caring relationships with adults who are not their relatives? The best gift you can give each other’s kids is the same gift you can give each other—the gift of friendship.

And if the kids go out to enjoy some time together, don’t send people out to do childcare. Think of it as an opportunity for a couple of you to build relationships with a significant part of your group—whether they’re toddlers or teenagers.”

“But since they’re not in a Sunday school class, how will they get instruction?” Marsha asked.

Before he could answer Laurie leaned across me and opened her arms offering to take Jason.

“Haven’t you had that one long enough?” she asked pleading. With a kiss on Jason’s forehead and a smile John gave him up to Laurie and then picked up his fork. “How old are your children, Marsha?”

“Ten, seven and three.”

“If you have something you want to share with them, do it. But don’t think that is the best way they learn.” At that he grabbed a fork and held it up. “Do you remember teaching your children to use a fork?”

“Not exactly...”

“But they all use one, I assume. Did you send them to fork school, or have a Powerpoint presentation on the make-up and use of a fork?”

People laughed. “It sounds silly, doesn’t it? But as long as we think of this life in Christ as knowledge to acquire instead of living in him, we’ll do all kinds of foolish things.

Your children know how to use a fork, but that’s because they learned it in life. As they got old enough you probably put the fork in their hands, but held on so they wouldn’t poke their eye out. You helped them guide it to their mouth and when you grew confident they wouldn’t hurt themselves, you let them do it on their own. Embracing the life of Jesus is a lot more like learning to use that fork than it is sitting in meetings. Children will learn the truth as you help them learn to live it.”

...continued...

Tom said...

Last one...

==========

I was surprised when Roary spoke up since he’s one of the quietest men in our group. “I love what you’re saying about the kids. I’ve never thought of them that way. But you’re talking about something bigger than that, aren’t you?”

“You’re right, Roary. What I’m saying will also affect how you deal with each other. If you really want to learn how to share Jesus’ life together, it would be easier to think of that less as a meeting you attend and more as a family you love.”

“I like that. We’d focus more on our relationships than our activities,” Ben offered.

“Exactly,” John answered. “And be more focused on your relationship to God as well. He is the first relationship. Anything valuable you experience in your life together will come from your life in him.”

“I think that’s why we really want to get this church thing right,” Ben continued. “We’ve all wasted so many years in institutional church and have not found the life of God we wanted. …

Source: "So, You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore?", p. 116-117.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Heather,
You'll note I said the early meetings were NEAR pentacostal in fervor. when the women were blessing each other through the laying on of hands, it was not a noisy shout hallelujah type of thing. Likewise, when the sacrament prayer was given, the regular words of the prayer were spoken, and the atmosphere was not much different than Adam's prayer in the temple. So, we were a bit more animated than we are now, and less withdrawn in our worship.

If our meetings were anywhere near the chaos and noise attendant in many pentecostal churches today, I wouldn't care for them either.

I think, however, that we have swung way too far in the direction of sitting on our hands these days. As for your enjoyment of church, I say good for you. You probably belong to an exceptional ward. But not everyone in the church these days is having a good experience. Indeed, I think the majority are not.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Porter, stay tuned for part two. As promised, I'll have a suggestion.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Tom, that was a very revealing piece. I'd like to see something like the group family attitude take place in our meetings. As things are in LDS wards today, we don't have that open attitude in our meetings. Children are expected to sit reverently, and parents are expected to see that they do. That's the trouble with running a church like a business meeting. I agree with the author that it should be more like a family gathering, which is what I imagine the first century gatherings to be.

I guess we can blame the medieval catholic church for formalizing the process. Protestants by and large didn't stray too far from that formula, and we seem to take our lead from the protestant formula.

Inspire said...

Spot On, Rock.

My wife and I were recently in the very process of trying other denominations (with our kids), when I got a calling to be Gospel Doctrine teacher. I argued with the Lord about it, but ultimately He said to keep at it for now. However, let's just say that the only use of the manual will be to see what scriptures are going to be discussed.

PS - We're still going to try other churches, including Eastern ones, on the weeks I don't teach. Namaste!!

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Namaste back atcha, Inspire. As long as guys like you are called to be teachers, there will be hope for this church, so I hope you do well for a long time.

Guys like me, they don't ask to be teachers. Or even to give talks, no matter how desperate they are. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog. I love the REAL gospel and love HF and Jesus and HG, but church is SO BORING! No wonder my kids can't stand going. Corporatism, correlation, legalism and literalism have killed the church for me. It's just one huge snoozefest, and I hate saying that. Unfortunately, those ossified leaders at the COB won't do diddly squat until it's way too late. Keep up the great posts. :-)

John Coltharp said...

Rock, this post made me laugh out loud. Not because you're wrong, but because you're right, and your clever and artistic words make the point so well. Good job!

Anthony E. Larson said...

The tragedy in all this is that Mormonism is the single most intellectually stimulating and spiritually vibrant relgion on the planet, when properly understood and practiced. Once again, Rock, you have put your finger on the pulse ... and found it missing. (grin) Though most Mormons would be horrified at the idea, I think it's time for a revival in the church, much like that which Alma effected. In a church that's led by revelation, such a notion is an anathema. But I think it's high time we returned to our roots. Nibley wrote about this issue many years ago when the problem wasn't nearly as endemic as it is today. One such article is called "Zeal Without Knowledge." Another was his one BYU commencement address. I don't recall the title. The truth is that every dispensation has experienced this entropy. The danger is that we will be as the salt which has lost its savor. So the rivial, when it comes, will turn the church upside down. That's the lesson of history. And believe me, I know my history. Read about what happens to the true church when this malaise sets in. You can find that story in several places in the Book of Mormon. Thanks, Rock, for another tour de force.

Anonymous said...

I love it how a topic seems to be on a number of people minds at the same time.


About six weeks ago the question came to my mind: What part of the three hour block is worship and what part is just good church behavior?
I ended up in D&C 93, where the Lord tells us of worshipping.

After pondering on it for weeks, light on the subject was presented, an answer that works for me.

Not only did this ray of light answer my original question, it set in place a process that at any given moment during the three hour block I can see if what is happening is worship or good church behavior.

There is a requirement on my part.

Thanks for the post...

Bill said...

Brother Waterman my stake numbers decline every time you do a post. Please repent and return to the safety of the fold. There is nothing more exciting than sitting through a testimony meeting and you failed to mention this in your post.

Dave P. said...

What kind of fold are you talking about, Bill, sheep or lemmings?

I'm sure Rock has his own opinions of testimony meetings, but from an outside observer they are monthly brainwashing ceremonies. This is especially true for little kids who only repeat what their parents whisper and don't really have their own testimony yet.

True, we will get the occasional spiritual outpouring from someone bearing a strong or growing testimony, but how many out there are ones that publicly thank everyone for everything under the sun but never actually bear witness to anything.

I had a recent experience wherein I was aided by the spirit in bearing a powerful testimony not only of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, but also reminding the congregation of the warnings and messages given for our day. I spoke of the parallels between now and then, the warnings against secret combinations, and even the warnings of the conditions of the church today (2 Nephi 26-29 and Mormon 8). Not only that, I held up my reprint of the original 1830 book and reminded everyone that that edition, not any of the later ones starting with 3,000 changes, was the one that Joseph Smith called "the most correct." No tears, no thank yous, just words guided by the spirit spoken in an unusually powerful voice for me.

John Coltharp said...

Everyone knows there are changes in the Book of Mormon. The only ones that are significant though are the names/references to God/the Son of God, and the "white and delightsome" being changed to "pure and delightsome." All the other ones are typos. Did I miss any?

Dave P. said...

The references to God/Son of God are the big ones since not even Joseph Smith always taught that the Father and Son are two separate people. In his only handwritten account of the First Vision, he records only seeing One personage, "the Lord," and interestingly enough, when he translated the Bible he removed existing references of many Gods.

Mosiah 15, Ether 3 and the 5th Lecture on Faith explain how the Father and Son are one person with there being only one God. The First Vision account that we have in the PoGP is, like Section 132, something that was not added until long after Joseph Smith was dead.

This also brings up why the Lectures of Faith were removed from the D&C: Section 129 contradicts the 5th lecture and Heber J. Grant had it removed claiming that the church never voted to accept the Lectures as scripture (which is a lie).

Hugh Nibley was right in using the 1830 edition in his classes because he said it was, "The best." It is the Book in its purest form and purity, not complete perfection, is what God asks of us.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'm pretty certain Bill was being facetious, Dave. Every missionary knows that, contrary to established wisdom, the one meeting you don't want to bring investigators to is testimony meeting.

I really liked your holding up the 1830 edition and telling the congregation that THAT was the only one he referred to as correct. Nice going! I should try that. Except if I even looked like I was walking up to the stand, I think they'd have security head me off.

(What, you guys don't have security guards in your wards?)

Dave P. said...

Either way, I still feel better that I wrote about it. Especially after encountering plenty of people both offline and on who continue their treating lightly of the Book over the past couple of days.

One of the other significant changes that I forgot to mention earlier is the portion of Nephi's vision that talks about how both the Bible and BoM would have plain and precious truths removed from them. It's on page 32 of the original and not found in subsequent editions as far as I know. The other one I know of and forgot to mention deals with the idea of there being three separate "great and abominable" churches with the "most abominable" to come forth after the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

The very notion of security guards inside the chapels just disgusts me. What kind of security are they there for, to make sure that nothing is spoken that contradicts the corporate dogma that's passed off as doctrine? Where was security when the guy shot a bishop in his own office a few months back?

whitehusky said...

Yes. It's true. Anyone who ever called Mormonism a cult must not know how boring Sacrament Meetings are. Just about half the talks (or more) consist of 5 minutes or more of how the bishopric made the assignment to talk, how the victim tried to dodge the bullet, etc. This past Easter one of our speakers went on in this fashion for 10 minutes, then read from a conference talk. Now, while I thought the conference talk had some interesting points, she didn't seem to get them and wasn't really reading them well.

That was followed by some very bad musical numbers and a missionary speaking in a foreign tongue to show off to his friends.

Worship? Hardly. It's more like boring people to death.

Brett said...

Great post!

I live in Colorado Springs and just down the street from our LDS meetinghouse is a middle school wherein the St. James Church meets each Sunday at 10am. I am determined to find a way to ditch my Sunday meetings one of these weeks (difficult with four young kids) and attend a worship service at St. James Church.

Here's why...

St. James Church was started by Ted Haggard. Yes, the same Ted Haggard that was head of the National Evangelical Association and top Pastor at New Life Church with 14,000 members. He lost it all after being caught with a male prostitute. And meth.

So why would I want to attend a service at the new church that he began about a year ago?

He began New Life Church in the basement of his home. He built it into a 14,000 member organization that has a campus so large it dwarfs the neighboring community college.

After losing it all, he has now started a new church that is growing by leaps and bounds even with his shattered reputation.

I'm dying to hear what a sermon sounds like from a man with that kind of a resume.

I'm obviously not saying that he's got more "truth" but he clearly helps people worship in a way that brings them back and gets them to bring their friends as well.

I feel a strong need to witness that kind of worship.

Anonymous said...

Nothing we do different in our meetings will save our Church or congregations, as long it's families keep disintegrating rampantly & the Church continues to stand by & let it happen.

The Church is for 'strengthening & protecting' marriages & families & individuals. Period. You worship God best as you protect members, marriages & families from disintegration.

If the Church doesn't do that, it will soon cease to exist.

What happens during the week inside our homes & marriages is far more vital than what goes on at Church, no matter what Church we go to.

Boredom is not the problem of the Church, Divorce & the acceptance of it by the Church & it's members is the real problem.

Almost everyone, including leaders, in the Church today goes along with & supports their own divorce or the divorce of their relatives, friends & other members.

But with the 'acceptance of divorce' brings the loss of the Spirit, which brings 'boredom', at church & in our daily lives. Of course after the initial boredom, it also brings destruction.

The Church is disintegrating today as fast as it's families & since the Church is supporting the disintegration of families by allowing divorce & remarriage, it doesn't look good for us.

The destructions foretold are at our doors, even our Chapel doors.

Dave P. said...

Better to end a marriage where love is not present than live a life of joyless, empty commitment.

One of the reasons why divorce rates are so high is because both men and women are able to recognize and assert their independence over a dominant spouse. In Utah, women are still pretty much considered second-class citizens and are raised from birth to be taught that they are nothing without a "worthy priesthood holder" directing every facet of their lives once they're married. This is exactly why so many of us singles did not agree with Monson's priesthood session talk at the last conference wherein he sounded to telling us to get married for the sake of getting married (or to be locked down as "temple worthy" parents to raise more tithe-paying children) whereas fewer and fewer marriages occur when both the bride and groom are ready in terms of commitment and maturity. This economic downturn hasn't helped at all either since several people are having a hard-enough time supporting themselves.

I have two good friends who walked out on their first spouse each before meeting each other. The first chose God over everything and left after his wife tried to establish conditions of control over his life and actions as dictated by their stake president. The second was not happy in his first marriage and relates that the spirit told her that if she continued to live that way, she would die. They're now fully supportive of each other, still honor their commitments to their kids from the first marriages, and are happy.

John Coltharp said...

Dave P., Joseph Smith dictated the POGP account of the First Vision in 1838, and it was published in Times & Seasons before Joseph died under the caption "History of Joseph Smith."

Joseph Smith also taught the plurality of Gods, as did Hyrum also. This one of the complaints against Joseph and Hyrum in the Nauvoo expositor.

You're right, in the early days of the Church, Joseph taught that the Father and the Son were one person. But God revealed additional light to Joseph as time progressed, so Joseph revised his theology. God doesn't reveal everything at once. It's similar to the rib store. God says Eve was made from Adam's rib, but later we find out she was born into this world. If God witholds knowledge on a subject, he has to fill the vaccuum with something, and that something we usually consider to be false doctrine.

Whenever God's people won't accept greater light, he sends them strong delusion that they might believe a lie.

WasatchIntercept said...

The idea of worshiping as part of a congregation is completely alien to me. I don't even like the idea of praying with my wife. While I love to sit down with others for a nice intellectual discussion of theology, communing with my God is a very personal, private matter, and I cannot fathom any other way of doing it, other than alone, where no other human being can see, hear, or even know what I am doing.

Camaraderie with likeminded believers is the reason I put on a tie and walk over to the chapel, at least once a month. As someone who is naturally an introvert, bordering on reclusive, it it wasn't for the church I would probably be known in the neighborhood as that guy in the quiet house, who seldom opens the blinds...I think his name might be Gary.

Defining geographic boundaries, and expecting everyone within to attend the same ward, no doubt grates on more than just the anonymous poster from May 1, 2011 9:51 PM, however it effectively does what it is intended to do, it foster community. One thing this church does, better than any other I have seen, is to bring people together as a cohesive group.

I wish, just like everybody else drawn to a blog like this, that the LDS Church didn't keep the lesson material confined to such a basic level. That's not to say that I find nothing there to learn. The way the mind of a completely orthodox Mormon works is a fascinating, sometimes disturbing, thing, and a three hour bloc is a great way to get inside these people's heads.

Besides, where else would I go? I completely agree with Heather (May 2, 2011 9:40 AM), about churches that design their meetings to whip up people's emotions. A Catholic Parish is probably the next best thing in member closeness, but when it comes to mind numbing repetition, they're in a league all their own. Finding fulfillment in a secular life is out of the question, because religion is so deeply ingrained in the core of my very being.

The Mormon Church works for me, but I'm not everybody. These comments are yet one more reminder that an alternative, for the dissatisfied or disaffected Mormon who does not feel it warranted to pitch the entirety of Mormon thought and community into the trash, is needed.

Bill Henrickson founded "The New Assembly of Mormon Pioneers", people just doing what they feel is right, with no autocratic prophet, for this purpose. Too bad he's just a fictional character. While on a trip to So Cal recently, I visited a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ, headquartered in Monongahela, Pa. They have Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but no temple recommends to divide the membership into a first and a second class, no polygamy in their history, and they've never withheld the priesthood from anybody based on race. However they have no presence in Utah. The only non-Brighamite restoration church to be found is the Community of Christ, their Mormon origins are barely recognizable these days, and they can't find enough support in Salt Lake City to even hold a meeting once a week.

Dave P. said...

Your reasoning doesn't make any sense to me, John, because we're all to learn line by line, precept by precept, but if we don't know something and ask about it before we're ready, God will not "fill the void" with anything. As a God of truth, He cannot lie nor can He "fill the void" with information to be replaced later. He will simply have us continue to seek the knowledge and reveal the full answer when we're ready.

I once created a character for a short story who could not only read the hearts of people and tell if they're telling the truth or lying, but she herself was completely incapable of telling a lie. Thus if she knows something but doesn't want to share that information, the only thing she can do is remain silent when asked about it. At the end of the story, the antagonist did himself in by thinking that her silence immediately meant she did have the information he wanted, but ended up doing himself in courtesy of being arrested. In the end, she truly didn't know about what the guy wanted and simply chose not to answer because it was none of his business, not because she knew about him through her ability.

The story itself was inspired by the exchange between Moses and the Lord wherein Moses inquired about details of other worlds and the Lord basically told him, "It's none of thy business."

Your account also illustrates the problem with 8 of the 9 accounts of the First Vision. The 1832 journal account is the only one handwritten by Joseph himself. All of the others are repeats from secondary sources, even if he was dictating to someone. (Plus 1838 was during Joseph's years of spiritual famine, but that's another topic.)

When examining the issue of the plurality of Gods, there's always one thing to remember: satan's plan in heaven and what he's established on earth has always been to set up counterfeit gods to draw people away, and even the corporate church is no exception with the blind attitude of "follow the prophet" so prevalent today. By understanding that there is only One God and following Him, we don't let ourselves be led astray so easily.

Finally, there's also the little matter of Section 130 being added to the D&C after Joseph Smith's death. This section contradicts the Fifth Lecture on Faith and is very likely the reason why Heber J. Grant removed the Lectures from canon (without a vote of approval from the church, I might add). Joseph taught that a true revelation will NEVER contradict a previous one. Thus, no matter our pace of learning one step at a time, what we learn later only builds on what we learned earlier, and doesn't overturn or contradict it.

There's also dubious accounts of Joseph and Hyrum being credited for things they didn't actually say. A little research reveals that there are sworn affidavits that Joseph said nothing about plural gods in the oral version of the King Follett sermon and that those ideas were added to the written copy (also published after Joseph's death). See the link below for more.

http://www.restored.org/lds/ldsall.htm

The common thread that's led to all of this is the idea that prevails in the church of how the modern prophets "trump" scripture, no matter what they may say.

John Coltharp said...

Dave P., you completely ignored the evidence I presented to you, like the story of Eve and the rib, or how about the Lord's explanation of "eternal damnation" in D&C 19? or the New Testament "send them strong delusion," etc.

So what if it was dictated by Joseph Smith, instead of with his own hand? It was dictated by him, and published during his lifetime, and never retracted.

I still don't know if it was Nephi or Moroni who appeared to Joseph in his bedroom, because Joseph taught both.

With the multiple Gods, however, I have to lean towards a plurality. It fits perfectly into the rest of his theology, and without it, it doesn't work at all.

feathertail said...

Rock, when Mormonism is restored it's people like you who are going to do it. I'm not as interested in it anymore, but it has some good ideas past all the lies and abuse and corporate structure, and I love seeing you expound on them. Please keep up the good work.

John Coltharp said...

Brigham Young said he wouldn't care if Joseph Smith was a Whoremaster, because he never embraces any man in his religion.

If we embrace the doctrines, principles, and philosophy of Mormonism, rather than men or institutions, then we'll never lose interest in Mormonism.

Jared said...

Superb post. I have often wondered where the EXUBERANCE is in Mormonism.

Anonymous said...

John,

But we have the responsibility to judge if someone, even a Prophet, is righteous or not & if they really live their religion or not.

And if they aren't righteous we are commanded to 'not' follow them, & if we are deceived to follow a unrighteous person or prophet, we are held seriously accountable.

So for BY to say it wouldn't matter if Joseph was unrighteous, is very surprising & not according to truth.

Anonymous said...

Dave P.,

It is 'never' best or right to end a marriage where love is not present.

Heavenly Father hates divorce for any reason & the destruction it always causes everyone involved (justified or not).

He always wants at least one spouse to stay committed & faithful & save the other spouse & marriage & family forever.

The right thing to do would be to repent & once again gain true love for your spouse if you don't feel it anymore & thus, stay faithful & committed to them, no matter what they are like.

It is our own choice if we don't feel joy & love in our marriage, it has nothing to do with our spouse.

It is easy & just a choice to be madly in love with our spouse & be enjoying those high feelings even if they don't feel the same for us, which feelings will help us get through life until our spouse repents & returns true love to us too, in this life or the next, for one day they 'all' will.

Anonymous said...

The secret to falling back in love or more in love with your spouse, is by serving their every wish, as best you can & have energy & ability to do.

We grow to love whom we serve.

The exultant feelings of True Love comes quickly to us if we follow the Prophet to put our spouse's wishes, welfare, needs & desires before our own all day long & before anything else in life.

Loving & serving our spouse with True Love is the 'highest' form or worship to God. Those who do what it takes to gain the feelings of True Love will never be bored in their marriage or life, no matter what their spouse is like.

Dave P. said...

Here's where I disagree with you, my friend: Our marriages and our lives are about building a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and following His example in being happy and forsaking our sins. It is our job to work out our own salvation, not our spouse's or any of our kid's.

Would you suggest that someone stay married to a spouse who lies to you, cheats on you, or even beats/rapes you on a whim because the spouse utilizes abuse as a means of control or to make you surrender your agency?

To stick with a loveless, joyless marriage for the sake of always "serving" the spouse is deluding ourselves into rejecting our own happiness and progression for the sake of trying to "save" someone else. I loved the gal who I nearly got married to, and I still do, but she expected me to carry the entirety of every burden brought about by the marriage by myself. I made the mistake of trying to be the "perfect, flawless" missionary, and it crushed me. It crushed me to the point of a nervous breakdown and even an attempted suicide. It took years to realize that, even though I "failed" as a missionary, God still loves me and I could still be a happy man, but I was not about to make the same mistake in entering a marriage that would have been unequally yoked, despite wanting to love and serve her.

Since the last conference I've encountered several young single adults who weren't as fortunate in dodging the bullet. They decided to tell their stories because they had made the mistake of focusing on getting married as soon as possible and not being compatible with their mate. The end result was a messy divorce, often with a young child involved, and they are still under 30. In a few cases under 25!

Indeed service and love are the most important things we can have in a marriage, but not to the point of sacrificing our happiness or agency. Unfortunately women in the church are still treated as second-class citizens because of the way men believe they can lord over the marriage because they hold the priesthood. My Book of Mormon professor once asked, "How can we expect to be ready to receive the sealed portion when men in the church are still beating their wives?" As Rock has mentioned, Utah women are among the most depressed in the nation and a lot of this is likely because they're poorly treated or expected to do things they don't want to do and are only still where they are for the sake of the marriage?

-cont-

Dave P. said...

As another Anonymous mentioned above, once a young couple is sealed in the temple, they're locked in place for staying "good" members of the church and raising a new generation of tithe payers. Why are singles leaving the church in droves?

1. We are among the most ostracized demographic of the church in terms of having our spiritual needs met. This is especially true for single members over 30.

2. By not being "locked down" because of the control of a temple marriage or temple recommend, we still have the freedom to think and realize just how much all is NOT well in Zion.
2a. As a corollary, we also have the freedom to both live and attend where we want. The establishment of the new YSA wards and stakes is an attempt to keep us singles locked in place so we don't move out of Utah and get "led away."

3. The process of courtship and marriage has changed since the era when the leaders were courting their wives. A man and woman can still easily get together through hanging out or group dates. In fact I prefer that approach because it removes the pressure of a formal approach and lets a guy find a wife who can also be his best friend and not just the mother of his children.

Dave P. said...

4. Many young singles today are having a hard-enough time supporting themselves in this horrible economy. They do not want the added stress of financial obligations that they cannot meet, especially from a spouse who may not be so willing to hard that much harder just for both of them to make ends meet.

5. Not only are we ostracized in terms of having our spiritual needs met, but we're also ostracized as members of the church. Good ol' Brigham Young called young singles above 27, "A menace to society," and we certainly don't appreciate being insulted as "slackers" over the pulpit when the prophet doesn't even pretend to understand our situation, he just wants us married and it doesn't matter to whom.

6. We've basically got nothing to lose by leaving. Our families and neighbors may cast judgment on us, but we're still free to go where we want and also false words spoken of by a holier-than-thou populace are only harming themselves.
6a. I've learned from Rock's writings, my mentor, and my own research that the only thing lost by leaving the corporate church at this time is the cult-like obligations to the corporation while still able to easily retain a commitment to the actual gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are not to surrender our free agency to anyone. Not a spouse, not to the prophet, and not even to the institutionalized church. I know we would never have to surrender it to God because the true God who gave it to us will never ask for it back, otherwise He'd cease to be God!

Had to split this comment up since it was too long and the 2nd half kept disappearing.

Jeremy said...

To anonymous May 5, 2011 9:16 AM,

You said,"Heavenly Father hates divorce for any reason & the destruction it always causes everyone involved (justified or not)."

I must respectfully diagree with you. I would never have come to the turths I now understand if it had not been for divorce. My very controlling father refused to have anything to do with the church or to allow any of my family to as well. This was about 20 years ago. After my parents divorced I got active in the church and served a full time mission, also, my sisters and brother were baptized. Spiritual blessings abounded. None of this would have happened if the divorce had not occurred.

All is not perfect because all will not be perfect in the world as it is today but the blessings from the divorce far outweigh any negative affects resulting from it. Heavenly Father can use any circumstances for his own purposes as the scriptures repeatedly show us.

Thank you, Rock, for such a marvelous blog and excellent insight.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog post! Keep them coming. I resigned from the LDS 3 plus years ago, and for some of the reasons you listed above. I am now attending a wonderful, vibrant, ALIVE evangelical church where I can sing my heart out and worship God with passion and praise!

AV said...

Dave P.,

Thanks for calling me your friend. I really enjoy your posts & discussing things with you. Feel free to disagree with me, I don't mind. I'd rather hear what people think, even if different, then not hear comments at all.

I'm going to start signing my posts with 'AV' instead of anonymous so people can know what posts belong to whom.

I really appreciate the fact that you can see how women & their equality are not respected as they should be, even in the Church yet. It is wonderful when a man stands up for women, you must be a very good man to be able to see & acknowledge that. Thank you.

As far as your relationship with that woman you almost married, rules for dating are very different from rules once married. Meaning, if a woman you date is abusive, controlling, unloving, wants you to serve her every wish but is not willing to do the same for you, then it would be wrong, not righteous, to offer her true love & marry her.

For Heavenly Father wants us to make the best choice possible as to who to marry, someone who is righteous, mentally & emotionally healthy & who knows how to love & put you 1st. To set yourself up intentionally with a spouse with alot of problems is, I believe, 'foolish' in God's eyes & thus we get what we asked for.

But if we try our hardest to make a good choice of who to marry, by the Spirit, & our spouse later changes or falls into sin (for even the best can fall) or becomes abusive, then the rules are different.

We made an unconditional commitment & covenant to them & to God that we would consecrate our whole life, body & heart to them, one day at a time, to love & serve them & help them live righteously & be happy, & help them repent even if necessary & even save them with our valiancy & true love if need be.

Consecrating & totally submitting to a wife or husband is not giving away our agency but it's actually using it in the wisest most valiant way possible. For of course we never completely give it away, for we don't follow even a spouse if they ask us to do or go along with evil.

Though it's not commonly known, the sealing power of True Love does have the power to save an errant spouse & children to the Celestial Kingdom with us if they are too weak to earn it themselves, but only once they have fully repented & paid for their sins in Spirit Prison. They will be the perfect spouse then & make everything up to us 1000 times over.

Just like Christ saved us by his true love, from death & an eternal h..., & he get us to one of 3 wonderful kingdoms, even though we were too weak to earn those grand blessings ourselves.

But True Love does not mean we should put up with abuse & disrespect. That would be wrong to allow someone to abuse us & not try to stop it.

We must lovingly & patiently try to teach an abusive, adulterous or abandoning spouse to respect us & love us. Most abusive spouses will repent if shown true love & service & slowly taught how to give it in return & respect their spouse.

But for the few abusive spouses who are violent & dangerous & who refuse to repent, the righteous spouse should protect themselves as needed & that may mean a separation until the abusive spouse repents. But even separated for safety doesn't mean the righteous spouse can't love & serve them from a distance & keep their covenants to have True Love.

I agree we must be like Christ. Elder Holland gave a great talk ("How Do I Love Thee", BYU) years ago about the True Love of Christ & how Christ asks us to have that same kind of true love for our spouse, so we can truly be like him. True love never gives up on a spouse or ends & always has the power to save in the end.

AV said...

Jeremy,

I agree that joining the Church & serving a mission are wonderful things. But I do not believe that they are better, even in God's eyes, then an intact family.

Not going to Church, because the father doesn't give his consent, is not the worst thing. We can grow very spiritual & close to Heavenly Father by personal prayer & study at home if need be. A divorce is far worse in my opinion.

For the purpose of the Church is to preserve families from disintegrating. You & your siblings would have probably found the Church after you were 18 & could have probably still enjoyed most of those blessings.

Think for a minute, what would be better for the world - all families to divorce yet go to church or all families to stay in tact & honor sacred covenants (even if it's just one spouse who keeps the marriage together) yet not go to church.

The wicked Lamanites in the Book of Mormon probably didn't go to Church yet, they were preserved from total destruction because they kept their marriages covenants, while the Nephites didn't & suffered total destruction.

Marriage is the preserver of the human race, even if it's a far from perfect marriage. Most all marriages today have at least one abusive spouse, to some degree, yet should every marriage just divorce today?

I also don't think children of divorce, like even my own are, will fully realize in this life just how negatively affected they were from the divorce. It often, if not usually, takes 20-30 years or more to start seeing the greatest effect on children by how they handle their own marriages.

Maybe your mother tried everything she could to soften your father's heart & help him repent & treat her with respect. Did she offer him true love & serve his every wish, despite his unloving attitude? Was she madly in love with him? Did she have high self worth & self-respect?

Maybe she had to separate from him for safety reasons. But even when our spouse acts like an enemy, Christ commands us to love & serve them. For that is how we keep the love in our hearts & how we progress & become truly Christlike, even if it doesn't change our spouse.

Anyone can love an easy or loving spouse, but only those who are truly Christlike can love & stay faithfully committed to a spouse who acts like an enemy.

For as Elder McConkie said, "Loving one's enemies perfects the soul."

You haven't yet seen the whole eternal plan play out & what will happen to your father in the next life, without a spouse to save him with True Love.

Or maybe your mother is still single & waiting for him to repent from a safe distance.

I know it isn't easy for a spouse to do that, but it's worth it.

HOmey said...

Deelyn / AV:

Though it's not commonly known, the sealing power of True Love does have the power to save an errant spouse & children to the Celestial Kingdom with us if they are too weak to earn it themselves, but only once they have fully repented & paid for their sins in Spirit Prison. They will be the perfect spouse then & make everything up to us 1000 times over.

You've shared these opinions elsewhere and while they are interesting opinions, they have no basis in fact (my opinion). There is simply nothing you've yet pointed to which can verify what you claim and, by contrast, I can think of a few scriptures which differ from your point-of-view. Fact is, if you believe in LDS theology it's a very large leap to suggest that any spouse can save another spouse, and your comments on "earning" any Kingdom of glory - whatever that might be - is little more than the gospel of prosperity flexing its muscle.

AQWEB said...

**Newsflash** - We are all too "weak" to "earn" it. ;)

Jesus had no more begun his journey to Jerusalem, when a man ran up to him, stopped him and knelt before him in the dirt. “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Both his pace and his posture testify to the desperation in his request. He knew Jesus had something he lacked and wanted to find out his secret ...

The question certainly sounds genuine enough, even humble. Jesus answers by referring him to the commandments.

The businessman’s answer tells us a lot about him. “I have kept all of these from my youth up.”

Really? Of course we know now and Jesus knew at the time that this answer wasn’t possible. Paul told us that no one has ever kept all of God’s law and that if even one person could have earned eternal life by the law, then Christ would have died in vain. If this man had been genuine, he would have known that. The Father had only given the law so that we might come to the end of ourselves and know that we needed someone to rescue us. Any genuine pursuit of the law would have led this man to the same conclusion.

Does that mean he was lying? Not necessarily. Though he had not kept the law, what was most critical in this exchange was that he genuinely thought he had. Since he was a little child he had worked hard to keep the law, in hopes of earning his place in God’s kingdom.

For him to think he had kept the law, however, he had to rec­reate it in his own image. In other words he would have created loopholes in his mind to justify those portions he had not kept, perhaps only focusing on major parts of the law such as murder and adultery and excusing his own hate, lust, or selfishness.

The fact that he was still seeking eternal life made it clear that he hadn’t found it yet, nor was he confident that his current course would produce it. He wanted something more to do.

This man was steeped in his own works. That was evident by the question he had asked at the outset. The “I” and the “do” gave him away— “What must I do…?” He was focused on him­self, his ability ...; trying so hard to earn what Jesus wanted to give him.

How Jesus wanted him to understand that! Mark specifi­cally mentions that Jesus looked on him with deep affection. What did he see? Did he see a little boy trying to be perfect as the only way to earn his father’s affirmation? Did he see the years of fruitless labor this man had endured? Could he see the twisted motives he used to justify himself and maintain his illusion of righteousness? Did he see the gnawing in the young man’s stomach, born of his obsessive drive to perfection that was destroying him from within?

Probably he saw all that and more, and Jesus wanted him to see it too. His next response seems on the surface to be one of Jesus’ most insensitive comments: “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” On hearing the words, the businessman’s countenance fell. Unable to do that, he walked away in grief.

Honestly, was that the point? Who would have come to this kingdom if those were the terms? In fact I’ve never met one person who ever came to Christ on those terms nor many who would stay if he required it of them today!

To condemn the man for not doing so is not only arrogant of us, but misses Jesus’ point entirely. He was not offering the man the opportunity to buy his salvation. He only wanted him to discover what his attempts to keep the law already should have—that he didn’t have enough in himself to meet any stan­dard of qualification for God’s life.

Coaches don’t train young high jumpers by putting the bar at world-record height and challenging them to try and jump it. They put it at a height their charges can successfully achieve and then, over the course of time, slowly raise the bar allowing refined technique, practice and conditioning to help them jump higher.

AQWEB pt. 2 said...

Cont...

But Jesus doesn’t do that here. Responding to the rich man’s request, Jesus puts the bar forty feet in the air. Jump that!! And the rich businessman did exactly what any athlete would do, he went away discouraged, knowing the task was impossible.

The man understood the lesson, but missed the point. Jesus wasn’t trying to be mean to him. He raised the bar beyond the man’s ability to get over it precisely because Jesus wanted him to stop trying. The gift he offered the man was to be free of the incredible burden of having to earn God’s love by his own efforts. He was caught in his own doing and Jesus was trying to free him.

He was hoping the young man would look him in the eye and say, “I can’t do that!” To which Jesus might have answered, “Good, then stop doing all the other silly things you’re trying to do to earn God’s favor. Stop striving, stop pretending, stop trying to earn that which you can never earn!”

Jesus didn’t want him living any longer under the tyranny of the favor line, but he knew how difficult it is for people of great resource to find their way into his kingdom. Such people always feel like they can earn or pay for it. They are too focused on their own efforts and resources to simply receive God’s gift.

His dependence on his own resources was robbing him of the life he sought. No matter how much he could do, such efforts would never cover the empty place in their heart that seeks God’s approval. For it is only in that realization that we can discover what it really means to be approved as God’s child and find security in his love for us.

AV said...

HOmey,

I have posted many quotes & teachings from Prophets over & over on the subject of marriage & the sealing power.

Since a person can research out these same quotes from Prophets quite easily if they really wanted to, the way I did, I will not be posting them all again to back up what I believe. For I find posting those quotes rarely convince anyone of these truths anyway.

People usually either believe in having the true love of Christ for a spouse, or they don't.

And only Heavenly Father can give us a testimony about these things & teach us the hidden truths & power of marriage & true love & he will, if we really want to know.

John Peterson said...

My experience as a 12 year old boy was that I dreaded school, but there was something I dreaded just as much: church! I couldn't tell you how many times I feigned sickness to get out of going to church. And it's not like school was a bowl of cherries. I was bullied like every other boy that's too small for his age. Come to think of it, Boy Scouts was the only church related activity that I actually enjoyed or looked forward to.

John Peterson said...

In response to Heather, I believe if the organs were replaced with pianos, you'd see a lot more joyous singing. Organs have their place, but they tend to make for stodgy meetings. I kind of wonder if this is by design. Too lively of music might wake up the dead... and we couldn't afford that.

John Peterson said...

I love this saying! It's so true!

"We grow to love whom we serve."
(from Anonymous above)

zo-ma-rah said...

Another great post. I'm excited for part two. I think the biggest thing is that most if not all members of the Church have never seen what a real worship service should be like. All we've known is how things are. Understanding these things is an important part of getting back on course.

But Church today kind of seems like a big secret. It's like nobody wants to let anyone else know how unhappy they are. We go and put on the mask but don't realize that everyone else is wearing the mask too. If we would just communicate with each other we could actually figure out the problems. But then again we wouldn't want to go against church policy now would we.

As I'm about to discuss on my blog I thing the biggest and best step will be to hold our own meetings in our homes or at other locations. Where we can follow the scriptures and the Spirit.

The important thing to realize is that the church is everyone who has repented and come unto Christ. So meetings we perform in this form, while not part of the Church(TM), are still part of the church.

I guess that's all for now. The conversation has veered off and I'm a bit tardy to the party anyway.

zo-ma-rah said...

I just helped my wife in the two hour Nursery. The three hour block is definitely NOT true!

Dave P. said...

Well, as a YSA in Utah I have to report on my first experience at my newly-created and assigned ward today. Since we had fast and testimony meeting I got to hear a lot from the bishop and members about how our testimonies would grow by "doing what we're told" by church leaders and being "where we're supposed to be," plus we shouldn't fear because "change is good."

I felt held back from getting up right away until several of the members had spoken of this and, once I felt prompted to get up, I stated outright that I disagreed with the bishop and said that a testimony is found in being a willing disciple of Jesus Christ no matter where we may be and that I would never want to believe in a God who is changing. So after testifying that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and that the Book of Mormon warns of the conditions of the church in our day, I sat down without further incident. (My own family practically threatened me with excommunication once I told them about this, even though they had no scriptural evidence to back that claim up whatsoever.)

Sunday School and priesthood were uplifting to the point where I just wanted to go home and take a good nap. Since that ward is basically more of the same, I don't see myself going there very often as it's literally 8x as far away as my old one. Though the primary advantage to any YSA ward over a family ward is no screaming kids and I can actually read inside a quiet chapel for 2 hours.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for the update, Dave. Sounds like whatever the corporate Church tries to do to make things better, things only get worse. I can't believe they expect you to travel an even further distance than you did before to attend your assigned ward.

I predict a further exodus of the young.

Homer said...

Dave said:

Though the primary advantage to any YSA ward over a family ward is no screaming kids and I can actually read inside a quiet chapel for 2 hours.

As a guy with 3 screaming kids, I actually think the silence you want is creepy.

I'm not directing the following at you, Dave, but it gets back to the comment on kids earlier and church services: I'd much rather have screaming kids around than a bunch of pretentious YSAs or EQs or HPs or anything else. Kids at least "get it" - and generally no matter how hard we try to screw them up.

I think it's almost too easy to give into our convictions and do everything that we think is right/correct at the expense of contemplating a different course - and that's largely because we don't know about the different courses because we're too tied up in how "right" we are. Our egos are so inflated (myself included) that get lost to the essentials, namely:

But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Matt 9:13).

whitehusky said...

Do you want to know what's really wrong with the church? It's that the church has turned away from the true and living God and toward rote and tradition. Don't think it's that bad? Just get on the Internet and state that Jesus is the Almighty God. You'll get a hoard of Mormons telling you that you're wrong, that you're not a Mormon because you're not stating Mormon doctrine. They can't object on the basis of scripture, since Jehovah is the Almighty [Gen. 17:1, D&C 84:96]. No, they object on the basis of "teachings" that thankfully they have so they don't have to rely on scripture. Really. They float their boat on a lot of Darwinian Mormonism and deny that Jesus Christ is the Everlasting God.

They are denying their own God. Jesus Christ is God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them. [D&C 20:17]

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Right you are, WhiteHusky. The "teachings" have so muddied the doctrine that any TBM will place the teachings they've grown up with over their own scriptures.

Dave P. said...

Why else do you think the GAs spend more time quoting each other than the actual scriptures at general conference?

Jeremy said...

To AV,

Since this is the only way to communicate with you I just wanted to say thank you for your response. I have taken something away from our exchange. On reflection I realize the point I was trying to make was missed becaus of my hasty and poorly written post and now it does not seem important.

To Everyone,

On the topic of the post. I would love to hear thoughts on what it means to truly worship God. I haven't ever really put a lot of thought into it. I just know that things as they are is not correct.

Steven Lester said...

All of this discussion about what true worship is is based upon our mortal absence from where we came from and from where we are going after we die. Nobody worships anybody or anything in Heaven, folks. There is no need for it. The only two rules are that we are love and that we receive love from others, most notably God Himself, Who is always available for conversation if you wish Him to be, usually in the form of Jesus Himself, although since all knowledge is instantly available even as you ask the question, the only reason to talk to Him is just for the sheer pleasure of it.

Our spirits miss all of that. We ache to have it again. Locked into a weak and divisive vessel of flesh and in a brain that carries its own animalistic intelligence that constantly gets in the way and fights against our highest desires because it only knows the lowest ones that any ape might aspire to, we feel ripped apart and so very alone. The memories of our former selves, so perfect and so free, dwell there in our deepest selves, but we have nothing to hold on to there because we can view none of the details. So, we seek for what we have lost touch of, and worship what we know not in ways that give us peace of a kind. When we worship we are just trying to remember how it was relationally before, but in ways that other blinded folks have suggested should be done, although they hardly know anything more than we do today. True worship would be to always be asking the question, "how was it before between ourselves and with our God"? Then, to live that way as closely as we can, locked up in our ape selves, in a realm that simply doesn't work because it is all based upon ego and selfishness and sex.

I am, myself, incapable of living as I did before I came to this planet and this time-drenced universe. My ape self is too powerful, although sometimes puppies or kittens or laughing children will stir something inside. I long for freedom. Worship is too painful for me to try out.

Studying the Near-Death Experience has been a revelation for me. Perhaps the Brethren should as well. They are all soon to return there...Elder Packer first, please.

whitehusky said...

Alan, thanks for your comment. It's such a relief to find that there are still Mormons who know that Jesus Christ is the Almighty. I've been running into so-called TBMs everywhere online who insist that he isn't. Neither can you say that Jesus is the Father of Israel or you can't be a Mormon. Forget what Isaiah says about it. [Isa. 63:16] Forget what the Book of Mormon says about it. [Mosiah 15:1-4] These TBMs don't have to pay attention to the mere word of God.

"...when the day cometh that the Only Begotten of the Father, yea, even the Father of heaven and of earth, shall manifest himself unto them in the flesh, behold, they will reject him, because of their iniquities, and the hardness of their hearts, and the stiffness of their necks. " [2 Nephi 25:12]

doyle_megan said...

I've decided that most Mormons would rather be part of the popular crowd instead of know Jesus for themselves. I simply can't see why they would sit there and say Jesus is subservient to Heavenly Father and became God through some kind of process. Doesn't anyone ever read the scriptures anymore?

Jer. 10:10 - But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Anonymous said...

I am 45 and remember a time before correlation sucked up all the oxygen out of Sunday services and weekday programs. My 'heyday' was pre-correlation, we rocked back then.

Years later I was too proud to accept that I was bored on Sundays, just going through the motions and getting it over with. I dreaded Saturday night because it meant the next day I would have to sit through mind-numbing, rote, cookie-cutter lessons and prayers. No room for imagination, open discussion, or inspiration. It was deadening. The only people thriving in such an environment were those natural born corporate drones who took delight in reminding my sibling and their family who were visiting from another city that "we should be attending within ward boundaries". What a joyless, lifeless, inhuman drone!

Needless to say I've taken a sabbatical from church (pun intended), 11 years later, I've never looked back. Why? I'm happy, free, and I can breathe!

Dave P. said...

The more I hear about the days prior to correlation, the more I can't help but compare the days of post-correlation to the manner of worship by the Zoramites in Alma 31.

whitehusky said...

Tell me about it. And then there's fast and testimony meeting. About all you hear is (1) tales about family vacations, (2) gossip paired with bragging, (3) random sobbing, and (4) repetitions about the restored gospel being true.

What you're not going to hear is anything about the gospel itself or the power of God's word. No, because then you might have to take God's word as your authority, and maybe you might be inclined to rejoice in God your Savior instead of babbling about something everybody in the congregation already knows.

"And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there." [Deut. 16:11]

"And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God..." [Deut. 12:12]

Rob F said...

Rock, sorry but I want to call BS on this. How people experience church meetings is more a reflection of their inner spiritual, emotional life than the structure of the service. The glass is more than half full, but by your own admission ...you haven't sipped but more than a few times over the past few years. Little surprise that you would come up with a whole slew of reasons why not to like church--easier than really getting involved. It isn't that folks don't love being together at church, its just that for some reason you don't want to. I spent eight hours at church yesterday, and it was awesome. Can't wait until next Sunday.

Rob L. said...

I stopped going to LDS meetings in June of 2002 because of the very same things you posted, Alan. And I call bull on those who say that the lack of meaning and spirituality in LDS meetings was a reflection of my inner spiritual and emotional life. I constantly pondered on my faith as a Mormon; read scriptures daily and prayed. My Mormonism was the most important things about me. It WAS the church structure. Structure IS important; the LDS leadership has made changes in the Sunday meeting schedule and the way in which those meetings are conducted BECAUSE the structure is important.

During August and September while working out of state, I attended a small branch in rural Georgia, and in Novmeber attended meetings for two weeks in my home ward. But I had to be honest with myself: despite preparing for meetings, despite actively participating in discussions in Priesthood and Gosepl Doctrine, despite listening and being reverent and attentive in Sacrament Meeting, I was not spiritually or emotionally uplifted, inspired or fed in the least. In fact,just the opposite: I left church feeling depressed.

My New year's resolution that Dec 31 for the coming year was that I would not waste another moment on my time and energies on people or thinks who made demands on me but did not uplifht me in some way. I realized this meant saying good-bye to LDS Church meetings. On the third Sunday of January of 2003 I had a very powerful and very personal spiritual expeirence/revelation. I decided to leave the LDS Church for good while at the same instant recommitting myself to Mormonism. YES, there can be Mormonism without a church because there can be a personal relationship with God, spiritual and ethical growth, and ever increasing joy from living and personal relationships without the church. I am a Mormon, and no church has anything to do with that. I've never been more secure in my relationship with my Heavenly Parents or in my Eternal Progression as I have been since the time when I decided to kiss church meetings good-bye.

Benjamin said...

Rock, great post. My experience is similar to that of Mike's. I go to a Bible Church now and get awesome liturgy and sermon that is out of this world. Mormon Church was mind-numbing. It had no substance, no meaningful worship for me.

Trevor said...

@rob I call BS on your comment. C' mon man, are you gonna tell us that are services are created equal and that it's completely the attendees' responsibility to make it good? If that's the case, why even bother attending church at all or holding general conference? After all, we could stare at the wall in our homes and have great spiritual experiences if our inner spirituality is sufficient

Seth said...

Rob F, I call BS on your calling BS. Arguing that how people "experience church meetings is more a reflection of their inner spiritual, emotional life than the structure of the service," is just completely insidious. You are wrong for saying it and you are wrong for believing it. That's like saying it's your fault for not enjoying a lame movie or it's your fault that the meal you just purchased tastes incredibly salty. Yeah, if you really try hard enough maybe you can find something good in that movie, but that doesn't make it a good movie! Yeah, if you scrape most of the sauce off that plate it becomes palatable, but that doesn't mean you are going to keep going back to eat there on a weekly basis. Do you know what the percentage of activity is church wide? How about in your own ward? Are all those people just lazy slobs who can't bother to drag themselves out of bed on a Sunday morning, or is it possible there really is a problem?

If you want to argue that there is not really a problem, that's fine. You want to talk about how uplifted you feel when you are at church, that's great. But blaming people who really want to have a good experience as being deficient is just wrong. Some of us are tired of trying to convince ourselves how amazing church is, that does not make us less spiritual.

My wife has commented before that it seems once a person starts to question, the church can become a rather hostile place. Perhaps you don't question, Rob, so the church still feels quite comfortable to you. That's great. But for those who are not willing to accept things just because the church says so (like the literal historicity of the BoM or BoA, or the correlated only-faith-promoting approach), church is not always an uplifting place. Even little things, like the primary theme for this year (I know the scriptures are true) can be problematic. I don't think most adults "know" that the scriptures are true, though they may exercise faith and believe that they are. Does my objection to this theme mean that I am a less-spiritual person? Is it possible that, perhaps, the things that you take no notice of really do add up to a less-spiritually-fulfilling church experience for the rest of us?

Rock, I thought the post was great and was a very good depiction of my experience. I did step away for a time because I was so incredibly bored! I'm back for now, but the boredom is a MAJOR factor in my irregular attendance.

Jeremy said...

Just to defend Rob a little here, even though I think his view is a bit simplistic, I think to some extent we are responsible for what we get out of church. I remember when I was a kid I'd tell my Dad I was bored and he'd say something like, "no, you're boring". He'd run off 10 different ideas for me and I wouldn't want to do any of them. I was the source of my boredom, not the lack of things to do. Now, I'm not calling anyone "boring" who gets bored at church but do we hold no responsibility for our own boredom?

Here's one way to look at it. A high school history teacher has a class full of bored kids. Are there things that the teacher could do to make the class more interesting? Absolutely! The teacher isn't blameless. Is it possible for a student to get excited about the material without an exciting teacher? From the students perspective, who is responsible for his/her boredom? What about another example of a teacher who, in order to keep the kids excited, shows historic movies all the time. Sure, the kids might not be bored but they're not going to learn as much as if they took control of becoming excited about the material.

To tie it back to the church, while I do hold the church responsible for perhaps having an air of boredom, we ultimately hold the key to how bored we are at church. No, I don't mean staring at a wall should be fun but since when is that the only option. A person choosing to stare at a wall would be boring. Likewise, simply trying to mentally make one self not bored through some mental exercise isn't going to work and would be boring on the part of the person trying such a technique. Choosing what to do with your time at church is a different story. Do you choose to interact with people? Try and give non standard questions?

I hope I haven't offended anyone but my point is just that boredom is more a reflection of our attitude than it is where we're at. Can church be boring? Yes. Can one also find ways of making it interesting? I believe so. I'm not saying that there are not good reasons for not going to church, I'm just saying I have a hard time buying that boredom is one of them.

Benjamin said...

I think even if the Church would allow for a more modern instrumentation of hymns, better AV materials in Sacrament Meeting, etc. it would help dramatically.

I got scolded 5 months ago for using a drawing of an eagle to represent spiritual rebirth in one of my talks. I didn't think it was bad thing to do, but the leaders did.

Jeremy said...

Ben, your situation was less about boredom than it was authoritarianism... I would probably have stopped going if I had a ward like yours.

Trevor said...

You're right Jeremy. A consistent, constructive experience is the responsibility if both parties.

Seth said...

Jeremy, I think there is a fundamental difference here that you have failed to take into consideration. If you had to keep taking the same basic high school classes over and over and over for the rest of your life, I submit to you that you ...would get bored. You can talk about how amazing those lessons are and present them in different ways, but in the end it's just the same basic material. In the end it's the same repetitive faith-promoting information.

I disagree with your overall premise. Granted, some people really are boring and would be bored in a mosh pit at a punk rock concert. However, I do not think that is the case for most bored church members. With only about a third of ward members active in most wards, it's reasonable to infer that there really is a problem with the structure. Many of those inactive members are good, solid, healthy people with much to contribute. In my callings when I've visited and asked these people why they don't come, the #1 most frequent response was boredom.

Rob F said...

I recognize that many, many members are bored at church. I've also been there myself. But I also recognize that this is a personal thing. Two people can be in the same sacrament meeting and one can be carried to the bosom of eternity, and another can be bored or stewing in their own juices. Same talk. Different experience. If nothing else, blaming others, the Church, or whatever takes away your personal power to do anything about the situation.

I agree that if you are critical or cynical being at Church can be horrible. But the problem isn't with Church, it is with being cynical or critical. This is the gospel of faith and repentance, not the gospel of doubt, fault-finding, and blame. If you don't have faith then Church won't work for you. I find that when I am grumpy or having problems at Church, what I need is more faith and repentance, not more criticism or doubt.

Being bored, cynical, doubting, whatever is a choice. Changing your situation won't change that choice. Changing the choice can.

I sat in church today so happy to be there. Looking around the meetings I know almost all of the people. I've been in their houses. Taken them cookies. Fixed their cars. Taught lessons to their kids. Hometaught them. Visited them in jail. Whatever. I want to be with these people.

For anyone who hates the people at church, guess what, the problem is that you hate people, not that the people are hateful. Try an experiment--take a plate of cookies to everyone in your ward. When you take the plate over there, apologize to them for not caring about them, for being an a-hole and judging them. Ask for their forgiveness and then tell them how you are committed to doing anything and everything you can to help them. I'm willing to bet that your hate, boredom, cynicism, doubt or whatever will have a harder time seeming sticking around if you try that experiment with full purpose of heart.

As for "not wast[ing] another moment of my time and energies on people or things who made demands on me but did not uplift me in some way"--how Christlike is that? Maybe you should go to Church to serve, not to be served. Fundamentally different attitude--and the difference will totally color how you experience church meetings.

Seth said...

I think next time I get a crappy meal I'm going to eat it and enjoy it because I'll be thinking the whole time about how the chef really intended it to be. I'll never have another bad meal for the rest of my life! Thanks!

Rob, who hates the people in the church? Where did you get that from? I actually hate the quote that the church is perfect but the people are not. As I've said before, I think the people are wonderful, it is the institutional church that has been less than forthcoming and less than honest.

So basically the church is perfect, right Rob? Just some bad apples that are not spiritual enough, unprepared, boring and lazy. Is that the gist of it?

Rob F said...

Not saying the church is perfect, just that the church being perfect isn't the real issue from the perspective of the gospel. Faith, repentance, baptism, holy ghost, following Christ--church works just fine for that. Blaming something like "the institutional church" for personal feelings about church any different than my nine year old blaming his sister for making him mad? Stuff happens. How you respond to stuff is you choice. The whole meal analogy breaks down because it presumes a consumerist model of religion that isn't anywhere in the scriptures.

BTW, who the heck is "the institutional church" that is so insidious?

Seth said...

Would "Corporation of the President" work better for you? The church has become institutionalized. It is a corporation. It operates like a corporation with a top-down management style and even requires business attire for those who hold leadership positions. It demands loyalty to itself rather than to the principles of the gospel. Were you not aware of this?

Seth said...

Ten thousand starry-wide Amway distributors have a good attitude! You can have a good attitude for quite a long time. Yet, most of those Amway distributors will eventually leave the company because their experience does not match up with th...e promises of the institution. Attitude can only carry you so far. Sure, a few will be distributors for life. Most of them will have had a great experience and will not be able to relate to those who had a different experience. Was the difference attitude? That's what the Amway millionaires will argue! Those others just didn't try hard enough. They just didn't have a good enough attitude! But I think most of us would probably agree that most people are not going to make it in Amway no matter how hard they try or how great their attitude is. The problem is with the system. We just can't quite bring ourselves to admit that there could be similar problems with the church...

Jeremy said...

Rob, I think your use of "hate" was out of line but I think I agree with the jist of it.

I think the problem is just as much (if not more) with modern culture as it is with the church. I wonder how bored any of us would be if we didn't have... our smart phones, internet, cable tv, facebook groups... We live in a world of, give me what I want NOW. This creates laziness on our part when it comes to being entertained/nurished/taught. If any of us were transplanted to 100 years ago, most of us would be bored as heck. I wonder if this has as much to do with why church was so much more vibrant 50 years ago. The problem with the broader culture is that it makes us lazy so if the church doesn't meet our every expectation, we get bored and are too lazy to try and make it interesting.

Seth, I disagree with your assessment as to why that lesson was so bad. You blame the institution of the church yet your premise is based on, "Two quorum members were asleep. One was playing with his kid. Three were playing games on their phones. Several were simply checked out, they had nothing to contribute (and a kind of glossy-eyed far-away look)." Why is that the church's fault? You're kind of proving my point :D.

Speaking to your critique of my analogy of the high school teacher. I was only using it for an illustration of boredom. The two are not comparable as far as substance. Its true you don't take the same class over and over unless you are flunking every time but the church isn't only there to teach doctrine (though it reinforces it certainly).

In Sacrament we are hearing talks from different people reinforcing some principal and as an object lesson for the audience. It is just as much for the person giving the talk as it is for the listeners.

The classes are not taught by professionals, they're taught by regulars. Again, the idea is not a recieving ideas concept but of interaction between the group. The teacher is more of a facilitator (granted this varries depending on the teacher) of a discussion.

In Priesthood at least (someone else will have to speak to RS) the first half is devoted to temporal matters. The Young Men are doing such and such on Tuesday, So and so needs the sacrament taken to them, Some such needs their lawn taken care of. Then a lesson, which is hopefully again, interactive. I will admit I do get bored in Sacrament if the speaker isn't all that good. For the Sacrament though I am very contemplative. When I'm late, I miss having a few minutes to think in slience (now that my kids are older). Sure I could do it at home but the effort of coming to church makes that time more valuable. I rarely get bored in classes, even if I don't like what's being taught. I think it has far more to do with Rob's point: "Maybe you should go to Church to serve, not to be served."

Jeremy said...

Whoa Seth, now you are changing the subject away from boredom. People are not successful with Amway because, as you say the system is flawed. First of all, people aren't part of the church to make money so its much harder to quantify the ...success rate among individuals in that kind of comparison. People are part of Amway for selfish or consumerist reasons. You're arging to the wrong guy if you want to argue that the church has problems because I'd agree with you but Amway is a company designed to make money and even if the church is the same (which I don't buy), the members of it are not in it for the purpose of making money. I'm not sure we can gain any insight on the boredom issue from the Amway comparison.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Rob F.,

Like I mentioned in the post, Rob, I'm not the best advisor on this precisely for the reasons you give in your first comment above when you called B.S.

On the other hand, I do believe that not attending regularly has given me an opportunity to step back and see a bigger picture than I did back in the days when I strove for 100% attendance. Sometimes we can't see how empty and insipid church meetings are until we stop going for awhile and look at the plus/minus aspect of it more objectively.

Nevertheless, I am aware that not everyone is fed up with their church experience. There are doubtless exceptional wards out there where the experience is delightful, and people such as yourself who are able to rise above what many are finding to be a mediocre experience at best. I have to disagree with you, however, with your assertion that the problem is wholly a reflection of the individual.

My blog is not for everyone, but you will note that my comment section is filling up with affirmations from the similarly disaffected. So even setting aside my own personal cynicism, I think there is cause for concern. All is clearly NOT well in Zion. If the institutional Church continues to ignore this growing wave of dissatisfaction in its midst, it will continue to lose members. There is a much larger contingent of souls who quietly slip away from boredom than of those tens of thousands who actually go to the trouble of having their names removed.

Seth said...

Jeremy,
Not meant as a direct comparison. My last sentence was meant to address that. I submit that boredom has been bred into our services because of the model of worship pushed by the church (and correlation itself). In that respect, it is an institutional problem. I don't think my ward is sub-standard. I believe it to be representative.

Further, I don't think that the boredom many (and likely MOST) experience during church results from lack of good attitude or lack of effort. It is an institutional flaw which has caused a general malaise to fall over our services, a drastic change from the spiritual gifts apparent in the early church.

When is the last time you did the hosanna shout? Was it a powerful spiritual experience? Not for most. Most church members just aren't comfortable with excitement and vigor in religious experience. They are like the goofy kid on the dance floor who was pushed out there by his leaders and enthusiastically encouraged to dance. He just doesn't have the first clue what to do! We're taught so often that the spirit is supposed to be still and small that we don't recognize that it can be other things too! Like, exciting! I don't blame that on individuals, I blame the institution that defines our mormon culture. I believe the spirit can be small or great, quiet or loud, still or vibrant. Most members wouldn't be comfortable with all that. Excitement doesn't have to mean gimmicks!

Rob F said...

Seth, I think you are giving the CoP too much credit for the nature of your Sunday church experience.

Jeremy said...

Seth, I am not trying to take blame from the church by the way. I agree there are things the church could do better and I find much of what you say to be valid. That said, I just think its wrong and actually unempowering to put blame on, as you say, the institution for your boredom. I believe we have power over our nature, including boredom. We can make lemons into lemonade and [insert other cheesy cliche :D]. Taking responsibility for one's attitude is very empowering. ;)

Seth said...

Rob, I'm sure you do.

Jeremy, if I was the only one suffering this malady, I would not defend the article. However, I have attended church from one coast to the other (though not everywhere in between), as well as in several different countries. The experience is not too different in any of these places. The same blank stares, the same repetitive information, the same sluggishness, the same format, the same manner of dress, the same quiet sense of duty to sit through another hour of church. If you two think this is a personal problem that a majority of church members have, and is best addressed on a personal level, that's fine. I just totally disagree.

I would start by asking whether the three hour block is necessary. I suggest not. The church has recently been exploring this issue as well. Institutional decision, not gospel directive.

There are many productive institutional changes that could be made to help spark life back into our services. How about updating the hymnal? Institutional.

How about discuss the kinds of musical instruments we can use during services? Institutional.

How about we examine productivity measures and methods for home teaching? Hey, that could spark a little life.

So, yes, when we have an institution wide problem, I look to the institution for answers. Does that take power from me to make my experience better? Not at all.

Jeremy said...

Seth, I'd agree with many of the points you're making. I can't speak for Rob but I think looking for improvement at church to make the experience better is a good thing. I'm not against being critical of the church and advocating change. That's one reason I'm here!

Again, I never said the church held no blame in this. I've conceded time and again that improvement can be made. Where I disagree is when you take responsibility away from the one who is bored for his boredom, whether its at church or at school or at home on Saturday. I disagree when you say its all the church's fault.

Is it possible that your experience with other wards has been selectively colored by your bias? There have been times when I'm sure I've got a blank stare on my face but I'm actually in deep thought about the subject. I'm also a bit shy and I don't like to speak up unless I've got a coherent thought. Often I am about to say a really profound thing when the direction of the conversation changes because I took too long thinking about it.

Maybe the general boredom at church isn't unique to mormonism? I've got plenty of non mormon friends who say they stopped going to their church because it was boring...

What if, as I pointed out, boredom at church is a reflection of our modern culture of NOW. I agree the church can do a better job, the teachers can do better, etc. but SO CAN THE INDIVIDUAL. That's all I'm saying.

Seth said...

Jeremy, I think that you are right that an individual has to do something if the program isn't working for him. I tend to bring Sunstone and Dialogue articles along with me for backup. If the lesson is so dull that I cannot engage it, then I turn to the other articles I have with me. I often leave my meetings spiritually enlightened not because of the meetings, but despite them.

I also want to point out that many people who post to online forums like this do not feel welcome in church to contribute anything but the standard answers. Since they no longer believe in the simple mormon rhetoric (standard responses), they are left to sit on their hands and stifle their could-have-been contribution. I have been there myself. Many times. The fact that we have to go outside of church to discuss historical issues is proof enough to me that something is wrong with our Sunday School classes. But we are not free to discuss these things there. Not faith-promoting enough. Another institutional issue.

Rob F said...

Seth, not sure why you think church should be the place to talk about your issues with church history? Maybe that's just not the purpose of church meetings? I don't complain about my minivan because it doesn't make french fries--that's just not what it is made for :-)

Seth said...

Rob, did it occur to you that church history might actually have something to with what we talk about at church since the "Restoration" is discussed, in some way, in nearly every meeting? Church history is the history of the restoration. It is directly on point. The fact that we cherry pick which facts to talk about when discussing the restoration influences our view of the restoration. If we're going to stop talking incessantly about the restoration, than I agree, it would be prudent to stop discussing church history. Except of course, that the statements of our "Prophets", JS to present, also make up church history. So, as long as we stop discussing the Restoration and never use statements of former prophets, I agree we should not worry about church history. We should only talk about french fries and mini-vans.

Rob L. said...

Rob: Why shouldn't church be the place to talk about any and ALL issues that one has with the church, church doctrine and church policy? Those who have been LDS all their lives, or those converts to the LDS Church who were never deeply involved in the more mainstream Christian denominations would probably be shocked to realize that (for instance) members of the United Methodist Church express concerns and issues with their church's doctrine, history and current policies. In fact, the United Methodist Church encourages this sort of discussion because it knows that such things do not mean that one is not committed to Christianity and the church; also, vigorous honest discourse about even the most uncomfortable issues fosters spiritual growth. I realize this makes no sense from an institutional LDS mind set, but this is the reality in such mainstream denominations as the Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ and Anglican bodies. Some will point out that those denominations are shrinking whereas the LDS Church (until the last few years) was growing at a very fast rate. The reality is, however, that the LDS Church is now having a very hard time retaining converts, whereas those mainline denominations are keeping their core members for life--because those members feel they can be honest and deal with their personal religious issues at church.

A church that requires its members only to uphold its policies, to have no other response except, "Amen. I agree with you," will never foster the type of individual PERSONAL spiritual integrity that it's members need to stand alone on their own when challenges comes their way. A church that demands that its members always "stay in the mainstream of the church" (as LDS General Authorities drummed into our heads at BYU in the early 1980's) is an organization of weak, co-dependents.

Rob L. said...

If one can't be completely honest about everything in a church setting then what use is the church any way? It's merely another club, clique, etc, in which appearances matter more than realities.

For instances, the LDS Church has every right, if it so chooses, to require homosexual members to be celibate. But if homosexuality and the challenges of living a celibate life (such as intense loneliness) are never openly discussed, then those who wish to follow the Church's requirements will become frustrated, depressed, and most will eventually leave. The Curch will probably, of course, blame those individuals for imagined spiritual and moral weaknesses, but in fact it will be the policies of the Church that will be spiritually and morally weak.

If a church truly exists to foster spiritual growth and moral improvement within its general membership, then that church must accept each member as an individual--accept them for where they are in their spiritual and ethical journey, and minister TO them--not simply lord their authority, commandments and such OVER them.

Venus said...

Rob F:

What, presactly, is the purpose of a church?

Whether we want to admit it or not, the church has become an institution. As some have noted, if we want any changes to happen then it [largely] has to come from the top-down, whether it's the hymnal or something else. The church has taken on an authoritarian bent, which satisfies a LOT of people. One problem with this authoritarianism is that there are a LOT of people who don't like it and feel that it stifles spirituality.

For instance, if I want to serve organic baguettes or large chunks of bread for the sacrament (think fist sized or larger which force you to chew and masticate for longer than one second), that's not something that can happen simply because we have established [by tradition only] that a small morsel of white/wheat bread is what the sacrament is.

Besides, apathy in the church is a manifestation of a problem with the leadership, not the members. Inspired leaders do not preside over apathic congregations. (See Alma 23:6, D&C 50:13-23, D&C 46:14).

Ammon preached to the Lamanites by the Spirit of truth, which resulted in the edification of both parties. In other words, he preached by the gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost and the (non-member) Lamanites who eventually converted received the word he preached also by the gifts (see D&C 46: 14) and powers of the Holy Ghost. They continued this same process and no one became apathetic. But no one can receive the word by the Spirit of truth unless it is preached by the same Spirit. Therefore, uninspired leadership alone is to blame for apathy in the church.
Ah, but surely the receivers carry some of the blame, too, right?
Wrong. We are talking of members of the church, not non-members, so these are people who have already received the word and who are already willing to receive more of the word. They believe in the word, they believe the word will be at church and they go to church to receive it. They expect and believe their leaders will give them the word in the Spirit of truth, meaning that it will be dispersed “according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy,” by the gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost, “the power of God working miracles in them”, just as Ammon spread the word. If, though, after they go and listen to their leaders, they remain apathetic, it is entirely their leaders’ fault. The leaders are uninspired. Period.
Without the manifestations of the Spirit, boredom sets in
Anyone who has experienced manifestations of the Spirit knows that any “religious” experience in which the Spirit is not manifesting itself is not really a religious experience. It is just going through the motions. When the Spirit is present, a religious gathering can last all day long and one still can’t get enough. Without the Spirit, boredom quickly sets in and ten minutes becomes an eternity. Many will say that it is up to the members to bring the Spirit to a meeting, in other words, that you get what you put into it. This, though, is a cop-out to try to remove the responsibility of the leaders from ministering the gospel as the scriptures direct: in the Spirit of truth.
In other religious denominations, in which pastors are paid, the members do not simply suffer through boredom-filled meetings. If the pastor does not bring the Spirit, they either fire him or the members go elsewhere, to a pastor that they feel does possess the Spirit. Not so with the LDS. We do like the Puritans and consider it saintly to suffer through week after week of boredom. (See The Title of Insufferable, Self-Righteous Prigs.)

Venus 2 said...

More:

Uninspired leaders are not sanctified

The Lord has made it plain that all leaders are to be sanctified. If they are not sanctified, they are not to be leaders, or “teachers” of the word. Sanctified leaders possess the spirit of prophecy and revelation, yet, how many leaders have actually prophesied in the church? How many leaders have actually received a revelation, not just inspiration, but the type that can be written down? Go and ask your leader if he or she has ever prophesied or ever received a revelation from the Lord and see for yourself.

Unsanctified leaders are more like managers than leaders. No one wants to be “managed.” Heck, no one wants to be led, either, unless the Holy Ghost is doing the leading, then everyone wants to be led. Unless a leader is sanctified and thus possesses the guidance, gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost, those who follow his leadership are being led by just a man.

Apathy is a good thing

If you touch a hot iron, you feel pain. That pain may seem like a bad thing, but it really is a good thing as it alerts you to the danger of the hot iron so that you can remove your hand and avoid further damage to your body. All symptoms of illness, then, although they don’t feel good, are but signals to us that there is a problem.

Leadership will often see apathy not as a signal that there is a problem, but as the problem itself. The apathy itself is then addressed, not its cause. The members will be preached to and made to feel guilty for not doing their duty.

They will be encouraged and motivated and every other trick in the book to get them to do something that they would naturally do anyway, without any external influence, if only they heard the word preached to them in the Spirit of truth.

An argument could be made that uninspired leadership should not be encouraged by acting on it. Only inspired leadership should be acted upon. After all, if the membership acted upon uninspired leadership and brought their friends to boring church meetings in droves, what would be the result? However, such an argument is not necessary because man, by nature, negates uninspired leadership with the solution of apathy. Apathy, therefore, is not a problem, but a solution to uninspired leadership. It is an apathetic membership which should inspire the leaders to sanctify themselves and obtain the powers, gifts and fruits of the Spirit with which to minister in righteousness among the Lord’s people. Only the Spirit can cure apathy, or enliven a sleepy body.

Venus 3 said...

How to encourage leadership to repent: inspired, intentional apathy

If your ward or stake leaders are uninspired and you notice that your ward or stake is full of apathetic members, the answer is not to fight them or call them to repentance. The Lord will take care of His leaders and will chastise them in His own due time. It is not the duty of the membership to steady the ark. We members did not call them, although we did sustain them through our vote. And that (sustaining) is the key.

Sustain inspired leaders and withdraw support from uninspired leaders

The proper, scriptural way that the Lord has set up whereby membership can “modify the misbehavior of the leadership” is by withdrawing a sustaining vote. Most people feel that once a vote is cast, it must remain cast until the end of the term of office. Just as the Lord giveth and taketh away, so the membership has the power to sustain and withdraw support.

I might suggest a couple of important things to keep in mind when withdrawing support from an uninspired leader. First, this is not a way to punish him, but to encourage him to sanctify himself so that he may again have your support.

And second, keep firmly in mind the difference between what are the commandments of God and the counsels or petitions of an uninspired man. As long as you continue to keep the commandments of God, you will remain on safe ground.

For example, having entered baptism and made a covenant with God, we are to partake of the sacrament each week. So, not attending a ward that has an uninspired bishop is not an option. However, just attending the portion in which the sacrament is passed, partaking and then skipping the rest of the meeting, might be. On my mission, many baptized members did just that, as they had covenanted to partake of the sacrament each week, not listen to every talk given in that meeting.

During sustaining votes, especial care might be taken as to who you vote for, or even if you vote at all. Just as there are many ways to sustain a leader, there are probably as many ways to withhold support.

Inspired apathy is a solution

Inspired apathy can be a great tool in the hands of those who wield it with a proper understanding of its effect on leadership. Although apathy is often seen as a thing to be avoided, a bad thing, it can be a means of generating humble leaders who are guided by the Holy Ghost and not just by their egos.

Venus 1 said...

Apathy in the church is a manifestation of a problem with the leadership, not the members. Inspired leaders do not preside over apathic congregations.

But no one can receive the word by the Spirit of truth unless it is preached by the same Spirit. Therefore, uninspired leadership alone is to blame for apathy in the church.

Ah, but surely the receivers carry some of the blame, too, right?

Wrong. We are talking of members of the church, not non-members, so these are people who have already received the word and who are already willing to receive more of the word. They believe in the word, they believe the word will be at church and they go to church to receive it. They expect and believe their leaders will give them the word in the Spirit of truth, meaning that it will be dispersed “according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy,” by the gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost, “the power of God working miracles in them”, just as Ammon spread the word. If, though, after they go and listen to their leaders, they remain apathetic, it is entirely their leaders’ fault.

The leaders are uninspired. Period.

Without the manifestations of the Spirit, boredom sets in

Anyone who has experienced manifestations of the Spirit knows that any “religious” experience in which the Spirit is not manifesting itself is not really a religious experience. It is just going through the motions. When the Spirit is present, a religious gathering can last all day long and one still can’t get enough. Without the Spirit, boredom quickly sets in and ten minutes becomes an eternity. Many will say that it is up to the members to bring the Spirit to a meeting, in other words, that you get what you put into it. This, though, is a cop-out to try to remove the responsibility of the leaders from ministering the gospel as the scriptures direct: in the Spirit of truth.

In other religious denominations, in which pastors are paid, the members do not simply suffer through boredom-filled meetings. If the pastor does not bring the Spirit, they either fire him or the members go elsewhere, to a pastor that they feel does possess the Spirit.

Not so with the LDS. We do like the Puritans and consider it saintly to suffer through week after week of boredom.

Motivation is not the issue

The typical tactic used by uninspired leaders is to try to motivate the members to do their duty, as if motivation were the problem. For example, not a single Sunday will go by without an elder’s quorum president striving to remind, encourage and motivate his quorum to do home teaching. Success stories will be drawn from talks of GA’s and such, showing that home teaching is important and effective. Week after week the elders’ ears will grow more and more weary with hearing the broken “home teaching” record play. In one ward that I was a part of, one of the elders got so tired of hearing it that when the bishop sent one of his counselors to deliver a special bishopric message to our quorum of elders, and it turned out to be about home teaching, this elder stormed off in anger and didn’t return again to the quorum until he was finally coaxed gently back.

Bringing a non-member friend to a boring meeting is not something everyone is willing to do. If the leadership is inspired and the gathering of the saints are occasions in which the Spirit is poured out and manifestations are regular, members naturally spread the word. This is true of all cultures and religions. For example, in the Catholic religion and regions of the world, when someone has witnessed a virgin appear somewhere, word spreads like wildfire and everyone goes to see what Spiritual manifestation is occurring. The miraculous is widely held as a sign of the divine working, or as the Savior puts it, “the works of the Father.” If you remove the works of the Father from any church, even one that carries the name of Christ, you are left with a church of man. So, “the power of God working miracles in” leaders is very important.

Dave P. said...

Yikes! What an influx of comments since yesterday. I can't think of much to add to all of it, but the thing that came to mind was this paraphrase of the Savior's words, "The church was made for man, and not man for the church."

Rob F said...

Seth, I didn't mean to imply that we shouldn't talk about Church history at church, clearly that is appropriate. But what are the issues you have that you think you should be able to talk about but can't?

Rob L, my understanding was that mainstream Christian denominations aren't doing that great at maintaining their members either. What's your source for your statement that they are doing better at maintaining their core members?

I disagree that the LDS church "requires its members only to uphold its policies, to have no other response except, "Amen. I agree with you." I do agree that people need to have their own personal spiritual integrity. I would suggest that part of developing this involves faithful church service and service of others.

Rob F said...

Rob L, who says that gay issues cannot be openly discussed? These conversations may not be appropriate in all church contexts, but that doesn't mean they can't be discussed. I've had many discussions about these issues with other church members. I agree about ministering to people, rather than lording it over them...but disagree I suppose in how much of the latter actually occurs in the church.

Rob L. said...

Rob F.: My sources for the fact that mainline churches are maintaining their core members are the various reports that are issued by the National Council of Churches, the International Council of churches, but numerous polls and surveys that are regularly conducted and reported in the religion sections of most major newspapers. I can speak for the Methodist church because I was raised methodist, my family are all Methodists as is my partner. I'm not a Methodist,of course, and don't even identify myself as a Christian (I'm a Reform Mormon), but--for instance--my partner's congregation and his minister welcome me, invite my imput, etc.

They deal much more openly in church meetings with the problems and issues of their members, than I ever saw church leaders do during my 20 some years in the LDS Church. Members of these mainline Protestant denominations are not as active, do not attend church regularly. In their late teens and early 20's they leave church activity behind; but they return for their marriage ceremonies, the christening of their children, the religious instruction of their children, and for help in dealing with grief, disease, loss, death, etc. As for the nation's Mega churches, many interdenominational and evagelical churches, and even the LDS Church--while they attract more converts--and thus seem to grow at faster rates--they have, within the past few years, had trouble maintaining converts. Many converts to these types of more authoritarian churches seem to be "church jumpers." They join, are active for a period of time, become disillusioned and leave to join another church.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Venus, thank you for your wise and inspired take on the virtues of apathy. This is the kind of stuff I wish I had written myself.

I have one are disagreement, however, and that is your assertion that we should attend Sacrament meeting at least to partake of the sacrament.

I maintain that the sacrament can be partaken at home. When we do it that way, we can partake of the bread in the way the the ancients did -until they had eaten their fill- rather than the snack-size portion that is the only convenient way for it to be done on a mass scale. My wife and I have found that private partaking of the sacrament together is a holy and bonding practice.

The early Mormons did not have regular sacrament meetings until the late 1850's. It isn't even necessary to have the sacrament on Sunday, though that's the day we choose to do so.

Seth said...

Rob F, I don't have any issues with church history. I'm willing to examine it and accept it for what it is. The church, on the other hand, is unwilling to discuss those parts of our history that the top church administrators fear may not be faith-promoting enough. I'd love to have a frank discussion about what the translation process for the BoM was really like, why the BoA doesn't match up to the scrolls we have in our possession, when polygamy actually began to be practiced, whether witnesses to the BoM saw the plates and felt the plates in a natural state or only with "spiritual eyes". I'd love to explore examples of how to discern whether a prophet is speaking as such, or even whether we should accept all scriptures literally. However, any discussion of any of these issues is immediately stifled. An actual lesson that discusses them? Out of the question.

Again, these are not issues to me. I'd be happy to discuss them. The issue is with the church presenting only one small faith-promoting view of history and suppressing additional discussion. Lets discuss those issues that help us see the restoration in it's true light, not it's mythical-magical-specialness. See, I am of the opinion that the truth shall set you free. I am of the opinion that truth does not destroy, it builds. Claims that cannot bear investigation and discussion are usually not based on truth. If the restoration is "true", then it will bear all examination.

Rob L. said...

Rob F.: I concede that our experiences may differ with respect to incidents of the Church and its lay leaders "lording it" over members. As someone who was active for decades and even held a Church-wide calling for the last 7 yrs of LDS Church membership, I did indeed have many experiences of various Brethren (at the local, regional and Church-wide level) "lording it." The leadership style of the LDS Church is so paternalistic, that I think most LDS members simply accept it without question. The leaders may talk down to them as if they were children, and they don't even notice. But others who come from other backgrounds religiously, may convert and then become quickly disillusioned by the paternalistic nature of the leadership at all levels in the LDS Church and in the culture.

Rob L. said...

One more point: if the immediate responce to criticism or challenge within ANY church is that the criticism and/or challenge is an attack--and if the knee-jerk reaction is always one of defensivenes (on behalf on the church), then something is seriously wrong with that church--NOT with the member who is criticizing or challenging. If the atmosphere is that only the church can criticize and challenge the members--and that members must never criticize or challenge the institution--then, within a free society, that particular church will eventually begin to shrink, for it will be unable to minister to people where they are.

Rob L. said...

I agree with you, Seth. WHen it comes to Mormon history, the LDS Church wants only "faith promoting history"--AKA propoganda. But in the end, the facts will win out.

Venus said...

Rock:

I didn't write the apathy notes. I stole them from LDS Anarchy... i tried to hyperlink the article, but whenever I hyperlink something on your site it ends up lost in the ether...

I actually agree with you on the Sacrament part. I see no reason why the Church thinks that it is the "owner" of the Sacrament, dictating who can have it AND where they can have it. That is simply an overstep that is troubling.

That said, here is the link to the original article (which includes some scriptural references which make the article make more sense): http://ldsanarchy.wordpress.com/2008/08/30/apathy-is-not-a-problem-its-a-symptom-and-a-solution/

P.S. Seth, I actually dig the magical aspects of the BoM. That's just who I am... I think there's an "unseen" power in the universe that can AND does operate. Whether that comes through seer stones (which I'd love to have), or a burning bush, or the energy discussed in the Celestine Prophecy, or as explained by Gregg Braden, or Masaru Emoto and others... there are many, many people that have issues with how the BoM was translated (and I'd suggest that the way the Church teaches it is problematic in that they don't acknowledge the seer stones and simply give the tacit understanding that it was a word-for-word translation), but I'm not one of them. I really, really dig the magical side of things.

If only I wasn't spending so much time being cynical.

Josh said...

@ Rob L,I really like what you have to say and I'm trying to foster that kind of perception in my own ward; That's the kind of Church that Christ would be the head of, but how can we affect that kind of change from a closet? We need to be there "seasoning" the discussions in our wards; this change will never come if we just rant and rave in comment forums. Are we afraid, do we only care about ourselves and our own experience at church, or do we care where the church goes in the future? Personally, I am striving for the latter.

Rob L. said...

Rob F.: WHat you wrote about gay issues would not be appropriate in "all church contexts" is endemic of the problems within the LDS Church. I never said that gay issues should be discussed in "all church contexts"--certainly not Primary, for instance. But yes, it should be appropriate to discuss in ANY adult class situation. And Yes, it should be appropriate to discuss it openly and honestly in any leadership meeting, in any meeting with any church official, with Home Teachers, Visiting teachers. If the Church is going to demand obedience to certain commandments, then the Church is going to have to live up to its end of the bargain and ACTUALLY minister OPENLY to those striving to live up to or understand their commandments. As long as it continues to NOT do this it will continue to lose members over the issue, and put off the majority of those whom it wants to convert.

Rob F said...

Well, RobL,this may well be one of the toughest issues we face in the church, and I'm not sure how useful it is for you and me to have this conversation on here, since we have different agendas re: the LDS church. I for one welcome more discussion on this particular issue, and think it can take place in many of the situations you mention.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Jeremy, you ask "do we hold no responsibility for our own boredom?" Yes, and every time I go back to sacrament meeting I hold myself accountable for my own boredom. I already knew from long experience that it would be a waste of my time...yet I showed up anyway. When, O when will I ever learn to be accountable, and just stay home?

But seriously, folks...

Rob F, I like very much that you see church as a place for service, and that you put your words into action. Service IS the highest calling, and association with our fellow disciples of Christ is one of my greatest joys. You will recall that in my article I promoted the ancient practice of gathering together as one of the primary purposes and benefits of belonging to the early church.

But you'll also recall that the focus of my piece was on the impotence of our modern MEETINGS, it was not an attack on the church members, i.e. the Body of Christ. I certainly do not "hate" the members, if that was what you were implying. (Read my piece entitled "What Do I Mean By 'Pure' Mormonism' " if you would like to see the expression of my true feelings on our responsibility to others.)

But...We have little opportunity in our church services to engage in the type of service you suggested, the examples which you provide all take place outside of the meeting block. But I do like you for your position of service and I honor and agree with you wholeheartedly on that point.

A very spiritual man whom I greatly honor once suggested to me that one effective way to have an influence at church is by attending and shining my light to raise the vibrations of those who may be stewing in boredom. I wanted to take that advice. I wanted to participate in classes and to "bring it" rather than just sit at home and have no influence whatsoever. I still think that is great counsel. We who are enthusiastic about the gospel can have a part in improving the atmosphere in our various wards.

The problem, I have found, is that by the time I've sat through all three meetings, all the light has been sucked out of me, and I return home uninvigorated. I do relate to Paul's comment which I quoted in that piece about how his study at home and associations online with invigorates him and excites him about his religion. But then he attends church and he returns home drained rather than enthused.

The following is not an aspersion on you, Rob, because it is clear that you are cut from a different cloth than the average member, but it has been my observation that many of those Mormons who attend church regularly are simply not as interested in their religion as many of us here are. Those who are truly fascinated with Mormonism in all its dynamic facets, like Seth above, have difficulty just going with the flow as if the only thing that matters about church is being present.

David said...

i enjoy the sunday church experience. for me a big part of it comes from recognizing that i am with people trying to do their best.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Venus,
LDS Anarchy is indeed the go-to place for information on how things can and could be done within the Church, as well as the things we've lost. There are still so many entries I have not yet gotten to. That site is a treasure trove. His stuff about doing the sacrament right is essential reading for those who feel something's missing.

Rob F said...

First off, let me say that I do not enjoy antagonizing people and I really don't enjoy online debates. I'm sorry if I've pissed anyone off, that has not been my intention. To the degree that I have done so, I apologize.

However, it is true... that I do want to call into question some of the statements and views expressed on Rock's blog that cast the Church as a bogeyman and those who are disaffected as victims. Is there a way for me to do that and not make people feel defensive? I do not want to say that anyone is necessarily wrong or evil. How do I challenge positions that some hold very dearly without doing that?

So tell me how I can challenge views that I see as incomplete without pissing people off.

Rand said...

Lately as I've been preparing lessons or talks for church, I've been reminded of Gandhi's challenge: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I'm doing my best to apply that to a church block where I can. I fall short sometimes, but I'm having fun trying to transform this ward, one step at a time.

Marci said...

I would be more inclined to continue attending if there were more fellow shipping going on. I am a social person, so I would be a social mormon if there was more socializing on Sunday. to the devout my request may be blasphemous, but that is what I want more of on Sunday. It makes me think of the books I've read about the West in the 1800s when people packed a lunch and made a day of it. We tried having a potluck once a month but the squeaky wheel in the ward made sure that didn't happen for very long...

Blake said...

Wow. This is a lively discussion!

The sense I'm getting from the collectively bored individuals in this thread is a high level of frustration with the correlated style of worship in today's church. I also see that some get very touchy if it is suggested that more effort should be put into the meetings in order to get more out of it. I totally get how that could be offensive--as if you are being told there is something wrong with you.

I do NOT believe there is something sinful or lazy about people who do not find fulfillment in the LDS church. I know better. I truly think the majority of church attenders feel the same. There are some that may send critical messages in verbal and non-verbal ways, but those people just haven’t gotten to know you.

But I also do not believe in condemning the institutional church as the leadership tries to organize and standardize for a worldwide organization. Perhaps the pendulum of control and unification will swing back toward a more flexible approach some day. I believe there is sufficient flex today – with the right amount of gentleness and meekness.

We all wrestle with why we attend church when we go away un-fulfilled, un-taught, un-lifted, un-encouraged and un-joyful. What is at the root? I’m not sure. But whatever moves you to become more of a disciple, to give more of your heart and your spirit in lifting others, do it! I think we all agree, the thrilling joy in the gospel is experienced when we lose ourselves in complete surrender to doing Christ’s work – being his hands and being a blessing to people who are hurting.

The point of attending a church is to find and meet and empathize with the neighbors God puts in our path so we can figure out what they need and what we can give. Do you agree? If you find a place that does more than just entertain you for an hour with uplifting music and oratory, if it transforms you into a lean mean serving machine, then it has served you rightly, in my mind.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Blake, I enjoyed your even-handed comments, but I do want to address your implication that the leaders are not deserving of so much criticism because, after all, they are only humans doing their best, etc.

I think if you were to get to the gist of my dissatisfaction, it is the way in which the leadership subtly encourages and allows the membership to believe that every program and decree in the Church comes to us directly from the mind of God, and therefore any critical evaluation is akin to questioning God's will.

Thus, we have raised up a people who are actually afraid to refuse a calling or question anything a member of the bishopric says, or even to admit to themselves that church meetings are not serving their needs. Or taught to understand that, when faced with the dilemma of not having enough money on hand to feed their children (as they are commanded to by God -1 Tim 5:8); they should not hesitate to pay their last mite to the Church first in order to garner some nebulous "blessings."

As discussed earlier, the mantra "the Church is perfect, it's the people that are flawed" is often taken as doctrine, when the reality is the opposite. People are flawed, yes, but institutions have a tendency to focus on perpetuating their own existence over any other consideration, and that, to me, is a gigantic flaw.

(As an example, I once worked for a short time for the March of Dimes, a charity that was originally created for one purpose: to fight polio. The campaign consisted of encouraging schoolchildren everywhere to contribute one dime apiece toward the elimination of polio. Once polio was virtually eliminated, that institution did not dissolve. It found new causes to champion, more diseases, because by now there were executives to pay and jobs to keep filled and pamphlets to publish and travel expenses to pay. The entity known as the March of Dimes had accomplished Its purpose for being, yet the institution found a way to live on for the sake of the institution itself. To this day, it continues to reinvent reasons for its continued existence.)

The tendency of the institutional Church(tm) to to protect its own image and control its history is one way in which its own proclivity for self-preservation is manifest. I suggest that millions of believers in the Book of Mormon and the principles of the Restoration could continue to build and gather in meeting houses and continue to practice the religion quite nicely even without a central authority directing their every step. The first century Christians did it, and that movement disappeared only when the religion became institutionalized and grew into the Holy Roman Catholic Empire.

Is the LDS Church flawed? The answer should be self-evident to even the most devoted true believer. No organization can be "true"; I don't even know how anyone could even articulate that position. The gospel can be true, God can truly exist, etc., but how can a gathering of people, no matter how well intentioned, ever be "true?"

My father, a career marine Sergeant, used to like repeating the saying "A marine may not always be right, but he's never wrong." Most of us hearing that for the first time would recognize it as ironically humorous, but when my father repeated it to rationalize away what you and I would recognize as errors in judgment, he seemed to believe it to be an absolute truism.

Which brings us to what chaps my pink panties; the persistent myth that the Church, an earthly organization no matter how well intended, is somehow "true", and that therefore anything done in its name is beyond reproach.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

For the record, Rob F, I wasn't bothered in the least by your statement to me that "I call call B.S." That's the kind of writing that gets a person's attention, and a great opener, but it did not offend me.

Opinions that differ from mine are quite welcome here, and I have benefited from seeing things from your point of view. You have shown me that not all of my assumptions are absolute at all times with all people.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Also for the record, folks, I wouldn't want to sit in class and bring up hot button issues or difficult questions because I not only don't think it's appropriate in a setting where those who may be "young in the faith" may be present, but creating discord just to mix things up is not "shining your light."

However, a year or two back when we were studying out of the "Teachings of Brigham Young" manual about the importance of treating our wives decently, someone (not me) brought up the fact that the authors of the manual seemed to be bending over backwards to give the impression that Brigham young only had one wife. All mention of plural wives was Orwelled out of that book entirely.


This was in priesthood, and a couple of guys felt it was in poor taste to bring that up because 1. It distracted from the point of the lesson, and 2. The Brethren must have known what they were doing when they put these lessons together.

The fact that Brigham Young, who was counseling behavior toward our wives, himself had multiple wives was the elephant in the room, and we weren't supposed to even be thinking about that?!

There are times when the uncorrelated facets of our history are entirely appropriate to bring out into the open, and this was one of them.

Jeff said...

Rock- Last Sunday I sat through testimony meeting reading my scriptures waiting for someone to actually bear a testimony. I was bored catatonic. It wasn't until about half way through the meeting that I realized my dear wife was sobbing as she had been touched by a number of the testimonies born.

It made me recall the experience I had shortly after returning to church when an inactive member neighbor made the comment that she had never felt the spirit in "this" ward. At the time I was on fire.. actively involved, serving, teaching, attending with my family and I felt the spirit almost every week. I wondered then as I wonder now if that spirit doesn't depend more on us than it does anything that could be said or done during a church meeting.

I know this sounds like I disagree with you Rock but I don't. I currently find the meetings so painfully dull that I can barely sit through them. I find any reason I can to visit the foyer or take a hike during SS or Priesthood meeting. I know our meetings are boring...but I know that I probably need to look in the mirror because dull lessons and talks aren't the only reason I find church unfulfilling.

Brady said...

Members pay 10% of their income, they serve missions on their own dime, and they provide voluntary service. I think members have earned some bitching rights.

Brady said...

I think that the most salient point Rock makes in the OP is that dues-paying members have a right, and perhaps a duty, to assert themselves. Rock has a bit too severe a case of truth-turrets to be the guy I would send into a meeting with the Correlation Department, but he's right on this.

zo-ma-rah said...

We'll this conversation has gone places. I used to be more active in asking questions and making comments in Church meetings. But recently I've stopped. I guess one of the main reasons is there doesn't seem to be any thought on the subject. In an Elder's Quorum class with mostly RM's they've all learned the pat answers to questions. Or even just one RM in the room and they will give the pat answers.

But instead of having a thoughtful discussion you get the rote answers and the idea is quickly dismissed. The only discussion you can have is by using the rote answers.

Well that's been my experience any way. Lately I've just studied by myself and been much more spiritually fulfilled.

I agree with Jeff that Spirit speaks to us according to our attitude. But it also depends on our level of understanding. Which I guess they are very closely related. But since I've learned the sacrament in Church meetings is not administered according to scripture I no longer get any spiritual fulfillment out of it.

Now it could be that my attitude is preventing my form feeling the Spirit. But it could be that the Spirit instructed me so much with the Sacrament(TM) and now it is time for me to move on to partaking the sacrament as given in the Scriptures.

We are taught line by line and once we move up to the next line the previous one may have little to offer us.

As far as socializing ancient Christian meetings usually involved a communal meal afterwards. That and they met in people's homes. It would be a much more intimate and social experience.

Must the church meet in large meeting houses for it to be a global community? Or can we still maintain the intimacy of meeting in people's homes and have a world wide fellowship?

Mitch said...

Rock - Thanks! The timing of this couldn't have been better. Yesterday my wife and I attended our new ward (we've been in the ward for about 2 months) for the first time, and after dealing with 3 kids throughout sacrament, and a baby for the other 2 hours, my wife said "okay, I'll be back when the baby can go to nursery". EQ consisted of the EQ presidency taking turns berating us on Home Teaching numbers and sacrament meeting attendance. No lesson, just an hour of lecturing. I'm starting to see the value in the Catholic norm of limiting attendance to Easter and Christmas services.

zo-ma-rah said...

Hahaha. Yeah Mitch, but in the L-DS Church on Easter and Christmas you don't get lessons relating to Easter and Christmas.

TruthSeeker said...

After coming to the very, VERY painful conclusion that I could no longer attend or be a part of the LDS church as it stands today, I didn't know where to go! I grew up in Utah and felt that everyone who knew me- family and friends would call me an apostate. So, I kept this decision to myself. Even though I felt that I was going to explode!

To anyone who knows anything about Chakra's, something fascinating happened to me. My parathyroid's calcified and my thyroid grew a benign tumor. I began to choke on water. The chakra in the throat literally stands for "speaking your truth". My trachea and esophagus were deeply affected. As a singer, I was deeply devastated! I finally told my husband. He was so shocked! Thank God he told me that he would love me no matter what!!!

I told my Mother finally, She quietly said, "Some people would call you an apostate". I asked her if I had changed in the previous 2 years,since I had made my decision. Thoughtfully she answered "No". I have always been a deeply spiritual person, and if anything, I have become more so.

I told only one friend in Utah. She was very loving and non-judgmental on the phone- but her spouse overheard our conversation. I have been in a lot of battles with illness. BUT, the e-mail battle I had with this man over several nights was absolutely one of the biggest battles I have ever been in.

My friends where I live in now have been supportive, loving and great! (I know, what a shock! LOL!)

I have tried many churches. I would say that the Buddhist one was the furthest from what I was seeking for. For one thing, when quite a few people literally fell to the floor and worshiped the visiting Tibetan monks. I felt inherently inside that it is one thing to honor someone, but the only person I would fall on my face for would be Christ or possibly even Buddha himself!

I have tried several churches. How wonderful it felt to raise my arms and praise, with tears streaming down my face, Jesus The Christ! The Pastors did not do it for me.

So now I have found a church, that was ironically spoken of in the "Immortal" books, as the church that John The Immortal, felt was the closest church to the beliefs that have always been. The beliefs of Joseph Smith. That we should and CAN be friends to those of ALL faiths!

I am going to let Rock do the 2nd part to his blog, before I comment. I just want everyone here to know that there is a place, whether at a church or on your own that there is love and peace. It starts with me, you, us. You are loved!

Speaking your truth is very powerful! My throat has healed!!! Namaste` and love to all of you here.

Steven Lester said...

I am really glad that you are feeling better, Truthseeker.

andrew said...

ah home teaching...i received a text a few days ago from the EQ pres asking about my "numbers" from the past few months. i actually like the guy, but considering i haven't been to church more than twice in the past 6 months you'd think that actually stopping by and saying hello to me might be more appropriate than how many times i visited my assigned friends

TruthSeeker said...

Thank you very much, Steven! Speaking "my" truth has been very, VERY freeing!!!

Life is getting better all of the time!

Alan Rock Waterman said...

TruthSeeker,
I do believe you're on the right track. It was in "The Immortal" I first read the suggestion regarding the "church" I'll be suggesting disaffected Mormons might want to visit in part two of Reinventing Your Sundays. I'm working on that post off and on now, so it should be ready by this Sunday.

Sunbeam said...

Saddens me to read you've "come around to Mike's way of thinking." as Mike's way of thinking appreciates worshipping where the "kids are all in the nursery so people can quietly meditate on Christ instead of being distracted because they're forever shushing their children.”

Just saw Kung Fu Panda 2 and by far the most enjoyable aspect was the joyful giggles of the little ones all around. Their sweet innocence is heavenly.

I stumbled upon this post and as I read of Mike's experience "Suffer the little children..."
came to mind.

As a former Baptist converted to the church I appreciate the family unity in all aspects of this the restored church. The children's presence in sacrament meeting increases the spirituality. For one to feel the presence of children detracts from worship runs contrary to the all the Lord has taught.
I do not understand how we as a society in general have seemingly become so self serving with such need for personal gratification and so little regard for serving one another.

The Christians of old that you referenced who readily found camraderie in worship with each other drew the most part of their edification through the scriptures and prayer as opposed to the blogosphere and it's distracting google mentality and the incessant questioning with each other rather than drawing nearer to the Lord. The nature of most of the comments found here (excepting Rob F whom I've enjoyed reading) sound quite oblivious to the pure simplicity of the gospel and the purpose of gathering together.
The Christians of days gone by were infinitely more like minded as they gleaned the majority of their learning from the Lord rather than philosophies of man.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Sunbeam,
I enjoyed intimate bedtimes with my children and grandchildren which are sublime. I also share intimate bedtime with my wife when the presence of the children is not always appropriate.

Having the children on my lap at home and in many social situations is often a very good thing, but not always. Certainly fidgety children being shushed in church is not enjoyable for the children. They would most certainly prefer to be playing with their friends in an environment meant for them.

Likewise, I would not miss the opportunity to have children around me squealing with delight while watching Kung-fu Panda. Experiences like that are wonderful, and there's no joy like a delighted child.

But hearing that same child squeal while I'm attempting to meditate and quiet my heart does neither me nor the child any good. Just as there are times to pray with a child, having that three-way communication with God, there is a time to pray alone, and to teach the child the sublimity of praying alone.

In part two of this series, you will note that there is a time for the children to be absent, and a time for them to be present. The time to be present is in the Fellowship Hall, where all celebrate friendship together. The children enjoy being included with the grown ups for that, when they would not have enjoyed the experience of being with the grownups an hour earlier.

I loved my children growing up, and I love having my grandchildren around now. There are times I pray with them, and times I need to pray without them.

That I understand to everything there is a place and a season does not equate with not wanting children around. Yes, Jesus said "suffer the little children to come unto me." but there were other times when he had specific instructions to impart to the adults.

When children are too young to understand meditation, it does them no favors to insist they sit quietly by while you engage in meditation without them, and it does not enhance your own experience to have an impatient child waiting next to you wondering when you will finish.

I love the intimacy I share with my children. I also love the intimacy I share with my wife. I don't try to enjoin the two. Even though we can teach our children to be intimate with God, that is something we teach them before they are able to experience it for themselves one on one.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I should add, Sunbeam, that I don't believe in excluding the children from the sacrament. That's one reason I have come to believe the sacrament is best enjoyed at home, as an intimate and holy family experience.

Sunbeam said...

I have no idea why my comment brought you to reply regarding an intimacy with your wife in it's relationship to intimacy with a child.
I fail to grasp the point you're attempting to make.

It sounds in this reply as if you are of a mind to have children become as us "natural men" who are an enemy to God rather than do as the Lord has instructed, that we ourselves strive to become as little children.

Children are without guile, have no malice and their innocence allows them to commune quite readily with the Lord anytime, anyplace as we should strive to do.

The reverent manner of worship we model for our children is a display of love. This love invites all as we commune one with another and serve one another remembering always we are one in Christ our Lord.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I agree with you completely, Sunbeam, that we are best served when we become as little children before God. Unless we disburse all prejudice and pre-conceived notions and judgments about others, we cannot be accepting or forgiving.

I took your comment to assume that Mike preferred not to have children around him at church, and that I had come around to that way of thinking, i.e. shove the children away so we can hold church in peace.

That's not what either Mike nor I was trying to communicate. But, just as there are times that it is not appropriate to include our children when we are "communing" with our spouse, so ther are also times when communion with God requires we quiet our minds and remove distractions so that we can commune with God.

At such times, children are better served, as are we, when they are allowed to attend their own classes. Loving your children does not mean they must be on your lap at all times.

Again, there are times to be intimate and spiritual with your child, and there are times when children are a distraction. I see nothing wrong with setting the children down while a portion of church to takes place with fellow grownups. I do not advocate keeping the children separate during church all the time.

That's why the fellowship portion of church should include families together. That is where children and church are a good mix.

But not during communion or meditation. The child does not get anything out of it, and neither does the adult.

Sunbeam said...

Oh I beg to differ Rock. As the sons of Mosiah went about spreading the word of God and re-establishing His church throughout the land they were clear (as it has always been) that we should gather together as children of God on "behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God."
None were "deprived of the privilege of assembling themselves together" and scripture references no division in this constant instruction to "assemble together."

You vacillate as you at once state that you/Mike are not trying to communicate "ie shove the children away so we can hold church in peace... BUT ...communion with God requires we quiet our minds and remove distractions so that we can commune with God."

Mike states this feeling that kids should be "in the nursery so people can quietly meditate on Christ instead of being distracted because they're forever shushing their children.”

Sunbeam said...

You've written in your past postings of your irritation with fellow members who exclude children of God from worship or make them feel uncomfortable or less than due to thier own shortcomings, prejudices etc and it is duplicitous for you to state that the most elect of us all - the children - should have a separate place in our weekly communion with one another and the Lord.

I have been in the temple when children arrive for eternal ordinances to be performed. They are rightfully welcomed as honored guests that we must all emulate. They are the example behind no other but Christ.

I have a grown man in my ward with Downs syndrome who lends so much to the spirit of each meeting with what Mike would call outbursts and would surely feel the need to shush him so he could concentrate with his "take an old cold tater and wait" mindset.

I would reference Kung Fu Panda 2 once more :) as Po struggles throughout the movie to master inner peace, it comes at the loudest time when all about him is on fire. Your own demons do not respond to ambience. It is more about humility, love, acceptance, letting go of the need to control circumstances that when all is said and done are not in your ability to control. The master is at the helm and we all need to just relax.

Lynn said...

@whitehusky://Just get on the Internet and state that Jesus is the Almighty God. You'll get a hoard of Mormons telling you that you're wrong, that you're not a Mormon because you're not stating Mormon doctrine. They can't object on the basis of scripture, since Jehovah is the Almighty [Gen. 17:1, D&C 84:96].//

Just try telling that to a bunch of Evangelicals. Try to tell them that you believe in Jesus, that He is God, and that Mormons are saved through His grace. You'll get two reactions: one that, Praise the Lord, you finally got it, or, unfortunately more common, YOU can't be saved because Mormons believe in another, or a false Jesus.

Well, after bashing my head time and again against this holier-than-thou, damned if I do, damned if I don't (as in condemned to hell)attitude, something finally snapped in me, to where I'm completely fed up with organized Christianity, and the Corporate Church, and I'm out. I'm going to follow my own path now, as a New Age Christian, where I can worship Jesus in my own way, love and serve according to my own conscience and talents, and enjoy the books of different religious groups and philosophers without the insistence that there is ONLY one true book, or ONE True Church.

An interesting thing happened recently, after being bashed on one of the so-called "ministries to Mormons" no matter how many times I tried to explain that Mormons can be saved by Jesus, through grace. I was struck by the complete absence of the Spirit, and I had to get out of there.

I went over to the Unity web site and read a few prayers and affirmations, and a few inspirational articles. Then I went over to the New Age Christian-Zenism facebook group, and read their uplifting,loving,and joyous affirmations,and reminders to pray for the people of Joplin,MO. In both of those places,I felt Peace, Joy, and Love. I felt the Spirit of God.

And yet those same Bible-pounding Mormon bashers, and I suppose even some Mormons, would say New Agers are from the devil. I just don't get it. How can the gifts of the Spirit be from the devil?

Anyway, the conclusion I'm coming to is that the over-emphasis on the devil and hell-fire is just a way to control people,and to keep them coming to church to keep those collection plates full. Mormons don't have that threat to keep them in place, they have silly rules and regulations, and authority figures that tell them what to eat and drink (or they can't participate in the higher teachings), what to wear,what movies they can or cannot watch, even what they can or cannot do in their own bedrooms, even when they are married!

The Corporate Church, as we have learned on this blog, and as so many of us have discovered for ourselves, is destroying the spirit, or at least disabling it, much the same way we can disable different applications that are interfering with programs we are trying to run on our computers. Maybe it is time to disable and quarantine the virus that the Corporate Church has become.

ntrnyet said...

Interesting bit. Variation on a recurring theme. The thing with "worship" and "feeling the spirit" is they're too intangible to mean much more than congregation A does something differently than congregation B. When people say they aren't feeling the spirit in Sacrament Meeting or we don't "worship" what I hear is that they aren't getting a visceral emotional reaction (I'll not say "warm fuzzy" to avoid the flying monkeys) of the same sort I can get from a good night at the theater or the symphony. That creates it's own quandaries -- let's conduct a nice round of emotional manipulation, then pass the plate!

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Too true, but in my opinion an emotional reaction of any kind is preferable to the big pile of nothing most members get from their Sunday meeting attendance.

Jed and Lizzy said...

Love this post. Love all your posts. Hope to work my way through them all. Have been praying for you and Connie in your trials with health and your car. Blessings to you both. I am interested what you think of people like Denver Snuffer who hold similar views but encourage members to retain their membership and fellowship weekly with the saints in the 3-hour block - out of duty I suppose. I am a 32-year-old lifelong member. Have been searching and awakening for 12 years. Have been shocked with reality the past 2 years. And I have a hard time meeting with the saints and enjoying any of it at this time. I crave deep spiritual discussion, openness to learning more, and others who desire to progress and come to the Lord. I wish my ward was 12 people or so. I am still learning much and my husband is awakening as well. Sacrament at home...now that is something I hadn't considered and something that sounds just perfect.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Jed and Lizzy,
I am quite the fan of Denver Snuffer, but have only read a fraction of his writings, so I don't know first hand about his views on church attendance. (I am just now reading one of his books, "Passing the Heavenly Gift" and it is a treasure trove of information.)

I sure can't disagree with anyone who recommends attending church for the fellowship if nothing else. Associating with fellow believers is very important. It's the main thing church is for.

But if one is attending out of a sense of obligation, or because they believe that is what they "should" be doing, it may be time for a bit of circumspection. Meantime, if you can hack it, attending church is a very good idea if only as a means of nurturing friendship with your fellow saints. So I'm all for it, although I find the boredom rather rough sledding personally.

rachel said...

You guys should ask to be in the Primary. Since "being called" (I begged, sent emails, and used every contact in my phone to "get called") to teach the Sunbeams, and now CTR 4, I honestly love coming to church. And I totally feel the Spirit when we are in our Sunday School class. And I mean EVERY Sunday. It is awesome. Although, if you want to experience that, you can do it with any children Mormon, or not, but at least we get to read from the Book of Mormon too :) When I was attending Gospel Doctrine class I wanted to poke my eyes out with a dull pencil. (But I didn't thanks to my husband, and John who would make amazing comments teach the same things that these blogs present to us) By the way, I wouldn't understand or know how to seek for truth if it wasn't for a seminary teacher that despite what she was taught to do, taught us the TRUTH. She was fired for doing this, but I still go to her house on Sundays with my husband to study the scriptures. So the church might be corrupt, but to all those who know the truth, keep teaching. There are people like me there on Sundays listening, and feeling the Spirit, even if you are just making comments in class :)

Dorothy said...

I understand the need for condensing meetings as the church became global and many people lived in areas where it was ridiculous to gather several times a day/week. Still, something died in that transition.

We are often required to be reverent--no chatting or visiting in the chapel. In fact, we are asked to be in our seat & listen to prelude music for 5-10 minutes prior to sacrament meeting starting, to prepare us. For...???

I miss the vibrancy and joy of living out loud in the Love of Christ. As a people who are supposed to have the most Truth about the Good News, we -seem- to be not terribly happy about it. I look around at a room full of people who look like they've been sucking on pickles. Not because they -don't- believe, but because there is no place to express it, to worship, to relish.

As a temp sub for a teen class, I shared the message of the song below, and they started to fall in love with the Light of Christ that IS them. They cried when the "real" teacher came back a couple weeks later. After that I was put in the nursery where it was "safer" for me. Irony abounds!

Jason Gray--More Like Falling In Love

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHfUQzb5Q3Y

Give me rules, I will break them
Show me lines, I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet

It's gotta be more like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It's like I'm falling, oh
It's like I'm falling in love

Give me words, I'll misuse them
Obligations, I'll misplace
'Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone
Tied to my feet
It never set me free

It's gotta be more like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It's like I'm falling, oh
[ From: http://www.elyrics.net]
It's like I'm falling in

Love, love, love
Deeper and deeper
It was love that made me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me

It's gotta be more like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It's like I'm falling, oh
It's like I'm falling

It's gotta be more like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It's like I'm falling, oh
It's like i'm falling in love

(It's like I'm falling)
I'm falling in love
(It's like I'm falling)

Songwriter(s): Jason Ingram
Copyright: Sony/Atv Timber Publishing, Windsor Hill Music, West Main Music

miriam Case said...

I am sorry that you don't seem to understand my religion. Maybe Western LDS are different than those on the East coast, and many nations around the world. Of course your daughters are bored, etc., they are teens. That is how they behave. Also, your distain of The Church is felt by them.
Our meetings are very spiritual, we enjoy our times together, and learn a lot. No, I am not a new member. I was baptized in 1965.

Miriam Feldstein Case
Campton, NH

miriam Case said...

How can you state that " there is no place to express your beliefs." Don't you have testimony meetings the first Sunday of the month? I know the truth and express it almost every fast and testimony meeting, gospel doctrine class, and in Relief Society.

Miriam Feldstein Case
Campton, NH

miriam Case said...

Your response made me very happy. The Church is true as well as the doctrines. If people are some how dissatisfied, they will always find fault.
Miriam Feldstein Case
Campton, NH

Anonymous said...

Miriam,

If people were to get up in testimony meeting and speak the real truth about the Church and it's doctrines and practices that are completely contrary to Christ's teachings, I seriously doubt they would be allowed to ever finish their testimony, even though it was all completely true.

Most members and leaders have not studied the truth about the Church and it's history and doctrine, and probably don't want to know the truth, for blind obedience and playing 'follow the leader' is so much easier, then standing for the right.

Anonymous said...

John,

I'm sure that BY would not mind at all if Joseph was a whoremaster like himself, for it would help ease his conscience somewhat, for misery loves company. Devils want everyone to be and do like them.

But I believe Joseph told the truth, that he didn't practice polygamy and I believe Brigham Young knew it and thus didn't like Joseph, nor did Joseph appear to like or respect Brigham Young in his later years. I believe Joseph was about to excommunicate Brigham and Brigham probably knew it.

And what is the worth of never losing interest in Mormonism if it's not true?

Best to embrace 'Christ' and his doctrines only, and then we will never lose interest in him, even if the whole church is led astray, as it appears it has been.

Anonymous said...

Wow, couldn't agree more. I have always been boooooooooooooored at church (and I'm close to 40 now). I've tried to get more out of it, prayed to stay focused and learn, but I always zone out. Lately my wife and I skip out after sacrament and head home. Then we 'reinvent' our Sunday and strengthen our marital relationship. Then we go back and pick up the kids (kind of feel guilty when they have to stay). Luckily the kids haven't asked what we learned it church yet :-)

Anonymous said...

The spirit is not in the church anymore because it is not the Lord's church anymore. John Taylor said that one day the priesthood would be more of a cursing to the church than a blessing because they had denied the new and everlasting covenant. Amen to the priesthood that once was in the church. The church wants your tithing and is running the church that way. It is not about saving your soul or helping you to find true joy. It is about paying tithing and keeping you ignorant of the teachings of the earlier prophets so you don't wake up and start demanding pure Mormonism to come back. I haven't felt the spirit in the church for a long time. That is not a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

I love this site, but can you please change the background? It is very hard to read the print with the current background.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

What kind of background are you seeing? This is on a pure white background.

John said...

Rock,
Help me out. I agree with your comments and am frustrated. My entire family converted to LDS church in 1987 from the RLDS after weathering so many of their doctrinal changes and denials of "pure" Mormonism. Then within a couple of years of going to the temple, here it came again. Changes to the endowment. I began studies and found change after change. I feel I am living through the same things all over again. I love the Book of Mormon and what the Lord attempted through Joseph Smith. How can I go through this all over again?

John Cato

Alan Rock Waterman said...

John Cato,
The problem seems to be that our respective branches of the church, whether the LDS or the RLDS, have put too much emphasis on "who has the authority?"

When we let go of trying to figure out which leaders are true, and focus instead only on the revealed word of God, we can reconcile all the nonsense because then we realize that the so-called "leaders" simply are not relevant.

It's the gospel that is true, and that's where our focus should be. Not on any claims to authority. men will diddle with the policies and ordinances. Let them.

And then ignore them and follow Christ.

sillydog said...

My great-great grandfather, who never held formal ecclesiastical office, apparently had a gift for giving inspirational sermons. Brigham Young appointed him to be a regular speaker at local church meetings. Essentially, Brother Brigham asked him to be a preacher even though he wasn't in a bishopric or stake presidency. My understanding is that sacrament meeting back then was not necessarily held every Sunday, but was held at the discretion of the local bishop. Going to sacrament meeting was simply referred to as "going to meeting".

MrHFMetz said...

This is what you get when businessmen, bankers and lawyers are appointed in leadership positions instead of theologians. It is not a world religion that you get, but a multinational.
We have to find our own way, inside the church by lifting up others, promoting spiritually and true doctrine (as far as allowed), as well as outside the church by building up a little library and study, and taking an interesting podcast on a mp3 player when out for a good jogging. Never let things go just out of boredom.