I love the gospel but hate going to church

There I said it. I finally admitted it. It has been 6 weeks or so since I’ve been to church. I’m in a new ward somewhere. So I don’t have a calling and dread going to a brand new ward where I don’t know anyone. The questions alone: ‘And who are you?’ “Are you married?” “Where are you from?” “where did you serve a mission?” “And what brought you to New York?”

It’s not just going to a new ward, I’ve always hated going to church. When I was a little kid it was 5 hours of torture (we lived and hour away), of course children find it boring. But I didn’t grow out of that, as an adult I also find myself counting the minutes until I can escape the crowded rooms with fluorescent flashing lights, screaming kids, the smiling and shaking hands. My favorite part of church is singing the hymns. I’ve been an adult now for 10 years, I use the term ‘adult’ loosely, meaning I was no longer a minor. But whenever I don’t have a calling that forces me to be at church I always stop going. I set the alarm every Saturday night but turn it off Sunday morning, promising to go next week.

I never think of myself as an ‘inactive’ but I’ve ended up on that list a few times. The first happened in college when the missionaries started coming to visit me. Just to hang out. It took awhile before I figured out they were trying to re-activate me, actually it was the day they took me out for ice cream and paid. I knew it should have happened the other way around. Then last year the branch president paid me a home visit and asked what it would take to get me back to church. I told him I needed a calling, so he gave me one.

When I begin gliding into an inactive phase, my spirituality drops. If I start swearing then I know I’ve been away too long. And everything in my life feels more difficult during these periods and my mood drops. Without fail, whenever I find myself thinking that everything is going wrong, I remember I haven’t been to church in a few weeks or months. So I drag myself back and once my attendance resumes, life gets easier and happier. I’ve now hit the point where I’m swearing and everything is falling apart. Time to go back to church. Yuck.

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have a strong testimony. I keep most of the commandments. But the most difficult one for me is gathering together oft at meetings. Why is that? That seems very wrong. Is it just me or does going to church stink? I know I need it, but does it have to be so painful? And so early in the morning? I do have agoraphobia and extreme difficulty waking up in the mornings which adds to my abhorrance, but that’s not the whole of it. I know I should suck it up, stop complaining and get my rear-end back to church. But does anyone else out there feel the same way I do? Is there something we can do to make church less painful? There must be something I could do to make it better for myself at least, any suggestions?

Jen J

Comments

  1. “Does ANYONE actually enjoy going to church? Find it mostly uplifting and inspiring? I’m sincerely curious.”

    Despite my whining, I actually do like Church, most of the time.

  2. A couple of Sundays ago, a couple in our ward (the wife in particular) delivered two of the best talks I’ve heard in Sacrament meeting in quite some time. What made these speakers so wonderful? I’d have to say it was their honesty.

    The husband was a recent convert to the church, having spent many years resisting his wife’s attempts to encourage him to take the missionary lessons and join the Church, and she openly talked about the pain of coming to Church on Sundays and feeling like she didn’t fit in, that there are those in the congregation for whom it is a tremendous act of courage just to show up to Sacrament meeting one more time and face all of those other members who are “obviously” happier, more spiritual and who have stronger testimonies of the Gospel.

    She confessed to not being a perfect Mormon in that she will still be found at the grocery store some Sundays, buying ingredients for the Sunday dinner recipe because she hasn’t quite gotten her meal preparation act together yet.

    She presented herself as a flawed, but still struggling to improve, human being whose testimony about some things is stronger than her testimony about other things. Instead of delivering a dry doctrinal rehash of what a bunch of General Authorities have had to say on a given topic (which is about all we can ever expect from the typical “youth speaker”), she opened herself up to the rest of the congregation, warts and all, and told us of her struggles to stay active, and of her need for more fellowshipping than she had received, and I doubt that there were any adults in the congregation who weren’t able to identify with what she had to say on some level or other.

    It was wonderful. It seems that a lot of us are so preoccupied with keeping up the image of being the true blue latter-day saint that Sacrament meeting can almost be viewed as an exercise in dishonesty some days. Hooray for honest Sacrament meeting speakers.

  3. AB, ’nuff said. I guess I don’t really have in mind the creepy staring at people or trite poems that GAs have. I was thinking more in terms of building confidence, learning how to structure basic ideas, avoiding common mistakes, that type of thing.

    You’re right though — people imitating GAs is often worse that people that don’t know how to speak at all.

  4. Although I sympathize with you, publically posting your doubts may cause seeds of doubt to form and cause other children of God to fall away from the Church. Careful! You are skating on thin ice. http://www.stay-lds.com

  5. a random John says:

    Ann,

    Move to Japan and back in time while you’re at it! For a while in the mid-90s there was a pilot program testing out 2-hour church in Japan. They thought the three hour block was too much time in that culture. I have no idea what happened to it. Anybody know?

  6. a random John says:

    Ann,

    Since I was old enough to remember there have been rumours that, “something BIG is going to happen at conference!” These seem to crop up about every 18 months. Sometimes they are more specific than others such as, “Women will get to go on missions when they turn 19″ or “We are going to send missionaries to China!” other times they are more vague and include a wishlist as you have done. Experience has taught me that “something big” happens at conference about once a decade, if that, and that the rumours rarely come true, especially the wish-list rumours.

    The one thing that seems very likely to happen is that two new apostles will be called. That in and of itself indicates to me that it is unlikely that any big changes will happen, since they like to have a full quorum before moving. It would be a big change if one or both of the apostles called were not from the western US, the only reports I have seen about that were an article in the SLTrib that refenced a T&S entry that I wrote to saying that some more diversity would be nice. So you can see how rumours get started.

  7. Ann, you are an Ex-Mo, yet you seem to not be able to let go, funny aint it? Give it a rest, hit a bar, have a couple of good Scotches, and live like the non-Mormon you say you are!!!!! (i would recommend a shot of the balvenie doubleWood, very good Speyside Scotch.)

  8. D. Fletcher says:

    Ann, you’re clearly a believer. It wouldn’t mean so much to you that it be better if you weren’t a believer at all. You love Jesus and you want to be uplifted and changed by what you hear about Him at Church, and you’re not hearing that.

    I don’t think people come to Church just because it’s “true.” I think they come to participate in a community of like-minded individuals. They like the interaction, and they feel good about spending their (limited) free time this way, in thinking and singing about Jesus. And it renews them, inspiring them to alter their lives accordingly, and do good “works” throughout the week.

    I think Church is inspiring even when it isn’t very good, or perhaps perfectly boring. It’s inspiring just being there, just participating week after week. If it were wonderfully entertaining every week, that would be like Christmas every day — too much of a good thing can be as deadening as too little. One reason to go every week is to anticipate a really good talk, or lesson, or musical number, or seeing a visitor who’s a long-time friend, or meeting a new family, or… the list is endless. It’s called life, and one thing the Church does (for me) is provide some of my only optimism.

    It’s often boring, because we’re not all trained speakers or teachers. But we all have personalities, and when one breaks through the murk of doctrine, Church becomes an event, something to be talked about and cherished.

  9. a random John says:

    anon (if that really IS your name!),

    What parts of Brasil? I have never heard of that, which strikes me as a bit odd since I served my mission there and keep in contact with people down there.

  10. Anyonymous,
    I just wanted to say that it is possible to be a foaming at the mouth liberal and an active member. It’s not as comfortable as some other choices, but I know from personal experience that it’s possible.

    But that said, it may not be the right road for you, you need to find peace in your life and there are a lot of good choices to make.

  11. As an apostate, I can honestly say I enjoy attending almost any church I’ve been to more than I enjoy the LDS church.

    Church is boring. The speakers rarely have anything useful or interesting to say, and if they do, they don’t say it in an interesting way. The order of worship is all wrong – why do we do the sacrament first? It should be the high point of the meeting, not the thing we “get out of the way.”

    And if you don’t think it’s great, it’s because you’re not working at it hard enough. Blame the victim.

    I read a haiku about going to church:

    Come and listen now!
    Message? Come and listen now!
    Tautology rocks!

    Since your testimony is rock solid, I won’t recommend that you try another church. But I will say that since your testimony is rock solid, but you don’t go anyway, that says something about the quality of LDS meetings, and what it says isn’t good.

  12. Boring, yes. Socially oppressive, no, although maybe whether one is married or single does have an impact on the “social oppressiveness” of Mormon meetings. If you really feel oppressed, just get a little fiesty and they’ll leave you alone.

    I think the boredom issue ought to get more attention. Sunday School teachers seem to have a sense that boring is bad and generally strive to make SS lessons interesting, relevant, even enjoyable. Bishops don’t seem to take the same approach to Sacrament Meetings. In fact, it’s not clear to me what Bishops would respond if asked what the objective of Sac Mtg is, but “interesting” is likely not at the top of the list.

    In my ward, the standard program is for some new young couple that moved into the ward to be the speakers. How is using Sac Mtg as a “meet the new couples” forum any better than using it as a missionary farewell forum? If the Church can’t figure out how to make Sac Mtg worthwhile, it’s no wonder people without family ties (or a dutiful spouse to drag them off to meetings every week) start to tune out.

  13. but in these moments I try to remember what I’m *really* doing there.

  14. D. Fletcher says:

    By the way, despite all my difficulties, I really do enjoy going to Church, to the Sunday meetings anyway. I like the talks, I like to see the people, and I like to think about spiritual matters — makes me feel good. And I like the music.

  15. Clark — you live in Plano, Texas too!

    ///

    Ann — As for Primary, teaching the CTRs and my four year old again (a reprise to the past when I taught Heather’s class after Jessica died), we have closer to half an hour of class time, the rest is singing based activity in the opening exercise/primary meeting time. 3-4 minutes of talks and stuff, but mostly sharing time and singing.

    Seems to work fairly well. My kids really enjoy it and we usually run out of time before they run out of interest.

    I do wonder if we should do what the Methodists do for the little kids, which is hand out pencils and coloring sheets for the worship service, though each family seems to bring their own here in Plano.

  16. Clark, great comments.

    A lot of the responses seem to be very self-centered: “If only I were in charge, church would be much better.” I’m rolling my eyes so fast the friction is keeping me warm on this cool autumn night. Everyone needs to give talks, even if most of them suck. That old cliche you hear from at least one speaker every Sunday — that even if no one else learns anything, the speaker learned something by writing (and I use the term “writing” loosely) the talk — is actually pretty true.

    Apropos of nothing, one of the things I like about film as an art form is that it’s collaborative. Or it can be, anyway. Everyone brings something to the pot. Church should be that way. Instead of obsessing with what we should be getting out of church, we should all — unselfishly — bring something to the pot. (And if someone actually brought some pot, they would be my new best friend, but, alas, I digress.)

    In my laziest, I’m-never-getting-out-of-bed-again moments, I honestly can’t remember or believe how uplifting it is to do something generous or spiritually replenishing. But I have enough experience to know not to trust that amnesia. That doesn’t mean I get out bed every time, of course, but that’s because I’m a stubborm little knucklehead.

  17. a random John says:

    D. Fletcher,

    I probably haven’t been to your ward. I have attended wards with great music. While I enjoy listening the participation aspect is not entirely comfortable. I also enjoy listening to an average (or better talk). To be quite honest, a terrible talk becomes fodder for conversation at the dinner table so I can’t say that I don’t “enjoy” those as well.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that for some people the talks can actually be more participatory/enjoyable than the music. I don’t doubt you when you discuss how important the music is to you and others. I would appreciate it if you didn’t assume that it is because I haven’t been to the “right ward” that I don’t experience sacrament meeting in the same way you do.

  18. Aaron Brown says:

    D.,

    You say you’re the “Van Halen” of Church organists, but can you play the keyboard part from “Jump”? Well, I can, and as anyone can tell you, that makes me REALLY COOL!

    Eric said:
    “Not all of us are Republicans …”

    Yes, but perhaps we are all “Republicans-in-Embryo.” Patience, patience …

  19. Does ANYONE actually enjoy going to church? Find it mostly uplifting and inspiring? I’m sincerely curious.

    I have an idea, and I’m totally serious. Cut church in half. Half an hour of Sacrament Meeting, mostly singing, prayer and sacrament. I think I’d actually look forward to a half an hour of sacrament meeting. Then switch sunday school/relief society, every other week. Primary opening excercises would be half an hour, class would be half an hour. I don’t think you’d find many teachers rebelling against the change. And the Nursery establishment would do the happy dance.

  20. Durkee – regarding the Republican comments you make – why do you assume that holding political beliefs that are different from yours are somehow stupid? I happen to support the present administration because I grew up in Asia, and am familiar with t he face of extremist Wahabi and Deobandi Islam, and I think if those elements are not defeated now, we will probably see things million times worse than what happened on 9/11. That , I think is a valid political position to have, I wonder why you label those that belive that as being “stupid” or ass***es. It is intolerant folks like yourself that make me ashamed to call myself a liberal. If you want to find likeminded leftists, who hate George Bush and America maybe you ought to find yourself and join a Unitarian Universalist congregation!!!!!

  21. Durkee, I’m going to edit your post to screen the profanity — sorry. Children, scores of children, read BCC every day.

  22. Durkee, if it makes you feel better, I’d much rather clean up profanity-laden posts than have to wade through trite drivel. Yours are refreshingly drivel-free.

  23. er…. I should mention that Kristine and I aren’t married. Different Steve.

    But I agree with what she says — I get up earlier and work harder on Sundays than I do many days at work. Somehow that seems right and wrong at the same time.

  24. a random John says:

    First of all, I don’t know that a sacrament meeting of conference-style talks would be an improvement. Many GAs are much more engaging when they speak in other settings such as stake conference or even smaller meetings. The monotony of conference-style delivery can bug me some times.

    Also I should note that while I would guess that the majority of GAs write their own talks the church does employ speech-writers. We attended a missionary farewell where the father spoke. He is a speech writer for the church. Afterwards I asked my wife (who didn’t know the gentleman’s profession) what she thought of the talk. She said, “It sounded just like a conference talk!”

  25. Rosalynde Welch says:

    Following up on this thread late…. but thank you Kristine for the gush! If I were to name a daughter Kristine, I would definitely use the “K.” However, I’m going to name my next daughter Cristiana, which, alas, must be spelt with the “C.”

    And you’re right about the professional musicians changing a lot…. actually, maybe it’s just the superior acoustics in most higher-Protestant sanctuaries. Of course, if we were to employ professional musicians then I wouldn’t get to play….

  26. Heavens, I’m not advocating using the GAs as any sort of model for effective sacrament meeting speaking. They always sound like they are giving funeral orations.

    I second Dave’s suggestion for rotating speakers who actually know what they are talking about and how to deliver the message. Just because somebody is a baptized member doesn’t mean she has anything useful or truthful to say.

    I’d settle for hearing from my bishop for 20 minutes every week, but that’s just ’cause I could listen for Metallica references in his talk.

  27. I am not a fan of the ‘blaming the victim’ syndrome that Ann describes above. At the same time, however, I don’t think it’s very constructive to bag on the Church experience — without a willingness to get your hands in there and work with others to help make it better, complaints don’t do a lot of good.

  28. I don’t know, Rosalynde, I’ve been involved in some pretty consistently uplifting and lovely services in Protestant churches. Of course, they had professionally trained musicians (that’s why I was there–getting paid to be in the choir!), preachers and CHILD CARE PROVIDERS. There are some things wrong with that model (!), but I do think it provides a counterfactual to the notion that such worship is unlikely or impossible.

    (P.S.–can I just say that it makes me unreasonably happy to see your name on the screen? It’s just such a great name, especially with the ‘y’. / gush mode off)

  29. I don’t mind church although individual wards vary. I think it is very important for kids though, and realistically that is the focus of most wards. The problem is that, unlike most singles wards, there isn’t a lot of diversity in lessons. So those who actually do read their scriptures and study get bored quickly. The lessons are frankly targeted to the average member who is, shall we say, less inclined towards progressing in their study of the gospel.

    But then I must also say that despite living in supposedly the most conservative congressional district in America, I’ve not noticed too many political comments. About the only time such matters come up is when some lesson touches upon matters of political interest. (Say King Benjamin’s speech) To be honest then I hear far more anti-business comments than stereotypical Republican comments. About the only exception might be gambling, pornography, and abortion. But understandably so.

  30. D. Fletcher says:

    I happen to know (because my grandfather was the Senator of Utah at the time, he was often consulted by the GAs), that when the current consolidated schedule went into effect (1975?), it was originally to be 2 hours. No Sunday School. This was when Family Home Evening was big, and the committee who researched the consolidation decided to give the teaching of the scriptures and such back to the families — we were supposed to have 3 family home evenings a week.

    The brethren said no, that it was too big a change. Sunday School remains.

    Funny, I think I would keep Sunday School, and have a separated Priesthood/Relief Society once a month in place of Sunday School.

  31. I hate going to church for an entirely different reason–it is so much work for me! I spend half of Saturday preparing (making sure everyone has clean clothes, planning choir practice and RS music practice, printing out RS newsletters and visiting teaching messages, helping kids prepare talks for Primary–since my 3 kids make up a quarter of our Primary this happens about once a month–etc.) Then on Sunday I have to get the kids ready by myself (Steve’s the EQ President and always at meetings), be at church early to practice musical numbers with people or warm up the choir (I’m the ward music chairman as well as choir director and Sacrament mtg. chorister and RS Secretary and music leader), keep three incredibly active and demanding children quiet during Sacrament Mtg. (I suspect the talks in our ward are often boring, but I don’t know for sure, since I haven’t actually heard an entire talk in years), jump up and down to lead music, keep the sacrament trays from being dumped on the pews by my “I-can-do-it-all-by-myself” four-year-old…

    You get the idea. The hardest part for me is feeling like I’m on stage the whole time. I’m really self-conscious and actually a little shy, and having to be in front of people so much is really hard for me. And public parenting is a whole ‘nother kind of nightmare. Anyway, much of the time, I find church not just not uplifting, but actively draining and spiritually deadening. I don’t quite know what to do about it. About once a quarter I decide I just *can’t* go anymore.

    But then the next week we sing “Come, Come Ye Saints” or “Redeemer of Israel,” or someone bears an astonishingly honest and moving testimony, and I remember that I *can’t* not go, either. Grace is elusive, but real.

  32. I must admit that I’m part of the throng that has hated going to church. This is a relatively new situation for me, however since I have truly loved Church most of my life—with the exception of my first mission area in which I sat through 6 hours every week of meetings in Japanese I couldn’t understand. The last two years, however, have been a struggle for me and I think it is directly connected to single’s ward life (the particulars of which are for another day)

    When this experience first began I resolved that I wouldn’t miss church even though I couldn’t bear to be in most of the lessons. In order to keep my resolution, I decided that I would only attend Sunday School classes when I was teaching. Otherwise, I would find a quiet spot in the church library to read for an hour on the off weeks. How’s that for an easy plan? This lasted for several weeks, but in the end I couldn’t shake the guilt especially when the other teachers would ask me to sit in their classes! I felt ashamed of my pride and judgmental attitude so I finally succumbed to sitting in class even on off Sundays when I wasn’t teaching.

    My next coping strategy was to bring something wonderful to read during Church. For several months I came armed to Sacrament Meeting with Paul Tillich, William James, Paul Ricouer, etc. This plan also failed miserably. I would give the assigned speaker a “chance” for the first few minutes of their talk to compel my interest. Invariably I would give up on the speaker, reach into my bag, open my book and begin reading instead. This behavior was not lost on the members of my ward. I insensitively hurt people’s feelings by tuning them out week after week. This should have been a “no-brainer,” but it wasn’t to me. When I realized how deeply I offended others by this behavior I stopped and tried to give each speaker my full attention.

    That’s when I finally realized that I wasn’t at church to be stimulated, intellectually challenged, or even inspired. Church wasn’t about me. I was there to love the people. This should not have come as as news to me since I’ve known this on one level for a long, long time. But, it struck me with particular force recently. My job on Sundays is to search out the lonely, the suffering, the frightened. There are many–especially in a single’s ward like mine who feel lost, forgotten or excluded. There are those who are struggling with their faith or with personal loss or financial challenges and on and on. Now I mourn for those months I spent with my nose in a book during church when I could have been extending my love instead. Who is sitting alone? Who can I lift? Who needs my warmth, my friendship, my encouragement today, right now? There are those in every ward like this. In fact, we all take turns being in this crowd.

    That is why I still go to Church. Of course, Relief Society is still a colossal struggle for me and I have to force myself not to bring books into the chapel, but in these mo

  33. D. Fletcher says:

    I once had someone say to me “you’re the Van Halen of church organists.”

    I like to play LOUD.

    Wakes everybody up.

    :)

  34. I quit going to church because it started to be to much conflict about what they teach in church and what is really true, I mean about the book of mormon and Joseph smith and everything.

  35. I tend to spend my meetings reading my NIV or scriptures or some good gospel or scripture related book (which exculdes most stuff coming out of Deseret, IMHO).

  36. Rosalynde Welch says:

    I think a lot of us have the wrong expectations of church–namely, an engaging, stimulating, spiritual and socially enjoyable experience tailored to our own frame of mind. But I’m not sure that’s ever been an attainable–or even thinkable–objective of any kind of group worship: my field of expertise is the 16th century English church in the throes of reformation, and that surely wasn’t the objective or the reality of their worship services. They attended because it was their duty, and because they received the sacraments. Personal uplift and spiritual experience (inasmuch as certain mystical groups had concepts of these things) was seen as one’s personal privilege. Perhaps our present-day wishful idealization of communal worship flows from the same fountain of self-realization from which other modern myths like the high-affect marriage and the “fulfilling” career flow.

    For what it’s worth, my own Sundays are up there with the bleakest, alone every Sunday during all three hours with two babies, constantly shuffling them off and around to provide organ and piano services. I couldn’t imagine *not* going to church, though, since it’s such an integral part of how I experience the Sabbath.

  37. a random John says:

    I think there are plenty of people that are not nearly as excited about the musical aspect of church as D. Fletcher seems to be. Those of us that are not as musically talented might even feel left out during the hymns which are being categorized as participatory here. For me Sunday School and EQ are much more participatory than singing in sacrament meeting. Yes I do try to sing, but I know that I am terrible. I feel sorry for those that are sitting close enough to hear me.

  38. I was thinking about Kristine’s post, about how difficult and time-consuming church is for her. I have a similar experience, it makes me wonder if the Sabbath is really supposed to be a day of rest, how does this jive?

    Would cutting back to two hours or even an hour and a half make the sabbath any more restful? Is there any solution, other than perhaps staying in our PJs and refusing to do anything but change diapers and throw cookies at the kiddies?

  39. I’d suspect that sitting next to Nate during Sunday School and listening to his snarky comments would make going to church an absolute joy. Perhaps you should move to DC (or whatever suburb it is that Nate’s living in now).

  40. I’m an adult convert, so I spent most of my adult life attending other churches, and I have spent only the last several years attending LDS services.

    A few observations and opinions, in no particular order:

    – Why not have some contemporary music? If there’s one thing I would change about the typical LDS service, it’s the music. What would be wrong with using a guitar, or even drums and synthesizers, on occasion? Just because the church was restored in the 19th century doesn’t mean we need to be tied to 19th century music.

    – I would say that, on average, a Sunday talk at an LDS church is similar in quality and helpfulness to a sermon at a Protestant church of similar size. Some pastors are excellent speakers, but many are not, and I’d rather have the variety than hear the same person week after week.

    – It didn’t take me long to get tired of the rote testimony: “I know this church is true, etc., etc., ad nauseam.” I grew up going to the evangelical Protestant equivalent of testimony meetings, and I don’t think I ever heard a person say “I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I know the Bible is the Word of God,” etc. It goes without saying. Of course, anyone speaking in testimony meeting believes this church is true — otherwise, he/she would be in some other church or in no church at all. What I’d rather hear is what difference your belief in the church’s truth has made in your life. I’d rather hear how you’re struggling with your testimony. I’d rather hear what makes you different than anyone else who can say, “I know this church is true.”

    – I’d rather hear more talk about how we love our neighbors, how we grow as people, how we care for the less fortunate, how we struggle with temptation, etc., than about some of those arcane things such as food storage. The focus should be on how Christ has become part of our lives.

    – Let’s keep the politics out of talks and lessons. Not all of us are Republicans, and not all of us think the only important public issues involve sexual matters.

    Despite everything I’ve said here, I generally enjoy going to church, and I can’t imagine staying home on a Sunday. But I can certainly understand why some people feel the way they do, and why outsiders might feel less than enticed to join the church after sitting in a meeting.

  41. I’ve heard lots of criticisms about Sacrament Meeting before, but never that it was somehow inadvisable to have people who recently moved into the ward speak. What is the objection there?

    I suppose one could complain that the talks are given by the members at all (old or new) instead of someone more skilled in the art of preaching. But that’s just not how things get done in the church. We all help out, none of us get paid, virtually none of us have any special training, and all of us fail–to one degree or another. There are certainly downsides to this approach, but I find it more democratic (for lack of a better word) than the alternative. I’m happy to take the bad with the good.

    I think more could be done to improve the quality of our Sacrament Meetings, but not asking the new couple to speak doesn’t make my list.

  42. If there was actually anything one could DO to make the experience better (other than suffer with it) I might agree with Steve’s admonition to get busy and change things. But we can’t teach the speakers to do a better job, we can’t select the topics (a whole MONTH on how important early morning seminary is, EVERY YEAR?) we can’t get the Sunday school teacher to think outside the box, we can’t get the RS teachers to focus more on Jesus than on whatever some old dead guy who WASN’T resurrected had to say…I mean, the audience is pretty much powerless except in its own sphere of influence. Which in my case, since I’m not a believer any more, is rightfully limited.

    As long as the church claims a monopoly on truth, and people believe it holds that monopoly, there is no reason to focus on church interesting or enlightening. People will continue to come, even if the experience sucks, because it’s “true.”

  43. D. Fletcher says:

    In the 80s, when Bill Cottam was the Bishop of the Manhattan First Ward (I was the organist, natch), he wanted 5 full music presentations, every week.

    That means, Opening Hymn, Sacrament Hymn, Musical Number (presented right after the sacrament), Stand-Up Rest Hymn, and Closing Hymn. If the Choir decided to sing, they would sing in place of the closing hymn.

    And 4 speakers, each told to limit it to 5-7 minutes.

    Though it was a lot of work putting those musical numbers together, it was worth it: Sacrament Meeting was actually interesting, week after week. We even had a musical number on Fast Day, before the beginning of the testimonies.

    Hymn-singing and the sacrament are in fact the only ways that the congregation actively participates in Sacrament Meeting.

  44. Anne Nonnymuss says:

    It bored me to tears, so I left. I find my spiritual fulfillment in other ways. I don’t think Heavenly Father cares where we park our rears of a Sabbath; just that we worship Him in spirit and truth–not worship the leaders, or the structure, or the other members.

  45. D. Fletcher says:

    It’s one of the reasons that I prefer being the organist, because it gets me to Church, and gives me something to do while I’m there.

    But after months of non-attendance, I went last Sunday, attending the Singles ward in my Stake, and I was glad I did — there was a very good talk that I enjoyed hearing (by Trevor Packer).

  46. Jen, I have been having a similar experience too, though, plus health issues have complicated things too. Please emailme, if you would like to discuss things.

  47. Jen: I cannot count the times I have come home from a three hour block and thought, “I don’t think I got anything out of that today.” This was particularlly true before my son graduated to nursery, and I would spend most of the time wrestling with a frustrated toddler. On the other hand, I find that church attendence provides my life with a kind of ballast that I don’t think I could do without. My wife still has to sit next to me in Sunday school and poke me when I start muttering really snarky things under my breath.

  48. Just a few brief comments.

    1. I think the church claims a monopoly on authority, not truth. Indeed there are numerous GA quotes stating that.

    2. While I agree that church is often boring, we ought to note that part of the problem is bringing a collection of different people together. What might interest one in Sunday School is probably uninteresting to me. For instance D. Fletcher said how great music was. Personally I hate music especially musical numbers. And I don’t sing because I have a bad voice. I’d love a Sunday School lesson to the relationship between physics and the gospel – but outside of Los Alamos, NM, it’s doubtful that it would happen or be appropriate.

    3. The fact is we are often called to where we are ill equipped. Further calls are often as much out of desperation as inspiration. I think that if there is a problem at church, it is, as much as anything that we expect church to somehow magically serve us independent of anyone contributing. I’m not sure how to cure that and I find myself falling into that trap frequently. (Especially since I’m not fond of my current ward too much)

  49. Kids the focus of most wards? Nonsense! Teens, maybe. But not kids. Two hours of primary is about an hour and a half too long for most children ages 18 months to 11 years.

    Church is for the adults, and the kids just have to deal with the adult schedule. Even if church is during lunch, or naptime, or they’ve been sitting for AN HOUR and now they have to sit for ANOTHER HOUR, and then they get to get up and move to a tiny room where they’ll sit for AN HOUR.

    If the church was built around kids, it would be over in 30 minutes, and then they could go home and play.

  50. Life is too short to spend time doing things you don’t enjoy.

  51. Many a Sunday in elementary and jr. high school I used to lie to my parents and say that I was sick, then I’d stay home and watch the Seahawks (football). Not that church is that much more interesting now (quite the contrary, I no longer get Oreos when I answer a question correctly), but there now seems to be a sense that it’s the best place I can be on Sunday between 10:00-1:00.

    Jen, I think you are in my ward in Brooklyn. It’s the best ward I’ve ever been in, and that’s not because it’s especially interesting. Besides, our bishop is D. Fletcher’s nephew-in-law, which means good things.

  52. Melissa, thanks for your comments.

  53. Frank McIntyre says:

    My sister’s ward in Pleasant Grove Utah has 2.5 hour Church. The stake is doing it and likes it. THey cut out five minutes from passing time and then about five minutes from each of the meetings. They try to recoup the discussion time by restraining announcements.

  54. D. Fletcher says:

    Of course I can, Aaron. I played in a rock cover band in the 80s.

  55. Oh, I’m not saying anything earth shattering WILL happen. And I’ve seen these kinds of rumors before, too. The last earth shattering thing I heard at a General Conference was the announcement of a temple in Lubbock, Texas, and that was only earth-shattering because I lived there at the time.

  56. One more reason for parents to put their computers in the living room. Screen their children from visiting cult sites, pr0n, and BCC.

  57. One way to improve a boring lesson is to make a thought-provoking comment. I haven’t tried doing this during a boring sacrament meeting yet, though I’ve been tempted to raise my hand a few times. :)

  58. Only because you asked for comments or ideas, I wanted to post a link to my own recent ruminations on how to deal when one finds difficulty finding inspiration at church.

  59. Regarding cutting the meetings in half: over on soc.religion.mormon, somebody posting that Something Big is Going Down at GC this weekend, and “This will be the conference that you tell your children you attended.”

    DH and I were talking about what could possibly happen that would make you remember it so clearly and tell people you were there. The only things we could really come up with were ordaining women, gutting the Corporation (firing everyone except the twelve and devolving all power out to the stakes, thus becoming much more decentralized) and cutting the weekly meetings down to two hours.

  60. Ronin, do not equate ex-mos with apostate unbelievers. My butt is in a pew every Sunday, desperately trying to find Jesus in the process, somewhere. Some weeks, it even works.

    I know this has scrolled way down, but this is a subject that has interested me.

  61. Rosalynde: You make a good point about our expectations. However, in our meetings, everything other than the sacrament and some of the music is pure instruction. It is not worship. Isn’t it right for us to expect what our meetings purport to give us? When our instructions and discussions are so often uninstructive and even spirit killing, is it fair to say “well, you just expect too much”. If we can’t deliver what we purport to deliver, maybe we should change the format of our meetings.

  62. Sid from Ann Arbor here. I have
    struggled with life-threatning illness, all the complications, getting all my academic and career plans all go awry etc. And yes, I have struggled with the question of why all this was happening to me.

    Times have been where I have been so depressed that I thought of
    committing suicide, or quitting the Church or doing other such
    irrational actions due to being despondent and depressed.

    But, I have stuck on, despite what the naysayers have to say about our
    Church. Even though I can’t attend on a regular basis, I love it when
    I can, I think the Blessings I have gotten form being faithful are
    reinforced each time I attend.
    yes, theyre are times, I feel a talk might be kinda loony, or a
    person or two might be judgemental, shallow or whatever, but, the fact
    is, itis humans who make up the membership, and we are far from
    perfect, so their behavior does not reflect on the Church, and the
    Truth.

    Anyways, I hope you don’t mind my rant. I apologise in advance if I
    have offended you in any way.

  63. Sorry, this is a little tangential…

    Context, returned missionary, 2.5 years since I was released from the bishopric.

    My problem with attending church is that it is full of Republicans. I still go every week because I love my wife, but I hate it. I used to not take the Republican thing personally, but then we had a son who has a life-threatening chronic illness. The fact that he will likely be uninsurable for his entire life is not a problem for most of my brother and sisters in the church.

    The Iraq thing really soured me, too. How can people get up and pretend that home teaching percentages are a problem when we at war? It is just so messed up.

    I actually shared these concerns with my bishop, and he, I kid you not, spouted off the Republican talking point “The world is safer without Saddam.” I’ve heard similar talking points from GAs in private meetings.

    Now I’m just biding my time for the day when my wife gets sick of it. It probably won’t happen, and that’s okay. I’ll attend weekly for the rest of my life, if needed, but if she comes around, I’m gone.

    My two cents. I’m probably wrong.

  64. Steve Evans,

    Thank you very much. I’m very sorry. Please don’t overlook my thinly-veiled reference to it in a follow-up post. It should also be cleaned up.

    I told you guys ( http://makeashorterlink.com/?T1C121E69 ) it could take me a while to get the right tone down. I seem to be completely socially retarded. How humbling.

  65. Aaron Brown says:

    Steve,

    Public Speaking-training is all fine and good, but the LAST thing we need is Sacrament speakers who think they need to imitate the every vocal inflection and rhetorical device of the General Authorities. I’ve known speakers who seem to think they should act like clones of the General Authorities, and to have to endure their affected oratory is REALLY annoying.

    Aaron B

  66. Steve, it does indeed make me feel better. :)

  67. Teachers know they have lost the class when there are no comments being made, or when a question is posed and there is no response except for that glassy-eyed look of people who have tuned out. Speakers (and Bishops) don’t get the same feedback from Sac Mtg speakers. Boring speakers fill Sac Mtg time just like any other speaker.

    In other denominations, the weekly sermon is given by the pastor, week after week, and the results are often described in glowing terms. My prescription for Sac Mtg would be to slash the “speaker’s list” to six or ten or twelve serious ward speakers who are capable of teaching “the gospel” and doing it well. The Bishop ought to be on the list, of course. If necessary, rotate the balance of the congregation through 2 minute talks up front, like the youth do now. I think the testimony meeting “open mic Sunday” once a month should be sufficient opportunity for those with nothing to say to mount the podium and say it.

    No doubt there’s an alternate view that Sac Mtg really isn’t about teaching or learning anything, it’s just designed for everyone to feel like they are part of the show. I thought that’s what singing and the sacrament were for.

  68. Thank you all for your comments. Specifically I’d like to address Mark’s.
    Mark,
    I appreciate that you took the time to write a thoughtful and extensive comment. (Not that everyone else didn’t) I know everything you say is true. Regarding #1, yes, I can say without a doubt that is true and I feel it happen everytime my attendance slides. I feel the spiritual need for the sacrament, I even crave it and I can feel the gradual loss of the holy ghost in my life. This is why I want to go to church. But because that is done in the first 15 minutes and I can never manage to get there on time, I usually miss sacrament anyway when I do get to church. And then I feel guilty and disappointed for the rest of the time. I wish we didn’t do the sacrament first and that we did build up to it. My ward in Atlanta did that and it was great.

    Re#2, yes you are right there too. But being single in a family ward makes it twice as difficult (I guess) to find relevance. Family Home Evening? I don’t think my cats would enjoy it. Everynight I’m home alone is family home evening. Unfortunately, I don’t take the time to study and sing, I just skip to the activities part. So that’s my fault. It’s also very hard to relate to people talking about their familes. My life and challenges are so different from family people. But that’s my problem to deal with since I choose not to go to the singles ward. Although it would help if relief society wasn’t so much about children and families. Aren’t there about a million singles in the church?

    #3: You’re right there too. When I’m feeling happier I do like to extend warmth to others and talk to people. But no one ever asks for help. Honestly, it’s really hard to find ways to serve outside one’s calling without being offensive to others.
    When I’m not feeling so happy, (that’s when it gets hard to go to church) then I become one of the lonely people who need help but week after week don’t find love or support at church. That’s because I, like everyone else, don’t ask for it. Nor do I wear a sign that says please love me I’m lonely.

    I’ve spent most of my life in the primary, so maybe that’s why I don’t like sunday school time. I got a lot from teaching the children and I loved the calling until last year when it got to the point where church was one more responsibility that I couldn’t fulfill properly and thus another source of guilt and shame, thus adding to my unhappiness. It was my fault because I didn’t tell anyone that was how I felt and I should have asked to be released then but I thought it would be unfaithful of me to quit a calling.

    Having mulled this over since I posted and from reading all the comments, I realized that going to church makes me feel lonely and irrelevent.
    So when the horrid alarm clock rings and I’ve only be asleep a couple hours, then I can choose my warm bed or the challenge of going to church. Because going to church means dressing up in clothes that don’t f

  69. Thanks for your comments, Durkee.

  70. That’s so weird — I hate the Gospel but love church. Just kidding. I’ve always found church attendance to be by far the least fulfilling of the spiritual activities in which I engage (prayer, scripture study, service, temple attendance, etc.). I always go, because I think it’s important, but I don’t typically enjoy it that much (although as a single student in NYC it gives me a welcome opportunity to interact socially with other LDS singles). I don’t have much in the way of advice; I wish I knew how to get more out of it. I do, however, think the problem lies with me and not with church (blaming the victim, as Ann calss it). I think there’s an art to gleaning inspiration and insight from any speaker or lesson, regardless of the skills or presentation of the speaker. I just haven’t learned how to do that yet. I’m happy to report that there were some great talks last week in the 8th ward.

  71. The big change at GC — abolition of area presidencies in the US so stake presidents report directly to Salt Lake. Big change only if Church bureaucracy is your life.

    As for boring church — how about asking thought-provoking questions on the subject matter in SS and Prstd/RS?

  72. D. Fletcher says:

    The Church does offer a program in public speaking. It’s called Primary and then Young Men/Women.

    The GAs don’t know how to do it any better, but at least they have the apostolic mantle.

  73. Mephibosheth says:

    The link below is to a talk you can listen to while you’re doing something else. It’s a talk by John Bytheway directed towards teenagers who have some of the same concerns with church-going that you mentioned, and then a whole lot more.

    http://byubroadcasting.org/edweek/1999/asx/bytheway.asx

    It really helped me to get more out of church.

  74. The rest of my post…

    But this is still his church, and we have made some very solemn covenants with him that, if we have any honor, we must keep. As liberals, that forces us to walk a very fine line. I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone at church about my medicinal marijuana use (for pain caused doing renovations at a temple, coincidentally). I know it’s not wrong, but I don’t expect anyone at church to understand me. The same for my feelings about gay marriage.

    I find myself dreading Gospel Doctrine every Sundayt morning before I go to church because I know it will be full of idiotic Repuiblican comments. And when I go, I get very mad at those poeple. But then I take a deep breath, say a prayer begging for the ability to forgive and forget, and to be able to focus on the lesson. And, quite often, what happens is that I do focus on the lesson and have some of the most spiritually uplifting experiences of my week.

    So I hate going to church, and I enjoy it. I hate the members, and I admire them. But I don’t hate Heavenly Father. If this is the best he can do, it’s not his fault. It’s up to us to make the church better. To find ways to re-introduce Christian principles like tolerance and charity that seem so lacking in the prevalent mores of the membership.

    I’d clean this post up, but I’m going to be late for work if I don’t leave immediately. My apologies for any typos.

  75. The ritual aspects of Sacrament meeting help keep me in tune with the spirit. But the 2nd and 3rd hours are painfully boring.

    What I find is that every now and then I will have a 2 minute experience at Church on Sunday that makes the previous 2 months of attendance worth it.

    Weekly attendance also helps foster a sense of community, and gives us the opportunity to serve. I find it hard to be active in the Gospel without those elements.

  76. The two hour program is still going on in spots in Brasil…

  77. There’s no question that going to Church can be a tough, difficult test. As I have more and more problems in my life, I sometimes feel that Church meetings are less and less relevant, and that I don’t need anything from others.

    I wonder, though, if this isn’t precisely the sign that I need to have more human interaction, that I need to become more involved in serving others, etc. I haven’t quite convinced myself of this yet, but if I do, it’ll be quite the Sacrament talk.

  78. This is in response to anonymous’ post about Church being offensively too Republican, and in in response to the question about whether anyone actually likes church…

    I grew up trying to be a good conservative. Everyone I knew was conservative. My family, my church, the communities I lived in (my father was in the Air Force), etc. But my core political instincts never meshed well with conservatism. I thought we should helping the poor more instead of condemning them and calling them lazy. I thought we should be taking better care of our Lord’s green earth instead of depsoiling it for profit. I never could understand the absurd devotion to the 2nd Amendment. But I tried to brush off the differences. I told myself I was a different breed of Republican. I identified with Jack Kemp and John McCain. But the Iraq war forced me to face up to facts. I’m not a Republican or a conservative and never have been.

    The point of all that background is to say that, now that I’m an out-of-the-closet liberal Mormon, I have a hard time liking other Mormons. Their core values and their politics seem to be one and the same, characterized by insensitivity, selfishness, knee-jerk prejucide, judgmentalness, hotheadedness, etc. etc. etc. It’s hard not to assume that if this is the kind of people the church attracts, and this is the kind of people church teaching produce, then there must be something seriously wrong with the church itself. At the very least, it’s hard to function in church callings with people who are so closeminded and rigid and, in my opinion, fundamentally un-Christian.

    ALL OF THAT BEING SAID, I cannot ever deny that I know this church is true. I have seen miracles. I have felt the power of God. My third child was born two weeks ago, and the spiritual outpouring I felt when I laid my hands on my wife’s head to give her blessings (it was a very difficult labor) only re-confirms for me how true this Gospel is. The priesthood is real. I told her things about the child and the delivery I had no way of knowing and they came true. And this isn’t the first time things like that have happened in my life.

    So I keep going to church because I believe in it. That’s not to say that the members themselves aren’t, sometimes, real assholes. In my reading of church history, I cannot help but conclude that the only reason blacks were denied priesthood and temple blessings for so long was becuse the members were, in that regard, also assholes. The white members weren’t ready to stand side by side with black members. Perhaps the cost of that prejudice is something the white members of the time will have to pay for in the afterlife.

    But God didn’t close up the church because of it. I’m sure it vexed him as much or more than it did anyone. And the same is true today. He makes do with what is available. There seems to be a correlation between simple faith and diligence and pigheaded prejudice. I’m sure God is as grieved by that as you or I am.

  79. We sound very similar, Jen. The difference for me is that I have a stalwart wife for whom it isn’t even a question that we might not go to church, so I’ve never even had the opportunity to sleep in on Sunday. And I’m very grateful for her faithfulness. I know the church is true, but it’s also kind of boring.

    My first thought was to ask who your home teacher or visiting teacher is. Because you should be telling all this to him or her. Or both. But then I realized that if it’s a new ward, you may not know. You may not have any. So then I thought you should call your bishop. But then I thought that maybe that’s a little too humiliating in a new ward, to introduce yourself to the bishop as New Sister Who Can’t Bring Herself to Wake Up in the Morning and Is Also A Little Agoraphobic Too. For some people, that would be embarrassing to admit.

    So then I wrote a whole bunch of other stuff that I just deleted because it dawned on me that you could always tell all this to God. Prayed lately? Fervent prayer is not a cliched answer.

    (But if swearing is a sign of Impending Trouble then I’m living a very doomed life. –Wherewith shall the language be salted if the salt hath lost its savor? ;-) )

  80. Well, Ronin, I just wrote you a long reply and then accidentally clicked on something and lost it all. So here’s the quick run-down:

    1. I called Republicans a lot of things, but I didn’t call them stupid. To deconstruct what offends me about conservatism would take a book. Or maybe my own blog. But I don’t have one. Alas.

    2. Maybe I shouldn’t have phrased some of things in the silly or profane way I did. Truly that is the first time I have ever borne my testimony using the word “a**hole.” I spent the rest of the evening regretting it. But it was from the heart.

    3. This isn’t the right discussion to deconstrust the permutations of our respective views on Iraq. But I’d be happy to do it with you. You name the place. If nothing else, we can just email each other.

    4. Intolerant? I’m intolerant? See number 1. I couldn’t explain what was wrong with conservatism here, so I merely asserted that they’re wrong–trust me on this. :) Also, consider your assumption that I hate America — – something I never said — and belong among Unitarians. But lucky guess on the hating Bush thing. :D

    Edited By Siteowner

  81. Why doesn’t the Church offer a training program in how to speak in public? Heaven knows we’ve got courses in every other topic. It wouldn’t be hard to put together, and it could result in some real benefits.

    In watching Gen Conf. it’s clear that the GAs have had training in public speaking (or at least, someone has walked them through GC talk procedure). Maybe they could share some of that downwards, too.

  82. Wow. Fantastic post. I’ve been an “apostate” for so long that postings like these shatter my worst images of true-believers.

    I think it was the repetitive and superficial qualities of sunday services that made it easier to “fall away” from the whole church thing. The monthly testimony meetings were the most difficult to endure as they became a socially oppressive “you must feel/believe THIS (or at least pay lip service to it)” experience. Growing up with that monthly ritual has colored my sociability ever since. (I might have stayed active a bit longer if I’d ever encountered the kind of honest discussion that goes on at BCC. But it wouldn’t substitute for not having a testimony. Which is ultimately why I’m not practicing today.) The problems and anxieties that you describe after not going to church for a spell really strike a nerve. Does attending weekly provide a social connectedness that is difficult to find from alternative sources? Is it spirituality or community? I really don’t know.

    Interesting comments regarding spiritually fulfilling experiences. What, exactly, are the spiritually fulfilling experiences that you’ve had? They seem elusive and often come from unexpected places.

  83. Aaron Brown says:

    Yes, Church meetings are often interminably boring. In my experience, you’ve got to have a calling to be invested in what goes on in the ward. If you are at all responsible for how the meetings turn out (or if you have been given some sort of responsibility/stewardship over some of the ward members), it is easier to overlook the boredom, and be thankful for the little moments of insight or meaning that may have an impact on someone in the ward (even if that someone isn’t you).

    I really enjoy teaching my Gospel Essentials class, and I still look forward to Elders’ Quorum, knowing that something interesting is bound to happen at least once in a while. Once in a blue moon, we even have really moving or interesting talks in Sacrament Meeting. But yes, dullness is the norm, and I’ve found that roaming the halls, or taking REALLY LONG bathroom breaks, can be more stimulating.

    Aaron B

  84. D. Fletcher says:

    You guys, Clark and random John, who have expressed some dissatisfaction with the music in Sacrament Meeting, have obviously never been to my ward.

    :)

  85. You hate music?!?

    Wowza…. well I guess you’re dreading that whole “heavn’ly choir” stuff.

  86. a random John says:

    Z,

    I agree, that barely registers as interesting.

  87. Hi Jen,

    It’s interesting to hear your thoughts. I see you have generated quite a stir among some members, apostate members, and others. I am a believer in frank conversation. I don’t think you posted your thoughts to have backslapping and way-to-goes poured out. So I am going to say it the way I treat myself.

    I love what President Kimball said about spirituality. “Whenever I find that God is far away, I realize that I am the one who has moved” (paraphrasing). Whenever I find that I am not feeling the Spirit like I ought to I inventory myself.

    -Is there a sin I have committed that has put distance between the Lord and myself?
    -Am I faithfully reading the scriptures?
    -Am I fervently praying?
    This simple self-inventory reveals a lot about what I am doing that might be preventing the Spirit from entering in. I think here it is important to review the following: Church exists for at least three reasons.

    1) To renew sacred covenants. The sacrament is the key to having the Spirit in our lives. If you listen to the sacrament prayer, you covenant to do three things (always remember Him, take His name upon you, and keep His commandments); in return Father in Heaven promises that you will always have His Spirit to be with you. This is the reason that we go to church, to renew our covenants. In a very real sense without the sacrament a person cannot have the Spirit in his/her life. In fact Joseph Fielding Smith said: “No member of the Church can fail to make this covenant and renew it week by week, and retain the Spirit of the Lord. The sacrament meeting of the Church is the most important meeting which we have, and is sadly neglected by many members. We go to this service, if we understand the purpose of it, not merely to hear someone speak, important though that may be, but first, and most important, to renew this covenant with our Father in Heaven in the name of Jesus Christ. Those who persist in their absence from this service will eventually lose the Spirit and if they do not repent will eventually find themselves denying the faith” (Church History and Modern Revelation 1:123; see also Doctrines of Salvation 2:338).

    2) To be strengthened. I love what Elder Russell M. Nelson said about sacrament meeting talks. While the speaker is delivering his/her address, ask yourself questions about the topic. Have a personal conversation considering what you are doing and what you are not doing to fulfill the expectations being delivered in the address. With this in mind, Church talks are not about hearing something new they are about self-inventory. The congregation ought to ask themselves, how am I doing in these areas? I think people often expect that sacrament meetings will teach them something new. But that is not the point. For example a talk on family home evening: Many people tune out because they have “heard it all before.” But they ought to be asking themselves, am I ensuring that my family is holding regular family home evening? How well are our lessons going? Which member of the family most needs to plan and prepare the lesson this Monday? It seems that many of the people posting to your comment have stopped engaging in this type of inventory. They may be going to church for the wrong reason: simply because it is expected of them. Rather, we go to church to discern what changes we need to make so the Spirit can be with us more fully.

    3) We strengthen others. King Benjamin’s address concerning service is timely for your concern. Mosiah 2:17 suggests that when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God. And Mosiah 18:8-10 suggests that the very nature of our baptismal covenant is to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. In a very real sense you are not at church for yourself only. You are there for others as well. I like what Heber C. Kimball said, whenever I feel like life is very difficult, I find someone worse off than myself and focus all of my time and efforts on him or her. Soon my life doesn’t seem so bad (paraphrasing). There are people all around us at church who are in need. They feel overwhelmed with life and the adversary is constantly beating on them. One way to make your church experience more effective is to focus on them, find someone in need and make their life better because they were near you.

    In writing these comments in no way do I suggest that I am perfect at living this way. But I have made a covenant with the Lord. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for my moments at church when I can quietly reflect on how my life is going. However, salvation is not found on Sunday only. A group of individuals meet with Alma. They were rejected from their churches because they were poor and those who were prideful would not allow them to attend. They asked Alma what they should do. He responded, “do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week” (Alma 32:11)? Salvation is found six days a week in our personal religious devotions. When these devotions are strong, sacrament meeting and the rest fall into their proper perspective.

    My last comment might be least favorable with some of the commentors of this blog. Alma and Amulek taught Zeezrom a powerful truth. Anyone can know the mysteries of God (i.e. the doctrines of God) if they are willing to give heed and diligence to them. Heed means to pay attention to something or someone and diligence means perseverence in application. In other words, those who know the doctrines of the kingdom have gained this knowledge because they pay the price of continued, daily study of the scriptures and words of modern prophets. However, some receive a lesser portion of the word (in sacrament meeting for instance) because they harden their hearts “until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction” (Alma 12:9-11). The more dedicated we are to prayer and scripture study and then obeying the promptings of the Spirit, the more likely we are to understand what is taught in church. However, if we harden our hearts to these spiritual promptings we loose light and truth (D&C 50:24). I hope something I have said will spark the desire for you and anyone else who is reading this comment to turn to the Lord in prayer and scripture study and feast upon the words of Christ.

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