The Greatest Sacrament Meeting Story Ever Told

The year was 2003. The place was Southern California. It was a pleasant Summer Sunday, and the wife and I were attending our weekly church meetings. On this particular morning, we elected to sit closer to the pulpit than usual, planting ourselves right in front of the Bishop, but a few rows back. As the meeting began, I chatted with the wife, made faces at the child sitting in front of me and doodled on the hymnal. Pretty standard, forgettable stuff.

My calling in the ward was Ward Mission Leader. In that capacity, I did my best to help the missionaries shepherd their investigators towards the waters of baptism, and hopefully, toward full fellowship in a community of saints that would support them in their trials and tribulations, and help them navigate the doctrine and culture of Mormonism. Perhaps my calling made me extra sensitive to what was said in our meetings, and how it was said. There was always a risk, particularly the first Sunday of every month, that somebody would say something freakishly weird, and then I or the missionaries would have to do damage control (while wishing we’d waited a week to invite our investigators to church). But most of the time, the talks and testimonies were heartfelt and meaningful, and at worst only boring or slightly odd. Nothing to be embarrassed about for the most part.

On this particular Sunday, Fast and Testimony meeting began as it always did, with several ward members arising and approaching the pulpit to speak to the congregation. Others soon followed, and none of the testimonies were particularly notable or memorable. But about 15 minutes before the meeting’s end, an elderly Korean woman in my ward took the stand to bear her testimony. “Sister Soh” was a regular fixture at our testimony meetings, so her presence at the pulpit was no surprise. She got up to speak virtually every month, and she always talked about some pointless, trivial recent experience in her life that contained enough sordid details to make half the ward uncomfortable. However, she also had a thick Korean accent that was difficult to understand. If you made a conscious effort to try to decipher her ramblings, there was either no payoff or you found yourself offended, so most members decided that it wasn’t worth the effort.

Sister Soh’s testimony started off no different that usual. I was, as always, ignoring her ramblings, thinking about what I’d soon be having for lunch. But after a few minutes, I couldn’t help but notice the ever-increasing volume and strident tone of the Sister’s testimony. Strange as she was, she didn’t usually seem this belligerent. So I broke with my usual habit of tuning her out and decided to actually pay attention.

I started to get this queasy feeling in my stomach. (Have you ever had a premonition that something really bad was going to happen right before it did?) And then it happened: Smack dab in the middle of her “testimony,” Sister Soh blurted out the “N-word.” Once. Then twice. Then three times. Then again. And again. And again. I think I lost count at about 17. I was in shock. Given my calling, and given that ours was a very ethnically diverse ward with a number of African-American members and regular African-American investigators, I quickly scanned the chapel, hoping and praying there were none that day. Everyone in the congregation had mortified looks on their faces, but there were no Black people in Church. Thank God (literally).

But it gets worse. It wasn’t just that Sister Soh was using the “N-word.” It was the context in which she was using it. She was telling a story about a recent ride on a public bus, during which she had an altercation with another (presumably Black) passenger. They got into a heated argument about whether or not it was O.K. to use the “N-word.” She maintained that it was. He thought otherwise. He became irate at her insistence that such language was appropriate. She became even more incensed as she zealously defended her word-choice. In short, we didn’t just have to hear the N-word over and over again from the pulpit as part of some incoherent racial tirade; we were treated to an actual sermon about “Why it’s O.K. to Use the N-word,” even when talking to African-Americans.

Why didn’t the Bishop immediately get up and put a stop to it? How could he possibly have allowed this to continue? It’s an easy question to ask in hindsight. But at the time, I think I understand what he was thinking: Once the “n-word” (or any word, for that matter) is uttered, it’s a thing of the past. What’s done is done. Getting up and removing the speaker from the pulpit isn’t going to undo the damage. It’s just going to make even more of a scene. I suspect the Bishop was probably hoping and praying that she’d just stop of her own accord. Each successive racial epithet made that decision regrettable, but it didn’t necessarily change his calculus on a going-forward basis. I mean, she had to stop sometime, right?

But Sister Soh just wouldn’t stop. She was the White (er… Korean) Supremacist Energizer Bunny. She kept going and going and going and going and going. Finally, the Bishop couldn’t take it anymore. He approached the stand, leaned over into her ear, and asked her to finish her testimony immediately. She turned her head toward him and from where we were sitting, the wife and I could plainly see a big, cheesy grin on her face that seemed to say “I have no idea what you’re saying to me cause I’m from another planet!” She ignored the Bishop and kept on talking. She managed to let fly a couple more n-words. The Bishop arose a second time and asked her forcefully to finish up and take her seat. The Sister then briefly wound up her remarks without further incident, and sat down.

Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. At least it was over. And there were only 3 or 4 minutes remaining in the meeting. But two other members of the ward had meanwhile placed themselves on the stand to bear their testimonies: An elderly white gentelman, and a heavy-set dark-skinned woman. As the brother got up to speak, our well-meaning Bishop leaned over to the sister and said, “Sister So-and-So, I am soooooo sorry about what just happened.” The meaning of his comment was unmistakable. It was as if to say “On behalf of the entire non-African American LDS Church membership, I want to apologize to you personally and to all your fellow African-American members generally for the horribly inappropriate verbal tirade that you’ve just been subjected to.” It was a nice gesture. Better than nothing, I guess. Alas, there was one small problem:

The Sister was not African-American. She was Hawaiian.

Comments

  1. Aaron Brown says:

    By “Greatest” Sacrament Meeting story, I obviously mean “Most Horrific.”

    If you’re having deja vu, it’s because you first read a short version of this story here:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=450#comment-15563

    Commenters are invited to share their “greatest” Sacrament Meeting stories, fast and testimony meeting or otherwise.

    Aaron B

  2. Unbelievable. In my home ward we have the guy with the crew cut in the pale powdery blue suit who gets up every month and rambles for a long time, but he never says anything obnoxious. There have been a few strange stories and inappropriate comments from time to time, but nothing like your story. Nothing!

  3. What did the old man talk about he stood up to speak next?

  4. Once in a testimony meeting on my mission, a woman bore testimony of how the restored gospel had rescued her from the life she had been living. Before meeting the missionaries, she had practiced the world’s oldest profession, and I think she was trying to contrast the happiness she felt living the gospel with the degradation she felt in the earlier part of her life. Anyway, her long testimony focused on the details of her experiences as a prostitute. It was a real eye-opener for a 19 year old kid from rural Utah.

  5. Wow, horrific is right.

    However, I lived in a small ward in the rural south for many years where something as oddball as the “n-word” from the pulpit wasn’t entirely unusual. My first ever visit to the ward was a testimony meeting in which the recently released first counselor to the bishop got up drunk and paraded his sexual sins for 15 minutes before the bishop finally cut him off. Soon to be learned was that this wasn’t out of the ordinary for said ward. One of the greatest testimonies I heard during my first few months in the ward was from the ward relief society president who was a former topless dancer, and boy that was a neat story!…The most personally horrific testimony meeting for me in theat ward though was the one which I invited my good Baptist friend to. She was convinced we weren’t Christians, and therefore probably don’t even speak about Jesus in our church meetings. So I invited her to church that first sunday of the month (stupid stupid stupid me!) Other than in the prayers and at the end of each testimony NOT A SINGLE WORD was said in reference to Jesus Christ. Instead, about an hours worth of testimony on food storage. Yep, food storage and how “other Christians” weren’t blessed by the principle of food storage…

    You’ve got to love the church…

  6. In the ward I grew up in, we had an older woman who had spent some time institutionalized. I dont know for exactly what, but I am going to guess she had mild schizophrenia. She usually did pretty well, but one F&T meeting she got up and told us about a dream she had that rats had come out of the walls and explained to her that if it werent for the LDS Church that communism would have spread over the whole world and taken over and they government would strip us all and measure our genitalia. At that point one of her daughters was so humiliated she got up and ran out of the chapel crying and face planted the one of two chapel doors that was bolted shut with those pop up clips they used to install. The Bishop got up and asked her to sit down, but she said she wasnt done yet so she kept going for awhile, and he got up again and told her to sit down. It was pretty rough. She didnt come back after that.

    On my mission I was in a ward where there was a guy who got up every single F&T no matter what and used it like as AA meeting and he would invariably insist the Church was True because of the WofW.

    Some years ago I was living in a Pacific NW city and attended a downtown branch meeting at the Institute building that had a pretty eclectic mix of attendees. It was colorful, and I liked it as a change from vanilla. There was a house downtown that provided residential care for developmentally disabled senior citizens, nice people who were generally harmless but needed some extra attention now and again. Some members lived there and attended that branch regularly, I think it was in walking distance. One F&T meeting, one of the gals from there got up and bore her testimony as usual, but at the end she expressed some concerns about a medical problem she was having and asked we pray for her…her…she couldnt recall what the doctor called it…she thought about it some more…long agonizing pause… (I literally prayed silently that she wouldnt say anything inappropriate) …and then she remembered and blurted it out…yes…hemorrhoids…would you please pray for my hemorrhoids? A quick diversion was provided by someone who immediately took the stand and got us back on track.

  7. Our Stake has the tradition of having a recently converted member speak at Stake Conference. I think its purpose is to instill the missionary zeal of a new member into us. A year ago they had a 19 year old boy, who got up and told us in great sordid detail about his recent vacation to Thailand and all the ensuing temptations of the Go-Go bars he visited. Not only was this very eye-opening, he was never really clear on whether he had resisted those temptations. The kid was very sincere, but the uneasiness of the rank and file in the audience was palpable.
    My other favourites are from my younger days. As a teenager (in the 80’s) a gentleman got up and bore a very moving testimony on how Mother Theresa and Bob Geldolf would both be saved in the Celestial Kingdom because of all the good they done. He never qualified the latter as to he meant his work with the Boomtown Rats or Live Aid. As a missionary I taught a single mom whose 4 year old son bore testimony that “The Book of Mormon was blue and Joseph Smith was a man.”

  8. You’re right that once something is said it’s out there. I’m not sure though that this fact excuses the bishop from taking some action to publicly correct the situation. At the very least, he should have stood up after she finished and explained to the entire congregation that such language is not acceptable in a house of God.

  9. Jennifer in GA says:

    Oh…my… o_O

    That is just horrific. I’ve been privy to some truly scary testimony meetings. Like the sister who would sing her testimony, or the brother who would rap his.

    But the worst I have experienced first hand was when I was in YW, and one of the husband of one of my leaders got up and told the entire congregation about their struggle to conceive, and how they had just found out it was because he had a low sperm count. He then asked if the ward would pray for him as he underwent surgery the next week in the hopes of increasing the flow and motility of his sperm.

  10. Nick Literski says:

    Careful, Aaron! Matt W. is going to jump in and tell you that your story is “so out of the ordinary as to seem fictional.” ;-)

  11. I think this is complicated because it’s simultaneously about mental illness and racism. How do you deal with people who are entirely nuts by any reasonable current definition but still want to participate in a church community? I suspect her membership was a rare treasure for this poor woman. I would be more worried about and angered by a Caucasoid member who would never utter the n-word but rambles on about racist folklore than some schizotypal woman making little sense in an n-word diatribe.

    I’m with Costanza, though, that rather than equating Polynesian race with anti-Black racist ramblings, one appropriate ecclesiastical response would have been “We are so grateful to have Sr. Soh in our ward and love her dearly, but, in the words of holy scripture, all are alike unto God, and just as we would not blaspheme the name of God, we will not use hateful words about our siblings.”

  12. Nick Literski says:

    In the ward I attended during law school, we had an older gentleman who had difficulty communicating. On occasion, he would write out his testimony, and have his wife read it during F/T meeting, because he was unable to get up and speak coherently. Then he discovered he could do something a little different. He brought his guitar with him to the stand, strummed a bit, and sang his testimony. For some reason that worked for him, and it was very touching.

    In the same ward, we had an investigator in his early 20s, who seemed very articulate. Unlike most, he actually spoke up and participated in Sunday School and EQ meetings. He knew the Bible well, and had some good insights. Everyone was sure that he was on his way to baptism. Then he took his participation to a new level, getting up to the stand at F/T meeting. He started out fine, but before long, things changed. He told us how the cameras atop nearby Chicago toll lanes (installed to read the pre-paid driver decals, or else take your photo as a deadbeat) were part of a network by which the government tracked our every move. He began talking about black helicopters. He told us that he could see the spirits of the ward members, and he knew who were wolves in sheep’s clothing. He predicted imminent destruction via an enormous tornado. About 15 minutes (I kid you not) into this performance, the bishop stood and asked him to wrap it up. The bishop was ignored. Another 5-10 minutes ensued, before the bishop became more forceful. We never saw our young investigator again.

  13. 212 comments on a similar thread – one of the funniest things I have ever read in my life:

    http://www.mormonmommywars.com/?p=659

  14. She wasn’t blind. Of that I’m sure. So I just couldn’t figure out why she had a full grown German Shepherd seated beside her in the chapel.

    Now, if that wasn’t strange enough, this dog was wearing a suit coat, vest, white shirt, and tie. I kid you not!!! Can you imagine the skillz it would have taken to make that!

    Oh how I wish camera cell phones were available back then!

  15. I am ordinarily just a lurker on this site, but reading these stories inspires me to share …

    As a missionary in the Netherlands, I once served in a fairly large branch that counted among its members a woman who, though she had some mental handicaps, nevertheless had a tremendous amount of missionary zeal. She would often bring to church a woman friend from the group home where she lived, with occasionally disastrous results.

    One Sunday this friend was with us in sacrament meeting, but fairly early on she got up and walked out of the chapel. We assumed she was going home. But about 20 minutes later she re-entered the chapel and began to walk down the center aisle toward the pulpit, interrupting the speaker. As she approached she proclaimed in an ever-louder voice that, while riding her bicycle home from church — the most common form of transport for our branch members — she had seen a vision. In this vision angels had ministered to her and convinced her the Church was true, which inspired her to return to sacrament meeting and tell us what great people we were.

    At some point during this rant she came to a stop right at the row where my companion and I were seated. My companion — whew! — was in the aisle seat, and stood to try to calm her down, instinctively placing his hand on her shoulder.

    At which point, the woman, apparently inferring an amorous motive in my companion’s actions, turned to my companion, embraced him, and planted a kiss right square on his lips.

  16. Everyone who hasn’t read it needs to go read the thread Ray just linked to at MMW.

    I’m beginning to feel happy that none of my family are church members. They’re all crazy. Just thinking about some of the things they might say in fast meeting…ugh.

  17. Ironically, the fact that we “suffer fools” so openly in our midst is one of the things I love about the Church. All of us are fools to some degree or another – although, I must admit, I laugh and cringe at some of our fools more than others. I love threads like this.

  18. Nick, I must really have hurt your feelings. I’m sorry.

  19. Nick Literski says:

    Thanks, Matt. You didn’t “hurt my feelings,” so much as you seemed to imply that I was engaged in some sort of evil plot to make up stories about experiences in LDS culture. Someone else made that accusation in a more direct way, in a previous thread. I’m far from perfect, but I place a high premium on integrity. Perhaps that’s why my blood boils when I feel I’m being falsely accused of lying.

  20. re # 19, Perhaps that’s why my blood boils when I feel I’m being falsely accused of lying.

    Believe me Nick, we faithful Latter-day Saints know the feeling, particularly those of us who read blogs. From my observation, a common technique that nonbelievers employ against the Church is to accuse it (and thereby us as its members) of lying about this or that thing.

  21. Thing like this were such a problem on my mission that when I became a ZL I forbid anyone in the zone from bringing investigators on Fast Sunday. It may have slowed down baptismal dates, but it prevented some real issues.

  22. A number of celebrities and Hollywood players have attended our ward over the years, and a few of our widows were at one time “B-girls” in 40’s flicks. One of them likes to read her invocations and benedictions off 3×5 cards. Once as she offered her prayer, she suddenly stopped, tapped the mike and said, “Is this on?” Another time, on a testimony Sunday, a brother had a screen and video projector set up before the meeting. Then when it was his turn to bear testimony, he bore witness of the power of the Beatitutdes and– in an effort to send home the message– had us watch an excerpt of “The Greatest Story Ever Told” during the Beatitudes scene. I leaned over excitedly to the sister in front of me and said, “Jesus looks just like Max Von Sydow!” Another brother, an old crooner, sings his testimony to us. Here I thought our ward was the odd duck for how much latitude the saints are given, but after reading this thread, I stand corrected.

  23. Wow. Just, wow. I’ve never heard anything even close what some of you have heard in your SM. I must live in a boring ward.

    “We are so grateful to have Sr. Soh in our ward and love her dearly, but, in the words of holy scripture, all are alike unto God, and just as we would not blaspheme the name of God, we will not use hateful words about our siblings.”

    SamMB, that’s the best response ever.

  24. One day in a previous ward of mine, a black man, who was not a member of our ward, came to Sacrament meeting on Fast and Testimony meeting. In that particular ward, he was fairly noticeable. An older woman in the ward got up to bear her testimony and motioned to him and said that he and “his people” were welcome at our church, and went on and on about how her father used to work on the railroads, and her father had always taught his children to treat negros well. Not as bad as the original story, but still a very uncomfortable day. The man just sat there through it with a rather bemused smile on his face. Turned out he was a member of the church, so at least acquainted with the concept of Fast and Testimony meeting, and was visiting from out of town.

  25. Oooh, I just thought of another good one.

    We were on vacation once, visiting in the local branch. The BP was a recent convert, and also recently retired from the military, and he had the vocabulary to prove it.

    He was trying to impress upon his flock the importance of being worthy to hold a recommend, and told them that if Jesus returned while they were still in their sinful state, “You will be S.O.L.”

    That conclusion really is hard to argue with. And I was happy to see someone try to recover Golden Kimball’s legacy of cussing from the pulpit.

  26. In my branch, we had a sister stand up and started her testimony like this, “My name is Morning Star, but you probably know me by my given name Kate.” As soon as I heard that, I knew we were in for a really strange testimony. She went on to talk about how she knew Jesus was real because she was married to him and had seen him six times. At this point, the branch president got up and thanked her and told her to sit down. She got angry and said, “Don’t listen to this man, he’s a sexual perpetrator!!” (I think she meant predator, but she was crazy, so who knows what she really meant). She stormed out of the church. The Branch President asked us to disregard what she said and to try to help maintain the Spirit in the meeting. I thought that I would never see her again, but a few months later after we had moved to another ward in the stake, I saw her at Stake Conference.

  27. Nick Literski says:

    Oh…the military reference reminded me of another “peculiar” testimony meeting! On the first F/T meeting after Bush sent U.S. troops to invade Iraq, a member of the ward happened to attend. He was sort of an earthy old gentleman, and generally showed up at church once every six months or so. He decided this was a good day to bear his testimony. Not only did he bear testimony of the inspiration of George W. Bush, but he went on to say that if he was a younger man, he’d re-enlist in a heartbeat to fight. “I’d KILL Saddam Hussein,” he declared, “I’d kill him in the name of Jesus Christ!” He went on for a while after that, though not quite so dramatically. Oddly enough, only a few friends of mine seemed to think there was anything disturbing about his testimony.

  28. These stories make me feel so much better about our ward.

    A few years ago we had a woman bear her testimony who we all knew was a little crazy, but seemed rather harmless. She was rambling on for a long time and to be honest, I think a lot of us weren’t paying attention for a while. Suddenly she started talking about how she was searching for a cure for cancer – this caught most of our attention – and how she was experimenting with different compounds to see what the cure might be (she explained that God was directing her in this process) and that she had finally realized that the cure to cancer just might be axle grease and she was working on the various ways of ingesting and using axle grease to see what kind of results she could get and not to worry about her because this was all being done by God’s hand. One of my good friends turned around and mouthed to me “did she just say she’s ingesting axle grease!?” To which I could only answer “yes”.

    This was my husband’s first F&T meeting as Bishop of our ward and he looked absolutely terrified. I knew he was wondering what, if anything, he should do. When she got to the part where she started having a personal relationship with Jesus while he was floating over her kitchen table (while she was lying on the kitchen table) we all became extremely scared of where this was going next. My husband popped up whispered something in her ear and basically had to physically start pulling her from the microphone. She finally quit.

    This wasn’t the last time my husband asked someone to sit down. It was the last time this particular lady was allowed to bear testimony though. Later, she left the church lobby while flipping the bird at my husband saying “See Ya, See Ya Wouln’dt Want to Be YA!”

  29. Well, yesterday I was taken down memory lane to the John Birch Society vs. Bleeding Heart Socialist fights my husband used to have back in the day. And today it’s horrifying sacrament meetings. Ah the memories.

    When we were newly married, we lived in a ward in Northern California. It was the 4th of July fast and testimony meetng. We had the battle of the dueling testimonies.

    “I feel so thankful to live in a country where we take care of our poor and look forward to the day when the government begins to more fully recognize its obligation to…”

    The next person would give a dark look as he passed the prior testifier. “I’m so thankful I live in a REPUBLIC (not a democracy, thank the Lord) where we are free to live out our lives without govermental interference. I look forward to the government more fully embracing our country’s heritage of hard work and self-reliance.”

    And so it went, back and forth. Given that my husband and I were having spats about this daily, this was painful enough, but then came Sunday School.

    We were blessed to have in our ward an professional entertainer. She was once on a very popular comedy in the 60s. And she had prepared something very special that day–a muscial extravaganza celebrating the heritage of our country. Right there in the chapel. Right on the heals of the most partisan sacrament meeting ever held. Wow. She had everything including a chorus line. She left out the Vegas-style kicks and head-dresses, but not much else. Even my ultra-patriotic husband was taken aback.

    And that, my friends, is when I began my annual 4th of July F & T meeting boycott. It was truly meant to be a once in a lifetime experience.

    Jami

  30. Jami, no way would I boycott meetings like that. I wouldn’t miss them for the world. We all need to get our cheap thrills somehow, and that ward seems tailor-made for me.

  31. Is anyone aware of another church where on a regular continuing basis the pulpit is open to anyone who wants to speak? I think a traditional Quaker meeting might be like that, but am not aware of any other. Pentacostal services allow considerable demonstrativeness in the congregation, but the pulpit is still controlled by the preacher. Also, is anyone aware of any research on the background and origins of the Mormon fast and testimony meeting?

  32. Aaron, you are such a great story teller. Folks, I was in this ward as a missionary and had Aaron as WML. When the truth is as rich and colorful as this, no embelishments are needed and I can attest to the fact that none were used in Aaron’s description. Funny thing is, this event was just one of many that filled up an entire journal in the six months I was in the ward. The ward of the LDS lunatic fringe, with the few stable and able ones (Aaron on good days:)under the stress of all the callings. Needless to say, learned a lot of life lessons in those six months…unforgettable, in every way!

  33. In my old ward in Tokyo, a young man who was trying to start his own religion used to show up once in awhile to try to debate the missionaries and find recruits. “Free love” was apparently an important part of his new religion, and one Sunday he brought a beautiful girl to church with him. Unfortunately for him, however, the theme of that week’s Sacrament Meeting happened to be The Law of Chastity…

    http://kurinboism.blogspot.com/2007/05/mr-free-love-religion-meets-law-of.html

  34. In a ward back in Argentina, this disable 19 year old told me the Saturday before testimony meeting how he would get up the next Sunday morning and say how the missionaries offered him money to have sex with him. I told the Bishop about it who stopped the guy right on time before expressing “his testimony”.

    There was another guy in the same ward (non-member) who obviously had mental issues, he would come dress as a missionary sometimes (tag and all and share testimony) but in another occasions he would come dressed as Adolf Hitler (mustache and German accent and all) and shared some quite interesting stories about the war and the Jews.

  35. Nick (19), I have the feeling you are referring to a comment I made awhile back about how you are frequently posting comments with unflattering anecdotes about members of the Church. I think it was in an early FF thread. I never, repeat never, accused you of lying or fabricating unflattering stories. Stop trying to martyr yourself with such overblown rhetoric.

  36. Nick Literski says:

    I wasn’t referring to you at all, E.D. Sorry you felt targeted.

  37. Ardis Parshall says:

    Temple Square and the Conference Center are in our stake boundaries. I’ve never actually witnessed such visits, but we had a Sunday School lesson a while back on how to act and how to bring the spirit back into a meeting in the event Michael the Archangel or Samuela the Lamanitess came up to the pulpit to announce their arrival for conference, where they expected to be sustained as president of the church. They also mentioned that the Energy Queen of the Universe had been a one-time member of our ward. Also that we had officially appointed ward bouncers to handle those situations.

    But usually testimony meetings don’t get any stranger than in anybody else’s ward. /sigh/

  38. When I was at BYU one of the girls in our ward who had some issues decided to go off her medication during finals. She also decided that sleep was optional. F&T was about 4 days into this process.

    Her testimony started off well, but when she started talking, and then screaming, about demons circling the room (we were in the old Eyring building pits) and the how the room was getting darker and hiding behind the podium so the demons couldn’t get her the bishop decided it was time to put a stop to it.

    After medical attention she seemed to have recovered; until she took her dorm room floor hostage with a knife.

    On my mission we did have a lady get up and testify that the BoM and the Church weren’t true but that it was a nice place to meet people and make friends. Luckily our investigator got baptised anyway.

  39. Aaron Brown says:

    Matt — Good to hear from you! I wasn’t sure if you were still alive. Were you and Elder Canaan in the ward during this incident? I didn’t remember it was the two of you.

    john f. — I have no memory of what the old man said. (He was a bit nutty too, but those are different stories …) I just know that he didn’t say anything memorable by comparison. (I think he ignored the prior testimony).

    Nick — There is an old thread in the archives where I tell a story, and a commenter insists repeatedly that I must have made it up. I can’t remember which post it was, or I’d link to it.

    Sam MB — Agreed that racist comments from a caucasian member would be worse than a racist tirade from the mentally ill. As a WML worried about potential investigators, however, let me assure you Sister Soh’s monologue was plenty bad…

    Aaron B

  40. Nick Literski says:

    #37 Ardis,
    Great story! When I was living in Nauvoo, I was always a little surprised that we didn’t have something akin to “Jerusalem Syndrome” with all the “pilgrimages” going on. During my six years there, we only had one that I knew of, and being public defender, I was initially assigned to defend the person involved. The circumstances were such that the judge granted my request to bow out. The man allegedly demanded to be allowed inside the Nauvoo Temple, claiming that since he was Jesus Christ, it was his house. In seeking a public defender, he not only identified himself as Jesus, but gave the temple address as his residential address, and under “assets” wrote “all the world.” He didn’t make it to our F/T meeting.

  41. Ranbato,
    She took the whole floor captive with a knife? That must have been some knife.

  42. If you can’t be mentally ill in church, where can you be mentally ill?

  43. The first Sunday I blessed the sacrament as a 16 year old was also a mission farewell (old style with family, etc).

    The departing Elder was not well prepared for his talk. About 3 minutes into the talk, he looked down and saw some of his “wild” friends from high school. Then he blurts out, “All you people ever think about is sex! Well I am here to tell you that sex isn’t anything at all! In fact when you’re 30, you won’t even have sex!”

    My dad was the bishop at the time. I’ll never forget how his head dropped into his hands during this episode. I also have never heard a ward laugh so hard for so long during sacrament meeting.

    This laughter spurred the Elder to say, “Why are you laughing? I’m serious!” Everyone of course kept laughing as he dug himself in deeper.

    So when I went to Priest’s quorom, the young men’s president walks in and instructs us to congratulate the Elder on his call, but not to mention anything about his farewell talk. He also smiled as he told us that he would have to break the bad news to his wife. The young men’s president was over 30. LOL.

  44. Nick #40- see what I mean? [I'm just kidding BTW. You remind me of my friend who got shot at by police while almost being burnt at the stake by a mob on his mission. He's the same guy who lived through an earthquake, but got stuck in the jungle and had to eat bugs. He also came across his bishops dead body and watched someone get hit by a bus. when I say some's life is like fiction, I mean it's a heck of a lot more exciting than my own.]

    On the other hand, A guy claiming to be Jesus perpetually came into our mission office in the philippines with letters he’d written to the President of the United States. (He thought we were a front for the CIA)

  45. I forgot to mention that the Elder’s family traditionally tape recorded their children’s farewells. Well, the tape went missing from the recorder after sacrament meeting.

    Years later, I ran into someone who claimed to have a copy of it. But for now, it is lost. Perhaps it will pop up when we get the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. LOL.

  46. Nick Literski says:

    #44 Matt W.:
    So…What did your friend do the NEXT week? ;-)

  47. MikeInWeHo says:

    Congregations of The Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) have an open testimony meeting every Wednesday night. Don’t know what they are like though.

  48. Matt W. (#44): He thought we were a front for the CIA

    Wait a minute–are you saying that our foreign missions aren’t a CIA front?

  49. As a bishopric counselor, I was conducting a sacrament meeting in which an unstable lady, a freind of an unstable member of the ward, showed signs of going off the rails right out of the station, and at about the 90 second mark mentioned how earlier that week the Savior walked up to her in the waiting room at Hollywood Memorial Hospital and cured the staph infection in her finger. I glanced at the stake president sitting at the stand, he gave me a nod, and I rose and asked her to take her seat. I stood next to her while she wrapped up uneventfully. I then said to the congregation, “We’d like to thank Sister So-and-So’s friend for her testimony. I should remind everyone, however, to keep their testimony to just 3 or 4 minutes so that everyone who wants to speak can have a chance.” I don’t think she’d even been going 2 minutes, but it did the trick.

  50. CIA operative #2322567 says:

    Dear Site Admin:

    We strongly encourage you to remove comment #48. This is a matter of national security and if said comment is not removed, we can no longer guarantee the safety of your family.

    We know where you live.

  51. I should clarify: I personally was not a CIA operator or agent. But I just assumed that I was supposed to be window dressing for a CIA operation, and that my entire mission organization was a front. It was the only way that my mission experience made any sense to me.

  52. Aaron Brown says:

    I visited Buenos Aires back in 1998 (several years after serving an Argentine mission), and I attended the annual neo-nazi-ish march on the British Embassy to protest the English “occupation” of the Falkland Islands (“Islas Malvinas”). As I walked alongside the marchers (as opposed to “with” the marchers), I had several gentlemen insist that I must be a CIA operative, there to monitor the marchers’ subversive political activities. I denied any such role, but they were unpersuaded.

    Finally, I turned to one of them and said, “Why in the world would the CIA would be interested in your stupid little march in this strategically unimportant country.” My popularity then plummetted even further.

    Aaron B

  53. StillConfused says:

    Oh Holy Crap. I am telling these stories to my nonmember secretary. Our main comment is — Cliff, where the heck did you go to Church?

    p.s. I would have excused myself from the chapel on the first utterance of the N word.

    p.p.s. I did walk out of a baptism once when they were trying to baptize a mentally handicapped gal against her will. I came back in when I was advised it was time for my son’s baptism. That was so traumatic

  54. Last testimony meeting we had a young adult get up to bear his testimony. For whatever reason he had been in the singles branch but had recently started attending our ward. He was a bit hard to understand because of thick accent but you could see that he had prepared something ahead of time to say. In his “testimony” he only occasionally mentioned something about the gospel but it was in relation to how he was glad he found out about the church because he had been suicidal since the age of five. He claimed that his mother hated him and that she didn’t deserve his love. Basically it was her fault that he wanted to kill himself. As if that wasn’t enough, he also spoke of his strong desire for a “sexual” change operation but had decided against it although he just feels more like a woman inside. This went on for a while but finally he closed. I was just glad that he didn’t do the regular “in the name of Jesus Christ” bit because I would hope that no one would say “amen” to that rambling.

    And guess who was already on the stand ready to give her testimony next?! Yep, me. After he sat down I looked at the congregation almost to say “Are you kidding me? I’m not getting up next. Anyone else want to do it?” I took a deep breath and got up and gave my testimony. My husband told me when I sat down that that was a tough act to follow. You’re telling me.

  55. My family collects these stories. Horrible F&T meetings can come in so many wonderful flavors.

    On a sad note, the one Sunday my maternal grandmother (my Mom is a convert) attended church was a F&T meeting. After a long uncomfortable pause, a man got up and said something like, “since no one is going to bear their testimony…” and launched into a multi-level marketing scheme. Grandma is very respectful of the church and the values it has taught us, but never returned.

    My grandfather loves to tell of the man who put his bull up for stud during F&T.

    But my favorite is my father’s tale similar to #9. It was the Cambridge Ward (Harvard and MIT) during the Viet Nam war. The couple in question included a husband who was an iron rod both spiritually and politically. He was a crew cut, toe-headed blond man who always sat in the front with his young and, as the story goes, very pretty wife. But as she tearfully recounted their problems conceiving a child, the wife blurted out, “We just try and try until my Husband is just worn out.” Dad loves to describe how the back of her husband’s head turned beet red right through his hair.

  56. I lived in a ward in down town Sydney Australia, the most eclectic I have ever been in. Once a Sister bore her testimony on how an evil spirit had come into her mind so she placed an open Book of Mormon on her head and slept like that for the night. It worked and the evil spirit wasn’t in her the next day. The best part of it was overhearing another sister talking to her later in the day telling her how much she had enjoyed her testimony and how she would try the BOM on the head trick next time an evil spirit would come upon her.

    This one not so whacky, but embarrassing for the Bishop I think.
    Once while visiting SLC we went to church in the Prophets ward on Fast and Testimony, the President Hinkley and President Faust were on the stand. The Bishop got up at the beginning of the meeting and gave the usual instruction to keep testimonies brief and testify of the Saviour, and in a really nice way asks the visitors not to bear their testimonies, I guess they had a lot of visitors who would take up all the time.

    The first sister gets up..two family missionary fund stories, and an interesting answer to a prayer family history story and ..ten minutes later she finishes, six testimonies for the whole meeting.

    Of course the last sister (sorry sisters, all but one were women) gets up and starts “I know the Bishop asked us not to bear our testimonies, but with President Hinkley here I just had to…” I felt sorry for the Bishop, and for Presidents Hinkley and Faust.

    A memorable fast and testimony meeting.

  57. Also, is anyone aware of any research on the background and origins of the Mormon fast and testimony meeting?

    I believe it developed out of meetings held in the Kirtland Temple in the 1830s.

    I Have a Question

  58. There was a branch in Italy that had attracted the attention of Zeus, Maria, and Jesus Christ (I think his real name was Francesco). In Gospel Essentials class, Maria would complain that her son and husband (I don’t think she was married to the man known as Zeus) would not listen to her and wanted to know what she could do.

    Another Sunday Francesco came in and was Arthur wielding Excalibur (a golf umbrella). After he did some air sword, he threw it out the window (2nd story).

    I heard tales of Zeus “answering prayers” in sacrament meeting:

    Prayer giver: “Dear Heavenly Father”
    Zeus: “Yes?”
    Prayer giver: “We thank thee for this day”
    Zeus: “You’re welcome.”
    etc.

    I never witnessed it, but it wouldn’t have surprised me. We got employed as bouncers for a few Sundays.

  59. QUIT REFERRING TO YOUR WIFE AS “THE WIFE”!!!! Is she some kind of affect that you put on and keep polished so you can show it off? Geez. Show some respect. You’ve called her that so many times I had to say something. I cringe every time I read it and I’m a dude. I can only imagine what is communicated to your wife or other women that read the posts.

  60. Seth, as a wife I understand the usage of “the wife” and “DW” (dear wife) and other terms to be a way to refer to a wife without using her name on a public forum like blogging. It happens all over the Bloggernacle and other internet sites.

    I would prefer that my husband use “the wife” or “DW” rather than having him use my actual name. I understand the point you made, but I don’t read any disrespect in almost all cases I see on blogs like this.

  61. As told to me by Richard Holzapfel, American Government 2006:

    It was a BYU married student ward. A man gets up in testimony meeting and refers to a D&C scripture where we are told to confess our sins to the congregation.

    “Brothers and sisters,”

    “I have committed adultery.”

    (The congregation’s collective jaws drop. Then, of course, they turn to look at his wife.)

    “with Sis. So-and-So!”

    (They turn to look at her.)

    “IN.

    MY.

    HEART.”

  62. My favorite F&T story is second hand from a brother I served in a Branch Pres. with. At the time he was serving in a Ward in the Portland Oregon area. One F&T Sunday they had a brother stand up and start into his testimony of how he had always wanted to serve a mission but did not have the opportunity (he was missing a few marbles) but had always admired the missionaries that bore their testimonies in the language of their mission. Well since had not served a mission he wanted to take the opportunity to bear his testimony in a language other than english. This did not seem so bad unitil he announced the language was KLINGON !! Blak, Chock gurr git mnaak….. I laughed so hard when that mental picture went through my head.

  63. Antonio Parr says:

    On the one hand, these comments are amusing-to-hilariouis. On the other hand, they are a somewhat disturbing commentary about the quality of our meetings, and a “testimony” of sorts as to why so many people of good will perceive us to be a rather strange people. We seem to be a movement that works very well for people with certain cultural proclivities; beyond that, we seem to attract little more than people who are in desperate need of some kind of community.

    The bigger problem is that the oddities set forth above do not have a sufficient offset of the wise and sublime. Too many Sacrament Meetings are rather pro forma cultural exercises, that may seem comforting and familiar to the established masses, but offer little sustenance to investigators. [Speaking of investigators, I see few-to-none in our Ward or Stake. Does anyone even join the Church anymore (or join and stay)?]

    The downward spiral in Church meetings seems to track the recent trend of assigning people talks about talks, specifically those from General Conference. Three speakers all talking about Elder so-and-so’s talk from last General Conference usually has the impact of removing scripture (with the Bible being the most notable victim) from our primary worship service, and an astonishing amount of redundancy. (I once attended a Sacrament Meeting where all 3 speakers were asked to speak on the Word of Wisdom. The poor Speaker No. 3 — a recently reactivated member — got up and said that he was not sure what to do because Speaker Nos. 1 and 2 had already shared the identical scriptures and stories that made up his prepared talk.)

    I have my own F&T stories, some of which are rather amusing (although perhaps not quite as amusing as some listed above). I hesitate to share them because this thread is a somewhat painful reminder of how lacking our meetings can be, and how these inadequacies appear to have resulted in the stagnation of the growth of a Church that I love dearly.

  64. Antonio, I generally like and agree with what you write, but I couldn’t disagree more with this one. I love the fact that we have a meeting each month when we have a free-flowing expression of both the profound and the idiotic. Mormonism is a glorious kaleidescope in many ways, and these types of train wrecks usually, in my experience, are followed by deep and profound and moving expressions of faith. The real testimony to me is that for every truly weird occurence like described in this thread, I have heard many, many more truly uplifting and moving testimonies – from regular members.

    Jesus said, “Suffer the children to come unto me,” and I view these people in that light. In the moment, I wish these things wouldn’t happen, but I love the fact that we “suffer them” as they do. Also, this was much more prevalent in the early days of the Church, when meetings sometimes lasted all day.

  65. Antonio Parr says:

    Ray:

    My comment was not as clear or as well-placed as I would have preferred. I don’t mind the “glorious kaleidescope”, and generally enjoy F&T meeting. My complaint (which probably was not well-suited for this link, although it has been on my mind and I needed a place to vent!) is more towards the non-F&T Sacrament Meetings, which I believe have been stifled severely by this new trend of assigning people “talks about talks”. Limiting our vision to General Conference addresses is tantamount to an anti-kaleidescope, where we become so severely homogenized that we seem to suck out the light and life of the rank and file, who often have wisdom of their own that is worth hearing.

    Sorry for the detour.

  66. Antonio Parr says:

    (Question: is the trend in my Stake to have speakers give talks only about talks given in General Conference a trend that is Church-wide, or something that is unique to my Stake?)

  67. Antonio,

    This thread discusses your question.

  68. Antonio Parr says:

    Mark — thanks for the link to an outstanding thread, almost all of which I incorporate by reference (post hoc).

  69. mondo cool says:

    Without a doubt, the most unfortunate truncation of LDS Headlines I’ve ever seen.

    Sister Hunter’s humor and cheerfulness remembered as she is laid … – Deseret News

    Can anything be done?

  70. The Quality of Church meetings is the responsibility of the bishop and stake president. F and T is no different.

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