Visiting Other Churches

In high school I had a speech class where we had to match up with another class member and learn about him or her. I was paired with a girl who lived down the street from me, and for some reason I went into missionary mode and in the course of our discussion I invited her to church. She (rather brilliantly in retrospect), said she would be happy to go to church with me, if I would in turn go to church with her. And I froze. I had never set foot in a non-LDS church in my young life, and the prospect of doing so freaked me out, so I declined and backed out of the whole thing. (Adult me wishes teenage me just went ahead and did it.)

It would not be until my mission that I would explore other churches somewhat. Two experiences that stand out are attending Rosh Hashanah services at a Reform/Conservative synagogue, and also attending an evangelical service at what we called the Church of the Neon Cross (because there was no name on the building, but just a large, green neon cross). This last one was close to where we lived in Pueblo, Colorado, and we walked by it every day, so one time while services were in progress we decided to check it out. There was a band up front, which was new to a young Mormon. We were wearing our suits and name tags, so the pastor asked a couple of ex-Mormons to speak and basically bear their anti-testimonies, which was fine, I didn’t mind in the least.

When I married, my wife’s family was Lutheran, so on many occasions I have attended the Lutheran Church in DeKalb, Illinois. To experience a high church, liturgical service was fascinating to one with such a low church Mormon background.

I occasionally go to other church services these days for various reasons, and I am no longer freaked out by the prospect as I was when I was a boy. To the contrary, I almost always enjoy the experience.

So what have your experiences been visiting other churches?

Comments

  1. My seminary teacher took our whole class to Catholic Mass one Sun. morn. Great experience although my grandparents were Methodist so I had experienced other churches. The funny thing about out visit, in a very large parish, was the sermon that Sun. was on tithing, and the priest gave quite a tribute to the Mormons and their faithfulness in donating tithing. This was in 1967, it really impressed me and my fellow students. Great memory!

  2. On my mission, we visited Evangelical services once. The band really threw me. We also went to a JW meeting once, tags off, which turned out to be a training meeting of some kind. That was instructive; the people were very kind, but very different “training” suggestions than we get. We’ve tended to go to midnight Mass every Christmas, though regretfully never to a Latin mass. And I attended Torah study every Saturday in IL for about 18 months, though no strictly a service. I’ve managed to attend Muslim prayer services a few times, once on my mission and once as a precursor to a Mormon-Muslim interfaith dialogue I was participating in. I attended an Orthodox Jewish service in Jerusalem along with a few other students. While I’ve appreciated all of these, some have impressed me more than others. I definitely have holy envy for the high church “smells and bells” services and a discomfort with the jeans-and-guitar Evangelical ones.

  3. I have attended a few Catholic and Church of England services. What struck about the OP was the mention of calling on ex-Mormons to testify. I’ve been reading about missionary efforts of Protestants and how they treated each other in antebellum times. It parallels this stuff. Churches closed to Methodist itinerants or warned against the traveling preacher du jour.

  4. My first visit was when I was 6 or 7. A classmate invited me to her confirmation at her Episcopal church. (Or maybe it was her first communion?) This was in Provo, Utah. My mother took me. I remember being a little nervous, but I thought the church was very pretty and the service was nice. It was the first time I’d seen communion served in front of the altar, and not passed to the congregation. I asked my mom if we were supposed to join the people walking up the aisle, and my mom said that I probably shouldn’t go up, because communion was a very special thing usually reserved for members of that church. I was impressed by that and took our sacrament ordinance much more seriously after that.

    I’ve visited many other churches for different services since then. Always enjoy it and learn something new. There are several churches in my town that I’ve been meaning to try out but haven’t yet. My Mormon Sundays at home are so busy. When I’m travelling on a Sunday, I usually try to find a church to attend–and any church will do.

  5. I attended church with my non-LDS Grandparents. As the only Mormon in my small town school I was always invited by friends to attend church with them which I did. It was weird at first. The friends could never attend my church though, because Mormons are evil, don’t you know.
    On my mission I went to one or two other churches. In my family all weddings and funerals are non-LDS so I have become used to different things. Another interesting thing I noticed is other religions don’t really teach or encourage religious learning, they just preach and recite scripture or give hell/fire/brimstone sermons. Funerals are sad because they don’t have the knowledge LDS have. I am glad I attended and continue to attend different religious services, because it is educational and it has strengthened my belief in the LDS doctrine.

  6. We visit the Valley Forge Episcopal Church every Christmas Eve for their service. It is a beautiful, ornate little chapel which is filled to beyond bursting for that service. I sometimes feel bad taking up space from people I assume are regular attendees. But, as a family we go every year and just leave early enou so we can all sit together. I really enjoyed the year we sat in front row of the choir pews and all the people taking communion walked right in front of our family and we all greeted each other with warm smiles: 6 Mormons squatting in the choir pews and devout Episcopalians seeking communion on a Holy Night. In fact, I’ve started to recognize some of the faces over the years. The meeting lasts about an hour and we are back home by 6:15 or 7:15 for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner as a family. My teens seem to enjoy the tradition. If our Ward started doing a Christmas Eve service, I’m not sure I would abandon the VF Christmas Eve tradition.

  7. David Elliott says:

    We’ve attended Christmas and Easter morning services a few times at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Fiery preaching. Gospel choir singing. And an incredible gospel/blues band, playing what the Rev. Cecil Williams calls “Saturday night music on Sunday morning”. Endlessly inclusive. Great fellowship. Light on doctrine but heavy on inspiration. Worth a visit any Sunday you happen to be in The City. You will be moved.

  8. David Elliott says:

    If you’re wandering through churches in Rome on Sunday morning, chances are a mass is gonna start while you’re inside. We quietly stepped out of the Pantheon when services started, but when the same thing happened at San Ignazio, we decided to stay. Quiet, restful break from the constant bustling around. Big old pipe organ and a very competent choir enhanced the ambiance. While Communion was distributed, the choir sang Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, one of my favorites, for the Eucharistic hymn. Sublime moment.

  9. I went to business school at Notre Dame and completed a summer internship for the Catholic Bishop’s Conference in South Africa. As a result, I’ve been to all kinds of Roman Catholic mass. From the opening mass at the beginning of the school year, where I was one of 8,000 students in the congregation, to a small service in a convent in Cape Town where it was just me, four or five coworkers, a couple of nuns, and a priest. Also in South Africa, I had the chance to attend a very lively mass in a township (the service was in Xhosa). At Notre Dame, I attended mass once or twice in a lecture hall that was ordinarily used as a classroom (which reminded me very much of my time at BYU – having sacrament meeting in a room with the periodic table on the wall), and a couple times in small, intimate chapels, and once (Easter) in the very impressive Basilica.

    The first time I attended mass, I was extremely disoriented – not knowing when to stand or sit or say things like “and also with you” or “thanks be to God.” I was nearly moved to tears to see people coming forward to take the eucharist. I usually stay in my seat for the that, but I occasionally come forward for a blessing – once you indicate to the priest that you won’t be taking communion (at least in the US, by crossing your arms over your chest), he puts his hand on your shoulder and says something like, “May the Lord bless you and those you love” (for example). It’s lovely. I also love the part where we all hug, kiss, or shake hands to “give peace.”

    There are things about my experience going to mass that remind me of my experience going to the temple. I’m not referring to any similarity in the liturgy or suggesting a common origin. I’m just saying it feels like the same kind of worship. I’ve thought about whether going to mass a few times might be good preparation for someone preparing to attend the temple for the first time.

  10. Central Standard says:

    We attend St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal church in Hollywood, Ca when we visit our daughter. (She left the church very shortly after receiving her Young Women’s award.). She sings in the choir – really a double quartet – and they really sing some beautiful music that fills the sanctuary. Lot’s of Mozart, Schubert among others. Their old organ is in serious need of repair as being attended to by the same person who manages the Tabernacle organ.

    The last time we were there was an Ash Wednesday. The priest made a special effort to welcome us and invited us to be receive the ashes. My daughter called it being “smudged.” It is a very progressive congregation. Some years ago. they had to replace their large Jesus on the cross statue. There was a lot of death in the parish because of AIDS so they demanded a statue the the Saviour other than on a crucifix. They have a statue of Him at the resurrection which I always find to be what He is about. The sermons we heard were encouraging – live you life as you should, follow the example given.

  11. I visit other churches quite regularly. For example, the last few years I have attended midnight mass on Christmas eve with my Mum at our local Anglican church. However, three experiences really stand-out.

    1) As a missionary, during the wet and windy winters of Ireland, we would often drop into mass just to get out of the cold. Once in a small congregation in Londonderry/Derry after the invitation to fellowship, the small group started to sing a hymn as they walked from the chapel. I had not seen it before or since but found it profoundly moving to see and hear a group of people come together and (to me, spontaneously) sing after they had shared this sacred meal.

    2) At a later period on my mission I was fortunate to hear Ian Paisley preach . The name might not be familiar to American readers but he was an important figure in the troubles of Northern Ireland. Even as a now elderly man he was a formidable presence and a fiery preacher.

    3) A few years ago our local ward cancelled church because of inclement weather. A friend and I went to visit some people and then to a large evangelical church in East London called Glory House. These people know how to build community. My experience of church there and also of how they attempt to meet the needs of their members through all manner of opportunities to learn and serve impressed me immensely.

  12. My first experience visiting another church was at age 16 doing a swap with my friend: I attended a Saturday mass, and she came to a youth fireside. She ended up joining the church and is an active Mormon now 20+ years later. I remember entering her Catholic church politely and respectfully, but privately, I found fault with *everything* I saw and heard. This was a case where I asked more of my nonmember friend (in terms of open-mindedness and curiosity) than I was willing to give myself. That lesson has stayed with me, and I have taken the opportunity to visit Episcopal, Catholic, Jewish, and Brethren services, along with a Muslim open house. This is a missing link in Mormon missionary work: we should be as curious about and respectful of others’ beliefs as we hope they are of ours – actively seeking out their open houses, and watching for responsible documentaries on other faiths, etc.

  13. I was living in Florence, Italy a few years ago and remember one particularly difficult day when I’d undergone a harrowing emotional experience and felt completely depleted. I fled my apartment and eventually found myself wandering through the old part of the city, eyes blurred by tears. My aimless footsteps through winding streets led me eventually to the huge Piazza del Duomo, dominated by the city’s principal church. After a moment’s hesitation, I slipped inside the side door, which is reserved for services rather than tourism, and sat down in the wooden benches that are arranged in concentric circles beneath the soaring dome.

    I have always loved how Catholic churches are open all the time, and people just come in to pray whenever they are passing and feel the need, but this was the first time I had availed myself of the opportunity. Masses are frequent in the Firenze Duomo, and one began some fifteen minutes after I sat down. As I sat on my hard wooden bench, eyes uplifted to the soaring ceiling above me, and heard the simple, beautiful melody of the Latin chant, I felt my inner turmoil begin to ease, and peace expand gently in my soul. For the time that the service lasted, I felt apart from the world, cradled, loved by a God who was every bit as present in that beautiful cathedral as in any other church building I had ever attended. It was one of the most special spiritual experiences of my life.

    I love visiting other churches, although I rarely have an opportunity due to my own church schedule and choir practice, meetings, etc. that fill up my Sundays. So when I’m on vacation and divested of my normal church responsibilities, I love visiting other churches. If possible, I like to attend a service. I always learn something, and it’s beautiful to see aspects of God and the gospel in different ways, and feel the spirit in different places. I remember the first time I stepped inside a the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It was an awesome experience. I felt a strong inclination to kneel in reverence, because I could feel God there, and was overwhelmed by the beauty of that incredible architectural prayer. I have felt that same feeling in many Catholic cathedrals. It always bugs me when Mormons compare other churches unfavorably to the “simple beauty” of our temples. I have found beauty and spiritual meaning in every church I’ve visited, no matter the religion to which it was attached.

  14. I too went to some other churches as a missionary. I loved it. The one that stands out was with a missionary companion who had been lamenting his lack of mission stories. I had determined to help him out and rack up some good ones (the type you can tell without shame). One day we were walking down the street contacting (in Paris) and a Haitian we contacted invited to his church to which he was heading for services. Yet another hour of contacting or a visit to a Haitian church? That was an easy decision that day. It was one of the Haitian churches where women wear white veils and preside over the meeting (totally awesome). They were having open mic testimony and signing. We saw a wonderful group of youth conjole one another to get up and sing just as awkward and cool as any group of sincere Mormon teens. Everyone was so supportive. So in an effort to get my companion a story I passed a note asking whether we could preach and sing (he could sing I could not). The church matrons graciously invited us up. I laid into my best Amen! laced sermon of Jesus and our shared heritage as sons and daughters of God (I was wise enough thankfully at that point to realize a 1st discussion and the First Vision were inappropriate as guests) and then we sang “I am a Child of God”. I consider it a miracle that I carried (more or less) a respectable harmony with my more talented companion. It was a very spiritual experience and very fun. I often wish we could learn from churches where joy and enthusiasm are such an integral part of their worship and I will always be thankful for a church that allowed two Mormon missionaries to preach to their congregation.

  15. As you know, Kev, I have one foot planted firmly in Church of England sod, for spiritual, professional, and aesthetic reasons. It helps me connect to my English spirituality more than Mormonism does and reminds me of the wide and rich Christian tradition beyond Mormon walls. I think I am a better Mormon because of it.

    Everyone should go to a Sikh temple some time and enjoy the food.

  16. RJH, agreed. In fact, it was going to a Sikh temple that led me to finally push for more food sharing in our ward. Plus, I love their approach to what I would call reverence.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    RJH, you are definitely a better Mormon because of it.

  18. Meldrum the Less says:

    I visit other churches all the time and my mind is flooded by many memorable experiences, which are similar to those above.

    A few years ago our family developed a unique missionary tactic. Like most we found it difficult to get our friends to come visit our church. But we discovered quite by accident that if you show genuine interest in the religions of others with strong missionary tendencies, essentially invite yourself to their churches, they are going to return the favor gladly and come with you to check out your church, with few exceptions.

    Using this tactic, we easily brought various of our non-LDS friends to church with us every week. It really enhances the ease of doing this when you have children in the grade school age. There is really no excuse for anyone living anywhere the portion of LDS is below about 50% to not bring friends to church almost every week using this method. Seriously, it was not that hard. Now, conversion and testimony lighting is another matter entirely.

    But this tactic is dangerous. When honest comparisons were made, my ward was generally found lacking severely.Not centered on Christ, soulless music, pointless sermons, crappy micromanaged underpopulated youth programs, too long winded, wacky, expensive, etc.To the point that over time some members of my family now attend other churches preferentially. I call it reverse missionary work. Mormons, I warn you, do not attend other churches too often with an open mind or you might find good reason to leave your own.

    The typical LDS missionary approach is flawed in fundamental ways. One is the presumption that my church is better than yours.This might work if it was true. But the experience of attending other churches and honestly evaluating them often puts this presumption to rest. For the LDS faith to grow we don’t need another 100,000 naive but fearless missionaries doing the same things that are not working very well now, We need a better church into which to bring our friends. Attending other churches and stealing their good ideas might be the next step, That is if you can get past the handbook sticklers, the over-conformists, those in the fast lane to celestial glory.

  19. Thanks for this post. I look forward to taking my children to other services as they grow up.

    I’ve been to many different services, but a few memories….During my junior year of college, I lived in Bologna, Italy, and was doing a project on the declining interest in going to church among my Italian peers. So I attended as many different churches (Catholic and otherwise) to check out who was attending. When I went to a Seventh Day Adventist service, they were so thrilled to have me there. It felt just like we felt in our Mormon branch when a visitor came–“Yay! A potential convert!” It gave me some good perspective on how it might feel to come to an LDS church as a visitor/potential investigator. I did feel a bit bad that I wasn’t a “true investigator” looking to unify myself w/ them on a long-term basis…

    A couple years later when I was back in Italy (Bolzano) on my mission, my companion and I went to a Jehovah’s Witness Memorial (Lord’s Evening Meal) with an LDS friend who had previously been a JW. I remember during the whole service, he kept turning to me to say, “I am a total JW apostate!” My friend loved being an apostate and thought it was so cool. It was interesting to see this particular service where the sacrament was passed. Nobody partook during that service, which is what we had understood would happen. They were very kind, and although some of my most difficult moments proselyting were when we ran into Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was always impressed by their testimonies. (But I would often find myself saying, “Let’s not argue. We’re on the same ‘team’ here, trying to bring people to Christ, right?”)

    Oh, and another moment w/ Italian Scientologists (yes, they exist!)….won’t go into the details, but very fascinating.

  20. Some of my favorite experiences

    A Krishna temple-fabulous discussion with a devotee that ended in us exchanging emails and learning a lot from each other…It was great to have her as I read through the Bhagavad gita.

    Various experiences in Catholic churches with wedding, funerals and a good friend. I’ve done the I’ll visit your church if you visit mine. My only taste of alcohol was at a Catholic house blessing (I was sure something was wrong with the orange juice and hurried to inform my mom so her friend, the hostess wouldn’t be embarrassed).

    My most recent experiences have been with the methodist church. My son sings in a boys choir that performs at the methodist church twice a year. My first experience there I sat next to a deacon, so I could ask her about the communion and what it meant and if I should partake etc…I forgot to ask if it was wine, so I had two thoughts as I walked up…what is going to bother me here if it’s wine…the sugar (I haven’t had sugar in 9 years-it doesn’t sit well with me and I hadn’t eaten in over 2 hours), or that it’s wine? It was grape juice. I love the beautiful stained glass window in the sanctuary where they meet. Most of my children have been to this church with me.

  21. I’ve been to many; let’s see what comes to mind:

    -Growing up in the Portland area…Lutheran Easter service because my mom thinks Easter without brass music to announce the resurrection is a crime, plenty of services and youth education events at our local synagogue with my Jewish friends in high school, AME services w/ a coworker of my dad, Catholic services in Spanish when a family friend’s baby daughter was baptized, Buddhist meditation events (sittings? services?…not sure of the terminology there) with a high school teacher that I got to know.
    -In my searching phase in college…Newman’s Center Catholic mass, a different Catholic mass, non-denom Christian, Jehovah’s Witness, liberal Presbyterian, Episcopalian services (mass?).
    -Travels…Catholic mass in an indigenous language (not Spanish) at a really old, cool cathedral in Oaxaca, CSI (like Anglican) midnight mass on Christmas Eve in south India, visits to plenty of Hindu temples throughout south India, outdoor Friday prayers at the Djenne mosque in Mali (largest mud building in the world)…technically wasn’t there because I didn’t want to be a distraction but was across the street on a rooftop where I could see and hear everything.
    -Lately…Muslim women’s study group/prayer service at a mosque in the Seattle area, not much else lately because I currently live in Provo and I haven’t gone out of my way to seek it out. Maybe I should.

    It was fun to create that list. I’m sure I missed a bunch; I’ll have to think about that some more. In my experience Catholic and Anglican services are really easy to wander into anywhere in the world and are very worthwhile for someone from a non-liturgical LDS background. There’s a little more that you need to know how to “do” when visiting Muslim or Hindu services or holy sites but it mostly has to do with modest dress (covering your head is always a respectful touch for a woman) and being careful where you step.

    I can honestly say that I have felt the Spirit in the vast majority of these services/places. In fact, there are only two that stand out for me because of how unspiritual they felt, but I’m not going to say which ones because it was probably my cultural and religious biases, not a reflection on the spirituality or authenticity of the experience. Okay, I’ll say one of the two: I just could not feel like I was truly worshipping at the non-denominational Christian service in college…wearing jeans and flip-flops and having a rock band in the front just does not bring the Spirit for me. Definitely my own upbringing/bias at work there.

  22. Loved visiting other churches on my mission (87-89) in the Bible Belt (OK and AR). Often in smaller towns we’d even go to the churches (Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Baptist, Evangelical) and introduce ourselves to the preacher or pastor as a sign of goodwill. As I recall, those that didn’t try to bash with us, we had some really wonderful gospel discussions minister to minister. We appreciated what the other was doing.

    Several times visited an RLDS Church during a smaller prayer service in their “cultural hall” with only about 20 or so people sitting in a circle. They were very kind and we asked for copies of their BOM and D&C, which I still have. At the end of the meeting, they asked if one of us would like to say the prayer. My comp quickly raised his hand and agreed to. In my mind I silently prayed that he didn’t call them to repentance in the prayer.

    Another expereince whiile attending what the people called “super church”, it was as big as the Conference Center in SLC. As soon as we came in (nametags and all) we were quickly ushered out of the main hall to a smaller classroom with several other people and and TV and VCR ready to go. The video was started and we expected the usual anti garbage, but soon realized that it was an anti JW video!. They thought we were JW’s!

  23. PS, Rah (14), that is an awesome experience. I’ll have to look into Haitian religious practices some more. I don’t know anything apart from the stereotypes.

    These are all great comments to read. Fun thread!

  24. it's a series of tubes says:

    Mormons, I warn you, do not attend other churches too often with an open mind or you might find good reason to leave your own.

    And on cue, Meldrum brings the glooooooooooooooom.

  25. Antonio Parr says:

    I have visited many, many churches and synagogues during my lifetime. I have found spiritual nourishment at every one. Still, there is no place like home, and I am always grateful for the weekly opportunity to worship with fellow Latter-Day Saints.

  26. Meldrum is being gloomy but the basic point is correct: if you want people to join the church you need to think very carefully about how the Sunday church experience would look to an outsider. Maybe we should send out mystery shoppers. I have an inkling that the reason we are so lousy at missionary work is that we subconsciously know that our friends wouldn’t like it. Now, don’t get me wrong — the reward for a Mormon life well lived is great, but I think it would take about two years of patient activity to fully understand that. Most people just aren’t going to do it and we know it.

  27. I likewise join in Meldrum’s comment. When a sacrament meeting deals mostly with members being missionaries and how to improve our numbers with little mention of why we want to share the Gospel because of Christ and our own members in the ward LEAVE the meeting with disgruntled looks on their faces, then there’s trouble in River City, my friends. [Yes, I realize I’ve assumed they left because of the topic on those particular Sundays….]

    To the underlying topic, I joined the Church when I was 13. Went to various other faiths before that, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, but most of my friends were LDS and so, found the Church to be my home. On my mission (Southern Germany), also visited several synagogues, had wonderful discussions with Rabbis (although one of my companions thought it was a total waste of time), went to Midnight Mass both Christmases, etc. Since then I and my wife have gone to some other churches for various choirs but my experiences for the most part were no more spiritual than my experiences for the most part) with our own meetings over the years….

    But will readily admit that after reading some of the comments (especially regarding the Sikh Temple), am thinking about visiting one of our local conservative or reformed synagogues once again….

    Thanks for taking me down memory lane for it was enjoyable

  28. Kevin Barney says:

    I think the comment that we don’t think about our meetings from a visitor’s point of view is very important. Supposedly we’re a missionary oriented church, but we act like there is no one new in the audience, and we’re just speaking amongst ourselves. (For instance, I personally find numbers based or missionary effort type appeals in the presence of visitors to be unseemly.)

    I’ve gone to a couple of churches where they gave an explanation to visitors before the offertory, that this is for members of the church and visitors were not expected to contribute. As a visitor, I deeply appreciated the forthright explanation of what they expected from me.

    We sometimes do this thing called Invitation Sunday, and on those days there is an attempt to explain things for visitors. But we should be doing that every Sunday, even if there are no obvious visitors present. It should simply be a pro forma perspective on our services..

  29. We need a better church into which to bring our friends.

    On this point Meldrum has much in common with Preach My Gospel. In it, one of the suggestions for a Ward Mission Plan is to “Make ward meetings, activities, firesides, and open houses of such quality and interest that members feel eager to invite acquaintances to attend.”

  30. Meldrum the Less says:

    Whoops I forgot the smiley face :)

    Sorry, tubes and everyone. That was supposed to be funny- but true. Shoe fits me, wear it with a smile.

    The warning is not hypothetical but a summary of family history for me. Facts. Different from gloom.

    Thanks for the complement, no one has ever accused me of being on cue before.

  31. Attending Anglican services enriched my life substantially while living in England, for many of the same reasons Ronan mentions in comment # 15 (“reminds me of the wide and rich Christian tradition beyond Mormon walls”).

    Similar to Ben S. above in comment # 2, I realized as a missionary in Germany that I as a Mormon could learn a lot from the knowledge, wisdom and perspective of creedal Christians. In post mission life I have attended Presbyterian services in SLC (when my daughters attended a Presbyterian pre-school), Catholic services, and most recently, many Anglican services while living in London. Attending evensong or the occasional Advent or Easter service in St Paul’s Cathedral, or in the local parish church, or at the invitation of a friend, seemed entirely consistent with my own personal devotion to my Savior as a practicing Mormon and, indeed, I strongly feel that it added important texture to my religious understanding that will continue to inform my faith for the rest of my life.

  32. I attended a Christmas service in Notre-Dame cathedral. It was really something. And I got my proof that the LDS church is not the only place you can feel the spirit.

  33. As a life-long member, albeit now a less active member, by choice – so many concerns I have now – I am embarassed to say I’ve only been to a dozen or so non-LDS church meetings, each time with a friend or my grandmother when I was very young. Even then I was a little snot in the Baptist SS, thinking I knew more, the truth, when the old lady teacher was trying to teach a sweet lesson. I still feel horrible about that. My grandmother chewed me out afterwards. I also felt more smug and know-it-all about other religions, but now that I’m older and wiser, I have been astonished to find the Spirit in abundance in the few meetings I’ve gone to. Amazing isn’t it, how we can find and feel truth and love in many places. I also agree that our LDS meetings can be awful and occasionally almost (dare I say it) devoid of a welcoming and inclusive spirit. I LOVE the music and ceremony at a traditional Catholic Mass and the fellowship and sistership in some churches. There are many truths in the OT and NT that other religions believe and teach. I want to more about Buddhism, but live in a rural area of Colorado and not sure where to find them. And, Kevin, I live west of Pueblo, where is that shiny neon cross church?

  34. Over a decade ago, for reasons not important now, I found myself thousand of miles from home and in Charleston, S.C. on Christnas eve, I chose to attend midnight services at Historic St. Michael’s Church; just down Meeting Street from my hotel. I was welcomed with a smile and shown to a pew. In this beautiful and historic church I felt the devotion of those who came before me and sat in these same pews and listened to a similar sermon from their pastor of the celebration of the gift of Jesus. Following the service I walked back on silent streets to my hotel, and listened to the church bells ringing in the holy day. I felt the peace and comfort that had eluded me. I was now prepared to celebrate Christmas without the trappings I had previously felt I was missing.

    I wish our Church had a simple service on Christmas to allow for contemplation of the mission of Christ begun that day more than 2000 years ago.

  35. 1. Lutheran (youth-ministry) service: I was invited by a friend to attend, and when I arrived it was an “anti-mormon”/Godmakers night. So not actually service, more like an LDS fireside. Their attempts at de-programming me were unsuccessful.

    2. Catholic Mass: Half of my extended family is/was ‘active’ practicing Catholic, and have spent a fair bit of time with them for services. Their attempts to program me with Our Fathers and Hail Marys have been successful.

    3. Catholics, II: As a missionary, went to a “Charismatic Catholic” sect prayer meeting (non-Mass). i.e. Pentacostal-Catholicism. Sweet people though; very informative. I failed to get glossolalia.

    4. Various protestant/pentacostal: As a missionary, went to a bunch of services as an invitee or just wandered in while walking by. Includes baptist, God Is Love, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Assembly of God, (and couldn’t work the 7th Day Adventist invitation into the schedule). Some we were welcomed and had a good time. Sometimes we were welcomed and chose to leave early during the collection bag, but otherwise learned a lot about them. For some we were stopped at the door and warned to stay far away. I was also once exorcised from the front door. I’m assuming my experience would have been different if I had not been “in uniform.”

    4b. Oh, also, I got invited to a Godmakers night at a local baptist church by the pastor; I passed on that one. Instead we watched it at his house, and after a long discussion and a few more visits, we ended up baptizing his young-adult kids. Ah!, youthful rebellion.

    5. Candoblé house; Umbanda house (Afro-Brazilan Yoruba Orisha religions) : I lived across the street from an Umbanda house and watched their outdoor services several times. I guess I didn’t technically attend that one. I did go to a Candomblé house during services and they didn’t know what to do with me since I wasn’t an adherent so eventually I excused myself.

    6. Since my mission, I haven’t gone anywhere out of the ordinary (#2 above counts as ordinary) because I have mostly LDS friends or atheist friends and non of the atheists have invited me to be atheist. Yet.

    Side note: for a comparative religion class my wife was taking, she had to attend a non-Christian service (Hindus had to attend non-Hindu services, etc.). She was treated so poorly and rudely at the service she came home crying and upset. (no, I won’t say what major world religion or branch thereof). She now literally won’t go anywhere else, but can be entreated eventually to go to my family’s Catholic services- maybe.

    My experiences have been a mix of positive and negative. I’m pleased (but not surprised) that the vast majority of the experiences shared here are so so uplifting and positive. I find it hard to believe, however, that the commenters’ near-universal praise for our brothers’/sisters’ congregations and the laments/criticism of LDS services are fully representative experiences.

  36. I should try attending other services more than I have, but Sundays are always so darned busy I don’t seem to get all the things done I’m supposed to as it is.

    I’ve been to a couple of Catholic funeral masses. which I found to be interesting mash-ups of “ordinary” masses and what I think of as ordinary funeral services. My one experience at a Lutheran church was remarkably Catholic-like, which I guess makes sense given its history. And it seems to me too that our temple ceremony has a lot of similarities in feel to the mass.

    My one visit at a Presbyterian church was fine except for the minister’s (to me) odd way of mixing preaching and prayer in such a way as to make it hard to notice where one started and the other stopped. That, and everyone in the congregation but me knew not to loudly repeat “Amen” after the minister said it.

    I’ve also been to a few Buddhist and Shinto ceremonies, which are fascinating in their own way (but kind of freaked out my kids…).

  37. I actually chose to attend an Episcopal service this last Easter and I was incredibly glad I did. I’ve always ended up disappointed by how little we recognize Easter and I was tired of going to Easter meetings and leaving feeling like another year was wasted. There are elements of their service that I really enjoy. I like that it’s rather formal. I like getting up and shaking hands with those around me. I also really like having readings from the books of scripture and the call-response sequences.

    Unless our Easter services improve dramatically, I might make it a yearly tradition.

    I’ve also attended some Catholic masses with a Catholic aunt I was close to growing up, but I was so young that I mostly just remember being bored. I also went to a lot of Congregationalist services with a close friend.

  38. I worked as an organist in a Presbyterian church for a year. I have also been a substitute organist for Episcopal and Christian Science congregations. I’ve been to several Catholic funeral masses as well as to Advent Vespers at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City. I definitely have “high church” tastes and find the ritual and pageantry so beautiful. Unlike several other commenters, I don’t really see them as having the same feel as temple worship, but I think alot of that might be the differences in music.

    I found the Christian Science services to be extremely dull… but that could have had more to do with the specific congregation–it was a very tiny church with literally only a handful of elderly ladies in attendance. I enjoyed my experience with the Presbyterians quite a bit. I felt the Spirit plenty, particularly during communion. For the most part, I enjoyed the sermons but didn’t find them as practical as most talks I hear during our own LDS meetings. The pastor was a good preacher, but often his sermons were more on the intellectual side, rather than inspiring me to change and be a better person. However, you can’t go wrong with Christmas and Easter, and I remember loving his messages on those days. The Christmas Eve candlelight service was a highlight of my year that year. I also love the festiveness of Easter as it is observed in many other denominations. Enjoying a 40+ voice choir with a professionally-trained director was another huge plus. The music was spectacular!

    I didn’t enjoy my experience playing for the Episcopalians quite as much, but again I think it was very dependent on the specific congregation. I think case I thought the priest was a terrible public speaker. He was much-loved by his congregants, and I’m sure he excelled at pastoral care–but his sermons were just awful.

  39. LDSGUYlongwayfromhome says:

    Isn’t there a little something wrong about attending other churches for Christmas? I mean, there is a *reason* LDS don’t have services for Christmas (paganism and popery among them). It’s not just random that we don’t celebrate Christmas and Easter the same way that Catholics and Anglicans do . . .

  40. It’s not just random that we don’t celebrate Christmas and Easter the same way that Catholics and Anglicans do . . .

    True. As you hint with your use of “popery,” Mormons rode the coattails of nineteenth-century Protestant Christianity in rejecting most things Catholic. Still, it’s a stretch to go from there to finding ” a little something wrong about attending other churches for Christmas.” At least I would be hard-pressed to find anything offensive about the services I attend with my in-laws in their village church. Well, maybe the choir, but as a Mormon I’ll resist the temptation to throw stones in that glass house.

  41. I was meeting my daughter in London and I arrived a few days early, and, spending too much time alone made me a little melancholy. St. Pancras was across the street from my hotel, so I went to evensong on Sunday. Unfortunately, the choir (and much of the membership) was on holiday, but fortunately the learned cleric was on hand to give the homily in which I was introduced to the poetry of Ronald Stuart Thomas. The spirit was unmistakeable, and I was refreshed. I have no doubt that the Spirit is not offended in the churches of Others.

  42. I’m kind of surprised it took 39 comments before the silly and wrongheaded condemnation started.

    There is a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ (Sidney Rigdon’s off shoot) in the Philadelphia area. I’ve been meaning to visit their services on a GC or Stake Conference weekend. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting until a couple of weeks after each of those weekends. I may just have to bite the bullet and skip my regular ward to drop in our spiritual cousins one Sunday. I’m thinking about a week from this Sunday …

  43. Meldrum the Less says:

    #39 LDSGUYlongwayfromhome

    When I llved in SLC in the 1980’s you should have seen what went on at Temple Square for the month of December. First was about a million lights on the trees. They had some concert or musica production scheduled almost every evening at either the Assembly Hall or the Old Tabernacle, also affectionately known as the Blabbernacle, that could be loosely classified as paganisn and popery. I would be greatly surprized if this level of celebration has been dialed down any at all since then.

    The first time my wife felt our first child move before she was born was during the loudest part of Handel’s Messiah during the trumpeting while we were sitting in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. Thats the one on a music scholarship at Emory now. She never did like trumpet music and so of course her little brother wanted to play that instrument. One day when she came home from school, he was playing so badly that she yanked the horn out of his mouth and hit him over the head with it. Before you judge my daughter too harshly, consider how your comments are allegorically the same as hitting us over the head with a trumpet, those of us who enjoy the wonderful beauty surrounding the celebration of Christmas with its pagan, catholic, protestant, and now many other roots.

    Might I refer you to a conservative Christian church in the very heart of America wherein was raised one of my daughter’s room mates. She has never celebrated Christmas except by scripture reading; no presents, no tree, no Santa Claus. Nothing. At her request we are taking her to visit our extended family in Utah with small children and it will be her first full-blown Christmas American style. You can take her place in her church. You can weep when your grown children don’t want to spend the holidays with you and not just because of not going too pagan/worldly on Christmas. The oppressive judgmental attitude permeates nearly everything they do, or so she says.

    Your choice.

  44. Peter Vousden says:

    I often visit other churches. When I worked in London I often prayed in St Brides, Fleet Street and in St Giles Cripplegate, where Oliver Cromwell was married. My favourite experience was when my wife and I attended a Quaker meeting. I had never worshipped in silence before and really enjoyed it. The Friends could not have been more welcoming and invited us to share a common lunch with them. My darling wife told them about our faith and we had some interesting discussions. This group of Friends were very intelligent and well educated. Most of all I remember when we entered, a gentleman asked “Are you familiar with Quaker ways?” What a lovely way of helping us. Much better than the LDS “Are you a member?” or even worse “Are you a non member?”

  45. it's a series of tubes says:

    Isn’t there a little something wrong about attending other churches for Christmas?

    Perhaps this is piling on a bit, as others have made good points in response above, but I count the opportunities I had to attend Advent and Midnight Mass services at Lichfield and Lincoln cathedrals as highlights of my life. If you haven’t tried it, proceed cautiously when knocking it.

  46. Going to a Christmas Eve service isn’t practical for our family right now, since our children are so young and there are no churches nearby that I would enjoy (music-wise, that is). So a few years ago I purchased a recording of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge. My husband takes the kids to the movies on Christmas Eve afternoon, and I stay home alone and listen to the entire service. It fills my soul!

  47. it’s a series of tubes: If I had your contact address, I would tell you privately how much I have enjoyed several of your recent comments, including this one (#45). Go, you.

  48. As an LDS military chaplain, I often pastor and preach at various non-denominational Christian services. I really like the more liturgical approach to worship offered by the more “high churchy” denominations. A strong liturgical format gives the worship expereince a form that holds my attention and inspires reverence. I also enjoy the music and choirs.

    I have pastored more “evangelical” services with contemporary praise music, but feel less inspired by that format.

  49. I only ever attended other church services while serving my mission.

    The first was a catholic First Communion, for a boy we were tutoring in English as service. The family invited us and even wanted to take pictures afterwards with us. We got some strange looks, and I learned why people complain about the kneeling at catholic services.

    The second was a Russian Lutheran Service. It had guitar music, and I didn’t understand a word, since it was all in Russian.

    The third was a New Apostolic, which is pretty big in Germany. We were tracting the neighborhood, but it seemed the whole neighborhood belonged to the NA church. At about 6:30 we noticed huge numbers of people walking to the church. We decided we may as well go with them and slipped in the back and sat on the last row. It was interesting for about 15 minutes and then I was fighting exhaustion and doing everything I could to not fall asleep.

    Also while tracting we knocked on the door of a muslim. My companion mentioned seeing the new Mosque which had been built. He invited us for a tour, we accepted and he drove us there. We got some nasty looks when we first entered, but our host explained all were welcome and to not worry.about the strange looks. He showed us the washrooms, the segregated prayer rooms, and even took us up to the top of the minaret. It was fascinating to see the mosque which I had previously thought was forbidden to infidels.

  50. rb, is that the Washington Memorial Chapel you visit on Christmas Eve? I really enjoyed seeing that chapel when we took a tour of Valley Forge a few years ago. The Philly area has many beautiful churches. I lived in the city for a few years (wasn’t LDS back then) and attended St. Agatha/St. James Catholic Church in West Philadelphia regularly. I’ve also attended Mass at the Basilica of St. Peter/St. Paul in Center City.

    I’m a convert to the LDS Church of 12 years and a former Catholic. On my mission, I dragged one companion to a Good Friday service (always enjoyed the solemnity, and I served many as an altar boy). Then when I was in a 3-companion situation, my two cohorts kept asking me about what Mass was like. Christmas was coming up so I said, “Why don’t we just go?” So we did on Christmas morning. We saw one person who was friends with the office missionaries, and she was excited to see us there. My companions enjoyed the Mass.

    I’m all for visiting other churches, as it’s the best way to learn about their beliefs and not rely on stereotypes that persist in pop culture or even in our LDS culture (I’ve heard some whoppers about my former faith!)

  51. (42) It would be interesting to attend services of any of the LDS splinter groups. Anyone here ever attended?

  52. Did Mormons ever historically have worship services on Christmas Day when Christmas did not fall on a Sunday?

  53. The first time I visited another church I was 18. I couldn’t imagine how people could sit through 3 hours of church… But, within a few months I joined the LDS Church. :) I was raised Catholic, and I still enjoy when I have the opportunity to attend Mass. My mom is now Methodist, and every year we take our kids to her congregation’s Christmas Eve candlelight service (mom’s in the bell choir, and the kids love holding a real live candle).

  54. rogerthegentleradical says:

    Over 35 years ago, I worked in a psychiatric ward in a major US city. On Sundays I would accompany our Catholic patients to a service at St. Mary’s chapel that was part of the hospital district. It was very affecting to see people in attendance, many with obvious afflictions, worshiping with their loved ones. A young Capucian monk officiated in the Mass. I initially tried to be skeptical and above this apostate style of worship, but to this day, I can remember feeling moved against my will as I contemplated his presentation of the Host. Rarely, have I been as persuaded as to Christ’s sacrifice as on those days. Over the tears u have attended other masses but it has never been the same.

    I usually find LDS services live down to my expectations — particularly, the Dry Council speakers. I’ve attended the gamut of Pritestant/Evangelical services–hoping for a high Episcopalian choir and trying to avoid garage bands. A good seat in back will allow one to grit one’s teeth and swallow bile whether in a ward meeting house or in a megachurch full of the prosperity gospel.

  55. Steve G.–I also had the opportunity to visit a New Apostolic meeting in Germany. We had an investigator who was a member, so we figured it would be good to show up for one of their Wednesday church meetings (if I recall correctly, they had two meetings a week so those who couldn’t attend Sunday could still attend church). It’s always seemed to me that we have more in common with the New Apostolic church than with any other non-LDS church–Restoration in 19th century, latter-day apostles, etc. I doubt anyone’s done a serious study comparing us with them–something I’d like to do if I ever win the lottery (since I’d have to quit my job and move to Germany to do decent research). Some great people.

    Catholic Midnight Mass, a 7th-Day Adventist General-Conference-type meeting (broadcast from Australia), singing at a Catholic funeral–all on the mission. Singing in a church program in a Protestant church as a child. Closest I got to a Muslim service was teaching as a missionary in a Muslim cultural center, and then, a week later, in a crowded apartment full of Muslim men. Biggest regret here was not going to a Unification Church meeting (I knew a handful of them in one of my areas on the mission–great people).

  56. @50 Yes, that’s the chapel. I’ve thought a bit more about it this week and I find I am looking forward to our Christmas Eve service there. Last year the Minister/Priest/Father chose one of my kids out of the congregation to participate in a manger scene that was part of his sermon. She was an angel, complete with blasphemous wings, and had a wonderful time.

    I agree there are many nice churches in the area. I even hear rumors there will one day be a Mormon temple downtown. It’s been 4 yrs since it was announced and the site is still a functioning parking lot, but I’m not bitter or anything.

  57. My father is a Muslim and I’ve been in many-a-mosque, but hadn’t ever prayed. My father came to visit last winter (we live in Norway), so I looked up the local mosques and we found one that matched his preferences. Actually just a rented space in this case. We go in for Friday prayers, and while I generically knew the motions and at least knew the Fatiha, I just followed along roughly with my dad and everyone around me and kept repeating the one bit of the Qur’an where I could recall the entire necessary bits.

    Anyhow, the real interesting part to me was when we got out and my dad called his wife (he’s remarried) and told her I had just been to mosque with him. You could’ve heard the tears of joy for a mile around. Like a Mormon mom who just heard someone dear to her was getting baptized (and she’s a very conservative type like many a Mormon mom). I didn’t have the heart to burst her bubble, it was rather sweet and certainly a feeling we can relate to.

    Otherwise, I too love the feelings and ability to contemplate in some of the more beautiful Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant cathedrals. Along with mosques and synagogues. I suppose I’m a bit snooty in preferring the prettier, larger, and older/more historic ones. Where I live in Norway we have a thousand year old ‘domkirke’ built right after the end of the Viking age. I often love to go sit and contemplate. The large silent hall is peaceful and awe-inspiring at once. And I love sitting by the stone columns where I can see the stonemasons’ chisel marks. I feel closer to those people I am separated from by a millennium. Very the-veil-is-thin-ish. A feeling very akin to the Celestial Room of the Temple.

  58. nice comment, Jamal!

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