Did anyone have prayers in Church meetings yesterday that focused on or even mentioned last week’s terrorist attack on black worshippers in Charleston? In Sacrament Meeting or in the opening or closing prayers in any of the classes such as Sunday School, Relief Society, or Priesthood Meetings? If not, why not?
For several years now, at least, I’ve been troubled by and wondering why we don’t pray for the “big things” in our Church meetings. Every Sunday, numerous prayers are offered during our Church services. Opening and closing prayers in Sacrament Meeting, opening and closing prayers in Sunday School classes (many wards having multiple adult Gospel Doctrine Sunday School classes running at the same time because of the number of adults in the ward needing to attend), opening and closing prayers in Relief Society and Priesthood Meetings. In this case, if most Mormons in the United States attended wards yesterday in which nary a word was mentioned, in the numerous prayers offered, about the tragedy — for the victims of the Charleston terrorist attack, for peace or healing locally and nationally, for justice, or even for mercy for the lost soul of the white supremacist terrorist who explained the reasons for his calculated attack as white supremacy, a belief in segregation, and a hatred for black people — then why not?
Do we simply not think about the big things? Climate change, war, poverty, corruption, greed, exploitation, slavery, human trafficking, human rights abuses. Or, in this case, domestic, white supremacist terrorism against our most historically abused group of fellow citizens — African Americans? I have to think that simply thoughtlessness would have to be the likely explanation, instead of, say, something for more unsettling: that we, in essence, do not believe there is a problem with institutional, systemic racism and gun violence in our country, society, government, and private institutions. Or worse: that this is “their” problem, the problem of those outside our Mormon fold, a race war that fallen non-members are destined to engage in because they have not subscribed to our beliefs in how the Gospel was restored. But not a problem of ours, in what we believe to be Zion, on our Rameumptoms.
Did the prayers in our meetings yesterday go off script, seem a little too long to many of us because they were filled with words of pleading with God to help us find the path in these intractable problems with racism and violence in our country, for comfort for the victims and society, and for justice and mercy? Or did they more closely resemble the self-serving prayers that The Book of Mormon criticizes the Zoramites for offering:
Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children . . . .
But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee . . . .
And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen. (Alma 31:16-18.)
I have experienced prayers for the “big things” in many other churches but remain perplexed that they seem to be rare in most of the Mormon meetings I have attended so far in my life.