If Not, Why Not?

charlestonDid 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.

Comments

  1. not a word in South Salt Lake. Those that didn’t come this week where blessed to come next week, that was all.

  2. I was glad to hear it mentioned in prayers and talks in the Utah valley ward of my in-laws that we were visiting this week. Perhaps some changes are a blowin’….

    (Also, I think this is largely a political issue: when “big issues” from a conservative angle arise, I think they make it into prayers with a fair bit of frequency — as the phrase “bless our troops” attests, IMHO.)

  3. it's a series of tubes says:

    I remain perplexed that you think it is OK to throw shade at the prayers of your fellow disciples. Why not simply pray as you feel inspired when it is your turn to pray, and allow your fellow disciples the same respect?

  4. I don’t think that Mormonism can really deal with institutional racism. Because Mormon theology is about free will, acting and not being acted upon, etc., ideas such as “institutional racism” (where one’s personal choices pale in the face of systemic biases and challenge) can’t fit in to that. Instead, it’s up to individual black people to be as respectable as possible on an individual level to achieve.

    So, there really isn’t anything to say.

  5. cookie queen says:

    Yes we did. In Sacrament Meeting. I had the opening prayer. It is absolutely necessary that we start to pray with the acknowledgement of world tragedies. Rather than the “we are so thankful it’s Sunday, thanks for the weather, bless the speakers, blah blah blah.”. There is a world going on outside our Sunday meetings. Although that may be a newsflash for some. IMHO.

  6. it’s a series of tubes: That’s a great idea — and something I have indeed done before. As to why we’re not supposed to talk about things that perplex us, don’t forget that Elder Ballard gave us permission to talk amongst ourselves online about the Gospel nearly ten years ago already. I would suggest that this criticism — that this post is “throw[ing] shade at the prayers of your fellow disciples” — illustrates why our discourse in the Church is so impoverished. One can’t ponder these things and ask hard questions about such cultural practices without being chided in the third comment for being an old meany.

  7. senile old fart says:

    Nothing mentioned in stake conference yesterday. Come to think of it, I don’t recall any mention of that Mexican guy – Jesus – either. Something about worship on (or was it of?) the Sabbath, though.

  8. I think that part of it is that to pray about it, especially on behalf of a room of people, we need to know what to pray for – and if we think that probably most people in the room don’t know about the world event, or don’t have the same opinions, concerns or requests, that can be very, very hard, especially with only a few minutes of notice. It’s easy to know that people want rain in a drought. We all have sacrament meeting-related desires (that more people we love were here, that the spirit attends), and it’s easy to pinpoint and discuss those in public without any preparation.

  9. In the older post that I linked in the original post (which, it’s a series of tubes, was a far more reflective contemplation of this issue compared to this quick post on my experience in Church yesterday), I pondered the possibility that some cultural obstacles might be part of the problem:

    The ideal for us is to pray as the Spirit directs. If such grandiose, real, meaningful prayers aren’t part of our worship, one could conclude that it follows that the Spirit is not directing it. (The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.) But the Book of Mormon provides a lesson on this in its description of the prayers offered by Enos. Once Enos began to understand that the grace of Christ was sufficient for him to obtain a remission of his sins (Enos 1:5-8), he began to offer this type of powerful prayer on behalf of the broader society, both his own people, the Nephites (Enos 1:9) and a hostile group, the Lamanites (Enos 1:11). These verses show that Enos felt an overwhelming desire to pray for the welfare of the people in his society, both friend and foe. Do we have such a desire as we step forward to offer Sacrament meeting prayers or family prayers, or are we too pre-occupied with our own immediate, technical needs?

    Enos records that the Lord answered him that “I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith” (Enos 1:12). I believe that the Lord extends the same promise to each of us. If we have desires to seek the welfare of those suffering around the world, even in grandiose geo-political situations like the Reunification of Korea and the immense suffering endured day by day by the North Korean people, the Spirit will direct us to include them in our prayers. But some cultural practices might be obstacles to this kind of powerful prayer. . . .

    Finally, spiritual encumbrances might be preventing us from taking this step from perfunctory to powerful prayers. Have we obtained that understanding about the sufficiency of Christ’s grace to offer us a remission of our sins, as did Enos? If not, perhaps we are stuck at that level in our prayers. Alternatively, are we burdened by pride as we pray — a sincere prayer on such a grandiose topic might seem absurd. Who do we think we are to pray for the resolution of such a global conflict or disaster as the civil war in Syria, the divided Korea, the Israel-Palestine conflict, Darfur, Fukushima, or other such tragic situations? We might feel silly praying for such things as we stand in front of our ward or branch in Sacrament Meeting. That has been my experience as I tried this out, deciding minutes beforehand on one occasion to pray for those affected by the Japanese tsunami, which had just occurred. My preparation for such a prayer was virtually non-existent and as I said the words, I felt self-conscious praying for such a global concern so far away during a regular old, run-of-the-mill Sacrament Meeting. Analyzing the situation afterwards, I realized that my pride was getting in the way of offering a sincere prayer about such a situation — I was thinking more about what the members in the congregation thought about me in offering such a prayer than about those suffering in the actual tragedy. (bold added.)

    This might be the simplest explanation — the nerves and self-consciousness of the lay member called on to pray. The person goes to the front, not having prepared anything for this supplication, and voices a prayer that he or she understands to be on behalf of the whole congregation. It is scary to do this, especially extemporaneously. So our prayers often have that rote feel to them, in which virtually the same things are always said. To stray from such standard fare invites an uncomfortable feeling of self-consciousness. Perhaps some of our ingrained cultural anti-intellectualism has something to do with it: the prayer giver thinks, even if subconsciously, “oh, they’re going to think that I think I’m something special, have some special insight or knowledge, or am more ‘plugged in’ than they are.” Or maybe it’s more basic: “they will think, ‘who does he or she think they are praying for the war in Ukraine all the way over here in Provo, Utah, or Minneapolis, Minnesota, or Reading, England?'”

    Do we get trapped into thinking more about what the members of the congregation will think of us as the prayer giver than about those in need of our prayers in these big ticket events?

  10. Elwood Johnson. says:

    No comment from the First Presidency either. . Sometimes I just don’t understand.

  11. Marjorie Conder says:

    We had a brief discussion in my older teenaged SS class about this. They also talked about the movie Selma and my impressions of the time (since I was a young adult then). This tragedy was also mentioned in the closing prayer.

  12. Jared vdH says:

    john f.,

    Your example of Enos however falls flat because that prayer was given privately. The only time recorded in scripture that I can recall of such a prayer being offered publicly was Nephi in the book of Helaman, and then it was largely condemnatory to the listeners. I think that it might be more on target to say that in general Mormons have a tradition of bland public prayer, but still encourage powerful personal prayer. It may also be attributable to some of our Puritan and Quaker heritage with their focus on “simplicity”. I mean there are plenty of Mormons who still really like the song “Tis a Gift to Be Simple”.

    Honestly, your examples both in your post and in your comments of “powerful” prayer in Sacrament meetings or other public meetings have a taste too much of the pharisaic hypocrisy Christ decried in the Gospels or much closer to the grandiose prayers you refer to when referencing the Rameumptom in your post, though obviously your prayers lack the repetitiveness decried by Alma.

  13. I don’t agree that those examples of prayers for big things — world events and tragedies that are of dire immediate importance — parallel the Rameumptom prayers criticized in The Book of Mormon. Prayers thanking God that we are different and more blessed than “all of them”, however, do seem to bear a passing resemblance to the prayers offered on Rameumptom.

  14. it's a series of tubes says:

    One can’t ponder these things and ask hard questions about such cultural practices without being chided in the third comment for being an old meany.

    John, I think it’s less about asking questions, and more about the tone with which the questions are asked. I read your linked-to post and found it a thoughtful exploration of the issues.

    This OP, on the other hand, comes off (likely unintentionally), as yet another variation on the theme of “Why isn’t the church, collectively, doing what I think they should be doing?”, with the alleged collective behavior based solely on anecdote. It’s tiresome and unhelpful, particularly to those whose anecdotal experience contradicts that supposed collective experience.

  15. Jared vdH says:

    Well john f., I don’t agree that our Sacrament Meeting prayers are all “Prayers thanking God that we are different and more blessed than ‘all of them'”. In fact if someone were to say something like that in a prayer in Sacrament Meeting in my area, that would be more cause for consternation than praying about the “big things” you’re talking about.

    Please stop carrying what is perhaps your personal experience and throwing it out as a cultural norm. It is not.

  16. Naismith says:

    Although I try to respect that other disciples get different revelation,I still wince whenever someone prays for our military. As a veteran with family members who served in Iraq, you’d think I would be all for that.

    But I tend to pray for EVERYONE in troubled parts of the world, not just those who are fully armed with lethal weapons but also the civilians whose homes are being invaded and livelihood destroyed.

  17. Jared vdH says:

    Also, please don’t complain that I’m squelching your discourse. In my comment I tried to engage you on the topic of why our public prayers tend to be more simplistic. You however ignored that and went straight to continuing your narrative that “Prayers thanking God that we are different and more blessed than ‘all of them'” is somehow a cultural norm in the Church. This post and your comments seem much more accusatory rather than actually exploring how we could have better prayer in our Church meetings. Your framing question seems more to try and hide your accusations rather than to actually engender a discussion.

  18. So, your position is that this kind of superficial, rote public prayer is not a cultural norm in the Church. Got it.

  19. Jared vdH says:

    Nope, that is not my position. At times our public prayers may be more rote than they should be. However your assertion that these prayers are of the prideful “we’re better and more blessed than everybody else” sort is what I’m pushing back against.

  20. What is the content of the standard, superficial rote public prayers in meetings in your “area”?

  21. The Other Clark says:

    I think we pray for those things that affect our lives. For John F., apparently, this is a “big thing” that matters. But I think that for most Mormons, the shooting makes zero difference in their day-to-day life, and isn’t considered a “big thing.”
    It’s the same logic that drives those with an agricultural heritage to pray for rain, and those with a military heritage to pray for the troops. In Mexico praying for the incarcerated innocents is a common as Utahn praying “no harm or accident fall upon us.” We pray for what we worry about, and I don’t think this is something Mormons are culturally tuned into.

  22. “I don’t think this is something Mormons are culturally tuned into” — if that’s true, it’s a worse indictment than my vague comparison to Rameumptom prayer content.

  23. I’ve also gotten the sense from time to time that attending church is like entering into a giant bubble, isolated from from the events going on outside. Sometimes, of course, this is a very good thing. But other times, it feels like acknowledging and dealing directly with those events outside is far more important than anything else we are doing instead.

  24. Jared vdH says:

    The sentiments that get repeated most often to my memory:

    Something to the effect of “help us to find others with whom we can share the gospel”.
    “Help us to better serve those we come in contact with”.
    Meeting specific things like “help the teacher/speaker speak according to thy spirit” or “help us to learn the things which we should do according to thy spirit”.
    Not a universal thing but some people ask for “blessings on the troops” as Naismith mentioned
    Praying about the weather
    Also not universal but some people also pray that government leaders will act as God would have them act (not that I think the person praying actually knows how God would have them act).
    When there are natural disasters in the local area – I’m in Texas and this has been mentioned for the past several weeks as there’s been some flooding

  25. “it feels like acknowledging and dealing directly with those events outside is far more important than anything else we are doing instead” — or supplicating God, from the depths of our hearts and with sincere intensity and faith, that He will intervene and help us to find the answers and healing.

  26. Jared, I agree, you have accurately captured the general content or feeling of standard LDS rote prayers (on the petition side — you left out the “thank thees”, which I would suggest tend to be the space in which we can be in danger of falling into Rameumpton territory).

    As to this content, it’s pretty self-centered, don’t you think?

  27. What’s wrong with complaining when something is wrong? I have no problem with complaints about things that matter.

    Tubes: keep on truckin’, man. Someday you’ll have a comment that’s something other than a criticism of this site and its bloggers. SOMEDAY.

  28. Jared vdH says:

    Which content are you referring to the “petition” content or the “thanking” content? If you’re referring to my list of “petitions”, half of them are asking God that, to quote your last comment, “He will intervene and help us to find the answers” to how we can serve and help others, on how our country should be run, on how we can share His gospel with others. Are these not the exact types of things you are advocating should be prayed for?

  29. Michael says:

    Covered in Bishopric prayer, PEC prayer, Sacrament meeting opening and closing prayers, mentioned in two talks. Couldn’t vouch for Sunday School, Relief Society, or Priesthood meetings as I was scrambling around taking care of other issues. But, it seems like we may have at least been mindful of the issue.

    We also pray, by name, for people in our ward with medical problems. A missionary from our ward is coming home for two weeks for surgery, and fast Sunday last week was to help us be mindful of medical issues of another ward member. We’ve even had a ward-wide fast for a toddler who had serious complications from cochlear implant surgery.

  30. The petition side, since you left out the “thank thees”. The rote nature of them makes them seem, to me, detached from current events and not seeking out or petitioning God about the big things.

  31. That’s wonderful news, Michael! Where are you located?

    Would you agree that what you experienced yesterday is a major exception to the cultural norm these days in much of the Church? Or do you also think this is just nit-picking our culture to death unjustifiably?

  32. Like I'd say this under my own name! says:

    I would love to see more prayer and attention given to major issues like poverty, violence, racism, and human trafficking, but not necessarily particular media circus tragedies (which apparently now means anything bad) that aren’t really all that different from what happens every day around the world and even here in the US. Let’s increase in charity but not in blind credulity to a culture of sensationalism that actually feeds apathy towards suffering.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ace_in_the_Hole_%28film%29

    So yeah, let’s pray for these victims, but if we do so without praying for the victims of ISIS atrocities in Syria and Iraq and US atrocities (intentional or not) in Afghanistan (I’ve actually lost track of where we’re bombing the children of terrorists these days…), we’re no less hypocritical than we were to begin with. Praying for “our own” in Utah isn’t really any different from only expanding that circle to the borders of the US.

  33. Jared vdH says:

    john f.,

    Yes, the very fact that they may be rote could be in some sense from a bit of detachment. However I’ve heard some very rote sounding prayers about extremely topical and current events. I think you’re conflating “rote” and “topical”.

  34. cookie queen says:

    Steve. I love this site and all of you who care to think. I regularly forward them to our bishopric. Remember
    most readers do not take the time to comment. x

  35. Jared vdH says:

    I mean, if what you’re really getting at is potentially a lack of passion in our public prayers, sure I can see that. However I think that would perhaps stem from our overall cultural detachment from emotional displays other than crying, than a reticence to approach the “big things” as you call them. Sometimes I think we are not a very passionate people, and this comes across in our prayers, preferred speaking styles, and music.

  36. I like Andrew S’s comment back up there at #4.

  37. Molly Bennion says:

    Seattle. Sacrament meeting HC talk. But unfortunately no prayers in Sac Meeting, SS or RS.

  38. Angela C says:

    One prayer in my ward did focus on this – the opening prayer in RS. While I tend to think that Andrew S is right about the libertarian streak in Mormonism, I can’t tell whether it’s doctrinal or cultural. It seems to me that the absence of prayers and sympathy follows political lines of the members. Republicans make a very specific kind of Christian.

  39. A whole talk is pretty solid, Molly! I hadn’t thought to hear about that. Nevertheless, there is real power in prayer: “we still believe prayer changes things. … prayer not only changes things, it changes us” (http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/06/21/416192033/emotional-services-held-at-charleston-church-days-after-shootings).

  40. It was mentioned in the opening prayer in our Sacrament Meeting. Don’t know about Sunday School and RS. The people who give those prayers speak so softly only those who are sitting right by them can hear.

  41. I should add that these issues are always a part of my persona. prayers. I was sickened by the incident in Charleston.

  42. it's a series of tubes says:
  43. it's a series of tubes says:

    Anyone want to release my comment from moderation? Too many internal links to other BCC posts, it looks like :)

  44. I appreciate your call for more thoughtful prayers that acknowledge the goings on of the world that may be off our well-beaten paths.

  45. Jared vdH says:

    john f., I don’t think anyone here is really disputing that prayer has the power to change things. It just seems like you want everyone to conform to a particular type of prayer that you feel is more powerful than what they’re currently doing.

  46. Yes, the opening prayer referenced it.

  47. Julie M. Smith says:

    We had stake conference this week. The 1st counselor in the SP (who is from Africa) briefly mentioned the tragedy. He linked it to the church’s work on the Freedman records and described the shooting as “Satan’s temper tantrum” designed to increase distrust between communities.

  48. Personally, I think we blame too much on or rather talk too much about Satan when we need look no further than the natural man (as a product of the Fall, already an indirect reference to the influence of Satan) and our own weaknesses, prejudices, and selfish/self-interested or profit seeking intentions for the evil, inequities, injustice, blood and horror that often prevail in our societies.

  49. I’m curious — did you ask the same kind of question about prayers when the Aurora CO shootings occurred, or with Columbine? When 7 white LDS family members were tied up and shot in Houston, Texas by the crazy ex-brother-in-law? Or, is it the race thing that’s got this stirred up? There is tragedy all around us in the USA and in the world. I would hope the SC tragedy would get some mention, but I can see why a more generic request for peace among all peoples would get more mileage. I still read an old fashioned paper newspaper, and read plenty of headlines and stories from all over that are just as tragic as what happened in SC. I don’t see a way to address all of them in public prayer in church.

  50. “Personally, I think we blame too much on or rather talk too much about Satan when we need look no further than the natural man”

    I agree. You can even cite to D&C: “that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.” I don’t like the tendency to blame everything on the devil.

    As to our public prayers sometimes being rote, I think that a lot of that has to do with nerves, being asked at the last minute, and not wanting to get judged (which probably says a lot about other problems we have.) I don’t see how pride has anything to do with omitting Charleston.

    I live in a ward with some ranchers. We get a lot of humble prayers for rain, which I like. I think some make an effort for sincere prayers.

  51. Susan Gese says:

    That’s exactly what I did pray for–I gave the closing prayer in Sac Meeting.

  52. I can’t imagine that John is proposing we turn prayers into news summaries.

  53. absolutely, Idiat. I was wondering where our public prayers in Church were for Nepali earthquake victims and the Sandy Hook shooting victims. Same exact observation. The day after Sandy Hook or the Nepal earthquake, the prayers are for us to enjoy our classes and make it home safely.

  54. We make ourselves irrelevant by it, not to mention that we forego the strength of a communal petition to God through prayer on such “big ticket” things.

  55. “not wanting to get judged” — Marc, that is pride. Caring more about what members of the congregation think about us based on the substance of our prayer than about the victims we could be praying for, or the solutions we could be petitioning for on these intractable issues.

  56. “not wanting to get judged” — Marc, that is pride.

    Fair enough. But I think it stems from insecurity rather than a Rameumptom-like thinking you are better than someone else scenario.

  57. sure, I would definitely agree with that

  58. Jared vdH says:

    I guess all those OW supporters were prideful sinners when they didn’t pray publicly about Kate Kelly’s excommunication proceedings then. Shame on them for not wanting to be judged.

  59. I think you may have inadvertently helped me understand why I don’t like praying in public. To me, prayer is very personal—a conversation with God. Just as I would feel self conscious if others listened in on my nightly prayers, I am very aware that others are indeed listening when I pray publicly. In the sense that I am offering a prayer on their behalf as well as mine, I feel a certain responsibility to get it “right” for them, but what if we are not all focused on the same things? What if the tragedy of the day is not the same for me as it is for you? What is the real difference between getting criticized and being praised for either mentioning or not mentioning the shootings in SC? Either way, someone is passing judgment on a conversation I am having with God, deeming it either appropriate or somehow lacking. I honestly had never thought of this before. Personally, I like the way children pray. They always get it “right” because they don’t know any other way. I don’t want to have to prepare to give a prayer. If I speak from my heart, it should always be right.

  60. “If I speak from my heart, it should always be right.” That’s true, of course. But it doesn’t mean we can’t improve or try harder. Still, there’s more than one right way to do things, and it depends a lot on personality. Some people will always prefer to give the minimal, rote types of prayers that are ubiquitous right now. But others will venture into petitions relating to big issues, and we would all benefit from that, I think.

  61. How do you improve on speaking from the heart? I’m not trying to be flippant.

  62. If your personality doesn’t prevent it (because of anxiety or the self-consciousness you’re describing), then it might be worth trying to spend some time thinking, praying, and contemplating your prayer if you’ve been asked to pray in advance. This allows you to improve on an extemporaneous prayer by following the guidance of the Spirit beforehand as to what kinds of big picture or global things you could pray for on behalf of the whole congregation. Trust me, the nerves are still there though at the time to get up to pray.

  63. I understand what you’re saying, but praying about what to pray about seems a bit counter-intuitive. Certainly I can contemplate what I might say before I say it, but if I were to pray about “big picture or global things,” I might find myself asking the Lord to hasten His work so I could go home again. I am inundated on a daily basis by the ugly goings-on in the world, and church gives me a chance to leave a little of that behind and actually feel some peace when I walk through the doors. I do appreciate your point, but I am rarely moved by a scripted prayer or one that has been so well-thought out that it felt more like a talk than a prayer.

  64. John, complain if you want about prayers that we all get home safely, but consider what might happen in the absence of those prayers: a traffic bloodbath.

  65. yeah, that’s true

  66. Claire S says:

    I wonder if people hear the usual sort of prayer-bless the speakers / help us keep the sabbath holy/ guide our leaders etc and think that is how it should be done and so don’t pray about disasters / war / unrest / poverty etc? The same applies in many a sacrement talk too……

  67. sounds plausible, Claire!

  68. In my current ward I would not include a request for blessings on the victims of the Charleston shootings in a public prayer. My ward is very heavily military and quite conservative, and although I say almost nothing at church, I’m known as a liberal, even though I consider myself moderate, and some people are visibly nervous around me. I fear that any public prayer for the victims of Charleston or for the other “big things” you mention, John, would be viewed by some ward members as an imposition of my political agenda on the congregation and would increase division and suspicion. I cannot see that as an appropriate outcome of prayer.

    Someone else with more credibility in the ward could, and probably should, give such a prayer. I myself would have given such a prayer in previous wards I’ve lived in. But public prayer has to take account of the situation and dynamics of the congregation and the speaker. I know how I felt about the testimonies of Mitt Romney I sat through a few years ago. I would not feel right about making my fellow worshipers feel that way by my prayer.

  69. “But public prayer has to take account of the situation and dynamics of the congregation and the speaker. I know how I felt about the testimonies of Mitt Romney I sat through a few years ago. I would not feel right about making my fellow worshipers feel that way by my prayer.”

    Excellent points.

  70. Ender2k says:

    “Someone else with more credibility in the ward could, and probably should, give such a prayer. … I know how I felt about the testimonies of Mitt Romney I sat through a few years ago. I would not feel right about making my fellow worshipers feel that way by my prayer.”

    This.

  71. Isn’t it a shame that it is actually possible that we consider praying for victims of a white supremacist terrorist attack, for healing of the institutionalized racism and systemic abuse of black (and other “minority”) Americans, and for other such “big things” (earthquake in Nepal, Sandy Hook victims and the problem of violence in America, devastating financial burdens resulting from broken health care system, etc.) to be political? Zion seems farther than ever at this point.

  72. It is a shame. I wish I knew a way through the intense politicization of these issues. I’ve never come up with a way to talk about them at church, or anywhere else, that doesn’t just evoke the same divisions evoked by the guarded mentions of gay marriage every few weeks in Sunday school or Relief Society.

  73. Some of us only wish the mentions of gay marriage in our ward was guarded and only occurred every few weeks. I don’t have reservations about praying for those involved in these kinds of disasters, but that might be because I’m past caring what people in my ward think about me. I don’t mention a broken health care system, though–I might not care what people in my ward think about me, but only to a point; I don’t want them burning my house down.

  74. Kristine says:

    We had a truly lovely closing prayer in Sacrament Meeting that referenced events in Charleston and plead for increased understanding, justice and peace. And it wasn’t offered by the resident hippie liberal feminist in our ward (me :)).

  75. MDearest says:

    I didn’t attend my meetings on Sunday, so I can’t report, but I want to commend you on the lovely illustration you chose to use with the post. These fine people deserve to be mourned and memorialized, which would help their deaths to be less senseless.

    Also, anyone who has a tone problem with john f.’s posts could benefit from a tour of “tone problems” on the web. Said with all due affection for BCC curmudgeons.

  76. From Irina at 2:12
    “What if the tragedy of the day is not the same for me as it is for you?”

    This resonated with me. Sometimes life’s struggles make it hard to get outside ourselves. A personal challenge or tragedy can make even the most aware person shut down in public and private prayer, when eeking out platitudes and repetitions is the best we can do to keep praying at all.

  77. Glenstorm says:

    Just so you know, this post was an answer to prayer. I wanted to encourage people in my ward to pray “for the big things” but couldn’t find the original post on Sunday… and today you linked it! :)

  78. I have characterised prayers at church as 1, 2, 3, and 4. So, when I am asked to open with prayer in priesthood meeting I just say “number 3, amen,” then sit down.

  79. More seriously, prayers for the Mediterranean migrants were said on Sunday. It was great but also jarring because you never usually hear such things, but then I expect nothing less from my mum.

  80. pconnornc says:

    This is a great discussion, but I think what makes some uncomfortable w/ the article is that when the title asks “If Not, Why Not?”, it jumps to one of the most unflattering explanations – that we collectively are Zoramites.

    The comments do a great job at providing many valid reasons for “Why Not” that do not condemn us.

    When you write “Zion seems farther than ever at this point”, I feel much different.

    Though I appreciate (and need) the reminder to expand my prayers, both public and private, when I look at the experiences noted here, watch the very Christ-like service being rendered with our ward and stake, hear increasingly more Christ-centered testimonies born week-in, week-out, and when I see us both culturally and administratively trying to be more inclusive, more compassionate and more humble I feel collectively we might be getting a least a little closer to Zion ;-)

    Please note I said “trying to be”, “increasingly” and “more” – not “are” and “always”.

  81. it's a series of tubes says:

    anyone who has a tone problem with john f.’s posts could benefit from a tour of “tone problems” on the web

    With all due affection, i don’t think you could stomach even a drop of exposure to the chans. You’re better off leaving them in your unknown unknowns.

    Those of us who have to deal with it in a professional context, however, may have stronger stomachs than you might suspect.

  82. I see a lot of general annoyance in these comments and I guess I’m contributing, but I get kind of annoyed at people who attend Utah wards and perceive them as problems with church culture, as if Utah can’t have its own culture. I attended church in North Carolina on Sunday and of course we talked about the shooting. Both prayers, many talks. Similarly they did not pray about or mention the drought that I hear in prayers in the west, like at my Arizona home ward. Mormons don’t have a problem acknowledging tragedy, but people have a problem caring about things outside of their sphere of influence. Many cities out here had vigils last week concerning the tragedy, but I don’t know of many if any California cities that did the same. I don’t hear any one claiming that Californians are insensitive or uncaring about matters of hate crimes.

    Mormons are people too, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we have problems that all people have. No one prayed for the victims of Isis who died last week, many of them Christian, many of them racially motivated, and who far outnumbered those who died in the Carolina shooting. It’s just harder to care about things that are far away.

  83. Which “big things” should we pray about publicly? Should we mention Charleston while ignoring the thousands who are losing their loved ones in the Ukraine or Iraq or Syria? Should we mention Charleston while ignoring the tens of thousands subjected to horrible labor conditions in sweat shops in southeast Asia?

    There’s a lot to pray about – too much for a single prayer if specifics are mentioned. However, I think it is wise to pray for the specifics that come to our mind and heart at the time of the prayer. Thanks for the O.P. It was thought provoking.

  84. I pray for guidance and ability to accomplish the things the Lord wants me to do. When I think of global suffering and horror, I am helpless. Even the larger community I actually live in is largely beyond my power to directly affect.

    What can I do against such a large body of pain? So I thank God for His Son, who HAS done something about it, and I pray for a deeper connection with the Spirit to obtain increased power for good, and wisdom in exercising it.

    My heart goes out to all of those who live in pain and terror. But I usually pray to change myself, and to bless those within my sphere of influence, not to try to change the world (except in a very broad sense.) I am not God. And I know that if there’s anything He wants me to do to help any of His children, He will present opportunities. I just want Him to help me recognize them when they come.

  85. anappysistuh says:

    Reblogged this on A Nappy Sistuhs Blog.

  86. Absolutely no mention by anyone. My ward never acknowledges outside events other than vaguely alluding to the evilness of the ward.

  87. anappysistuh says:

    I am apart of a pretty diverse ward and it was brought up but I do agree. Most wards shy away from touchy subjects because people are afraid of “offending” the next person . No matter what the issue is.

  88. Whoof. This one hit me hard. I will confess that I am often guilty of just doing rote prayers because I am nervous and I really dislike praying in public.
    Never occurred to me that this was a pride issue, which it is. I am so pleased/proud? of how far I have come in how little I care/think about other’s opinions of me, but then continue to stress about public praying?
    And I think that the OP is right. It is an excellent place to publicly state the things that truly matter to me, whether it is rainfall amounts or the tragedies in the world.
    I have been guilty in the past of being annoyed at the 1 brother we do have that gives earnest, heartfelt, EXTREMELY long prayers at the close of already long Sacrament meetings. Because I am tired of baby wrangling and my bottom is hurting and and and.
    I think that this truly hit me hard as this is an easy area to actually effect change.
    I can volunteer to give prayers and I can give GOOD, earnest, powerful ones!
    I can do that! I can!! I can try to shift change in my ward in a non confrontational and yet hopefully very powerful way!

    Thank you to all for this enlightenment!

  89. We had someone pray for political issues once….caused some gossipy foyer talk amongst those in a different camp.

    Last Sunday it was announced at the end of RS that a former member of our and had been killed in a quad ding accident the previous day. Everyone was in shock, we were encouraged to pray for them. Later, I thought how sad it was that we didn’t think to stop and pray together right then and there.

  90. What is a quad ding accident?