We receive a lot of instruction in the Church. Here is a (potentially non-exhaustive) list:pulpit

  • 3 hour meeting schedule on Sundays
  • 5 hours a week of Seminary for some teenagers
  • Family Home Evening once a week
  • Home/Visiting Teaching once a month
  • 12 Hours each 6 months at General Conference
  • Firesides
  • Training at the start of PEC/Ward Council, (even at Youth)
  • Additional meetings such as HP Group Meeting, training,
  • Other stake and ward meetings

This instruction is usually presented in a formal (and often only verbal) way. Reasons for this level of instruction that I have heard range from “We are fairly stubborn so we need to be constantly reminded of XYZ” to “Obviously we have not learnt XYZ or the prophets and apostles wouldn’t be teaching us about it again”. Others have also said that if we don’t get anything out of the instruction it is our fault. (For a sampling, here are a few from LDS.org:  Getting the Most out of Sacrament Meeting, Converted to His Gospel though His Church)

WatersMormonThe scriptures tell us that there is a relationship between being taught and conversion. The story of Alma who taught the people after fleeing from King Noah is a good example. In Mosiah 18 it records how Alma taught and prophesied and it had a miraculous effect on those hearing his words. They are recorded as responding, “And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts”. Many were subsequently baptised. This singular event shaped the direction of the rest of the story of the Book of Mormon.

For the most part, I don’t see people responding all that favourably to a sacrament meeting. To be fair, I don’t really expect the font to be filling up after three talks and four songs…..or a Gospel Doctrine lesson or a fireside.

However, most people I speak to* (*not statistically valid), indicate that they feel over instructed. That it is repetitive. That they have heard it all before. That it is mostly uninspiring. That it is not challenging.

I was in HP’s Group some time ago and we were talking about learning in a Gospel environment. I found myself blurting out the phrase, “We are over instructed and under converted”. After thinking about it for a while, the phrase was perhaps more poignant than I had first thought. It captured, in seven words, a complex part of our LDS culture. One that perhaps through fear, perhaps through the need to control, perhaps through a need to just learn – we have constructed a regimented instruction program that permeates our worship services and our lives outside of the Sunday experience. It captured a culture that, for some, expresses a level of displeasure at such regimented instruction – and that it sometimes fails to lead us to conversion – or closeness to Christ.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that every lesson, every class and every Sacrament meeting must be like Alma preaching at the Waters of Mormon. Some of those classes have indeed been life changing for me. But I can’t help feeling that so much energy, time and resources are spent instructing for little else than because that’s just what we do, we have a three hour block or that Conference is just 12 hours long.

  • Does anyone else feel “Over instructed and under converted”?
  • In what ways can we, as a Church, focus more on bringing each other to Christ?
  • How are we “born again” in the LDS context?
  • What changes would need to be made?