I was reading in Psalms in sacrament meeting recently, and I think I invented a new game.
Sacrament meeting has long been the purview of games. When I was a kid we would play Dots on the blank spaces in the meeting program. Another less reverent game was adding “in the bathtub” or for the racier-minded “in bed” to the end of the titles of hymns. This works better with some than others.
As I was reading Psalm 19, I couldn’t help but notice the sing-songy style of the poem. Each line had, not only a specific cadence or meter, but also had a sentence structure that matched the next. Coupled with that half-zoning-out twilight consciousness that sometimes accompanies sacrament meeting, I immediately thought of Mad Libs.
Here’s what Psalm 19 says (KJV):
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
When I first read this, the repetitive poetic nature of it struck me. I read it a few more times. Here’s the pattern I picked out:
The [noun] of the Lord is [adjective], [verb] the [noun]: the [noun] of the Lord is [adjective], [verb] the [noun].
The [plural noun] of the Lord are [adjective]: the [noun] of the Lord is [adjective], [verb] the [noun].
The [noun] of the Lord is [adjective]: the [plural noun] of the Lord are [adjective] and [adjective] altogether.
The jam of the Lord is scientific, rotting the cushion: the scandal of the Lord is noxious, moaning the prose.
The aromas of the Lord are nippy: the thunder of the Lord is handy, undressing the trick.
The wrath of the Lord is victorious: the whispers of the Lord are lonely and squeamish altogether.
Here’s another go:
The airport of the Lord is woebegone, memorize the existence: the zephyr of the Lord is psychedelic, plug the skin.
The malls of the Lord are quaint: the cracker of the Lord is garrulous, employ the plantation.
The groove of the Lord is illustrious: the taxes of the Lord are guttural and rude together.
Like most Mad Libs, they are pretty silly, but that’s the nature of Sacrament Meeting games; they are usually pretty silly, just a mental distraction from a meeting that might have gotten a bit boring as they sometimes do.
Which led me to do a little research on the perception that Mormon sacrament meetings are superlatively boring. First I found a cache of complaints about the boredom of our meetings in various discussions here, here, and here. On a discussion site called LDS Freedom Forum, they did a poll:
- 67% said that church was boring at least most of the time.
- 20% said it was what you make of it.
- 14% said it was either not boring or not usually boring.
Those aren’t great results. A few highlights from the comments in that site and the others linked:
Music is anemic and not joyful.
The SM’s have become absolutely anemic. Horrible music that no one wants to sing to. Unless you have a bishop or counselors with a real sense of humor, it’s a matter of endurance. The back scratching and rubbing is truely bizarre as other poster already mentioned.
Changed hymn book made the music worse.
Yes, the old blue hymn book was a zillion times better. I’m a bit younger than you, so I was still in Primary when they were replaced. I was all excited because they were new, but then I realized it sucked because they had actually put Primary songs in it, & I could tell that the arraignments were simpler. (I was taking piano lessons at the time, but with a serious professional nevermo.) Plus, the elimination of verses was pretty bad too.
I know you won’t believe this but when I was a child in the 60s and 70s the services were infinitely more interesting than they are today. We had the old blue hymn book with the old Lutheran songs and people used to sing loud and proud. I went to a sacrament service about ten years ago with my brother and sister-in-law and I was astounded at how dull, boring, and sad the meetings had become. Haven’t been to another one since.
Imagine repeating third grade 20,30,40 times. No it’s not boring, I am just an incredibly slow learner.
Talks about talks
The members deserve more than regurgitation of talks.
Waiting for Godot
No Church isn’t boring it’s just a painfully vacuous 3 hour stint of hoping there is some point to my attendance.
Distractions as savior
Church got a lot less boring when I got an iPad.
The length of the meeting
When I worked for the Air Force there was a phrase… “A twenty minute meeting crammed into three hours.”
Sacrament meeting should really be cut down to 40 minutes or so imo… It got easier as I grew older (since time seems to go by faster), but as a child it was so difficult. You have so much energy in you, and you’re expected to sit still AND be silent for over an hour. It seemed like it would never end each week.
The tone of the meeting / lack of food
…sorta’ like a really long funeral with a real skimpy snack.
A preference for Fast & Testimony unpredictability
The only interesting times to go were fast and testimony meetings. The crazy people always have the weirdest and funniest stories. It made me able to not be totally bored. And the crazy people would go up and talk every month.
I found Sacrament meeting to be unintentionally funny sometimes. Especially when someone would say something that revealed their cultural & artistic ignorance. Like the first counselor pronouncing Chopin as “Chop-in”.
Comparisons to other types of services:
I wasn’t feeling up to snuff on the first Sunday of Advent, so I didn’t go to church, but my inactive but still-believing TBM DH went. (I think, having discovered Advent, he LOVES it!) He came home with his eyes shining and said “S (our pastor) gave an incredible sermon based on a new translation of (I forget what) and it really made me understand it in a different way! I really wish the Mormon church would quit doing its broken record thing and just keep repeating the same old stuff over and over.” He is a spiritual seeker and LOVES to see things from different perspectives, and he doesn’t see why the Mormon church can’t be examined from different angles too.
This Chicago Temple is the oldest Methodist congregation in Chicago having been established in 1830. It is in a 21 story building which was once the tallest building in Chicago. The meeting last 1 1/2 hours. The whole meeting was exciting, the multiple speakers interesting, the music truly heavenly , and the building with stain glass windows etc beautiful. I wasn’t tempted to zone out or nap once .Neither were those around me. I thought about transferring my membership. There was a slight difficulty with the doctrine. The pastor spoke eloquently about praying for the time when gay marriages could be performed in this particular church and much of the meeting was taken up with a baptism. The baptism of a 3 month old baby girl. Oh well . I thought if only we could only combine their services with our doctrine we might really have something.
Church is almost always boring, with rare exception. I’ve always thought that since the day I first converted, decades ago. My other family members who were taught the gospel all left the church within about a year or so. They couldn’t stand the long, boring meetings, instead of the friendly, short meetings with a pot luck afterwards (we converted from United Methodists). All of my siblings either found a different church or stopped going altogether, decades ago.
Society of Friends (Quaker)
Every Wednesday we had Meeting. <– sitting in concentric circles in silence unless you were moved to speak. (Just like other religions, not all Friends worship the same.) When I was 12, it was boring hell. When I was 14, it was a nice meditation. Some meeting were total silence, but sometimes someone would stand up and say something, moved not by some supernatural force IMO but just moved to share, and that one thought would set off a change reaction of other people being insightful and interesting and open.
What about Scientologists. Staring contests, purpetuaally shouting at ashtrays for hours on end, endless ‘auditing’ sessions to exersise out your space alien cooties. Oh, and pay exorbanant ‘donations’for the privledge to do so. I think many ex-scientlolgist would describe many of their experiences as downright painful. Can you imagine being ordered to…’look at that wall…walk over to that wall…touch that wall…turn around’ over and over again for hours on end? And thats super mild, right at the begining of the scientology indoctorination.
Various Christian services
Every service I went to was more interesting than the Mormon meetings! Every one! They had professional speakers, for starters. The Christian and the secular churches had more meaningful messages, that could be applied to my present, daily life. Essentially, the messages were of love, family, kindness to others, charity, serving in the community. Whatever the sermon, I would be UPLIFTED afterwards. Mormon speeches were depressing to me. Some of these churches joined together in group service programs. There was a feeling of togetherness and friendliness, instead of the Mormon teachings of separateness (Mormons are a “peculiar people”) and elitism (other churches don’t have the REAL gospel) and snobbery (Mormons are the ONLY TRUE church).
I’ve never seen so many people who look so happy to be at church than at our local Mennonite church. And their 2 services on Sunday are packed. Lots of kids, but they know how to shut up.
Menno services I attended: skits, singing hymns in Rounds, vocal parts, coffee hour afterwards, a monthly pot-luck, discussion of decisions, a skillful pastor, with Sunday School (hiatus in summer), about 2 – 2 1/2 hours, but including coffee. People were often networking in open areas about community projects (there was after-school remedial tutoring for disadvantaged students who were bussed Directly to church). People were Actively involved BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO BE, NOT BY ASSIGNMENT! 180 Degrees different from MoChurch, IMHO.
JW / Catholic
I have heard the JW’s are similar. I went to a Catholic mass that almost rivaled morons SM, but not quite. I was in a ward where theonly thing the Bishop pricks allowed to be taught in SM was to basically read or summarize articles from the new ensign. That was boring on steroids.
Christian Scientist & Worldwide Church of God
I’ve been to religious services for over 50 denominations and religions, and I would say that LDS is definitely in the top 3 for most boring. Other ones that make it include Christian Science and Worldwide Church of God offshoots.
Some bloggers, including me, have addressed this topic here, here, and here, generally acknowledging the boredom factor and making suggestions, both personal and institutional, to remedy the boringness. More official sources tend to focus on a strict blame-the-victim approach; if it’s boring, you suck–the implication being that righteous people eat this stuff up with a spoon and ask for seconds.
What about you?
- When do you find sacrament meeting boring? When do you find it interesting?
- How would you compare sacrament meeting with other worship services you’ve attended? Do you think that would hold true if you had attended that same type of service for decades?
- What sacrament meeting games have you played? Or do you always stay focused and engaged on the speaker? Did you play games during sacrament meeting as a child? Do you as an adult?
- What’s up with the weird back rubbing?