When I first started blogging nearly 10 years ago, I complained about how boring church was. This prompted some to ask me why I went. Why I go to church was one of my surprisingly popular posts over the years.
In my ward, some of the priesthood leaders wanted to talk about Ordain Women, and the gay policy, always defending church leaders. I was outspoken in some of these meetings. I’ve written about the gay policy here on my blog, and I think it is one of the most unchristian policies our church has ever implemented. I have tried to bite my tongue, and wondered if I should even attend priesthood meetings anymore.
We have new leadership in my quorum, and now the teachers just teach the bland, boring lessons. As a result, I simply do genealogy while half-listening to the lesson in the meetings, and rarely make a comment. It’s also nice when some of the other organizations (like YW or RS) invite me to demonstrate how to do genealogy work (which happens to be my current calling.) While I used to lament the boring lessons, they are now a relief to me. It’s much better than getting mad when someone tries to defend indefensible policies that the church has implemented. I don’t get irate at church anymore, and on my tablet, I feel like I am at least doing something productive for my ancestors.
What about you? Are you grateful for boring church? What do you do to get through monotonous lessons?
As a non church goer, there’s a sense I can identify with this. Whenever there are really crushing events going on in the country or the would regarding race, gender, etc., I hear some people saying they wish the church would comment on these issues (for example, I’ve seen a lot of tweets from people wishing that the church would talk about the racialized dimensions of police brutality.)
For me, I have always been glad that the newsroom generally says little on these topics, these topics aren’t discussed in general conference, and they don’t appear to be discussed very often in Ward settings… Because to me, I feel that if the church were to speak up on these issues, they would invariably say something that would make things worse rather than better.
But to me, I think the more interesting question is: what does it say when one’s engagement with the church is characterized by hoping that it will not address these sorts of issues, because one reliably fears that it will make things worse by speaking out?
I know for some conservative members, this pattern may just be a sign of apostasy or lack of testimony. And I know for some former members, this pattern may be the smoking gun that one should just leave the church. But very obviously, there are a group of folks who reject both conclusions, and who define this struggle as an integral part of their faith and membership, rather than a detraction from it. That’s still interesting to me.
I quit going to Priesthood meeting a few years ago. I likewise decided to do something productive. I have been able to index over 20,000+ names. I find it much more enlightening and I do not walk away from church frustrated. Being at home feeling close to God, is better. I help TBM’s, middle of the road,and non=believers by assisting with LDS temple work, DNA cancer research, Family history, and many other benefits of this database. The church originally started indexing with the Utah State prisoners. For those of us who are prisoners in our own church, it is a way to serve when the boring lessons are just that, written at the 7th grade level and repetitive and boring after the 2nd round. The lessons accomplish little for most members. My plans this next year are to go to a soup kitchen during that time. We all need to serve, just not in the “follow the brothern” pattern…..I am trying to serve by following Christ.
There is something else besides: a) boring meetings, b) doing family history, c) discussing controversial contemporary topics, d) blogging.
I have a really interesting idea. HOW ABOUT TEACHING THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST WITH POWER AND AUTHENTICITY?
Happens often in evangelical churches relatives drag me off to visit. (Even though I don’t agree with some basic doctrine taught there such as trinity, original sin, Biblical inerrancy, etc.) We don’t have to be boring to be true, the opposite might actually work.
Making poor excuses for operational problems like our horrible meetings only further hastens the decline of the LDS faith.
The religion I see represented in the New Testament and taught by Jesus is an enlivening religion that asks us to set aside the banalities and attack the injustices of life. It wasn’t a religion of the status quo or those who didn’t want their preconceived notions tested. That’s the religion I want to be part of. A religion that is irrelevant in addressing the social questions of our time isn’t a religion. It’s a club, and there are much more exciting and fun clubs I can be part of.
As a father of four small children I hate boring church. As I look around at my fellow church goers it seems to me that the majority are not there for any intellectual stimulation at all. I crave this. Even if I disagree with someone, I spend the next week carefully crafting a rebuttal in my mind. I very seldom give the rebuttal but enjoy the process. Back to my children. Am I better off as a father to tell them a bunch of faith promoting myths that most members seem to love or to teach them to think critically. If I chose path A they will grow up probably enjoying church much more than I am able to, but they will become people that I generally don’t enjoy being around. If I choose path B they will go to church and pull there hair out all week with the frustrating part of boring repetitive lesson. My ward is so predictable that every time a subject comes up I can not only guess the “well even God lost a third of his children” lines but I can also guess who is going to say it. My fear that boring church is chasing all the thinkers off and my kids will leave also if I teach them to think.
I had a stake president once who talked about his experience in Mexico when he went to pick up his son from his mission. He wondered how he would spend his time in church since he didn’t speak Spanish. He found that his worship experience was actually enhanced because he was able to meditate on the Atonement and God’s love for his children for three solid hours. Whenever I’m bored in Church I try to emulate Pres Turner and turn the time over to personal worship and meditation. I’m always glad I did.
I have been fortunate to be a member of the various elders’ quorums I’ve met with. It has been a good thing to spend 40 minutes with a dozen men at a time and experience their testimony and their humanity disclosed across months and years.
You must realize that you can stay home or go to a park or the woods anytime you want. If a stake president claims that he gets more out of a meeting when he doesn’t understand a word spoken, that pretty much concedes the field and shouts that our meetings really have nothing to offer except distractions. Why not always be glad every Sunday and go elsewhere to meditate on the Atonement and God’s love for His children?
Who would go to a college where they learn more by cutting classes than attending them?
Who would do a job where they got paid more by not showing up?
Who would compete in a game where they win by not playing?
We have got to do better with our meetings as Bro. Mansfield hints is possible.
Take cheer. The illusion that you have very much if any determination of the choices your children will make is a function of their young age and will soon evaporate when they get to the teen years. They sometimes emulate what you do but seldom listen to what you say. I expect they will tend to be critical thinkers like you in spite of anything you tell them. Parental lecturing and manipulating is mere therapy for parents that little children tolerate, but only for a season.
The OP was about what you do when church is boring, not whether you should go at all, at least as I read it. Certainly, if church doesn’t help you then stop going. But what happens when you do find value in going, but are confronted with boredom? Do you bring your activity book or iPad? Or do you take advantage of the time you have to get something spiritual out of it? My stake president was not commenting on the intrinsic value of attending meetings. He was saying that even when he wasn’t able to participate because of a language barrier, he still had a worthwhile experience — a better experience certainly than if he had just sat there in bored incomprehension. This is the lesson I drew from his story: even when church is boring (for whatever reason), you can still get something out of it.
My wife guilted me into taking my son and a neighbor’s son to the priesthood session of General Conference. The session was so engaging that both fell asleep.
Afterwards, I asked my son what he learned from the session. “Oh, not much. They just repeated everything I’d already heard.”
He’s in the 8th grade. If he’s hearing repetitive stuff now, why do I have to sit there and listen to it over and over and over and over and over……
There is a systemic problem with repeating the same messages ad nauseum when an 8th grader says he can’t see anything new from general authorities.
MH, I think you hit on something in your last comment. My wife and I used to discuss this, back before we got buried in kids and we used to talk about things (or even be in the same room while awake). We called it “spiritual plateauing,” and it’s possible that we stole that phrase from someone. 🙂
When I was investigating, I read the BoM in less than a week (I had a lot of time on my hands). I highlighted, in yellow, all of the verses that made me tear up and get emotional, once the elders told me that was the Spirit I was feeling. That little book is full of yellow highlights; I highlighted verses that today leave me totally unmoved. It’s not that they aren’t important, it’s just that I’ve spent 30 years learning those principles and they’re no longer new. I’ve plateaued. I’ve gotten to that level of knowledge where the Spirit doesn’t need to teach me the truth about those things anymore, because I know them. Oh, they don’t feel bad, and I get the warmth sometimes when I have occasion to testify to others who don’t yet know. But it isn’t often that I feel the Spirit in an average Gospel Doctrine lesson or Elder’s Quorum lesson, or Stake or General Conference talk.
Whether because of correlation, or catering to the less-experienced, or trying to make the Gospel more accessible to all, or for whatever reason, many of us simply are not taught in our day-to-day interactions with the church. We’ve plateaued. We need more. The Spirit can’t move us if all we’re hearing is the same thing repeated, if all teachers do is read the manual, if all speakers do is quote large swathes of GC talks. Sadly, the church as an organization is failing some of its brightest members, both in failing to teach us and in failing to use us to teach others.
I do a pretty good job, sometimes, of continuing to learn on my own, but it would be nice to have some place to join with other like-minded people so that we could edify one another. Come to think of it, that’s why I pick my online forums carefully.
I sit through the same boring lessons, and boring Sacrament Meetings. However, I long ago took out my frustrations by studying the origins of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. After 50 years of study I conclude that no one, especially Joseph Smith, could have made it up. Since I am convinced it is true, I no longer fret over a lack of inspirational and well-researched sermons and lessons. I’ve determined I will never be smarter than the Prophet, so when I get bored I go back into the cobwebs of my mind and excite myself over the miraculous coming forth of the Book of Mormon!
Hebrews 5:11-14 (NRSV)
11 About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
At what point does the church, as the author of Hebrews suggests is a necessary component of spiritual growth, encourage us to graduate from milk to meat?
@Orangganjil – The church doesn’t. Which is why our members are starving and leaving.
Personally, I read on my Kindle Ap. I limit myself to religious books, which means Adam Miller and Steve Peck, etc.
“What do you do to get through monotonous lessons?”
One Word: iPad
@Orangganjil , right on!
I know many people are playing games on their phones and tablets. While I understand the boredom, I think you should do something more spiritual in the meetings.
The LDS church is almost always boring, except testimony meeting. Then sometimes it gets embarassing and funny, but for the wrong reason. Boredom is not a rare event where it can easily be ignored. The morally courageous person is left with two options; do something better elsewhere, or try and beef it up while there. All these other options do little except perpetuate the problem. What I have tried to do to beef things up has generally failed in the long run (with a few little victories). I would appreciate helpful suggestions, not more distractions.
At this point it doesn’t take much for me to find something better to do.Like tomorrow, the evangelical church my wife attends is celebrating some anniversary and bringing in some big name musicians. It promises to be interesting but will require showing up early, right in the middle of Sacrament meeting. I don’t believe about half of their doctrine but where do you think I will be?
The milk and meat canard doesn’t make sense when I think about it. People are not stupid. Many people who join the church think more deeply than life-long, bored-to-death members. And even simple concepts can be presented in exciting ways. Lowell Bennion was once asked if he ever got bored teaching Book of Mormon 101 at the U of U institute. He replied it would get boring if all I taught was Book of Mormon 101, but I don’t. I teach students and they change every year and almost none of them are boring in the least.
When learning math, it builds on previous ideas; counting , adding, multiplying then algebra, geometry, and calculus and so forth. But in many fields it is not like this to the same degree. Religious concepts are not stacked as high and deep as mathematical concepts. Jeez, people had complex religions before they were even literate. The milk goes sour if it just sits around and even the meat will go rancid.
The problem with a plateau is there is seldom any water up there, let alone any milk or meat. When we are not growing we are dying. Because nothing in our minds is hard-wired. We are constantly turning everything over in our minds and discarding the unused.. The plateau is not flat, it slopes downward ever so slowing until gradually we find ourselves in a pit. The plateau is a great description, of a trap.
The plateau is a great description, of a trap.
Yes, Mike, that was the point.