I’ve attended a couple of interesting Sacrament Meetings recently. In one, the bishop got up an asked a few rhetorical questions. “How would you react if the church suddenly asked for 20% tithing, rather than 10% tithing? What would be your reaction if the church suddenly said once/month home teaching isn’t good enough, now it needs to be once/week? Would you complain? Would you murmur? Or would you obey?” (*Note, this was before Pres Nelson’s announcement at General Conference.)
Gahhh…. I would complain. I hate “obey or else” talks, because I think these kind of talks are stupid, and completely miss the point of the gospel. I wanted to add a few more to the bishop’s list: Would you kill your son if God asked? Would you do polygamy like Joseph Smith if the prophet asked? Would you be a suicide bomber? Obedience can be taken too far, and bishop, you’re not helping with this kind of stupid talk.
The following week I attended another sacrament meeting that was quite unexpected. It was an older couple. The sister spoke and said they had been married just 2 years. She spoke about getting a divorce, coming home heartbroken when her husband of several decades said he didn’t love her anymore and wanted to divorce. She talked about how awful it was to attend family gatherings where he was there with his new wife. She talked about joining a group of divorced women who ranted about their exes. Then she talked about the importance of forgiveness, and moving on. She is now happily married.
Then her husband spoke. He talked of being inactive for years. His daughter invited him to come to church and said she knew something bad would happen if he didn’t. “Yeah, whatever,” was his basic reply. He sounded very rich, on the verge of a multi-million dollar deal that not only fell apart, but left him financially ruined. He discussed getting dis-fellow-shipped by the church. Then he got suckered into a business partner who did illegal, mafia type stuff. He was arrested for his partner’s business crimes. He served probably 10 years in notorious Sheriff Arpaio’s jail in Arizona. Mouse crawled across his body in jail. He discussed making ingenious mouse traps with Coke bottles and things like that. Then he spoke about reading the scriptures in jail, gaining a testimony, and being treated well by both gang-bangers and prison guards. And of course, he is now out of jail, and met his wonderful wife and married in the temple after.
Wow. I haven’t been that interested in a Sacrament meeting talk in a decade or more. Truly the contrast between the two weeks was profound. Do you wish more talks were like the second? Do you have any similar experiences in Sacrament meeting?
Harry (sorry, Mormon Heretic is too long), I’d actually be fascinated by the first talk depending on where the bishop went with it.
I teach primary and am very open with the kids in saying that while we sing follow the prophet, the scriptures teach us that you have every right to pray about anything a leader tells you.
Even Nephi, before saying “I will go and do” first went to the Lord (1N 2:16) and had to have his heart softened.
The obedience that is required is obedience to your answer from the Lord.
But yes, I’d rather her the second sacrament meeting. We can’t just convert, we constantly have to reconvert. Hearing other’s conversions helps us with that.
The difference in the tone between the two sacrament meetings brought to mind the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (*publicans were excommunicated from the Jewish religion and utterly despised by the Jews):
Luke 18:10-14 (NIV)
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
I’m with Jesus on this one. He seemed to be drawn to people whose lives reflected the 2nd sacrament meeting sentiments, in contrast to those who believed that their religious fixation on outward ritual saved them, made them more holy, and trusted in their self righteousness.
Mo Heretic, great to hear from you.
Verse 9 adds some important context to the parable, and maybe some insight into the contrasting tones of the sacrament meetings:
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable
MH . I teach a B of M class once a week at the AZ State Prison in Florence. We spend an hour and a half carefully looking at the text. We cover 10 -15 verses each lesson.We typically have 10-20 inmates ( some of whom are non members) attend all of whom are sexual offenders and range in age from 22 to 85 serving sentences than are typically 20 years in length. I have held all the normal jobs including 12 years in multiple bishoprics ( including 8 years as bishop),High councilor in multiple HC . TR worker for years. HP group leader. Scoutmaster twice for a total of 10 years etc etc. Never have I had consistently the kind of miraculous spiritual experiences I have with this group routinely. They are penitent ,broken hearted and contrite. And enjoy a measure of the Spirit that leaves me in awe every week.. I consider the parable of Lazarus and the rich man often. The key to enjoying the Spirit in a broken heart and contrite spirit. Thanks for your story
I have found that my favorite talks happen when the speaker shares something that shows their vulnerability, similar to the second meeting described above.
As to Bishop Obedience, he could also ask what would you do if the church retired you to be celibate for eternity? Oh, wait, that is what we require of the gay community.
Our sacrament meetings are so BORING I would consider either one of these solid gold.
I recently conversed with a sister who grew up under the Third Reich as a child in Germany, and she expressed her deep dislike of the concept of obedience, reminding her as it does of that childhood. She said to me, in essence, why do we even need obedience if we love God, as we will then naturally do His will and His work. Better to be motivated by love I think. Although I guess it’s possible to be obedient with love.
In simplest terms, I prefer sacrament meeting talks where the speaker shares his or her own testimony, learnings, challenges, and so forth, with a hope to strengthen faith, rather than instructing me in something. We need more testimony and good news than academic or didactic talks (and certainly not talks about talks).
I am with Mike, anything as interesting as either of those meetings has not happened in my past 25 years of attending…and I live in Scottsdale not Provo. All the interesting people have gone “inactive” and so the only talks that aren’t some rehash of a GC talk are experiences recounted by returning missionaries at their “homecomings.” AND many of the RM talks are based on some assigned topic! Shiatikapuka!
MH, it is great to see you post again.
I am of the opinion that vulnerability is key to building enduring relationships and keeping things interesting. The second example sounded like an environment where vulnerability was accepted, making things interesting.
Ironically, the “obedience to leaders at all costs” talk is the type that discourages vulnerability and creates an environment where people are robots of the institution,
Neither. Although I would appreciate the honesty my life hasn’t had any happy endings so I get tired of “see it all worked out for us.”
Lily, I attended a heartbreaking sacrament meeting yesterday (different ward though.) Mother talked about rape of 7 yr old son, who developed schizophrenia and died in a vacant parking lot. Rapist was killed in prison. I may post more details later, but wow. I wish there were more happy endings. This mother maintains testimony despite horrific experiences. Certainly the last 2 meetings were not normal sacrament meeting fare.