Doing

May 23, 2004 | 38 comments
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Over at Sons of Mosiah, commenter Kent Bailey made a comment that has gotten me thinking. He writes:

Compare the number of hours you spend in Church meetings each month to the number of hours you spend out in the community giving service. For me, the ratio is about 20 to 1. If it is ok to do the Lord’s work on the sabbath (actually more than “ok”), wouldn’t our sabbath be better spent, say working at the DI or in a soup kitchen — as opposed to sitting in meetings all day? If the Savior were here, I doubt he’d be spending his entire sabbath in church meetings or at home.

It’s an interesting question: Do we spend too much time meeting and not enough time doing?

On the one hand, I can appreciate the need for meetings. I sometimes find them boring or unhelpful, but there is certainly a benefit to meeting together, touching base with members, and certainly to partaking the sacrament.

On the other hand, we often end up with an endless cycle of meetings. Leadership meeting, followed by PEC, followed by a three hour block, followed by a meeting of the Elders Quorum presidency, with a correlation meeting or a missionary meeting or a choir practice or a leadership training mixed in between. And each individual meeting may not be bad, but when they take up an entire day — and when that day is “the Lord’s Day” — I wonder if Kent’s ideas don’t have merit.

Which brings us to the question: How? That is, how can we begin (assuming we should) to start doing less meeting and more doing? Or, on the other hand, should we just cheerfully surrender to the creeping of bureaucracy and meeting-ocracy?

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38 Responses to Doing

  1. lyle on May 23, 2004 at 6:57 pm

    Great question, but bad example to launch it. The 15 answered this question fairly clearly when they fired a BYU professor who couldn’t maintain his temple recommend because he went to a soup kitchen on sundays instead of his church meetings.

  2. Julie in Austin on May 23, 2004 at 7:04 pm

    I think this falls under the D & C 58:26 rule: of course we should be rendering service, without being specifically commanded. With the exception of a very small number of ward leadership, Sunday meetings really shouldn’t stand in the way of rendering service, and I would think that (if the meetings are well-planned) the leadership meetings would constitute a form of service to the ward.
    I think that what I am trying to say is that service versus meetings is a false conundrum. Let’s just agree not to talk about time spent blogging, OK?

  3. John David Payne on May 23, 2004 at 7:08 pm

    Yes.

  4. greenfrog on May 23, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    It seems to me that there can be little question that at least some of us would be more involved in our communities if we were not members of the Church, simply based on time commitments, if nothing else.

    I have appreciated several recent bishops in my ward who have insisted that if we are looking to build Zion only within our LDS communities, we aren’t getting the point of the scriptures.

    FWIW, I’d be delighted if one of my current charges (I’m a Teachers’ Quorum advisor) missed Church one Sunday, and when he came the next, reported that he’d been asked to help someone in need during the Church hour, and had decided to render that assistance. I am highly confident that if one of my young men would do so, they’d learn a great deal more about the gospel in that afternoon than they are likely to absorb in even the best of Church lessons.

    That said, the Church is a community, above all else. If I do not participate in and contribute to that community, it would be a bit incongruous for me to contend that I remain a part of that community.

  5. Kristine on May 23, 2004 at 10:33 pm

    Would it surprise you to know that there is a very wonderful poem on this very topic?

    Two or three angels
    Came near to the earth.
    They saw a fat church.
    Little black streams of people
    Came and went in
    Continually.
    And the angels were puzzled
    To know why the people went thus,
    And why they stayed so long within.

    –Stephen(? I think–somebody can correct me; I’m typing from memory, might have line breaks wrong too) Crane

  6. Nate Oman on May 23, 2004 at 11:33 pm

    I realize that it is non-responsive to the “are there too many meetings” question, but I do take exception to the idea that meetings are essentially spiritually dead time compared to service. While I have no desire to denigrate the importance of service, I think that there is great value in worshipping together than is not captured in “meeting together, touching base with members, and certainly to partaking the sacrament.” I suspect that part of the problem is that we don’t have a very good handle on what worship is, and as a result we don’t do it very well and probably underrate its importance.

  7. Clark Goble on May 24, 2004 at 12:54 am

    I’ve certainly been highly critical of meetings, but lets be serious – many are important. Unorganized service often benefits no one. And a lot of the meetings are important for knowing who needs home teacher visits, what needs emphasized, how food is delivered, and most importantly teachers. We’re always short of teachers in nursery and that is a planning issue. I think meetings are important.

  8. Jim F. on May 24, 2004 at 2:07 am

    Put Nate’s and Clark’s comments together and I say “amen.” I think Nate’s is especially important: we often forget the importance of worship, thinking that the point of the Sacrament meeting, for example, is to hear the talks. Indeed, the point of the Sacrament ordinance itself is not only renewing our covenants, it is also worship.

  9. Jeremiah J. on May 24, 2004 at 2:45 am

    I believe, with all Mormons, that it is a shameful thing to hear the word only, and not also do the word. But some people seem to have a sense guilt enjoying the word of God–*repeatedly*, as we are often reminded–simply because it never seems to achieve real, true doing. E.g.: “We’ve heard all this before–shouldn’t we be out *doing* it instead of making idle speeches?” And yet hearing and speaking the word has its own goodness, apart from “doing” (in the sense of serving not associated with explicit worship). There is no shame in feasting on the word of Christ. By feasting I mean not just partaking in large amounts, but partaking with others and primarily for enjoyment. No wonder we sometimes claim, quite incorrectly, that Christ’s yoke is hard–a potentially uplifting and enjoyable time on Sunday is understood merely as another failed attempt to get us off our behinds and into work of service during the rest of the week.

  10. dp on May 24, 2004 at 3:54 am

    Compare the number of hours you spend reading and posting to blogs each month to the number of hours you spend out in the community giving service. If it is ok to blog, wouldn’t this time be better spent, say working at the DI or in a soup kitchen — as opposed to sitting in long comment threads all day? If the Savior were here, I doubt he’d be spending his time reading and posting to blogs.

  11. dp on May 24, 2004 at 3:54 am

    Compare the number of hours you spend reading and posting to blogs each month to the number of hours you spend out in the community giving service. If it is ok to blog, wouldn’t this time be better spent, say working at the DI or in a soup kitchen — as opposed to sitting in long comment threads all day? If the Savior were here, I doubt he’d be spending his time reading and posting to blogs.

  12. Clark Goble on May 24, 2004 at 3:59 am

    I blog between compile cycles and late in the evening before bed. I also blog so as to have something to force me to read the scriptures in new ways. So I personally don’t find it interferes with my other activities. Other things do, mind you… But not blogging.

  13. Julien on May 24, 2004 at 4:18 am

    You know, at my girlfriends ward in Layton, one Sunday a guy walked in and told the bishop that he’d seen a brother whose house had been flooded overnight. Beginning of the meeting the bishop went up to the pulpit, told the congregation to go home and put on grubby clothes and go to that brothers house to clean out the water out of his basement. Just an example… And to be honest: We have Church from 9-12, come home, eat lunch, get out and do service from 3-6, and still have enough time for family and scriptures. Doesn’t that work? Or is it more trying to put the blame for laziness on Church, cuz maybe we would like to chill and hang out, so we put the service time during our Church meetings, cuz that’s “time lost” anyways… I’m not exempting myself… ;)

  14. D. Fletcher on May 24, 2004 at 10:56 am

    I said something quite scandalous at another site, the fact that we spend a lot of time doing temple work, i.e., service for the dead. Imagine that same time organized in doing service for the sick or needy, i.e., the living.

  15. lyle on May 24, 2004 at 11:11 am

    D.
    You are right…fairly scandalous. No offense taken, to giving…but:

    My grandma’s mortal body died about 2 months ago.
    My mom will be baptized in her name in another 10 months or so.
    My grandma is living; as are all of the other folks. While it is a future statement: imagine yourself in the next life & folks asking this same question:

    “Why were you spending so much time doing service to mortals when there were 1000s of us in need of your temple service?”

  16. D. Fletcher on May 24, 2004 at 11:23 am

    Again, controversial: but the God I know isn’t so limited that he would neglect some of his children. Those people who need blessings after they’ve died will have them. I think Temple Work, like Sacrament Meeting, and almost everything else we do, is mostly for us, to commune and feel the spirit and be remotivated.

    If we stopped all work for the dead, today, God would help those people anyway, I believe.

  17. diogenes on May 24, 2004 at 11:36 am

    The detriment of our meetings to “service” may not so much be in service to *others.* An old friend of mine took a job in Sarajevo several months ago. He reports:

    “There is no organized [LDS] church in Bosnia (no branches or missionaries or anything). We get so much family time because we have no PEC meeting, no stake leadership training, no Mutual, no BYC meeting, no presidency meetings, no home teaching, no welfare committee meeting, no ward council meeting, no bishopric meeting, no bishop’s training meeting, no RS enrichment, no Cub Scouts, no Primary activity days, no Achievement days, no campouts or youth activities, no firesides, no fast offering collection, no splits with the missionaries, no ward activities to attend or support, etc. I do think the family is better off this way . . . It was shocking for me to discover just how much family time you can have when you eliminate the demands of the church organization altogether.”

  18. lyle on May 24, 2004 at 11:41 am

    D.

    True…but inverse your logic & it works both ways, whether we are serving the mortal living or the spirit living. I think your argument falls flat in either regard: as service ultimately benefits both parties (and probably more the giver, as you noted)…regardless of their ‘location.’

    The God I know doesn’t neglect _any_ of his children; although any given individual may choose to neglect their sisters & brothers, and might find it easier to serve & help with “some” needs rather than others. I have a friend who thinks only the lazy do service in Africa & among the poor (and this is where she chooses to serve), because those needs are so easy to meet.
    Using her logic, those that have the Restored Gospel & _can_ serve in the Temple would have a greater obligation to serve there than to the poor…as anyone & everyone can help “the poor”.

  19. Adam Greenwood on May 24, 2004 at 11:41 am

    Really, no one at all, living or dead, will go without a blessing that they could possibly have, in the long term. If that’s all we care about we can stay home from the temple and home from the soup kitchen. If we, however, are not content to let our brothers and sisters suffer while we have it in our power to relieve them, then we will wish to feed the hungry *now* and liberate the imprisoned souls *now* instead of making them both wait until God has called an end to the experiment and sets about fixing the problems we would not.

  20. Thom on May 24, 2004 at 11:44 am

    Yes, D. the Lord would help them. Buy raising himself up another people who would keep his commandments and actually do the work for the dead.

    The primary purpose of spiritual work, whether it is missionary work or temple work, is blessing others and not ourselves. That we are blessed, commune with the spirit and are remotivated is the wonderful side benefit of being in the service of the Lord, but it is not the primary purpose.

  21. D. Fletcher on May 24, 2004 at 11:47 am

    I said it was a controversial viewpoint.

  22. cooper on May 24, 2004 at 11:58 am

    I agree with Thom. Any service rendered is service. Whether it be here or the other side. If you are need of spiritual rejuvination any act of service you renderwill bring the wanted result. Unless you are there just to get it done and over. The Lord looks upon the heart of the person rendering service. It is a competetive generation that labels one service better than another. Each has his task, accepting it however small, with a kind heart and with the thought of sacrifice will bless those he serves and in turn be blessed.

  23. Ben Huff on May 24, 2004 at 12:00 pm

    The vignette about Bosnia I think is right on — for families that are strong in the gospel already. Let’s face it, the Church is not for the well, but for the sick.

    As for time spent in service, aren’t we supposed to be spending *all* our time building up the Kingdom of God? If we’re doing that, a couple of hours spent one day a week to renew our covenants and review what we’re trying to accomplish seems like a good investment to keep the rest of the week’s activities on track.

  24. the wandering fool on May 24, 2004 at 12:44 pm

    Compare the number of hours you spend in Church meetings each month to the number of hours you spend out in the community giving service. For me, the ratio is about 20 to 1. If it is ok to do the Lord’s work on the sabbath (actually more than “ok”), wouldn’t our sabbath be better spent, say working at the DI or in a soup kitchen — as opposed to sitting in meetings all day?

    Just waht are you doing in the meetings you go to all day? I find my self planing cubscouts (that is service). Reporting home teaching (that is service). Planing service projects (that is service). Being taught that I might be able to answer someones question about the gospel.

    Reread the new testiment, Jesus did not spend all of his time in service to the poor. Much of the time he spent teaching the 12, can we call this a meeting? Should John have gotten up at the last Supper and said. “This is all well and good, but we could be out there helping the poor!”

  25. Sheri Lynn on May 24, 2004 at 2:41 pm

    Should John have gotten up at the last Supper and said. “This is all well and good, but we could be out there helping the poor!”

    That’s pretty much Judas’s take on the matter of worshipping and serving Christ Himself.

  26. obi-wan on May 24, 2004 at 2:43 pm

    “Reread the new testiment, Jesus did not spend all of his time in service to the poor. Much of the time he spent teaching the 12, can we call this a meeting? Should John have gotten up at the last Supper and said. ‘This is all well and good, but we could be out there helping the poor!’”

    Actually, that was Judas’ line (see John 12:5).

  27. Clark Goble on May 24, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    This whole discussion reminds me of something that happened on my mission. A bunch of people involved in various Christian charities attacked us as hypocrites because of the chandeliers in our temples while there were poor people out in the world. (Many chandeliers cost near $100,000 in some temples) Why do we have beautiful buildings when that money could be given to the poor?

    The comments not only about Judas, but also Mary annointing Christ’s feet do seem appropriate.

    I’m not opposed to charity. Indeed I think it key. And far too many wards don’t have enough service projects. But as Jim said, we can’t forget worship either. Further one of the greatest services we can provide is to help others worship. I think that far too often we assume service always means temporal service.

  28. D. Fletcher on May 24, 2004 at 3:11 pm

    I’ve always had a problem with the decor of the Temples. In some ways, it seems to be there to “coerce” the poor — they get to sit among the “rich” for awhile.

    Why do we think that where God lives there are Louis Quattorze chairs but no windows?

  29. D. Fletcher on May 24, 2004 at 3:13 pm

    I’ve always had a problem with the decor of the Temples. In some ways, it seems to be there to “coerce” the poor — they get to sit among the “rich” for awhile.

    Why do we think that where God lives there are Louis Quattorze chairs but no windows?

    The austerity and beauty of the Kirtland Temple is more arresting to me, and more conducive to worship.

  30. greenfrog on May 24, 2004 at 3:29 pm

    As a complete diversion from the point of this thread, before we conclude that there is such massive amounts of temple work to do, it can be interesting to suppose that when the millenium begins, there will be a number of LDS members equivalent to the current population of the Church; then estimate the total number of people who have ever lived on the earth; then calculate the number of endowments per member that would be required during 1000 years to complete all of the work. It’s a surprisingly low number.

  31. diogenes on May 24, 2004 at 4:23 pm

    “The vignette about Bosnia I think is right on — for families that are strong in the gospel already. Let’s face it, the Church is not for the well, but for the sick.”

    Yes, but that still leaves us with the rather serious problem of servicing the sick without undermining those “families that are strong in the gospel already.”

    The most likely place to acquire a fatal infection is often in a hospital.

  32. Chad Too on May 24, 2004 at 5:08 pm

    Having sat through too many mostly-fruitless PEC meetings, I think my Bishop would gladly eliminate one PEC meeting each month if those who attend would spend that 90 minutes actually completing the assignments they were given in the previous three meetings.

    No, I’m not perfect, but I’m a busy person too. I take care of my assignments. How much more I could do (WE could do) if the others involved would just do theirs!

    ::vent mode off::

  33. Gary Cooper on May 24, 2004 at 6:26 pm

    Greenfrog,

    I hadn’t even thought of your point about the number of endowments during the millenium, but you’re right. I did the aritmetic just now, assuming 20 billion people, and over a 1000 year period, the number is remarkably small. So, besides missionary work and temple work, maybe we really *will* have a lot of time to just enjoy the scenary! And, I suppose, to figure out what on Earth Brigham Young was talking about with regard to Adam (“umm, Father Adam, who are you really?” “Well, Gary, Brigham was a little confused…”)

  34. Kingsley on May 24, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    Man, I hope there’s more to do during the Millennium than missionary & temple work: Nibley’s whole “thousand years of life, guaranteed, all expenses paid” deal: I’d like to build a working ship from scratch & sail the Seven Seas, explore every mountain range from top to bottom, make some movies, become involved with a wandering theatre troupe for a couple hundred years, learn to be a cowboy, learn to be an astronaut, learn to cook, sew, paint & play piano, waste the cool of many an evening conversing with my friends, design & build a house (a really grand capital H House like in Jane Austen), raise German Shepherds & hedgehogs, & get through all the secondary literature on Joyce’s Ulysses, for starters.

  35. Gary Cooper on May 25, 2004 at 3:29 am

    Kingsley,

    Gee, you’re not very ambitious, are you? I figure your list of things to do during the Millenium will only take, what? 100 years, at most?

    Now for me, my big project is to perfect my putting my wife’s and children’s needs before my own…
    Hmmm…
    A thousand years, you say, we have during the Millenium? “Umm, Heavenly Father, can I have just a litle more time?”

  36. Marlene on May 25, 2004 at 5:07 am

    It seems to me that the GAs ever-so-often tell our ward leaders to limit Sunday leadership meetings so that we can spend time with our families. I’ve noticed that either the advice is ignored, or the ward leadership complies for awhile, then drifts back to the meetings for meetings sake habit.

    I was an RS president quite a few years back and as one who really hates meetings, I limited our leadership meetings as much as possible and made the ones we had as short as possible. We still managed to accomplish what needed to be done.

    Too many times meetings drift into non-essential gab and/or gossip sessions. Definitely not something appropriate, particularly on the Sabbath.

  37. Thom on May 25, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    If I ever serve as a Bishop, I’m going to hold all meetings with everyone standing up. Mayor Bloomberg reportedly ran his company this way, and meetings that typically took two hours were reduced to 15 minutes. I think this approach could revolutionize the church and the world.

  38. Kingsley on May 25, 2004 at 4:34 pm

    Gary Cooper: Nothing like a big family project (say, building a ship from scratch & sailing the starlit Seven Seas) to foster selflessness!

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