Church Thoughts

November 8, 2005 | 25 comments
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Here’s where my meandering mind took me this Sunday.

1. We’re too formulaic with when we pray. At Elder’s quorum we split into committees. The temporal and spiritual welfare committee that I’m on did good work bringing up the current needs of specific Saints in our ward and deciding how to address them. But the whole process was a little dead, spiritually. I wish that after each concern was brought up–especially after the more intractable concerns were brought up–we’d taken time to say a short prayer on the subject. We want to do our counsels in the presence of the Lord and we need leaders who are willing to take us there.

2. I got real clever and figured out that one could calculate the 2d Coming by calculating the date at which the temples would run out of names to perform ordinances. Then I realized that in all likelihood more folks die every year than we perform ordinances for. So much for that. This does mean, however, that the field really is white to the harvest, and we can be saviors for as many people as we want to.

3. Taking the sacrament, I remembered that in the revelations we’ve learned that blood is the symbol of mortality but the flesh is raised in immortality. So when we take the sacrament we’re participating in Christ’s mortal being and in his immortal being. I have no idea what that would mean, though.

4. Our spirits are horribly subject to our bodies. Some damage to the brain, or some tinkering with the chemistry of it, and you can change personalities, ruin intelligence, or create madness. Our inmost selves are vulnerable. Why? Maybe because our spirits can’t truly unite with our bodies unless, first, our bodies participate in all that our spirits do (so every spiritual function is tied to a brain process) and, second, because our spirits can’t unite with our bodies unless they are truly linked to them, and thus truly vulnerable. In some way our spirits can’t become one with the body without becoming subject to it for a time. The same is true in marriage, I think. The scriptures only talk about wives being subject to the husbands, but as a practical matter union in marriage requires that both the husband and the wife subject themselves to the possibility that their spouse will let them down. A spouse who can’t be hurt isn’t a spouse.

5. I don’t understand those of you who bring books to church. For a connoisseur of character, every Mormon you meet or listen to at church is like a fine grape grown in a new valley. Its all delicious.

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25 Responses to Church Thoughts

  1. manaen on November 8, 2005 at 3:34 am

    Thanks, Adam. I’m a recovering book toter, now finding much more in the life and spirit of the meetings. Here are some things that enhance Sacrament meeting for me:
    * Dwell on Christ’s pain and the change wrought in me. Pray that my estranged children will receive similar healing.
    * Gratefully allow well-presented talks to flow into me without selfishly trying to top them in my mind.
    * Pray for youths and anyone else giving ill-presented talks while they’re speaking — that they will feel the Spirit and overcome their fears, lack of ability, or just feel support from the hearers. This can be more edifying than listening to well-presented talks. (Thx to Elder Gene R. Cook)
    * Meditate upon the sacramental prayers.
    * Gaze upon the symbol of Christ’s body at rest under the burial cloth at the front of the chapel. Consider how he continued to give his all to help us *after* his death, while his body rested. Observe good-hearted people in congregation whispering, reading, dozing, listening to speakers — apparently forgetting their Savior, whom they just covenanted to “always remember,” while still in the presence of his symbolic body at rest. Ponder how this is a metaphor for how we and others wander around day-to-day without giving thought to the now-quiet Lord, Creator, and Savior by whom all our daily busy-ness would not be possible. And he loves us still and saves us still.

  2. Adam Greenwood on November 8, 2005 at 4:20 am

    “Gaze upon the symbol of Christ’s body at rest under the burial cloth at the front of the chapel. Consider how he continued to give his all to help us *after* his death, while his body rested. Observe good-hearted people in congregation whispering, reading, dozing, listening to speakers — apparently forgetting their Savior, whom they just covenanted to “always remember,â€? while still in the presence of his symbolic body at rest. Ponder how this is a metaphor for how we and others wander around day-to-day without giving thought to the now-quiet Lord, Creator, and Savior by whom all our daily busy-ness would not be possible. And he loves us still and saves us still.”

    A new and welcome thought. I thank you for it, and the Maker who inspired it.

  3. FullnessOfTimes.com on November 8, 2005 at 9:05 am

    As for #2, we know that one of the main activities of the Millennium is temple work. Angels will descend from above to assist us in this work because of the many records that have been destroyed, lost, or just not kept. So as for your theory, sorry, the Prophets speak differently. The Second Coming will occur well before temple work is complete.

    For #5, I’m not sure which books you refer to… If it is lesson manuals and scriptures, then you should be bringing those and participating. Church is a participatory activity. Sitting there like a bump on a log and never participating will not help increase your testimony. One should volunteer to answer questions, read, pray, ask questions, etc. This is part of the learning and growing process. This is part of growing your testimony. If you are referring to other kinds of books… then yes–leave those at home. The ones I really feel bad for are those in leadership positions. All the books, manuals, folders, papers, etc. that need to be carried around each Sunday. I often joke to them (myself included at times) that they need to start bringing a shopping cart to tote around all that stuff. They ususally agree.

  4. Costanza on November 8, 2005 at 9:10 am

    “Observe good-hearted people in congregation whispering, reading, dozing, listening to speakers — apparently forgetting their Savior, whom they just covenanted to “always remember,â€? while still in the presence of his symbolic body at rest.” Observe those who, rather than ponder their own shortcomings while remembering the Savior, choose instead to observe the failings they discern in others. 3 Nephi 14:3-5

  5. Lamonte on November 8, 2005 at 9:17 am

    Adam – Thanks for the comment about bringing books to church. I was dismayed to read the previous thread suggesting that reading a book in sacrament meeting might be “more entertaining” than the talks that are given or the music presented. With that frame of mind how can you NOT dread attending sacrament meeting? It seems to me that our obligation is to come to sacrament meeting prepared to be moved by the spirit. I would estimate that 90% of the speakers – all ameteurs – are not exciting or “entertaining.” But probably that same 90% come prepared with a message and most are moved by the spirit in what they prepare. Because their delivery is not slick should not be cause for us to ignore their message and if we take the steps that Manaen suggests above we will benefit from our presence there.

    I also agree that we are way too formulaic in so much of what we do in church. Words spoken or thoughts expressed should be from the heart and not from mimicking the actions of general authorities. And we should never be ashamed of expressing our honest feelings.

  6. Mike on November 8, 2005 at 10:13 am

    Those who must bring extra books to meetings should go to the bishie and volunteer to speak themselves.

    One of the greatest aspects of Mormonism in my view is that I don’t have to be a professional minister to be central in the discussions at church. Neither do you.

    I have never had the guts to do it but someday I am going to get up in testimony meeting and say some things that will probably not be forgotten in a long time. Why have we allowed this opportunity to freely express ourselves become so narrow in its scope?

    I think that some of the time the decision as to who is going to speak ends up more a matter of desperation than inspiration. I suppose some bishoprics make this a high priority and prayerfully consider who will speak. But I think that in wards with routinely boring talks it would not be difficult to convince them that you have something valuable to say. And if you tell the leaders that you would welcome a calling to teach you will probably get it because I think that in most wards they have a chronic shortage of reliable teachers.

  7. Mark IV on November 8, 2005 at 10:25 am

    every Mormon you meet or listen to at church is like a fine grape grown in a new valley. Its all delicious.

    Agreed. It is always humbling to realize that every single person in the congregation is my superior in some way, usually in an important way.

    Our spirits are horribly subject to our bodies.

    Agreed again. I wonder why we have to keep learning this over and over? It hurts to admit it, but I am pretty sure that I would have been sawing logs at Gethsamane, along with the rest of the disciples.

  8. Ben S. on November 8, 2005 at 10:53 am

    “Those who must bring extra books to meetings should go to the bishie and volunteer to speak themselves.”

    I bring a book (though I don’t always read it) and I spoke last Sunday. pbbblllttttt, a big raspberry to you :)

    “We’re too formulaic with when we pray.” I couldn’t agree more with this, but don’t know how anything can be done about it.

  9. Adam Greenwood on November 8, 2005 at 11:18 am

    ““We’re too formulaic with when we pray.â€? I couldn’t agree more with this, but don’t know how anything can be done about it. ”

    What we need is for leaders to presume on our good natures and humble obedience. When I was an EQ President, I did things like what I proposed in #1and everyone went along, most of the time, though they thought it was strange.

  10. Adam Greenwood on November 8, 2005 at 11:19 am

    Costanza D.,
    I think your misreading Manaen R. He’s using the distractions around him as an occasion to think on his own weaknesses. It’s good-hearted.

  11. Todd Lundell on November 8, 2005 at 12:03 pm

    Adam, I would be one of those who thinks it strange to formally pray after every concern is brought up. I think when we have invited God to be part of the process through the opening prayer, then we shouldn’t need to formally pray about each different concern. Rather, we should recognize when something someone else has said is, in fact, inspired from God. Then we should talk about it. We should say, “wow, that feels right; I am feeling the Spirit and I think God is communicating with us that this is right (or wrong)”. We should talk more about our spiritual promptings as they occur. I think that God is much more part of our discussions and counsels than we often give him credit for. When we stop to pray about every concern, it feels to me as if we are implying that God hasn’t been communicating with us (and us with him) all along.

    God is present, he hears us as we counsel together, we just need to do a better job of recognizing Him in the process. This does not necessarily require many prayers throughout meetings.

  12. Jim F on November 8, 2005 at 12:13 pm

    The best thing we can do and perhaps the only thing we can do to decrease the number of formulaic prayers in church is not to offer them ourselves. That is not as easy as it might seem, since in public situations we often fall back on the customary, but if a few members in any ward who gave non-formulaic prayers might go a long way toward helping others see that possibility and its benefits.

  13. Adam Greenwood on November 8, 2005 at 12:16 pm

    I guess what I would like to see are prayers that address specific concerns of specific folks, instead of just a general ‘bless the sick and those who are sorrowing.” Why not, ‘we pray for Sister so-and-so, who’s in the hospital,’ etc.

  14. b bell on November 8, 2005 at 12:28 pm

    Hi, Adam,

    I have noticed recently that there ARE in my ward prayers from the pulpit for specific people. Example: We have a father of three in Iraq right now. He is mentioned from time to time in public prayers.

    That being said we often fall into “standard LDS prayer cliches” everyone is at some point guilty of this.

  15. manaen on November 8, 2005 at 2:08 pm

    4. Costanza, I hadn’t realized how self-righteous my #1 could sound until seeing your response. Thx for re-centering that thought. I hadn’t in any way meant to use Sacrament meeting as my personal Rameumpton but to observe it’s typical that “we” (includes me) let slip from my/our mind that Christ is the foundation upon which our daily lives rest and that others go through life without ever having it mind. From that I’m amazed that “And he loves us still and saves us still.”

    10. Adam, thx for stepping in – I was speaking from the base of the awareness of my own weakness.

  16. Costanza on November 8, 2005 at 3:18 pm

    I didn’t mean my response to sound as dismissive as it did on re-reading. Thanks for clarifying your point though–I agree with the sentiment.

  17. lyle on November 8, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    adam:

    re: prayers

    how do you balance this vs. the ‘awe’ of praying to a divine being?

    My wife occassionally thinks I’m too familiar with deity, although this is traded off with never the same prayer twice. I’m not sure they are necessarily opposities/inversely related, but…that’s the way it seems to me.

  18. Rosalynde Welch on November 8, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    Re #4: Spirit/body analogies to marriage have a long and unfortunate history—unfortunate not because the idea is old, but because it’s wrong and, as it turned out, harmful—but I think you’re after something rather different here, if I’ve understood you. You’re not trying to characterize the spouses, but trying to characterize the nature of the relationship. The idea of each spouse making him- or herself vulnerable to the other’s failings is a compelling one, and requires a sort of eyes-open approach to marriage that I like. But as a practical matter, it seems that marriages in which spouses are, in fact, nearly equally vulnerable to one another—that is, modern marriages that equalize traditional power differentials—haven’t fared so well. An inequitable distribution of vulnerability seems to make for a more stable institution. But I could be misreading the social history.

  19. Adam Greenwood on November 8, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    For all I know you could be right that inequitably vulnerable relationships (me and the boys usually call them IVRs when we’re talking about social history during halftime) are more durable. We could think of that as half a loaf being better than none, I guess. But I truthfully don’t see the mutual vulnerabilities I’m talking about being much connected to the, uh, equities of the relationship.

  20. Rosalynde Welch on November 8, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    Then help me understand, Adam. What sort of vulnerability do you mean? (Me and the girls call it TPR, “traditional power differentials,” when we’re out shoe-shopping.) Emotional vulnerabiltiy, sharing feelings, that sort of thing?

  21. Mark N. on November 8, 2005 at 11:16 pm

    “We’re too formulaic with when we pray.� I couldn’t agree more with this, but don’t know how anything can be done about it.

    I think that if this truly is the case, we should pray more often that the Father will inspire us to pray in a manner that will be more pleasing to Him.

    : )

  22. manaen on November 9, 2005 at 1:08 am

    21
    Mark, have you written a prayer to ask for that? ;->

  23. Bradley Ross on November 9, 2005 at 1:14 am

    On the topic of formulaic prayer, I enjoyed a talk given by D. Kelly Ogden to a group of BYU employees. He titled it “How to Achieve Mighty Prayer” which I think was drawn from a chapter in a book he recently published. You can also hear the audio of several other talks at the same site.

  24. harold b. curtis on November 9, 2005 at 1:24 am

    Adam,
    “Too Fomulaic when we pray”…..
    It would be wonderful to hear one of the Saviours prayers to the Father on our behalf…..or one of His Nephite prayers, which could not be written or spoken because of its nature.

    “Counsels”…..to take sweet council as we sit in our counsels requires people who understand that leadership is not dimminished by the counsel process but rather enlarged by it.

    “Calculating second coming”…..sooner than later, 185 years since the opening of the dispensation of the fullnes of times…..fullness of times, the last time around, the opening of the last seal, a coming of Christ, then another coming of Christ, and then another, how many comings does it take to have them all done? All things gatherred in one, several gatherings taken place and taking place. Pres. Hinckley on two ocacasions “and now He has come again”, speaking of the first vision. Will the millenium be well underway for some people before it gets underway for all people? I am in your midst, and ye knew it not. Over 120 temples world wide, they are in the midst of the people….Holiness to the Lord the House of the Lord…Houses of the Lord where the Lord may come and dwell among the people….They are already here, is He already here for those prepared to recieve Him?…..

    “Taking the sacrament”……..we take the bread and water symbols of His flesh and blood…..we take upon us His name…..we always remember Him……. his spirit to be with them…..It is almost as if we experience His second coming each time we partake of the sacrament……truly He is in our midst during the sacrament……He is in us…..

    Thanks for the thread Adam……..

    Harold B. Curtis

  25. Adam Greenwood on November 9, 2005 at 7:08 pm

    Thanks for the prose poem, Mr. Curtis.

    Rosalynde W.,
    You’ve caught me out. I don’t have a firm idea myself of what I mean. Let me see . . . I guess I’m thinking of a modern traditional relationship where the wife’s acquiescence in her husband’s presidency is more voluntary and less a result of social pressure and economic necessity. Under those circumstances, the TP does not lead to IV, especially to the degree that the husband’s sense of self is invested in himself-as-husband-as-patriach. Huh. I still don’t have a firm idea of what I mean.

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