“Will Heavenly Father Be Mad if We Go to Another Church?”

December 24, 2006 | 16 comments
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So asked my oldest daughter, Megan (now 10) yesterday morning, as Melissa and I were discussing our Christmas Eve plans.

Three years ago, during the first Christmas season of T&S’s existence, I wrote about our family’s “high church” Christmas eve tradition–namely, our decision to attend worship services on the evening of December 24th. (Go back and read through the original post, as well as the fine comments from Matt, Kristine, and others.) My explanation then still stands: Melissa and I take our family out to a church–perhaps Catholic, perhaps Methodist, perhaps Lutheran, wherever we feel moved to attend–because we have a desire to worship with our fellow believers on the eve of Christmas, because we want to feel in some formal sense that we are honoring a holy day as well as a holiday. Since ours is not a liturgical church, but rather is basically “free Protestant” in style, and Mormons do not as a rule create opportunities or spaces for worship outside of our duly scheduled sacrament meetings every Sunday, whatever the day of the year, that means we have to look elsewhere. And that is what prompted Megan’s question.

She was sitting at the breakfast table, which her sisters had just vacated; Melissa was beside her looking through church announcements in the daily paper. I was doing the dishes, and I asked her why she had thought to ask that. Well, she replied, in her quiet and inquisitive, very bookish way, “we’re the only true church, and going to another church is like forgetting that.”

I don’t remember exactly what Melissa and I said in response (I wish I had a better memory!). But this, in essense, was our response:

“Megan, every Christian church teaches some truth. They have the Bible and the Christmas story, the same as we do. We just have some truth they don’t have. Heavenly Father is happy when His children share the truth they have; He is pleased whenever people sincerely gather together in His name, however or whenever they do it. We’re Mormon, and we gather together to partake of the sacrament that has been blessed in the Mormon way–the way Jesus taught us to–every week. That’s the most important part of our worshipping. But there are other parts of worshipping Jesus that Mormons don’t do, and not because we think it’s wrong but only because it’s different from how the Mormon church developed. On Christmas Eve, we go to other churches to worship, because they do something that we like and think is good that our church doesn’t do. If our church provided Christmas Eve services, we’d go to them. But since it doesn’t, we go elsewhere. We don’t take their sacrament–because we are not members of their church–but we can sing and pray with them, and learn from what they have to say. Heavenly Father loves all His children, and so He could never be mad about that.”

Megan thought about this for a while. She seemed satisfied. And then, she asked about Jews and Muslims (she has attended prayers at a mosque with a Muslim friend of hers before). A slightly different topic, requiring a slightly different answer–but this Christmas season, I think we’ve helped point her questions in the right direction.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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16 Responses to “Will Heavenly Father Be Mad if We Go to Another Church?”

  1. TMD on December 24, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    I am from a religously mixed family, I certainly agree with the main principal here. I would say, further more, that there’s very little in a typical worship service itself that we really disagree with as such (that is, we believe something else)–and that’s usually to be found in the formal prayers like the creed (or more particularly, in particular parts of the creed). The crucial differences are in what we _believe_ (and these theological differences are generally not on display or even replicated through actions that much in typical liturigies), and in the priesthood authority. So, by all means, attending other churches, so long as it does not interfere with our own church attendance, can be a great thing. WHen I’m in catholic or episcopal services (for instance), I generally feel it appropriate to do everything everyone else does–except saying a few words in a couple of prayers and (obviously) recieving communion. There’s not much that is theologically offensive, otherwise, as I see it. (Notably, Catholics in particular would be offended if I were to take communion, so there it’s as much an issue of respecting their beliefs as my own.)

  2. random me on December 24, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    great answer and similar to what mine would have been. raised rc, we still attend christmas eve mass with my side of the family. it almost feels wrong to think about skipping it! having been rc, there are parts of the service that i find wholly wrong and i can’t bring myself to participate. overall, though, i appreciate the common ground of love for, service to, and worship of the lord. and i think you’re doing your kids a great service, helping them to learn more about other faiths. i’ve often wondered if my mom hadn’t been so adamantly anti-lds, would i have bothered to learn even more about the church, or would it just have been a passing curiosity.

  3. Russell Arben Fox on December 24, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for the comments, TMD and RM! Your thoughts parallel Melissa’s and mine pretty well; we don’t partake of communion at other church services, and there are occasionally a few other things that we feel like we have to explain our reservations about to our children later, but other than that we really haven’t ever found it difficult to participate fully in the services. I mean, it’s Christmas after all.

  4. roland on December 24, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    Then what is “the Great and Abominable Church” of which Nephi rails against so zealously in the Book of Mormon?

    In the old days it used to be compared to the Catholic church. But nowadays I don’t know if its a reference to Hollywood Liberalism (the extreme left) or Islamic Militants (the extreme right)?

    I would like to know to know who Nephi is referring to because that church sounds like it is under huge condemnation from God and I wouldn’t want to be found sitting inside it on judgement day.

  5. RCH on December 24, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    It has always been my understanding that The Great & Abominable Church spoken of in the BoM isn’t a particular faith or denomination, but rather the efforts of the devil and his hosts to distract and lead people away from God.

  6. Sarah on December 25, 2006 at 7:17 am

    What RCH said. At the moment my “eek, great and abominable church!!” response is strongest to ads for a show on a new TV network (that took over our UPN station) called Wicked Wicked Games. I don’t feel anything like that when watching the Christmas mass broadcast from the Vatican, and I think it’s with good reason and not just a matter of liking fancy robes. The Pope wants me to be a good person and do God’s will. Plenty of other people, in all kinds of positions in society, don’t. ^_^

  7. Kevin Barney on December 25, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    An intelligent and thoughtful daughter, no doubt aided and abetted by intelligent and thoughtful parents.

    I’m all for attending other churches, especially on Christmas Eve, and I think it is great you are exposing your children to that.

    When I was in high school our English class did a section on debate, and I was paired with this girl. Being the good little Mormon missionary I invited her to church. She said she would be happy to attend my church, if I would also attend hers. I had never been to another church, and the prospect freaked me out, so I declined. It was only later in retrospect when I had gained more experience that I realized there is nothing wrong with attending another church. That’s an experience I would like to have to do over again.

  8. Jim F. on December 25, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    roland: Your question has been discussed all over the bloggernacle at various times, so let’s not let this develop into a threadjack of a very nice post. A search of the archives of several other blogs ought to connect you to a number of the discussions.

    To my mind 1 Nephi 14:10 answers your question well: “Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.” Though that doesn’t make clear just who the two churches are, it makes it impossible simply to identify any particular church with the great and abominable church.

  9. Craig V. on December 26, 2006 at 2:40 am

    I hope and trust you are warmly welcomed at those Christmas eve services. I am thankful that I have been so warmly welcomed on this blog and hope you all had a merry Christmas. May God grant that we learn from each other in the coming year.

  10. Jeff Day on December 26, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    “Then what is “the Great and Abominable Church” of which Nephi rails against so zealously in the Book of Mormon?”

    That would be referring to the portion people within every church, including (and, perhaps especially) the LDS Church, who are actually working against Heavenly Father. Satan knows that the place he can do the most damage is from within, so that’s where he focuses his efforts.

  11. anon on December 26, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    We had the usual non-Christmas talks Sunday. Spirit present – albeit scant for me.

    During the talks, I must admit…WAIT FOR MIDNIGHT MASS AT THE LOCAL CATHEDRAL!!!!!!

    Wonderful spirit.

  12. anon on December 26, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    typo…

    I couldn’t wait for Midnight Mass at the local cathedral to feel the spirit! I was a wonderful experience.

  13. JKS on December 26, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    My kids have gone to a week long (5 day, 4 hrs per day) Bible day camp twice now. If our ward did that, I’d send my kids to that. But they don’t. It’s fun. I just hope that the church doesn’t have any anti-mormon comments. You sometimes have to be careful because some churchs or pastors/preachers can be pretty anti-Mormon and I don’t want my children exposed to that really early without me knowing about it.

  14. h@x0r on December 27, 2006 at 1:46 am

    Pearl of Great Price:Joseph Smith History:
    18 My object in going to ainquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
    19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

  15. RR Millward on December 27, 2006 at 11:04 am

    Woah, there is a great difference between having corrupt professors and abominable creeds and actually being the whore (deciever) of all the earth.

    As Mr. Day said (#10), there are some individuals in every church who are actually fighting against Heavenly Father. However, most individuals are simply trying to get themselves from day to day as they defend themselves against the onslaught.
    RR Millward

  16. Lizzilu on January 4, 2007 at 12:22 am

    Fortunately our ward has a Christmas Eve devotional. This year it was about an hour and a half or so long. There were several hymns, with lovely arrangements by the choir, a few family musical pieces, the congregation sang 4 or 5 hymns and it was all tied to gether with a narration of quotes and scriptures and the story of the art collector who lost his son at war. The scriptures were read by a little boy in our ward who is 4 years old and reads scriptures as well as any adult.
    It was a very touching evening. Many people were moved to tears.

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