The Block

July 29, 2012 | 58 comments
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Some Sundays three hours is more like eternity squared.

Discuss.

58 Responses to The Block

  1. Rob Perkins on July 29, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Cut Sacrament meeting to 50 minutes, matching what we know today about the attention span upper bound of all humans.

    Reduce Sharing Time and RS/Priesthood by 10 minutes, cutting out the “Opening Exercises”, perhaps, or just making lesson/discussion that much shorter. This reduces the burden on Primary teachers.

    Take the 30 minutes thus won and insist, institutionally, that the building still belongs to the assigned ward for that space of time. Fill that time with presidency meetings.

  2. Matt Rasmussen on July 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    We regularly attend meetings that are two and half hours long with over 150 participants at work. At least once a week. There are rarely breaks in the meeting. If you’ve got to visit the bathroom or take a phone call, get up and go. Not a big deal. Besides us, people do it every day in courtrooms across the country. There are probably other examples that I’m not aware of.

    I’ll agree three hours of church with boring speakers and boring teachers isn’t great. It’s up to us to set an example of how to teach GP, RS, EQ, or give a sacrament talk with some liveliness and good interaction. No manual specifies that a spiritual lesson has to be dry and pious.

  3. Sam Brunson on July 29, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Especially the 11-2 block with a three-month-old. It doesn’t matter how good the speakers and teachers are, naptime is interrupted and you don’t get it back.

  4. Howard on July 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Shorten the block. Fix the chapel audio so the high voices of women and children can actually be heard. Fix the music, dragging through 4-6 verses is a real downer, it’s counter spiritual for me. Print handouts with the announcements on them and hand them out with the programs instead of taking time to announce them and making them up as they are announced. Stop group reading the priesthood lesson and make them more interesting.

  5. Jeremy on July 29, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    2-hr block, sacrament meeting 1 hr followed by alternating SS and PH/RS every other week.

    Then coffee and donuts. :)

  6. Snyderman on July 29, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    On those days I just sleep (while at Church, I don’t go home). But then, I don’t have kids and I’m also not the best Mormon ever, so…

  7. Johnny on July 29, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I agree that the block can be painful at times. But just imagine what a pain the old days would have been, with Sunday School and Priesthood in the morning, then back to the chapel for Sacrament Meeting in the evening, with Primary and Relief Society during the week nights. If you lived any considerable distance from a chapel, it was a real burden, even more than 3 hours is today.

  8. Jenn on July 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Pure torture for many little kids (and their parents). I can’t remember the last time I got something spiritual out of sacrament meeting- not because the talks were bad, because it takes every trick in my book to keep my 4yo and 20mo still for 1.5 hours. We’ve visited a unitarian church a few times recently, and enjoy that the first 15 minutes is everyone combined for prayer/announcements/opening hymn, then they do a short kid’s message where all kids go to the front few pews for a kid-themed (interactive) message, then all kids leave for their kid classes and parents stay for a parent-themed sermon. (and kids under 3 are in nursery the whole time- glorious! 18 months is a rough age to start nursery up, for most kids that’s when they hit their second spat of separation anxiety (first is around 9 months).

    All in all, this new church we’re trying out is an hour long followed by meet-and-greet OR sunday school (your choice). It’s a nice break.

    I would love to see the 2nd and 3rd hour shortened, combined, or alternated. I heard rumor years ago that they were trying out a two hour block in Europe some where, got my hopes up, but it never spread. In many wards, the Relief Society opening announcements and such take up to 20-25 minutes before the lesson is actually started, and the closing hymn is skipped because we are always short on time.

  9. Widespread Panic on July 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    1 hr. Sacrament Meeting.

    Coffee or Frappacinos and Doughnuts afterwards.

  10. Julie M. Smith on July 29, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Amen, Sister Smith.

    One wonders what would happen if we alternated weeks between SS and PH/RS and used the third hour for fellowship with snacks. I suspect that the world would be a better place in general, and that activation would increase quite a bit.

  11. RMM on July 29, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    What is with the calls for coffee after church? Is that supposed to be funny?

  12. NewlyHousewife on July 29, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I say 30 minutes for Sacrament Meeting–with 15 minutes devoted to the sacrament–15 for PH/RS, and 15 for SS. Because let’s face it if you can’t cover something in 15, you’re likely to not cover it in an hour anyway.

  13. NewlyHousewife on July 29, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    On second thought, that would remove the very reason most parents of young children go to church: 2 hours booger-picker(s) free.

  14. BHodges on July 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    I am a giant proponent of the two-hour block.

  15. Janell on July 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    RMM – many a church has coffee and donuts after the services, so its a call for the equivilent of going out for a drink :)

    #2 – try doing that same meeting with 50 kids, folding chairs, and no internet.

  16. Lucy on July 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    It’s like Gilligan’s 3 hour tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfR7qxtgCgY

  17. Michael H. on July 29, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    They tried the two-hour block in Chile for a few years -simply shortening each meeting of the 3-hour block- but ended the experiment a few years ago. I can’t say I know why.

  18. Vogonbard on July 29, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Coffee AFTER? We need it before. That said, I’d like to see shorter meetings with some of the time saved used for socializing. Meet and Greet, Red Punch Hour … call it anything. Set up chairs in conversation groups around the cultural hall and let people talk and relax, stengthen the community between Sacrament and Sunday School?

  19. christine on July 29, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    i cannot remember how long the orthodox service was which my then boyfriend from Serbia liked to attend in Melbourne Australia. It seemed very long especially since the whole thing was in foreign languages including the discussions outdoors. maybe 3 1/2 hours.
    NO SITTING DOWN ! standing room only with the orthodox. it was seriously OK to attend only a small part of the service and spend most of the time outdoors with the masses chatting and smoking cigarettes. Afterwards there was oriental coffee and slivovic. of course everybody stayed for that.

    At Latter Day Saint church no one complains if I leave after sacrament meeting or after sunday school. some people also get there late like seconds before the sacrament part. I am currently popular and people think i am fun… so people want to sit next to me in Relief society so they try to persuade me to stay….it is quite a challenge to be popular….never occurred to me until now.

    I am so happy to see all the children there (i do not have children) and even if they are a bit unruly, I think it is great. the parents seem to be mostly on top of it although sometimes they have to leave the room … i want as many children there as possible… bring all the little children. they are the best people anyway. my friend once taught a sunday school meeting with someone else’s baby on his lap feeding him a bottle. how cool !!!!!!!!!!!

  20. DLewis on July 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I, like most, would prefer a shorter block, largely because of child care reasons. But also because a three-hour block makes it difficult to have a really worshipful experience–we come packed with snacks, books, and toys prepared for the long-haul, not to really focus on Christ. Sermons, classes, and lecturing do not equate to worship, it’s that simple.

  21. Widespread Panic on July 30, 2012 at 12:25 am

    Coffee, Hot Chocolate, whatever, who cares… just have something.

  22. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 30, 2012 at 6:33 am

    What do people WANT to do at church? They want to chat with their friends and neighbors. It is almost the only time they see each other, and thete needs to be more time for fellowshippung outside the formal one way interactions if SacramentbMeeting and lessons. I would shirten Sac Mtg by ten minutes, and just make it free time. Likewuse fir the last ten minutes if PH and RS. We need to get to know each other better without having to have ANOTHER meeting for that. Likewise we need a eard internal social media that lets us post stuff about our families so we can find points of commonality, like where we served missions. It shoyld not require a year of one minute random unteractions to find that out. There are hndoubtedly okd wards where everyone knows each other, but there us a lot more turnover than we acjnowledge and we need to foster knowledge about each otherand create human connections beyind the home teacher vusiting teacher model.

  23. Ray on July 30, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Yesterday in Sacrament meeting the screaming kids and their indulgent parents made our so-called worship service a miserable hell. A member of the stake presidency spoke and honest to gosh, I couldn’t hear a word he said. The amount of time we spend in church is not really the issue with me.

  24. East River Lady on July 30, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I feel like I’m an anomaly here, but I love our 3-hour block. I’m the only member (I’m a convert) and a YSA to boot, so going to church and bonding with other members is such a great thing for me. Not to mention learning more about the Gospel when I’ve never had it all my life and have no idea how to really study it. I literally learn something new each and every Sunday. And I’m lucky to be in a ward where all the lessons are semi-interesting and uplifting.

    I guess I take Spencer W. Kimball’s approach when asked if he’s ever been in a boring sacrament meeting and he says he never has and he just looks for the good. Admittedly, it’s not easy!

    Keep in mind, this view will probably all change once I have children…..

  25. LRC on July 30, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Ray, I’d hazard a guess that the “indulgent parents” were not having a great time, either.

    If we, as a church, are going to say family is the most important organizational unit in the church, and if we insist that everyone between the ages of newborn and 140 years should come to church and worship in the exact same way regardless of age or culture, we’re bound to have problems.

    Is it convenient to be able to tell members, “You come for 3 hours at 8:00, you come at 10:00, you come at 1:00″? Yes, but that’s not a family-centered (or member-centered) program. It’s convenient for the bureaucracy and the business and does not take into account the very real needs of members.

    Some members need a quiet place where they can hear/meditate without the distraction of young children. Some need a place where they can be with their children and where those children can participate in child-appropriate ways. Some need a place where children can worship with other children while parents have an hour of kid-free spiritual feasting sans Cheerios and crayons.

    Three hours is a long time for lots of people. It seems longer if the time is hard on your family (like 11-2 with little kids).

    Having participated in both pre-block church and block Sunday church (including the ‘activity creep’ of midweek meetings), the only thing that’s changed for us is that we’re ALL at the church most of the day on Sunday and we ALL get pulled back mid-week in addition to the Sunday time. But instead of having age-appropriate meetings and schedules (especially for kids) we sit everyone in rooms and classes that make it convenient for the adults to have (not always stimulating) discussions of lessons rehashed every 4 years in Sunday School and the same years-worth of RS/PH lessons consisting of the same topics from year to year, just illustrated with quotes from different church presidents.

    The fun part is when the bishopric assigns the same GC talks to the SM speakers and the RS/PH lessons so we get to listen to 3-4 people reading the same GC talk in one day (rather than 1-2 people reading it once).

  26. Adam G. on July 30, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I enjoy the block. Contemplation and the slow accumulation of a focus on spiritual things and ward friendships is a good thing.

    Worship and communion with the Saints is not a burden.

  27. christine on July 30, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Raymond 22. even though we see each other often during the week we still want to chat on sunday or maybe even more so because we know better where everyone is at and want a new update on their recent events. we do not have a large ward and also an excellent sound system so there is no problem with the noise the kids make. i find the whole experience very relaxing and uplifting. Of course the taking of sacrament is super important or so the missionaries told me, worshipful or stressful, it has to be to renew the deal we have with God. I am happy that I have such a good ward where things move smoothly because if it were really as terrible as some of you describe i would not go as often.

  28. Hattusili on July 30, 2012 at 10:56 am

    When I was in the Amman Jordan branch, the meetings were only 2 1/2 hours long. They said the Church does this in a lot of areas where you have small church districts. Every meeting was cut by 10 minutes. It was great. Church was shorter, but I didn’t feel like I missed anything spiritual or knowledge-wise. I’m not sure why they don’t do it everywhere.

  29. SilverRain on July 30, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I don’t go to Church to enjoy myself. I go to serve the Lord and His children. And the better part of me appreciates having all three hours to do that in.

    And I say that as a single mom of a 2 and 6 year old, so I know how awful it can be.

  30. J.A.T. on July 30, 2012 at 11:25 am

    I know everyone will disagree with me, but I think PRIMARY benefits most from classes AND sharing time. It could be shortened, but both are valuable to children.

    While children benefit from classes and sharing time, I don’t think teens and adults benefit as much from gospel doctrine/sunday school classes which are redundant to institute, seminary and the PH/RS lessons (which could be combined or alternated).

    So, perhaps a 2.5 hr block for children and a 2 hr block for adults, giving adults chatting and coffee time?

    Nix the ‘welcome to sunday school, hymn, and prayers’. Blech. Totally pointless. Nix lengthy announcements (put in the programs and use e-mail blasts.)

    And yes, coffee and donuts afterwards.

    I don’t have a problem with MOST of the longer hymns. I would like to see fewer talks and MORE music. If long hymns are dragging, I blame the organist, chorister and singers. Incorporating more musical elements enlivens the lyrics and makes the journey exciting. Shake up the tempo, style, dynamics, and modulate keys for added DRAMA. PULL OUT ALL THE STOPS! Literally, an organ can create hundreds of thousands of sounds and moods if you explore different settings. Then, the musicians can elaborate and improvise on the written music. Imagine if Beethoven, Bach or Mozart were your ward organists . . . music would not be drudgery. There are ways to magnify our musical callings if we ignore the music manual and take some of Elder Packer’s thoughts on liturgical music as ‘salt’ instead of potatoes.

  31. Rachel Whipple on July 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    The real problem with any three hour block is that it will inevitably disrupt small children’s schedules and nap time, no matter when you have that block. Our ward had the option of choosing to meet at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. If at 11, we would overlap with the other ward, and run into parking issues in the winter (seriously no one lives more than 7 blocks from the church, but that’s another issue). At 1, we have the building to ourselves so it is quieter in the halls and less disruptive, and there is a better chance everyone has had a good meal before coming to church.

  32. Alison Moore Smith on July 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I knew you people would make me feel better. :)

    For the record:

    (1) Yesterday most of our meetings were not at all “dry and pious.”

    We had a “homecoming” talk that went on for 35 minutes pushing out the intermediate hymn and the final speaker and only stopped after time expired because the bishopric told him to wrap it up. The newly returned missionary was cute as could be and had more gospel enthusiasm in his little finger than the rest of the room combined.

    We also wrapped up the family relations class that has been a great time.

    Our combined 5th Sunday RS/PH consisted of a bunch of kids summing up our recent stake Pioneer Trek — which included bearing testimony of the food (provided by a caterer in our ward) and thanks to my husband (logistics) for setting up so many tents every day. Also, the preempted Sacrament Meeting speaker gave an abbreviated version of her talk.

    (2) My youngest is now 8, so we no longer have the battle of cheerios and/or the endless foyer walk. After 25 years of that stuff, we’re on our way to easy street. The nap time thing is one of the most trying things for parents of small kids and I completely sympathize.

    (3) Most of my ward members are on board with the idea of keeping the chapel pretty reverent. So the occasional child outburst is mostly entertaining, not annoying.

    (4) Julie, I am TOTALLY on board with 2 hours, plus 1 hour socializing. Once a month in Boca Raton, we had Linger Longer. For us that was a potluck dinner. Great fun and great for cohesion. Mysteriously, attendance went WAY up that last Sunday. Downside: not everyone seemed to grasp the definition of potluck, instead believing it was Free Food Sunday and obligated an open invitation to all extended family members, friends, neighbors, beach dudes, and anyone not otherwise occupied.

    (5) NewlyHousewife, I have taught my children not to pick. I don’t need church to have a free zone.

    (6) Howard, don’t get me started on the music. I have SO many half-processsed posts in my head about Mormon church music. Just yesterday when we got home I ranted about it at my husband for about 10 minutes. Shoot me.

    (7) Realizing that some meetings are “worse” doesn’t really make those bad weeks more bearable. Just sayin,’

    (8) I don’t think “worship and communion with the Saints” is a burden. But thank you for the slap down.

    (9) I also go to church to “to serve the Lord and His children.” But I (in theory at least) live that way my entire life. Whether I’m at church for three hours on a given Sunday or less doesn’t really impact the amount of time I “serve the Lord and his children.”

    (10) I wasn’t “bored” at church.

    (11) Sharing time is devil spawn.

    Point being that some weeks the three hours just makes me lose it. And that is a shared experience for many. :) Kumbaya.

    So, what was MY deal yesterday?

    (A) I was tired. I rarely sleep much, but I was up particularly late due to talking with an adult daughter about the guy who will probably be my son-in-law in the next year or so. And I was up fairly early due to a different child needing to talk to me about other personal stuff.

    (B) I was uncharacteristically restless. My legs kept falling asleep. I could not get comfortable. I just wanted to walk around or hike or dance (cha cha or samba would have been nice) or DO SOMETHING other that sit in a pew staring straight ahead reverently. And I had complete, utter sympathy for our little boys (8 and 12) who also had to sit reverently for three hours in ties (also devil spawn).

    (C) I was hungry. I’ve suddenly taken to playing Just Dance 3 on the Wii at every spare moment and I’m pretty sure it has turned my metabolism into a fiery hot oven of calorie burning goodness. Or it just increased my appetite. Time will tell.

    (D) Hot flashes. That’s all you need to know about that.

  33. Mark B. on July 30, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    As you said, Alison, “sharing time” is devil spawn. Even on the Internet.

  34. christine on July 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    sharing time is devil spawn ???? k ? google does not come up with anything…
    30 silver rain.
    I want to enjoy myself while worshipping god. I do this when I have private worship time by myself and also want this in church, is that bad ?

  35. Steve Smith on July 30, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    How about a two-hour block. Have Sunday School and Priesthood/RS trade off every other week. Also shorten sacrament meeting a bit. There is no reason to have that much time allotted to speakers. Shave off 10-15 minutes.

  36. kaphor on July 31, 2012 at 12:21 am

    I prefer the three hour block. I’d be happy if it were longer if we could have a lunch break. What we need as a church is more time spent becoming holy and less time focused on trivial things.

  37. Widespread Panic on July 31, 2012 at 1:29 am

    Show up, sing a hymn, have a prayer, announcements, sing a hymn, partake of the sacrament, sing a hymn, benediction. Milk & cookies, mingle, go home.

    Spend day with family.

    Yeah, that works.

  38. Naismith on July 31, 2012 at 6:13 am

    Comment 31 was thought-provoking, and addressed an issue that I couldn’t work around.

    I’ve seen the 2-hour block work very well in singles wards, but for teaching children, I really do need the 45 minutes for my lesson with the 9s.

    The catch is that many buildings do not have enough classrooms for all the Primary classes to be taught at once.

  39. Ned Quimby on July 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    45 seconds of sacrament mtg, followed by 3 hours of reefers and cheetos.

  40. christine on July 31, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    kaphor 37. i do not become holy in the church meeting,I become holy when i am out there trying to do something useful occasionally, church is for contemplation of what I have done all week. i could totally do a 2 hour, as suggested by Steve 36… which I do a lot of weeks anyway. or even sometimes i have to leave after sacrament meeting. life can be hectic…so can anyone explain that devil’s spawn. I am curious

  41. Alison Moore Smith on July 31, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    so can anyone explain that devil’s spawn

    Sharing time is inane, boring, repetitious, mind-numbing, monotonous, uninspiring, nearly impossible to fit to such a wide age range, and mostly babysitting about 99.9% of the time. And I KNOW that about a hundred of you have proof that it’s otherwise. I say you skewed the data.

    Ned, I think that should be 2:59:45 and chocolate.

  42. Yet Another John on July 31, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I’m old enough to remember Sundays before the three-hour block (sounds like three-hour tour, maybe we’ll go to church one day and be stranded for years with Gilligan and company!). Anyway, I’m grateful that it’s only three hours. Those that advocate a meet and greet for a while I think would be disappointed that so few would stick around to actually visit. Most people are at church exactly no longer than they need to be.

  43. Beatus on July 31, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    I, too, remember the old days when church was all day long. I like the three-hour block. It always seems to go by fairly quickly (though I do nod off occasionally in sac mtg).

  44. christine on July 31, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Alison, Ah got it sorry to be so obtuse

  45. Cameron N on July 31, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    I always enjoy attending church overall, even when my kids need naps and are going crazy. The Spirit’s funny like that.

  46. meg on August 1, 2012 at 2:51 am

    I think it would be hard to serve in Primary for years because I’d miss the spiritual feeding that I get in RS and SS. But maybe that’s selfish of me!

  47. Alison Moore Smith on August 1, 2012 at 3:15 am

    I’m old enough to remember Sundays before the three-hour block… I’m grateful that it’s only three hours

    It’s sure not it’s “only three hours” in my neck of the woods.

  48. Yet Another John on August 1, 2012 at 7:09 am

    To be fair Alison, in your link you’re comparing meetings in your youth to meetings you now have as an adult with kids. And I think the OP was just talking about Sunday.

  49. Sarah Familia on August 1, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Alison IS the OP.

  50. Yet Another John on August 1, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Still, in the OP she only mentioned Sundays.

  51. Rachel Whipple on August 1, 2012 at 11:56 am

    We split our Primary by age so we could have separate sharing times. I often taught two quite different lessons so that they would be age appropriate. I did enjoy the challenge, and I loved teaching the kids. But Sundays were long, especially with the extra meetings and work that had to be done outside of the 3 hour block. But I just got released two Sundays ago, and I have to say, last Sunday, the first Sunday in almost 3 years that I’ve been outside of the primary room, was a delightful, relaxing day. It was neither too long nor too short, and I wasn’t exhausted when I got home.

  52. christine on August 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    i would love to teach primary but feel I am a bad influence on the kids

  53. Meldrum the Less on August 1, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    What I do not understand is why anyone thinks they have to attend all or any part of a church meeting. I thought after 1776 church attendance was voluntary in this country.

    The only exception to this is for children. Parents make them attend church under circumstance they may not like. Then why do we collectively allow ourselves to be treated like children when it comes to church meetings? Do we really think we are getting some “blessing” when we sit through a meeting and we really don’t want to be there, or worse it is obviously damaging in some concrete way? Perhaps so if you number headaches, indigestion and mental constipation as “blessings.”

    I have great faith in natural consequences. If responsible LDS adults, who presumeably have a fair idea what is good for them, would simply stop attending all church meetings that are not meaningful to them, this problem would go away.

    Do any of us remember that this 3 hour block was not exactly a revelation nor an innovation, but rather a compromise hammered out between priesthood correlation minimalists and priesthood correlation enthusiasts? It serves the agenda of neither very well and should have been motified decades ago. Several times by now.

    If you want to vote for a two hour block, then vote this Sunday, with your feet! If you enjoy boring meetings then sit there and don’t get up and leave. Keep putting yourself and your family through the ringer and it will never change. There are many things I would like to fix at church and can’t. The 3 hour block is not one of them.

  54. christine on August 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Meldrum yes 3hblock is a compromise and it is well enough liked by those who enjoy church and those who do not, in our ward are welcome to attend bits and pieces. which seems very tolerant and easy to fit to one’s own lifestyle…
    this would be off topic but would you care to say what you would like to change ?

  55. Chris Wallace on August 2, 2012 at 1:35 am

    I love the 3 hour block, and I have two little kids. I began loving it when I went to grad school. It has become a haven from the world for me. It’s only 3 hours–how does everyone here deal with a full time job? I love the various perspectives that others share. I love trying to humble myself every Sunday because I think the presenter sucks at what they do (usually I’m pretty sure they do).

    It’s easy for met to look down on other people. One thing that has helped was Eugene England’s “Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel.” I took it to heart and let myself be put in a situation where I have to love those that I am apt to oppose. The 3 hour block is my greatest exposure to those people.

    I was a primary teacher for 5 years. That was awesome. I think I learned more about the gospel than I have in other classes.

    Certainly teaching should be improved; talks and even the presentation of testimonies could be improved. But I have often found the most sincere confirmations of the truth in the words of the dullest speakers.

    I would play way more invigorating hymns (the Catholics have good music), or at least play the hymns at the correct tempo.

    I guess in the end, I have been thoroughly bored in a lot of 3 hour blocks, but the times when I’ve been taught by the spirit made all those boring hours worth it.

  56. Meldrum the Less on August 2, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Reply to #55 “but would you care to say what you would like to change”?

    Where can I begin? Are you prepared for the longest blog reply ever?
    Delete
    Delete
    Delete

    I think the problems revealed by the block program are not just superficial or mechanical but reflect an underlying foundation of weakness. Rearranging the chairs on the deck of the titanic will not stop it from sinking. What the LDS church needs is revival, not a little tinkering with the schedule.

    Foremost, is the perception I have that we really are not Christ centered. If a time-traveling omniscient Roman soldier looking for lion bait for the coliseum walked into a LDS meeting, would he find many obvious Christians? What if he had lions trained to smell Christians? Would they eat the Mormons? Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to have a lion chase you down in front of thousands of decadent Romans only to leave you lying there alive because you were not a completely centered Christian? Those damned Mormons, the lions won’t even eat them.

    I am talking centered; it is not enough to mention Christ or work Him in from time to time as a side issue. If we are not centered on Christ then upon what are we centered? It seems to me the most common contemporary expression of the LDS faith, “I know the church is true,” indicates we are a church centered church. Hence the rampant legalism and the focus on mechanics of the church meetings.

    How is this not a spiritual Ponzi scheme? At the top of this scheme we have the “prophet worshipping subcult” that is alive and strong in every ward I have ever visited, who chant “follow the prophet,” who go so far as making stuff up that supposedly came from headquarters and “laying it on the prophet” without realizing a true prophet is trying to lead us to Christ. At times the LDS church feels like it is primarily about control issues. “Obedience is the first law of heaven.” Obedience to what? The Nazis were very obedient and so are the followers of Warren Jeffs. Seeing everything in terms of the bottom line, “follow the profit” appears too often to be close to the truth.

    Over a decade ago I had a dream. It was right after being called to a ward leadership position where I could do something and being stunned at what goes on in the ward and stake leadership meetings. In the dream I was at a rodeo out in Utah. President Hinckley came riding in on a large powerful white stallion that reared up and pawed the air and pranced around the ring. He was the rodeo announcer and told good jokes. Other church leaders made their appearance as the cowboys. Boyd Packer and Dallin Oaks were bull riders and got thrown off. Tom Perry rode the bucking bronco successfully. Tommy Monson calf roped with skill and threw his arms to the sky with his famous smile. Chieko Okazaki rode a fast little pinto pony around the barrels in record time.

    Then I came back home to our ward house. Our bishop then was a good friend known affectionately as wild Bill M******, a sort of outside the box guy. He is about 6’6” tall, lanky, bald on top with white curly hair and a long nose. He has an amazing ability to communicate humorously with facial expressions. In my dream he and the rest of the ward counsel were standing in a circle in the gym. They all had little purple stick horses between their legs just like the one my then preschool daughter loved.

    Wild Bill would gravely pause and say; ”1, 2, 3 hop.” And everyone would hop in perfect unison a couple feet to their right. “1, 2, 3 hop.” Pause. “1, 2, 3 hop”. I asked them “What cha y’all doin?” Wild Bill stated; “We are conducting a rodeo just like the ones out west.” “1, 2, 3 hop.” Pause. “Would you care to join us?”

    I replied that you need a horse to have a rodeo. But wild Bill pointed out that a horse would make too big of a mess on the carpeted gym floor. I argued we could do it on the front lawn. Even with one real horse we could do parts of a rodeo. We could make the horse buck and race it with different riders. Some of those monster boys in the primary might actually enjoy being chased down, roped and tied like a calf. Wild Bill shook his head no; “1, 2, 3, hop.”

    The center of a rodeo is the horse. The center of our church should be Christ. (I realize this rodeo analogy is quite imperfect.) Riding the bull is a false horse, analogous to a false Christ. It is nearly impossible to ride a bull. If you stay on for 8 seconds you might win. Sometimes it feels like we are being bucked around when trying to be Christ-centered. But a cowboy can do amazing things with his horse. The plains Indians, the mythical true seed of Israel during the peak of their horse culture were even more impressive.

    If I could change things I would wish for a more alive, authentic, Christ-centered church. I do not think that having us count to 2 or hop to the left instead of the right or change the color of the stick horse from purple to red is going to help us. Which is what most suggestions are going to be like.

  57. Meldrum the Less on August 2, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Further reply to # 55

    I realize I have not answered the question. So I will attempt to describe the mechanics of what a more alive authentic Christ centered LDS church would look like to me. I find myself living in the suburbs of a large city in the American South and my perception is strongly influenced and probably distorted by the highly successful, alive and Christ-centered evangelical churches in the neighborhood which are drawing family members and friends into them while we flounder.

    The most obvious outward difference I would make is the music. We need 4 strong voices (2 men , 2 women) with mikes up in front. Even if not another soul sings, they can sound decent and worshipful. We need to double the amount of music or more in our service. Double the tempo and 10 times the enthusiasm. Use technology for sound systems and replace the hymnal with the wide screen. We borrowed most of our hymns from the Protestants, why did this stop in about 1840? We need to borrow some more. It needs to be sincerely, more lively.

    We need to add instruments beyond the piano or organ. Classical strings at a minimum. I personally like the electric guitar if kept under control but that might be too much for this generation. To support this music we are going to have to establish music schools at church and train more of our youth to fill this future role. And we are going to have to pay our top musicians a little if we expect them to be able to pay the price in practice time to get good.

    Next is preaching. It needs to prepare us for the impending “refinancing” of our souls with Jesus. Which is what the sacrament really is about. Who knows when the Roman lions are going to strike us? The worship meeting should prepare us for it and therefore the sacrament needs to be moved to the end. Currently the implication is that we all arrive at church nearly perfect, (hey dude, the TR is current what else is there?) and take the sacrament when we have scarcely gathered our thoughts. Then we are to sit back and bask in the celestial glory of boring talks about food storage or worse? No wonder the spiritual malaise.

    Our preaching needs to be lifted up several notches. (I estimate this could take 40 years since it took that long to get into the current sorry state.) I have little expectation that the current GA’s speaking in general conference are capable of much change, other than maybe dialing down the Librium. The pursuit of excellence in preaching in the LDS church needs to start with the high counsels. They need to be our best preachers not among the worst (and justifiably the butt of many a good joke). They should be the ones raising the bar for those who follow at the pulpit in subsequent weeks. They might need to be given an assignment to visit other churches, not just other wards and be taught there by example. I estimate 95% of what good preachers teach would be appropriate for us. There is plenty of bad preaching out there, sure. But that does not cancel out the excellent preaching all around us if we only would peak out of our Mormon fortress and listen.

    I think if we are serious about priesthood correlation, then our traditional auxiliaries need to be cancelled. New ones designed by the ward level leaders and not excluding women for individual ward needs would be reinvented and canceled if they didn’t work. Study groups or service groups, etc. Cooperating with already established community outreach programs in some cases. This would be driven by local zeal not institutional expectations from far away. It would have local ownership. Stake conference would be the crucial time of sharing of ideas that were working and support for canceling others that did not. Not a much needed vacation Sunday spent at the lake for burned out leaders and members alike.

    Our wards are way too small. We have spent billions building church houses for wards too small to function properly. We need large enough units to have viable youth programs with 30-50 youth, at a minimum. It is easier to split large groups than to conjure up people who don’t exist. Larger units allow for more specialization and enhanced opportunities for all. How far would you drive for a better church?

    There might be value in letting people select their ward instead of assigning them by address. Coupled with local innovation of auxiliaries this would result in wards with vastly different options and I think this would be good. People crow about the church being the same everywhere in the world. So is the food at McDonalds; does that make it the best food or the one true food? Some wards would fail, especially I would think the more legalistic and over-the-wall control wards. This could also lead to doctrinally separated wards and possibly schisms and we would have to deal with it. We would need working conflict- resolution committees, and stop pretending that there are no disputations. There are real differences and we just pretend they will go away. Many do go away ; that is why attendance is about 20-30% in some wards.

    Hundreds of thousands of children are in the foster system in the US. We experimented with the Indian placement program in the past but didn’t pay attention as to why it failed. I went to school with placement Indians and they have never left my memory. The mechanics of the current LDS church, designed during the correlation movement when the average LDS woman had about 6 children, was highly youth oriented. But many wards have few youth now. If the 10,000(?) LDS wards in North America adopted about 10 children each (in the high range of placement targets), I think it would make about a 10-20% dent in the foster children problem nationally. I calculate that having each ward set a goal to adopt maybe 100 children would eliminate it.I would not exclude single people past about 25 or 30 years old from adopting children. And 100 might still be nigh unto impossible.

    But it might be exactly what the Lord would have us try and do. Instead of so much focus on the impossible task of saving every last dead person with a quick dunk and movie in the temple, why not attempt the impossible task of saving every last unwanted and unparented living child? This would certainly change the future of the church far more than having 10,000 functioning temples. There is the possibility that larger churches would follow our example. If 50 million Baptists collected into statistical groups (ward size) of say 500- 1000 were each to adopt 10 children it would make a enormous dent in the problem. Add in a little healthy competition, adopt another child so the Baptists/Mormons don’t get them and it is solvable. Not impossible.

    If one of your siblings or a dear friend was killed leaving children without a family, who would not open up their arms and hearts and their homes to provide for those children at significant inconvenience and cost? Yet how are these thrown-away children of usually wicked strangers any different? Less disciplined definitely and most are saddled with major emotional problems and many will grow up to disappoint you and a few will even kill you in expression of their anger at the unfairness life heaped upon them. I realize that some of these children are not adoptable realistically, but that is not true of most of them. The devil is in the details, I realize. And how we would export this concept to other countries like Mexico or Brazil where we are small and the problem is far worse is beyond me. “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” Just a thought.

    The most successful missionary programs in this area are preschools. Our expensive buildings sit idle most of the day. Some wards might be able to have a preschool without much modification of buildings. (Wife works at a preschool of about 200 children at a Methodist church). Since American public education is in the toilet, it might be time the LDS church with its wealth, military structure and smooth organization (and BYU serving as a flagship factory of teachers and educators in every field) get into the business of primary and secondary education. If we had half-decent youth programs and provided the public with the best private schools, the best and brightest youth would pave a path to our church door. This could be exported to countries with poor education. But we are too busy trying (and failing) to home teach people who left us long go back in the church, baptizing holocaust Jews in the temple along with many others who do not appreciate it and vacuuming out the empty little-used buildings to do anything like this.

    More money needs to stay in the ward. We take in $2-4 million in tithing annually in many wards and can’t afford a part time janitor for $20,000? That is less than 1% of ward tithing saved by the every-member-a-janitor program and that saps far too much energy from the ward leaders. The pioneers kept 90% of the tithing in the ward. Leave it to the local ward counsel to decide how to keep the building clean, that way the get the money if they want to do it for free. I know too little to even guess a specific recommendation of amount of money to be kept locally but it should be a lion’s share. There is no excuse for the wealthiest church per capita to not be able to afford a few excellent programs.

    I think that gives you a feel for some of my ideas. I am a dreamer. Once I had the bright idea to do a blood drive at church. I thought I could easily get 50 people in my ward to donate blood, the minimum to get the blood truck to come out at the time. After 4 months of effort I had 7 people signed up and 3 were ineligible. That pretty much sums up what happens to my dreams. But I still dream and hope.

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