Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood


Why Are Mormon Church Meetings So Dull?

posted by Jana Riess

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A couple of years ago I read the memoir Sundays in America by Suzanne Strempek Shea, a Massachusetts novelist. The author’s project was to attend a different religious service every weekend and write about her initial impressions.

I felt that it was unfair to judge a faith tradition based on a single snapshot, when so much of religious life happens during the other days of the week. That said, what Shea concluded about Mormonism was spot on: the only thing non-Mormons needed to fear about Mormonism was that Mormons would bore the world’s population to death.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to make us realize the truth about ourselves. This author nailed the fact that our sacrament meetings are beyond dull; they are stultifying. She certainly had no desire to return. And really, who could blame her?

I’ve spent years trying to figure out why today’s sacrament meetings are typically an exercise in routinized tedium when worship was so decidedly different in the early years of the LDS Church. As a historian of religion, I offer five reasons here. As a Mormon who cares about our message being relevant beyond our own walls, I hope we’re not too entrenched in what’s not working to realize that we simply must change.

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1) We no longer expect any spiritual manifestations. The number one reason why our services bore even our most devout members to tears is that American Mormons don’t expect the Holy Spirit to show up in anything more than a warm, fuzzy, non-threatening way. I say American Mormons because elsewhere around the world, Mormons still have the early saints’ experiences of praying for the manifestations of the Spirit, being slain in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, and other things that scare the knee-length shorts off American Mormons today. For a denomination that invests heavily in the idea of being the direct continuation of the New Testament Church, we have few religious experiences now that would be remotely recognizable to believers in the first century. When we don’t truly expect God to show up, is it any wonder when He doesn’t?

2) We think we’re there primarily to learn about God, not to worship God. It’s no accident that we call our Sunday gatherings “sacrament meetings” rather than worship services. We do lots of good things in those meetings, like taking communion every week (one of the few things we consistently do right). But if you take a straw poll of Mormons and ask them why they’re there, “worship God” is not going to show up in your top five. At best, we relegate worship to the temple (which only helps about one in five Mormons), and at worst, we don’t think about worship at all. Yet the scriptures name worship as our primary reason for gathering each week. Unfortunately, we no longer know how to do it unless an insider-outsider like Gladys Knight shows the way by presenting a wonderful fireside or special event that takes us out of ourselves to worship the one who made us.

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3) Our music is confining and often funereal. For a supposedly joyful people, Mormons are missing a crucial element of joy that should accompany our worship services. We sing three hymns per service, sometimes four, and they are often lovely. Beyond that we do not venture. We neglect the vast richness of the world’s musical heritage, especially the gorgeous offerings of sacred music through the ages. Whether this failure is a byproduct of Mormon theological chauvinism or simple ignorance I do not know. I feel a terrible sadness about the disconnect that exists in Mormonism between the exalted beauty of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which touches thousands of hearts with its renditions of music both sacred and secular, and the anemic, impoverished approach to music that typically exists at the ward level, where whole classes of instruments, styles, and composers are simply barred from the door. 

4) Our talks are often substandard. I know I’ve been harping on this point for ages (see this satirical piece in Sunstone from a few years back), but the situation never seems to improve. Considering that all Mormons are expected to speak regularly in church–in my ward, about once a year–it’s perfectly ridiculous that we offer no training in how to do it. (Well, no training on how to do it better; every time we sit in sacrament meeting and hear someone doing it badly, we’re being taught that irrelevant mediocrity is the expected norm.) I think it’s terrific that we expect all members to give talks, and of course it’s only natural that there would be a wide variance in quality. But some training in content and delivery would help everyone improve, and would also raise the confidence of those Latter-day Saints who would rather have a root canal than give a talk in public.

5) Nobody seems prepared to envision this differently. This, along with point #1, is our most pressing problem: where there is no vision, the people perish. Our leaders have not made weekly worship a priority. I’ve been a church member for 17 years now, and in that time the only changes I’ve seen in sacrament meeting are that we’ve stopped singing the practice hymn and we no longer have official missionary farewells. Sorry, but that’s not enough. We need men and women who are theologically trained, who understand what a worship service is intended to accomplish, and who can comb the scriptures and our own history for examples of how to make Sundays more fulfilling. Only when that leadership is in place can we make the necessary changes in the details, like improving member talks and allowing for music that enhances worship.

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I suspect that some traditional Mormons are going to look at this post and find it arrogant. Who am I to criticize the way that Mormons worship? “If it was good enough for my ancestors, it should be good enough for you,” they may say. There are two problems with this argument. The first, of course, is that our kind of rote, uninspired, and careless worship would not have been good enough for their ancestors. This was precisely the kind of dead religion that many early Mormons fled. They wanted worship that brought them closer to God, that made them experience the startling possibility that God had broken into time–our time!–to speak to a prophet and begin all things new. Mormonism’s radical message spawned a people who joyfully danced before the ark of the Lord. Today, those same people would be checking their watches and sneaking Cheerios to pass the time.

The second problem is that our worship is simply not good enough for the people we’re trying to persuade. Mormonism teaches that the restored gospel is a unique, special message that changes lives. I believe that too. But I’m tired of seeing prospective converts who first catch the fire of our theology have that fire snuffed out with our vain repetition and lifeless talks. They know they’re being cheated. They know our teachings show a more abundant way. Why aren’t we living what we believe?

LDS leaders often wonder why retention is low among new converts, and identify valid reasons for attrition: converts don’t have enough of a social network in the ward, or they find it tricky to live the standards of the gospel, or they have logistical difficulties getting to church. All of these are true in my experience, but the elephant in the room is that what passes for worship in the Mormon Church is not feeding these new converts, not at all. And that’s a tragedy, because great worship is exactly the transformative missing ingredient that could help them find their place, give them the strength to rise to new behavioral standards, and want to attend church more often.

We need to stop giving them–and ourselves–stone for bread.



  • smb

    Great sermon, Jana. I wonder about having a class parallel to “temple prep” or missionary training that would teach teaching better (I have a vague memory that there was/is a class called “Teaching the Gospel”). You should also think through the difference between sacrament meeting and the classes. I find that the two classes are often more powerful than the main meetings, but this is very regional in my experience. I speak a lot professionally, and I still try to spend about 8-10 hours preparing for a church sermon (in practice I can usually only spare about 2-4 hours). I wonder whether asking people to spend a certain amount of time might be helpful (though it could easily turn into a pecking order that should be avoided).
    (Oh, and historically I can’t help but add that outside observers of the much more energetic preaching of the 1840s also complained that Mormons were terrible preachers.)

  • http://fstops-here.blogspot.com Janet Kincaid

    Jana: I couldn’t agree with you more! The problem, though, is that the Mormon Church prides itself on not being like the Catholics or Protestants with their pomp and circumstance and smells and bells. It’s a shame, really.
    That said, I finally left the Church for a variety of reasons including because I found Sacrament meeting to be sucking the spirit right out of my life. A couple of years ago, I attended one of Gladys Knight’s firesides. I later told my sister, if the Church started singing music like that and having services with the kind of spirit that fireside embodied, I’d strongly consider going back.

  • http://www.ourthoughts.ca/ Kim Siever

    And those who do well at delivering sermons aren’t asked to speak very often.

  • chris

    You are correct. The only way I escape boredom is personal preparation before hand (reading scriptures, pondering spiritual topics before the week, really considering the words of the hymns, etc) or just getting lucky and having good speakers that Sunday. And I don’t even mean the speakers have to be good at speaking, just having done a good job with their talk, an interesting story, etc.
    My personal take is bishops should give 3 months notice at least for a talk, and have topic and several suggested scriptures, or quotes, etc. to go along with the topic for guidance, but not necessarily to be used. Ask the speaker to spend the next 2 weeks preparing their talk in a formal 1 on 1 interview. Then they can let that talk stew in their mind for 2+ months, and ponder it, give it over and over in their head, think about it, etc. So when they finally give it it would be more of a monumental occasion for them (they’ve been pondering it and working over it in their mind for 3 months by now!) and they would hopefully do a better job as a result.
    But to be clear, my opinion is this:
    We often have spiritual malaise in our meetings, because we have spiritual malaise in our homes. If the members at large lived the gospel more fully in their home and private life it would be reflected in our meetings.
    I think tinkering in the meetings can add 5-10% improvement. Focusing on living the gospel in our lives will make up the other 90-95%! I’d assume the historical facts bear this out, as you state in other international areas where whole groups of people are on fire with their conversions or back in the early days where whole groups of people were filled with religious fervor and desires and converting to the church. Malaise in = malaise out.
    It’s not the brethen’s fault. Not the bishop’s fault. Look in the mirror sacrament-goers!

  • SteveP

    Jana, you hit the nail on the head. I think another problem is there is no trust the members’ creative inspiration on both topic and approach in our worship. We typically now get assigned a general conference talk to speak about, proscribing the content and delivery. When I look around in Sacrament meeting there is no engagement. Everyone seems to be somewhere else. Brilliant analysis in this post. Please can we publish this in the Ensign?

  • Jeremy

    Sacrament meetings will undoubtedly be spiritually uplifting if you are prepared to receive through the Spirit. Whenever truth is taught, regardless of the venue, the Spirit will testify of that truth to those prepared to receive. More often than not, it is the person in the audience or congregation who has failed this task, not the speaker or the hymn.
    Doctrine and Covenants 50:21-22 is clear, “[h]e that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth[.] Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” Accordingly, not only does the word need to be spoken by the Spirit, but we are required to be spiritually “in tune” so as to receive by that same Spirit.
    A major part of worshipping God is having a personal relationship with Him, and that relationship is only fostered to the extent that we are spiritally prepared to commune with Him. Instead of changing the format of our sacrament meetings, it may be more effective to teach the membership about being spiritually prepared for said meetings.

  • Jonathan

    Jana,
    I believe one of the biggest missing points in your discussion is the principle of improvement. This is a BIG difference between our church and other Protestant faiths: we have no paid clergy and do NOT put people in callings/positions based on their abilities.
    If you compare it to the job market: employees learn and then specialize in one particular skill, getting better and better as time goes on. In our faith, we are expected to get just good enough to be dangerous and then we are quickly moved into another calling. There is no specialization as various skills are added on to make us spiritually well rounded.
    Therefore, one big lesson we members are CONSTANTLY taught (whether we like it or not) is patience with other members. Patience with the bishop that has fairly few leadership skills, patience with the primary leader who has a hard time with kids, etc. The principle is that we become better individuals by stretching ourselves beyond what we thought we were capable of doing.
    Now, as for talks, this principle definitely applies: EVERYONE is given that chance to talk even though some might be more boring than watching paint dry. That opportunity to talk gives us the chance to improve our ability to talk, better define our own beliefs and our ability to communicate those beliefs.
    I agree that we need to teach our members to teach/speak better. That responsibility should be given to someone who already speaks very well. I like your suggestion for improving the music as well. However, for my protestant friends who are looking for spiritual entertainment, spiritual eye/ear candy, we will probably never be that place.

  • Matt B

    As a new convert, I can only say that I am sad (for you) to see most of the disparaging comments. My sacrament experience is uplifting and I am constantly impressed with the personal revelation that I receive.
    I am getting some personal revelation right now…– the problem is not with the church, it is with your attitude.
    I love the church and it is true! Jeremy- well said.
    Much love!

  • Beth

    Man, now I’m REALLY starting to think that my talk yesterday wasn’t up to snuff.
    On the other hand, “and other things that scare the knee-length shorts off American Mormons today” = apple juice shooting out of my nose.
    Great article Jana.

  • RRE

    AMEN! Sacrament meetings used to be a lot more entertaining before talk topics were assigned every week, which frequently leads to three speakers trying not to say the same thing, but failing miserably. How many times have you heard the final speaker get up and say the two previous speakers had used all his/her material? At least, before, you never knew what kind of entertaining wackiness was going to come out of someone’s mouth. And I’m incredibly tired of dirge-like singing, even on songs that are supposed to be sung with some liveliness.
    Then again, I prefer anything to hearing the same guy preach every week, which is what happens in most churches.
    One thing I think would help would be to have a mini-class on “how to give a talk.”

  • Glenn

    Nicely put Jana. There’s not enough critical self-analysis allowed in church. It gets associated with contention (aka “the devil”) or a lack of personal relationship to God when you get real with any analytic approach. White bread. And water.

  • Becki

    This is so absolutely true. Unfortunately, I don’t see any improvement coming without a total shift in attitude. I personally find that sacrament meeting is not worth attending as a means of increasing my spirituality, and I don’t find I actually learn much about God or Christ either. Mostly we hear rehashes of conference talks. The name of Christ is primarily relegated to the closing phrases of talks, and the sacrament prayer. Our services do not focus on God or Christ and the happiness of the gospel message, they focus on the current leadership of the church, obedience, and the “works” of the church. The hymns can be beautiful, but most are played at so slow a rate as to lose any joy that they may have. And half the members are preparing their lessions instead of paying attention. The heavy burden of work the church places on members drags us down. No wonder converts leave – why attend somewhere that demands so much work with so little in return?

  • Michael

    I’m torn here. Non-boring sacrament meeting talks would really cut into my reading time each week, but I would be certainly willing to give it a try. That said, however, I have never seen either teacher training sessions or public speaking training sessions work very well. All such things usually do is give a set of simplistic check-off formulas that would turn talks from boring and pointless to rote and scripted (not unlike the prayers at the end).
    I suspect, as Jonathan suggests, that boring talks are the price that we pay for a lay clergy and an ethic of inclusion. The best way to spice up sacrament meeting would be to only ask really good speakers to speak (like the best way to spice up Sunday School would be to only let really good teachers teach). But then we lose something important. One of the things that I value the most about my church experience is the fact that most of the teaching, preaching, and music is done by people who aren’t very good at it, but who do stand to grow substantially by trying.
    That said, you are right on on the issue of hymns–we really need some new ones that don’t sound like funeral dirges. And I like the distinction between “learning about” and “worshiping.” I’m not sure we even know what it is to worship in church.

  • chris

    Well to contend with Glenn…
    “There’s not enough critical self-analysis allowed in church.”
    Huh? I seem to hear about Mormon guilt all the time where people are trying to be perfect (ie. constant critical self analysis that goes way overboard) to there’s not enough of it?
    Do you mean critical analysis of others? (not self?) If so, I hope we never go there… “Nice talk, but here are 3 things you could do to improve it.” That’s ok if a friend asks you sincerely for your input, but I’d never want to be in the mindset of critiquing people’s talks, whenever I find myself doing that I try to put myself back in check.
    Now myself? What Mormon doesn’t have a very keen and overly active sense of critiquing themselves? (maybe we ignore the conclusions too much)

  • Eric

    My worship experience (and I do find it that to be that, with some effort) depends a lot on the speakers. Unfortunately, too many start off by saying, “I’m a terrible speaker” or “When the bishop called me two days ago,” and it’s really hard to get a lot out of those talks. But a well-prepared talk and/or one that comes from the heart, those I can really appreciate and benefit from, and often do.
    I really like the fact that we don’t have the same speakers every week (and I was once Protestant, so I know what I’m talking about), and that we’re very “democratic” in the sense that we can learn from people from all walks of life. Sometimes this idea of having lay speakers works very well; unfortunately, often it does not.
    And I agree with what was said about music. I both like and dislike what the Protestant megachurches do with music, but I see no theological reason why we have to confine ourselves to an 18th-century style of music that all too often fails to uplift. I don’t know what the solution is (and I’m not musically inclined myself), but at the very least we should explore some of the other musical styles out there.
    Again, thanks for a well-thought-out article. I hope it becomes a wide topic of discussion at all levels of the Church.

  • Aaron

    This quote is maybe a little harshly phrased, but I think it’s good advice. You can read it as outdated, out-of-touch advice from an old dead guy, or you can read it as counsel from an Apostle.
    “But I say we do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or amused; we go there to worship the Lord. It is an individual responsibility, and regardless of what is said from the pulpit, if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, he may do so by attending his meetings, partaking of the sacrament, and contemplating the beauties of the Gospel. If the sacrament meeting is a failure to you, you are the one that has failed. No one can worship for you, you must do your own serving of the Lord.”
    Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, April 1944

  • http://www.derekmcelfresh.com Derek M.

    Chris, I’m sure Glenn is talking about a critical self-analysis of the church. In other words, a willingness to discuss its issues as an institution run by men, as opposed to as an organization run by God. I tend to agree with every point in this article, and I think a key reason for these issues is that, as is pointed out, leadership isn’t willing to go against the grain of established tradition for the sake of potential improvement.
    I think there is maybe a fear that if we start changing things, that might mean that the church isn’t perfect – a belief I’m afraid many modern saints hold.

  • http://www.derekmcelfresh.com Derek M.

    Aaron, I’ve seen that quote often used to justify the stagnation that has taken hold of Sacrament meetings. That quote is, what, 66 years old? Spencer W. Kimball was a great man and prophet, but clearly he was speaking to the saints of his time. The church is now larger, and the saints more diverse than was the case for the church in his day. We don’t claim that our sacrament meetings today share any similarities beyond the ordinance itself with the meetings of saints at any other point in history… why are we so reluctant to admit that it might be time to revamp meetings so they fit our own needs & time?
    Frankly, I am at the point in my life where I demand more from my religion than a warm and fuzzy feeling from my neighbor’s summary of a conference talk. I want to feel the spirit through worship, song, and joyful celebration of the truth we’ve been asked to share with the world. Our meetings should be joyful celebrations of the life of our savior, the message of the restored gospel, and the redemption of mankind. Think, honestly, of when you last experienced a sacrament meeting that fit that description.
    Are we playing at religion or do we mean it? Do we or do we not claim to have real modern-day revelation and interaction between God and man? Is this not something worth enjoying?

  • http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com Andrew S.

    What is opportune about most of these weak points is that they are things that can easily be fixed at a grassroots level. We can help improve the speaking for Sacrament meetings by ourselves giving better talks. And even more, there’s nothing to stop us from taking the time in some extra-curricular church activity to teach others basic speaking skills (e.g., like in a young men/young women combined activity for the youth).

  • Keat

    Correlation and freakish control has been the death of me. I reluctantly go and hope my itouch is working. Let members choose their topic. Let there be a little Huge B. Brown do your own thinking stuff…even perhaps something provocative, maybe even the mysteries and more music and I loved those missionary farwells.

  • Chris

    Good point Derek about the self-critique.
    “Are we playing at religion or do we mean it?”
    I’d answer that with this:
    “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
    If you want to live and “mean” your religion, I’d start there. I don’t recall any scriptures about pure religion being good speakers and vibrant hymns. I think those things are actually essential for being united as a church in feeling the spirit together. But I’m certain the way to start that is to follow the counsel I quoted from James 1:27. Some changes here and there are certainly good. But the most effectual change starts with each of us. I don’t think many of us are getting it generally as a church (self not exempt). Maybe we need someone to get up and preach that to us in sacrament meeting :)

  • manaen

    This column and some of the following comments are good examples of what I see to be a problem in our Sacrament meetings: the attenders look to be passive recipients of something engaging for them.
    .
    My understanding is that while Jesus worked out the at-one-ment in Gethsemane, he prayed for believers in him to become “one.” Oneness is more than serving each other, more than loving one another: it is the development of an intimacy that only is created by knowing each other and by coming to seek each other’s well-being as much as our own. This article and some commenters appear to go back to serving each other — well, half-way: to having the speakers and music serve them.
    .
    I learned from an example Gene R. Cook gave. As a 14-year-old boy fumblingly gave his first talk in a Sacrament meeting, about prayer, a man in the audience grumbled to himself that “What’s he doing there, he can’t even talk well. What’s he going to teach me? The bishop should have better speakers, somebody more educated and eloquent, somebody like… me.”
    .
    In this example, the man next to him silently said, “Dear God, this is John’s first attempt to speak to us. He’s having a difficult time. Please help him to have courage. Please help him to express the thoughts of his heart. Please help him to feel our love for him.” The speaker then put down his notes and said, “I don’t know much about what’s on this paper, but I did have this experience when I prayed” and opened his heart to the congregation.
    .
    Moroni talks of the Saints coming together often to fast and to pray and to speak with each other concerning the welfare of their souls. I used to believe this was about our Fast & Testimony meetings but I now believe that we disclose the well-being of our souls whenever we speak with each other.
    .
    After hearing Cook’s example, I look at Sacrament talks and Church-class lessons) as the speaker/teacher sharing with me the welfare of their souls: the level of their spiritual development, of their technical-doctrinal development, and, maybe most importantly, of their social development in comfort at being one with the rest of us. As they speak, I feel in my effort to develop oneness with them obligated to understand what they say and to understand how I can help them on their journey by praying for them while they present, sharing insights I may have to help them, or in asking for help from them in ways that I lack. These plans will complete Moroni’s speaking-with-one-another loop.
    .
    I’ve never had my prayers for a speaker answered as was the listener’s in Elder Cook’s example. However, since coming to this understanding, I’ve never been in a Sacrament meeting that was boring for me or one that seemed too long: I’ve been too engrossed with the snapshots of each person’s growth at their immediate station of their life’s journey. These are my brothers and sisters and there is so much to learn from and about them at each station!
    .
    One of the commenters disparaged Spencer Kimball’s comment from 65 years ago as being out of date for our time. (What are we to make then of the much-older scriptures?) Kimball also, when someone asked him what to do if they found themselves in a boring sacrament meeting, paused for a moment and then said, “I don’t know; I’ve never been in one.” Maybe what I learned from Elder Cook is why he could say that.

  • Aaron

    @ Derek. I’ve been to plenty of sacrament and other meetings that were *full* of the Spirit. Two months ago I sat in a stake conference in Ghana. It was hot and sweaty. The talks weren’t any better or worse than the talks in your typical sacrament meeting. Compare their text or their delivery and you wouldn’t be able to tell much difference. (The idealized version that Jana paints of meetings in the international Church doesn’t exist.) But there were 300 people there 45 minutes before the meeting started. The Spirit was incredibly strong.
    What bugs me about Jana’s article is that there’s not even a whiff of personal responsibility for feeling the Spirit in meetings. For example, great music is hard work, something she doesn’t even acknowledge but happily demands.
    I guess I can summarize my complaints thusly:
    1) If we want better meetings, then we need to make them better by faithful living and humble, sincere contributions. (Chris made this point far better than I can.)
    2) Who are we to deny others the opportunity to prepare a talk or lesson at the risk they might bore us?
    3) Who are we to say that no one else in a meeting is feeling the Spirit? (The first, powerful answer to prayer I ever received came in sacrament meeting, not that anyone else knew.)
    4) What kind of God would hold the Spirit hostage from a faithful group of people just because the meeting’s format wasn’t modern enough? In this light, Pres. Kimball’s quote is still remarkably insightful.

  • Mell

    There is a difference between allowing someone to prepare a talk that may bore us and throwing someone a talk assignment who doesn’t know how to prepare a talk so that is it *not* boring. There has to be some practical instruction to better serve the spiritual instruction.

  • Wayne

    These kinds of questions came up all the time when I was a missionary: “Why are the sacarament meetings so dull. Other churches have rock bands and preachers that entertain”. Some people would also say, “I would rather join the church across the street because they serve lunch afterwards and their meetings are only 1 hour long instead of 3 hours”. The problem with any of these kinds of statements is just like what Aaron already mentioned:the person who doesn’t feel like they were edified during Sunday meetings blames everyone else but themselves. Sunday meetings are not there to be entertaining or to pump your adrenalin. They are there to remind us of the regular small things we should be doing on an every day basis. If you’re constantly looking to receive these huge epiphanies every week, these WOW moments, then you’re going to be dissapointed. People generally need reminder of the same basic things over and over again in order to start doing them. That’s why it can seem dull if you hear the same “read your scriptures, pray daily, obey the commandment” type talks every Sunday. Anyways, the point is, church meetings are what you make of it. If you’re seeking entertainment, go to Disneyland.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/ Jana Riess

    Actually, I’m not talking about church being more entertaining. We’re here to serve Jesus, and that’s not about amusing ourselves. Ours is a countercultural call to be something more.
    What’s missing is worship, and that is not the same as entertainment. Worship focuses on experiencing God, which is what so many Mormon meetings fail to do.
    As I said, the issue of talks is just one small point. (And Beth — so sorry to have missed yours!) It is not Mormon to suggest a system where some people give talks and others simply listen; as at least one commenter has pointed out, the beauty of our system is that it is participatory, and we are all called to spiritual growth through leadership, not passivity. I am all for that. However, there is no reason at all why we can’t teach people to do it better. Everyone can learn.

  • shaun williams

    I went to our Sacrament meeting yesterday and I was shocked to see a lady next to me knitting !!! I have seen others writing in journals and sleeping. The reason we as LDs members should be going to church is to worship the lord, and that is our primary reason for being there. The person is is attending our worship services is not there to be entertained, they are to be paying attention and listening and learning, line upon line and precept upon precept. The Mormon worhip service is plain and simple and that is how it should be, the music is quiet and dignified, I am glad that in this church we have never allowed any drums or trumpets or keyboards or cymbals into our worship services. The services of the LDS church are not going to change and they should not change, from everything I have read in this article, it is the reader who needs to do the changing, she will need to examine for herself why she feels towards our form of worship the way she does and then read up on the standard works and talks of the bretheren and if necessary she will need to meet with her church leaders to express her concerns. I hope she will come to more fully appreciate the opportunity to worship that she has in this country, she should prehaps try and go to another country where the freedom to worship does not exist, they prehaps she may come to appreciate the chance to attend “dull” meetings.

  • Cary

    Jana,
    While I don’t agree with every point you make, I do believe our worship meetings have become too dull. Other posters are right, individuals need to be personally responsible for their own worship. When in sacrament meeting I start dozing off, I feel responsible and even a little bit guilty. But I would come to church and try and worship no matter how boring the meeting is. I would hope I am there for some of the “right” reasons. However members are at different levels of growth. We shouldn’t expect everyone to get something out of church just because they should. As a church and as individual wards we can do a better job of worshipping together nad I think Jana gives some good ideas on how to do that.

  • Jim Donaldson

    The problem, at least at the most elementary level, is that we Mormons are always talking about the church and not so much about the gospel. It is true that we partake of the sacrament each week, but that may be the only mention of Jesus during the whole meeting. First step: Assign talks that actually have religious content. That will help turn it into a worship service and not a town meeting.
    I think the attitude of the leadership is similar to a few pages in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, where some AA newby is talking to the older guys, the crocodiles. The newby is complaining how dull and unenlightening the AA speakers are at every meeting, the crocodiles, some of whom have been going daily for decades, agree with everything the newby says, but always end by saying, “just make sure you come back.” I think the idea of regular attendance has virtues way above content, like AA (which I get), BUT we’ve taken that as an excuse to avoid even discussing content. Institutionally, we don’t care. The latest trend of having ward members speak about (i.e., read) six month old general conference talks many of us heard the first time is simply a ploy to make giving assignments (and speaking) easier, but results in even duller meetings.
    I offered (something you don’t really do in the church, I know) to take whomever was assigned to speak the following week out of Sunday School and talk about their talk—help them deal with the topic, help them find scriptural foundations, help them organize it, give them some dos and don’t, but the leadership wasn’t interested. Mostly because they’d have to assign the talks something like 2 weeks in advance and make coherent assignments, with me kinda looking over their shoulders. Advance planning—always a bugaboo. Because it just isn’t viewed as important.
    We are also encouraged to be as bland and repetitious as we can be. Have you ever noticed that no babies ever cry when the speaker is talking about polygamy. In the rare cases when people actually want to listen carefully to what is being said, they keep the babies quiet. It is uncanny. And a reliable measure of interest in the content.
    We also use that ‘everybody is responsible for his own worship’ thing as an excuse to relieve us of any responsible to improve the content. But it will take a major redrawing of priorities to make any difference. We could do it, but it just isn’t important enough. The only real goal here is somehow kill the 70 minutes. I’m not sure what we give up, but it will take giving up something. We won’t get better meetings until we redirect time and effort from other things.
    I obviously think that the quality of the meetings is way undervalued. Nothing could help the missionary program more than improving the product. But that is clearly not where current interest lies.

  • pete

    One thing missing from all of this dialog is a definition of the phrase “Worship God.” What does this mean?
    I have done my own personal assessment of sacrament meeting talks over the last two months. In those two months I have been in a different unit almost every week – from the smallest branch, to the largest congregation imaginable (Nauvoo in the summer!). Here’s what I have found. Those talks that are from the heart; that appropriately relate a personal experience; that gives 3-4 points of counsel; that are scripturally based; and that are given with some level of enthusiasm — these are the talks that cause me to be inspired. This, to me, is what worshiping God is all about.
    I keep a sacrament meeting journal where I anxiously await the opportunity to be spiritually fed and then record the lessons I’ve learned and the inspiration I have received. This helps me focus on the talks.
    When I give a talk, I try to follow these same principles, and use a simple outline to shape the talk. Introduce myself, share my “weakness,” define a pivotal event that shaped me, define the quest to overcome the “weakness,” share how I hit bottom, explain the ultimate “showdown” that occurred, and inspire through explaining the ending. Am I a master? Hardly, but this formula seems to work for me when I both listen to a talk, and give one.
    If worship services are dead, it is our responsibility to breathe life back into them.

  • http://www.derekmcelfresh.com Derek M.

    Jim, I think that ultimately your conclusion is on the money – the goal being to “somehow kill the 70 minutes”.
    More frustrating than that attitude, though, is the attitude that if the current service format isn’t working for you, it must be *your* fault. How dare you be different! How dare you to seek excitement in your communion with the Almighty! How dare you to expect your church to encourage this kind of worship! Get real here – no one is expecting the church to hold everyone’s hand and introduce us each to an angel. Singing a song that wasn’t written in my Great-Great-Grandfather’s time (or earlier!) would be a nice change, though.
    Mormonism, the religion, is a dynamic faith filled with some pretty off-the-wall and forward thinking doctrines. We believe, as a group, that God ushered in a new era of revelation and authority through a boy young enough to still be in middle-school in some parts of the USA.
    Unfortunately, Mormonism, the church, is one mind-numbing meeting after another. From a marketing standpoint, our target audience would appear to be senior citizens, morticians, and actuaries.
    Ultimately, there is just no reason why we couldn’t have both a meaningful and uplifting worship service and one that is dynamic and interesting.

  • manaen

    @ July 19, 2010 6:19 PM
    .
    “I offered [...] to take whomever was assigned to speak the following week out of Sunday School and talk about their talk [...] but the leadership wasn’t interested.”
    .
    ummh, was this surprising?

  • Eric

    A commenter said: “Sunday meetings are not there to be entertaining or to pump your adrenalin. They are there to remind us of the regular small things we should be doing on an every day basis. … Anyways, the point is, church meetings are what you make of it. If you’re seeking entertainment, go to Disneyland.”
    To be blunt about it, I find that view (and others that have been similarly expressed) to be a copout. If that’s the way to look at things, maybe we should try to make our meetings even more boring so that we can become more spiritual!
    Like Jana said, those of us who agree with her are aren’t saying that meetings should be entertaining (although a little bit never hurt anyone — I can imagine that many of Jesus’ listeners laughed when he talked about people with lumber in their eyes). Striving for 80 minutes of entertainment every Sunday morning would be one of the worst things we could do. But could doing things differently help establish an atmosphere that’s more conducive to worship? I think so.
    I have been to many meetings where the talks and the music helped provide that kind of experience. I think Pete said it best about talks: “Those talks that are from the heart; that appropriately relate a personal experience; that gives 3-4 points of counsel; that are scripturally based; and that are given with some level of enthusiasm — these are the talks that cause me to be inspired. This, to me, is what worshiping God is all about.”
    And I have heard talks like that (most often at stake conference, where the speakers usually do a lot more to prepare). One I remember was from a soon-to-be-deployed missionary who told why, at the age of 26, he decided to give up two years of his life for a mission. Another was from a 16-year-old girl at a small city in the Andes, someone who had found in the church a way to develop her talents in a way that was not possible elsewhere in her culture. Another came from a stay-at-home mom who talked about how she applied gospel principles to her life.
    And I too have been at meetings where the music was uplifting rather than something that seemed to be a matter of going through the motions. But those kinds of meetings don’t happen often enough.
    Yes, I understand that to some extent I get more out of a meeting if I put more into it, if I make myself more than a spectator. And I do strive to do that. But do so many meetings have to be ones that if I invited my friends to I’d have to explain afterward why I go?

  • Justin

    I think it is amusing when a member feigns an “aw, shucks” humility at the beginning of their talk, exclaiming their utter dislike of speaking in church, then goes five to ten minutes over. It’s very facetious.
    I can appreciate the sentiment of this post. I too would like to see an improvement in Sacrament meeting. I try to look inwardly and make sure that my heart is in the right place. But Sundays dedicated to teenage girls talking about last week girls camp? Come on! I think we can do better than that.
    I don’t see the Church leadership being able to do anything about it. It seems the more they tinker with the logistics of the Sacrament meeting format the less improvement there is(like that strange letter they read a few years ago asking the speakers to avoid inviting the seated congregation to look up passages of scriptures during a talk – I still have not figured that one out). It will take the collective effort of Church members at the ward level to improve the quality of the meetings. As long as we cater to the lowest common denominator, the meetings will remain “dull”.

  • jv

    I have a very hard time motivating myself to go to church. One thing that is extremely difficult for me is noisy kids in sacrament meeting. I think that if sacrament meeting was treated with the same reverence as the temple, it would be soooooo much better! It is hard to feel a sense of worship when kids won’t be quiet. I wish every child under the age of 7, including infants, had to be in a different room during that time. People from different wards could have callings to watch over them. Then when a kid gets to be age 7, they would be mature enough to start going to sacrament meeting, and to prepare themselves for baptism at age 8 when they become real members of the church. I would give anything for this kind of change! It would also be great to cut the three hour block down to two hours instead. Maybe alternate sunday school and priesthood/relief society to every other week. Man that would be great. I might even go to more than just sacrament meetings if it were like that! Church just burns me out. I can’t stand it, and wish I felt differently.

  • Roger

    The singular most important duty, as it was explained to me as a new bishop, was to have really good Sacrament meetings. I worked hard for years to accomplish that. The quality of the meeting lands squarely on the shoulders of the Bishop.
    Roger

  • Steve

    A good place to start is to ask what does work in our meetings?
    I love the primary program. The kids are cute, fun and kind of entertaining.
    I love really good music — usually classical instrumental or by a strong vocalist.
    I enjoy speakers who have an interesting story to relate involving their personal experiences (the best are usually returning missionaries who actually do speak about their experiences).
    From that, I would suggest:
    * Let the primary sing numbers 4, 5, 6 times a year.
    * Have the young women, young men, relief society, elders quorum and, yes, even the high priests do the same.
    * Broaden special musical numbers. More instrumental music, preferably classical (my bias) with strings, winds and more. Allow other instruments (at my aunt’s funeral the absolute stunner was a version of “Oh, My Father” on a guitar with a vocalist. I doubt their was a single dry eye). I understand maybe barring drums and electronic guitars but there are many that could be appropriate.
    * How about bringing singers from other churches? I’d love to hear a Baptist choir. It would build inter-faith ties. It would be even cooler if some of our groups went to their services. We all believe in Christ. So, let us celebrate together.
    * Reverse the “ban” on visual aids. A well-selected picture or item can be powerful.
    * Let missionaries talk about their missions.
    * Swap Bishops every once in awhile and have them speak in the ward they are visiting.
    * Hymns are a problem. We only practice really in sacrament meeting. So, most of us don’t really know how to do more than a handful of hymns. Some have suggested doing a 10 minute practice time while teachers are setting up right after sacrament meeting. Great idea!
    Just a few of my ideas . .
    No where do the scriptures or revelation mandate dullness . .

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    At age 60, I have been attending Sacrament Meetings for a long time. I grew up in a very blue collar ward where most of the men either worked at the Kennecott mine or smelter, or for the Post Office (literally, there were about 10 guys who were postal workers, including my Dad). My last ward was a combination of nuclear engineers and potato farmers. My current ward is mostly professionals: engineers, professors, doctors and dentists, and attorneys.
    What makes for good Sacrament Meeting talks is not the professional polish of the speakers, but the ability of a speaker to talk about specific gospel principles, like the Atonement, and Repentance, and actually speak from the heart, and look at the members of the congregation, rather than read long quotes from a General Conference talk. I want it to be doctrinally sound (because if it isn’t, it becomes distracting). But it doesn’t have to be highly original in either form or content. What I am talking about is basically a 15 minute version of a testimony (we should only get 1 minute versions in Fast Meeting).
    We should take advantage of the fact that we are drawing from hundreds of members by having them give us personal experiences of the gospel in their lives. When it comes from the heart, it will rely on the Spirit, and we will experience an encounter with the Spirit, because, as people speak by inspiration, the Spirit helps communicate it to us. I think Jana is talking about worship being that shared experience of the Spirit.
    There is a great little video produced for the Seminaries and included in the Church History/D&C Sunday School DVD, where Brigham Young is speaking at a Sunday worship service in the old Tabernacle and talking about how his conversion came about because of the simple and unadorned testimony of one of the missionaries. He was very articulate in talking about it, but mostly in emphasizing that sincerity and having the Spirit trumps artifice and skill.
    I have found, when I was organizing professional workshops, that the value of the content of a speech was higher per minute in the first ten minutes than in the following ten, and especially than the last ten. I made it a policy to assign speakers only 20 minutes, at most. We got in 3 speakers an hour, instead of just one or two, and we got all the substance that any single speaker could have delivered in the longer time. We also had a couple of hours in which every person in attendance had 5 minutes to talk about the single most important issue they had dealt with. The participation gave people a reason to be there in person.
    So I would propose that speakers get only 12 to 15 minutes each, warned beforehand that they will be called on to finish in their time. That would give time for one more speaker in each meeting. And each one would be forced to focus on the meat of his or her topic.
    We are always looking for new callings to ensure everyone is fully engaged. I would call someone who is skilled in speaking and teaching how to speak as a Ward Speaking Coach. I would publish his or her name and phone number in the program, and give a card with that info to every person asked to speak. I would assign him or her ot call each person called to speak and have a dialogue about what they plan to talk about, and then check back with them again to see how they are progressing. He or she (ideally, one of each) should be available to meet with them at church or at his or their home, and even act as an audience to allow someone to practice who feels less confident.
    One personal observation. I would like to see more use of special days, theme Sundays, such as for Pioneer Day, Fourth of July, etc., just like we typically do for Mother’s Day. Then as we participate in events surrounding the holiday, we can also think about the spiritual aspects of it that were highlighted in our worship service. It would add a celbratory aspect to many of these meetings.
    I would like to second the idea of having special choirs made up from the various breakout groups of young men, women, RS, Elders and High Priests, as well as Primary. Having the Melchizedek Priesthood sing a patriotic hymn around the Fourth, or Veterans Day, including people who served in the military, would add meaning to that kind of service, and similarly would be a service that each group could perform. In a large group quality of voices would not be as much of an issue. And we would maximize participation.
    I served 20 years in the military, but only on one occasion, in a non-military congregation, can I recall being asked to speak about a patriotic theme in Sacrament Meeting. I don’t know if the bishopric forgot about my background (something I always mentioned when I moved in) or they didn’t think about such experiences as ones that would enrich a talk, which is sad. I really have not seen a lot of apparent attention paid to the question, What could Brother X talk about that would bring something extra? Or, Who could talk about topic Y with a special perspective?
    Another way to make speaking assignments more meaningful would be to delegate them to each organization. Have the president of a quorum or auxiliary assign speakers for a given Sunday, maybe once a quarter, perhaps in conjunction with a choir or musical number from the same group. How about three Primary teachers speak about their experiences teaching or leading the music? And then have the kids sing.
    For the life of me I don’t know how anyone could plan special musical numbers unless they first survey the ward members to find out who has what talents. Relying on their clique of known musicians and singers is too constraining.

  • http://goscentyourself.com Scentsy Independent Consultant

    Okay, this has got to be one of the most inspired columns of all time. My mother would shriek if she heard me say church is boring. Well, IT IS!
    It’s no wonder why established mormons fall away, especially in the teenage years. Why would someone at that age want to torture themselves?
    My suggestion?
    An open-forum discussion. Questions, rebuttals, etc. I think it would be great. Have a topic, discuss it, have the ‘common judge’ be the mediator and the clarifier .

  • Michelle

    Reading the comments, it’s clear to me that there is much variation in people’s experiences. As such, I think the generalizations made in this post are inappropriate.
    I have heard many a convert talk of feeling like they had come home when coming to our meetings, so I think the accusation that “our worship is simply not good enough for the people we’re trying to persuade” is missing the reality that many people are feeling the Spirit strongly when they worship with us.
    I personally look forward to my meetings every week and feel much worship goes on with my ward family. I come home feeling replenished and more often than not, often experience a real communion with heaven. Most of this comes from worshiping with people who are willing to open their hearts and share from the heart, and who cherish the simple power of the gospel in their lives.
    Most of what I see that brings the Spirit is not a skill but a state of being from the speakers — a humility and openness about faith and testimony that goes beyond a desire to teach but to really testify and apply and make the message personal. It also is enhanced by a community that cares about and serves one another, fostering a sense of being safe enough to be able to open up.
    That’s my experience, anyway. I think it’s less about skills that can be learned (not that I don’t think we can learn some along the way) and more about hearts knit together in unity and faith.

  • http://fstops-here.blogspot.com Janet Kincaid

    Hm. Did my comment (and one or two others before mine) disappear from this forum because somebody was offended by what I (we) posted? Or, is it less conspiratorial than that and there’s just a glitch in the system? I hope it’s the latter, because it would be a shame if there was censorship here.

  • http://sunstonemagazine.com Stephen Carter

    OK, this is just weird. The security word for this comment is “garment.” Is that a Beliefnet joke or something? ;)
    One of the reasons I enjoy my job so much as editor of Sunstone is that it gives me a way to inject the kind of life Jana is talking about into my faith tradition. The first thing I ask when I’m considering an article, or writing one, is “Does this make something new and interesting out of Mormonism?”

  • Fred W. Anson

    As a NeverMo Mormon Studies Scholar who has been to several LdS Services (due to having Mormon friends and family members) I just wanted to validate everything that Jana said in this instant classic of an article.
    Modern Mormons seem to have no idea just how dead boring your services are. It’s really pretty sad especially when you compare and contrast how lively and full of life Early Mormonism was. For those in doubt I would you to my article ‘Mormons: Pentecostals Gone Bad!’ http://www.concernedchristians.com/index.php?option=com_fireboard&Itemid=42&func=view&id=76819&catid=10 and John Farka’s, article ‘Speaking in Tongues and The Mormon Church’ http://www.concernedchristians.com/index.php?option=com_fireboard&Itemid=42&func=view&id=82704&catid=10 for original sources citations on just how infused Early Mormon services and culture was with spirit-filled (dare I say it?) Pentecostal life!
    Just to show you how bad things have gotten in Modern Mormonism, and I don’t mean to offend, but, honestly, I would rather go have a root canal than have to ever sit through another LdS Fast & Testimony meeting. Sorry folks but I’m NOT exaggerating on that one – that is the utter and sincere truth of the matter.
    Great job Jana – this REALLY needed to be said!
    And thank you for listening to this NeverMo perspective from someone who genuinely loves Mormons and is hoping and praying for a NEW kind of restoration to come to the LdS Church sooner rather than later.

  • Olivia Hutchinson

    I LOVE the Ward Speaking Coach idea. I’m going to tell my bishop about that one!
    I personally have a ball at church. We have so many opportunities to share and be involved on Sunday–speaking in class, giving talks, performing, serving in callings. It’s so rewarding. My current ward is full of great singers and we really make a joyful noise. Relief Society sometimes feels like group therapy–I got a new perspective on the Priesthood last week that I’d never thought of before. I’ve had every music calling there is multiple times and have done all kinds of cool music besides hymns–Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, cool obsure Christmas music. I’ve heard trombone quintets and xylophone solos in sacrament meetings.
    I really think that you get out of it what you put into it. I’ve worked at lots of other churches as a professional singer, and find that most people show up hoping someone else will make them feel something. But this is not the movies–being Zion is work. I think we have a responsibility to be actively involved, for everyone’s sake. If a member is giving a talk that doesn’t seem to jive much with me at the moment, I usually try to focus in a little more and see if there is anything I can get from it. Imagine how disheartening it must feel to see an audience reaching for their phones to play solitaire halfway through your talk when you’re nervous enough as it is to speak!

  • http://www.newordermormon.org John

    Fantastic essay. As a ~10 year adult joiner of the church, I have reached the point of not being able to take it anymore. I have a modest proposal for initiating the change to a more interesting sacrament meeting – drop out.
    Two quick examples:
    In the early 20th century and in the later 20th century, active members of the church began refusing to wear garments and/or altering the garments to make them more comfortable. For a time church leadership tried to demand more compliance, increase the questioning in the TR interview process to no avail. Both times the compliance with garment standards continued to decline and the church changed the garments.
    Treatment of blacks in the church. Before 1978, black males were not only denied the priesthood but black women were forbidden to enter the temple, black children could not be sealed to their adoptive parents, and black teens could not do baptisms for the dead. Colleges that traditionally competed against BYU in academic and sporting competitions began forbidding competition with BYU. Companies that traditionally recruited graduating students at BYU began to boycott the university. Congress was beginning to discuss removing the church’s tax exemption. Only under this pressure did the church change the policy against blacks.
    Similar tactics can be used to improve the sacrament experience. Simply attend the second two hours of the sacrament meeting. Wards receive budgetary dollars based on sacrament attendance. Church leaders access the health of the church with this attendance number. If you keep attending sacrament meeting you are telling the leadership that you find the meetings acceptable.

  • WillF

    John, at least for as long as I can remember sacrament meeting has been one and not three hours long. There is Sacrament Meeting, then Sunday School, then Priesthood/Relief Society Meeting (or some variation of that order depending whether Sacrament Meeting is first or last).

  • Aloysiusmiller

    This is a very subversive comment in the best sense of subversive. It is largely true especially on the surface. But it jumped your Bishop, your Stake President and the Area Authority Seventy and the Area President and will be read and considered at the highest levels. Try that without the internet!
    But in another sense it is totally untrue. I have been to many meetings that are as you describe and came away richly blessed in proportion to my spiritual preparation. My reflections and ruminations on the poorly prepared and weakly delivered talks guided by the Holy Ghost speaking to me taught me much and I felt enriched, not by the charisma or preparation of the speaker but by the power of the Holy Ghost. “…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” If you leave a meeting disappointed look first to yourself. Then your reflection on that will be drop that will slowly fill the bucket and turn eventually into an outpouring.

  • http://ldsblogs.org Justin

    “The number one reason why our services bore even our most devout members to tears is that American Mormons don’t expect the Holy Spirit to show up in anything more than a warm, fuzzy, non-threatening way. I say American Mormons because elsewhere around the world, Mormons still have the early saints’ experiences of praying for the manifestations of the Spirit, being slain in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, and other things that scare the knee-length shorts off American Mormons today.”
    As an American Mormon who is less than omniscient, I won’t speak for American Mormons regarding their expectations for spiritual experiences. And as an American Mormon who is less than omnipresent, I will refrain from speaking definitively regarding the spiritual experiences that my fellow American Mormons do or do not have. I will say, though, that I’m happy to hear that non-American Mormons are being slain in the Spirit and speaking in tongues and that Ms. Riess has witnessed–or had–such experiences.

  • Curmudgeon

    As one of those dreaded “intellectual” Mormons, I agree only with #4. The talks suck. Most of the so-called Spirit we feel and many strive for in their lessons, is emotion–not that this is bad. I attend church regularly–and have for over 60 years–not to “worship” God. I have found no definition or explanation of that I can accept. It smacks way too much of obsequiousness, ignorance, and dominance–none of which I think God intends (though He hides it very well). I come to church to see my friends. In this current regime where lesson material and mindsets have become limited to only the most basic, redundant, mystical, claptrap, I also come to see if I can eke out some new learning (and I also enjoy “teaching,” via my comments, my traditional, “iron rod,” largely thought-challenged brethren.
    So, “boring,” most definitely. But, devolving to fundamentalist, evangelical, “holy rollers” is not the direction I would like to see change

  • MrNirom

    Yes.. we go to church to be entertained? At the beginning of each Sacrament meeting one should be handed a piece of paper that has a list of numbers on it.. 1 thru 10. At the end of meeting, you circle the number that displays your “rating” of just how good (10) or bad (1) the meeting was. Of course.. the only thing we have to throw our judgment upon is the speakers and the musical performance of the rest of the ward. The “sacrament” portion of the meeting was dictated by Christ so there is no judging there. I suppose we could just have a comment section and therefore provide some sort of criticism about the priesthood and they way they delivered the bread and water. (I just wish those 12 year old boys would just tuck in their shirts and at least wear a less wrinkled shirt)
    Ah.. an then there is the concept of worship. Just what does “worship” look like? In the Catholic Church if you stood off to one side and watched them.. there is a lot of standing, kneeling, sitting, kneeling, sitting, standing, shaking hands, sitting, etc. Is that what it is suppose to look like? I guess we don’t have enough people rolling down the isles and shouting “Praise the Lord” when ever the “spirit” moves them. To have people jump up and start speaking in tongues with no translator present is like what? I don’t know as I have never experienced that. Maybe our problem is that the speakers don’t get the congregation involved enough. Maybe they should be asking every so often “Can I get a witness?” which then we could respond “Praise the Lord” or “Alleluia”
    So.. someone tell me.. what does “worship” look like? Reverence verse irreverence.
    Yes.. as I watch other denominations that go and worship, some need a whole backstage crew that handles the lights and sound of the production that is being performed for them each Sunday. Is that worship? I guess they get to clap their hands together in beat with the music. Maybe we need a bit more fire and brimstone antics at the pulpit to entertain us at church so that we decide to come back the next Sunday rather than decide that maybe taking the family boating would be more “fun”.
    Again.. just what does “worshiping” God look like?

  • Daniel

    How interesting sacrament meetings are vary from listener to listener. Oftentimes I’ll be bored out of my mind but my wife will talk about how the meeting was amazing, or visa versa. It all depends on your level of spiritual preparation, your mindset going into the meeting, and what you life is like at the time (sacrament meetings get more interesting if I have some difficult issue I’m trying to work through). My conclusion is that sacrament meetings are meant to facilitate personal worship, not necessarily entertain. However, I do think that many of the suggestions in the comments would improve our meetings (more time to prepare talks, more training in public speaking, more spiritual preparation at home, etc.)

  • aprilmeadow

    The best sacrament meeting i was at, was when someone in the back loudly “broke wind” Which woke many people up… and many felt the spirit for sure……

  • B. Fitzgerald

    I fully agree that our meetings are boring. I travel often and routinely visit foreign congregations which are fare more informative. On more than one occasion, Elder Holland has stated that our Church meetins ought to be worth attending. His talks certianly are! I don’t think we need to be holy roolers, but i would like someone to put some serious thought and feeling into their talks. I was in Africa last month and attended some great meetings. this month, I’m in Ukraine and the talks were great too. i hate returning to the united States where I will attend meeting devoid of thought, humor, or feeling.
    We can do better!

  • B. Fitzgerald

    Sorry for all the mistakes in the above post. i’m typing this out on my phone.

  • http://diannehanks.com Dianne Hanks

    I appreciated these remarks and yet I feel compelled to offer a different perspective if I may. First, I think it’s wise to see things from others’ viewpoint so that we are not guilty of staying in a “Mormon Bubble”. However, that being said, I’d like to share a theory as to WHY our meetings are the way they are.
    1) The Lord’s church is global. That means no matter where you go on the planet, in whatever language, things will be consistent; the format, the sacrament prayer, talks, etc.
    2) The Church is run by lay-people, we’re NOT professionals. I like the idea of teaching HOW to give a proper talk — it makes me crazy when people from the outset say they just got a call the night before, we don’t need to know that, just give your talk already! We’re NOT in the business of entertaining, we are there for pure and simple worship. I think firesides are the proper venue for more flashy presentations, but that church itself is pure and simple and yes MAYBE boring for those not close enough to the spirit to make it a NEW experience every time.
    3) The Spirit whispers new life and touches hearts like it’s the first time you’ve heard about whatever topic we’ve all heard a zillion times. What the prophets say every conference is a return to the basics: Read your scriptures, attend your meetings, give service, pay your tithing, etc. etc. etc, and STILL people don’t do even those basics. Repetition is simply God’s way to communication and a further evidence of His endless patience for our continued weakness in NOT doing valiantly as we sojourn through mortality. If one NOT close to the Spirit, it may seem boring. Maybe it’s time to repent if things are ALWAYS boring. I sometimes imagine a little trap door beneath the pulpit that the bishop could push if things get way to boring, haha, so I have my own moments of supernal boredom as well. One outsider one Sunday with no pure intent but to observe is not a fair assessment really, especially given the world’s need to flash and sparkle and tie up microwave problems in 30 minutes or less. The Lord’s way is the Law of the Harvest, period.
    While I liked the title of your article, “Flunking Sainthood”, I think you flunked in your assessment caught up in the world’s perspective. God’s ways are NOT the world’s ways and I’m sure He could care less what the world thinks. Keep it simple: be obedient and count on other aspects of your life to complicate matters. Realize that the sweetness of uniformity throughout the globe gives comfort and testifies that things are under His watchful care for ALL His precious children.

  • Victor

    You make me grateful for my ward where I am routinely impressed by the quality of the talks. The internet savvy teenagers make talks today with more doctrinal depth than most of the adult talks I grew up listening to.
    I note the comment above about the Spirit whispering. That puts the burden on us to be the receptors of the Spirit more than on a performer trying to serve it up to us. As to training on giving talks, Elder Oaks has addressed giving talks in General Conference as Elder Eyring has addressed preparation for service. To those who are listening the topic is not unattended.
    I hope you will write more on worshipping God and how you would like to see that cultivated and which spiritual experiences could be more regularly manifest. I think there is room for fruitful discussion within the constraints of maintaining worldwide consistency and credibility.

  • Lyman Wight

    This article is spot on and Dianne’s reaction to it is so typically Mormon. There can’t possibly be something wrong with the institution or its practices. If you perceive a problem, the problem is you. You need to pray harder, fast more, live more perfectly, pay a fuller tithe.
    The truth is, the Emperor really does have no clothes. Spirit™ or no spirit, the meetings are incurably B.O.R.I.N.G. All life has been systematically removed by the correlation committee in SLC. This includes sacrament, Sunday school, and priesthood-relief society. I’d even include the youth programs, which are a shell of the engaging and enjoyable programs I took part in as a kid in the 70s and 80s.
    The mind-numb members are not the problem, the church is.

  • Aaron

    When I was young growing up in a Utah neighborhood ward, we used to have testimony meetings that only a masochist could enjoy: long, painful silences when no one got up to say anything. One day, during one of those terrible silences we thought would ever end, an old man in the back stood up and said in a loud voice: “Since Hymn 206.” No one knew what to do, but eventually we all stood up and sang Hymn 206, which in the old hymnbook was “Put Your Shoulder To The Wheel.” For a few brief minutes, we actually worshipped together. And when we sat down, people almost fought to stand up and bear testimony. You are definitely on to something.

  • http://mormonsoprano.com MoSop

    Remember the scripture “Where there is much given, there is much required”. The opposite holds true: “Where there is much required, much is given”. Being a Mormon means we are striving daily to follow Christ by keeping His Commandments, and trust in His promise that He will send special blessings for obedience. One of His important commandments is to attend our weekly meetings, particularly our sacred Sacrament Service. God’s Commandments were not designed to be kept only when they are convenient, entertaining, enjoyable, or easy. We believe that God never asks us to do anything without providing a blessing for our obedience. Living a Christ centered life has never meant we are choosing the easy road. When we commit to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him”, and we join His church, we are choosing all of the blessings and challenges that come with it. We choose to have faith in an unseen God, and to have faith in unseen blessings. We choose to be part of a perfect church filled with imperfect people and then must regularly choose whether to become offended and critical, or patient and forgiving. [that is the REAL culprit of all retention issues]. We choose to trust in God when everything goes wrong in our life, and to acknowledge God when everything goes right. We choose to help others in every way we can, and to serve without compensation in everything we are asked to do. We choose to be mocked for what we believe and stand strong. We realize that when we cannot be stopped from believing, then we will be criticized for our imperfections – both by people outside and inside our church [from inside is a betrayal of fellowship, and always hurts the most].
    Mormons all over the world choose to attend their Sunday worship services week after week even when it is challenging, requires great sacrifice, or stretches us to develop uncomfortable Christ-like attributes such as patience and long suffering. When each person arrives at the chapel, they may choose to be present in mind and soul as well as just their body, or not. Each may choose to enjoy themselves, or not. Each may choose to grumble, criticize, and point fingers, or decide to look inward for improvement. God gave us the marvelous freedom to choose! It is entirely up to us how we will use His gift.

  • Killerbug

    You know what is really boring? Blogs on Beliefnet. I was referred to this piece of dreck by a newsletter I receive daily. Otherwise I would not have wasted my time.

  • stacy

    I love how easy it is to turn personal responsibility into a self-righteous call for *other* people to repent. “If you see a problem, then the problem is with you!” Um, or, maybe it’s a collective problem that we could all stand to think about. Which is kind of the point of the post. There’s a lot of straw men being thrown up here, saying that she’s calling for more “entertainment” or wants to be like the Holy Rollers or some other denomination. I don’t get that sense. I think she’s simply saying that we could all do more to be better prepared, gain more skills for speaking or music or whatever, that kind of thing.
    Yes, we need to be prepared and listen with the Spirit. But people who are talking about personal responsibility to be prepared keep overlooking the other side of that equation: that the *SPEAKER* and the *LISTENER* may both be edified, BOTH of them need to be speaking and listening by the Spirit. That’s not necessarily a function of skill, but it can help the speaker (and/or singer/chorister) convey by the Spirit just as much as it’s a responsibility of the listener to be prepared to hear by the Spirit.
    I don’t think it’s that hard a concept to grasp, but we certainly do love calling each other to repentance instead, don’t we?

  • Mel Tungate

    Jana, you are is definitely right about 3, 4 and 5, and we should include Lyman’s extension of Pr, RS, and Sun School.
    We ARE in the entertainment business in the sense we compete on a given Sunday with a ton of entertainment products. We need to vastly improve our production values, and the content of most talks and Gos Doc lessons are at best inconsistant and at worst pathetically low.
    There is a reason our retainment numbers are plummeting, and we had better figure out what they are.
    No offense, Diane, but I would doubt that you know what God thinks. I might be wrong. He had some reason for creating the Osmands. :-)
    Mel

  • In NJ

    I disagree. While some of this is true to a point, it makes the fatal errors of over-generalisation, over-simplification, and, well, the outright hubris that her anecdotal experience must be the absolute truth.
    1) I go to church open to the spirit for revelation (spiritual manifestations), as does just about every member I know;
    2) I also go to worship God–to show my devotion and praise him with prayer and song (see point 3), again, like most of those I know;
    3) I enjoy our different hymns. Yes, they are ofter sung way too slow, but there are many beautiful hymns in the English language, as well as others, and I am not alone in my feelings;
    4) Some talks really do suck, there is no getting around that. But, instead of making a list of why our meetings are so boring using examples and arguing only one side, you should maybe realize that allowing members to preach to other members can be humbling and uplifting, and one of the best ways for people, especially new members and those having difficulty, to worship (See point 2);
    5) Perhaps the best way to sum up my counter to this point is the apocryphal quote of Joseph Smith (paraphrasing), We teach our members good principles and allow them to choose for themselves. Your argument on this point is very, very condescending.
    Argue both the merits of both sides, and perhaps then I will take you seriously.

  • http://simplethoughts.weebly.com/ Simple thinker

    It would be wrong to think that LDS church meetings could not be improved. Certainly they can. Like the author, I appreciate spiritual manifestations. But rather than more speaking in tongues or passing out, I’d prefer more instances of those convincing feelings of love from my Heavenly Father.
    Like the author, I would like to do a better job of worshiping while I am in church. But I don’t think a visiting celebrity is required. I would prefer deeper, more heartfelt prayers, even more powerful testimonials and expressions of love and appreciation, and further increased reverent behavior toward all things sacred. I would like my heart to incline further toward spiritual blessings above all else.
    Like the author, I would like improved music. Though we can always improve our singing abilities and variety, my greater desire is that more of the singing will come from ever deeper within the heart.
    Like the author, I think talks can improve. I’ve had the privilege of being taught by what I consider to be some of the most eloquent and skilled teachers on earth. Speaking and teaching skills can make a difference. But the difference these make is secondary. To improve talks, I’d prefer greater spiritual preparation through more righteous living, careful study, and humble prayer and fasting. Speaking skills, like singing ability, can only accentuate what is already inside us.
    Like the author, I believe the LDS church needs a dynamic vision and an open mind to attract and retain converts. But rather than reshaping our vision on satisfying the entertainment preferences of men and women, our minds and hearts must be open to the inspiration of heaven. I would like to see new approaches embraced, inasmuch as they are inspired and designed to bring souls to Christ as opposed to bringing souls to “see the show.” The latter inspires fleeting commitment. The former creates an eternal beacon.

  • Another Less Than Adequate American Mormon

    Fantastic comment “In NJ”! I agree wholeheartedly.
    This article is much too over-generalized, negatively slanted and critical to be truly helpful or respected.
    What is the point of your article Ms. Riess other than to complain and criticize? You have managed to unfairly characterize American Mormons, myopically focus on everything that annoys you personally in your own worship service, and look through the past with rose colored glasses. You have completely overlooked the truth that every generation of Mormons have followed different protocols based on their unique situation, and the prophetic direction at the time. Every generation have faced challenges with the human failings of the membership. And every generation has overcome those challenges by faithfully following their leaders and the protocols of the day, doing their best, learning at their own pace, being loving and patient, and embracing the joy of their membership in Christ’s Church, and having a living prophet.
    You’re theory is that “Mormon meetings are Boring”. Fine. Sometimes they are. Just like all church meetings of any denomination. And, you propose we should change. You’ve presented your wish list for your ideal church service – including having everyone speaking like polished professionals, angelic visitations every week, and every time the members sing to be magically transformed into sounding like the Tabernacle Choir. [a nice fantasy, but in case you haven't noticed yet, none of that has ever been in the Lord's Plan]
    You have offered few real-world solutions or practical suggestions for improvement. Only complaints. Your article really does nothing but paint a bleak, negatively biased and very incomplete picture of a Mormon Sacrament Meeting. You HAVE successfully accomplished offering one more forum for disenchanted members and general naysayers to rage against Mormonism. Wow, thanks. There certainly isn’t enough of that going on already.
    But who cares, right? You’ve played the devils advocate card – railing against what you profess to cherish and believe in – and now your post will be guaranteed plenty of hits, and you will get bonus points with BeliefNet and many more offers to be a guest writer. Interesting. Perhaps stirring the pot just to serve your own vanity was your only real intent.
    Be sure to bask in your personal victory on Sunday while you’re partaking of the Lord’s Sacrament and renewing your baptismal covenants. Then enjoy criticizing all the inadequate talks that will be sure to follow. I’m sure that will help you feel much closer to the Holy Spirit.

  • James Picht

    I think you have it nailed almost perfectly. I often enjoy sacrament meeting and feel spiritually nourished by it, but that’s because I spend much of the meeting reading my scriptures and wondering what the speakers might have said if they’d started working on their talks a day or two before the meeting (why do they almost always start by telling us how unprepared they are?). I really, really hate the way we treat our music, dropping off verses to suit the time-frame (aren’t those hymns supposed to be prayers to God?) and singing them as if we’re thinking about something else. If you don’t know or care enough to take an active role putting meaning into the experience yourself, I think it must be excruciating.
    By the way, NJ, the quote wasn’t that we “let” them govern themselves; they govern themselves, period. No permission is required.
    Jim Picht

  • bonnie seifert

    What you are saying is true. members of the church might not want to say it, but what you said is the truth.
    I have seen bishops that have no experience in counseling and have no business counseling people.
    Most of the members don’t even know that the church has had to pay out millions of dollars in law suits for covering up abuse.
    I hope that you know that by printing all of this the church will come down on you. They will go to your husband and tell him to quiet you. You could be excommunicated for what you have written.
    Sometimes truth hurts. Thank you

  • Richard

    Really good points and I think you are right on many of them.
    I just wish the priesthood brothers in the church would take sisters serious.

  • Alan

    Jana said:
    “What’s missing is worship, and that is not the same as entertainment. Worship focuses on experiencing God, which is what so many Mormon meetings fail to do.”
    What does she mean by that? she says we must worship, but does not define it well. To experience God is a very vague definition. Many people would say that the warm, fuzzy feeling they get is the Spirit, and therefore, communion with the Spirit is experiencing God. To ask for more than feeling the Spirit seems to sound like asking for entertainment.
    It seems to me that the author is looking for a push towards more a protestant style of worship. Other changes asked for can be easily implemented by any local leader – so why not accept responsibility for your faith community and volunteer to do those very things. Blaming a generic mormon leadership without acknowledging where the changes can happen is not useful.

  • Chris

    Err…. to the “Another Less Than Adequate American Mormon” that was much too harsh and also did not accomplish anything. Am I the only one who sees a post like that and thinks it a form of mental self gratification? To that poster, I say, you are a true critic after my own heart, only without the charity toward others. Try holding back your biting criticism sometimes or apply it to yourself for personal improvement. Otherwise you’re engaging in what I’d call mental self-abuse, with the intent to offend others. For surely you do not believe your post will cause a change of heart or enlightenment in the author?
    I say this as someone who agrees with the premise our meetings can be boring at times, and agrees we can do a better job, but also vehemently believes the reason for the boredom in church is our own doing. Tinkering with the structure, methods, and protocol of a meeting only serves to distract from our own personal improvement, in my opinion.

  • Ren

    A few things:
    1. This article definitely does not only speak for American congregations. Sacrament Meeting is equally boring all over the world. And yes, I do know this from experience.
    2. Dianne H said: “Realize that the sweetness of uniformity throughout the globe gives comfort and testifies that things are under His watchful care for ALL His precious children.”
    I just found that phrase “Sweetness of uniformity” funny. The North Koreans are big on the sweetness of uniformity. I mean after all, individual needs are sooo overrated. Christ was much more concerned with managing the masses than converting individual souls wasn’t he?
    3. Another Less Than Adequate American Mormon: Wow. Way to bring on the hellfire and brimstone. As opposed to the author of the original post, you are a fantastic ambassador for the Mormon church.
    “Perhaps stirring the pot just to serve your own vanity was your only real intent.
    Be sure to bask in your personal victory on Sunday while you’re partaking of the Lord’s Sacrament and renewing your baptismal covenants. Then enjoy criticizing all the inadequate talks that will be sure to follow. I’m sure that will help you feel much closer to the Holy Spirit.”
    Because this kind of condemnation and self-righteousness perfectly exemplifies Christ’s teachings. -_-
    But in all seriousness, it’s attitudes like those quoted above that have far more of a negative impact on my view of the church than boring church meetings.

  • http://opensourcesonnets.blogspot.com Gideon Burton

    I’d like to say something from a bishop’s point of view. I was just released from that calling after being in the bishopric for six years. Some quick calculating, and I found that my counselors and I organized about 225 sacrament meetings and hundreds of speakers. It was one of the most important things we did.
    Early in my time as bishop our stake president gave us a very solemn charge to respect the sacredness of sacrament meeting and to be very careful about whom we asked to speak and how we decided on topics. “You can set the tone,” he said. And he taught us how we should prepare ourselves for our own sermons, and that we should model good speaking to the members.
    Every decision about a speaker was in terms of what does our ward need to hear? and then, okay, who can speak to this need? No one spoke because they were entering or exiting the ward, or because they hadn’t done so in a long time. We often repeated speakers because they consistently brought the spirit, used the scriptures, testified personally and simply, and edified.
    And as a bishop I found myself praying very earnestly during meetings for the speakers to ground their comments on Christ and the Atonement, to bear a simple testimony, to connect personally with the congregation, to draw from scripture and from the recent words of the prophets, and to edify. I had that prayer answered over and over.
    When I spent some months in South London I learned from a bishop there that it’s okay to give direct instruction to the ward about how to speak and how to bear testimony. So we did that. And talks and testimony meetings improved. Several times I would organize speaking instruction for the youth during mutual or in their Sunday meetings. People really can be taught to speak well, speak better.
    Worship takes work, both from leaders and congregants. A speaker who is exceptionally prepared (not necessarily eloquent) can engage a listener who is less prepared; a listener who comes looking for God can find Him within almost anything.
    I find Him consistently and bountifully within sacrament meetings in my ward and in other congregations, including the Catholic mass I attend with relatives. Most of my best religious experiences have been rough-hewn, absent any sort of “production values” — finish, aesthetics, drama and spectacle, or eloquence. I’m not against those things, and occasionally they coincide. But what matters most to me is that my covenant with God brings me shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters every week, and their weaknesses teach, encourage, and humble me. We can successfully strive for more profound worship while having the grace and humility to accept what is provided us. The Israelites loathed the plain manna. I’ll be back next week for more.

  • BBB Neely

    In my ward we did something recently, which I had not experienced in my 20 years of attending church. After the sacrament had been passed, the congregation was asked to approach the pulpit with a favorite hymn. We would then sing a verse or two of the hymn, and the person picking the hymn would provide a short story or testimony of why that song was special. This constituted a great meeting. Not only did we get to sing more than the standard three hymns, but we heard some touching and uplifting descriptions of why these hymns were special.

  • Craig

    Part of the problem is somehow the notion that quiet=spiritual is the accepted norm among many of the LDS faithful. The bible talks about making a “joyful noise” unto the Lord, but in Mormon services, the only noise is the kids crying.
    My wife, who is a ward organist, attended a meeting in which an official from the church in charge of music talked about not playing certain hymns because they were too rhythmic. She has gotten grief about not playing slow enough. Some people seem to want dirges and equate the quietness with some sort of spirituality.
    I like the idea of members talking and I’m not sure how much training could work. Let’s face it, the way the church does things, if there were a training for speakers it would result in making everything bland and uninteresting. At least now there’s variety. Sure, some are bad, but there are some good ones too. I agree that the restrictions on visual aides and making missionaries give a doctrinal talk needs to change. We are a groups of individuals, not a hive.

  • RDWinmill

    I appreciate Sis. Reiss’ “Oh, that I were and angel and could have the wish of my heart” Alma-like ardor. On balance it is a good article. I have written or thought as much my self in years gone by. My experience is a little different. I have been taught that I come to Sacrament meeting, primarily to renew “my covenants” with my Savior and my heavenly Father. That quiet reflection time is precious to me. It is worship in a very personal sense. Anything else I get from the meeting is a plus. Let’s take music. I always enjoy the music as I love to sing the “songs of the heart” in parts (both tenor and bass) and enjoy harmonizing with my wife. Most wards we have been part of have special music numbers once or twice per month. These are often very nice, for amateurs. I enjoy the occasional well prepared, spiritually up lifting talks, but often simply pick up a theme to reflect on or search the scriptures or ponder if the talks are delivered by rank amateurs working out their own salvation as best they can.
    I like many other people I know, love testimony meeting. Sometimes the testimonies are stir me, sometimes they stir others, sometimes I just work over my testimony in my own mind and sometimes I actually rise to give the testimony I have carefully considered.
    Turns out we have a do-it yourself religion.

  • Janet Williams

    I believe worship is the feeling of a deep reverence for God from within, and serving others. I dont think we need fancy talks and music etc. to worship God. We are a lay church and we each are not talented in speech and music enough to stir up a large congregation into what may look like a spiritual high, nor do we need to be. We can do it more quietly. I am grateful when it is my turn to speak, I dont have to worry about putting on a dog and pony show to be sure the congregation is stirred up enough. I think a huge part of worshipping God is learning of his ways–which is the main focus of our meetings as you state. When I am asked to prepare a talk–which no other church would even dream of having me do, I learn more about worshipping God than I could any other way. When I deliver the talk and bear testimony I am worshipping him by imparting his word to others. Bearing testimony is worship. Receiving testiony is worship. When we serve each other by giving and receiving spiritually things, that is what worshop is.The quiet–boring to you– nature of our meetings is a nice break from all the loudness and hussle during the week. I can listen to the speakers and simple music and contemplate their meaning in my own life and feel the spirit perfectly well in our meetings. There have been many times when I have had significant life changing spiritual manifestations while in sacrament meeting. I believe we do still have them, they are just more personal and not shown to every person in the room. If investigators are better prepared before the attend a meeting, they may be able to feel the spirit more, rather than depend on a show to trigger a high emotional response, which may or may not be spiritually pertinent to them.

  • Terry D Smith, Istanbul

    I must admit when I come states-side from Istanbul and visit meetings in various cities that most of them seem to be come and endure and depart affairs. I can see people like Janet Williams quietly working in herself and family on her own spiritual journey and worship – however, all to often, it is “worship ceremony” by the book and there to me does not seem to be any endeavor to bring the Spirit into the doings – yet this church is suppose to be directed by the Lord – and as the Bishop Gideon Burton stated above as a bishop or branch president, it is not only possible to request direct inspiration in our duties – in my mind it is imperative and it is what is most lacking so often in meetings in the USA – and also overseas in Europe. Pray for advise – as Brother Gordon said – one day in preparing I felt a strange thing – I was myself to speak on the dangers of alcohol – But none of our members had any problem with this area of life! Me either! But I prepared – and delivered – and just before it was time for me to speak, the door opened and an old member who seldom attended our meetings came in and sat down; after church, he came up and thanked me for taking about alcohol, his wife had been in the USA for three weeks and he was having some trouble about this and that is why he came to church that week – after not being in attendance for perhaps 8 months. Spirit can help us overcome “rationality” of our left upper brains and help us break away from our own selves whether you say ego (lower left brain) or self-organization (right brain; it takes dedication, sincerity and time, but as Brother Gordon said, it can be done.

  • http://www.suzannestrempekshea.com Suzanne Strempek Shea

    Jana – Thanks so much for reading my book in the first place. I’m honored that it sparked this pondering and solution-suggesting.
    With all best wishes,
    Suzanne Strempek Shea

  • In NJ

    @James Pricht: I said ‘allow,’ and not ‘let.’

  • Ryan

    Going to have to completely disagree with this. Church is meant to be entertaining, we live in a world of constant entertainment and gratification… it sounds like you want the church to keep up with the world in that sense. If you aren’t getting anything out of church it’s your own fault, you should be there for quiet, reverent worship… not a great speech.

  • Ryan

    Excuse me, I meant to say “church is NOT meant to be entertaining”

  • Parker

    Briefly, all I can add to the arguments on both sides of this debate is that we, as a church culture, need to focus A LOT more on Jesus in our sacrament meetings and other assorted get-togethers. I attend a BYU single’s ward, an it’s pretty obvious that for a lot of LDS college students these days, having a testimony and worshipping God is the same as loving your family and attending all your meetings. It’s true that if our sacrament meetings are going to improve, it starts with the individual, and at that individual level it needs to be about The Savior’s Atonement and His restored gospel. I sat through two consecutive Fast & Testimony meetings recently where Jesus was only mentioned in the Sacrament prayer, and as a closing anecdote to the students’ mindless rants about how much they love their roommates/professors/institute teachers/family, inthenameofjesuschristamen. Let’s all focus on the Savior more. It’ll bring the Spirit and be waaaaaaaaaay more entertaining than a rock band. Everyone wins!

  • Peter Nelson

    Well put. While my experience has often been different (I’ve found much diversity amoung different wards and branches), I can identify with what you wrote. You have well identified what really needs to improve in some of our units. Please keep it up. I will do the same.

  • http://blog.youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

    Thanks for posting this! I have to say that I appreciate your frank perspective and I really feel like your comments are spot on. I wish that we had more of a sense of autonomy and creativity at the local ward level when it comes to sacrament meeting. I also feel like people aren’t being creative enough about how to inspire people and bring them closer to God. Almost any topic can be inspiring and can be tied into worship if done correctly, while even overtly religious subjects or a talk on the atonement itself can be downright diabolical if it bores, depresses or otherwise fails to inspire.

  • Klint

    Do you think just maybe if God wanted things different he just might tell the Prophet? You seem to forget or not believe that He is the one leading this church through a Prophet. I agree that the church is not there to entertain you, it is help you to learn through the Scriptures and receive personal revelation through the Spirit.

  • Meg

    To whom ever is reading this, I would just like to reply to this article about mormom sacrament meetings. Its true, sometimes the meetings can be a little “dull” as you would say it, but I know that the purpose of church isn’t always to have a hallelujah chorus in the backround of the speaker, it is to be there, and to keep the sabbath day holy. We are keeping a commandment by going to church and that part of what sacrament meetings are for, to renew our own personal covenants and to let the speaker speak, and hope that they are learning from speaking to a congregation. I think that the spectator who went to church should fully understand that the speaking and the singing isn’t the most important part, it is the sacrament. So what if the songs are slow and “funeral” we are singing…let us sing! I understand the point of view that was given but it is very minimal and the obedience of going to a church on sunday is better than not going at all.

  • Dan

    Great article. As a life long member, lately my least favorite meeting is the Elder’s quorum where half Elders are staring off into space, lost in their own thoughts. A few weeks ago, the discussion turned to “How to increase our spirituality”. I came prepared to discuss President Faust’s talk about the Amish and how they dealt with tragedy by emulating the Lord’s endless forgiveness and mercy. Instead of a discussion, it became a rote sermon on having hometeachers interview their families as to their faithfulness in “Reading, Praying, Family Home Evening, etc.”. Dissappointing. I left the meeting not spiritually fed.

  • Cato

    Klint … have you ever read this? “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”
    Having more spiritual meetings — isn’t this a “correct principle”?

  • Barb

    So sad but true! As an ex music director as a teenager, and now an inactive Mormon despite being a returned missionary, I really like the lovely choirs and music sung in other churches! So much so that I have chosen to retain my LDS beliefs but attend elsewhere. No more funerial dronings for me, thank you. I sing to praise the Lord with joy and enthusiasm. And sometimes I even feel peppy about it!
    My thought is this- it is so bad because we have no paid choir director and pianist. I know, blasphemy. But if it is good for the congregation, makes people feel joyous and spiritual, then we need to get over ourselves and just do it! Aren’t there paid staff to keep temples painted, in good repair and clean? Why is it different at the ward level? Or have it be a missonary calling. I LIKED having practice songs. I am the bubbly type and would teach the congregation all the different parts. They loved it! I taught our seminary choir parts for graduation. Decent fun is not evil. Avoiding loud laughter is different from happy singing. Even singing negro spirituals. Even middle european songs. Or oriental songs. Let us enjoy the diversity of humanity praising God together in all kinds of wholesome joyous singing.

  • Teresa

    I can only speak for myself, so that is what I intend to do here…In every sacrament meeting I can ever remember, I have felt something. I might not have always known that the “something” I feel is the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost, but I have always felt it when I attend sacrament meeting. There are few places in the world where I can truly feel at peace & when I’m at church I am at peace. I am the mother of two small children who keep me very busy wherever I go, so it’s not as if I can simply sit quietly to myself & catch every word of each talk or lesson. I am often tempted to sleep in because “it would be so much easier.” I work until 2am and then get up between 7:30 and 8am to have everybody ready for church at 10am, so it is not the easiest thing to do, but I do it. I do it so that even when I feel like I’m going to pull my hair out, I can come to church and regain my strength and my peace. I come to church to be spiritually fed and bouyed up to make it through another trying week. I implore anyone who feels bored during sacrament meeting or any of our church meetings to go to the Lord in prayer and ask him to help you feel the spirit and receive the message that has been prepared for you in each talk & in each lesson. He hears your prayers and will inspire you!

  • Klint

    Cato, so are you saying we do not have an inspired Prophet leading this church. I was talking about the structure of our Sacrament Meetings. Wheather you get something out of it spiritualy or not is up to you.

  • Tina Bonelli

    I wonder how the spirit in Sacrament meeting would change once the speakers are aware that their talks would be critiqued, and that there is a speaking standard to be upheld? Would it invite a spirit of competition? Would it foster unfair judgment? Would the focus be on evaluating whose talk met the standards set instead of how the talk became the channel by which the Spirit whispered to individuals answers and promptings that suit them personally? Would a new convert be given a different set of criteria by which to have his talk evaluated? Have we not all shared in the joy of seeing the difference between a pre-mission farewell talk and a homecoming talk? We believe in eternal progression, born of growth. How can growth occur without starting where we are and building on our skill sets? The Lord asks us to love and serve regardless of ability. The power of the Atonement is that if we give our best, whatever that is, the Lord will make up the difference. That being said, I do feel members have a personal responsibility to make sure their talk is contributing to what is considered the most sacred meeting in the Church. An institute teacher put it best: “If my talk doesn’t contain inspired truth, why should people not go to the church down the street?”
    I recently attended my aunt’s church with her, and it was like attending a concert. I felt that the Spirit was being drowned out by electric guitars and drums. The people on the pulpit were glorying in their time on stage. Make no mistake…there was definitely fun in the air, and I believe the people love God, but there was no room for the quiet whisperings of the Spirit. In my long experience as a Latter-day Saint, I find that the Spirit communicates best in a quiet, reverent environment. I love the peace in Sacrament meeting. It is a break in the chaos. Also, where is our trust in the inspiration of the Brethren? I look to my leaders, I trust them.
    Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we find Sacrament meeting boring because our minds and hearts are elsewhere.

  • http://blog.youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

    To those who feel the need to defend the Church’s meetings, I think you are missing the point. Comment’s like Jana’s are not going to create a PR problem for us, but your neurotic compulsion to apologize for a faithful Mormon who is simply being honest and trying to help us improve just might. The fact is that almost all well-functioning programs in the church started out at the local level and were adopted church-wide afterwards.
    As far as those who are saying they don’t want sac. mtg. to become Gospel music hour, I heartily agree, although I think it would be great to hear an occasional Gospel-style song. But I think we could stand to loosen up a little and be more open to wider varieties of spiritual experiences, not so concerned about a particular format for every talk, congregational hymn and musical number, but extremely concerned about being fully engaged and making every part of the meeting meaningful.
    Some of the most inspiring meetings I’ve attended have been at wards with bishops who are professional musicians and know when a musical number would be appropriate even if it doesn’t have the usual instrumentation, and who also know when a normal musical number, such as the hackneyed “His hands,” would be inappropriate.

  • http://blog.youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

    Sorry for the superfluous apostrophe–typing too fast.

  • Tina Bonelli

    I do have to make one additional comment. I feel the title of this piece, “Flunking Sainthood” has very little to do with the actual topic, and is rather sensationalistic. What does true “sainthood” have to do with how our church meetings operate? To say that, as a church, we are flunking sainthood because some feel our meetings our dull is completely off the mark. Is Jana saying that because our meetings are, in her opinion, dull, we are nullifying our efforts to feed and clothe the needy, bear one another’s burdens, share the Gospel and do our best to follow the Master?

  • Elmer Fudd

    I think it is time for paid clergy. And I mean pay them handsomely! But not until they have completed an extensive training program involving financial learning, psychology, History, etc. etc. etc. That way our leaders can be a whole lot more help to all those they are responsible for and more. I have seen so much bad advice from Bishops and Stake Presidents who just don’t have the background to give good direction. Complete information is a prerequisite to good inspiration! I used to be proud of the fact that our church had volunteer clergy but I have come full circle with that now.

  • 2 Hour Meeting Guy

    When are we going to admit that we have two Sunday School classes each week — the Priesthood/Relief Society lesson and “Sunday School”? We don’t need both. Let’s go to Church on Sunday for two hours and spend the rest of the day in service, other Church meetings (PEC, etc.), with family and, perhaps, even resting? It is not as if we don’t fill the rest of the week with scouts, socials, mutual, extra meetings, preparing for sacrament talks, etc. The Catholics with 45 minute masses really have the right idea on this issue if not on others.

  • Sister Momma

    So…it appears what we have here is a PERFECT example of why we should support and sustain our leaders. Jana has opened the door to criticism and negativity, and it is feeding on itself. What’s next….critiquing General Conference and the talks given there? So, let me get this straight: Paid Clergy, Speech Teachers, 45 minutes of meetings zippier music….If everyone is so unhappy, why are you here? Oh…because it’s the restored church and the only one with authority? Because we have a prophet? Let’s remember that and act like it.

  • Aaron

    Our church may be highly authoritarian but I don’t see why we aren’t entitled to gripe once in a while among ourselves. In response to a post above, I think our conference talks are terrible and are part of the problem. Most of us take our cues from our leaders. But ever since conference became oriented to TV, the talks have gone downhill. All personality is gone, all excitement is gone, all spirit is gone. Everything is scripted, everything is read off a teleprompter. Conference was much, much better years ago.

  • Chantal

    I guess to each their own. I just got back from church and it was amazing for me. I couldn’t get over how on target it really was with the needs of the congregation and how much prayer and work has gone into the preparation on the part of the leaders here. I really felt edified. But, everyone is different.

  • Chris

    For those who asked what does worshiping God look like, the answer is given in Doctrine & Covenants section 93.
    Ultimately who we worship is God the Father, the creator of the great plan of Salvation, which his Son, Jesus Christ took upon his shoulders. That’s who we worship. We all know that.
    How do we worship? Also given in section 93 if you read carefully. We worship by becoming like Jesus Christ. We can’t do it fully on our own, which is why the Atonement has such great power and necessity in our everyday lives, and particularly why the sacrament is important to renew our baptismal covenants, and provide us with an opportunity to become clean through communion with the Savior.
    But we worship by emulating and striving to be like Christ. Naturally, we can’t do this on our own and rely on his grace in this life and ultimately in heave to be perfect (as he is) even as our Father in Heaven is perfect — and receive of the Father’s fullness as his Son received it.
    GREAT talk by Bruce R. McConkie on how to worship, which I hope the author takes a look at. I’m sure she’ more thoughtful than some of the detractors her give her credit for. I hope she and others consider the message here:
    http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=610
    It’s only available as an MP3, but it’s a wonderful listen that help me to realign my worship priorities and experience to get the most out of any meeting.

  • Jamie

    Do you know what is entertaining, what isn’t boring? Movies, Broadway shows, TV, concerts – those are not boring. They are also FAKE. I hate fake/doctored things – people prancing around putting on a show. The LDS church is not fake – it’s not a bunch of ppl putting on a show, it’s not some Hollywood production created to entertain you. It’s real – real people, who tell you what is in their heart. You would rather some fake production than listening to what is in someone’s real heart? (not what they learned at theology school – if theology school worked, there would not be 38,000 different denoms of Christians all fighting about what the Bible really says) The LDS church is real. If you prefer fake entertainment over real lessons that can actually help you that’s your choice. I like movies and concerts too – but I don’t go home and dress up / try and act like the ppl in the movies – I don’t honor / emulate ppl at the movies, ppl who like putting on a show, being fake – I emulate those at church who have their acts together.

  • Jamie

    one more comment -
    You might as well tell your mother “I don’t like coming home for Thanksgiving, I mean everyone is soooo boring, there’s no special effects, mom doesn’t have a fancy degree, her house is old and ordinary, she listens to old music, and she has a bad voice … I’m going to the movies this year instead of home for Thanksgiving – and I think others should not spend time with their boring families either – that is about the gist of her message. because our church groups are our families…
    We don’t go to be entertained, we go because we love the ppl at church, want to know their thoughts, enjoy being with friends/family, feeling the peaceful Spirit – still small voice. If you don’t know / don’t care about the ppl giving the talks, perhaps you should get to know them. Once you know them and care about them, you’ll also care about what they have to say.
    no longer expect spiritual manifestations???!!! I have had plenty of spiritual experiences at church…
    sorry, was that harsh? the world wants to make everything fake, and I guess if that is what you are used to – lights/camera/action/put on a show – if you don’t know what “real” is, or why it is special.. just think about what you would rather have – a show? or real friends sharing their real hearts the best they can? think about it!

  • Spox

    You know, I go to Church every single week, and I am thoroughly nourished by the good word of God every single week. I doubt that the sacrament meeting speakers in my ward are significantly better than those in all other wards, or that my class and quorum teachers are significantly more skilled than average.
    We do, in fact, worship together. We rejoice in being together, in seeing each other, in praying together, and in talking of Christ. We enjoy each other’s insights. We listen to each other’s stories. We talk of things we learned as little children in Primary, and consider ideas that we have never heard (or at least considered) before.
    And this happens every single week, almost without exception.
    As something of a General Conference junkie (I own a copy of every General Conference back to the mid-1970s and have many talks from conferences before that time), I have made something of a study of conference talks given over the last 40 years. In my opinion, General Conference talks of today are the best talks that have ever been given in that time.
    The difference in quality between the talks at the 1975 General Conferences and those in 2009 is staggeringly apparent to anyone who listens to them. The very best talks of those years are, of course, classic, but it seems like most talks given today are of that stellar quality. This is especially true comparing talks today with pre-correlation talks (though I don’t know why that would be, since GC talks aren’t correlated).
    Comparing my feelings on sacrament meetings and GC talks with those of others leads me to suspect that, in almost every case, the problems lie not in the speakers, but in the hearers.

  • Sam

    from 3:33pm above: “I hate fake/doctored things – people prancing around putting on a show. The LDS church is not fake… The world wants to make everything fake, and I guess if that is what you are used to – lights/camera/action/put on a show – if you don’t know what “real” is, or why it is special”
    Oh man. The giant thud of irony from your comment is still causing my ears to bleed from the impact of its concussive force. Nice one. I will smile all day thinking of it. FYI… you are an unwitting cast member in one of the greatest fake shows in the history of the world, far more elaborate than anything Hollywood every dreamed up.

  • Goldarn

    Ah, the old excuse is trotted out like clockwork from the Mormon defenders: “we aren’t here to be entertained.” Except no one said, “we want to be entertained.” They said, “we want church to be NOT DULL.” They want church to hold their interest. I’ve had lots of college classes that weren’t entertaining, but were interesting and not dull. Substituting the word “entertaining” for “interesting” is the classic bait-and-switch kind of lie.
    The other excuse Mormons trot out is “it’s up to you to feel the Spirit.” This gives them the “right” to have crying babies, unprepared and unenthused speakers and lessons, and a complete misunderstanding of what worship is all about. If it’s all up to me to feel the Spirit, then why come to church? Why not go up into the mountains, or on the lake, and meditate there? What do I need a self-service religion for?
    Some mormons seem to like church meetings the want they are. A great many don’t. Those great many are told by the some that something is wrong with THEM, not church. What happened to their baptismal covenant to bear each other’s burdens? How are you HELPING the others in your congregation to be more uplifted and such? Because if you aren’t, there’s really no reason for them to attend Mormon meetings if they feel the Spirit better elsewhere.
    I have never heard a Mormon utter the phrase, “Oh, it’s too bad we got out of Sacrament meeting early today,” but I’ve known many who were upset when it went overtime. If it was truly interesting and not dull, that wouldn’t be the case.

  • Grateful Saint

    Goldarn seems to forget that we are in a church that doesn’t shoo their children to a separate place while the adults worship, that everyone is in a different place in their earthly experience, that everyone truly does try their best. Perhaps another way to “bear one another’s burdens” is to love them where they are as they learn line upon line to improve. We have a church run by volunteers. No one went to college to learn how to put on a good sacrament meeting. No one gets a paycheck. There are good meetings and there are better meetings. But, if one is humble and is listening, even the most “dull” meeting can result in personal revelation, inspiration, nourishment by the Spirit, and growth for all parties involved. I object to the very title of this blog, “Flunking Sainthood.” This blogger seems to have a bit of a problem with perspective. From where I sit, criticizing the church instead of focusing on the good that it does, and focusing on the good SHE could be doing instead of criticizing something that has blessed many lives for many years sounds a lot more like flunking sainthood to me.

  • Wookie

    We need to remember that the church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. I have watched the boring speakers improve with time as they gained experience. Where do we expect them to get the experience? We are to teach one another. That precludes auditioning speakers so we can get the very best. Although I feel for the visitors who may be bored by a dull speaker, I have learned that each has a gospel principle that is being taught, and I can get it if I listen. Several Apostles have indicated in conference talks that things said over the pulpit may stir other thoughts in the minds of the listeners. Many spiritual experiences come from these triggered thoughts.

  • Goldarn

    Grateful Saint, I didn’t forget that. But I do object to some of your characterizations: A good way to “bear one another’s burdens” is to HELP each other, not just LOVE each other. You said to love them as THEY learn to improve. It’s the same thing I was talking about — instead of helping, we dump the search for solutions back to the people who have the problems.
    I was the chorister for two different wards for years. As I sat on the stand and looked over the congregation, I saw faces full of indifference, boredom, and even sadness. The minority looked interested, but most of the people didn’t. As chorister, I could only do so much. I tried to AT LEAST choose and direct songs that didn’t interfere with the Spirit and added something to the topic of the meeting. That is, when the bishopric didn’t change the topic without telling me (not at the last minute — just not telling me, even when I asked. It’s endemic, as far as I can tell).
    We’ve had some real good meetings lately — every few months they have a “Bring a friend Sunday.” The ward leadership puts in a lot of effort in planning. They assign the talks more than a week in advance. The topics aren’t just another conference address, and the songs fit well with the meeting (and are played up-tempo!). But the next week we’re back to normal. It’s too much to collectively put in the same amount of work that a single preacher in another church puts in every week.
    I guess I have just one question for the “everyone can feel the spirit if you *really* try, you lazy losers” crowd here: Do you think that the ward leaders, the Bishop, the speakers, even the chorister, can do better? Do you think it’s worthwhile for them to do better? Are you actually *happy* with how things are? Or is this like a sporting event, where the slightest hint of criticism toward your team–the mormon church–make you want to defend the status quo?
    I think the Mormon Church could have better meetings that would help the church grow and bring the “blessings of membership” to many people. I think the typical 3-hour block meetings is hindering the accomplishment of the missions of the church.

  • http://blog.youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

    I think it’s a sign of the immaturity of our community that many people commenting here seem to be incapable of listening to the analysis without assuming that the Church is under attack by the ungodly and that they must rush to its defense. It should be possible for us to respectfully and candidly discuss things that could be improved without questioning the faithfulness of the person doing the questioning. This requires loving and secure disciples.
    Dianne, Tina and Grateful Saint, please try to develop a sense of humor. The title of the blog is (I assume) an attempt at self-deprecating humor, not an attempt to please the Pharisees. I feel safe in assuming that Jana is referring to herself and nobody else in the blog title.

  • InsideOutMan

    FIRST: I don’t disagree completely, but I think her arguments are off base. I don’t think we need to completely reform the system, but a bit of creativity and open-mindedness could go a long way in both message and delivery.
    SECOND: The terminology– What does she mean by the word “worship”? It sounds to me that she uses the word in a born-again sort of way. Which is a fine use of the word, and in no way is that an inappropriate way to worship. However, for me personally, in that sense, “worship” does nothing for me. I’d rather be enriched mentally or emotionally by personal testimony and/or discussion of scripture.
    THIRD: Even in the most dull of sacrament meetings, during the most awfully boring talk, I can still have a fulfilling spiritual experience. Just thinking about how I would give the talk, or trying to remember other talks/scriptures that deal with the same subject or thinking of testimony building experiences bring me into the frame of mind that invites the Spirit. (assuming my kids behave enough for me to have a single thought of my own)
    Maybe then, as suggested in article, there SHOULD be some training given by the church. I don’t think educating members on how to properly give/prepare for a speaking assignment (or how to bear a testimony for crying out loud) would be bad thing. I think it would be beneficial to add some additional training as well– how to cultivate rich personal spiritual experiences.

  • Murray

    Our sacrament meetings are positively exciting compared to General Conference. If I had a dollar for every general conference session I have sat right through without falling asleep, I would be very poor.
    It’s not the sacrament meetings that need fixing!

  • http://swearingelders.blogspot.com Swearing Elder

    Of course, “Nobody seems prepared to envision this differently.” The church is very (very, very) top-down and the only way this would change is from the top down. Any changes at the local level are quashed. There is just no room for variability in Mormonism and the General Authorities have so little imagination and are so completely out of touch, they will never make the necessary changes so that LDS meetings are less boring.
    Mormon meetings — of all types — are bureaucratic in nature. Think about the first thing that is done at a sacrament meeting — announcements and ward business.
    Think about how the bishop refers to the sacrament — “administering the sacrament.” Even taking the Body of Christ is simply an administrative task.
    The top leaders of the church have absolutely correlated the life out of Mormonism.

  • http://mormonexpression.com/?p=870 Glenn

    If anyone is curious, Jana discusses this all in more detail on a podcast for mormon expression:
    http://mormonexpression.com/?p=870

  • Brian Skinner

    Well I bet Glenn Beck’s ward isn’t boring. I agree with you about the music something needs to be done.

  • Jennifer

    I am so happy to have stumbled upon this article. I was speaking to another ward member about this a month ago and again to my mother about this exact topic last week. Their exact words to me were (as so many others who are misunderstanding what is being brought up here)were these: “You need to change your attitude.” I left these conversations wondering why I might be the only who doesn’t feel that something is missing here, and was glad that others have been pondering this topic as well.
    I am sorry, but actually, I believe that my yearning to be filled with the Spirit and to have my soul edified when I attend church is exactly the attitude that my Heavenly Father would want me to have. I have been a member all of my life. I know that responsibility comes from within. WE ALL KNOW the concepts, as we have been hearing them and giving talks about them over and over again.
    There is nothing wrong in asking for more direct speaking from the heart. Not only in our church meetings, but in any of our religious meetings. I remember as a teenager, being so filled with energy and a passion to know Christ on a more personal level when I was going to seminary (thank you Br. Lewis) – and I am now having to watch my teenage children struggle with attending seminary and church because the passion and “worship” that could be there is, most of the time, missing.
    I am not wanting to be entertained. I am not wanting someone to have the responsibility of saving my soul. I am wanting my heart and my childrens’ hearts to be touched by the Spirit.
    I do believe we are SLOWLY moving in the direction of being more directed by the Spirit – as even missionaries are encouraged to teach from their heart more so than by following some specific manual. But, I do believe there could be so much more done to accomplish this. I also agree that it is going to have to be a change from within to begin with, but I don’t think that all of the responsibility lies within.
    We do need to teach the basics, but we also need to bring back the passion of “worship.”
    To be told that I need an attitude change, is simply not the case. I have a true and righteous desire to have my heart and my children’s hearts to be touched in a deeper way that I know the church, the gospel, and its people are capable of doing.
    The comments from others who are asking the same thing are not coming from a place of complaint or some lacking of personal fullfillment – ON THE CONTRARY – they are requests from the righteous desires of our hearts.

  • Dave P.

    In just yesterday’s meeting I was shocked at how the organist made a generally upbeat and one of my favorite hymns completely lifeless.

  • Dave P.

    Apologies for the double post but I remembered something I wanted to say. A friend of mine made a wonderful observation in that things aren’t going to get fixed because the general authorities of the church simply refuse to admit that a problem even exists.

  • CF

    “…and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
    And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
    Jana:
    The Spirit of the Lord won’t speak any louder in music that is more exciting. The Spirit of the Lord won’t be found in more highly-trained speakers. The Spirit of the Lord can only be found in a still small voice.
    I have to wonder, if you believe spicing up our Sunday meetings would edify us more, do you believe the same is true of our Temples since it is arguably even more boring than Sunday School? Do you believe that if Temple attendance was more fun and exciting that the Spirit would speak to use more clearly?

  • DM

    CF, this is a bit self-rightous. Yes, we all believe in the still small voice of Elijah. However, who are we trying to reach? We need to reach the weakest of the saints. Technique cannot be divorced from spirit. Yes, one can have amazing technique without spirit and that is a failure. However, the opposite is true. Bad technique can hurt the sprit and almost destroy it. I can have all the spirit in the world but sing off key, with cracking notes in a solo and destroy that spirit. Technique works hand in hand with they spirit. When we put something on the altar for the Lord (meaning actual preparation), the spirit will then come in. We have too many members that think that all they have to do is “feel” something but put no effort in. They want to prepare a talk or a choir number in five minutes and expect the spirit to just be there. Sacrifice brings more of the spirit than laziness. Technique can create bridges to investigators who are trying to feel the spirit or members who are struggling to feel the spirit. This author is spot on about the lack of expectation regarding spiritual manifestations. We don’t expect it anymore, we rarely even use them or expect them in Ward Council meetings too. As for the first post above by Brian Skinner, having been in that ward I can tell you it is just as boring if not more than the rest. It is the wealthiest ward in the church (many incomes in the 50 million a year range) and it’s got huge problems as a result that you might imagine. Technique without sprit and spirit without technique are both failures.

  • CF

    DM:
    I find it incredible that you have been led to believe that it is by “technique” that people are converted. You remind me of the words of Zarahemna: “we do not believe that it is God that has delivered us into your hands; but we believe that it is your cunning that has preserved you from our swords. Behold, it is your breastplates and your shields that have preserved you”.
    In the same way that Zarahemna believed that it was the cunning of man that had defeated him (breastplates and shields), you believe it is by technique that converts people.
    I think you’ll find that the greatest prophets of ancient and modern times had terrible “technique”. Moses was apparently a terrible speaker. Samuel, Daniel and Joseph Smith became prophets as children and had zero “technique” training. Ruth was not too exciting either. Yet all of these people led many to God.
    As a missionary I saw just as many investigators convert to the gospel when receiving the discussions from great orators as from poor ones.
    My point is, is that if you are worthy, speaking by the Holy Ghost, and your listener is worthily listening with an honest heart the message WILL be effective every single time without fail. No technique is needed for that.
    Technique will never, ever, ever truly convert someone in their heart of hearts that this is the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Only the Spirit, through the still small voice can do that – no technique required.

  • CF

    DM:
    You and those who believe that it is by the arm of the flesh that brings about the conversion of the human soul are bordering on apostasy of God’s Church and must repent immediatly.
    You say: “Technique without sprit and spirit without technique are both failures.”
    Brigham Young, and his conversion story is a perfect example of why you are so wrong:
    “When I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory and immortality were present. I was compelled by them, driven with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true … My own judgment, natural endowments, and education bowed to this simple, but mighty testimony … It filled my system with light, and my soul with joy.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R39DzT1p4CI

  • Travis

    Great article!
    I’m utterly amazed that we as members of the church want to “fill the whole earth” with meetings that are as embarrassingly boring as they are. In the age of mega-churches and focused ministries that cater to a wide range of people, the LDS church seems to have really missed the concept that the gospel really is exciting. The cookie-cutter culture within the LDS church is a great hinderence, in my opinion, to the gospel filling the earth. The gospel is exciting, but you would never know it going to church.
    One of my biggest complaints is the music. When I was younger my father was often asked to play the guitar in church. This was before the First Presidency’s lock-down on what instruments were and were not permitted at sacrament. It was always an exciting experience. I miss the rifts of good ‘ol spirtual soul at church.
    TJ – Lexington, KY

  • DM

    CF:
    You are actually calling me to repentance? Did God give you a revelation to do so? Or to judge my heart? Shame on you.
    Members of the church should be able to have discussions without becoming disagreeable.
    No one here disagrees with your quote of Brigham Young. You need to read Nibley’s wonderful article “Zeal Without Knowledge” (You can find it in his seminal work Approching Zion)
    Too many members feel they don’t really need to study the scriptures as long as they have a testimony. Too many member fell that all they need is the spirit and they are somehow saved in the kingdom of God. Not so, CF. We have to put something on the altar, even if the best we can do is limited. The spirit blesses us through sacrifice. Those sacrifices include a dedication to study and preparation.
    No one said that it is through technique that people are converted. You obviously didn’t read what I said. You may believe that a missionary can go out without any study of the scriptures and with the sprit convert many. However I believe in the scriptures when they said to Hyrum Smith to first seek to obtain God’s word, then declare it. He didn’t say, “Just have the sprit and don’t bother with that pesky preparation stuff.”
    You are right about prophets being terrible speakers, but you do yourself a disservice by neglecting the rest of the story! They called spokesmen to speak for them. Aaron spoke for Moses because why? If Moses’ sprit was enough, why the spokesman? To reach the weakest NOT the strongest. Yes the strong will feel the spirit in spite of the poor technique.
    I never claimed anywhere that technique was the converter. The spirit is clearly the conversion tool. And, on my mission, many were converted as well by the spirit in spite of my poor technique. But as my technique grew with my spirit, I found I was even more successful. I studied speaking techniques because I wanted to reach more people. I didn’t sit back in my lazy chair and say, “Ah, I have no need to improve my talents or skills, the spirit will do everything.” If I were tone deaf, I also wouldn’t sing in sacrament meeting with the believe that the spirit will take care of everything. I wouldn’t call someone without any musical training at all to be ward organist. The spirit can help an organists poor technique and an organist’s technique can amplify the spirit to greater success. Harold B. Lee, by the way, said that his experience of 30 years as a General authority is that music in church will reach the heart before any speaker. Why? Could it be that we have a higher standard for musicians in the church than our speakers?
    Saying this is not blasphemous and certainly doesn’t merit your call to repentance.

  • CF

    DM:
    Yes I most CERTAINLY am calling you to repentance as it is my calling and duty to do so as an Elder of Israel, “to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize…And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking”
    Call me self-righteous, call me shameful, label me whatever you want, but I will not step down from proclaiming what is right and shouting from the mountain-tops what is MOST CERTAINLY WRONG.
    You lie when you say, “I never claimed anywhere that technique was the converter.”, read your last post where you stated, “Technique without sprit and spirit without technique are both failures.”. If you state that you cannot convert someone with the Spirit ALONE you are, indeed, stating that the Spirit cannot convert.
    I think you are weak in faith. You do not have enough faith that the Spirit can do all things if we are worthy of it. You trust too much in the arm of your own flesh and that a person’s conversion somehow depends of someone’s skill in their teaching technique. You have been fooled by the Devil in believing that God’s power is not enough, that it must be men who must convert.
    I can testify that I have been touched by the Spirit many, many times and have strengthened my own testimony from even the simplest of words when I have been prepared to receive it. It had absolutely, positively nothing to do with how well someone or some thing delivered that Spirit.

  • DM

    CF:
    First, let me clarify. When I said the spirit without technique is a failure, I didn’t say, the spirit is a failure on its own merits. The Lord requires things of us in addition to having the spirit and I believe I made that case in my last post.
    When you cross the line and say “You have been fooled by the Devil” you are judging me and my heart and really have no right to do so. You may disagree doctrinally, but you have no right to judge me. Only Christ will do that. You are “poisoning the well” a lawyer’s technique for not dealing with the discussion by name-calling.
    As for false doctrine, again, I believe I clearly stated that the spirit was the thing that converts. Yet, even after I stated that, you continued to name call, belittle, condescend, and act as if you were God. You are not. Your anger is evident (take a look at 1Cor 13 and D&C 121 before you write again, and calm down a bit.).
    You didn’t even mention or repond to a single point that I made in my last post. This means that you have ceased to weigh and consider anything and probably aren’t listing any more. You might consider developing the technique of listening so you can feel the spirit behind my words. My spirit is not to get people to trust the arm of flesh nor to rely on the works of man. When I say that only the spirit converts and you insist and telling me that I said the opposite, all I can assume is that you want to believe something about me at all costs. This may be because you might have to consider that you jumped to a conclusion about me and my post with a bit too much fire, and that kind of self-correction is anathema to you.
    That said, let me try again to use words that might make you happier: Instead of saying that the spirit and technique without one another are failures, let me put it another way: Those that believe the spirit will always function without the principle of sacrifice are mistaken. And those that believe that technique and sacrifice alone will create success without the spirit are just as mistaken.
    We are only talking here about our ability to enhance a spiritual experience or make it possible for people, especially the weakest of the saints, to feel that spirit. The Work of Wisdom is a prime example. Keeping it, helps me feel the spirit. If I don’t keep it, I have difficulty feeling that spirit. Not drinking is a technique for feeling the spirit. The spirit is always there trying to speak to us, be we can’t always hear it if things “get in the way.” Things that can impede the spirit could be someone who is not keeping commandments, the noise of the world, or yes, even poor speaking technique. Notice, I used the word, “impede.”
    Judging success and failure for me depends a great deal on whom I am reaching. When my technique improves, I find that the spirit is more able to reach those who are weaker in the faith. When i go to the temple, the quietness helps me feel the spirit (separating myself from the noise of the world). The clothing we wear there or the architecture itself can add to that temple experience. The murals can help me feel the spirit. But if the technique were bad, and the murals were bugs-bunny cartoons, it might be more difficult to feel the spirit in the temple. It would not be impossible to feel that spirit with cartoons on the temple walls, but again, I use the word “failure” to connote how many people I am reaching–especially the weakest of the saints. We are trying to make it easier for folks to feel the spirit.
    You also are talking at cross purposes here. You keep focusing on the readiness of the individual to receive the spirit. We aren’t talking about that. We can all improve in the area of spiritual readiness. However, this is where you seem judgmental. Are you so righteous that you don’t need Christ? Are we not all beggars (King Benjamin’s address)? Don’t you have days that you struggle? Well, many do. And on those days when you come to church and are struggling to feel the spirit, wouldn’t it be nice if the preparation and prayer of those sharing talks, music and other teachings made it easier for you to reach that spirit?
    I may have used words you didn’t like or semantics that mean something different to you. If I did I am sorry. But my intention is that only the spirit converts period. If you will not accept as a foundation that I believe that, but want to jump to conclusions about my relationship with Satan, then it is you that may need to consider the source of your animosity.

  • DJ Guinn

    Ok my friends, buckle up….
    I’ve read many of the comments that came up with this article and am amazed! In my youth I went ‘shopping for a religion’ and was always stunned by the professed state of joy in the ‘plan of happiness’ that never seemed to show up in anyone’s faces…in fact, I still am! My heart grieves still that after a beautiful musical piece where the Spirit echoes from the very walls, someone gets up & cracks about hiding from Brother Whoever who made him talk today.
    I am struggling to teach my 7 year old how to create her own spirit-steeped version of what is happening in this hour+10 event of yammering. It is true, on many occasions the Spirit is felt strongly, but I agree with the comment that we think it is happening because we came there to ‘learn about God’ when in reality what we are feeling is His love for us and our love for Him connecting-this is worship, this is praise, this is love and it is the basis for any learning that -does- show up. To learn how to reverently sit mindlessly tolerating the time-crawl has very little to do with my relationship with God. To learn how to feel His presence in all things so that I can one day do the same (isn’t that the point of the whole earth-life-experience?) is why I have developed a relationship with God. I crave HIM, not this building or this bench.
    In my previously mentioned ‘church shopping’ I encountered faiths I much preferred to the one I grew up in (LDS) as far as their fellowship, their true desire to find God in their everyday lives & reflect that to others, their absolute joy in knowing that Christ LIVES and LOVES them each as individuals–these were all things that I craved! When it came to doctrine, though, I knew in my heart that the truths I learned even as a small child in primary were absolute truth and I could go no further in these other places. In my prayers I asked for guidance about this. I realized that I could bring all of this love, all of this joy, this passion for my Savior, with me! Imagine my shock to discover that though my mother & I attended the same church (LDS) we had totally different religions! Hers based on fear (I ‘be good’ so that nothing bad will happen and God won’t be mad at me) and mine based on LOVE! (I choose obedience because of the Love I feel for the One Who asked it of me–it is my way to show love, honor & respect.)
    I often rock the boats of those stodgy Mormons. I bring revival with me and rock-out on my bench whenever it is needful. I exclaim “AYYMEN!” after a beautiful musical pieces –although in a medium loud whisper so it belongs to my own self & family and doesn’t disrupt the rest of the people whose hearts are either filled to overflowing and they can’t do a &#$% thing about it, or are so numb they didn’t even realize what just happened here…or they are busy drawing circles on their husbands’ backs in an attempt to keep them awake and not snoring…..
    I teach my YW to live out loud in their testimonies, to be and find passion in who and Whose they really are. If I’m going to inherit my Father’s Kingdom, I want to have a blast doing it. If it is His work and GLORY to help me do that, why don’t I glory/relish in the process of Him doing it?
    Yep, I rant a bit. It is a glorious thing, the Restored Gospel. Funny how we don’t act like it.
    Can I get an Amen?

  • Tupua Ainuu

    I’ve felt this for YEARS!!!! Being Polynesian I sing the hymns with vigor and vim and then everyone else follows along. When I talk in church I preach with confidence and conviction. I get SOOOO BORED sometimes I just want to leave right after I take the sacrament. I’m blessed to sing with the Saints Unified Voices and that SATISFIES MY URGE TO WORSHIP GOD WITH MORE JOY AND SOOOUUUL. Thanks for putting my thoughts and feelings in a perfect blog. Love ya girly and keep spicing things up for us…T

  • Tupua Ainuu

    OH AND AMEEEEEEN TO DJ!!!! Thanks for sharing. PRAISE THE LORD, HALELUIA AND AMEN TO THE RESTORED GOSPEL! Aloha…T

  • Jana Riess

    Anyone who sings with the Saints Unified Voices choir is an absolute rock star in my book. Thanks for coming to Cincinnati and giving us such a fantastic fireside, and for stopping by the blog today. And DJ, I second your Amen!

  • brenda kongaika

    When I attend the Sacrament Meeting every Sunday, it has a purpose for me personally. I want to feel the warm connection of the Spirit with Whom had created me & brought me to this earth of confusion. I love to listen to talks given by those who had been assigned, bored or not. I focused mainly on this one special day out of six that will allow my spirit to be touched by the Lord. He had blessed me exceedingly because I do not question or judge his work. You can write a book, challenge churches & its leaders. Towards, the end of the day, you will feel disconnected, why? You are out of touch! The lords work is a miracle, start with that simple prayer every morning. It will compass you with great intelligence that you had never encountered. May you have a blessed day!
    abkongaika@yahoo.com

  • Kelsey

    While I agree that we certainly need improvement, our sacrament meetings certainly need to have more nourishing spiritual power, and I, too, have from time to time been embarrassed and frustrated by the difference between the message of the gospel and church on Sunday, I think one (well two) very significant points were overlooked here. First of all, part of the purpose for having a church and not just a gospel is because we need to learn to patiently deal with imperfection. We need to be brought into contact with others’ imperfections as they come into contact with ours, and thereby we are all made better. The problem is that means that sometimes meetings are boring or not worshipful or not nourishing spiritually. But that is as important to our faith as anything. Do we stop going? Do we give up? Do we criticize those around us? Or do we press forward, having faith in God sufficient to change ourselves first? And then to learn to accommodate the fact that everyone is in a different place in their lives. Maybe the sister with a boring talk is working miracles of faith by just being there. Maybe her husband left her last month and she hasn’t recovered. Maybe he lost his job. Maybe she’s distracted and discouraged because she’s older than she wants to be and still isn’t married. With all the crap in our live, I think it’s no wonder that we’re sometimes bored in church.
    Relating to music, as a professional musician and also a member of the church, you can be assured that I hear all of the lack of musicality that happens every week(though sometimes I close my ears:), and that I do all I can to improve it in my own ward. But the leaders of the church have been clear about what can and can’t be performed in sacrament meetings. I think this is because of something Charles Ives said when he left being a church organist. He said he realized that congregations have rights, too. They have the right to be familiar and comfortable with the music in their church.
    Additionally, I disagree that the leaders of the church are not addressing worship. President Hinckley said that all new members need to be “nourished by the good word of God”. If we remembered this, our meetings, sacrament and otherwise, would always be full of worship. I definitely agree that we all need to do a better job at nourishing both ourselves and our ward members with the good word of God. And I think we should start with ourselves. I know a woman who, every time she speaks, in sacrament meeting, primary, or enrichment, she carries the Spirit of God into my heart. Why? Because she lives close to Him. She nourishes herself regularly. And I realized that rather than blame everyone else for their lack of living right and nourishing me, I needed to stand up, do my part, and bring the Spirit with me. I still have a long way to go, but I’m glad to be reminded that I have the right to spiritual manifestations – always. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Anon

    Spencer W. Kimball said: “We do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or even solely to be instructed. We go to worship the Lord. If the service is a failure to you, you must have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord

  • Diamonte Sailers

    “Spencer W. Kimball said: “We do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or even solely to be instructed. We go to worship the Lord. If the service is a failure to you, you must have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord”
    This is exactly the kind of behavior that bothers me — rather than listen to the feedback and consider making changes (and much is possible to change to improve the quality of our meetings), they put the onus back on the member to sacrifice more, or to blame the member for their own lack of spiritual nourishment. And this is part of what makes “enduring to the end” truly an exercise in unpleasant endurance.
    I’ve heard this complaint from many new members — that Church is just plain boring. If there are things within out power to improve the quality of our meetings, why not do them? Why not get some newer, contemporary hymns written by stellar LDS musicians that have appropriate lyrics and more modern melodies, and integrate them into our service so those words can speak to and uplift us?
    Why not record the sacrament prayers and play them back like we do in the temple on a sunday a month to spare us of the agony of hearing the sacrament prayer repeated 3 times before they get it right?
    Amen to this article!!!!

  • J. Smith

    The LDS Church is not run by prophets, it is run by businessmen.
    Why follow such a lying institution?
    Joseph Smith WAS a prophet, and the Book of Mormon is true prophecy from God, but today’s LDS Church is fraudulent, plain and simple. There is no way to improve this church, the whole thing has to go away. Really, it’s over for the LDS Church.

  • AmazonaWomona

    I think this is my biggest criticism of the modern LDS church. The meetings. Ugg. Being an active member and a Mom of two boys under 5, Sacrament meeting is the pits. For a church that has such a heavy emphasis on family I sure get frustrated that Moms with bored and unruly kids are banned to the hallways and broom closet nursing rooms. I would like to see a soundproof room at the back of the chapel, with a window, where Moms can not only hear but see the speakers. Why is there not an outside playground for nursery kids?
    And I have been Mormon most of my life, I am more interested in worship services rather than learning the BOM lessons year after year after year. Its very frustrating.

  • Dan

    I’m almost in total agreement with Diamonte Sailers. We as members of the church need to take a more proactive – or heck, even an active approach to our worshipping. Granted, there are moments in church where we can feel the spirit by sitting and quietly listening to the whisperings of the spirit, but we could certainly put more thought during the week into how we could make our meetings better for those around us. There is definitely much room for improvement in making our meetings full of joy.
    My only disagreement would be with the recorded prayers.
    Thanks for the article Jana!

  • Chris

    You can complain about the church all you want but if there is a problem it’s with you, not the church. The beauty of the gospel is that it’s true. The Savior didn’t apologize if someone thought his sermons were boring, did he? He said that the elect will hear his voice and follow him. He never said anything about making the truth entertaining so people will want to go to sacrament. The Lord doesn’t change, which means neither does his church. If he has a problem with the way things are run he will change it. You know what the REAL problem with the church is? It’s own members criticizing it and the leaders who run it.

  • Hmff

    Yea church is boring, why don’t we bring in some Rock’N Roll Baby! And while we’re at it, let’s put the wine back in that water. And we need huge churches with sound proof rooms that cost a ton money.
    Pretty much an apostasy waiting to happen folks. The writer has some points, but most of them are too extreme, lack a breadth of thought, and are pretty much nitpicking.
    While we are responsible for our own nurturing, everyone gets bored by a talk, I’ve fallen asleep in a few meetings, but many times I come away enlightened by the (dull and boring) spirit.
    What bothered me most from your comments, a spiel doesn’t bless the sacrament, a human being does with the priesthood of God.

  • http://caferock.org/blogentry.php?blogid=5&entryid=537 Alyssa

    I know that probably no one is still reading or commenting on this essay, but I just thought I’d mention that I wrote a 5-part response to Reiss’s essay on my personal blog (see link above for part 1). Basically, I agreed with Reiss’s argument and decided to extend the discussion a little bit.

  • Mystery

    I, personally, didn’t take this as a vendetta against church leadership. I suppose I can see how some of you might feel like it was, but it made me realize that as MEMBERs of a church, we have relatively little soul.
    No, I don’t mean we don’t clap our hands and shout “hallelujah” enough, but rather that in general we may do are callings willingly, but not enthusiastically. We don’t put our spirit into it. We get things done because we we’re obedient and we’re asked to, rather than do all we can to make our lesson’s/talks/activities something that will bring us all closer together in our journey to grow closer to the Lord. I myself am guilty of this.
    I know we are all volunteers in our callings—that we have jobs and school and families—but this was a poignant wake up call for me. If I am not magnifying my own callings, if I am not building relationships with my ward members and trying to be the best leader I can be in my own little calling, then it is in part my own fault when I feel bored in Sunday meetings and feel like our ward is distant and not unified.
    It’s the sad truth. Only a handful of us are actually trying to nourish each-other’s spirits, and I haven’t been one of those handfuls.

  • JustMe

    Chris, what a judgemental thing to say. That is what is wrong with people in the LDS church. We are so afraid to say anything negative about anything for fear our righteousness will be called into question or our capacity to feel the spirit of the truthfullness of everything Mormon. My husband goes to Elders quarum every sunday. Without fail one of the men who is supposed to give the less shows up unprepared. He passes around the manual and has everybody read a paragraph. Of course this is extremely boring. Is it my husband’s fault because he doesn’t see the “truthfulness” of this sort of audience participation because the teacher was unprepared to do his job? No, the problem is with the teacher. Just because something is done within the walls of the church building and because it has “always been done that way” doesn’t mean it can’t be changed or made better and it doesn’t mean it came straight from the mouth of God.

  • Steve Voeks

    Here’s the simple truth gang that all of you life time members have overlooked. Our speakers are not paid to speak. Money buys agendas. When you pay a preacher to preach they will say what people want to hear. When you don’t pay a ward member to speak they say what they want to say. It may be goofy what they say but they are doing the best they can to express the best they know. The Holy Ghost will witness to what if any truth they speak, the same Holy Ghost will help you lead them to the truth they need to know.

  • jewish mormon girl must heartedly agree

    Try having a 145 IQ i know, i know.. I lack humility, I’m an over academic chemist.. I’ve heard it all.. I work on my humility (not doing very well:) but man, did I love your article!! I’m from LI, NY. I come from a very animated.. did I say ANIMATED! family. We hug, kiss, cry, worship with great enthusiasm and love. Like most Jewish americans, we are over cerebral, and sometimes expect to much from the mundane world that is served up to us each day. That is what I call the ‘curse of the Jewish brain” it kinda gets us in trouble from time to timeLOL.
    Seriously, I love the Gospel. I’ve had too many sacred experiences personally, to just up and leave. I will always be active in the Church and be true to the truth. And sister from Mass. You’ve spoken the truth here today. May I just say, I would be tickled if you wrote me at my private email: sheila1huntergmail.com Don’t worry the whole world has it, I must laugh at the words “private email.”
    Can we change the ‘funereal” hymns and mind numbing talks? I don’t know, honestly. But what I CAN do is do the most interesting lessons and help others daily in my life. I can try to love others that get on my nerves (I actually bore testimony of why wards are like giant families, where you have some family members you can’t stand others you love but love we all must. That went over well here in Ogden, Utah:). I hope and pray we can worship God more on Sundays and less perhaps, cultural Mormonism. I think this Church is the true Church and I believe in every tenant of the Gospel. I just wish members would be less hypocritical and have more love and tolerance in their hearts. I wish there were less pride amongst the rich of the Church.. I wish… well you get the picture.. Love and Shalom, Kittywaymo

  • http://marvelousworkandawonder.com Jewels 8

    Terrific article but…
    If the members were theologically trained…there wouldn’t be any members left.
    See The Sealed Portion (.com) which has indeed been translated, and all your concerns will evaporate.
    The truth shall set you free!!

  • Disengaged

    Great article and great posts. I agree that something needs to change as I often lose the will to live trying to make it through the 3 hour block. I absolutely agree that there is a great deal of personal responsibility I accept for Sabbath worship. However, I am tired of the retort that it is entirely a personal problem. Imagine your child comes home week after week and tells you about their boring, disengaging, ineffective, just plain bad teacher at school. I am sure your first response is to to point your finger at the child for their lack of commitment and personal preparation. This is how I currently feel. I want meetings that inspire me, make me want to live the gospel with more gusto, make me feel great about my path on this eternal journey. Instead I leave empty, just glad the meeting is over. Here are my thoughts on how the meetings should improve.
    First, the meetings should be shorter. I don’t need 3 hours to be edified. My attention span throws in the towel after 2. I also think the sacrament meeting should be more focused on the sacrament. I feel the talks steal the show. Keep the prayers, hymns (which I agree needs to be more joyful), an inspiring musical number, have a single sermon that expresses the most important message we should take away from the meeting that day, and have everything lead up to the focal point of the meeting: the sacrament.

  • http://www.lifeofcarla.blogspot.com Carla

    Oh I completely agree, especially about the songs. My husband was raised Mormon and he’s such a music snob when it comes to hymns. He sees anything written after the Battle Hymn of the Republic as “not Church music.” Granted, he’s no longer a Christian or really a theist, but I can see how his Mormon upbringing has affected his perception about what constitutes reverence, etc in a hymn.

  • http://www.thesnootysniffer.com The Snooty Sniffer

    I think that the meetings depend on participation. If someone just sits back and listens then they will struggle to stay awake. But if people are actively trying to learn and participate in the lessons the meetings have much more meaning.

  • Dot

    I have been reading some of the comments for this article. Funny enough, but I was researching for a talk and often go off on tangents that don’t help me getting my talk accomplished. My talk will most likely flop because the topic is truly boring. I like some of the comments, and disagree with Jana in the fact that if she wants, or you want, to have sacrament meetings that are not boring, then why don’t you volunteer to give a talk once a month? I’m sure I’ve read more than 4 or 5 people state that the speakers should be educated in speaking. (I’m sure there are at least 4 or 5 in each ward too) I’m sure the bishopric would gladly accept your offer seeing is how they try to keep a record of who talks so they don’t ask the same person all the time – one less thing to do.
    I do not want to give my talk, I am not a great speaker, but I accepted because I know it’s the right thing to do, and I may be able to help at least one person in the congregation that day. At least that’s what I pray will happen.
    It may be 1944 when President Kimball said, “… we shouldn’t go to church to be entertained.” but it still holds true. I agree the church hasn’t make changes to sacrament meetings. When the First Presidency does (under the direction of God Himself), I will be happy to see it, but until that time who are we to judge? I feel for the speaker who doesn’t do a great job because I know they are trying, and it’s hard for them.
    I think that if we can be more patient, and actually listen to the talks, we can learn and grow, and thus be spiritually uplifted.
    Now testimonies is where people need to not give a travel log or talk about their health issues every month. Now that HAS been discussed over the pulpit from the First Presidency.

  • http://NURSEY/sacramentmeeting CINDY

    It would be terrific if the LDS church had a nursey for babies and small children during the sacrament meeting portion of worshp. It is way to noisy in my ward.

  • http://sacramentworship/notmeeting disapointed but still attending

    I have been an active LDS member for over 30 years, however I feel disapointed that the church is so resistent to make some positive changes in regard to how they conduct sacrament meeting. When I look around my ward I see people, sleeping, reading their church lessions, reading the hymn book, etc. I see very few people smile in my ward. If I were not LDS I would think they must be very unhappy. Most people look so bored. If we are suppose to be the most happy and joyful people on this planet….. as Pr. Hinkley remarked at one conference…… How come we all look so sad and unjoyful

    Yes, the music does need a bit of an update. Most of them are so slow. I think it would be nice to see some more popular chorsus along with traditional hymns. It would be nice to see more instruments played besides the piano and orgon. The other Sunday a brother played the guitar and his family sang. I have never seen that before and thought wonderful. THey should do that more often. It would also be nice to stand while we sing. Did you know that standing means respect for God? I just don’t understnad why we never stand while singing the hymns. THe LDS church is the only one who I have seen not do this. When I suggested that we stand in Relief Soceity a lady told me it is not appropriate. Why is it not appropriate? I could not believe that response and just don’t get it.

    I agree with the above person above thta the LDS church should have a nursey for babies and toddlers during Sacrament time. Little ones just can’t sit that long and what a struggle that would relieve for the parents that have to get up and down a half dozen times to take their kids out of the room. However in my ward the parents just let them screem through the service which really hurts the ears. Thats not respectful for other people either. Remember babies are not little adults! I can certainly understand why the drop out rate is high among new converts and life time members too.

    I decided I needed a change last Sunday so after Sacrament meeting I visited an Episcipal church for their Palm Sunday service. What a difference! The people were so joyful, so welcoming. They were all smiling and seemed so happy to be there. I didn’t see anybody sleeping, writing or reading during the service. THe service was so joyful and uplifting. I felt for the first time in my life I was truly worshiping the Lord. They had a blend of contempory and traditional hymns, the choir sang and it was wonderful. It was very meaningful. I am not changeing my membership but after attending it does make you think there are a variety of ways to have a more meaning worship experience.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Stephane

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. You are looking at this from the wrong angle. We are not supposed to change the will of the Lord to our will. We are supposed to change our will to the Lords. Get off your high horse of supposed understanding and humble yourself to understand that you don’t understand all of God’s intentions and actions and go with it because He asked you to through a prophet, which you are not.

  • http://Imostlydisagree Charleen Crenshaw

    First of all, who said that the Latter Day Saints don’t expect any spiritual manifestations??? I see them often in the church, so I wonder if we recognize what these are. As far as the music being funereal, maybe you should stop thinking about how YOU need to be entertained during a sacrament meeting, and start thinking about the words to the music which were penned with a purpuse. I know many Latter Day Saints who go to church not just to learn, but to worship and appreciate the atonement for what it is. Sub standard talks??? Once again, you get from something what you put into it. Try to gleen from the talk what the Lord would have you recieve from it and as far as “nobody” envisioning things differantly…who’s nobody???? Many, because of their vision bring great things into the church. I think this so called research needs to be done more thoroughly myself.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Marie

    Your articles seem to find fault with so many things in the church you belong to. What is it that keeps you coming back? If I found so much to criticize about an organization that I belonged to, I think I’d search out a different one that suited my needs better. I’m just saying…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Manuel Gerardo Monasterio

    Dear Jana:I couldn’t agree more with your view. I am just coming back to the Church after many years away…But I am rather horrified at the sight of what is happenning. There are a number of factors to take into account which could make a book in size, but I just want to point out the fact of the success in wordly terms that the Church is witnessing lately.LDS Church is today a huge Corporation in monetary terms, coming from a history of trials and persecution, we are beggining “to enjoy” being succesful in the world (not “at the world”) In fact, LDS Church -seeing from outside-seems like the Church that may succeed the Catholic Roman Church…Creepy indeed.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Manuel Gerardo Monasterio

    What I said above in no way shakes my Faith in our Church, I still strongly believe and give testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the True Restored Church of Christ on earth

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jennifer A. Coney

    I am a convert of 7 years and am embarrassed how loud sacrament in the US is – I would never in a million years invite my patents to our sacrament meeting (they just would not get it and I would never be able to get them to get past the noise). If you are not raised with the noise, it is taken by Non-members as a lack of respect. Why members of our church do not understand this is beyond me. We have more respect for a MOVIE THEATER than we do for Sunday meetings. My advise is this (and was told to me a a non-member that I did invite). Your little angel (noisy children) is someone else’s pain in the butt! She said that our church was to loud for her to feel any spirit and never wanted to come back. She said that we lacked social responsibility to the others that came to listen to the speakers — she said that if she wanted to hear kids crying, parents talking and children playing video games she would go to a day care center. It broke my heart — but deep down I thought she was right. I too have struggled with the noise and sit on the second row and strain to hear. My kids never acted up and when they did we were out the door and returned when the calmed down. Yes it was a pain, but I started with my first and all four of my kids a very well behaved. Hope this helps– I know this church is true and I love all that it has to offer, I could do without all the excuses and noise! Jen

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Steven

    Also, you make a ton of great points, and I agree with all of it. We spend 6 days a week trying as hard as we can to entertain ourselves, and so sacrament meeting gives us a time away from the glut of media that surround us. Do most of us take advantage of that time to meditate and self-search and reflect, using the speaker’s words to guide our thoughts? No. Should we? Maybe. But that takes a lot of will power and practice, and we aren’t trained or taught how to do it (except maybe in the temple, which as you pointed out isn’t available to all members).
    I think a dull sacrament meeting gives us time to figure out how to feel good without being dazzled. I think another thing you missed out on is that we Mormons are very afraid of mixing up the good feelings that come from entertainment with the good feelings that come from the spirit. I think we want to keep that distinction as clear as possible, and so we avoid all entertainment to make sure when we do feel good at sacrament meeting it isn’t because we are being entertained. Distinguishing the feelings of the spirit from other feelings is difficult, and requires a lot of work and focus.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Robbie Frantz

    I am not and never have been a Mormon, but I have been and still am attracted to the LDS church. I have been to sacrament meetings. They simply do not get the juices flowing intellectually or emotionally. In fact, the presentations seem emotionall flat, devoid of energy. It’s almost a if energy is suspect.
    I watch a lot of Christian television, including KBYU.
    The speakers on most of the KBYU Sunday religious programming are incredibly uninspiring orators. From reading, I know the message is meaningful and potent, but the presentation is so flat, so soporific, that I flip the channel to EWTN (Catholic) or Daystar (Evangelical).

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mario

    Part of the problem is our current society and our current culture. Times have changed and sacrament/talks and behaviors are simply a reflection of our time. We cannot compare spirituality today with that of the 1800′s or even early 1900′s. Our generation is different.
    General Conference talks have fallen into the same pattern. THe Spirit has been withdrawn, long time ago. We’re now just repeating ourselves, repeating topics and rehasing things and topics that have been regorgitated many times before. All talks are nothing but repeition and over used quotes. Yes, all of this makes our meetings boring and with nothing new to show. You cannot change this unless the people change and that’s not going to happen any time soon.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Daniel

    I went to an ecumenical Christmas concert tonight, and came away wishing we could have a gospel choir in our sacrament meetings.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Liam

    I suspect the problems you’re addressing are a subject of some concern for the leaders of the church as well, based on some of the things I’ve seen change over the last few years. Maybe the trouble is that we’re dealing, as my wife points out, with much more pressing issues these days. When the leaders have to focus so much energy on things like strengthening families against an endless onslaught of destructive influences, speaking and warning against a multitude of popular vices, etc., church meetings may be somewhat neglected. And that’s appropriate, because the week extends beyond Sunday and what happens the other six days carries a lot of weight in one’s spiritual welfare.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kevin

    Right on the money. Great article. The church has tried to correct unnecessary contentions about subjects that were not the church´s main focus (Talmage, BH Roberts vs. Joseph Fielding Smith, for example) by simply over-simplifying the doctrine to the point that there can be no possible difference of opinion. They were successful in that, but the consequence is exactly what we are seeing now. Things are so simple and boring that there is no possible way to even address more profound subjects, leading to very repetetive boredom week after week. It´s frustrating to think that the student needs to look outside of the school if he wants to learn anything new and significant.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kevin

    By the way, “another less than adequate american mormon” I actually did like your post, though I don´t think you were really fair with your summary the author´s intentions. Self-criticism is not the devil´s technique for destruction; not if it is done with the right spirit. I think the great majority of the comments here were from active, faithful members, though yes there were a few simple whiners. My point is, you can´t characterize anyone who is simply being honest with themselves as an apostate. Anyone who studies and learns more will obviously want to share that knowledge with others, but it´s frustrating when further knowledge is actually looked down on by both members and clergy. That´s not rebellion by any kind. It´s just a comment that could help us evaluate a situation to see if there´s a possible fix.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Amy Fabrici

    I absolutely love going to The LDS church on Sundays. I’ve been a member for overly 4yrs. I have visited 8 different wards & have never felt the service was lame in any sense. It is always unexpected b/c the thoughts of the individual are expressed in their own words. Very different from the many other Christian denominations I’ve attended in the past. I see perhaps some points made in this article but I would be concerned about offering lessons to teach people how to give talks. I find the raw reality of someone reluctant to approach the pulpit but nevertheless moved by the spirit on occasion a very strong testament in itself. I don’t care to see trained speeches but rather emotional ones that I know come from the heart. Incorporating more musical numbers would certainly be a nice surprise but I am unconcerned with that particularly b/c I’ve attended mega churches & small churches who focus way too much on the entertaining the congregation under the guise of “Worship”. Cameras and fully equipped bands blasting music with the words projected on the walls. It was more of a rock concert & though people had their arms extended in the air, I did not feel the spirit. In short I don’t really agree with this article. I am not bored at all when I attend church. I listen. I listen closely. I observe closely & to me it all remains wonderful just the way I have experienced it in the last four years.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Heather

    I believe that this is completely intentional. For a long time the “church” has become more of a corporation than a “church”. They want you to feel safe, warm fuzzies, but not think, and certainly not be inspired. That might create dissention, people might start wondering where their tithing is going, why the church built a mall…etc.

  • http://onegodmanyreligions.blogspot.com/ Jared Serovey

    I think you hit it right on the nail with your post. I have been saying the same thing for years. We need to get back to the old ways of doing things in the church. Do not get me wrong in the computer age that we live in, the church has grown a lot and Temple work is going so fast the Temples cannot keep up; however, as a church we have lost in our hearts what it means to be LDS. We do things because we feel we need to do them to get to God which is right. However, doing without real feeling is dead. If is not enough to do the things God as has asked of us. We must have a change within your selves. The hearts of the kids are going to the dads, but dads are not going to the kids. The church needs to stop doing things with their heads and more with their hearts. For God, Jesus, and the Holly Ghost not only judge what you do but how you did it and the desires of your hearts as while.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment David T

    This post has some good thoughts. Most critiques or criticisms have some truth that would be helpful to look at more closely. The problem is the “why” behind the issue. This post makes the Church or the brethren somehow to blame, as if there isn’t enough preparation for the talks or enough guidelines, etc. Sure, that would undoubtedly help. But the problem with boring meetings isn’t the format or structure, it’s the lack of spirit in the lives of the speakers (in this case regular members). You can’t be passionate about something in a talk that you aren’t passionate about in your regular life. If you’re not born again, if you don’t think regularly about the gospel and ponder the teachings and “treasure the words of eternal life” and can be easily moved to tears because of your gratitude to the Savior and what He has done, it can’t suddenly be given to you when you’re in front of an audience. If we were more excited about living the gospel, our conversation would reflect that. I’m not convinced most members really live the gospel, really center their lives around it. And that, I believe, makes sharing what little you have hard to spread around.

    Boring church meetings? I’ve been there. Humble yourself, live the gospel and share what you’re passionate about. You’ll find value and other’s will be benefited by your attitude and example.

  • http://www.wiics.org John W. Morehead

    Thanks for being transparent and self-critical. If it’s any help, Evangelicalism faces its own challenges, even with so-called seeker sensitive, contemporary services, and emergent church forms. Some have argued that thisis also one of the biggest hurdles facing Evangelicals. On this see John Drane,The McDonaldization of the Church and other works: http://www.amazon.com/The-McDonaldization-Church-Consumer-Culture/dp/1573123749/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355419054&sr=8-1&keywords=the+mcdonaldization+of+the+church

  • http://thinkabouteternity.org john kauer

    Maybe the service seems void of the Holy Spirit, because He is really not there.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Quinn

    As a Bishopric member, I saw the same thing in the eyes of the ward members; lack of vitality, boredum, not being fed, and painfully trying to get through the meeting.

    I thought it was our checklist righteousness, assuming that we’re good with God if we’re good with the Temple checklist. But I believe the problem is deeper.

    A culture of conformity steals the unique plan and destiny God has for us. Like Saul’s armor, David’s mission called for a different approach to Golaith. Groups trying to get church leaders to accept women wearing pants is only the tip of the comformity culture ice berg.

    A church that tries to broker our relationship with God works against the mediator role Jesus has. I’ve found that focusing on, praying to, spending time with, and following Jesus is all I need. And it’s transformed my spiritual vitality. Jesus is mediator enough.

    I’ve found also that a spiritually flat experience is often a prompt to search for something else. Sadly, if you find it, you’ll be excommunicated. This is the face of the church you may not have seen. Yes, the church who wants to be considered just another Christian denomination excommunicates those who follow the spirit out.

    Keep digging on the reasons for the lack of spiritual vitality. Change is coming for you.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment mary

    My experience is vastly different from many of the comments I see here. I admit that I tend to be orthodox in my relationship with the Church. I look back on my life and see that the hand of God has been constantly present in my life through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and through the Church itself. The combination has literally saved my life.

    I agree that more sacred and beautiful music should be allowed. I see tired faces in the congregation and have often thought that we aren’t joyful enough. I don’t like the checklist approach to the Gospel and the doctrines. I think it’s apparent that I am no intellectual but I love Sacrament Meeting. I am rarely bored. I listen intently as my friends speak to me out of their own perspective and knowledge. I enjoy most talks because I know these people. I am connected to them. I am interested in them. I love them. I recognize their desire to understand, but don’t expect them to be perfect in their understanding. This approach transforms everything. I think it’s wonderful that we all get the opportunity to contribute by giving talks. I don’t need a professional to speak to me. I don’t want the “trained” theologians to be the only ones worthy to speak to the rest of us peons. I must say that I love to listen to knowledgeable people. I love Jesus. I hear all kinds of things about Jesus in my meetings. Much more than I used to years ago. That part of it is changing and I’m glad.

    I come to Sacrament Meeting to see what I can give. Will it be a testimony, or a choir number, or just my attention? Although I also find that when I am not doing well, I will find what I need there.

    I always feel intimidated participating in one of these forums because I sense a real hostility towards ordinary people like me. I think there is a great misunderstanding about the Church and the Gospel. I can’t imagine going through my life intellectualizing, judging, griping and complaining about the flaws of my brothers and sisters, leaders of the Church, and how business is conducted. I just love the Church and appreciate the beauty of the Gospel doctrines I find there. What I love most of all is sharing my imperfect journey with everyone else.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Joe

    Some interesting comments brothers and sisters.
    I used to be asked to play guitar at many meetings, including sacrament and did so worshipfully, and felt wonderful.
    These days I am told not to play, don’t talk back, not to disagree in any shape or form or question anything, and am told as long as I stand there in a trance and say “This Is The True Church” everything will be fine for me in the afterlife.
    I’ve found that as men and women, imperfect as we are,we rarely speak truth but our own opinions with the tag “in the name of Jesus Christ” on the end to sanctify it and make it true?….rather dangerous to our eternal salvation don’t you think?
    Lots of funding for dances, outings, game and food nights have been withdrawn because that shopping mall just must get built brothers and sisters.
    The resulting effect is that we never have any fun any more.
    I feel the Holy spirit when I go into the mountains to pray, or play in my band, or have a good clean laugh at life, but not generally in sacrament.
    No it is not me, the talks are now (in our church( being lifted off non church sites and plagarised because people can’t be bothered to research their talks so they read someone else’s.
    Bruce McKonkie’s book is used heaps (for psuedo spiritual quotes) even though the General Authorities forbade it.
    The folk who think the talks are not boring must be really boring themselves.
    I personally feel the spirit with many non member folk who are living the gospell not pretending.
    If you talk to pretend you are a goody goody the Spirit will withdraw.
    :-)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Your Name

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true and restored Church on the Earth today. As members of it, each of us has to gain a testimony for ourselves that it is true, and we learn that from study, prayer, and exercising faith. As it is with gaining a testimony, if you do not come prepared (and worthy) to have the Spirit with you each Sunday, you will most likely not get a lot out of the service. The church has incredible spiritual riches to partake of, but you must put forth individual effort and preparation in body, mind and spirit BEFOREHAND if you want your Sunday worship to be meaningful…a “lively” hymn or fire-filled sermon won’t do the trick…lest we forget Laman and Lemuel who communed with angels and still were not converted, because they lacked the faith and Spirit necessary for true fulfillment in the Gospel. If you’re not getting a lot out of your Sunday Services, it’s not the Church’s fault, it is your own.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Robber

    Very succinctly put. i have been attending sacrament meetings for 47 years and is anything they are getting worse. How I long. For an opportunity to be in a group of people that sing theirt hearts out in praise of God, Or bow their heads together in worship of almighty deity. I sometimes feel as though I am being treated by Our. leaders; I would love so much more and it wouldn’t be that difficult. Instead we are bound Hand and ffoot In conformity to a handbook.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Evelyn and Bill Hall

    About 50 some years ago my husband, Bill, and I used to be active Mormons but later on we “saw the Light”, so to speak. We have 2 daughters we raised who are still active in Mormonism but my husband and I do NOT believe there are 3 heavens-One for all gods and goddesses, the 2nd for ones that are undecided and the 3rd one are the ones that are going to Hell. We don’t believe in them anymore but we do stay in our families’ lives as we don’t want to offend them.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Patty

    At the risk of sounding unappreciative for all the wonderful mentoring from amazing saints since I took my baptism vows, I have to say that you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. While in my former life of religious exposure I felt a huge need for more reverence, etiquette and decorum during certain worship meetings I now find myself, a dedicated but struggling Mormon, watching that watch and sneaking those Cherrios. Music and story moves the soul to open for that intended spiritual connection during worship but there is few moments to experience it in our services. The most memorable services I ever experienced were when some young women graced us with incredible music as they played harp and sang, another was a fireside where a (shhh! Steele guitar) was allowed for a Hawaiian medley of hymns. I thought I had gone to Heaven early. I once attended a morning taping of Music and the Spoken Word, and felt an incredible feeling of excitement and connection to my Maker that day. More music, more heartfelt worship and prayer and story would serve and strengthen new and old in this true and living church. NO snoring allowed!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jesse Cannon

    One of the things I love most about the church is that it has a lay ministry. This gives every “ordinary” member a chance to serve and actively participate in the gospel. My wife, for example, is able to develop her talent as an organist, without being a professionally trained musician. Sometimes its slower than it should be, it’s true, and mistakes are made. I think Jeffrey Holland’s advice on this matter is inspired and worth heeding, “So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.” (2013 April General Conference, “Lord, I Believe”, Sun. Afternoon Session – By Jeffrey R. Holland)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Karen

    At last someone who gets it. I have never wanted something to be true as much as I hope the Mormons are truly holders of the missing truths. There is absolutely no awe, reverence, or spiritual awakenings to excite a new convert. Instead, the constant badgering on the same subjects over and over again offer little hope to a believer that is not finding success in their attempts to do what the church is teaching. Mormons need to realize that the churches they pull converts from have some keys of their own the Mormon church has lost.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment melanie

    My sacrament experiences depend on my level of interest. If I am battling one of my children and not paying much attention, then I get bored. But if I am really listening to the words being spoken and specifically if I have prepared myself for sacrament, easily by just arriving early enough to get the kids settled down in their seats and be able to listen to the predule music instead of talking to everyone I see, then I walk away with a “that was the most awesome meeting I have ever attended”! Since my kids are getting a little older and not toddlers anymore, I can really listen to what is being said.

    I was in your shoes before. It was boring, monotone and the person was reading everything and couldn’t read what they wrote or pronounce the words and I wished it would end. But here lately, even that same speaker who bored me to death before when I wasn’t prepared for Sacrament meeting, now I am spiritually fed and I seem to overlook the monotone or the fact that they still can’t read what they wrote…and instead I feel so very well fed spiritually and thoroughly enjoyed the talk.

    Try praying and being early for sacrament, and sitting there, and then sing every song and really pay attention to the words of the song…and then instead of listening to all the mistakes that poor, nervous, scared, speaker is making, try concentrating on the message they are giving.

    When I do that, I totally enjoy..because I am prepared to receive.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kristy

    This is a pretty judgmental article. If you are bored in Sacrament Meeting it is your own fault. And I am guessing for someone who has never been there before, they would be more curious about what is going rather than bored. Give people a break, speakers are just doing the best they can, too bad if you are bored.If you are looking to be entertained, this wouldn’t be the church for you anyway.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment kmwulf

    The reason we go to sacrament meeting is to partake of the sacrament. Hence the name Sacrament meeting. The talks and musical numbers are an added bonus. Focus on the real reason for attendance. Go see a movie if you want entertainment.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Angela

    How to change it…now it is even worse. Leaders assign specific talks rather than topics to speak on. It is like plagarism. A man wanted to sing his testimony as part of his talk, as he was Polynesian and was told it took time away from others who prepared music for the meeting. Feels soooo stiflng. I love people like Gladys who can shake things a bit. Of course i want it to be reverent and with worship but not so confined.

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  • Good Will

    May I recommend to anyone here who finds Jana’s words truthful that they examine the opinions and perspectives of one Denver Snuffer, whose unique name and experience very well encapsulates and explains why everything LDS today is as Jana laments it to be. Go and see.

  • William

    Thanks for your comments on our church worship services! I can certainly understand that it is difficult to maintain quality worship services with untrained laypeople running the show. It’s just like home teaching; we ask men to go do it, but don’t give them one bit of training. The end result is that we don’t do it often enough.

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