Third Hour

Why So Many Latter-day Saints Can’t Stand Church (And How to Fix It)

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Church is a spiritual hospital. People are in serious pain. Sometimes, injuries prove to be fatal. Sometimes the Spirit, through the ward, manages to stop the bleeding before faith dies. Those who have the misfortune to frequently visit real hospitals for physical ailments understand that there's nothing more frustrating than being sick, being afraid, being alone, and not getting the treatment you need. That's why so many Latter-day Saints simply can't stand going to church anymore. They're dying, and sometimes we're not acknowledging their wounds. The problem I'm not blaming anyone in particular for the way things are, and I'm not trying to absolve the patient of personal responsibility for their spirituality. What I am saying is that, all too often, people who are suffering spiritually feel severely underrepresented (and therefore, alienated) at church. For example, maybe you're sitting in Sunday School and the teacher leads a discussion about temple worship. Someone comments, "I love the temple. I feel the Spirit so strongly there. Every single time I attend the temple, I receive revelation....

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I love and hate this article. It captures a serious problem--role playing in the church. There's blatant hypocrisy, and the much more common testifying to what we know should be rather than what is. The call to authenticity is appropriate and needed. At the same time many testimonies are sincere and real. The author knows this and rightly expresses concern that some will over-correct. Believers may stop giving testimonies because they fear their own blessings may make others feel unworthy and neglected by God. Worse yet, some will read this thoughtful article and embrace an unhealthy cynicism. They'll assume that most testimonies are fake, or, at minimum, exaggerated. And so, the author calls for authenticity, and requests that teachers give thought to those who struggle. Further, he encourages the hurting to do so out loud, believing that as they share their difficulties, many will identify and find strength and support. My reaction is that testimonies are powerful. "I lost my job, but God gave me a better one." If I am unemployed and I hear that, I think, "Great. Maybe God can help me too." The key is that our praises and good reports should point to God, not to self. It's not important that God rewarded MY FAITHFULNESS. Rather, that GOD REWARDED my faithfulness. If we keep our glad tidings directed towards Heavenly Father we invite new/renewed faith. If we trumpet our own supposed righteousness we invite shame and guilt (which drive people into hiding rather than repentance). If King and Kingdom come first then God's people will flock to church!

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An acquaintance of mine finally came to my church to *see* what it was all about for himself. This guy is a Catholic. Little c, not big C. The Sunday he picked just happened to be Fast & Testimony. We have our sister who gives a primary lesson, then the guy who drones on and on and no one really understands what he is saying exactly, the four same children who come up and recites theirs, the crier - don't have a clue what she is saying but there she is doing it yet again this month. THEN we have the real jewels - those whose testimonies are original, real and so incredibly packed with the Holy Ghost. 

Well this Little c guy told me when I got home after the block, (he refused to remain for GD & PH ) that it was just as he knew it would be, we weren't saints, after all, we were just plain, mortal, human beings! I smiled, took his whole arm in my handshake with him, and said: "Yes, we are mortal human beings. We are all sinners. But Neighbor, the gospel doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are true, and they are not hidden from our mainstream members and only for the "Big Wig Corporate Guys in SLC" [his words describing the 1st Presidency]

We members of the LDS Faith must remember that. We are not yet saints. That will come, if we are worthy, after the second coming.

43 minutes ago, prisonchaplain said:

My reaction is that testimonies are powerful. "I lost my job, but God gave me a better one." If I am unemployed and I hear that, I think, "Great. Maybe God can help me too." The key is that our praises and good reports should point to God, not to self. It's not important that God rewarded MY FAITHFULNESS. Rather, that GOD REWARDED my faithfulness. If we keep our glad tidings directed towards Heavenly Father we invite new/renewed faith. If we trumpet our own supposed righteousness we invite shame and guilt (which drive people into hiding rather than repentance). If King and Kingdom come first then God's people will flock to church!

You are oh so right. We are taught from the time we are first introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, [but mostly to the primary children] that our testimonies are Thanks Yous to Heavenly Father. That Heavenly Father has given us E V E R Y T H I N G. Not just the air we breathe, the water we drink, the sun, moon, and stars. This earth we live on. But also the food we eat, the peoples who inhabit this earth with us. He gives us the knowledge to earn a living to purchase the food, buy the clothes, make the clothes. E V E R Y T H I N G. The 10 percent tithing of our earnings given in tithing is a drop in the ocean Thanks and [argh, cannot find the word needed here] that we are commanded to pay.

The MOST powerful testimonies I have ever heard were from members who had *Been there, Done that, Got the T-shirt and AM NOT EVER GOING BACK* I don't stand at the pulpit on Fast & Testimony Sunday very often. Actually, in the 20 years, I have been back into activity, it has only been twice and I was so shocked to see that I was standing at the microphone and words were coming out of my mouth. THAT is how strong the Holy Ghost was and how faithful I was to heed It's prompting. I was saying, "I have danced with the devil for the 30 years I was inactive, Been there, done that, and I will NEVER go back. The testimony I was giving was why I left the church and then came back into activity. When I left the pulpit, I really looked at the people sitting in the pews, and I saw more visitors [at least I thought they were visitors] than active members. During GD these visitors stood up and introduced themselves. A few were LDS members visiting from other states, but the majority were 'inactives' who were surprised to find themselves sitting in the pews and in Sunday Go To Meeting clothes!

From that Sunday on, I hear all testimonies with a different *light* ~ so to speak. Not only with my mortal ears but also through the still small voice of the Holy Ghost.

Every once in a while, the Stake Presidency or it could be the 1st Presidency will send a letter to be read over the pulpit at the beginning of Fast & Testimony reminding us all exactly what a testimony is, that it is to be kept short - no more than five minutes, so as to give all who wish to bear theirs the time to do so. That children should be encouraged to give their testimonies during their Sharing Time in primary.

I have always felt that at least one of the 5th Sundays in the year should be devoted to Testimonies. What they are, and just as importantly what they are NOT. The Young Men and Young Women need to be in attendance along with the adults as well. When I was a counselor in Primary, we took one of those 5th Sundays and taught the children what components made up a Testimony. How to recognize their own personal way that the Holy Ghost was speaking to them. How to heed that still small voice or the burning in the bosom. And just as importantly how to voice that during their time at Fast & Testimony during Primary.

We members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must remember we are all sinners, and that we come to church to be healed.

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2 hours ago, Iggy said:

An acquaintance of mine finally came to my church to *see* what it was all about for himself. This guy is a Catholic. Little c, not big C....

What exactly do you mean by this? Are you saying he is non-denominational?

M.

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Hi

I'm new here.  I agree, and will honor, my 'agreement' to be here.  I hope this fits in. Here is what I posted at my 'repost intro' to your article posted 24 December 2018:

"As the new 2-hr Sunday block and new curriculum starts in 2 more Sundays (that's 10 more sleeps) ... please read this article, and become familiar with (and realize that you're most likely among those that need 'some fixing' at some level, at some point) the concepts talked about inside this article -- then come prepared to share the understood (strengths), the misunderstood (the weaknesses) and the in-between (I'm not giving up!) of your testimony (the lesson manual begins on New Year's Eve, Dec 31, 2018, so we have a week to study lesson #1). Whether you're in Primary, YM/YW or an adult, we're all in this together, on the same page, in the act of the same rescue" 2764.png?_nc_eui2=AeEHjZq220tW0dy09r6MVH<3 2764.png?_nc_eui2=AeEHjZq220tW0dy09r6MVH<3"

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I understand the Op’s Point. For some people teaching a lesson is about projecting love. These teachers mean well but ‘projecting love’ is sometimes only meaningful to those who share your small world. To the speaker the words selected and the body language have a deeper meaning that signals to their tribe but to outsiders the result can be meaningless or variously misinterpreted. As an early convert I found many talks to be uninterpretable. I can now guess at the meaning of some of these talks. The speaker was expressing love and gratitude.

Talking about feelings and how happy you are about ‘how well your life is going’ is not generally helpful to the audience. Inside jokes and references to private times with friends in the audience can be alienating. 

I try not to talk about feelings, and especially not my own feelings, in talks and lessons because...why would anyone care if I am having a good day or a good life? If teaching a lesson or giving a talk, I try and find something useful for the audience. 

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On 12/24/2018 at 1:18 PM, Iggy said:

We have our sister who gives a primary lesson, then the guy who drones on and on and no one really understands what he is saying exactly, the four same children who come up and recites theirs, the crier - don't have a clue what she is saying but there she is doing it yet again this month.

Ah yes, the testimonies prompted by the Holy Script.

Always wondered if these people read that part about vain repetitions.

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On 12/24/2018 at 11:02 AM, prisonchaplain said:

I love and hate this article. It captures a serious problem--role playing in the church. There's blatant hypocrisy, and the much more common testifying to what we know should be rather than what is. The call to authenticity is appropriate and needed. At the same time many testimonies are sincere and real. The author knows this and rightly expresses concern that some will over-correct. Believers may stop giving testimonies because they fear their own blessings may make others feel unworthy and neglected by God. Worse yet, some will read this thoughtful article and embrace an unhealthy cynicism. They'll assume that most testimonies are fake, or, at minimum, exaggerated. And so, the author calls for authenticity, and requests that teachers give thought to those who struggle. Further, he encourages the hurting to do so out loud, believing that as they share their difficulties, many will identify and find strength and support. My reaction is that testimonies are powerful. "I lost my job, but God gave me a better one." If I am unemployed and I hear that, I think, "Great. Maybe God can help me too." The key is that our praises and good reports should point to God, not to self. It's not important that God rewarded MY FAITHFULNESS. Rather, that GOD REWARDED my faithfulness. If we keep our glad tidings directed towards Heavenly Father we invite new/renewed faith. If we trumpet our own supposed righteousness we invite shame and guilt (which drive people into hiding rather than repentance). If King and Kingdom come first then God's people will flock to church!

The problem with the article is it demands compassion and understanding for those who are "injured", but then doesn't show the same compassion for some other forms of weakness. It seems to inadvertently encourage judgment, misunderstanding, impatience, and bitterness towards those who are  "weak" at sharing in favor of those who are "weak" at hearing.

Some poor soul is struggling to do their best to do as they feel they've been taught and share their testimony and we're being encouraged here to pass down judgment, declaring their testimonies unworthy, insincere, and actually hurtful?

I would propose that it might be wiser to encourage forgiveness, understanding, patience, and compassion for all forms of weakness.

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I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting recently on Elder Uchtdorf's talk from last conference on Believe, Love, Do.  I had the outline of my talk all written out and then saw this article.  I went back and modified the talk.  I was in a bishopric for four years and I remember this was one of the issues that weigh on our Bishop's mind.  But this articles and the comments has helped me understand it more.  When I served in the bishopric we had many good Sacrament meetings.  We did not assign topics and gave guidelines as to the time and what the focus should be on.  Like the Savior, the atonement and how it has affected your life.   I did one month before the change to include the ward council in planning sacrament meetings, asked the speakers to talk about their conversion to the gospel.  Not knowing if they were born into the church or actual converts.  It was the best month ever.  The second week I was so nervous because I did not tell the others in the bishopric what I was up to.  I probably should have, but it turned out that way I wanted it to.  These talks are from the heart and not to impress or make them look better than others.  It's what a testimony really is. Regarding, issues at church.  It really needs to be a place of "Safety".  Church is a hospital for the spiritually sick, my self included.  In my talk Sunday I did not want to come across as the one that knows all the answers and knows how the members can all be disciples of christ.  I know that we all can receive our own revelation on how to become disciples of christ.  If sacrament meetings, young men/women, Sunday school, relief society and priesthood meetings all had this feeling of Safety, that what we share, is our thoughts and not open for debate and judgement.  If someone misspoke of doctrine it can be discussed after the class in private. 

Below is one way to make Church more safe...  This is from another program that I'm involved with... 

image.png.b31f6be39ecb89ddc9166e2d93a4bbde.png 

If we could change the culture of our wards and stakes to not judge, condemn others not matter what.  I know we can do because I have seen this happen occasionally.

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3 hours ago, Beadiemom said:

Beautiful article. I was a little distracted by the phrase "dawn our capes" - one does not "dawn" a cape. The word is don. Like in the song "Deck the Halls" - "Don we now our gay apparel."

I've sent the author an email.  

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Guest

I get where the author is coming from with the complaint.  But the solution he offers doesn't really change what he was complaining about.  It is a good solution... for a completely different issue.  But this problem he brings up is not affected by this "solution".

I would suggest that the first step is for everyone to realize that we're all those who struggle.  We're all dying.  We're all spiritually wounded.  If you don't believe that, then I'd ask why you're not translated yet.

The second step is for those who feel alienated to recognize that everyone is in the same boat.  Some people are simply better at putting on a happy face than others.

Third step is about focus.  If we're constantly focused on how much we're lacking, then we're never going to feel the Spirit.  We feel the Spirit by following the wise Korean counsel:

Quote

Don't look around (or within).  Look up.

If we constantly look within (as the world tells us) then we won't find the solutions to spiritual problems.  For that, we must look up.

True, we need to look within to help diagnose the problem.  But the solution is found elsewhere.

So, the question then becomes,"How can we help those who look up, but have trouble seeing or hearing the Spirit?"  That's where the article should go.

Edited by Guest

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