Making Sacrament Meeting – gasp! – interesting

August 28th, 2010

There’s a bit of a discussion going on over at Flunking Sainthood over whether church is boring – and if so, whose fault it is. I read through all the comments and want to try to answer the (rather sanctimonious) “I go to church to learn, not to be entertained” responders. Read on, if you will:

I completely agree that a worshipful, positive experience is ultimately up to individual members. Those who are spiritually mature can, like President Henry B. Eyring’s father, listen to the speaker and give themselves an internal talk if necessary (story from Henry B. Eyring’s book To Draw Closer to God, cited at http://bit.ly/9ThwX). I certainly don’t think it’s the speaker’s responsibility to entertain me. I don’t think that’s what any of us are saying.

But I’m concerned about investigators and new members. Are the missionaries to tell them “So, if church seems really boring, you need to write your own internal talk” – especially given that some of these don’t have the gospel background to do so, and the reason they’re at church is to learn?

I think there’s a balance. The onus is on the listener to receive, yes, but the speaker has an equal responsibility to give the best talk he or she can – not prepare as little as possible and “rely on the Spirit” to carry the message. (That’s OK for last-minute talks, of course, but most speakers have plenty of lead time.) I understand some people are not gifted speakers (myself included), so in my case “preparation” may involve writing the talk out fully and even practicing, so the audience doesn’t sit in awkward silence while I fumble through my scriptures and mutter apologies into the microphone. This may seem heavy-handed, but consider: the opportunity to speak in Sacrament Meeting is the opportunity to teach children of God, in the Kingdom of God, and in the name of Jesus Christ. That’s not meant to scare or overwhelm anyone, but to inspire. What would talks be like if everyone focused on teaching in the name of Jesus Christ during Sacrament Meeting – and if leadership encouraged them to do so?

Finally, I understand that people are busy. That’s why I said the speaker should give the best talk he or she can. Generally people can find the time for the things they want to do, even if that means making sacrifices during the week leading up to the talk. And if someone legitimately doesn’t have time to prepare, that person can by all means “rely on the Spirit” (which, of course, is what ultimately teaches anyway). I just think that a lot of us could make more of an effort to bring the Spirit into meetings through giving well-prepared, engaging talks.

Thoughts? Arguments? I’m happy to read them.


2 Responses to “Making Sacrament Meeting – gasp! – interesting”

  1. Rebecca on August 29, 2010 8:44 am

    Speaking as one who has not actually heard an entire Sacrament meeting in many years (due to the nature of children!), I may not be the best one to comment, but I have to agree with you. If we are in tune with the Spirit we can tune out a lot of other things, including disruptive children, sometimes even when they are our own children. While it always helps to have a great speaker, you were correct again in saying that it is the Spirit that teaches. If the speaker is not an engaging one, we can still focus on the words and try to understand the message they are trying to share. I think new members are new enough that boring speakers may be interesting because the material is new. And if not, the talks are short enough that another speaker will be coming up soon. I am with you on the responsibility residing in both camps- the speaker to prepare to the best of their ability and inviting the Spirit, and the congregation to prepare themselves and to invite the Spirit. These are just my Sunday morning ramblings…..

  2. carla on August 29, 2010 2:02 pm

    It never hurts for a speaker to be prepared, and to make an effort to present the material in an interesting manner…however, the podium is hardly the place for a stand-up routine. Everyone involved has the responsibility to make a meeting a good one, either by listening (and I realize that sometimes the speakers are all addressing the same topic, which is not a great time to be the last speaker!) or by giving an appropriate effort to preparation. (D & C 50:22) Sort of like reading the scriptures on a regular basis–the words don’t change, but there are days when you look at something and wonder when they put THAT in?!

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