Monday, September 28, 2009

Another mundane testimony meeting come and gone

I have to confess - fast and testimony meeting is probably my very least favorite meeting of all time. For any non-members who may be reading this. One sunday of every month is designated as "fast sunday". It's usually the first sunday, but not always. We fast for two meals (for us, it's breakfast & lunch) and donate the money we would have spent on those meals to the church to be distributed to those in need. Instead of our normal sacrament meeting with speakers who prepared talks on a chosen subject, we have a fast and testimony meeting where people get up 'as the spirit moves them' to bear an impromptu testimony.

I still remember my very first fast and testimony meeting. I joined the church in college - but I usually went home to visit my parents on the first sunday. And, I would be traveling back to college on sunday causing me to miss church. So, I never once during that entire school year attended a fast and testimony meeting. The school year ended and I went back home. The very first sunday I attended my new home ward was - you guessed it - fast and testimony meeting. I sat in that meeting stunned - wondering if I had made a big mistake in joining the LDS church. I didn't know any better - I just figured that was they way they did it in this new ward - and I wasn't sure I could take it week after week. I did return the following week which was, of course, a normal sacrament meeting. Upon asking questions, I was educated in the law of the fast and testimony meetings.

But, my entire mormon life - it just has never been a favorite meeting. Don't get me wrong, there have been a few in which I felt moved by the spirit. But, generally, it's just the same people week after week blubbering on about something, other people who just seem to like to hear themselves speak, and little kids reciting words that have obviously been rehearsed with their parents. I never encouraged my children to get up and bear their testimony unless they felt moved to - as I've always found it kinda of annoying. It's always pretty much the same words "I know the church is true, I love my mommy and daddy, in the name of ..." Anyway, I'll get off my 'little kid bearing testimony' soapbox now.

Yesterday was a pretty typical fast and testimony meeting. We have an older gentleman in our ward who gets up just about every testimony meeting and rattles on in a monotone voice for about 10-15 minutes. I've gotten to where I just tune him out -even my wife has a hard time listening to him. When he walked up to the microphone yesterday I looked at the clock and there were only about 15 minutes left in the meeting. I thought to myself "good, he's probably the last one" - only, while he was speaking, 6 more people walked up to the front to wait their turn. He finally finished after about 10 minutes and a sister got up. This particular sister normally bears very insightful testimonies, but yesterday she blabbered on for about 5 minutes - not her normal self. Now it was time when we would normally start singing the closing hymn, and we still had 5 people left waiting to bear their testimonies. Fortunately, they were all conscious of the time and were quick. A member of the bishopric got up, apologized to the sunday school teachers since they now had about 10 minutes less time than they had planned on. We sang the closing hymn, had a closing prayer, and it was over - finally.

I don't know, maybe it's just the sour mood I've been in lately - but, given my current spiritual crisis - I don't need more mundane meetings. I need meetings where I leave feeling moved by the spirit. I need to leave church feeling that me being there mattered - that I'd be missed if I weren't there. Just haven't been feeling that lately.

Next week is general conference. To be honest, it too is down there at the bottom of my list of favorite church meetings. We get the BYU channel on cable - so we just sit at home and watch conference from the comfort of our family room. In the past we've always invited two or three other families to join us on Sunday and have a potluck lunch in between sessions. But, my wife hasn't mentioned anything about inviting people over this time. I think she too is starting to wonder why it seems we are always the ones inviting but are never invited.

So, today is Monday - another week, same ol rut . . .


santorio said...

i didn't like f&t meetings growing up, but now i prefer them to the average sacrament meeting talk, which usually sounds like a essay prepared for a byu religion class. at least there is some spontaneity in the f&t.

and now that i'm on a "don't ask santorio to give a talk list," i can empathize with others who are never asked to speak but feel they have something to say.

and i don't mind time taken away from sunday school. as for general conference, i skip it and wait for the ensign--i can skim through the entire issue in one or two bus commutes

Goldarn said...

I feel for you, with regards to the "mundane meetings." It just seems like the really good and well-prepared meetings are few and far between.

We had a special meeting a few months back (all over the area, apparently) when we were supposed to invite non-members to church. So before that meeting, the bishopric was anal about making sure everything was prepared. The talks were assigned weeks in advance, the music was double-and-triple-checked, and everything went very, very, smoothly. I remember feeling like my efforts during the meeting weren't wasted, and I remember feeling sorry for any non-members who wanted to come the next week. By then, we were back to our usual way of doing things.

Growing up, I was taught that preparation invited the spirit. I think that taking things seriously invites the spirit into the meetings, too. I'd say that, in my ward, less than 10% of the people really take church seriously enough to put in some effort at making the meetings flow well. It can bring a person down—I know that I quit reading the priesthood lesson when I realized that I was reading it more than the teachers did. It didn't seem to help me feel the spirit in class, so I didn't bother.

It's hard to feel like you put your Sunday to good use when you walk out of a meeting so uninspired. The church's standard response is "it's up to you to feel the spirit. When you don't, it's because you didn't do enough." But, if it's up to me, why am I going to church? Why does the church have meetings and lessons and home teachers and mutual and everything, if it's all up to me?

That was longer than I intended. I think I'll sit down so we can get to Sunday school on time. :-)

Beck said...

How about next F&T meeting you prepare yourself spiritually and get up and bear your testimony, and share with your brothers and sisters (who know and love you and are happy to eat from you at your house) what's going on with you, and how you feel inside, and how you are searching for answers, and how your testimony has strengthened in these certain areas from your current challenges and how it has weakened or cracked in other areas. You don't have to reveal the real "issue" to be revealing. Sometimes when I allow myself to be revealing, I receive revelation in return. Funny how that works.

Now, that is what I'd like to hear from you next Fast Sunday! And if you want to throw in the gay-gig thing, well, I'm sure we'd all like to be there for that one!



Bror said...

I agree with Abe, f&t meeting is a real drag. I skip it all the time.

Ned said...

I rather like hearing testimonies myself. Maybe it's because I take a fairly active approach. If my friends and neighbors are saying something I'm interested in, I'll jot down what I'm hearing in my journal.

If not, I'll jot down my own testimony. I know we're advised against giving "thank-timonies" but being grateful really is a part of MY testimony, so these written words often leave me feeling better because I've engaged in counting blessings.

So I'd add this to Beck's challenge: Take a notebook or some 3x5" cards to church with you. Bear your testimony and then if you're still not engaged whip out your notebook or the cards and try jotting down your own thoughts or those of others.

You may be quite pleasantly surprised with what flows from your heart and mind through your fingers and on to the page.

Quinn said...

My mom would always tell me you only get what you up into church meetings. If you look for the good, (maybe not exciting or well spoken), but good in what people say, things turn around for me really quick.

I tend to be one to just judge the person or their speaking abilities, and I found when I did that the meetings dragged on.

I am Landmark said...

I'm always surprised at how many write in defense of the organization and casually cast guilt on Abe (and on those who might agree with his perceptions of "church" as non-fulfilling). Why are you so quick to see the church as right and correct, and view critical perceptions of it as either wrong or expressions of personal weaknesses? Why is the solution so often framed as "YOU need to change" or "YOU are the problem." Why do we not acknowledge that the organization itself is at fault, and that when the organization no longer serves OUR needs we have no obligation to the organization. Imagine where the U.S. would be if guilters had countered John Adams and Thomas Jefferson with lines like, "The next time you listen to the Crown, jot down positive comments," or "It's up to you to make things work."

Maybe it really is just as simple as this: F&T meeting in Abe's ward sucks. They suck in mine, too. Thank you, Abe, for speaking truth to power.

Beck said...

Hey Landmark! The F&T meetings often suck in my ward, too.

I'm just taking a friendly approach (as I personally count Abe as my friend) to have Abe think in an alternate direction - kind of spurring him on or challenging him - something that friends do to each other - slapping each other around. That's all... okay?

GeckoMan said...

A friend in my ward calls it 'Open Mike Day!" Actually, I like the suspense of wondering if it's going to be interesting or a drag, so I usually look forward to OMD.

This last week was a good time, in the best way. When people are genuine, and you feel the spirit, then it's all worth it.

Abelard Enigma said...

How about next F&T meeting you prepare yourself spiritually and get up and bear your testimony ...

Can't, I don't fit the criteria. :)

share with your brothers and sisters ... what's going on with you, and how you feel inside ...

On a more serious tone, I can't see myself opening up to my ward like that - even without my current spiritual crisis. I'm actually a very private person. Well, in person - without the relative anonymity of my blog.

Hmmm, I think I may feel another blog post coming ...