June 18th, 2007

Mediocre Meetings


photo credit: gwilmore

Yesterday was Father’s day, and in the ward I visited for sacrament meeting, one woman gave a 15 minute talk about her dad.

I don’t know about you, but I go to church to hear about Christ, not another person’s father.

I would hope that even in the more event-oriented sacrament meetings (Father’s day, Mother’s day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and especially Christmas) that we would remember to include the very reason we are meeting together in worship: Jesus Christ.

Sharing stories about growing up on a chicken farm are better saved for a party or other social gathering, and not during one of the most important hours of the week where we gather to commune with the Saints and be spiritually uplifted.

Said our prophet:

It should be recognized that this Church is not a social club. This is the kingdom of God on the earth. It is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its purpose is to bring salvation and exaltation to both the living and the dead. (Gordon B. Hinckley, via Quoty)

11 Responses to “Mediocre Meetings”

  1. John
    June 18, 2007 at 11:26 am #

    Wasn’t it President Kimball who said something along the lines that mediocre meetings are the fault of the attendee, not the speaker? ;)

    Besides, I think there’s wisdom to be gained from almost any story. I’ve heard some good ones about pickles and pigeons lately.

    I see your point about the focus of the meeting, but I don’t think a mediocre meeting can be forced on someone.

  2. Connor
    June 18, 2007 at 11:32 am #

    Besides, I think there’s wisdom to be gained from almost any story. I’ve heard some good ones about pickles and pigeons lately.

    True, but those speakers gave explicit application to the things they were talking about. Yesterday’s speaker talked about sorting through chicken poop in order to find her mom’s wedding ring, and what a big ordeal it was, and how much fun they had.

    Potential gospel application for that story? It’d be a stretch… :)

  3. Tytus
    June 18, 2007 at 12:01 pm #

    A heartfelt Amen! The most uplifting and inspiring moments I had at church were when I tuned out the talks and read a chapter from Stephen Robinson’s “Following Christ” followed by browsing the book of Ether…

    I have yet to attend the meetings that mentioned in Ensign articles where investigators attend for the first time and are struck with awe at the beauty and power of the event.

    And while Spencer W. Kimball apparently never attended a boring meeting in his life ( see: http://tinyurl.com/2hvatp ) a quick browse of “The Miracle of Forgiveness” makes it quite clear there’s a plenitude of members’ actions, words, and attitudes he does not approve of.

  4. Kelly Winterton
    June 18, 2007 at 12:11 pm #

    Connor, I see your point to be sure. But I, as a father, enjoyed immensly my meeting yesterday, even though much was said about our speaker’s own dad. I was actually placing myself in the shoes of the speaker’s father, to see if I measured up, and wondered if my own kids could speak as flatteringly after I die. It made me want to improve my own life, and that for me was worth the speaker’s flattering words about his own dad. Also, I enjoy the stories about ancestors and their sacrifices to live the gospel. I think stories in this application are the same as honoring our dead, encouraging family history work, including the keeping of journals, etc.

    But, I understand such stories about fathers on father’s day can be done in a non-spiritual way, and I believe you’re big enough to overlook the failure of a speaker to inspire you. There will be more meetings in the future, and some of those will inspire you.

    Often, I complain to my wife because the General Authority in conference gave a boring talk – – I’ve heard that subject a hundred times already! But my wife proclaims: Wow, that talk really touched me. I don’t think it was the talk, or the speaker – it was the Holy Ghost speaking to the listener. One listener will be uplifted, the next one won’t.

  5. Silus Grok
    June 18, 2007 at 12:29 pm #

    ( Psst… It’s “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, not “Latter Day Saints”. )

  6. Connor
    June 18, 2007 at 12:33 pm #

    Thanks Silus, I fixed it. :)

  7. Janet
    June 18, 2007 at 10:00 pm #

    Time at the pulpit is sacred. Those appointed to speak are standing as agents of the Lord and should therefore seek inspiration so that they can deliver God’s message to the congregation in God’s way. I don’t think that God limits his lessons to a particular genre, but he does have a moral or purpose for having the story told. Every time that I have been set apart for a calling as a teacher, I have been counseled to use my personal life to teach the gospel. One time I thought that I would be like everybody else and prepare a standard talk. When I sat down, my daughter told me that I had given the wrong talk. “It has been my experience…” is a powerful statement of testimony because no one can take that from you; it has a convincing power. But that is very different than self-promotion. I enjoy hearing about church leader’s parents. What an example to emulate.

    Some talks are not edifying and there are Hymn Books for those occasions, but before you use them, I would suggest praying for the Spirit of the Holy Ghost to rest upon the speaker. Whenever a speaker starts a talk with a joke, or an apology because they didn’t want to talk or they were unprepared, I say a little prayer – and sometimes a big one.

  8. Dustin
    June 19, 2007 at 6:25 am #

    Yesterday’s speaker talked about sorting through chicken poop in order to find her mom’s wedding ring, and what a big ordeal it was, and how much fun they had.

    Potential gospel application for that story? It’d be a stretch…

    Easy. Missionary work. I’m sure as a missionary you’ve had to sort through a lot of “poop” in order to find the diamond. It is an ordeal for sure, but looking back, remember how much fun you had? :D

  9. Reach Upward
    June 19, 2007 at 12:58 pm #

    Christian Johnson had a great article a while back called The Seven Deadly Sins of Sacrament Meeting Talks that many speakers ought to refer to before preparing to speak in Sacrament meeting.

    During the years I was in a position to ask people to speak, I learned that a leader needs to provide some basic guidelines to the speaker. I eventually took to writing up assignments like they do for talks in Primary. My assignment slips included the topic, the timeframe, and instruction to sincerely seek inspiration from the Holy Spirit in preparing to speak. In hindsight, it might also be good to provide some idea of what else is on the program and where on the program the speaker could expect to appear.

    I found that properly extending the calling to speak mitigated many common problems with Sacrament meeting talks. However, there were still times when I ended up squirming in my seat and praying for the speaker. I can remember one particular time when, after praying and squirming for a long time, I simply prayed that the brother speaking would shut up and sit down.

    I also agree with some of the other commentors, that precious insights can sometimes be garnered from talks that seem uninspiring — if we have the Spirit with us.

  10. Russell
    June 21, 2007 at 10:10 am #

    Our Father’s Day meeting included splitting our ward, which had more than 1,000 people in attendance and the mass exodus of hundreds of primary children to the stand to sing “I’m so glad when Daddy Comes Home.” (It’s the largest primary in the world according to church headquarters) . . . make that a was.

  11. Russell
    June 21, 2007 at 10:21 am #

    Here are three thoughts to consider in relation to Connor’s blog post.
    1- How often do general church leaders make the brunt of their talks about their own “personal” life?

    2 – If it is personal, how often is the talk actually tied directly to a principle of the gospel or the personal example used solely for teaching or reinforcing true principles of the gospel. Here’s the perfect example. (http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-690-8,00.html)

    Elder Bednar’s whole talk (or parable) is about making pickles as a kid, but the story has nothing to do with pickles and everything to do with being “cleansed from sin, immersed in and saturated with His gospel, and purified and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.”

    3 – How often do you hear church leaders make it a point to say “forgive me for being personal.” What do you think they mean by this? And, why do you think they say it?

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