Monday, May 13, 2013

The Purest and Simplest Way to Make Sacrament Meeting a True Worship Service and a Revelatory Experience

I have read quite a few comments from people decrying a lack of emphasis on Christ in our Sacrament Meetings.  They acknowledge the prayers in his name and the sacrament itself, but they are concerend about how often the talks are not focused on Jesus or Heavenly Father in an obvious (or even implied) way. 

I have been in such Sacrament Meetings, and I understand that concern.  I even agree with it to the extent that it happens, which, I agree, is too often.  My response is pretty straightforward, since I believe the "solution" is quite simple. 

The central issue is not at "The Church" level. It's an issue in individual wards and branches, since the Branch Presidents and Bishops are the ones who are responsible for the topics assigned as Sacrament Meeting talks. Too many of them still don't understand fully what it means to have a meeting set aside as a worship service - and too many of them still assign topics for Sacrament Meeting that will be addressed in Sunday School and/or should be reserved for the third hour in Priesthood and Relief Society meetings, but when they catch that vision and "get it" with regard to Sacrament Meeting, it's wonderful. I've lived in wards where that happened, and I've visited wards and branches where that happens, and there is a marked difference in those congregations that spills over into other areas, as well.

For the last few years, I have had the good fortune of being in a position from which I can mention that to local leaders and be taken seriously, and I have done so and will continue to do so. It sounds simplistic, but I believe making Sacrament Meeting a true worship service (a "revelatory experience" - as Elder Bednar said in the recent CHI training) can do more for a ward than just about anything else - and it certainly is the simplest and purest of the options.


Joseph said...

Could you elaborate a little more on what you mean and what kind of topics should be addrressed instead?

Papa D said...

Joseph, we have three distinct meetings on Sunday: Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School and auxiliary. Sacrament Meeting is a worship service; Sunday School is a classroom to study scriptures and doctrine; auxiliaries are meant to be a chance for people with similar age, responsibility, gender, etc. to gather and discuss / do things not covered in the other two meetings. Speaking generally, I believe we lose much when we confuse and conflate the unique purpose of each meeting - and, more specifically, when we end up treating all three as Sunday School classes.

General doctrinal **discussions** are meant for a classroom setting, and that is Sunday School. Topics like Home and Visiting Teaching, food storage, genealogy, temple attendance, community service, tithing, etc. are not, on their own, by nature, worship-focused topics. They fit perfectly the setting of an auxiliary meeting.

Sacrament Meeting should be focused on worship - which can include general talks about our Heavenly Parents, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, fasting, faith, hope, charity, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, compassion, love, service, the Atonement, grace, forgiveness, mercy, meekness, humility, etc. The list is almost endless. This approach also is much more "sharing" than "teaching" or "discussion" - much more testifying than teaching, although teaching can and should occur in many cases. The key is BOTH the topic AND the focus being on worship.

I am concerned that in many cases, we now have three Sunday School classes, in practical effect, with the only differences being the music and sacrament in one of them and the gender-specific grouping of the other one.

Joseph said...

Thank you. I was planing on bringing up the topic at PEC and wanted a better ideaof how to approch it.