Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I Would Change about the LDS Church

The 3-hour block is vilified by some members, and it is the one thing that many members say they would change about the Church, but it often is that same group who blasts the Church for not educating its members enough on historical and doctrinal issues. So, on one hand, the Church needs to do much more to explain and teach difficult doctrine, but, on the other hand, the Church needs to reduce the amount of time members spend in meetings being taught history and doctrine. Can you see why I end up scratching my head in frustration at times?

I would rather tackle the instruction during those three hours and make it as good as it can be first, then evaluate if the actual amount of time can be reduced. Does anyone know what the Brethren have identified as the greatest "failure" of the three hour block? It is that the block was consolidated to allow families to spend more time on the Sabbath and throughout the week together as a family - but most members haven't used it to accomplish that objective. Rather, they have maintained their previous practices on Sunday and just added other activities during the week to replace the church meetings they used to attend.

How can you tell if something should be eliminated unless you've run it the way it was intended to be run? If you are going to eliminate something, what would you emphasize in its place? The main thing I would change is an individual recognition among the membership of what is good, what is better and what is best. If everyone took that responsibility seriously and only focused on the "best" things, much of the "good" simply would die away. Until the members take that responsibility on their own, however, I don't want the Church to eliminate things on a widespread level and "limit my choices" about what I can do. 

So I say, don't ask the Church to change first or primarily; change yourself and live whatever you feel is best, according to the dictates of your own conscience. Pick and choose which non-Sunday meetings and activities to attend, how much to pay in Fast Offerings, how often to attend the temple, how to serve others in the community and/or world, etc. Take responsibility for your own decisions, ironically, as the Church constantly requests. 

I'm trying hard to change myself, regardless of how the Church changes. Ultimately, I take responsibility for how I construct my own life by what I prioritize, and getting others to do the same (no matter what the individual outcome) would be the one thing I would "change about the church".


Anthony E. Larson said...

Here's how I see this. The block isn't the problem, per se. I actually prefer it to the old system where we went to meetings on and off all day.

I was raised in the church. I attended the 1st Ward in SLC as a youth. So, I know both programs pretty well.

I'm very much into the gospel and teaching with the spirit. A strong testimony in others, born of deep conviction or personal sacrifice, will easily bring me to tears. But I don't see or feel that much in meetings today ... certainly not like I did in the first three decades of my life.

So when the opportunity presents itself, I do all I can to invite the spirit. I've studied the gospel enough that I can speak from my heart rather than read someone else's thoughts. I try to approach common topics with a fresh view that will add to the subject rather than simply plow old ground. I try to find meaningful ways of conveying gospel truths. Most of all, I've made the study of the restored gospel and the scriptures a lifelong pursuit, with the objective of mastering its truths. Of these three, a thoroughgoing knowledge and familiarity with the gospel is probably the most important and the thing that is lacking in most speakers and teachers today. Their mastery of the scriptures and their subject matter is shallow. They depend almost entirely on the manual because they do not feel competent enough to venture off script.

Like a slowly deflating baloon, I've felt the spirit gradually abandon our meetings for these and many other reasons. I don't hear the strength of conviction in most talks and lessons that I once heard. I've lived long enough that I have a good basis for comparison. It is a valid ojection I hear often, one I can second.

So whether you get it or not, I do.

Most who raise the issue point an accusing finger at the leadership of the church. I, on the other hand, point that finger at the membership. They set the agenda, not the leadership. They cannot lead where the members will not go. It is the body of the church, you and I, who are at fault for these problems you cite. So, we must look to ourselves for the solutions, as you imply. And much like the Nephites of old, I don't think we'll make much of a change until hardship and opposition force us to repent of those things that make today's meetings less uplifting and unfulfilling.

That's how I see it.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

I grew up in Kentucky and remember very well the Sunday's where we were "back and forth" to church all day and during the week. We drove almost an hour each way, so it was a lot of driving on a Sunday...When they changed it, it was a relief because we were able to be home more together as a family. Having said that, I now live in Virginia and the ward we attend had 2.5 hours of meetings on Sunday because of limited parking at our small building. That has now been changed with a new chapel just a few months ago. We are now on a 3 hour block and at first it seemed a bit long...But it was because of the very thing you cited, we'd allowed our day to be filled with something else and that half hour..I'm sure you get my point. But we have found that there is a better spirit on Sunday's not just with us, but in our meetings because we don't feel so rushed. The 3 hour block has been a "hidden-blessing," at least in my life.

Thank-you for a thought provoking post.

Papa D said...

Thank you, Anthony and Kim, for your thoughtful comments. I particularly liked the following:

"Most of all, I've made the study of the restored gospel and the scriptures a lifelong pursuit, with the objective of mastering its truths."

I also am frustrated by how many members seem to place the responsibility for their Gospel learning on the Church. That is MY job, and it must be done outside the Church meeting times primarily.

"we have found that there is a better spirit on Sunday's not just with us, but in our meetings because we don't feel so rushed."

I really want enough time to explore the Gospel - and reducing the time on Sunday from where it is now won't do that for me. Again, it's prepared members who are willing to share that makes all the difference - not concentrating instruction even further than it already is.

Christy said...

I agree with everything written. Having been a gospel doctrine teacher and a relief society teacher, I know from experience that the classes would be much more enriching if the members actually studied the material ahead of time and were prepared to discuss it (or, having made a practice of regular personal study, had a working knowledge of the material that they could share).

ji said...

The teaching in any particular ward is as wonderful as the leaders, teachers, and members in that ward want it to be. I can thoroughly enjoy a lesson taught by a new member staying close to the lesson manual, even if I don't actually "learn" anything "new". I would really be afraid of lessons presented by the literati of the Church, and I would be afraid of lesson manuals prepared by the cultural and educational elite among us. Our leaders are trying to get us to teach and bear testimony of basics -- I support them in this effort.