Sunday, December 06, 2009

"Song of the Heart" and The Welcome Wagon

I just got back from church. The meetings weren't too bad: testimony meeting, which I generally like and Sunday School, which I enjoy mainly because I think the lady who teaches it is a good teacher. I don't typically attend Priesthood.

The ward choir sang some prelude music, and as is my experience with most ward choirs, they were kind of lackluster. They were singing so tentatively that I was truly tempted to yell, "Sing out, Louise!" which surely would have outed me to everyone there. (If you don't get the reference, look it up.)

Singer Gladys Knight, who converted to Mormonism a few years ago told President Gordon B. Hinckley, more or less, that we could use some more soul and pep in our worship music. I completely agree. Music is such an important part of Mormon worship services, and I think we should be using music to celebrate the joy we have in being members of the Church and in expressing the love and adoration we have for our Heavenly Father; and yet, what happens so often is that it comes out sounding very stiff and repressed and joyless. One quote attributed to a choral group Gladys Knight has helped create is, "[I]t is the fulfillment of Sister Knight's desire to bring a new level of passion and cultural awareness to the traditionally reserved LDS hymns."

I've been to several different churches in my life, and musically Mormons often to be the most reserved and straight-laced. I think it's unfortunate. Music is such an important tool to invite the Spirit of the Lord, and I know I have felt it in other religions. That isn't to say I haven't felt it in LDS meetings, because I certainly have. But I do think we could work on bringing a bit more "pep" (and maybe even more variety) into our worship music. I'm not asking for electric guitars or timpani; just a little more joyfulness.

One thing I've noticed in my current ward is that the bishop has never shaken my hand or asked me who I am, although he has had many opportunities to do so. Granted, I could introduce myself to him. I mean, I'm not complaining or anything. Frankly, I don't really care to draw too much attention to myself or have to explain about my excommunication or my husband. I just think it's odd that he specifically shakes the hands and welcomes those he already knows, but ignores me even though I'm sitting right next to them. Like I said, I don't mind. I'm not bothered or offended by it or anything. I just find it strange, especially since we're in a small town where everybody seems to know everybody, and yet he doesn't seem inquisitive enough to ask about a stranger in his ward. It's just odd to me.

I also found it a little strange that he invited the newly baptized eight-year-olds to come join the bishopric on the stand, but did not invite two newly baptized convert children who couldn't have been more than eleven. I don't think they cared either way; they looked pretty happy. I just thought it was strange.

He seems to be a very well liked bishop among his congregation. Many, many people have said very kind things about him. I just find his actions a little odd at times. I felt so too when my first introduction to him was when he gave a talk and stressed three things: that we (the members) must have family dinner together every night, we must shun pornography, and that the economy was never, ever going to get better so we'd better get used to tough times ahead. It wasn't that any of the topics were weird in and of themselves; it was just the way he strung them together and his conviction that we were forever economically doomed that made me find him odd. I can't really explain it. He's a likeable guy; he's just odd to me.

Even more odd was the lady in Sacrament Meeting today who said she used to pray that God would have mercy on Satan because he was, after all, God's son and in need of mercy (not necessarily an unchristian sentiment, but still an odd thing to say in a testimony, I thought). She did also add that she doesn't do that anymore since she's realized that the consequences of some choices are irreversible. She said something else I found really odd, but unfortunately I have forgotten what it was (although if I do remember I'll update this entry).

I did feel myself tense up in Sunday School when the topic turned to the destruction of the family. I was sure homosexuality was going to come up, although it never did (although abortion and STDs were mentioned). I did find it interesting that many of the positive values they were talking about regarding the family unit (such as mutual love, commitment, nuturing, based in Christ, etc.) were just as applicable for a gay couple as they are for a straight one. The only one they talked about that wasn't is the ability to bear children (although I know some gay people are capable of raising and nurturing a child equally as well, and in come cases, better).

Anyway, that was church.


Sean said...

Better music in a typical ward? What a revolution that would be. Better get people to take more than a couple years of piano before becoming a ward pianist/organist. And certainly a few vocal pedagogy and conducting lessons before leading a choir. But alas it will never happen.

J G-W said...

In my Sunday School, a sister started talking about "issues with the family," and I was bracing myself... But gradually, she explained that many members of her family are not Mormon, and at family reunions they like to go eat at restaurants on the Sabbath. She was trying to figure out what was more important -- spending time with family (even if doing so involved breaking the Sabbath by eating at a restaurant) or obeying the Law of the Sabbath.

I was relieved and slightly amused at the same time. (And immediately thought about Jesus eating and drinking with "sinners," and reminding us that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath...")

Bravone said...

I totally agree with the need for more soul in our music. It was really cool at the Matis fireside to see the amazing talent our 'family' has. Equally enjoyable were the congregational hymns. I selected "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day" because they are upbeat, but now worries amongst our group. They were amazing. Everyone sang loud and in harmony. It felt really good to be in the middle of a group of people who have such good talent and such a desire to sing from the heart. We would have put any ward to shame.

Hey, that gives me a new idea for a reality show - sort of a ward 'so you think you can sing!'

BB said...

YOu reminded me of my favorite Mark Twain quote:

"But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?"