This morning I had an opportunity to go to brunch with some of my cast mates and crew members of the show I'm currently rehearsing. Instead I decided to go to to church, as I usually do. I made the wrong call.
Church, particularly Sacrament Meeting, was mind-numbingly boring today. In fact, if it is possible to be bored to death, I'd say I was pretty close. I think I actually felt I lost a few minutes of precious life today.
Before you give me some of the standard answers I've heard before (i.e., "Well, what did you do to prepare to receive the Spirit today?", "Church is not designed for entertainment, but for worship," "Not every meeting can be a home run," etc.), let me say that I enjoy going to church the majority of the time, but I do not understand why LDS church meetings have to be so dull and uninspired at times. And I actually think my ward that I attend is one of the better ones, but in my history of attending many LDS wards throughout my life, I have seen a lot of lackluster meetings, and I don't quite understand why it has to be that way.
I have heard some outstanding talks in my day and have participated in some very thought-provoking, spiritual lessons, but more often than not, I find that church meetings can come off as somewhat monotonous and boring. I feel sorry for these teachers who come in with a well-prepared lesson only to be greeted by silence or the occasional "Sunday School answer." (Believe you me, I would comment if I could, but my excommunication precludes that). And why do the majority of LDS congregants insist on celebrating the worship of their Lord by singing hymns as if they were funeral dirges? I stopped attending Priesthood years ago because it was week after week after week of unprepared, uninspired lessons, and I simply decided I had better uses for my time. And why do 80% of high council members seem unable to give a good talk? Is it one of the requisites of being called to that position? (In their defense, I think over the years they have gotten better. When I was younger it seemed more like 95%.) And why are church meetings so often conducted like board meetings rather than worship services?
I think worship service can be so much more dynamic, inspiring, and spiritual than it sometimes is. There have been some great talks in General Conferences before; why can't that same fervent energy and instruction exist on a local level, too?
Shouldn't part of worship be celebrating our Savior and our Heavenly Father and creating an environment where the Spirit can freely flow. At the end of two of the most uninspired, tired talks I have heard in some time, the first counselor got up and said a usual, "We're thankful for our speakers. We have felt the Spirit here today," and I just thought, "Have we felt it as strongly as we could have if the speakers had been more dynamic or if the congregation had been more present and spiritually prepared?" I'm not excusing myself. Perhaps I could have been more spiritually present and in tune myself. Maybe I would have more strongly felt the same Spirit the counselor alluded to if I had been more in tune. But I've come to church many a time ready and willing to learn something; having an open mind, heart, and spirit, only to be greeted by an unprepared teacher or speaker or one who doesn't know how to engage his or her listeners. My point is, it isn't always my fault.
I love those times when a really good speaker or teacher gives an especially great talk or lesson; where the participants in a lesson actually have a thought-provoking, spiritual discussion rather than just spouting canned answers; where a particular musical number is done in such a way that the Spirit reverberates throughout the room; etc. I think it can happen more often if we allow it to.
Sometimes it seems that Mormons are just kind of boring, joyless worshipers. It's as if it's a chore to be at church (and sometimes, admittedly, it is). I've attended other faiths on occasion. Some I have enjoyed greatly; others not so much. The ones I've enjoyed most were the ones where there was joy and electricity in the air or when a particular sermon was given that touched my soul. I wish there was more of that in organized religion. I think we should strive for that more. Shouldn't worshiping and learning be joyful events and cause for celebration? I think they should be; otherwise I'd just like to have a joyful brunch with some good friends.