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Character building with…boring church meetings

November 16, 2008

I don’t know about your parents, church leaders, or virtually every adult you knew, but for me, these people had this singular message. Always, everyone would say: “Sometimes, you have to do things you don’t like to appreciate them. It builds character.”

So, obedience…a very central tenet to the church, might not be something we appreciate. But we are obedient because it will lead to our appreciating of the true principle behind whatever action. It builds in us a character that enforces good action. There was a quote about the chain of things…I don’t want to quote it directly (since I’m too lazy to look  it up), but it was something like: “Thoughts lead to words…words lead to actions…actions lead to habits. Habits lead to character. Character leads to a life.” Or something like that. If we serve continually, we might hate it, but it could become a habit that reinforces our character and we will appreciate service.

ANYWAY, I was searching through old blogs (notice how anything more than a month old on the internet is just ancient and archaic? This blog entry was only from 2006! That’s a two-year old baby is not “old”) and found this article about enduring through boring church meetings.

This intrigued me for several reasons, many of which I don’t really want to dive into because I already write way too much in blog entries. For example…if meetings are boring, isn’t this a sign that we should be improving the quality of meetings rather than placing the blame on *ourselves*, who happen to be bored?

I was particularly intrigued by the train of thought by the blog’s author, Keryn:

If it was true that her mother never made her stay though things that were boring, then that would explain a lot about her attitude about church and life in general. She seemed to go through life expecting everything to go her way–from camp chores to sitting through a thirty minute Mia Maid lesson at church. There was very little patience in her attitude. Maybe it was because she was rarely expected to do something unpleasant just because it needed to be done.

Should we make people stay to learn patience? What is this “Free will” thing over nar?

I understand parents have liberty to make parental judgment in some situations. Sometimes, you’ve got to say who your house will serve. But…is this an example one should necessarily set?

When I wrote in another blog entry about my coming to terms with patience through church meetings…I think it’s important to note that my parents didn’t force me to go to church. I went because I felt I should…maybe it was because I didn’t want to be seen as delinquent? I’d never be able to do what these girls did…getting in trouble and ruining my reputation for such a cheap reason seems unreasonable to me.

However, I think my parents set another very gospel-rific example. For even though we have free will, we do not have the ability to choose our consequences. In LDS gospel, agency and accountability are inseparable. So, parents can say (as mine did), “You are 100% free to not go through boring meetings…but then you might not like the consequences.”

Yeah…my brother didn’t like those consequences. Seems like staying out late with friends and then missing church in the morning does not jive well and will lead to a curfew.

But…my brother does not learn so much from being forced to go to church. In fact, this might backfire against my parents and cause him to resent the church (how do we create anti-Mormons instead of people who simply aren’t Mormon anymore? However you want to place the blame, there’s something amiss). But if he could learn to see certain potential consequences of his actions and then evaluate consequences and obey from his own choice, then his attendance would be more meaningful.

I *do* find value in Keryn’s post, even if it seems I have completely disagreed. It may be the case that the very act of doing what’s right…even without having the right intention…can inspire the right intention. Through brain plasticity, it’s possible that through orthopraxy, we can come to orthodoxy. (Please believe me! I didn’t use those words just to appear smart — they were already used in the BCC post). If this is the case, then perhaps we might want to mandate, or highly encourage, good practices in the hopes that we can mold attitudes. (Does that final link seem familiar? It’s because I used it in this very entry before — CIRCLE OF LIFE!)

Of course, then again, we could be creating our own worst enemies.

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10 Comments
  1. I grew up with the idea that meetings were something to be endured as a show of righteousness. I was absolutely baffled and mystified the first time one of my teachers in Young Women’s told the class (in a manner that seemed quite sincere ) that she looked forward to Sacrament Meeting and found it edifying. My first reaction was that either she’s lying or she’s nuts. Then I thought about it for a really long time and tried to convince myself that she might not be lying or nuts. If you don’t mind another link to my novel, I covered it here (though the boring meetings end up to be a bit of a running gag… 😉 )

  2. And continuing our discussion from the other day, I have an anecdote from back when I used to follow the popular exmo forum “RfM”:

    Some fellow non-believers were enumerating the ways the church is beneficial for child-rearing. I found every one of their reasons dubious, but the worst was when they pointed out that without chuch meetings small children wouldn’t learn to sit reverently for an hour or more. I could hardly believe the writer didn’t notice that without church meetings, little children wouldn’t need to sit reverently for an hour or more. I had two little toddlers at the time, and was at that moment incredibly happy that I didn’t feel compelled to waste a few hours of my precious free time per week torturing myself by attempting to train them to “sit reverently”…

  3. Thanks for more comments, C! Feel free to link to your novel whenever; one of these days, I’m going to have to read it from beginning to end *in order* though (especially since it seems you’ve covered all of my possible material in it already! but as a plus, it’s refreshing to note that I’m not the first (or the last) person to think about these things!)

    As a business major, I still have to think that the church is, in part, a business. And of course, from my perspective, I’d have to say…if things are boring, first and foremost that’s a sign that things need to be changed about the *meeting*. I guess what’s interesting is how the church can cleverly pull out rhetoric on “enduring to the end” instead of making meetings more engaging. A business could not so easily pull that off, or they’d see people defecting to more “fun” organizations.

    As for your second comment, that reminded me of an article I had read by Richard Packham (also on the theme of dispelling dubious claims about the church’s benefits for childrearing: http://packham.n4m.org/children.htm ) and that’s kinda what…got me thinking a while back.

    I mean, my opinions on this are null since I don’t have children and don’t plan on having them for a while, but I’d think…there’d still be something good about having kids be able to “sit reverently.” My problem is…why must this be learned from Sacrament? From religion? Can’t it be taught without dubious historical and spiritual claims attached?

  4. Excellent content and style…keep up the good work!

  5. I’d think…there’d still be something good about having kids be able to “sit reverently.”

    Well, I’d say yes and no. It’s true that even small children need to learn to control themselves and be calm and quite in many social situations with adults, rather than learning that it’s okay to run around and scream and jump on strangers whenever. But there’s a degree to which this has to be adapted to the development level of the child. Sitting silently through all of Sacrament Meeting is a bit much for very small kids (not to mention for their moms… ).

    Also, I think it’s useful to have the exercise tied to its real-world usefulness, such as when I try to get my kids to behave themselves and not bother people on the tramway.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Boring church meetings part II « Irresistible (Dis)Grace
  2. Resolutions and Religiosity « Irresistible (Dis)Grace
  3. Eternal Boredom | Main Street Plaza
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  5. Sunday in Outer Blogness: no rest until we’re done edition! | Main Street Plaza

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