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Please don’t make your first day a fast/testimony meeting

February 14, 2009

I was reading an article about a guy’s experience in a Mormon church service, and I admit I really wasn’t paying that much attention to it, because…I dunno…I got to the point where the guy mentioned the hymn “Because I Have Been Given Much” and had to sing the entire song in my head…I’m surprised I actually remember it all.

Well, anyway, I halted singing when I got to a particular part:

After the sacrament comes the “bearing of testimonies”. At this point in the service, anyone moved to speak is encouraged to go to the front of the chapel and address the congregation for a few minutes. The church officials who do so, are, as you would expect, very polished. There’s a moving testimony from a missionary whose father had recently died: on the plane to the funeral he heard a voice saying “The journey your father is now taking is one of such pleasure that it means you don’t have to mourn”. For him, it was proof that “the veil between life and the afterlife is so thin, we can interact with our families and our saviour through it.”

Testimonies by ordinary members were more rambling. Voices broke and tears flowed – but the tone was one of quiet vulnerability rather than loud proclaiming. There was, however, a constant refrain: “I testify that this is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ”, “I affirm that the Book of Mormon is true”, “I testify that the Book of Mormon is a true and a companion to the bible”.

And I realized, this is fast and testimony meeting. He went to an LDS church on a Fast and testimony meeting.

I guess I should’ve seen it coming. At the top of the page, when he was giving a summary of texts used, he put “No texts are used in the sermon.” And I thought to myself, “I’m pretty sure speakers draw liberally from all the standard works — Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.”

Sure, in most days, people are sure to tell faith promoting stories and rumors and things that probably would best fit in a forwarded chain mail than in church…but the church seems pretty scriptural.

But Fast and Testimony meetings change everything.

The guy starts out by saying, “Mormonism gets a bad press. But does it deserve its outsider status?” And I kinda thought about it…I can identify lots of things that could potentially be embarrassing. And you don’t even have to go for Anti-Mormon literature for this either…just pick up your Pearl of Great Price and you’ll find some incredible stuff.

But…I’m not embarrassed by the PGP. That’s just our particular idiosyncrasy. I’m not embarrassed by polygamy or Adam-God or anything of yesteryear. Perhaps I’m a touch embarrassed by race relations or positions on sexuality, but I realized that the thing I would like least for ANY nonmember to see in our church was much more benign.

Fast and Testimony meeting. It changes everything.

I never liked to share the gospel with my friends for many reasons, but I particularly never invite people to church (except one time, really, and it BACKFIRED. I hope the guy feels bad for breaking his promise, since I actually went to his church [to be treated like utter dog crap] on condition that he would come to a Combined/mutual activity [so I wasn’t even going to expose him to a Sunday service!]…and then after the event at his church, he pointed out that he could never come to a cult church or read a cult book like the Book of Mormon.) I have always disliked recommending products to people, even products I like, because I feel personally responsible if I recommend something they come to dislike. I’d hate for someone to come to my church and be bored or offended. I don’t want that on my hands.

With Fast and Testimony meeting, I just don’t even think that’s good for to invite someone to that. It’s church at (oftentimes) its worst. Since I’m in the culture, I can tolerate and accept the long moments of utter silence between testimonies…of people not wanting to go up (it’s actually a good example of the Bystander Effect, I think…). But I just would never want someone who wasn’t a believer or in the know to see that.

I guess some members might think an investigator would be “touched” by the sometimes emotional nature of testimonies, but I often just cringe, and I couldn’t have that happen to someone else.

…I still can’t believe that guy. I’m going to have to write a post ranting about that. That was like, probably, the most inconsiderate thing that has ever happened to me.

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3 Comments
  1. It is fascinating – but important from the perspective of how critical most mormons find the personal spiritual experience. The texts are important, but sharing your personal impressions and beliefs are just as important. To reinforce the community, reinforce the idea that God works on daily lives, etc.

    I heard a story about one of my fellow college students who attended a pentecostal church service. At some point, he was asked to start speaking in tongues…he wanted to attend the service to find out more, obviously that membership had other plans. The story ended when he pretended to speak in tongues and ran away. My point is, I suppose it could be worse for that reviewer.

  2. I remember going to a pentecostal church service (in fact, that relates to the backfired fellowshipping attempt).

    The asking me to speak in tongues thing wasn’t what got me. I guess what really soured the deal was how they took me to a side room and intensely interrogated me for an hour or so. Who DOES that?!

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