Eternal Boredom

Culture Sacrament Meeting

mormonad_boring_church.jpg I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this “Mormonadz” (apparently one of the result images from Monday’s quiz). It reminded me of my infamous “why I hate church” article from the Student Review.

But it makes me wonder: Does the Mormon church service have to be so boring? I mean, would it be some kind of heresy to have a service that doesn’t leave half the congregation fighting the sand-man?

Or, alternately, is there anyone out there who thinks Mormon church isn’t boring?

To help answer, here’s what some of your friends are saying about it:

Andrew analyzes whether boring church meetings are meant as character-building exercise, and follows-up by asking if forcing your kids to attend may be counter-productive (if you want them to stay Mormon, that is). Simeon recounts his recent fun at church: “You should try policing the random outbursts, fidgety movements and bursts of fighting that accompany kids during such a boring meeting while fighting off the same type of drowsiness that only Benadryl can usually bring on.” Andee compares our modern chloroform-read-aloud General Conferences with the exciting conferences of Brigham Young’s day: you’re not going to be battling the drowsies when you’re surrounded by zealots cheering at calls for “Blood Atonement” of apostates, that’s for darn sure! And, of course, Sacrament Meeting boredom is a bit of a running gag in Exmormon, with Lynn (at Youth Conference) describing how “we Mormons pride ourselves on not having a paid minister to give a sermon but rather just have ordinary members of the ward give inspiring messages every week,” then reliving it at BYU, while Sam is faced with the question “Do you think that that’s the way the Lord intended for you to worship Him?”

Well, is it?

14 thoughts on “Eternal Boredom

  1. Irrelevant. Sacrament meetings are not about worship at all.

    I have been to dozens of other Christian denominations’ services. The only ones whose meetings are less about worship are the Christian Scientists. Their meetings are even more boring than sacrament meeting.

    Quaker meetings for worship–the silent kind!–are surprisingly not boring to me at all. They are intensely spiritual. Liturgical Christianity is most definitely worshipful. And my wife and I attend a nondenominational emergent Christian church that has a traditional-type sermon, but then an extended period of overt worship.

    Mormon meetings are basically just all variations of Sunday School. the only thing that makes Sacrament Meeting different is that you can’t ask questions or have discussions.

  2. I used to look forward to Fast and Testimony meetings, because some crazy would always get up to bear their testimony and it was way less boring than the usual Sacrament meeting.

  3. On the extremely rare occasion that I attend a Mormon sacrament today the only thing that keeps me awake is that I’m studying the people around me. I only go as a sociologist these days, which means I’m studying demographics and behavior.

    The only sacrament meeting I remember being exciting (other than the ones I spoke in) was when a member of the ward dissented when he was being voted on to take a new calling… No one had mentioned it to him (some sort of mix-up in the bishopric). Everyone else voted to support/sustain him in the calling, then when they asked for opposition, he raised his hand. You could have heard a pin drop. Pretty funny!

  4. I used to look forward to Fast and Testimony meetings, because some crazy would always get up to bear their testimony and it was way less boring than the usual Sacrament meeting.

    We used to live in the Harlem Ward, and people would walk in off the street all the time. Fast and testimony meeting was an adventure. Still not really worship, though.

  5. For fun I ended on the question of whether or not it’s “worship”, but now I kind of regret it — the question kind of implies the assumption the Mormon church should be worship, which I don’t believe.

    As far as I’m concerned, the Abrahamic God (of the book) is a character deserving of scorn, certainly not worship. So if the Mormon service is ineffective at worshipping this villain, then good for the Mormons.

    However, Kullervo’s point that the meetings are an extension of Sunday School is an interesting one, and I think accurate. The focus of Mormon church is to teach the members the gospel. The trouble comes in (the boredom) because you’re not encouraged to look beyond the dull and repetitive manuals, no matter how much of this education you’ve had. Contrast this with Chris Smith’s description of what makes research fun. The one truly exciting part of Mormon learning is in family history, where you really are encouraged to go to primary sources (like journals).

    So making church more interesting by allowing the educational opportunities to progress would indeed be heretical (in the LDS framework) since it would do nothing but encourage all those Sunstone Mormons! 😉

  6. Wendy — It’s true that F&T meeting has more potential to be interesting. It’s the one part that isn’t “correlated”, so anything can happen. The only trouble is (in my recollection) most of the time, instead of interesting craziness, we got a lot more of the same old same old. And by “a lot more” I mean that the bishop wanted to be sure to give everyone a chance to speak, so even if the meeting has already gone over by ten minutes, more people can get in line for the podium…

    ProfXM — That’s a great story! I wonder if it would be interesting to go back to church and look at it anthropologically. I haven’t attended since my BYU days, decades ago. My brother John wrote up a really funny account of attending with his partner Mike (so Mike could see what it was like). Unfortunately, I think the write-up may have been on his old blog which he deleted.

  7. Chanson: I think we can talk about whether Mormon services are worship without getting into whether we personally think their god deserves worship.

  8. I never said otherwise. I’m just more interested in the question of whether it’s necessary for them to be so mind-numbingly boring.

    Is it theoretically (or doctrinally) possible for them to be otherwise? Not sure. Maybe this is what happens to “charismatic”-type religions when they mature…

  9. Yes, I believe they could be more interesting. I don’t think it would be difficult at all.

    The services could also be much shorter.

    Although, I will admit this is a “to each their own” concept. We have the BYU channel on our cable, and I literally cannot watch more than 15 seconds of the talking heads at conference (focus on one man speaking in a suit) without being shocked that I used to be able to listen to two hours of conference (being exceptionally bored).

    BUT – after conference some weeks ago, I read lots of accounts of people looking forward to conference and enjoying the whole process (multiple sessions).

    I think if there were more flexibility it might be more interesting. With some firm boundaries to prevent rac_ist and other distasteful subjects from being promoted as doctrine.

  10. I literally cannot watch more than 15 seconds of the talking heads at conference (focus on one man speaking in a suit) without being shocked that I used to be able to listen to two hours of conference (being exceptionally bored).

    Haha, I’m not surprised. It’s amazing what you can sit through when you’re forced to.

    Of course, I never lived in the Mormon corridor growing up, so I never got the fun of conference in p.j.’s. We watched conference via sattelite at the Stake Center, so we got all the boredom of multiple sessions of talking heads with the added pleasure of having to dress up in church clothing and sit reverently in metal folding chairs in the “Cultural Hall.” I imagine it was the same for you. My most pleasant memories of conference were of escaping from my parents and sitting on the edge of the stage where I could goof off with other kids.

    BUT – after conference some weeks ago, I read lots of accounts of people looking forward to conference and enjoying the whole process (multiple sessions).

    That always amazes me. It amazed me as a kid, and it amazes me now. I can’t tell if they mean it, or if it’s a way of demonstrating righteousness, like in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (only the truly righteous can “see” how wonderfully fascinating conference is).

    I think if there were more flexibility it might be more interesting. With some firm boundaries to prevent rac_ist and other distasteful subjects from being promoted as doctrine.

    The boundaries of what can be taught as doctrine is almost a whole additional discussion. The “official doctrine” is never clarified, so people can teach just about anything…

  11. I attended general conference in person once as a true-believing college student. It was much more affecting in person, at least for me. I briefly wept on the shoulder of the girl next to me after my former mission president spoke and we sang Come, Come Ye Saints. Damn that last verse!

    If I can channel my believing self, I looked forward to it because it felt good to hear people confirm my beliefs. It felt good to belong to a community who believed as I did. I was truly inspired by LDS ideals and by its grand myth. It felt like a respite from a world trying to attack my worldview. I felt elevated by the experience.

    That didn’t counteract conference’s soporific effect, but I really tried to listen not only because I felt that I should but also because I generally enjoyed what they had to say. (Except for Tommy Monson’s syrupy sweet talks which smelled to me like funeral flowers and formaldehyde.)

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