It is a truth universally acknowledged among Mormons, that church meetings are boring. Painfully boring. But that if you see that as a problem, the solution is to change your own attitude — and if you are unable to convince yourself that you are in some way edified by these repetitive and substance-free meetings, then it is your own moral failing.
So I wasn’t remotely surprised by the beginning part of this quote from The Crucible of Doubt:
We know that the main purpose of Sabbath observance is to partake of the Lordâ€™s Supper. But we sometimes grow frustrated with all the peripherals with all the peripherals. Lessons and talks are to some Mormons what cafeteria food is to teenagersâ€“not just in the way they can be bland and boring, but in the way that they sometimes bring us together in mutual griping rather than mutual edification. But what if we saw lessons and talks as connections to the sacrament rather than as unrelated secondary activities? What if we saw them as opportunities to bear with one another our infirmities and ineptitudes?
Or what if we considered the possibility that if everybody’s always griping about something, then maybe it’s a sign of a systemic problem that could be addressed…? But that’s just my professional inclination as a software engineer with a specialty in troubleshooting.
The next bit, however, absolutely floored me:
What if we saw the mediocre talk, the overbearing counselor, the lesson read straight from the manual, as a lay memberâ€™s equivalent of the widowâ€™s mite? A humble offering, perhaps, but one to me measured in terms of the capacity of the giver rather than in the value received?
So, in essence, if I say, “I don’t want to go to McDonald’s because the food there is garbage,” then I’m being mean and uncharitable to the poor workers who did their best when assembling that Big Mac. Magically absent from this picture are the institutional policies that prevent anything of substance from being served.
it seems to me, from online conversations with Seth Payne and Dan Wotherspoon, that the pastoral apologists have just a fundamentally different view of the church. I mean, it definitely seems that they speak about all the good the church does because they actually believe the good outweighs the harm. Even if I can get them to agree that there is bad stuff that happens, always, always, always, thatâ€™s people acting in small-mindedness rather than an institutional problem. Always, that people failing to be Mormon *enough* or failing to be Christian *enough* rather than the natural result of actual Mormon teachings.
So, maybe the people in Givens’ intended audience really are blaming the line-workers for the crappiness of the Big Mac, so to speak.
Perhaps the moment when you look straight at the elephant in the room — and you’re capable of focusing on it instead of constantly craning around it to look at everything else — is the point of no return when it comes to belief in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.