LDS Worship – Part II

April 13, 2009
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The following is the second part of the series written for us by David Stout, Disciples of Christ minister, about his perception of LDS worship.  The first post can be read here.  Again, thank you, David.

The second reason (I am interested in the possibility of returning a bit of the former fire of earlier Mormonism to the current church) lifts the service I attended from the background of Mormon history and sets it against the backdrop of the LDS future. As I mentioned parenthetically in my previous post, one of the talks used in the Sacrament Meeting I attended was one given originally by David McKay. As I understand it, President McKay was the prophet who set the LDS on its modern missionary explosion. Prior to his time Mormonism was largely confined to the mountain west. McKay, however, had a vision of a broader reach and that was the impetus for the current status of the LDS as a nascent worldwide religious community.

This in turn raises the issue of missionary activity. The talk which McKay had given perceptively realized that sending out missionaries would not, by itself, achieve the desired ends. Every Saint needed to see him or herself as a missionary, bearing witness and providing contacts for the “tie guys” to follow up on. Keep this thought on the back burner for a minute.

Just long enough ago for me to forget the source, I read an article which addressed some of the difficulties LDS missionaries abroad were facing. One was the explosive growth of Pentecostalism, another was the lack of well formed LDS communities, a third was the disadvantage of missionary “roll over” especially when contrasted with the long term work of Protestant and Catholic missionaries, and the last was the lack of indigenous expression in Mormon worship. One former African Mormon convert said that the reason he gave up on the LDS was that it just wasn’t African.

Now add in the words of Gladys Knight to Gordon Hinkley, “I like everything about the Mormon Church except the music.” Knight has since developed a Latter Day Saint gospel choir which, significantly, has been very effective at getting contacts for missionaries. Let that sink in a minute: a black gospel style choir is proving very effective in getting a hearing for the gospel message as understood by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Bring McKay’s vision back into the mix. I would suggest (and here my outsider standing might be of particular import since it is non Mormons that you wish to attract) that if the LDS is going to successfully jump to the next level of its growth then two related things might need to happen. One is a greater sensitivity and openness to the process of inculturation. The other is a greater emphasis  (or rediscovery) of the power of spiritual encounter and ongoing revelation. The two are obviously related. It isn’t likely that many people are going to have a spiritual encounter if they find the delivery and expression of the gospel excessively foreign. Going the other way, spiritual encounter is most easily encouraged, nurtured, and spread when it incorporates as much as possible of the individual’s culture.

These two principles are at the heart of the modern missionary movement which has seen the dramatic growth of Christianity throughout the non western world. Once missionaries started concentrating on making disciples of Christ instead of exporting English or American or Italian culture they started doing very well. Indeed, the core of Christianity now lies south of the equator in Asia, Africa, and South America rather than in its old bastions of Europe and the United States.

From talking with a local ward leader, I know that maintaining sound doctrine is of paramount importance in the LDS. This makes the prospect of inculturation and greater freedom of expression in worship and witness a bit threatening. One does not wish to lose control of what is said and done in the name of the LDS and/or watering down the restored gospel. Having both evangelical and Roman Catholic roots, I understand the concern and (especially as a guest in this venue) I do not want to make light of it.

Nevertheless, I would point out that the Roman Catholic Church with 1.2 billion very diverse people has still managed to maintain its historic teaching and practice while allowing for considerable local color and expression. The Mass has proven flexible enough to keep its basic structure very much intact and yet still accommodate a plethora of indigenous customs and music. The music of Bach or Brubeck are both entirely capable of conveying the ancient mystery of Christ’s body and blood. So are the genres of soul, black gospel, and bluegrass.

Evangelicals have likewise managed to keep to a pretty rigid orthodoxy while allowing for all sorts of worship expression. Curiously, I have personally found that the more creative the worship, the more traditional the teaching. What makes this particularly interesting is the fact that evangelicalism is a broad based movement with no central authority.

I should think that if a church the size of the Roman Catholic communion and a movement as decentralized as Evangelicalism can keep their doctrinal commitments while allowing freedom for local expression, then surely the LDS with its off the charts organizational genius could do the same.

I would also suggest that by reclaiming some of its early heritage, the LDS could speak more powerfully to the post modern world where heart tends to trump head and where music often speaks most powerfully than sermon. (As a preacher I mourn this development, but I do not dispute its veracity.)

To put it another way, I found the service that morning to be very similar to a Unitarian Universalist service. Given that the UU is over the top rationalistic with a very strong secularist element, this is really saying something. I would think that the LDS, a movement rooted in prophecy and revelation, would offer a very different kind of service from the UU, a movement rooted in rationalism.

Now again I want to underscore the fact that I write as a non Mormon and I recognize the fact that there must be something about the sacrament meeting that does work and that the current missionary strategy has proven quite effective. Consequently it could be very well argued that there is no point messing with success and I would not object in the least if you, the reader, took that position.

But I would humbly suggest that maybe the broader vision of David McKay, the insights and success of Gladys Knight and her gospel choir, and the early roots of the LDS Church itself might raise some heretofore unconsidered possibilities for reaching more people from different backgrounds. I would also suggest that these same possibilities for more effective mission might also bring the sacrament meeting and the principle of ongoing revelation into greater practical coherence.

46 Responses to LDS Worship – Part II

  1. AndrewJDavis
    April 13, 2009 at 8:22 am

    I completely agree with the point about music and the Spirit. I’ve been a lifelong member, but grew up in the South. To me, the Gospel music brings just as much Spirit and Testimony with it as do the hymns that are all from the 1800′s in our hymnal (ok not ALL are that old, but most are!). As a musician, I feel the connection to the Divine easier when listening to a Bach Fugue, or a Requiem Mass than “Do What is Right” which is one of the ugliest music in all time.

    The solution for this is for people to get educated about music. You appreciate more what you have put effort into studying. The same thing works for the Scriptures — anyone ever not appreciated Isaiah more after actually putting the blood, sweat, tears, and thesaurus into truly studying his words? Music is the same way. When you learn about the composer’s life, his thoughts, and his (and of course her as the case may be) testimony, you realize just how fervent the worship can be while making great music that is not your Happy Valley hymn.

    I’m doing my best as my Stake’s Choir Director — every Christmas and Easter concert, we do a few spirituals, as well as a traditional (as in Choral Masterpiece) piece, in addition to the typical Mormon hymns. It’s my hope that little by little, the people in my generation will realize that we do NOT have a monopoly on what music allows us to feel the Spirit, and then we may realize truly what Pres. Hinckley said when he said to new converts, take the good you have and let us add to it. We don’t get rid of what they bring — let them bring their soul music, their gospel choirs, and their bongo drums. We can add to that without taking away their connection to God.

  2. jjackson
    April 13, 2009 at 11:07 am

    It’s arguable that we, as a church, practice religious imperialism. Where the Brits used to want to “make the world England” I think in many ways we’ve been trying to “make the world mormon”. I don’t think there’s any need to apologize for that in terms of belief and doctrine. But so much of what we consider to be “mormon” has nothing at all to do with belief and doctrine. It’s a problem central to many of the discussions that happen here…why do we do the things we do? Tradition, culture, habit, whatever, the notion of fundamentally changing a worship pattern or practice is likely frightening to many who are culturally in the mainstream of mormonism.

    But nothing bad has happened as a result of congregations in Hawaii greeting and responding with a group “aloha!” Yesterday in our ward we had a bit of a special Easter program for sacrament meeting and made extra effort to invite other members of the community in. At the request of the stake presidency we had some snacks and mingling immediately following the service instead of having Sunday school. It worked very well, people enjoyed it and visitors felt very welcomed. Especially since so many people were now free from other tasks to make those visitors feel welcome. The lesson I taught in elders’ quorum afterwards was nothing special, but those attending certainly seemed to have a little more energy and the participation level was notably higher. Nothing bad happened as a result of making this little change.

    There are probably lots of other examples out there of small changes that were nice, that made a meeting more relaxed or more uplifting or more engaging. The only problem is that they are almost certainly the exception rather than the rule. And I’d guess that if a congregation really started doing something different on a permanent basis with music, they’d probably be asked to stop even if it was working.

  3. hawkgrrrl
    April 13, 2009 at 11:48 am

    “spiritual encounter is most easily encouraged, nurtured, and spread when it incorporates as much as possible of the individual’s culture.” – I’m not sure I agree with this actually. I do think that some inherent cultures (e.g. the Mountain West) are less likely to translate well elsewhere than other cultures. What I see is a strong skepticism in the Mountain West of “holy roller” style worship or anything with much enthusiasm at all. And I agree that doesn’t play well elsewhere. IOW, Mormonism will play well to those who are equally skeptical, but not to those who like an enthusiastic worship style. Which is a loss to us, IMO.

    “I would point out that the Roman Catholic Church with 1.2 billion very diverse people has still managed to maintain its historic teaching and practice while allowing for considerable local color and expression.” Mass is a ritual, unlike our meetings which are constantly shedding ritual. Ritual translates better over a wide array of cultures, as you point out. The lack of ritual leaves us with correlation of doctrine. Lay led sermons are essentially the reason we have a need for doctrinal caution, but what I do think is stronger about our approach is that the local person is going to give a sermon that is relevant to the culture (unless the missionaries speak, in which case you can generally forget that), and in so doing, s/he will be eligible for personal revelation and to bring the spirit to others, not just through a repetitive ritual led by a cleric. When you attend wards outside the U.S., the feel is quite different as a result, although, as you point out the music and style could do a lot more to reflect a broader range.

  4. MH
    April 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    David, I’d like to see more cultural integration as you suggest. I am often amazed why the church frowns upon celebration. For example, it used to be that missionary farewells were the some of the more fun, interesting meetings. Yet under President Hinckley, there was a real effort to “put the bishop back in charge” of the meeting. The result has been that the meetings are boring, just like all the other meetings.

    I also do not understand why many Easter and Christmas services are so boring. There are no special lessons planned for that day, or communication to do anything out of the ordinary. I find Andrew’s experience above as quite the exception rather than the rule. In my ward, we had our typical Fast and Testimony meeting. More testimonies focused on Easter, but it really wasn’t much different than any other Fast and Testimony meeting. The PH lesson was on trials, and focused on Joseph Smith’s trials rather than Jesus Christ’s trials. I wanted to attend another church’s Easter service in the morning, but since I had to help out with Fast Offerings, that was out of the question for me. (I didn’t attend Sunday School, but suspect they just stuck to the D&C lesson, and didn’t say anything related to Easter.)

  5. Ray
    April 13, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Our Stake President has asked all the leaders in the stake and wards to contemplate two paradigm-shifting questions that I think relate to this discussion perfectly. Without compromising core doctrine:

    1) What would have to happen to have 50% of all people who attend our meetings and activities be not LDS?

    2) What would it take to have 1,000 join the Church in our stake in one year – and remain active?

    I like the fact that he is asking us to think about those questions, since they aren’t “goals” but rather thought exercises. At heart, he’s asking a very pointed question:

    What about our organizational model and culture is keeping us from being open enough to become a society where all are welcome among us AND where all feel comfortable worshiping and associating with us – again, without compromising our core principles and doctrines?

    I appreciate this series of posts, David, since it asks in its own way the same type of questions.

  6. prairie chuck
    April 13, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    “Let that sink in a minute: a black gospel style choir is proving very effective in getting a hearing for the gospel message as understood by the Church” And yet sadly that music is not allowed in most Sacrament meetings.

    AJD, I agree with you. Unfortunately correlation has stifled the best in musical worship except in areas where there is a brave, insightful person like you at the musical helm. Years ago I was ward music chairman and asked a new convert (who was African American) to sing a spiritual in Sac. Mtg. Her performance was stunning but you should have seen the members come unglued over what they called “inappropriate music.” In that same ward we had a big influx of African-American converts who brought a refreshing spontaneity to our meetings–not waiting till the end of a talk or lesson to say “Amen” when something moved them, giving very unorthodox prayers and answers to lessons, breaking into song when bearing testimony, etc. Unfortunately within 6-12 mos they learned to conform to orthodox LDS worship.

    In our current ward the music chairman will not allow any performances that are not hymns. So while the church does not believe in a closed cannon, the music director does.

    MH, I’d be glad for any kind of Easter program. 9 out of 10 yrs it’s either GC, SC or F&T.

    I wonder if “maintaining sound doctrine” need be so paramount. Is it such a bad thing to hear something in SM that might not be sound? It would require members to filter the talks through the Spirit to discern what is true and make them more a participant.

  7. April 13, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    there must be something about the sacrament meeting that does work — it provides a “family” level of comfort and home feeling to members no matter where they are.

  8. April 13, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    a black gospel style choir is proving very effective in getting a hearing for the gospel message as understood by the Church” and locally that music is often a part of gospel doctrine classes.

  9. David Stout
    April 14, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Hawkgrrrl: Your point about lay speakers who are indigenous to the local culture is well taken. I would offer two thoughts in response. One, everyone has ritual, by which is meant certain acts and patterns that are followed on a regular basis. Indeed, it was my surprise at learning that all SMs everywhere in the world are exactly the same that began the thought process which lies behind the article. Again, I’m not suggesting doctrine be changed or that the practice of lay speakers be abandoned. I’m asking whether the structure and music of the meeting could be changed, which leads to response two: Apart from the curiosity factor, would you be all that interested in hearing Utah speakers but then having to sing songs and hear prayers that reflect the culture of Zimbabwe or Tibet? Or would you find yourself asking why something a bit more in line with Utah culture couldn’t be added to the mix?

    Stephen: Your response is similar to my girlfriend’s. She too likes the feeling of being able to go anywhere and find the same familiar pattern. My reply is in the form of an anecdote: My whole family used to be some variety of Christian until a cousin decided to marry a Jewish fellow named Howard. To show my welcome, I gave the couple a set of towels with the Star of David on them, not a cross or nativity set. I wanted to tell Howard that becoming a part of my family did not mean that he had to adopt all our family customs and symbols. Instead, our family was capable of expanding to include some of his customs and symbols. Needless to say, I didn’t get rid of my own symbols in the process. IOW, is it fair to say everyone can have that family feeling when the family is defined in terms of the customs and styles of only one part of said family? Also, with regard to 8, I’m glad to hear of the use of black gospel in your Gospel Doctrine class. Now is that class normally an entry point for people or do African Americans only get to hear their music after they have sat through meetings that are exclusively Euro-American in content? (Please know that these comments are said in a sincere and gentle tone. My reason for making them is made clearer in the next paragraph to Ray.)

    Ray: I really, really like the way your stake president thinks and you have caught the main thrust of this part of my article. To sharpen things a bit, I’m asking three main questions: 1. Is evangelism for missionaries only or does the local ward/branch have a responsibility as well? If the latter, how does what goes on in SM figure into the task, if at all? 2. How much of what is done in terms of order, music, prayer, etc. in a sacrament meeting is a matter of divine order and how much is the result of various traditions and cultural/historical developments? (And there most certainly has been at least some historical development.) 3. How much upheaval and change would people be willing to go through (again, WITHOUT changing doctrine) in order to bear a more effective corporate witness to prospective converts? (More pointedly, which is really more important: my comfort and culture or the proclamation of the gospel in ways that honor the creative power of God in other cultures as well as my own?

    To those who mentioned doing a little something different for Easter: Easter and Christmas are the two times of the year when you have a very good chance of inviting someone to come to church with you and getting an affirmative answer. Why any church would just ignore this fact is beyond me. It’s like getting two tickets to a sold out Josh Groban concert and then wasting them on your hockey buddy instead of that cute girl at work.

    And thank you to all of you for sharing your stories, insights, and comments. I find them all engaging, whether they support my thoughts or challenge them.

  10. Ray
    April 14, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Easter and Christmas are the two times of the year when you have a very good chance of inviting someone to come to church with you and getting an affirmative answer. Why any church would just ignore this fact is beyond me. It’s like getting two tickets to a sold out Josh Groban concert and then wasting them on your hockey buddy instead of that cute girl at work.

    David, that might be the best analogy I’ve ever heard in this context.

  11. Jeff Spector
    April 14, 2009 at 8:01 am

    I guess I am of the opinion that in the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, all things must be restored including the correct forms of worship. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love exciting, exhilarating music as much as anyone. I’ve been a musician my whole life and one of my most memorable jobs was playing for a gospel group and playing in a number of black churches. I loved every minute of it, even being the only white AND Jewish guy there.

    But, we are talking about worship here, worship of the Savior Jesus Christ. And it seems to me that that worship should be solemn and dignified and respectful. We attend Sacrament Meeting to Worship, not to be entertained. Unfortunately, we live in a society that must be stimulated 24×7. TV, music videos, cell phones have changed us into a over-stimulated bunch, who can’t sit still, can’t be quiet and, heaven forbid, cannot be bored!

    The other element that seems to be in play here and other posts is this issue of culture. Because some culture is used to doing something a certain way, then it should be adopted so to reflect that culture in our worship. In some cases, that might be true, but it is not an automatic that we should even consider it. I think that it must fall into the category of solemn, dignified and respectful.

  12. AndrewJDavis
    April 14, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Jeff: My question is who defines what is dignified, respectful, and worshipful music? For me, Durufle’s Requiem meets all of those requirements, and still would never be allowed to be sung in church. (although I took the first movement, made it into an organ solo, and told the congregation to study the Resurrection of Christ while listening.) There is far more music in the world that meets your criteria than what most Mormons believe, and the important point is that the definitions of solemn, dignified, and respectful vary throughout the world. Besides upbeat joyful music expressing praise for the Lord is more in line with many of the Psalms than our hymnal. Sacrament meeting doesn’t have to be dull!

  13. SteveS
    April 14, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Jeff #11: “But, we are talking about worship here, worship of the Savior Jesus Christ. And it seems to me that that worship should be solemn and dignified and respectful. We attend Sacrament Meeting to Worship, not to be entertained.”

    I feel I need to speak up here. Certainly, Joseph Smith, and leaders of the Church since his time have placed a premium on reverence as a proper attitude for worship. But it certainly isn’t the only form of worship available to the believer: many of the psalms call for shouting praises, loud instruments, and the like to praise and worship God; I’m also reminded of the story of David, who danced before the Ark of the Covenant (in his underwear!) to celebrate God’s presence in his city. The New Testament also mentions manifestations of gifts of the Spirit in meetings of the faithful, and the singing and playing of instruments in praise. There is place for exuberance in the worship of God.

    Certainly there is a proper time for reverence, and there is an abundance of it in LDS meetings (if you can ignore the low buzz din of children punctuated by screams of infants). But in an LDS context, where is the time for exuberant worship? I think one of David Stout’s main points is that people are turned away from LDS worship services precisely because they don’t find channels of faithful worship expression that they have come to cherish in their previous religious experiences.

    I’m not saying we should break out the electric guitars and have a go at it. But I definitely feel like there is so much emphasis on reverence that subconsciously, many LDS have begun to question the validity of exuberant worship (for an interesting statistic, checkout this linguistic analysis of General Conference talks, under the Historical Comparison: Conferences from the last 10 years and 30 years. Guess what word has seen the largest (400-500%) increase in use? Reverence). Thus, whenever Christians or other religious groups praise God in this manner, you often hear LDS people saying smug or mildly denigrating things like “Well, I couldn’t hear the Spirit whisper in THAT!”, or “That doesn’t show honor and respect God the way we know He wants us to worship him”, or “That song was doctrinally incorrect; therefore, the Spirit cannot be present,” or “I love how all our hymns/prayers/rituals are so quiet and reverent [in contrast to others'].”

  14. Jeff Spector
    April 14, 2009 at 9:30 am

    AndrewJ:

    “Jeff: My question is who defines what is dignified, respectful, and worshipful music?” The Bishop usually for Sacrament meeting with the help of a savvy Ward Music Chairman…. :)

    “There is far more music in the world that meets your criteria than what most Mormons believe, and the important point is that the definitions of solemn, dignified, and respectful vary throughout the world.” I very much agree and would prefer most of it to the junky LDS Pop music that can sometimes get sung in sacrament. I recall the time one of our ward organists playied the Widor Tocatta during Sacrament meeting. To say the least, I never heard our organ played so loud and I think I saw dust coming off the ceiling :) . It was magnificant!!! I think many ward members were quite surprised.

    To SteveS: I am all for exuberence, but I stop at writhing on the floor!!!! :)

  15. MH
    April 14, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Jeff,

    Church in the times of Joseph Smith was much more pentecostal than church services today. One only need read about the dedication of the Kirtland Temple to see a stark difference to our church services today. While you may say that was an unusual service (and I will agree), I think we would all be shocked to attend a church service in the days of Joseph Smith. There was a much greater sense of charistmatic worship than any of us experience today. Speaking in tongues was much more common then. It was considered a sign of reverence and miracles when such things happened. If they happened today, most church members would think something is wrong, and be repulsed by such a display.

  16. Jeff Spector
    April 14, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    MH,

    I suspect you are right about what you are saying. However, I wonder if, as Joseph progressed in his knowledge of the gospel as revealed in the D&C, he modified the worship service accordingly. As the organization of the Church changed, surely its worship service did as well.

    It could very well be that in the beginning, the LDS Service was based on what people knew at the time, but as knowledge progressed, the service changed.

    And, the gift of speaking in tongues is special and is not the gibberish we hear about from other churches. so, it may have been dignified and respectful, instead of the spectacle it is in other churches. I don’t really know about that.

  17. Hawkgrrrl
    April 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Steve (I think): “But it certainly isn’t the only form of worship available to the believer: many of the psalms call for shouting praises, loud instruments, and the like to praise and worship God” To further this point – if you have ever participated in a Hosanna Shout at the opening of a temple, you’ll know we have a problem with exuberant worship. You will never see a more uncomfortable bunch of Mormons in your life. It’s like watching a self-conscious white guy with no rhythm try to dance.

    David: “Apart from the curiosity factor, would you be all that interested in hearing Utah speakers but then having to sing songs and hear prayers that reflect the culture of Zimbabwe or Tibet?” I’ve attended SM services mostly outside of Utah: in many states (PA, HI, FL, NH, CA, AZ, TX, NJ), in England, and in Spain. So, that’s the limit of my experience. I absolutely agree that the music should be broadened. The structure of the meeting, IMO, should remain just the basic framework. What I have pretty consistently seen is that the church has to continually drive out inconsistencies in the SM structure because those inconsistencies are far more problematic than the milquetoast quality of the meeting. Often, new practices that are introduced seem sexist, elitist, or offensive to some of the congregants, or they include imports from converts’ prior religions that create doctrinal issues. But music is definitely worth broadening and incorporating musical styles that are more suited to the cultures. I also am absolutely against imperialism within the church in which the existing culture is supplanted intentionally by Utah Mormons. I did a post on that previously that you might find interesting:
    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/04/24/cultural-colonialism-the-sun-never-sets-on-the-mormon-empire/

  18. Hawkgrrrl
    April 14, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Jeff: “And, the gift of speaking in tongues is special and is not the gibberish we hear about from other churches. so, it may have been dignified and respectful, instead of the spectacle it is in other churches. I don’t really know about that.” That’s a big assumption: that others’ are total gibberish, and that ours were somehow dignified, non-gibberish. The gift of speaking in tongues spontaneously in a meeting was prevalent in our early church more because it was something they did in their previous religions. Let’s not assume it’s vastly different than the “gibberish” you refer to. If you read accounts of both, they are rather similar. I tend to be skeptical of any speaking in tongues that seems to be for “show” rather than to assist in communication (e.g. on the day of Pentacost in the NT or the ease with which some learn new languages in the MTC).

  19. Jeff Spector
    April 14, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Hawk,

    “That’s a big assumption: that others’ are total gibberish, and that ours were somehow dignified, non-gibberish.” I only go by two things, what we have been taught about the gift of Tongues by the Prophet himself:

    “I read the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, also a part of the 14th chapter, and remarked that the gift of tongues was necessary in the Church; but that if Satan could not speak in tongues, he could not tempt a Dutchman, or any other nation, but the English, for he can tempt the Englishman, for he has tempted me, and I am an Englishman; but the gift of tongues by the power of the Holy Ghost in the Church, is for the benefit of the servants of God to preach to unbelievers, as on the day of Pentecost. When devout men from every nation shall assemble to hear the things of God, let the Elders preach to them in their own mother tongue, whether it is German, French, Spanish or Irish, or any other, and let those interpret who understand the language spoken, in their own mother tongue, and this is what the Apostle meant in First Corinthians 14:27. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 195.)”

    And second, without an interpretation of tongues, it is meaningless to the Church and nothing more than a show..

  20. MH
    April 14, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    I believe there was some gibberish at the Kirtland Temple spoken, as well as prophecies spoken by members of the congregation. I have heard people on Fast and Testimony meeting pronounce a prophecy, and all the congregation rolls their eyes, and then looks at the bishop to see what he’s going to do. Yet in the 1830′s this was not only common, but encouraged by Joseph Smith himself, especially prior to 1835.

    Now, after certain revelations started to get out of control, Joseph received more revelations asserting him as having more exclusive right to receive revelation on behalf of the church. So there were some changes instituted by Joseph Smith. However, I believe Brigham Young was a much less charismatic preacher, and much better administrator, and therefore the church services had a much less charismatic influence than in the days of Joseph Smith. Of course, services have continued to evolve over the last 150 years, but I feel that what some view as reverence, is viewed by others as a lack of spirit. I personally believe that we could use a little more pentecostal experience in our services, but hesitate to go so far as to see people flailing in the aisles.

  21. Jeff Spector
    April 14, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I guess I’m not seeing how the holy roller stuff makes the worship better than quiet contemplation and a teaching environment. Granted, it might be more fun, but does it rally help us draw closer to the Savior? Sure, I’d like to see a little more enthusiasm from the members like just trying to arrive on time and staying awake. I think those things speak more to the testimony and true conversion more than the entertainment value of the meeting itself.

  22. MH
    April 14, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Jeff,

    You’re operating with the assumption that holy roller stuff is for entertainment purposes only. Under that assumption, of course you’re right–it has nothing to do with the Savior, and is irreverent.

    However, in the Kirtland Temple, it was absolutely not done for purposes of entertainment, and was seen as a wonderful manifestation of the spirit. Under those circumstances, it is a holy experience, and not only reverent, but godly.

  23. FireTag
    April 14, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Let me bring a Community of Christ perspective here that you may find important The LDS NEEDS to find ways to bring the gospel to people of different cultures, which means clearly hearing the Spirit about what you are bringing that is “gospel” and what is really “your culture”.

    That is much harder to do than you can possibly imagine, and you can use us as a cautionary tale.

    When our baptisms peaked in the 1950s and we began to question how we would relate to non-Anglo cultures, we attempted to become more inclusive. But in trying to lower the barriers that kept people out, we actually lowered the barriers that kept people in. We changed who was in our church, but not how many. The data shows an undisturbed trend toward baptismal “extinction” that’s now more than 50 years old. AND we never penetrated any of the cultures we were supposedly making the changes to reach.

    It turns out that “inclusiveness” is itself a cultural value much more valued by progressive Christians than conservative Christians. So denominations that value inclusiveness culturally evolve into progressive denominations. If you look at the Community of Christ website (cofchrist.org) you might be shocked at how different we have become from you or from what we were like a generation ago, and at how similar we look now to progressive protestant denominations.

    Yet God’s love for all people is an essential, well-documented tenet of the gospel, as is special responsibility toward ministering to the marginalized. Separating inclusiveness as “cultural value” from inclusiveness as “gospel” gets fiendishly difficult (and I use the term “fiendish” intentionally). Then the temptation comes to do whatever seems to preserve the role and power of the church, irrespective of the needs of the people to know and accept Christ.

    Having given this warning, translating worship into different musical forms seems no more threatening than translating the Book of Mormon into yet another language, and that I would encourage.

  24. April 14, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I must share an experience that is not too much off-topic (since pentacostal experiences have been invoked). My son and I were sitting in the Conference Center balcony waiting for the Priesthood Session of conference to start. A man and his elderly father, I assume, where walking down the aisle to some open seats. As they were entering the aisle, the old man lost his balance, his son tried to catch him and they both tumbled over the row of seats in front of them. The two got up more embarrassed then hurt and the son said “We’re okay.” Just then my son turned to me and said, “Dad, I thought in our church we didn’t roll in the aisles.” Priceless.

  25. MH
    April 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    I will also add that not everyone sees pentecostal experiences as godly. In Acts after the apostles spoke in new tongues, they were accused by non-believers as “being drunk.”

  26. wayfarer
    April 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Having been unable to attend church for some years now,and recently returned,I’ve been giving some thought as to why I am required to worship in such a proscribed manner.Frankly it’s as boring as it ever was,so why am i there? I’m currently wondering if the principal is one of submission,and sublimation of ego.We don’t get to choose how we worship,we get to choose how we accommodate God’s requirements.It’s hard to imagine that our own wills are not sovereign,we live in an era of such egotism.I’m confronted with this all over again.Although it may be instructive that God may require us to do it in an altogether different way at length,when we can be trusted to do so.
    Personally I’d prefer to creep into the back row in a mantilla and worship an icon.So much less confrontational,so much more comfortable,so much less accountable.

  27. April 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Jeff

    “I guess I am of the opinion that in the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, all things must be restored including the correct forms of worship.”

    What is it that you feel should be restored? And what is considered “correct?” In the primitive church worship was in Christian’s homes and consisted of a meal, not just the eucharist. It wasn’t for many years that it evolved into what we see with clergy, liturgy, and music in some form. If it’s to have things stay the way they are today, that’s a bit of a stretch from the 1830′s. As far as Joseph Smith’s feelings about worship evolving, it’s just a fact that most churches become more conservative over time with the Pentacostal movement being a notable exception.

  28. sks
    April 14, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    As a member of the Saints Unified Voices choir, I’ve experienced first hand the outpouring of the spirit in over 100 firesides that I’ve been priveledged to participate in. I’m also a convert of more than 30 years. Many traditionalists will say that you must have quiet in order to feel the spirit. I can only say that it is also possible to feel the spirit in a VERY LOUD way! As Latter Day Saints, we need to be open to the expressions of praise from other traditions besides our own. One of the elements of music is rhythm and it’s OK to “feel the beat”. A big thank you to Sister Knight for her powerful and inspired contribution to the LDS community.

  29. Ray
    April 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you, sks, for sharing your perspective with us. I appreciate it.

    Fwiw, this discussion fits the central point I made in the following post:

    When Culture Is Seen As Command

  30. April 14, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I really, really appreciate this post. I like the thesis, the evidence given in support of it, and how well it was respectfully writen. Lot’s to think about.

    “I should think that if a church the size of the Roman Catholic communion and a movement as decentralized as Evangelicalism can keep their doctrinal commitments while allowing freedom for local expression, then surely the LDS with its off the charts organizational genius could do the same.”

    I sincerely hope you are right–I’d like to see more of this myself. Thanks David.

  31. David Stout
    April 14, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Jeff: May I offer a couple of thoughts as someone who has actually benefited from Pentecostalism? First, I understand how Pentecostal practice can be off putting to those not used to it, but to dismiss a central religious practice that means so much to 300,000 Christians (a good number of which endure persecution for their faith) as “gibberish” is not what I think you really want to say. Indeed, one of the things I admire about your own faith is that it is usually respectful of others’ beliefs and practices even when it doesn’t agree with them. Perhaps you have had a bad experience with Pentecostals and that has colored your position a bit. If so, I apologize on behalf of my Pentecostal friends and ask that you not judge the whole by the actions of some misguided few.

    Second, good Pentecostal teaching sees three basic “kinds” of glossalalia. The first, found on Pentecost is where someone speaks a language that he/she doesn’t know to people who do understand it in order to communicate some word from the Lord. This is rare, but I do know of one or two cases that seem reliable to me personally where this has happened.

    The second kind is found in a worship service and here it might well be a language that is unknown on earth (the tongues of angels) or is just so obscure an earthly language that no one in the meeting recognizes it. In either case, interpretation is required and if no interpretation is forthcoming, the message is out of order and the speaker should desist.

    The third type is for personal edification and needs no interpretation. As Paul put it, “I will pray with my spirit and I will pray with my understanding.” Paul also made it clear that he spoke in tongues on a regular basis but that he saw the practice as one for private devotion not public worship. In Pentecostal circles there is often a time for praying together in this way in worship, but it is seen as a time of “corporate private” prayer, akin to having a moment of silence for people to add their own personal prayers. The latter could be challenged as to its strict scriptural adherence but I really don’t see it as being a direct disobedience and certainly not as a deliberate attempt to ignore the Bible.

    My last thought has to do with an understanding of glossalalia that I have found helpful. I see it as the speech of the unconscious, not unlike dreams. It thus expresses some things that cannot be expressed otherwise and serves as an avenue of healing.

    I hope this is helpful.

  32. Jeff Spector
    April 14, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    GBSmith,

    “In the primitive church worship was in Christian’s homes and consisted of a meal, not just the Eucharist. It wasn’t for many years that it evolved into what we see with clergy, liturgy, and music in some form.”

    Not sure I would agree with this. Perhaps early Christians worshiped at home to avoid persecution, however, communal worship began after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity. The rise of the synagogue came as a result needing to teach the Jews their religion. Up to that point, outside of worship at the Temple, it was done primarily in the home, led by the Patriarch of the family. I do accept the idea that that worship evolved, but the question to be asked is whether or not it evolved due to some divine direction or as part of the Apostasy. if it is the former, that is one thing, if it is the later, all the more reason why the restoration was necessary to root out false forms of worship.

    “As far as Joseph Smith’s feelings about worship evolving, it’s just a fact that most churches become more conservative over time with the Pentecostal movement being a notable exception.”

    I would totally disagree with is point. Churches, with the LDS Church being a notable exception but there are others, have liberalized their worship in many ways. the dress code, the type of music and instrumentation used, the movement away from liturgical form, etc. The Catholic church has done this as well, with so-called folk masses and the removal of most Latin masses.

  33. Jeff Spector
    April 14, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    David,

    “Perhaps you have had a bad experience with Pentecostals and that has colored your position a bit. If so, I apologize on behalf of my Pentecostal friends and ask that you not judge the whole by the actions of some misguided few.”

    No, I have very little experience with most Christian Churches. having grown up in a Jewish household, I can count on one hand the number of times I set foot in a Church prior to joining the LDS Church in 1982. My comment about “glibberish” only applied to the Speaking in Tongues that I have personally been exposed to. Not to the Pentecostal movement as a whole. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am respectful of others right to believe what they wish and practice their faith as they see fit.

    This is not to say I understand it or can square it with what I learned as a boy and what I have learned since joining the LDS Church. The discussion that we are having is, I think, whether the LDS Church should move in that direction or stay as it is. My position is that I appreciate our services the way they are. Is their room for some improvement, of course, but I wouldn’t want to see our Sacrament meeting turned into a full scale revival meeting.

    I just don’t think that it the way Heavenly Father intended us to worship him and His Son in public.

  34. April 14, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    “I wouldn’t want to see our Sacrament meeting turned into a full scale revival meeting.”

    Jeff, I don’t think that was the point David was trying to make. Only that we can be more open to this kind of change. It might be more than staunch traditionalists might feel comfortable with, but the rest of us are completely happy and fine with with it, and perhaps feel that there could be more of it. (ie: Glady’s Knight and the Saints Unified Voices music.) I think even the First Presidency are more liberal/open to this than some extremely conservative members of the Church. (And I’m not refering to politics).

  35. David Stout
    April 14, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Jeff:

    I’m glad for your clarification. Respect, not agreement, is what is called for in discussions. I would add that my point is not to move towards revivalism, but to be more open to the Spirit in general and more open to the gifts God has put in non western cultures in particular–especially as these relate to the proclamation of the Gospel. I’m not asking anyone to change. I’m asking whether or not current practice is the most effective means to reach other cultures and bring them closer to Christ.

  36. David Stout
    April 14, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    sks:
    You are one very blessed individual. GK has long been my favorite soul singer, even more than Aretha. And thanks for your response.

    clean cut:
    Thank you!

  37. Matt
    April 14, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Regarding the music issue, I find myself waffling somewhat. As a musician, I wish to be musically as well as spiritually satisfied by the music used to worship.

    However, I can also see the other point of view in terms of drawing a line – where exactly does one draw the line and how much autonomy is one willing to give to local leaders?

    A question: Is beautiful, but doctrinally incorrect music appropriate for sacrament meeting?

    Thank you for your posts David, and commenters – a very engaging topic. Please forgive any unclearness / brevity to fatigue and medication. :)

  38. David Stout
    April 14, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Matt:

    Hope you’re feeling better soon. I suspect it might be politic if I, the non-Mormon author of this article, were the first to say I don’t think beauty should be had at the expense of doctrine. I just don’t see that as being consistent with who the LDS are. But surely some talented Saint could write a song that is both beautiful and theologically sound?

  39. AndrewJDavis
    April 15, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Matt: “Is beautiful, but doctrinally incorrect music appropriate for sacrament meeting?”

    Here’s where I do draw a line. For me, I must always remember that the purpose of every aspect of our meetings (whether or not they’re successful is a whole different post) is to draw people to Christ. With that framework, the words in my opinion must be doctrinally correct. That being said, there is I think little text in the traditional liturgy that is really full blown incorrect. Even the Ave Maria might be ok (we all pray for sinners everywhere that they might see the Light of Christ and repent). While that might be pushing the envelope a bit, there is a difference between doctrinally undiscussed (Amazing Grace, e.g.) and actually wrong (maybe if someone set the Nicene Creed to music, e.g.).

  40. Jeff Spector
    April 15, 2009 at 10:15 am

    David,

    “I’m asking whether or not current practice is the most effective means to reach other cultures and bring them closer to Christ.”

    I wanted to make sure you knew that I do appreciate the posts and the discussion. We are taught that the spirit talks to us with a “still small voice” so I suspect our worship is intended to invite that communication between God and us. Certainly, He can communicate in any fashion He chooses including the roar of a lion, if necessary.

  41. Jeff Spector
    April 15, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Clean cut,

    “I think even the First Presidency are more liberal/open to this than some extremely conservative members of the Church.”

    In the correct setting, you are probably right. I enjoy the Gladys Knight group very much in the proper venue. I don’t think you’d see them singing the intermediate hymn in a Sacrament Meeting or as the Temple Choir at the dedication of a Temple unless they sang it straight, so to speak, which we know they can.

  42. MH
    April 15, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Jeff, you’re right, but I’d love to see a clapping gospel choir in Sacrament meeting.

  43. Joseph
    April 15, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Do we believe in the same Christ as Christians if we believe different things about him?
    Do they have the wrong Jesus or are they wrong about him?
    They say he is God at the same time that Father is and Love is and Truth , that they are all eternal and eternally the same in spirit and being!!!

  44. Jeff Spector
    April 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    MH,

    That will happen the day I get to play my tambourine! :)

  45. Ray
    April 15, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    No, Jeff, I think the clapping choir will come first. ;)

  46. Joseph
    April 18, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Mormon is a religion.. let those who hear the word of Jesus see that this is the tpe of religion he warns against. taking away the truth of Jesus’ nature! He is God in flesh! Says Isaiah 9:6

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