David Stout is a Disciples of Christ minister. This is the third and final installment of his insightful commentary on LDS Sacrament Meeting Worship. To provide proper context for this final installment, we are including a couple of paragraphs from the end of the last installment. We want to thank David for his contributions here at Mormon Matters; it has been enlightening and well-considered.
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.
Lastly, incorporating some of these possibilities might help establish the local ward or branch as being every bit as responsible for spreading the good news as the missionaries. I think that, particularly in the U.S., congregational based evangelism could well be the way to greater success in finding converts. Participation in a church service at the invitation of a friend is a far more appealing introduction to any religion than two strangers knocking at one’s door.
From both reading and conversation, I think this fact is more and more recognized by the LDS. The missionaries do great work, but they have a far better chance of success with people who are already well disposed toward their message than with “cold” calls. Experiencing the presence of God in worship instead of just hearing about it could go a long way towards establishing that favorable disposition.
Allow me to close with a personal testimony of sorts that might illustrate what I have been talking about:
I like rationality. I am far more a head person than a heart person. The Unitarian Universalists and I get along very well. Yet even I found the service at the local branch that Sunday a bit too cerebral. If I were someone looking for a spiritual connection that morning, I would’ve appreciated the friendliness of the people and the earnestness of their beliefs. I would’ve been impressed by the fact that lay people preached and that the branch president earned his living elsewhere, but I think I would have decided to search elsewhere for that connection with the Spirit. And given the emphasis on personal testimony in the LDS, there is, I think, a sad irony here. Simply put, I would expect people who are convinced that God still speaks to them to offer a little less talk and a little more encounter in their Sunday morning worship.
And once again I hasten to add that this is the perception of someone who is sympathetic to the LDS but not a member. I therefore thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. I pray that they will stimulate not only thought but prayer on what it means to worship and to witness and the connection between the two. In turn I hope that such thought and prayer will result in seeing the power of the Holy Spirit change even more lives. I am also eager to hear how the current sacrament meeting works in the lives of those who already find it meaningful. By listening to the voices of both those who “get it” and those who don’t (at least not yet) perhaps greater spiritual growth will be possible for all.