So Dull

You can listen in as Jack is part of a podcast discussion about Why Mormon Church Meetings are so Dull

http://mormonexpression.com/?p=870

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54 thoughts on “So Dull

  1. I don’t even have to listen to tell why they are so dull.

    There’s no convicting law, and there’s no gospel.

    Just moralism.

    What good does that do (in the long run)?

  2. Theology/soteriology doesn’t have a lot to do with it. I’ve been to dull LDS services and dull evangelical services, and I’ve been to inspiring services from both camps as well.

  3. I’ts never dull when th law and gospel are properly applied.

    There is death..and life. That’s not dull.

    If it’ ‘how to’ stuff, or moralistic teaching…that is old hat and (to me anyway) quite boring.

  4. In other words, theoldadam is never bored by things that he thinks are interesting.

  5. The law and the gospel are not boring for people who are saved by them.

    If one finds those things boring then maybe one has a larger problem than boredom.

  6. The main underlying reasons LDS services are so dull are pretty clear:

    1. Performers are chosen not based on ability.
    2. No competition.

    To a lessor degree:

    3. Lack of creative license in format.
    4. Reactionary/overly conservative adherence to boring traditions

    Old Adam.
    The law and gospel may not be boring in principle, but almost anything can be made boring by bad presentation.

    Of course maybe you are making Pascal’s point, that if you achieve wholeness through Christ that your can be healed of the Boredom that afflicts almost everyman.

    If so, I think this is a great point.

    Are our church services meant to be some other form of distraction, to excite us, scare us, motivate us, amuse us, distract us from our lives?

    The most tedious services may not phase us when we are not in such need of amusement.

    Of course its hard for me not to be like Simon Cowell when I listen to any sermon or talk . . . so maybe I am not the best one to sermonize on this point.

    For those interested in Pascal, a genius in thought and observation on this subject, (despite his silly wager arguments) Read his Pensees;

    http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/pascal/pensees-a.html#SECTION II

  7. I think LDS services would be less boring if they had some charismatic style praise time.
    Also if they were more intimately guided by the Holy Spirit and not just by a strict predetermined program.
    They would also be more exciting if the speakers were closer to God and more zealous for the faith.
    We have a lot more to get excited about than football fans or even bungee jumpers, so pick up some more faith, cut the formality, and get real.

  8. People complained about being bored in my ward, so the bishop brought in some trained dogs and had them jump through flaming hoops throughout the meeting. It was really exciting!

    We’ve been doing that for about a year. It’s gotten pretty old by now though; I don’t think I looked at those dogs even once today. Kinda sad, really: dogs risking their lives to entertain and all….

  9. @Cal: If the LDS church had charismatic praise time, I never would have joined. Heck, even a liturgical church service sort of creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable.

    No, I didn’t listen to the podcast (sorry, Jack).

    However, I have to say that while LDS church services can be boring, so can any church if you don’t happen to find the topic interesting. And I feel like I can say that with some authority, because I’ve been to a LOT of different kinds of churches at this point.

    I think there’s something to be said for LDS church services. Granted, there isn’t enough of Jesus in the talks, but that’s just out of habit, not out of policy. (Plus, it would be hard to work Jesus into a Word of Wisdom talk, since Jesus said some stuff that was kind of the opposite… or, if you did talk about that, it would be a really interesting talk…)

    Anyway, back on my point, some of the most fun I’ve had at church has been combing through the hymnal next to Conner laughing at stuff that was funny. Or, when the hymn says that it should be sung at a 120 tempo, but the pianist isn’t playing any faster than 60… making a worship song into a funeral hymn–that’s COMEDY GOLD, y’all.

    Also, it’s a great time to knit or cross stitch. It helps you focus on what they’re saying, which I always really liked.

    And, finally, if the church services aren’t that interesting, you don’t feel that bad when it’s your 2 year old screeching that needs to be taken into the hallway where you can have a nice conversation with that new mom who you’ve been wanting to get to know but are just too danged awkward to have people feel comfortable talking to you unless you’re the only option.

    PS… there are wayyyyy more boring styles of church than the LDS. I’m not going to be mean about someone else’s religion (in public), so if you want to know (and make sure you avoid), let me know and I’ll tell you secretly.

  10. @katyjane: I’m not so much comparing one denomination to another as I am comparing being in the presence of God to not. My experience is that the more full of the Spirit of God I am, the less awkward or shy I am with strangers. And the life of God in me makes me laugh easier, quicker (altho Satan perverts God’s laughter and causes people to laugh at dirty things that hurt people). Yeah, the pianist slowing the tempo—I believe the angels were laughing with you. Jesus has a great sense of humor—he put our sense of humor in us, as you know.

    Tell me secretly, what didn’t you like about charismatic worship?
    I’m glad you’ve been to many kinds of churches. Are you an “unchurched” Christian?

  11. If one finds those things boring then maybe one has a larger problem than boredom.

    Classic: blame the listener. What else can you do when reality constantly flies in the face of your model.

    I’m sure you think that your theology should instantly touch the souls of every listener. That would really be convenient for your religion. Too bad reality has a tricky way of squirming out of even the most rigid model.

  12. @Cal:

    The reason I don’t like charismatic worship isn’t a secret. It’s because when I was in high school, before I’d ever really learned about Jesus, or religion at all (my home was areligious), there were a lot of people who would tell me that I had to get saved or go to hell. Which, frankly, seemed really unfair that some mean guy named Jesus was going to send me to hell because I had never learned who He was.

    And sometimes they would do crazy charismatic-worship-style things to/around me that made me really uncomfortable.

    And the few times I went to anything even approaching a charismatic-style church in those days, the way everyone was acting didn’t seem to be filled with the spirit, to me, it seemed like they were filled with the creepy and cult-ishness.

    Now, being slightly older and much wiser, I realize that this approach to religion works for other people. However, I am still quite reserved in nature, and it makes me uncomfortable.

    That said, it was always fun in the Harlem Ward in NYC when people would yell Amen in the middle of praises, or applaud after a musical number, etc. It was delightful to see that in an LDS church, and it was also delightful to see the Utah Mormons shifting uncomfortably in their seats because they thought it was inappropriate. 😀

  13. “Now, being slightly older and much wiser, I realize that this approach to religion works for other people. However, I am still quite reserved in nature, and it makes me uncomfortable.”

    I meant to also add that it makes me uncomfortable to participate, and to probably be around, but that my way is not the only, nor the best, nor the one-true way. So, more power to other people, but I probably won’t regularly go to a church that does it.

  14. my way is not the only, nor the best, nor the one-true way.

    KatyJane, in my view, this is the #1 reason why LDS church services are always going to fail to resonate with some people. It does not matter if Mormons have hit on the best way in the world to do church because people are different and they have different tastes. The best way in the world to do church is still going to fall flat with some people, and Mormons do not offer variety.

    That said, I don’t think Mormons have hit on the best way in the world to do church, and while I realize that the church is unlikely to offer a “contemporary” / “traditional” service split anytime soon, I do think the current format could be reformed to appeal to more people. With the membership numbers now failing in the United States, it’s probably worth a shot.

  15. I like how Cal and theoldadam are basially saying “LDS services are boring because they’re not like the services at my church.”

    And I promise you, some people think the services at your church are mind-numbing. “It’s not good because it’s not the way I like it” is weak at best.

  16. I wish they still had blood sacrifices at worship services, like they did back in the day, it would be a whole lot less boring, at least for the first few dozen.

    Stoning of the sabbath breakers on the first Wednesday of the month would also liven things up, much more interesting than the typical fireside.

  17. Ms. Jack said:

    With the membership numbers now failing in the United States …

    On what do you base this comment? I’m not saying you’re wrong; in fact, my impression (and I hope my impression is wrong) is that the number of active members in the U.S. is stagnant at best, and to the extent it is growing it is doing so primarily so because we have so many kids.

    Katyjane said:

    Now, being slightly older and much wiser, I realize that this [charismatic] approach to religion works for other people. However, I am still quite reserved in nature, and it makes me uncomfortable.

    Ditto here (except that I don’t know how much wiser I am). I’m not saying that type of worship is wrong (hey, if lifting your hands in the air helps you feel closer to God, touch the ceiling if you can, and I’m sincere in saying that), but when I’m at that kind of service it definitely makes me feel at un-ease. (It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t there when they opened the Kirtland temple.)

    That said, I do think there are things that could be done to make sacrament meetings more engaging. That doesn’t mean we need to imitate the excesses of some segments of evangelical Christianity, but the defensive attitude of “if you aren’t engaged in the sacrament meeting it’s your own fault” isn’t very helpful either.

  18. Kullervo:

    I like how Cal and theoldadam are basially saying “LDS services are boring because they’re not like the services at my church.”

    And I promise you, some people think the services at your church are mind-numbing. “It’s not good because it’s not the way I like it” is weak at best.

    I basically agree with your point, but I’m not sure how else to discuss “boring.” It’s inherently subjective, so there’s no way to separate it from personal preference. At best, one could discuss why X% of people find something boring, or the Top 5 reasons respondents said Y is boring, etc.

  19. From the Pew Survey:

    …which groups are most successful
    in retaining their childhood members. Hinduism exhibits the highest overall retention rate, with more than eight-in-ten (84%) adults who were raised as Hindu still identifying themselves as Hindu. The Mormon, Orthodox and Jewish traditions all have retention rates of at least 70%, [as compared to 56.5% for the total population].

    But that’s just childhood retention. The net change in number of Mormons (pg. 26) is reflected as +1.7% of the US population: 1.8% were born LDS, 0.4% convert to Mormonism, and 0.5% of the adult US population left Mormonism. The problem is, that’s just a snapshot and therefore does not necessarily reflect what is happening in the LDS Church today. So perhaps Jack has some other source of data.

  20. I basically agree with your point, but I’m not sure how else to discuss “boring.”

    I just want to make it clear that’s what we are doing. And I’m open to rebuttal, and happy operating in a smudgy gray area between subjectivity and objectivity (or maybe more precisely, operating without reference to either). If theoldadam really wants to make the case that the proper application of the law and the gospel are inherently thrilling to the human soul, I think he should feel free. He can even figure out how to account for exceptions (even if it’s just “there are always exceptions!).

    I’m just still gonna think he’s wrong, and I’m going to say so. And I’m going to counterpropose that the things that are inherently interesting to the human soul are the things that define us universally as human beings: life, birth, death, family, sex, love, hate, war, beauty and so on. On the other hand, I think that approach and presentation matter. You can make the most thrilling thing ever boring, and it’s not fair to blame the listener.

    At best, one could discuss why X% of people find something boring, or the Top 5 reasons respondents said Y is boring, etc.

    Why not? Or even dataless inchoate variations, like why we think many people find something boring, or what in our experience seem to be the reasons people think something is boring.

    Whatever.

  21. But that’s just childhood retention. The net change in number of Mormons (pg. 26) is reflected as +1.7% of the US population: 1.8% were born LDS, 0.4% convert to Mormonism, and 0.5% of the adult US population left Mormonism. The problem is, that’s just a snapshot and therefore does not necessarily reflect what is happening in the LDS Church today. So perhaps Jack has some other source of data.

    Maybe she was just thinking the net change in adult Mormons? Because +0.4 converts vs. -0.5 de-converts at any given time is a net loss.

  22. theoldadam is working from a set of assumptions that tells him how things should play out. Given [theoldadam’s religion], people should always be interested in [a presentation of the core concept of said religion’s theology].

    I think reality doesn’t produce the results that theoldadam is predicting. So theoldadam has adjusted his hypothesis to try to fit the results. Now we have “Given [theoldadam’s religion], people should always be interested in [a presentation of the core concept of said religion’s theology], unless people have something wrong with them.”

    That’s a pretty convenient model, since it lets theoldadam blame other people when his religion turns out to be wrong.

  23. Jack: “KatyJane, in my view, this is the #1 reason why LDS church services are always going to fail to resonate with some people. It does not matter if Mormons have hit on the best way in the world to do church because people are different and they have different tastes. The best way in the world to do church is still going to fall flat with some people, and Mormons do not offer variety. ”

    But every church is going to fail to resonate with some people, some of the time. Some people might not be comfortable with variety in their services, in which case they wouldn’t be happy with it either.

    And I certainly wasn’t saying that LDS services were, in my opinion, the best way to have church (in case I left that impression).

    But in some ways, everything is what you make of it. And if a person has decided that a church is going to be boring unless it has x, y, and/or z, and the church doesn’t, they’re going to be bored. But if they go in and do their best to be engaged in whatever is around them, they have a better chance of not being bored. Because boredom is really just a state of mind.

    Just sayin’.

  24. Re: the negative replacement rate, I had in mind a post by Hellmut at Mainstreet Plaza, here. Looking back over the post, it’s older than I thought it was (February 2008), so perhaps stats have changed since then. We were still discussing the post in March of this year so I thought it was more recent. I mentioned Hellmut’s post in a February 2010 post, here.

    There’s also the decline in missionary numbers, as discussed in my February 2010 post and which I don’t believe can be explained as simply the result of smaller families and increased standards. It may not necessarily mean negative replacement rates in the U. S., but it does seem indicative of problems with member retention.

    And no, KatyJane, I didn’t think you were implying that Mormon services really are the best. I mentioned it because I have seen some Mormons argue that so many times before when this issue comes up.

    I agree with you that boredom can be countered by individual attitude and state of mind, but that doesn’t mean that the service style isn’t lending itself to boredom more easily than that of some other churches. I’ve gotta run; I’m either going to do a follow-up blog post on that point or write a longer comment on the issue.

  25. Hey Tim, if you think church shouldn’t be about picking and choosing what suits you best, why don’t you attend an Eastern Orthodox church?

    Rock Harbor is the result of hundreds of years of drive-through churching.

  26. Cute, Tim. Point well taken.

    Katyjane said, “my way [of worship] is not the only, nor the best, nor the one-true way.” Impossible to argue with that! 🙂 Thanks for your humility and good-natured-ness.

    K-Dawg, my investigators tell me you’re an ex-Mormon pagan. Is this true? If so, why did you leave the Latter-day Saints, and why don’t you want to serve Jesus?

    @All the experts: Help me out. Evangelicals like to pick on the Mormon Church for Joseph Smith’s statement that there is a “god above the Father,” yet it says in Gospel Principles, p. 5, that “God [the God of the Bible] is the Almighty Ruler of the Universe,” and he “is the Supreme and Absolute Being in whom we believe and whom we worship.”
    Tell me if I’m on track here. It seems to me that Gospel Principles disagrees and supersedes (takes the place of) Joseph’s comment.

  27. K-Dawg, my investigators tell me you’re an ex-Mormon pagan. Is this true? If so, why did you leave the Latter-day Saints, and why don’t you want to serve Jesus?

    I do not even know how to respond to something this stupid.

  28. Does what people did in new testament times have any bearing on what format church should be today?

    I guess your mileage may vary. I’m just saying, it’s kind of hypocritical for you to criticize people for changing the worship format to suit themself when your own worship format is the result of centuries of people changing it to suit themselves.

  29. Cal: “@All the experts: Help me out. Evangelicals like to pick on the Mormon Church for Joseph Smith’s statement that there is a “god above the Father,” yet it says in Gospel Principles, p. 5, that “God [the God of the Bible] is the Almighty Ruler of the Universe,” and he “is the Supreme and Absolute Being in whom we believe and whom we worship.”
    Tell me if I’m on track here. It seems to me that Gospel Principles disagrees and supersedes (takes the place of) Joseph’s comment.”

    Why are the two mutually exclusive? What if the universe is finite, and God ‘is the supreme and absolute being in whom we believe and whom we worship’, but there is a bigger [blank]-verse out there in which our god is only one of many, and has a god all his own?

    What if God the Father lived on a different planet in a different universe once, and was the Jesus Christ of that planet, and the Jesus Christ of this planet will be the God the Father of his own one day?

    I think the Mormon doctrines (and, you know, interpretations you can pull from them) on this point can be super interesting. Especially since we can never really know for sure anyway. It’s fun to speculate, and doesn’t really change anything for us down here living life anyway. In either case (the Evangelical way of thinking or the LDS way of thinking), people are supposed to worship God, and it’s irrelevant if He is the only god evahhhhh, or if He is one of many.

    I am my kids’ mom. And when we go to the playground and there are a ton of other moms out there, that doesn’t affect my kids–I am still their only mom, and the only one that has any authority over them.

    PS: K-Dawg generally prefers it if you call him “K-Doggie” instead of “K-Dawg”.

  30. Cal said:

    @All the experts: Help me out. Evangelicals like to pick on the Mormon Church for Joseph Smith’s statement that there is a “god above the Father,”

    Let’s look at what Joseph Smith actually said, according to History of the Church:

    My object was to preach the scriptures, and preach the doctrine they contain, there being a God above, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    The comma (boldfaced above for emphasis) makes all the difference!

    In grammatical terms, the comma makes “God above” in apposition to “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, “God above” = “Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s hardly a controversial statement in Christendom.

    You can find the sentence in context here, and I’ll even link to a site that’s critical of the church so I won’t be accused cherry-picking a source.

  31. Cal if you click on people’s names you can often be led to their own blogs. Kullervo’s full religious history can be found there.

  32. Thanks, Tim, Eric and Katyjane.
    I’m more out to lunch than ever, however, because what Eric says leads me in a different direction than what Katyjane says.

    Katyjane’s point is well taken. I think it fits in with 1 Corinthians 8 where it says that some people think there are other gods besides the one God the Father and the one Lord Jesus. Paul says their conscience is weak (I’m not meaning to insinuate that the consciences of Mormons are weak, although they may be—all imperfect Christians have weak consciences so we all do). Paul says they won’t eat meat offered to idols because they imagine that these idols are real gods. BUT Paul calls them BROTHERS (1 Cor. 8:11-13)!
    My point is that even if Mormons believe there are other real gods besides the Trinity, WE CAN NOT CONDEMN THEM to non-Christian status on the basis of their viewpoint on this issue.

    Does anyone agree with that?

  33. My point is that even if Mormons believe there are other real gods besides the Trinity, WE CAN NOT CONDEMN THEM to non-Christian status on the basis of their viewpoint on this issue.

    Does anyone agree with that?

    Well, “condemn” is a loaded word that makes no sense in the context.

    I think Jack put it well on her blog (http://www.clobberblog.com/?p=3841#comments):

    When it comes to whether or not someone is a “Christian,” there’s always two questions for me: the taxonomic question (Can the person/group be categorized as a Christian for the purposes of religious study) and the spiritual question (Do I personally believe this person is a follower of Jesus Christ?).

    Although I think we can problematize the taxonomic definition. In the sense of classifying world religions, Mormonism certainly falls into some category or subcategory of “Christianity.” From a historic/theological perspective, I think it’s fair to seriously question whether Mormonism is “within the pale” to use an analogy from Islam. And both definitions are relevant in different contexts.

  34. I appreciate you giving your take on it.
    One thing for sure: God has only one definition, and that’s the definition he’ll use on judgment day.
    I believe he has made his definition perfectly clear:
    John 3:36 (NIV): “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
    Clearly, the LDS encourages people to believe in (trust in, rely on, follow, live for) the Son.

  35. One thing for sure: God has only one definition, and that’s the definition he’ll use on judgment day.

    Somehow, I suspect that God is smart enough to comprehend linguistic nuance.

    What I think you mean to say, setting aside the extremely lame rhetoric, is that you think Mormons are sufficiently “Christian,” meaning “they believe in Jesus to the extent necessary for salvation.”

    That’s not an unreasonable argument, but it’s sort of uninteresting to people who don’t care about the internal/theological point of view.

    For a non-Christian like me, whether or not Mormons have enough faith to be saved from hell is purely hypothetical, because I don’t believe in hell, or in being saved.

  36. You have understood me correctly and I understand why you’re uninterested. I often avoid rhetoric because it increases the chances of my being misunderstood.
    I intend to read your history on your site sometime to see if I can determine why you are not a Christian. Maybe I can find a key to changing your mind.
    Have a nice day!

  37. I intend to read your history on your site sometime to see if I can determine why you are not a Christian. Maybe I can find a key to changing your mind.
    Have a nice day!

    I intend to read your history on your site sometime to see if I can determine why you are not a Pagan. Maybe I can find a key to changing your mind.
    Have a nice day!

  38. Cal,

    Rather than looking at Eric and katyjane’s comments as going separate directions, you can look at them as being steps along the same path.

    Eric explained that the quotation given was taken out of context, and, as represented, was ignoring important grammatical elements used in English. God our Father (Elohim) is the God above our Lord Jesus Christ, and He always will be.

    That being said, Mormons quite openly teach of our hope for exaltation, in which we become even as the Father, becoming gods. And we openly teach that the three members of the Godhead are all three separate and distinct personages. Which means that, quite clearly, we believe in many divine beings. But, as katyjane said, this doesn’t affect our relationship to our Father. He will always be the God above that we worship.

    I would take her reference to the park one step further. If I go to a family reunion that is being held in a large park, and there is another family reunion going on at the same park, it doesn’t change anything. My dad is still my dad. His dad is his father, but he isn’t mine. And the fact that there is some guy across the park who is with his dad has no bearing on my family’s relationships.

  39. Alex, thanks for your comments. I understand perfectly what you’re saying and have no qualms with it. I also believe that the Father and Jesus are two persons—who are one in character, purpose, truth, life (eternal life), righteousness, love, etc. This is what the Trinity doctrine actually says as well.

    I know that evangelicals misunderstand Mormons when they say they hope to become gods.

    Kullervo, I’ll be glad if you read my brief history. And you can try to talk me out of my faith if you want. Go for it, big boy (rhetoric)!

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