Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

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felixfabulous
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Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by felixfabulous » 08 May 2019, 08:05

I had never been to a worship service of another church and through a series of events, this month I have been to two different ones. It was eye opening and made me think there are some simple things that we could do to make our Sacrament Meetings better.

I loved that the other churches treated their worship services like celebrations. People seemed happy to be there, to see each other and enthusiastic about worshiping God. I also liked the group participation, both with congregational singing and reciting prayers and scriptures together. I liked that they used audio/visual tools (screens with words) to make this possible.

Here is my list of proposed tweaks that could make Sacrament Meeting better:

1. Move away from talks and have 2 minute thoughts, expressions or scripture readings from members of the congregation (picked beforehand).
2. Have more upbeat songs, like primary songs and have people stand and make them more fun at the beginning and middle of the meeting. More variety of music and instruments.
3. Have a scripture reading before the sacrament, the King Benjamin speech about taking on the name of Christ, the Waters of Mormon story or the Last Supper story. Have this be a calling where people from the ward put thought and practice into reading and do it well.
4. Have people from the ward/stake whose calling is to speak, choose dynamic speakers give one 10 minute talk that fits with the theme for the meeting (with the songs, scriptures, other thoughts). (Get away from people from the ward giving the talks who make a point of saying how much they didn't want to do it and were strong-armed into it after getting cornered by the bishopric).
5. I don't know if this would ever fly, but loved how the communion worked at the United Church of Christ, the pastor told the story of the Last Supper and people formed lines and came up to the front to take communion and there was music playing the whole time, felt like a communal celebration. Would love to change our administration of the sacrament to have more participation and feel more communal.
6. Do away with closing song and prayer, have the person conducting end the meeting and use that time for 10-15 minutes of built-in time to visit before Sunday School.
7. Have a nursery coop for parents to take turns once a month or so and have the option of leaving kids there during sacrament meeting (18 months to 5 years old).
8. Some simple audio/visual upgrades, screens and more mics and sound improvements.

Unfortunately, with Elder Holland's conference talk last month, I think we are headed in the opposite direction for the time being. We are going to hear more emphasis on reverence, getting to the meeting early and being quiet. These are not bad things, but I think they contribute to an uptight atmosphere, some hostility toward young, noisy children and clamp down on people socializing and a sense of community.

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SamBee
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Re: Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by SamBee » 08 May 2019, 08:40

I have been to many services by other churches.

1 - No, definitely not. Some of the best talks I've heard have been long ones.
2 - Most of the time no. Our most upbeat songs like Shoulder to the Wheel are highly annoying. I don't exactly like dreary songs but I used to go to a happy clappy church and I detested most of the music. No substance to it.
3 - Not a bad idea.
6 - Why get rid of the prayer? Also people socialize after anyway.
7 - Most churches do this and call it sunday school (!).
8 - To some extent yes, but these can take over and become form over substance.

"reciting prayers and scriptures together."

Never enjoyed that personally that "repeat after me" thing. Too robotic. Was forced to do it as a child.

" seemed happy to be there, to see each other and enthusiastic about worshiping God"

That really depends on the church, even within the same denomination. Some churches are grim, some friendly, and some incredibly apathetic.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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dande48
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Re: Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by dande48 » 08 May 2019, 09:39

I think with sacrament meeting, as well as a lot of other things, there's no "perfect" solution. I think with our current approach, and the approach you suggested, there are some real upsides and downsides.

I've said before a problem we have with sacrament meeting, is it can be pretty boring. Our SM speakers are all lay, and usually don't have any training in public speaking. I think a lot of us would do well to take a course in rhetoric. But I think it really helps people get involved, if everyone is participating in giving talks and contributing to sacrament meeting. It's like with my experience with yard work recently, my daughter wanted to help. Of course, she's not really going to "help" much and mostly get in the way. But I am still grateful she's showing the effort and desire, and while it doesn't do much for me, it means a lot for her.

Working with members who are unpaid and untrained, things won't be optimal. A lot of wards will take advantage of those with musical talent, and try to have "special musical numbers". I really appreciate those. But you can't expect people to put in the time and practice every week to come up with something like that.

As for "upbeat songs"... if I never hear "In Our Lovely Deseret" EVER again, it would be too soon.

I think there is goodness and beauty in all churches. Certain approaches work better for some people than others. But personally, if I had to choose between what you described, and sacrament meetings as they currently stand in the LDS Church, I'd probably stick with the LDS Church. I appreciate the quiet reverence.
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Roy
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Re: Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by Roy » 08 May 2019, 11:43

I have said before that I believe that we operate generally on a different model than a lot of the more fun and vibrant churches. I have heard at another church that they hope that you will want to come for the environment even if you do not believe in the doctrine. Can you imagine that? In contrast, I have heard several local leaders in the LDS church comment that if the doctrine wasn't true they would much rather be elsewhere. (most recently I heard the YM president tell the deacons that if the BoM is not historically true as the "key stone" of our religion then everything else collapses and we are all just wasting our time with boring meetings … it was a not a particularly enthusiastic endorsement. :lolno: )

We have a model where we endure unpleasant things for the sake of our devotion and commitment to the Gospel. We call this sacrifice. Until recently, the willingness of converts to be married in the temple and exclude their family was seen as one of these sacrifices that God calls upon us to make.

I believe that many view unpleasant church worship/sacrament meetings as just one more sacrifice that we make for the sake of the gospel.

As an aside, since we have no local paid clergy who would be responsible for producing a more entertaining church service? We operate with reluctant volunteers in assigned roles of "callings" that they often see as unpleasant and just another thing to be endured for the sake of the gospel. Who has the man hours to invest in making our SM more enjoyable?
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felixfabulous
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Re: Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by felixfabulous » 08 May 2019, 14:13

People make a good point that a lot of it boils down to expectations. I guess I'm thinking of sacrament meeting vs the temple experience. At the temple, you are essentially asked to show up and have volunteers (and some paid staff) do everything for you to make the experience a good one (sometimes more successfully than others). The furnishings, music, audio/visual aspects are all engineered to make it uplifting. We don't have any of that expectation with sacrament meeting, just to kind of suffer through it and maybe get something out of it every now and then. If we don't get anything out of it, we're reminded that it's our fault. I agree that people are generally burned out at the ward level. Our stake has classes during the week that are taught by former seminary and institute folks that are generally good presenters, my thought was if this could carry over to sacrament meeting talks, instead of the 1-2 high council talks we get a month.

By upbeat songs, I was thinking of songs that we know and love, like primary songs, maybe with more upbeat arrangements, not In Our Lovely Deseret.

I think the bottom line is that there are things we could do to make it better. I'm not sure that there is much interest in doing that and we will probably keep getting what we get.

nibbler
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Re: Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by nibbler » 08 May 2019, 15:47

felixfabulous wrote:
08 May 2019, 08:05
Unfortunately, with Elder Holland's conference talk last month, I think we are headed in the opposite direction for the time being. We are going to hear more emphasis on reverence, getting to the meeting early and being quiet. These are not bad things, but I think they contribute to an uptight atmosphere, some hostility toward young, noisy children and clamp down on people socializing and a sense of community.
I think you're right. I've heard Holland's talk referenced three times so far in SM/lessons. Reverence. Be here on time and be quiet. I've seen most people be understanding of children but the talk helps drive the force that sucks the life out of the room among the adults. That portion of his talk was him being a grumpy grandpa.

I think it comes down to what we're trying to achieve with the sacrament meeting. I think the LDS answer is that the purpose is to renew covenants via taking the sacrament. That portion of the meeting still feels like it takes a back seat to the theme the speakers have been assigned. It's a simple matter of what we spend the bulk of the meeting time on. The sacrament portion is over in 10 - 15 minutes. The talks usually go at least a half hour.

I do give kudos for shortening SM by 15 minutes. There used to be even more time to fill with talks.

There's also the goal of having a spiritual experience. That's all in how one defines it, and I think people are conditioned to silence = the spirit, so silence becomes the goal. If you define a spiritual experience as connecting with things outside of yourself I think our SM is a mixed bag.

Cons:
It feels like there's an active goal to stifle socializing and developing a community. The experience is overly formal, businesslike. It's hard to connect with others when they've got two kids up on the podium with their arms crossed giving the congregation the stink-eye for talking before the meeting starts. Then everyone is rushed to the next meeting where we don't even open with a prayer or hymn anymore because it cuts into precious instruction time. as if we haven't heard the material a thousand times already

Pros:
I like the fact that people in the congregation get a chance to give talks. It helps people in a ward get to know each other. Compare that to many other churches where it's the same preacher every Sunday.

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dande48
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Re: Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by dande48 » 08 May 2019, 16:19

nibbler wrote:
08 May 2019, 15:47
It feels like there's an active goal to stifle socializing and developing a community. The experience is overly formal, businesslike. It's hard to connect with others when they've got two kids up on the podium with their arms crossed giving the congregation the stink-eye for talking before the meeting starts. Then everyone is rushed to the next meeting where we don't even open with a prayer or hymn anymore because it cuts into precious instruction time. as if we haven't heard the material a thousand times already
This might be another mixed thing, but a lot of other Churches focus their services primarily on worship, and hardly ever on teaching or "learning". Ours definitely focuses more on "learning", or maybe you could say that's our form of worship. Of course, in the early Church, it was more about learning "something new". Have you ever read parts of the "Journal of Discourses"? It's amazing to think those sort of "lessons" were commonplace. The prophet and leaders would break out into some deep, obscure doctrine, providing new and profound insight into the cosmos or metaphysics, or whatever. It's not super "useful" I think, but it sure brought the crowds! Part of me wonder if that's why the Church took off in the beginning. It seems like the more radical a group is in the beginning, you get some very ardent followers. But for a larger religion, that sort of thing tends to scare people off.

These days, our learning, both in SM and SS/PH/RS, is mostly going over the same material, over and over again. It's still "learning", but it's dull. General Conference is better, since those speakers have six months to prepare, and army of researchers, and lots of experience. Not to mention "Mack Wilberg at the organ". Plus the Church has deep pockets when the spotlight is on. Our local congregations just seem to fall short in those areas. I wonder if we'd fall apart if we were dependant solely on SM for our "religion". If it weren't for GC, temples, BYU... I wonder how long the Church would last?
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

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Rumin8
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Re: Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by Rumin8 » 08 May 2019, 19:36

This thread reminds me of a month-long dispute I had with an area authority (not a GA, but someone akin to a stake president where there is no stake) when I served my mission in north-eastern Argentina in the early 90s.

In the summer, temperatures would reach over 100 degrees plus extreme humidity. Our chapels did not have AC, but did have ceiling fans. When this authority was present, he would require the branch president to have an elder close the windows during the sacrament service. For the purposes of “reverence.” I would try to countermand it because it would get very hot and very smelly. I wasn’t always successful. It was miserable.

My last retort to him before I escalated the issue to the MP was that “Christ suffered so that we wouldn’t have to. Keep the windows open!”

A few months later it was discovered that he was having a long-standing affair and was excommunicated. I’ve always wondered if he required that measure of reverence as some form of self flagellation.

One of my hot buttons is the businesslike conformity required by our leaders. I realized recently that this has been a source of my spiritual starvation I have experienced for many years. We would be better to be more of a worship and less of a “learn” in SM. Push the super worship reverence things to the temples where they belong.
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On Own Now
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Re: Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by On Own Now » 09 May 2019, 00:26

felixfabulous wrote:
08 May 2019, 08:05
1. Move away from talks and have 2 minute thoughts
Add 25% more time and call it a 2 and a half minute talk.
felixfabulous wrote:
08 May 2019, 08:05
3. Have a scripture reading before the sacrament
Call it a "Sacrament Gem". Seems like a catchy name.
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SamBee
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Re: Ideas for Sacrament Meeting

Post by SamBee » 09 May 2019, 06:39

Roy wrote:
08 May 2019, 11:43
I have said before that I believe that we operate generally on a different model than a lot of the more fun and vibrant churches. I have heard at another church that they hope that you will want to come for the environment even if you do not believe in the doctrine. Can you imagine that? In contrast, I have heard several local leaders in the LDS church comment that if the doctrine wasn't true they would much rather be elsewhere. (most recently I heard the YM president tell the deacons that if the BoM is not historically true as the "key stone" of our religion then everything else collapses and we are all just wasting our time with boring meetings … it was a not a particularly enthusiastic endorsement. :lolno: )

We have a model where we endure unpleasant things for the sake of our devotion and commitment to the Gospel. We call this sacrifice. Until recently, the willingness of converts to be married in the temple and exclude their family was seen as one of these sacrifices that God calls upon us to make.

I believe that many view unpleasant church worship/sacrament meetings as just one more sacrifice that we make for the sake of the gospel.

As an aside, since we have no local paid clergy who would be responsible for producing a more entertaining church service? We operate with reluctant volunteers in assigned roles of "callings" that they often see as unpleasant and just another thing to be endured for the sake of the gospel. Who has the man hours to invest in making our SM more enjoyable?
It's actually a really stupid thing to say. I always maintain church isn't supposed to be torture. Even if you do think it's true.

"As an aside, since we have no local paid clergy who would be responsible for producing a more entertaining church service?"

Paid clergy are no guarantee of better entertainment, trust me. LDS talks are no worse than the sermons in many churches.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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