Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Botox and Scripted Rituals?

I just received an email that reminding me of the danger when Mormonism is mixed with Botox:
Dear Mormon/Christian,
I grew up in southern Idaho with many LDS friends and attended several of their church services. As a Spirit-filled Christian I always went to these services with the hope of feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit. All I experienced was a group of people going through a bunch of scripted rituals. Good people, but empty inside and meeting out of duty, not love for the Heavenly Father. Most of the men were asleep and the women were staring with a blank expression as the children ran around. All of the talk was about Joseph Smith or one of the founding Fathers of Mormonism. Nothing about true liberty in Jesus.

I always left those services empty and sad that these beautiful people have never experienced the Joy and freedom in knowing the true Savior.
Mormons experience a great deal of joy and freedom in Christ, for the record, and we often show it--when we are awake. But it may be harder to visibly show that joy when we are trying to keep several active children quiet in a meeting or when Botox has been used. When I first read this, I thought the problem was that our troubled Christian had attended the Beverly Hills Ward, where Botox might (I speculate) be used more heavily than in less fashionable wards. Hence the blank expressions. But then I noticed my correspondent had mentioned the real Mecca of fashion and beauty, southern Idaho, renowned for being more Californian than California itself. Suddenly surrounded by numerous "beautiful people," as described in the email, whose beauty may have been enhanced in a few cases with heavy doses of Botox, our overwhelmed visitor might have associated those faces with some deficiency in our theology and not the failings of cosmetic surgery.

While Botox helps me understand part of the complaint, I'm really stumped about the "scripted rituals." Someone needs to get over to southern Idaho and see what's up. Our lack of scripted rituals has been a common complaint for newcomers attending our services. Fast and testimony meeting - anything can happen. Regular sacrament meetings: almost anything can happen. OK, we have an opening prayer and a song, and a closing song and prayer, and in between there are a few minutes for the sacrament where a brief specific prayer is used (yes, scripted), but the majority of the meeting is in highly unscripted hands. The first speaker usually speaks before the closing speaker, just like the closing prayer generally comes after the opening prayer--but that's not especially scripted. So what did our friend experience in Idaho?

Please, if southern Idaho wards have become highly organized and scripted, I think the rest of us need to learn from them, even if southern Idahoans make the rest of us feel a little ugly and unfashionable in comparison.

I find that our critics often not only seem to be willing to tell us what we believe, but also what we feel, what we think, and what is in our hearts. This person was able to just look at the Mormons and recognize that they were going to church out of duty, not out of love for God and joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He could see their hearts were empty, lacking love for Heavenly Father. Really? I bet he could see that without even talking to them or looking at their blank expressions. I bet he could even read their minds while they were asleep, perhaps from the other side of the world. The psychic gifts of anti-Mormonism: it wasn't just Fawn Brodie who experienced such supernatural powers.


Michael W. Towns, Sr. said...

Interesting post.

For the record, let me state that I am an active, believing LDS, returned missionary, etc., etc.

With deep regret, I agree (for the most part) with the sentiments expressed by the "Christian". I have been feeling, for quite some time now, that the weekly Church meeting experience in general has been pretty dull and uninspiring. There DOES seem to be "something" missing. And I think that something is a hearty dose of the Holy Spirit.

As faithful LDS, we really shouldn't shy away from facing up to the truth that we fall short in many ways. And I believe that one of the ways that we fall short is in inviting the Holy Spirit to REALLY be in our meetings.

Please let me explain. You see, I've sat through hundreds upon hundreds of church meetings, and the typical U.S. ward doesn't really sing the hymns with feeling or passion. We just sort of mouth the words.

We give the same vanilla prayers over and over again. We tend to use the same trite expressions.

To an outside observer, this does in fact appear to be scripted. This is not a problem in CA or southern Idaho. It is a problem EVERYWHERE in the United States. I am writing from Georgia and I grew up in Florida.

Being honest and open about how we feel about things should not be considered spiritual treason. I believe that there are several reasons why our meetings are less than inspirational. A slavish preoccupation with purity of appearance and not purity of heart is a prime one. But it's probably because we're all too busy in our summer cottages in Babylon. There is too much Babylon and not enough Zion. True Zion.

I hesitate posting because I don't want to come across as a malcontent. I'm not a crusader and I'm not trying to steady any ark here. But if non-members, no matter how initially prejudiced, can't come to our meetings and feel a portion of God's Holy Spirit, then we clearly have issues.

I remember a small story related by Hugh Nibley about something Joseph Fielding Smith said. He said (Smith), "We are rapidly becoming a mediocre people". Heaven forbid it, but it's true in the United States.

Laura A. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura A. said...

I think what our friend is also seeing is the speakers putting in less than adequate preparation for their talks. How many talks have we heard that start with: "As I was preparing this talk last night..."? So when the speaker hasn't put in much preparation, they don't have as much of the Spirit with them, and they tend to fall back onto cultural "scripts".

Jeff Lindsay said...

It's not that way everywhere. PLEASE come visit us in Shanghai. The Shanghai Branch is amazing. Speakers prepare. The Spirit is often very strong. Almost every meeting leaves me feeling blessed, grateful, and richer for the experience. That in spite of the usual challenges of noisy kids and all that. Love our branch - about the size of some wards, by the way.

Lamdaddy said...

I think most people will feel that they sometimes go through the motions at church or have been to services that were less than inspiring. I think part of that can be attributed to a lay ministry. On any given Sunday you may have some kids, the lady next door and her husband, and old Bill down the street who preach and pray, and it just may not be as jazzy or emotional as an evangelical meeting put on by professional speakers and musicians, or as grand and pretty as Mass. I have learned that when I am in the right frame of mind, I can still feel the Spirit just by simply being there. But that has been learned over time.
Another great thing about our church is that if you find services to be lacking, YOU can have a direct impact in changing it. Sometimes when I feel uninspired, I will take some time to speak up in Sunday School, speak with people who are more reclusive and ask how they are, find out what service projects in the ward are available to do, read scriptures, and do other similar things.

An investigator that I brought to church as a missionary once made a similar observation. I had him speak to the bishop that day and the next week HE was one of the speakers. We all have the ability in the church to take what we want from it, and if you feel that things could be more inspiring, remember that the responsibility rests on you just as much as anyone else to make it so.

GB said...

Well, when you are used to attending a Sunday Show, complete with musical numbers and great flourishing speeches by professionals, perhaps an LDS Sacrament Meeting would feel boring.

Off course, it is possible that he just made it all up.

Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

Botox? I love it when you give us a peak at your acerbic side.

As far as the comments go - I'm glad I'm in my ward!

Papa D said...

"Of course, it is possible that he just made it all up."

I've read the exact same cut and pasted "experience" (almost word-for-word, verbatim, canned message) from more than one person in more than one forum in my life. I understand and share concerns about spiritual meetings, even thoguh I now live in a wonderful ward with a great spirit in many meetings, but one of the benefits of advanced age is being able to spot scripted BS when I smell it - and that's exactly what this "letter" is.

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Anonymous said...

It doesn't really matter if speakers are boring or unprepared...as long as we truly understand why we go to church & see the long-term blessings.

Part of our covenant is to ENDURE TO THE END...regardless of the situation in our wards/branches.