I learned as a missionary the art of avoiding past transgressions. But I am about to drop a current transgression. This is how I’d like this to work: I will vent. Then you, (you, reader person) can one of two things; you can agree with me, or you can help me resolve my disparaging attitude.
The drop: I don’t enjoy Fast and Testimony meeting. The whole thing makes me uncomfortable, annoyed and embarrassed.
It’s not just in my ward either. It’s your ward. It’s the ward I attend on vacation (I am that sort of a Saint). Or the baby blessing. Or the past ward. Or the ward before that. And it’s definitely the single’s ward which I had the pleasure of attending before and after a divorce.
I am pretty sure I know how a Fast and Testimony meeting is supposed to go. I’ve tried to teach that to whomever I have had stewardship over. You are lead by the Spirit. You declare what you know is truth following the basic tenets of our religion. You close in the name of our Savoir (not in the name of “Thy son”) and you sit down. You feel the blood in your extremities return. The person to your left gives you a brief rub on the shoulder.
It starts with the Bishopric who is supposed to leave his testimony as an example (this is no time for general wardkeeping admonitions, right?) and end with “The time is now yours for the bearing of testimonies.”
Then the slew of children.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love children. I have paid a huge amount of cash just to be able to conceive ONE of their species. I put in long hours for six years at an Elementary School for a measly paycheck. I am an (favorite) Aunt of thirty-one (almost thirty-two) children of the nieces and nephews variety. And this is where I will end my “I Love Children” resume. But I do not love children bearing testimonies during Fast and Testimony meeting.
Not all children. I love to hear the testimonies of the recently baptized or the challenged-during-family-home-evening. But the endless line of children just eager to get their voice projected on the microphone out to the great beyond! feels silly to me. I’ve had to get up and take a walk around the building.
We’ve been counseled that children who need help at the pulpit bearing testimony should not be there in the first place (unless of course it’s that adorable Primary Program). But kids are getting smart. They are advancing beyond and now they don’t need your ear-ly whispers, they can yell into the microphone all on their own thankyouverymuch. And convenient enough on most days, children learn by example, which means that more and more children are eager to “I’d like to bear my testimony. I know this Church is true.”
I don’t get it either. When I was a kid I didn’t want to get up there in front of all those people. I liked Quiet Books. Why don’t kids like Quiet Books anymore?
I think it is okay to teach children that the bearing of testimony from the pulpit is a coming of age practice. Just like baptism or going through the temple.
Then the ward rambler.
After that, the ward regular.
Followed by the ward alien who says things that people from our planet don’t comprehend.
Sprinkled with the unaware for whom considerate social mores are distinct.
Then the ward “I am going to get this meeting back on track!” hero whose testimony sounds more like anger than love. (I confess to being the is person in warranted circumstances.)
Occasionally there is that treat of a sincere, humble declaration of devotion to this Church. To His Church. Those keep me coming on the first Sunday of the month. More importantly, when I hear such testimonies I am duly blessed. I know that they know. And I know that I know. And I want others to know that I know.
But most of the time I sit in my chair with a big cringe in my soul. I think it started back on my mission when we brought a very skeptical–but very interested–investigator to church. For the record, she picked Fast and Testimony meeting for her first introduction into our worship, we missionaries knew better. When the man bore his testimony using a hand-puppet, our investigator asked us to stop the discussions.
I think the general leadership is trying to helps us teach each other that Fast and Testimony is not open-mike hour. It’s not confession and it’s not an opportunity to teach us what you’ve learned on the doctrine of being a Republican. We should be concerned about the future generations of testimony bearers. If there ever was an opportunity to lead out by example, it is in this particular meeting, especially for the newly baptized converts and the children. It could be one hour of one month where an entire congregation practices the true art of charity by uplifting and touching hearts simultaneously in declarations of knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Less self-indulgence, more selflessness.
I am going to pray for help in this endeavor. But until the time arrives when I can sit through a meeting without wanting to flee the premises, advice is welcome. Unless you are rowing in my boat, in which case I cannot lie, I am misery and I love the company.