The Soapbox Pulpit and Sacrament Meeting

Yesterday, I had the privilege of watching a confirmation for four beautiful new members of the Church. I was present in the lesson with the Sister missionaries when the whole family was invited to be baptized together. Everyone has received them with open arms, and they're making tons of new friends. You can hardly get close to them because of how often people come up to them to express their love and appreciation for their decision.

This family just happens to be African American.

Their confirmation was beautiful. The bishop offered blessings to the mother, whose warmth and radiance is already such an example to me of everything I have always wanted to be. She was promised choice blessings by our Father in Heaven. She then watched, with tears in her eyes, as each of her children were similarly blessed. Each of them were promised they would be sealed in the temple. I rejoiced with them, and I was privileged to feast in the Spirit together with them.

Now to contrast, I want to comment on something that happened in that same Sacrament Meeting.

The closing speaker stood up, and opened her remarks by confessing that in college she had been a Mormon Feminist. She talked about that experience in some detail; how she gradually came to the recognition that she was being alienated from the Spirit and her leaders, how she didn't like the person she was becoming, and eventually separated herself from that association. Then she mentioned that yesterday was Wear Pants to Church day, and I didn't tune in again until she was talking about blacks and the priesthood restriction.

The point of her talk was about the importance of respecting priesthood leaders, which made me think of this.

I tried to concentrate on the Spirit, then finally gave up and doodled hearts all over the paper on which I'd previously been taking notes.

I will mention that she was wearing a lovely skirt.

Why do I tell you this story today? 

To compare these two events from Sacrament Meeting, and ask some simple questions.

Whose actions had a greater spiritual impact on the meeting? Whose example brought people closer to Christ? Whose devotion helped to deepen the lasting conversion of the congregation? Who was truly in harmony with the purpose of Sacrament Meeting?

Then consider this observation from Preach My Gospel:

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”  
President Boyd K. Packer

I understand that there is a faction of very vocal people who consider themselves activists, or I suppose reformed activists in this instance. They've been deeply impacted by the Church's past, and they feel an obligation to present the members of the Church their experiences with those issues. They want to make their cause visible to others, and many of them believe that Sacrament Meeting is the venue in which to do this.

They see the pulpit as a soapbox from which they can voice their views, even to twenty minutes past the actual end of the meeting.

What is most ironic to me about their attempts is that if they would only teach the gospel of Jesus Christ with sincerity, then bear a fervent testimony from their hearts, this would change behavior in the Church faster than anything else they could do. If they want to end racism, sexism, or any other -ism not in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ, they need to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Nothing else they can do will ever have the same impact.

I fear many of these well-intentioned "activists" have no idea how their actions actually impact the  people who have come to worship there.

I can think of another investigator who is currently attending services in our ward. He's a wonderful single father who is discovering the beauties of the restored gospel. I have loved talking to him and watching him as he cares for his new baby throughout the meetings. Surely he came to the meeting searching for the Spirit.

I think of the ill and ailing members of our ward. It is not easy for them to come to Church, and they only do so because they have sincere desires to find strength to continue facing their illnesses.

I think of my dear friend, whose mother recently passed away. She is still hurting intensely. I've been up with her past 1 in the morning twice already this week. My heart longs to know how I can help her, even though I already know that I can't. She's walking a hard road where no one can truly go with her except our Savior.

When I think of these and other good people, and how their spiritual growth was interrupted in this small way by the Mormon Feminist agenda, it upsets me. I recognize that the sister in my ward was speaking out against this agenda, but even that endeavor will never invite the Spirit.

Why? Because it's contentious, and the Spirit does not like contention.

The Mormon Feminist agenda was an unnecessary interruption to the Spirit which should have been ours in that meeting. And it wasn't just in our Sacrament Meeting, it was in Sacrament Meetings all across the Church. What some call, "shaking things up," or "making people uncomfortable with the way things are" is really just someone successfully chasing the Spirit away.

Considering the Mormon Feminists have frequently chosen to interrupt the spirit of some of the most important meetings in the Church, I have seen all I need to see of their position. Their behavior speaks for itself.

Sacrament Meeting is not the place for political agendas, current events, trending topics, or pet causes. Sacrament Meeting is the place designated by the Savior for His people to renew their covenants with Him. It's the place where disciples are helped and healed by the Savior in reverent peace. It's a meeting which should be totally dedicated to worshiping Jesus Christ--not the Tea Party, not the Mormon Feminists, not ObamaCare, or any other ordinary crusade in which our members take part.

As I once heard Queen Latifah say in a movie, "I don't want want to hear you. I want to hear God through you."

The members of my ward are especially distracting in this regard. And I admit, it has made me angry more than once. For that, I know I should repent. Which is why the last note I wrote on my paper was something I've heard the bishop's wife say many times in the few months we've lived here. It's something I can't be reminded of too often.

There is something I can love about everyone.

And more than anything else, I think back to the wonderful baptism and confirmation we just had in our ward, how strong these new members are and how much I already love them. I've asked myself whether or not I should try to mention the priesthood restriction to them at all. But my experience on Sunday shows me I don't need to do that.

Explanations and discourses on history won't change the Church, or the past, or the hearts and feelings of those who feel hurt by the past. And it certainly won't encourage the members of my ward to let it go. Only love can do that. Out of all the things I can do, the best thing would be to love them unconditionally and be their friend.

I know our Heavenly Father loves all of his children. I know that His love casts out all fear. All of the pain we experience in life is swallowed up in the love and sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is our perfect example, the source of our salvation. I love them. I worship them. And I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is their church on the earth today.

Even in all of our weaknesses and imperfections, there's no other church I'd rather be a part of, because I know God has the power to bring us all into perfect unity with Him. I know that reverence in our church meetings is essential to our salvation and to the salvation of those around us. When we seek this together in our congregations, God's Spirit will be among us, and bind up the broken hearted.

I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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