Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Obedient but not judgmental: A lesson from Fast Sundays

In my faith, one Sunday a month church members fast. In conjunction with what we call 'Fast Sunday', a sizable chunk of the worship service ("sacrament meeting") is devoted to members sharing their feelings about the church in a pseudo-"open mic" setting.   No lay member is asked to bear their testimony; the member chooses for himself or herself whether to speak.

Church leaders have instructed that these meetings are designed to help many members "express a brief, heartfelt testimony of our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the truths of the restored gospel." This is done "so that more members may have the opportunity to participate."

All that is pretty standard.  But much of the time, some church members will either not be brief or not be focused on their testimonies when speaking in fast and testimony meetings.

Let me suggest today that we should follow strictly the instructions of the church leaders regarding how we personally should bear testimony. I also believe that local church leaders should emphasize this counsel as needed.

But I would like to suggest that when we, as lay members, are the listeners during the fast and testimony meeting (which will be the majority of every meeting), we avoid thinking about this counsel as we listen to others' testimonies. True, we can and should lead by example and share these principles in appropriate settings, but that doesn't mean that we should think about it while others are bearing their testimonies.

Why am I suggesting that we avoid thinking for a time about counsel from the prophets?  My feeling is that when we remember this counsel when listening to other testimonies, we will inevitably "grade" others' testimonies for being too long, too short, or too tangental. When we choose to "grade" such testimonies, we will be judgmental of their efforts to bear their testimony. When we do this, I suggest that we are more likely to zone out and miss important truths from their testimonies.

In a mortal world, elements of truth-- even important core truths-- can be delivered in imperfect ways.  The church's missionary program-- powered by imperfect teenagers and young adults-- is an example of this: investigators learn important truths of the gospel in ways that are inevitably less than ideal.  Likewise, a part of attending fast and testimony meeting is learning important truths from imperfect individuals.

Just as in Fast and Testimony meeting, I believe throughout our lives, as we strive to adopt standards of conduct in keeping with the doctrine of Christ and the guidelines of his leaders, we should remember to not judge those who may not be following the doctrine and guidelines in the ways that we think our best.

As always, these thoughts are my own, are intended to help, but do not reflect the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thanks for reading,

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