“Become acutely in tune with the Holy Ghost, and immediately and appropriately respond to his promptings!”
January 19, 2020, 10 AM
One again, I was underdressed compared to the others attending this church. One woman immediately greeted me, however. I sat in the back pew while the “Bishop” gave the welcome and announcements. He used the word “namaste” in his greeting, which he understood to mean, “I honor the light or the divine in all of us that has drawn us to this place today.” He also mentioned that any first time visitors should come forward after the service to receive a small gift from him. That’s probably not the best way to do that. I’m not sure most new visitors would go forward for anything. It would be better for him to come to the newcomer. Or for him to station himself at the exit door to greet us on the way out.
We stayed seated for the opening hymn, “Praise to the man,” which extols the virtues of Joseph Smith. The lyrics point to his ascendance to heaven, mingling with gods, planning for the brethren, death as a martyr, great glory, and endless priesthood. This song alone told me a bit about the theological understandings of this denomination. The last stanza goes like this:
Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
Millions shall know “Brother Joseph” again.
I pondered why the earth must atone for Joseph Smith? I also wondered if LDS folks believe that Jesus atoned for all our sins on the cross? This opening hymn created a number of questions and thoughts for me, about LDS beliefs.
We moved into the Sacrament time, whereby two men uncovered the bread plates. One knelt down and said the same prayer I heard in the previous LDS service, and then the trays of bread were brought around to us. After that, the second man knelt and said the second prayer over the water, which was also dispersed among the congregation. The congregation stayed very quiet during this time, which lent an air of solemnity. But again, someone new to church (or Christianity) wouldn’t know what to think about this strange and unexplained ritual.
The “bishop” gave the first message (apparently they seem to always have two speakers) and that’s when the children began their thing. As with the last LDS church, children stayed for the whole service and grew noisier and more mobile as time went on. No one seemed bothered by their activity, which seems like a good thing, on one hand. Maybe no one is actually expected to listen to the speakers. I did notice a few people using their cell phones.
Next, about twenty-five people from the congregation went forward to form the choir, giving a beautiful rendition of My Shepherd Will Supply My Need. For a small church, they have a good bit of musical talent.
The “President” gave the second talk, focusing on the spiritual blessing of tithing and “fast offerings.” The children grew louder and more active. I tried to focus on his talk despite all the diversionary children’s chatter and I realized that they don’t collect offerings during the service. Later, I found this on the internet: “…the bishop or branch president schedules an annual tithing settlement meeting with each member of his ward or branch. In the interview, church members declare their status as tithe-payers, and the leader records this on the church records.” Apparently, tithing is tied to “temple worthiness,” which is what qualifies persons to attend Temple ceremonies. I also found this explanation about Temples: “Temples have a different purpose from LDS meetinghouses. Today, temples serve two main purposes: (1) Temples are locations in which worthy Latter-day Saints can perform sacred ordinances on behalf of themselves, their deceased ancestors, or unrelated deceased persons whose names are compiled from historical records through the church’s Family Record Extraction Program. (2) Temples are considered to be houses of holiness where members can go to commune with God.
Doing a quick Google search will show you that there seems to be lots of requirements for members in the LDS denomination. And the leadership flow chart looks a little like the Periodic Table. I imagine long time LDS members consider it all very normal. However as a newcomer, it seems a bit overwhelming. That, and because only one person greeted me, this church FAILED the WELCOME TEST.