I am going to share with you part of an article written by our late prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, but first I thought I’d share a little LDS culture with you.
You see, as I have gotten older I have come to distinguish a difference between Latter-day Saint doctrine and Latter-day Saint culture. Doctrinally speaking, sharing one’s testimony of Jesus Christ is important, culturally speaking it’s a hoot. Let me explain.
On the first Sunday of each month we have what is called fast and testimony meeting. We go to church just like any other Sunday, but we are asked to fast (refrain from food and drink) for two meals and then give the money that would have paid for those meals (or more) to the church as a fast offering. The fast offerings are then used to fund the church welfare programs and, specifically, they are used locally to support those who need help. If a congregation collects more in fast offerings than is needed locally, the excess funds are dispersed to other congregations. Anyway, there is a simplified basic version.
Did I say we go to church just like any other Sunday? Well, yes, except the service is a bit modified. You see, on most Sundays, the service consists of:
Passing of the sacrament (like communion)
Youth speaker (age 12-18)
Musical number (may be an extra hymn)
As you will notice, we don’t have a sermon given by the bishop each week. Rather, we have talks about various gospel principles (the topic is generally assigned by the bishopric) with different speakers giving these talks each week. So, in essence, we all get to take a turn giving a sermon of sorts. This really gives you the chance from a very young age to start developing some mad public speaking skillz (though you can always decline if you are asked to speak at church). Anyway, I love it.
But fast and testimony meeting? Well, that’s a little different. After all the opening stuff and the sacrament portion of the meeting, there is neither assigned topic nor assigned speakers. Anyone is invited to stand before the congregation to share their testimony. Now, in theory, this is a wonderful, spiritual, uplifting, community building, testimony building thing. In practice it is a wonderful, spiritual, uplifting, community building testimony building thing . . . but not always.
McH and I call it open mic Sunday.
I know, we are going straight. to. hell.
You just never know what you are going to get on open mic Sunday, but you do get a good feel for the overall atmosphere of any given congregation if you visit on said Sunday, and if there is any crazy within a five mile radius it will be on that microphone like white on rice (unless it’s brown rice, but really). Seriously, in one congregation we were in a man got up and started taking credit for world peace because he had “blessed that situation.” He went on to say that all black people were the result of the union of David and Bathsheba. He also claimed that with his last name (McGill) it was obvious that he was descended from the tribe of Dan (you know, 12 tribes of Israel?). He was also wearing the yarmulke he wore ever Sunday. And folks, I am not dissing the yarmulke, but we are not Jewish! Anyway, sometimes (very rarely, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen it happen in person) on open mic Sunday the bishop has to ask people to please sit down. That was absolutely one of those times, but the bishop just didn’t feel like it I guess, because that guy was allowed to go on and on for a good 20 minutes, mortifying everyone except the other crazy people in the room (there was a lot of crazy in that particular congregation). We were mortified, though we laugh heartily about it now and share the story at social gatherings.
In addition to the crazy, open mic Sunday is also apparently very cathartic for lonely people who have no one to talk to except their cats, and the microphone also becomes a magnet for those whose lives seem riddled with trials and tribulations.
Anyway, this is why McH and I went back up to the greater Radiator Springs area this past weekend. It was the first Sunday in March and, therefore, fast and testimony meeting. We wanted to experience it before we made an offer on a house. The congregation up there had a decent lack of crazy (no comment on the trials and tribulations and the cat people), so we made the offer and we now have a contract on a house. More about that tomorrow.
For now, I’m going to leave you with the testimony of Gordon B. Hinckley as published in this month’s special edition Ensign (our church magazine for adults — I almost called it our church adult magazine, but that just didn’t sound right). Anyway, here is the last few paragraphs of the article he wrote for this edition before he passed away. It is a testimony as a testimony should be shared. No crazy, no lonely ramblings, no self pity:
We know not all that lies ahead of us. We live in a world of uncertainty. For some, there will be great accomplishment. For others, disappointment. For some, much of rejoicing and gladness, good health, and gracious living. For others, perhaps sickness and a measure of sorrow. We do not know. But one thing we do know. Like the Polar Star in the heavens, regardless of what the future holds, there stands the Redeemer of the world, the Son of God, certain and sure as the anchor of our immortal lives. He is the rock of our salvation, our strength, our comfort, the very focus of our faith.
In sunshine and in shadow we look to Him, and He is there to assure and smile upon us.
He is the central focus of our worship. He is the Son of the living God, the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten in the flesh. He is “risen from the dead, … the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). He is the Lord who shall come again “to reign on the earth over his people” (D&C 76:63; see also Micah 4:7; Revelation 11:15).
None so great has ever walked the earth. None other has made a comparable sacrifice or granted a comparable blessing. He is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. I believe in Him. I declare His divinity without equivocation or compromise. I love Him. I speak the name of Jesus Christ in reverence and wonder. He is our King, our Lord, our Master, the living Christ, who stands on the right hand of His Father. He lives! He lives, resplendent and wonderful, the living Son of the living God.
And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt would like to see you at church sometime.