Svithe: on sacrifice


I've been thinking about sacrifice and it came up in Church today. In particular, I often come back to this statement from Joseph Smith:
    "Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation."

Being interested in salvation myself, I have to recognize a necessary corallary, viz. If I am not willing to sacrifice all things I will never have the faith necessary unto life and salvation.

I'm reminded of Lamoni's statement:
    O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

I like to broaden the traditional definition of sin. I think I often broaden it beyond its true scope, but I do it anyway because I find it helpful to me.

Am I willing to give away these sins?
    The sin of waiting till the last second because I know that effort will still be sufficient to impress people.
    The sin of needing to be clever.
    The sin of thinking I don't have to serve here if I served there.
    The sin of doing enough--or even more than enough--but not all that I could possibly have done.
    The sin of self-importance.
    The sin of typing silly lists of sins and calling it self-analysis, pretending it will make me a better person.

Those might be a pretty good place to start.

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


A brief a/v svithe


Proof the Word of Wisdom doesn't prevent a weird good time:

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


a svithe for expectant fathers


En-her-gy Girl wrote me earlier this week to share with me a fantastic idea she has for getting writing done. It had been on her blog but I had missed it. Full disclosure: I tend to drift away from blogs that are either private or don't allow comments, and I don't use a reader, so . . . .

Anyway, while I was there, I read her post Payback time!.

(I'll pause for a moment while you go read it.)

( . . . . )

( . . . . )

( . . . . )

( . . . . )

( . . . . )

(All done? Okay, back to my post.)

True, don't you think? And it has application way beyond our families--I think this is true of most things in life. Not to suggest horrible tragedies don't show up unexpectedly like a drunk drive through your bedroom at 2am (as once happened to some friends of mine) because they most certainly do. Welcome to Earth. We can't control everything.

HOWEVER. Our expectations do define our reality to an enormous extent. We catalogue what happens according to what we expected to happen and so we see what we want to see. And, I believe in a mystical sort of way, the universe likes to give us what we want to see.

Or to be less nondenominational, God loves us and will give us what we want whether we should want it or not. I think that's pretty true as well.

So want what you want. If you know what I mean.

this week's svithe on thmusings

last week's svithe


Svithe: Sacrament-meeting talks, beginnings thereof


Before I get started today, I have a bit of business to cover, viz. the Mormonification of my svithing. Although I myself am quite Mormon, the svithes were never intended to be regarding topics that were Mormon to the point of excluding other readers. Slowly, however, I became more and more Mormoncentric. In large measure, this has been harmless: most of my readership is Mormon; all the same, I apologize as I have been getting lazier re: explanation of terms, etc.

Today's svithe will be another particularly Mormon one. It concerns what happens in worship services.

As part of the primary meeting, most weeks members of the congregation, who had been asked previously, speak on a gospel topic to their fellow worshipers. The purpose of the meeting is to remember Christ, so the talk given should focus on bringing the Spirit into the meeting by talking of Christ rejoicing in Christ preaching of Christ and prophesying of Christ. That's the job.

Mormons in GhanaToday I want to talk a little bit about giving good talks. Specifically, the starting of talks. And, let me be honest here, I'm going to talk about some things that I really wish people wouldn't do. I won't call them 'pet peeves', but yes, that sort of thing. In fact, let's just do it this way--as a list of things I wish people would consider carefully before ever, ever doing ever again.

As a wordguy, I try to sculpt my talks into their most perfect form before arriving on Sunday. I can't comment on how well this works, but I think it's important to use the time between being asked and actually presenting to prepare in whichever way you find best. And part of any prepared talk is the beginning of said talk.

Talk beginnings are often the single best remembered portion of a talk. I think everyone intends to follow along closely, but after the talk begins, a kid may throw up and then where are you? Not paying attention anymore. Hope that opening was either compelling enough to pull you through vomit or not, or chock-full enough on its own to stand alone.

Instead, what we often see, are people squandering those precious few seconds when the congregation is theirs on things that mattereth not.

So. The list (Note: I tend to phrase my opinions as if they were unassailable fact and disagreement is untenable; neither is true.):

Introducing the family.

Like the rest of this list, introducing one's family is not bad in the moral sense--it's just not ideal talk formatting. The thing about this one is that, often, you will be asked to include information like how-we-met and we-have-seventy-kids in order that everyone will get to know you. Which is a noble aim! And when asked, I have found a way to incorporate some of that information, but starting the talk with a bio and a joke? It's not worship. And the transition from that to talk proper is generally so abrupt and awkward that it renders the whole thing disjointed. Far better to just avoid it all together and get us to the meat of doctrine.

Please remember: I love you and your family. And I'll admit we haven't really gotten to know each other sufficiently well. But let's have the activities committee handle this task. We're here now to remember Someone else.

Recalling when the bishop (or whoever) called.

How many times do we need to hear that when whoever called to ask you to speak you a) almost didn't answer, b) wished you hadn't answered, c) were tempted to say no, d) spent the rest of the week stressing, e) had previously thought you would never have to speak, f) blah blah blah whatever? We get it. We've all been called before. You're not up there to talk about you.

Explication of nervousness.

Lots of people get nervous speaking in front of groups. Most people get nervous speaking in front of groups. Nearly everyone! And you're standing in front of a hundred-fifty or something! It's okay to be nervous! But why do you need to tell us about it?

Thanking the musical number.

Not doing this one is actually Recession Cone's pet peeve. In my opinion, thanking the musical number (like introducing your family) is fine, whatever. But not only does this prevent a strong start to one's talk, but it has become such standard practice that not thanking the musical number has become tantamount to insulting the musical number. (Ergo: Lots of insincere, obligatory thank-yous.) No one should feel required to thank the musical number any more than anyone feels obliged to thank the previous speaker. We're not here to congratulate each other but to worship, and throwing away that vital first moment in favor of thanking someone just for doing their part lessens my chance to do my own part the best I can.

I'll admit. There are times a musical number is so remarkable I want to comment, but given the expected nature of a compliment, all compliments don't feel honest but fake, compulsory. Like a standing ovation in Utah.

I acknowledge that we do need recognition from each other but sacrament meeting is not the time for highfives--no one expects the singer to thank the previous speaker after all--and not just because it would be odd, but because to do so would disrupt their worship effort. Neither the musician more than the speaker than the speaker more than the musician. And we don't need insincere thanks at the beginnings of talks, especially.

I know RC wants me to mention the hours that go into a good musical number, but hours go into a good talk as well. And both sets of hours are sacrifice. And for whom? The Lord. Whose reward are we after?

When it comes to thanking the music, I recommend the General Conference model where the conductor generally does the thanking. Can you imagine Elder Scott wasting on sixth of a second of his precious time on the choir? He's got a message and he needs every millimoment!

Sometime I wonder if the idea here is that any schmuck can give a talk but only special people can make music. Maybe so. But the Lord asks us all to participate. Maybe if they assigned musical numbers the same way they do talks we would stop thinking one portion of the meeting is more sacred and that those participants are more worthy than others. Because we are all sinners trying to help one another proceed towards salvation.

We should thank one another (after the meeting). But we should not require praise. And we should accept thanks/praise humbly.

We shouldn't be doing giving talks for our own gratification or the praise of man either. But although the talks are a sacrifice to God, they are written with the intention that they will uplift and inspire our fellows. And to do this, we must do the best we can. And that includes a strong, meaningful introduction.

Here we can look to the musicians for inspiration: they don't hem and haw and make excuses or blabber about the previous portion of the meeting. They make music.

Go us and do us likewise.

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


June Conference, a svithe


When my father was a youth, he was invited to participate in the choir for June Conference. Sort of.

Well, he was invited, but then the choir director figured out he was the one a little off tune and he was instructed to move his mouth but leave his vocal chords uninvolved henceforth and forever. Just like that. One empty mouth filling the Tabernacle seats.

When I was younger and singing competitively and music-wise, I would listen to him at church--he still sang, but he was horribly self-conscious and would denigrate himself at any opportunity--and you know what? He wasn't that bad. He was almost always on. Sure, he couldn't sing parts and wasn't apt to be picked up by Beelzebubs, but he can sing and he is sincere and, in my opinion, someone's worshipfulness is more important than their absolute precision. To say nothing of how that experience cut my father off from feeling part of the capitalized World of Music for the rest of his life. He is forevermore an outsider. Thanks a lot, lady.

The Scriptures are pretty clear here: the Lord delights in the song of the righteous. There's a definite scriptural dearth on verses proclaiming the Lord's love of perfect pitch.

I know, I know. Those of us with any training cringe at halfbaked musical numbers, but that's our problem, not the Lord's. I'm not sure he minds, what with him busy looking on the heart and everything.

Music, most people seem to agree, gives the Spirit a big leg-up into our hearts, but if the music is all about me, then why isn't it reflecting my precise tastes? Why don't I get to make all the musical selections? But that's not the point, as we all recognize. And besides, every part of a worship service is supposed to bring us closer to God. We wouldn't consider asking someone with a funny accent never to give a talk just because their speech is imperfect. Why the double standard?

Anyway. Let's stop talking about singing in front of the congregation--I'll do that next week. This week let's discuss congregational singing only.

My dad still loves to sing the hymns, even if he's convinced he's terrible. He sings with love and enthusiasm and it's certainly an accepted prayer.

As opposed to my brother Reb.

In high school, my brother Reb refused to sing at church because he was convinced that numerous members of our congregation were singing the hymns without knowing what words they were signing. This rendered them horrible hypocrites and Pharisees, delivering hollow prayers just to seem righteous to their peers. Not wanting to be perceived as faux righteous, he did not sing the hymns. Instead, he read them to himself while everyone else sang.

An outside observer would likely interpret my father's off-key gusto as enjoying church. My brother Reb still seems to be there against his will sometimes.

I won't comment any more on that, but I will say this: I'm certain heaven wants us to sing and enjoys it when we do. I'm certain heaven appreciates the off-key as well as the classically trained.

And this is my point: All God's creature's got a place in the choir and we'll all be happier when we sing along. And now we'll be privileged to enjoy a special musical number from Brother Makem and Brother Clancy:

God invites us all to the choir. Whose example shall we emulate?

Next week! Why we shouldn't thank the musical number!

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe