I was reading in Moroni during sacrament meeting today. Moroni 6:9. " And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done."
D&C 20:45 has a similar message: "The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God."
In today's meeting the program was announced, what we would sing was announced, when we would sing, then what would happen, and then we would go to this meeting and then that meeting... I mean it was called a "program" after all. Who would speak, when they would speak, and for how long was all pre-determined. The format has been that way all my life. I think the body of members suffers when meetings become totally pre determined in the name of "organization" or "unity". It becomes very formal. But as I've written in another (post) I don't think uniformity and unity are the same at all. In theory there is supposed to be some room for guidance by the Spirit on how the talks are prepared, who is called to speak during the weeks prior, and how the music is supposed to correlate with the themes. I suppose that is a meeting "guided by the Spirit". But how guided is it when speakers are even told what topic to speak on? And teachers what topic to teach on? Even what instruments are allowed to be used in the music.
More and more is being dictated. It requires my mind to stretch to make it fit the style of meetings the book of Mormon teaches. I personally think there is a loss when procedure, policy, outlined "programs", and tradition replace what the scriptures said was to be more spontaneous and alive.
We are the lesser for teachings from the Book of Mormon getting lost. I feel a desire for the kind of church meetings the book of Mormon talked about. I think the wording is crucial.... It said the meetings were conducted by the "workings of the Spirit" and by the "power of the Holy Ghost". We are very good at conducting by the "authority" of the priesthood, we always recognize the "presiding authority" at the meeting. But I think the "power" is lost when we just follow a printed program and then want the Spirit to follow our program.
Elder Packer at a recent conference addressed the difference between the "power", vs the "authority" of the Priesthood (link here). That is good reading in my opinion. Meetings conducted by the "power" of the Holy Ghost sound anything but boring, they sound like what would edify and uplift me. This is something you can't prepackage, and something you can't control, which would make some folks very insecure and very afraid of what would happen. When fear is high, usually along with that comes the need to control. True there would be a lot of differences depending on what congregation you happened to attend, but wouldn't that be great? I mean McDonalds being the same all around the world is kinda cool, but church?? I think that almost defies the definition of conducting meetings as led by the Spirit. I don't know that everything being uniform was really the scriptures goal for church meetings. My opinion.
The meetings I imagine happening in the book of Mormon would be anything but dull. It would have life, excitement, and might be fun. A recognizable and welcomed gift of the Spirit may even show up by a regular old member with no particular level of responsibility during the meeting to the benefit and promoting of faith of all present.
Members are what make up church (D&C 10:67, Mosiah 26:22). The folks spoken of in scripture wanted to meet, they met because they felt a compelling need to fellowship and worship together. They "met together often", and interestingly there was no mention of it only being on sunday, in fact no day of the week was specified. What happened to the freedom to do this sort of thing? Now you'd need special permission to even consier it, and it would likely be frowned upon. The church meetings the book of mormon talked about I think has all but been replaced by a printed program that is the same no matter where you are in the world. Not much different than a business meeting agenda where the participants prepare beforehand for the speech or presentation.
Found out today the church headquarters are now setting the rules about where the primary in my ward meets for opening exercises (in the chapel or in the primary room). I wonder about the loss of freedom to even operate by the Spirit when so many things are outlined, prescribed, and dictated by headquarters. I attend primary because I often find it enjoyable. Church headquarters is now deciding the location of Primary opening exercises which I found odd. I love the bishop of my ward, I wish bishops and the local leaders had increasing rather than decreasing freedom to conduct meetings and make decisions more by the spirit, instead of by a handbook of instructions or what they are told.
We want missionaries to "teach by the spirit" and yet when investigators come to our meetings it's all pre-outlined, pre determined, and according to a program. It's hard to conduct by the Spirit when your told what to do on so very many fronts. I see the ease and organizational benefit of doing things and running meetings the way it's done now, I really do, I've been a participant practically all my life. I just see along with it a growing loss. I wonder if the Spirit enjoys following the printed program week after week or if the structure and tradition becomes grievous. Suppose that's something to consider on an individual level.
And yet with all of this, church provides a place where people of varying degrees of interest can come meet together, learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, participate in inspired programs and hopefully be edified by the Spirit of God. There are chances to love those who may be difficult to love, to learn from those so very different from ourselves, and contribute to meetings in a unique and uplifting way. If nothing else we study the scriptures. Despite all that may have a trend towards the negative, despite human nature, I see the church as a wonderful tool to approach God, love our fellow man, forgive mistakes and errors, pray for those in need of support, develop attributes and receive inspired divine ordinances. One is allowed to progress or not progress at his or her own speed. The more each individual recognizes whats amiss, repents, and comes to Christ, the more successful the Gospel.
Even if the institution is under condemnation (Doctrine and Covenants 84:55) an individual can still come to Christ and have the condemnation removed. Isn't that was Christ did? He came to a fallen world, came back into God's presence, and then preached love, repentance and the Gospel to a condemned world and people? Sounds very Chrislike. I think we should follow this example, and find our way back to God, then having received of God minister to people who need to be ministered to. Church has all of it, I for one want to use the tool for it's intended purpose and receive God's intended outcome.