Jun 14, 2010

Even Better than Ram Fat

So yes, we went to church on Sunday. All. Three. Hours.

Hooray! We did it!~

Before I begin my church travelogue and feelings re: it, I'd like to thank everyone for their comments on my last 2 posts. I am grateful for the wisdom and love you shared. I expected to receive generic "you can do it!" advice, and what I got was actually helpful, meaningful, sincere. I especially was grateful to see that I'm not the only one admitting to be bored in church.

NOW, the church travelogue.

We went with Brett and Charlotte to their ward, as they live so close to us, and that way we had 1) friends/family we know to attend with and hold us accountable for going, and 2) someone to watch and take Morgan from time to time.

All in all, it was a good Sunday, long and tiring (tiring from chasing after my son for most of second hour and all of third hour) less boring than usual, but most of all, it was a blessing to partake of the sacrament again.

My problems haven't been solved, but I'm glad I went, and that means something. Sacrament meeting was dull, mostly because the bishop just called up random youth to bear testimony of youth conference. It may not have been dull, but either the sound system wasn't loud enough or the speakers weren't loud enough to be understood over Morgan and other baby vocalists in the middle of their musical performance of "Infant Pandemonium: Movement Six."

Second hour was my favorite, partially because Charlotte and Brett watched Morgan most of the time (and a random stranger Morgan sat happily with for around ten minutes). Sunday School was on Saul's downfall as king of Israel. One of my favorite OT stories, (not featuring Elijah) I was going to list the pros and cons of both the instructor and their teaching method, and how I feel it can be a summation of my feelings towards the church, but I'll just say the instructor was a self-proclaimed Kindergarten teacher with all that entails.

Instead of a criticism of this particular teacher, I'll discuss the majority of Sunday School teaching methods that I have difficulty with. It seems that all many teachers do is have us read a series of scriptures with as little interaction as possible and then teach us the story again, as if we'd never heard of Saul or Samuel, or perhaps it changed since last time. (It hadn't). I love the scriptures, I think they are a gift from God and the word of God and treat them as such. However, in Sunday school, rote reading of the holy word in monotone King James' English can get me bogged down and distracted at best. Especially when the teacher has people read the same verses. (No joke, it was something like "you, read 1 Samuel 13:15-20, now you, read 1 Samuel 13:17-18. You over there, read Samuel 13:21-24, and you, read Samuel 13:23." They just read it! Sorry)

It's hubris and I need to humble myself, but I think a large reason why I have trouble listening to the lessons in church is I think I could teach them better. I've been in the church all my life and studied the scriptures quite extensively, enough to say I know how to feast upon the word. And I do. But it just gets boring when we read a handful of scriptures, teacher might ask us to say "what it means to us," or some other vague question that shows they either weren't listening or don't understand, and then tells us a story we already know. In short, I think my issues and boredom stem from lack of good teachers. You know, kind of like college.

I don't want to just come to church for the sacrament. Though that's the prime important reason to go, I want to enjoy Sunday School and Priesthood. (Don't get me started on Priesthood. That rant may deserve its own post). I've been to Sunday School lessons with amazingly excellent teachers, you'd think with the concentration of Mormons here they'd call some better ones.

Now the good. I'd like to talk about what I love about the Samuel, Saul and the Amalekites story.

For those of you who don't know or would like a refresher, here's the gist: (Read 1 Samuel 15 for the actual version)

The LORD tells Samuel the Prophet to exterminate the Amalekites. Samuel, the LORD's mouthpiece relays the information to Saul, the King. Kill em all. Men, Women, children, babies. Ox, sheep, camels. Kill. them. all.

Simple, right?

Saul goes and does just that. Kills em all. Well, mostly. Saul decides to spare the king, Agag. He also thinks it's a good idea to save the fattest and best of the animals to make sacrifice. Samuel and the LORD don't.

Samuel tells Saul: (1 Sam 15:22) "...to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."

Samuel kills Agag, Saul has his kingship revoked.

Good story, right?

One thing she kind of touched on but not really discussed, was Saul's real sin. The man wanted to sacrifice these animals to God, a commandment, right? (Nevermind the fact that killing them in His name could be viewed as sacrifice, then he would obey AND sacrifice). Saul's real sin was thinking he knew better than the LORD.

Is this my real sin? Quite often (when active, and again yesterday) I thought "I could teach this lesson better." However, I wasn't called to teach this lesson. I was called to listen, not judge. Maybe the rest of the class didn't know the story of Saul and Samuel until it was taught in Sunday School. Maybe I could learn a thing from Samuel, to let the LORD know His servant heareth. (1 Sam 3:10) To hearken, and obey. But it's hard. It's difficult to listen to a lesson and story I know without being bored. School is a place of learning, but on Sunday they're teaching stuff I already know. Is my lesson to listen when bored and not think I'm above it all? Should I just pull a Henry Eyring?

The story of Henry Eyring (one of them. I'm sure there are others. At least the one I'm referring to) goes something like: An exceptionally boring speaker expounded on some Gospel subject. The mood of the congregation ranged from dangerously bored to fighting to stay awake. Someone noticed Henry Eyring, scientist, genius and father and namesake of our current First Counselor of the First Presidency, that he was beaming at the speaker's remarks. Beaming. After the meeting, his son inquired if they were indeed in the same meeting. Here's what he said:

"Since I was a very young man, I have taught myself to do something in a church meeting. When the speaker begins, I listen carefully and ask myself what it is he is trying to say. Then, once I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, I give myself a sermon on that subject.
Since then, I have never been to a bad meeting."

While this perspective may allow for the reign of the boring teachers to continue, it makes the responsibility of my church involvement mine. Yes, I'm bored. No, it's not my fault, that person can't teach worth beans. But whether or not they're Socrates or little old Sister Johannasbergsteinheimersen, I can proactively affect my enjoyment. If I'm so smart, (and I am) maybe I'll just teach myself. Which is what I did in Elder's Quorum, when not chasing after a curious Morgan. But that's worthy of another post. Maybe.

In conclusion, yes. I'm very glad I went. No, it didn't magically solve all my problems, but I didn't expect or even want it to. (Well, it would have been nice...)



lynette said...

Whenever you feel like the lesson is getting dull you should raise your hand and add your two cents. Maybe the lesson will take a turn for the better? I mean, what isn't better with Austin?!

Glad to hear that you went.

Laurie said...

Sounds like you learned your lesson.

BTW, we have a great Sunday school teacher (two of them), you could always move back here.

Austin said...

Lynette, I've tried to add my two cents in the past, but I often feel like I sound smug or rude, which I don't want to.

Laurie, I know. Sunday School teachers in Katy stake are mostly who I'm referring to when I say "I've had amazingly excellent Sunday School teachers." Moving back is not likely to happen, unless the weather in Houston dramatically changes.

Laurie said...

The weather in my house right now is a sunny 77 degrees with little or no humidity. Perfect;)

Austin said...

Talk to me in August. ;)

Wendy said...

Congrats and I'm happy to report that yesterday was our 1st time attending all 3 hours too. Luckily our kid doesn't walk yet and he slept through most of the meetings.

Don't you LOVE the OT? But it's hard to find teachers who do it justice, not that I'm volunteering to teach.

Anyway, it's a lot harder than I thought to get something out of church with a little one. I should take more responsibility for what kind of experience I have but things are certainly easier when people ask if you're new and make you feel good about being there. Good luck with your pursuit and keep the thoughts flowing!

Charlo said...

That was the first time I'd ever heard that teacher. I didn't even recognize her face from church. I wonder if she is new? maybe she usually teaches the other sunday school class? Maybe she only teaches when we are out of town?

I was sleepy, and didn't pay enough attention to know if I was bored. All I remember is that Goliath had Giant person's cancer.

next week if we get a ride with Grandpa to arrowhead, then we won't be at church, but if we go later with craig, or don't go to arrowhead at all (because I am blogging and not working), then we will be there to keep you company.

Jacob I. McMillan said...

Please go off about Priesthood. That deserves its own separate post.

HayLee said...

I do like what Henry B. Erying said. I have to say that I think church is boring as well. I teach the nine yr olds...I have been in a primary calling for 3 yrs. Sometime it is difficult for me to learn and gain something. I do have to make a pro-active effort to get something out of it. Sometime what I get has nothing to do with the lessons, whats being taught, or what I did/did not hear that day. Sometimes its about the friend that I made because I went to church. Something some one said to me that has stayed with me forever. A neighbor I found out is in need of help. I love going to church, cause I love those moments. I never been one to pay attention in Sunday school, but I love the spirit that I feel when I am there...and I know the more that I have the spirit with me, the less Satan has influence over me and the more I can gain and learn everyday. I am happy that you went to church. Go with an open mind that the mysterious of God's kingdom can be opened to you, not because of what a bad teacher is saying, but because of what your listening for the still small spirit to say to you.

Mark said...

1 - Glad you went to Church
2 - Glad you had the Sacrament
3 - Glad you like the Eyrings
4 - Glad Morgan is running around - enjoy it
5 - Hope your week is better (with Church)
6 - Here's what I (mostly) think about church
a - It's run by volunteers
b - It's taught by volunteers
c - I'm so thankful that I don't have to do all the jobs
d - Sometimes the lessons are for the students
e - Sometimes the lessons are for the teachers
f - Same with the talks
g - The Sacrament is always for me
h - I am responsible for what I learn and what I feel
i - If it's not going well, then I say a prayer for the teacher (or the speaker)
j - Sometimes more than one
I think you should submit your posts to the Mormon Times newspaper - I think many people can relate

Patti Johansen said...

Austin, As a currently called Gospel Doctrine teacher who loves to teach (mainly because I tend to learn more than my students, and because I learn so much FROM my students), I understand your frustration with some teachers. I am not always called to be the Gospel Doctrine teacher, but fortunately for me, in our small branch in Greece, I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach for 2 years. When I am not the teacher, I often feel (aka:KNOW) I can do it better, but maybe to teach me some humility, I am not always called upon to do so. I have honestly walked out on some classes, mainly because the teacher has wandered off the subject or started spouting false doctrine! I think the lesson manuals are inspired and there is way more in the lesson than can actually be discussed in 45 minutes, so the teacher has to really know how to FOCUS on what the Spirit leads him or her to teach and the students can help so much if they are like you and love the scriptures and read them before the class and if they come with a positive learning attitude. Not every Sunday can be a FEAST bu you can help serve up a good portion of spiritual food with your insight and your testimony and I think most teachers really appreciate that! Hang in there and keep working through things - it might be hard but it is not impossible. Kiss Morgan for me! He is such a cutie pie!

Brett said...

Austin try this one... church brings us closer to heaven because it makes us want to be in heaven and not here with all the volunteers.

I imagine church up there is going to be amazing, but, to get there requires faithfulness.

It's a good thing God left our salvation up to us, and not the volunteers who sometimes bore us.