Oh, the Vaunted Priesthood of God-Making the Sabbath a Delight

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***Alert***

If you are an active Mormon male.  If you have no interest in seeing priesthood meetings improve.  If you are only interested in judging the messenger (me).  Then….

***DO NOT CONTINUE READING***

Priesthood Meetings

Hopefully, this post won’t sound too angry.   Rather, I’m expressing disappointment, sorrow and sometimes disgust at what I often witness in my own priesthood meetings.  Over the past couple of decades, I have worked to encourage change.  No results.  Over the past 5 years, I’ve talked to local leaders.  Little to no results.  Over the past 2 years, I have communicated numerous times about the issues described below.  This past Sunday highlighted every single problem and more.

I have been a little nervous posting this critique in full view of the public eye. But, I figure I’m risking little. The issues I’m raising have been of slight or no concern to my priesthood brothers. So, talking about my concerns in the open shouldn’t give anyone pause.

Bullet Points for Last Week’s Priesthood Meeting

  • A visiting high councilman gave a talk in Sacrament meeting.  Pretty darn good.  His message centered around this phrase:  “Open your eyes to what’s around you.  Then open your heart.  Then open your arms and serve.”  Love the sentiment.  Badly needed.   Over the past 2 years, my observation is that we are willfully closing our eyes to what is going on around us.  Especially regarding those who most need open hearts and arms.  And, to what goes on in priesthood week-in, week-out.
  • Priesthood opening exercises, start 10 minutes late. I’m totally good with that.
  • No pianist. Well…fine.  But, why don’t we give this some forethought.
  • We sing one verse. My favorite part of all meetings are the hymns and musical numbers.  So, this is always a disappointment that we cut it short.
  • No hymn books. Here’s where things start to go awry for me.  This IS a big deal.  Here’s why.  It excludes anyone who doesn’t know the words.  And just who are we excluding?  1)  All the youth.  That’s not cool.  Don’t we want them to have a meaningful experience in priesthood?  What are they left to do?  Horse around, of course.  2)  Investigators.  Isn’t that just peachy?  Start them out with a very mediocre and exclusionary experience.  3)  New members.  Five weeks ago, a 70 year old man was baptized.  Great.  During our 1 verse, hymn-bookless hymn, I scanned the room.  There sat the fledgling member….all alone.  He doesn’t know any hymns.  He just stared at the front of the room.  So happy are we when someone is baptized that we make sure they’re excluded from worshiping with us in song!  Our ward has sister missionaries.  Would they observe our disregard for their new convert with relish or with broken hearts?
  • Quorum reports are called for. Only one was given.  It was from the president of the deacon’s quorum.  “I don’t know what’s going on.”  Well, I know what’s going on.  A clear complacence regarding the import of the priesthood and its offices.   This has become the go-to report for our kids.  Just eliminate the reports already!  It demeans the meeting, the kids, and the priesthood.  Frankly, I think it demeans every man sitting in the room.  Why tolerate the degrading of something that should be so consequential?
  • Off to high priest meeting. What happened next is truly heart rending for me.  Our new 70 year old convert was ordained as a priest.  At least, I think that is what happened.  Damnit, it’s making me cry as I write.

Twelve years ago, I was the ward mission leader.  One night the full time missionaries introduced me to a delightful inactive member.  Here, I’ll call him Marty.  He was always upbeat, humble and sincere.  We hit it off.  About 15 years my senior, Marty seemed amenable to coming back to church, but worked on Sundays.  I asked the High Priest Group Leader to assign him and me as home teaching companions.  For the next 5 years, we visited our families like clockwork.   Retirement came and he started attending after 4 decades of absence.  His age would have dictated attending with the high priests.  Marty preferred the elders.  The church knowledge and experience of those in his age group were a bit intimidating.

This brings us to last Sunday’s new member ordination.  The recent convert is a neighbor of Marty’s.  He was instrumental in the conversion.  As a result, the ordination was performed by my faithful former home teaching companion.  A circle of men gathered around and laid on hands.  The ordinance began….and then an abrupt silence.  The silence continued.  Awkward silence.  Whispers in the circle.  Then louder whispers in Marty’s ear.  He is coached word for every word.  It reminded me of a parent and child during testimony meeting.  Not in a good way.  The blessing was mercifully short.  My heart ached at the embarrassment Marty must have felt…my good elderly friend who I have spent so many hours with over the years.  And what of the new convert’s thoughts?  Alone in the opening.  Left out during the singing.  Confused at the ordination.  Yep.  I’m so glad we all take the vaunted priesthood so seriously.

I doubt that Marty will ever read this.  But, just in case….I love you brother.  You may not know this, but you have been a great inspiration to me over these past years.  I marveled at how hard you worked to provide a living for yourself.  Many a night, I sat in awe as you built relationships with the families we visited.  Every time I see you at church my heart lights up….there’s my good friend, whom I love.  You may not be happy with the ordination that you just performed.  Don’t fret, my friend.  Just your presence invited a spirit of love and humility into that room.  What you did was pleasing to our Savior.  Thank you for being my friend.  I treasure our friendship.

  • The priesthood lesson was centered around the concept that it is ok to serve in the shadows without recognition. Good message.  Until I considered the scripture quoted in the manual by President Hunter:  “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.  Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

As I contemplated this scripture, a picture I’d just passed in the hallway, flashed like a neon sign in my mind.  It was a photo of a large group of LDS men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  They had traveled there to help flood victims dig their homes out of the mud.  A wonderful and laudable service.  And…their Mormonism was prominently on display.  The now ubiquitous flashing neon yellow shirts, unmistakably trumpeting alms for the whole world to see.

I didn’t make a peep during the lesson.  Priesthood leaders have instructed me to only make comments that support the teacher.  My question would have been, “How do we square the contradiction of what we teach versus what we do with regards to trumpeting our service?  What did Christ mean when he called people hypocrites that sought recognition in church and in the public square for their good deeds?”

  • The lesson referenced some of our history from the Kirtland era. I won’t go into details.  But, the material presented was a whitewashed and inaccurate version of events.  Richard Bushman recently said that the “dominant church narrative is not true.”  He hit the nail on the head regarding this part of our priesthood lesson.  I bent over in my chair and looked at the floor.  I didn’t want my utter disappointment and disapproval to be broadcast by uncontrollable facial features.

Summary

So, there you have it.  An open and honest report of what commonly occurs in the weighty, serious and consequential gatherings of the priesthood.  Fortunately, I have found that no one really cares about any of this…but me.  Well….and a few others, who have decided to quit coming altogether.  Oh, yeah…and a few others who don’t dare talk about it in the open, fearing our judgmental culture.

I dare talk about it because I do care.  I care about my personal worship of Jesus Christ.  I care about my priesthood.  I care about our kids.  I care about new members.  I care and love my friends like Marty.

And this….I really care about my gay brothers and sisters, and their families.  I love you guys!!

Finally, I really, really care about those who are questioning in lonely silence.  I love and feel a great kinship with you.

34 thoughts on “Oh, the Vaunted Priesthood of God-Making the Sabbath a Delight

  1. Sam, you are a rare individual who has made caring for others a central part of your life. This is as Jesus taught. However, there are many others who are doing the same, but we just don’t hear about it. They go about it quietly and are embarrassed by regognition. I don’t believe anyone is bragging by showing the yellow shirts. So many have no idea who we are and think of us as a cult. How many cults do you know that have ever done the amount of charity work we do that goes unnoticed because we are not braggarts?
    Your priesthood meetings are no different than anywhere else, from what I have heard. Until the parents start doing there jobs at home and teach their kids responsibility, things aren’t going to change.its the same with the YW. Their moms seem to have the time to help their daughters. Or they make the time. I am not making excuses for the men, there is a reason they are often chastised during the Saturday Priesthood Mtg. Until they start listening, it is not going to change. Push forward and keep reminding them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janice,

      I think the root our problems is a church in disobedience to the Law of Common Consent. A culture has been developed that only looks to those above us for direction. If direction doesn’t come from on high no action is taken. This is so wrong. The adult members are adults. Thinking adults with real brains. The members see the issues first hand. We should be listened to. We should be able to worship according to the collective dictates of our consciences. Instead we worship according to dictates of somebody else who never listens to us.

      I’m glad you aren’t making excuses for the men. I’m not making excuses for the leaders. They need to listen to the members. Jesus set up his church to work that very way. For many it’s not working at all. That saddens me.

      Best wishes on your travels, move and especially regarding health.

      -Sam

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jesus is the High Priest. Any mortal man who takes that title to himself should be very concerned. Read the Epistle to the Hebrews. There is no other Christian faith that I know of that ordains men as High Priests. Catholics don’t do it. Protestants don’t do it. Jesus is THE High Priest. All believers in Christ are priests who serve the High Priest. To say you are a High Priest is to call yourself a mediator between God and humankind for the forgiveness of sins. This was the role of the Old Testament High Priest, and it was fulfilled by Christ, the perfect High Priest who now forever mediates for us at the throne of God. Again…read Hebrews.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi John,

      I get where you are coming from regarding the office of High Priest. Let me assure you that in no way am I a moderator between God and anyone else. My desire in life is to attempt to follow the teachings and example of THE High Priest.

      I really appreciate your oomment, my friend.

      -Sam

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You may not consider yourself a mediator between God and man, but you were ordained as a High Priest. You have taken upon yourself a title that belongs only to the Son of God under the new covenant.

        Do you know what happened in Church History the first time Joseph Smith began ordaining other men to be High Priests? Read up on it. It is in church sources. The moment he laid his hands on a man to give him the High Priesthood the very first time, demonic possession occurred. Smith had to then cast out the demon, who immediately possessed another man present. These demonic possessions occurred throughout the rest of the day. This is found in numerous reputable sources, like Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.

        You guys have no idea what you are dealing with.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. John, I wish I could read Hebrews the way you do. I may be wrong, but based on my reading of the following verses (see below) it seems likely that men besides our Lord were actually ordained High Priests (please correct me if I’m wrong). This is not to take away from but, to reinforce Sam’s points. I have sat through countless priesthood meetings and witnessed the “lightnindedness” that Sam refers to. Now that I reflect back after leaving–because I came to know for myself that the church is not true– this careless attitude that prevails in most priesthood meetings is simply one more example of “by their fruits ye shall know them!” And, to know them, is to know a church whose members’ “lips are close to the Lord” but their hearts are far from Him.
      Hebrews 5:1-4
      1For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: 2Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. 3And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. 4And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

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      1. “But their hearts are far from Him.” Unfortunately, I fall into this category all too often. I’m working on it. My faith transition has allowed me to bring my heart closer to Him.

        My observation regarding other members is that usually their hearts are NOT far from Him. There are many things that bother me about the church. But, my fellow members are good, good people. If they weren’t, my turning stomach would turn me immediately out of the church.

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      2. Paul is talking about Old Covenant Law of Moses High Priests in that verse. Read the entire Epistle, or at least through Chapter 10, in modern English. Paul is constantly comparing the Old and New Covenants. You have to read all the chapters in one sitting to get the full message. See…even in the Chapter you quote, you stop short at verse 4. You only get one side of Paul’s comparison. Read verse five.

        The Old Covenant had one High Priest at a time. Only one at a time. The High Priest was a mortal man, so he had to go into the Holy of Holies on a regular basis to offer sacrifice for the sins of the people AND for his own sins. Because the High Priest was a mortal man, he was going to die, so the priesthood had to be handed down to another. BUT Jesus is a better High Priest because he lives forever, therefore his Priesthood is unchangeable. And since he is a perfect man, not a fallible mortal, he makes sacrifice for sin ONCE FOR ALL, and enters into the real Holy of Holies, not a temple built by human hands, and intercedes not at an altar, but at the very throne of God.

        Seriously. This is not my interpretation. This is is the interpretation of every Catholic and Protestant out there because this is what it says.

        This is probably the most important book in the entire Bible for Mormons. It shows us that the Priesthood as Mormons understand it is false. It shows us that the temples as Mormons build and patronize them are false. This book indicts the LDS faith. But Mormons have had this book so misinterpreted for them by their leaders that they can’t read it and even see what it is actually saying.

        Seriously. Find an NIV. It says the same thing as the KJV, but in a language you actually understand. Sit down, and read Hebrews Chapters 1 through 10 in one sitting. Do the same thing the next day. Figure out what Paul is saying here.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. 1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

    2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

    3 But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

    Be of good cheer, lift your head and seek of the Lord what you can do in the capacity you have been entrusted. Trust in the Lord and pray for those He has chosen at this time. As we obey and work on the current instruction we have been issued from the Lord, we will be ready for our next errand.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Fred,

      As always, good advice. Thanks.

      BTW, I believe that I am on the errand of the Lord and following His current instruction. I felt a pretty big confirmation of this at a primary program a couple of weeks ago.

      All My Best, Sam

      Like

  4. I used to enjoy the camaraderie of priesthood meeting, but a few moves later and far too many meetings like this and I concluded that it’s not worth it. That and the patently false teachings. of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. TK,

      You are the perfect example of what I’m writing about. By paying little heed to our priesthood worship, we are pushing good people out. I felt a pretty strong shove last week.

      Best wishes on your new course in life.

      -Sam

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  5. The problem is that the priesthood is not special to LDS men. It is more or less forced upon them as a rite of passage of all active LDS males. The priesthood should be an elective open to both men and women who feel called to the ministry. This is also the same reason why LDS boy scout troops tend to be subpar troops when measured up against non-LDS troops comprised of boys who actually want to be there.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “Priesthood leaders have instructed me to only make comments that support the teacher.”

    This says everything I need to know about your church, the sentence tells me it is not a church I have any interest in, a church for yes men, unquestioning stagnant sycophants, and children.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Hi Nan,

    Yeah, I grate at this instruction, too. Nice to have someone who can understand me on this.

    So, Nan, if you have not been a member of the LDS church before, what got you interested in my blog?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A few observations.

    1) If you notice someone that needs help with hymns during priesthood opening exercises, why not help them yourself? Open the hymnal app on your phone, scootch over, and help them sing. That’s my only criticism of the article. It almost always boils down to us having to be the change that we’d like to see in our wards.

    2) We don’t have hymn books or pianos for our priesthood opening exercises either. In addition to what you wrote it usually means we sing the same 6 songs every single Sunday because those are the only ones most people have memorized.

    3) Your priesthood meeting sounds much better than mine. We just take turns reading the manual paragraph by paragraph, only stopping to ask the reader for their interpretation of the paragraph they have read. “Be the change” right? Well you about have to interrupt the instructor to break the paragraph and accompanying interpretation cycle. After the interruption it’s right back to the manual.

    4) These teachings of the presidents of the church manuals, they are dreadful. No one really knows what to do with them so we stick to reading them aloud as a group. “Do I have any volunteers to read the next paragraph?” And what’s worse, there’s yet another one slated for next year.

    It’s like a book club where no one has read the book before the meeting, no one from the club actually picked the book out, and no one is interested in the book. It’s lame.

    If you really get to looking at these manuals it’s just (yet another) variation of regurgitating an old conference talk. Like there’s not enough of that going on at church already.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear #VII,

      Wow, there sure are a lot of Fred’s in this world. Glad there are.

      Regarding your first point. I completely agree. This has been my modus operadi for years. About 5 years ago, I noticed a man who showed up to church maybe 1/2 the time. He stuck out like a sore thumb…..always wearing a black long sleeved shirt with no tie. At some point, I decided that if I dressed like him, we might be able to relate better. A black shirt had never been in my clothing arsenal before. So, shopping I went. The first Sunday that I sported my anti-white shirt, I felt very uncomfortable. I sat right next to my black shirted compadre. He took notice my outfit and commented. We became fast friends. At some point I decided to always wear a black shirt. That way whatever a visitor might wear to church he wouldn’t be made to feel like a sore thumb for being the only person not in the proper church uniform.

      After reading your other points, it does sound like my situation is bettter than yours.

      Thanks for your comments, Sam

      Like

    2. The manuals are worse that regurgitated conference talks. The manuals are created by first decided what the topics of each chapter will be. Only then does a committee begin to scour the words of the prophet to see what he says. And, then….the words are totally taken out of context to obscure unsavory parts of the Church History.

      Like…in the Brigham Young manual…any time it is talking about celestial or eternal marriage, it is talking about polygamy. You wouldn’t know this, however, from the manual. Also…any time Brigham Young is talking about God our Father, he is talking about Adam. That is who Young taught was God our Father.

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  9. If the priest over my parish treated his priesthood responsibilities in such a laissez-faire way as I consistently observed during LDS priesthood meetings (which align with your experience), he would be replaced. The vast majority of the time, LDS priesthood meetings felt like social clubs or HOA’s going through the motions required by the bylaws rather than doing something that actually mattered.

    I agree with what Eric said above – the priesthood makes more sense as something aspired to rather than inherited by default. Just to be a simple deacon in my church requires a massive lifelong commitment and a separate interview with the rest of my family to ensure they’re okay with it and understand the gravity of the commitment – in addition to the formal doctrinal training entailed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Thomas,

      “Going through the motions required by the bylaws.” I’m glad you mentioned that. If we would start going by the bylaws of the church things would drastically improve. The bylaw, actually the law, that we are totally ignoring is the Law of Common Consent. I have been calling for it to be observed in the general church administration. We need to live by it just as much on th local level.

      As always, thanks for your comments, Sam

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Also, from your past observations, the church is going through the motions as required by the bylaws on Common Consent rather than actually following it. People raise their hands, and dissenters are shunted to the LDS equivalent of level 1 tech support who simply tell you to pray a little more or read the scriptures a little more.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”
    ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

    The part you have to give is not wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Your post makes me realize that I know very little about the priesthood. Quorum reports? I have no idea what that is. My experience with the priesthood is pretty limited to the sacrament, and home teacher showing up every six months or so. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see the priesthood exercised fully? Wow I can only imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sam, you are an unbelievably insightful, inspiring man. While you were the Bishop of our ward, I alwaysf felt secure in the counsel you gave, to me individually and to the ward. I agree that there are problems within the running of the priesthood meetings (hear it often), but to those who are not members or are new, the one thing that is missing in this piece is what the significance is of the priesthood.

    I am having my own struggles at this point. There are things I don’t understand. But like you, I would like to try to have my life in a Christ-like order. I have always gravitated towards friendships from men. Maybe because of their steadfastness maybe because of my more logical thought patterns. But in these past few years, it’s because of the one strength, that of the Priesthood. This is the one comfort I have had after the loss of my son and husband. It is not the meetings or the hymns, but the priesthood. To me, as this world gets less and less personal, and people grow further apart, the priesthood will become more important as the strength and power of Heavenly Father here on earth. It’s up to each man to develop this gift to its fullest potential. This means outside of the meetings.

    Please, Sam, and others, don’t give up. To some of us, this is our only link and strength.

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  13. Sam, I left a response, buts not here. Too long to rewrite, nor could I remember it all. Suffice it to say, I feel as though there is one thing missed. That is, that the Priesthood is not about meetings. It’s about what it stands for and how it can be used to help others. You used that while you were a Bishop and help not only Ronnie and me, but everyone in the ward. That Priesthood gave Gentry strength and comfort prior to his death. It helped Ronnie to cope with the ramifications of war. It helped me to keep going after their deaths. That is much more important than how a meeting is conducted. Yes, it’s important to teach the young men, new members and investigators why the LDS church has. The Priesthood is important. Please don’t turn away from it true reason and meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lani,

      “The Priesthood is important.” You and I are in complete agreement on this. In fact, in my mind, the priesthood is HUGELY important. Your experience is a great witness of that.

      Now, the meetings. In my opinion, their is room for HUGE improvement. The way they operate today is causing people to “turn away.” That is a HUGE concern for me. Over the past 2 years, I have been dumbfounded to discover no one else cares that people are leaving. Well, I care. I am no longer willing to remain silent as my friends and family slip away.

      Always great to hear from you. Much love, Sam

      Like

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