Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Guest Post: Rants of a Summer Ward-Hoppe​r




This summer I have been wardless in my travels away from my Houston home, jumping from ward to ward as I please, always with at least the connection of a friend somewhere in the congregation. It has been eye-opening and has made me contemplate and develop strong opinions about three things:

1) I appreciate our church as a Christian community.

Church is a great place to be reminded about the things that really matter in life. It is a great place to connect with other people and their experiences in coming to Christ. It is a great way to find opportunities to serve and accomplish meaningful service. It is an excellent place to examine one's life and get back on track. It is a place where we recommit to Jesus, weekly, as we partake of the sacrament. Church attendance is a refuge from the hectic world, as we pay our devotions to God and make him a priority on our Sabbath.

I am indebted to the HUNDREDS of people who have helped me out in so many ways, due to my involvement in my church activity, which has always provided a true community of love and support. I have learned so much from other people who are striving for similar goals.

Ideally, church is a place we come to 1) remember Jesus's atonement, 2) study Christ's gospel, 3) feel the Spirit testify truths and guide our thoughts to future change and action, and 4) renew ourselves for the coming week.

At least, this is the opinion of Melissa.

2) I dislike it when church becomes a social outlet.

As I have attended a variety of YSA wards this summer, I'm not going to lie, I have observed some disappointing behaviors. The main one being that most people in my situation seem to be going to church solely for social reasons. I see members of the congregation craning their heads around, checking out new people, seeing who is sitting by who, why isn't he sitting by her anymore?, spending half of a meeting talking about upcoming social activities, are you going to that one?, want to come over for dinner? etc. etc.

I know this might seem a little harsh and a little heretic, but, listen folks, I do not go to church to find and stake out hot guys, I just want to be reminded of my Savior. I do not want the guy sharing my hymnal to get my phone number, without even having had a previous conversation with me, I just want to sing. I do not want people to share comments in class to obnoxiously show off their spiritual prowess and fine sense of humor, I just want to feel the Spirit.

Sure, you can meet people at church. Yes, dating is cool. But this should not be the focus of our Sunday meetings. Never. We should be taking a personal inventory of our past week. We should be searching for answers. We should be sincerely asking questions and sharing our testimonies. We should be seeking guidance and direction for our future week. We should be offering support to struggling persons.

At least, this is the opinion of Melissa.

3) I can hardly stand it when lessons do not focus on scripture.

When in London, attending a YSA ward there, the Sunday School lesson was about Marriage.

"Aren't we supposed to be talking about Samuel?" my friend whispered to me. "The Old Testament?"

I wish we did.

The Relief Society lesson was about Dating, and that the reason we are not married is because we are too standoffish around boys.

I kept checking my cell phone for the time. My friend gladly concentrated her efforts on a conference talk that is more pertinent to her salvation than learning how to turn on the "green light" to men.

These are excruciatingly cliche YSA lessons, but they happened, so, as painful as they are, I cannot exactly pretend they do not exist. They do.

While in Utah this summer, I have attended wards in multiple YSA stakes where the Sunday School lessons have been drawn from the new youth curriculum. I guess that is a thing, but it is the worst idea ever.

One lesson, we learned about being honest and not cheating on tests at school.

I JUST WANT TO LEARN ABOUT SAMUEL! I WANT TO LEARN ABOUT DAVID! I ALREADY KNOW THAT BEING HONEST IS A GOOD THING. I LEARNED THAT WHEN I WAS FIVE. AND I'M NOT IN SCHOOL ANYMORE. I KNOW THAT WE DON'T WANT DOCTORS PERFORMING SURGERIES ON US IF THEY CHEATED THROUGH MEDICAL SCHOOL. I DON'T WANT TO HEAR PEOPLE TRY TO RECITE THE THIRTEENTH ARTICLE OF FAITH. I DON'T WANT TO WATCH THE YOUTH MORMON MESSAGE ABOUT THE GIRL WHO DID NOT CHEAT ON A TEST.

In summary: I do not want to learn about your perception of how I should date. I do not want to learn about an incredibly vague and broad topic, mingled with scripture. I want to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, backed up solidly with scripture. Honest-to-goodness scriptural scenarios. Actual words of the Lord. Discussions based on what we have read. Experiences we are prompted to share. I want Sunday School to inspire me to relate ancient Bible stories to my current life. I want application! I do not want to hear about your two-week engagement or the auditions for the ward musical.

At least, this is the opinion of Melissa.

And my rant being done, I would like to end by saying that my ward in Houston does a dang good job at focusing on Jesus Christ and his Gospel. As it should be. Kudos to us, and may we never fall into the trap of enforcing youth curriculum on an adult congregation. Amen.

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Melissa Condie is a middle school orchestra teacher in Houston, Texas. Read Melissa's other guest posts here.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: arbyreed (used with permission).

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