The Convert Files is a column containing musings and observations by Jeff Borders, a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I have a confession to make: I’ve fallen asleep in Church.
Granted, it was right after returning from encampment, trying to keep 300 boys and leaders alive and well, with little to no sleep most of the week. The resounding snort of me waking up was enough to make not only my family laugh, but the 16-year-old priest sitting right in front of me as well. I bring this up because I have been known on occasion to zone out during sacrament meeting talks. Now don’t get all judgy! I know you’ve done it before too.
This could be due to a number of factors, one of which might be my gnat-sized attention span, or the children that use me for a jungle gym, but another reason is that there are times that I truly have a hard time feeling the Spirit within the context of the talks being given. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great talks and great speakers, there are. I also know that most people put a lot of time and thought into their talks.
Sacrament meeting is supposed to be the most spiritual of all our meetings and a time to reflect on the Savior and the ordinance of the sacrament. But the truth is sometimes I can go through the meeting and talks, and come away, not feeling much at all, except during the administration of the sacrament.
Yes, I know, you get out what you put in, but it has led me to ponder what the major difference is between why I feel different when listening to General Conference talks vs sacrament meeting talks. So why do certain talks invoke the spirit more? There are a couple things that have stuck out to me since my baptism 17 years ago. First, I know that unlike me, most people don’t like to speak in front of a group, so there is a lot of nervousness that can lend to a talk’s success in connecting with the congregation. Second, I know it is important to recognize that we are all at different points on the Covenant path. Not everyone speaks like General Authorities do in their talks. Lastly, and possibly most important, I think sometimes we fail to invoke the Savior in the context of our talk, myself included.
But I am left to wonder, other than the name of the Church on the door and the Sacrament prayer, would a visitor to our meetings know that we are striving to follow Jesus Christ? Sure, we use his name to end our testimonies and prayers, but in the words of Nephi, do we talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, preach of Christ and prophesy of Christ?
Again, I’m not saying there aren’t some really good talks and great stories of personal conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there are. But by and large, I find the Savior absent. In the most recent General Conference, we were encouraged to draw closer to the Savior, take his name upon us, and make Sacrament meeting more meaningful. So in that spirit, I set up a little experiment. Don’t worry, just like Matt from Studio C, I too received my degree from Botswana’s Premiere Online University, and I have at least as much education as Bill Nye, so I’m pretty much a scientist.
I asked friends and family in various parts of the country, both in single and married wards, to record references to Jesus Christ in their Sacrament meeting talks. I gave them instructions to record direct name references, i.e. Jesus, Christ, Redeemer, Messiah, Lord, etc. I also asked them to not include less direct pronoun references like He, Him, and His. This was to occur over a couple of weeks. I then went back and counted references in the last General Conference talks, because after all, that is a standard we could all strive to emulate.
The Highly Scientific Results
Across five wards, the average number of references to the Savior per talk was between 4-7 references, with the low being 0 (and it wasn’t a youth speaker) and the high being 18. In General Conference, the average for all sessions was 22 references, with the low being 10 and the high being 48 (Bet you can’t guess which one it was). In addition, a few of the wards had Primary Programs which had the most surprising statistic of all. One ward recorded 63 references in their Primary Program and another recorded 54 references.
Several of the participants mentioned that this exercise was really good for them. They also reported that it made them think of the Savior more during Sacrament. One told me she tried to mentally work the Savior into the talks when the person could miss an opportunity to do so.
So what? What does it mean?
There are a couple things we can take away from the experience.
- The Primary Program just might be the most Christ-centered thing we do as a ward. Primary Programs bring out more people, and pure doctrine is usually taught without all the frills. Plus it’s always funny to find the one or two kids who breaths really heavily into the microphone while talking.
- When assigning a talk, leaders can be more cognizant about the topics assigned and they can encourage the speaker to draw Christ into their talk.
- We can strive to reference the Savior more within the context of not only our talks, but as one participant pointed out, within our prayers.
- This really goes to the point of everything, and that is doing what we can to draw closer to the Savior. We can more fully recognize that this is His Church and His Gospel.
Ultimately, the aim of all gospel learning and teaching is to deepen our conversion and help us become more like Jesus Christ, and this means relying on Christ to change our hearts. Speaking more of Him will aid in that. And with a shorter sacrament meeting on the horizon in 2019, it will be all the more crucial to maintain our focus.
You can take this all with a grain of salt. You can discard it as silly and trivial. Or you can you use it as an opportunity (like I did) as an opportunity for self-reflection.
Until next time on The Convert Files.