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I teach a class at our local Mormon church called Gospel Principles.  It is a course designed for people who are not familiar with the Mormon faith who are wanting to learn more, or for those who need a “refresher” course.  This week’s lesson is on the Priesthood.

According to the lesson manual, the definition of priesthood is: the eternal power and authority of God.  The lesson continues by sharing that God has a certain order and delegates this power and authority for people to act in his name.  It also goes on to share the in God’s church only those who have been ordained to the priesthood by the laying on of hands can lead God’s church.

As I read through the lesson, I became distracted by a certain phrase that kept popping up in various ways.  I’ll highlight some of them:

Our Heavenly Father delegates His priesthood power to worthy male members of the Church.

If a man does not have the priesthood, even though he may be sincere, the Lord will not recognize ordinances he performs

Men need the priesthood to preside in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A worthy male member of the Church receives the priesthood “by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority..”

Men cannot buy and sell the power and authority of the priesthood.

When a man uses the priesthood “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41), he can do many wonderful things for his family and others.

Men use priesthood authority to preside in the Church in such callings as branch president, bishop, quorum president, stake president, and mission president.

…every man who uses the priesthood in righteousness that he “will find his life sweetened, his discernment sharpened to decide quickly between right and wrong, his feelings tender and compassionate…”

As you can probably see, the word “man” or “men” was mentioned with almost every paragraph.  There was one mention of women in the whole lesson, which is:

Men and women who hold positions in the Church as officers and teachers work under the direction of priesthood leaders and under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

Women Still hold the Priesthood

Mormon Heretic points out that the original intention of Priesthood (the power to act in God’s name) was that men and women have a share in the priesthood.  Priesthood has evolved into meaning hierarchical positions in the church, but that wasn’t it’s original intention.  As pointed out in the article, women received the priesthood when they received their endowment in the temple.

Today, women still receive endowments in the temple and they perform priesthood ordinances, so they have the priesthood but only use it in the temples (to my knowledge).

Is that enough?

Although technically, Mormon women have the priesthood, they do not use it to give blessings, perform ordinances, and function in leadership positions such as pastor for a congregation.

As a Mormon male, I can not speak in behalf of Mormon women.  I just know that if I were a Mormon woman, I’d have a lot of questions about why men run everything and how it evolved from leaders talking about both men and women sharing the priesthood to where it is now discussed that only men have the priesthood (although that is technically not true).  It appears that many women from the Mormon Woman Project feel that way as pointed out in a recent Salt Lake News Tribune article, in that they want to see greater equality in the church.

If you are a Mormon woman, please share your thoughts about the priesthood.  If you are fine with how things are, please explain why.  If you would like some changes, why and what would you change?

church callingToday one of my friends, who is serving as a counselor in a bishopric for a Mormon Church, told me he couldn’t hang out this weekend because of his schedule with a church assignment.  I jokingly told him that the main reason I keep moving around is to avoid getting a “big” church calling.  I’ll explain.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) are assigned jobs, otherwise known as church callings.  The callings are assigned under the inspiration of the local minister, or bishop and his leadership team.  From my experience, callings usually last no more than 3 years and can range from working in the nursery with kids during church, being the humanitarian representative in the community or even being a Relief Society President (for women) or Bishop.

I have been an active member of the LDS church for a number of years.  Just to give those of you who are not familiar with Mormon callings an idea, I’ll list some of the callings I’ve had over the years along with a brief description of what the job entailed:

Home Teacher: Visiting an assigned group of families within the congregation once per month and sharing a spiritual message with them along with making sure their needs are met.

Deacon’s Quorum President:  As a 12 year old boy, the Deacon’s president functions under the supervision of the Deacon’s adviser  who is an adult.  He mainly organizes youth activities and makes sure the sacrament (communion) is passed out accurately each week.

Teachers Quorum President: This is very similar to a Deacon, except the boys are 14 years old.

Priest’s Quorum 1st Assistant: Same as Deacon and Teacher, except the Priest also blesses the communion during church.

Elder’s Quorum President: The Elder’s Quorum President is responsible for seeing that all the Elders (usually males in the congregation 18-50 years old) are being spiritually in line with the Lord, making sure their needs are met, assigning home teaching assignments, receiving feedback on how to help members in the congregation with various needs, working with the bishop to help new members move out or move into the “ward” (i.e. congregation).

Elder’s Quorum Instructor: Teaching a spiritual lesson in Elder’s quorum class on Sunday.

District Leader:  Leader of a group of 4-10 missionaries.  Can also be a leader of Elders in a large Elder’s quorum.

Zone Leader:  In a mission, the District Leaders report to the Zone leader.  Usually about 2-4 district leaders to each zone leader.

Substitute Primary Teacher: Primary is Sunday School for children ages 3-12.

Executive Secretary to the Bishop: Note-taker and organizer for the bishop to keep him on track with all his duties.

Ward Missionary:  Works with the full-time missionaries to teach investigators (people considering being baptized into the Mormon Church)

Gospel Principles Instructor: Teaches investigators and newly baptized members basic gospel principles each week in Sunday School.

Youth Instructor (ages 16-18): Teaches youth each week during Sunday School

Sunday School President:  Responsible for calling all Sunday School instructors and ensuring they are properly taught on how to best teach.

There are also “callings” mentioned frequently over the pulpit from our church leaders that are things assigned to us as being disciples of Christ such as being a good neighbor, parent, spouse, etc.

The culture within the Mormon church is that it is sort of taboo to turn down a calling.  I’ve heard people say that if you turn a calling down from a leader, you are turning down the Lord.  Since the leader is (ideally) receiving revelation on who should be called to what position, that may very well be the case, but my purpose in writing this article isn’t to debate turning down a calling.  I mention it, just to let those of you unfamiliar with Mormon culture in on the mind set many members of the Church have when asked to do something.

Personally, I have turned down a calling on a couple occasions, but I usually accept the calling, even if I don’t necessarily want to do it.  I have found that in most cases I learn and grow a lot from the various callings I have been given.

That being said, I will rank my favorite callings (being a father and husband are my number one callings that I thoroughly enjoy, but I am referring to callings that are formerly issued) as well as my least favorite.

Favorite Church Callings

1. Elder’s Quorum Instructor: I loved this calling because I only taught once/month and had a whole month to dive deep into the lesson plan and scriptures.  The conversations and discussions with the Elders in church were very inspirational for me and I learned a lot from them and mostly from the Holy Spirit.  Plus, I love teaching.

2. Zone Leader: I remember on my mission as a zone leader thinking if I could find a job that was like that, I would love it!  I am a Regional Manager in sales now, which is very similar to what I did as a zone leader.  The upside now is that the product I sell isn’t as hard of a sell as religion was!

3. Sunday School President: As I oversaw all the instructors in the congregation and made assignments, I felt I had the best of both worlds in teaching as well as administrative tasks.  It was an enjoyable calling.

Least Favorite Church Callings

1. Executive Secretary to the Bishop: I absolutely hated this calling.  I do not do well with organization and being the executive secretary was nothing by trying to keep the bishop organized.  I also do not do well with taking orders and this calling is nothing but taking orders from the bishop.  I will admit that I didn’t have the best attitude while I had this calling and so the experience wasn’t as good as if I had humbled myself more…or just not said I would do it.

2. Elders Quorum President:  This was a love/hate calling for me.  There were aspects that I completely loved about the calling.  The group of men I served had 92 elders in it.  It was a massive group.  I had 3 counselors and 1 secretary along with 5 district leaders (I divided the group in to 5 districts with nearly 20 men in each district).  I loved visiting the men in the group, teaching them, praying with them and for them, etc.  The only part I didn’t like was how draining it was on me emotionally and time consuming.  I was in graduate school at the time and working full time as well.  This calling took about 15 hours/week.  After about 2 years I asked to be released because I just couldn’t emotionally keep up with the demanding schedule and something had to give.

Conclusion

I think from my experience that I have learned that I do best in a role that gives me some flexibility to “call the shots” such as with teaching, or in some leadership roles.  My preference is that of teaching because I don’t have as many people who are reporting up to me and what I have to worry about is making sure what I am teaching is in line with what the Spirit is leading me to teach.

If you are a Mormon, what have your favorite and least favorite callings been and why?

If you are in a different faith, what is your understanding of being “called” to something and what callings have you had?

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Brandon-Flowers_2031941cI’ve been waiting to write this for a while now, but I laughed out loud when reading a comment on this post , so I thought it was time to share my thoughts on the issue with music in the Mormon church.

When discussing the issue of Mormon church meetings lasting so long, one of the comments was:

…my friend has a full-fledged band in her Methodist church. Where the (heck)’s (he used a different expression) our band! I wanna band!

After reading this,  my thoughts went back to when I was 21 years old and just home from my LDS mission to Germany.  I had been asked to sing in church so I sang my own arrangement of the hymn “Beautiful Savior” on the acoustic guitar (playing guitar isn’t normally done in LDS churches, so I thought it would be a good thing to add variety to the worship).

I felt very moved when preparing for the song and also singing the song.  When playing the song, I didn’t go crazy on a blues scale or put a pop flare into it.  I simply did a simple picking and strumming pattern and played it softly and worshipful.    I truly felt the Holy Spirit when singing and playing the song during church.  After the meeting many people came up and mentioned how it had moved them too.  However, when the bishop approached me, he had other things to say.  He whipped out the bishop’s handbook (this is a handbook issued by the LDS church President that has guidelines and policies about how to conduct meetings in church and other issues leaders need to deal with) and was polite about telling me that I sounded good, but that sacrament meeting wasn’t a place for guitars (even though the book doesn’t explicitly state that).

I disagreed with him and I still do.

I have family members who attend various other Christian denominations including: Anglican, Foursquare, Presbyterian, and non-denominational.  I have been to their services when their band is playing songs and the congregation joins in.  The argument I have always heard against a full band in church from Mormon leadership is that guitars and drums drive away the Spirit.  However, when I have attended their church I have felt the Spirit during songs with a full band just as much as I have with the traditional organ-accompanied hymnals we hear in Mormon or traditional Christian churches.  Plus our kids pay more attention and enjoy it more as well!

The official policy from the latest Mormon Church Handbook states the following about music selection for sacrament:

Organs and pianos, or their electronic equivalents, are the standard instruments used in Church meetings. If other instruments are used, their use should be in keeping with the spirit of the meeting. Instruments with a prominent or less worshipful sound, such as most brass and percussion, are not appropriate for sacrament meeting.

I can understand not wanting percussion, although do not completely agree with them that drums are less worshipful.  I’ve been to meetings where drums are played and there is definitely a more worshipful experience with the drummer and congregation compared with what you usually see in Mormon meetings where people are half asleep as they play a slow hymn and fight kids during the song.

Where I do agree with the Mormon leaders’ philosophy on music in church is that before the Sacrament (Communion) it is appropriate to play reflective music.  This should be a very reflective time.  However, once the Sacrament has been conducted the other songs that are sung during the meeting can be upbeat with various instruments, I think.

Finally, I am a member of a band in our local Stake.  We play songs that relate to pioneers, Jesus, scriptures, missionaries, and the gospel in general.  The songs we play the range from very slow to very upbeat.  I feel a closeness to God as I express my praise through music and many other people have expressed how close they feel to God when listening to us as well.  We use a full band and I think there wouldn’t be a problem playing our stuff in sacrament meeting with most of the songs we perform.  Although they are more upbeat than hymns, they are worshipful.

I do not believe that God only listens to organ music.  Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven if that’s all we heard up there!

So in conclusion, I share the same sentiment to a certain extent with the comment on the other blog:

Where the Heck is our band?  I want a band in church!!!

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