An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Choosing a church’

Changing Churches

I was intrigued to learn that our youngest son, Techie, and his wife have changed churches—not beliefs—just churches. Belonging to an evangelical, Calvinist church is not the same as belonging to a hierarchically structured church such as the LDS. The doctrine at their new Reformed Baptist Church is basically the same as that taught at the Mars Hill Church they formerly attended. Their reasons for changing are social. Their former church had very few minority members and Techie and Techie II are in a mixed marriage. They find couples like themselves at their new church. Techie also likes the sermons better. The Baptist pastor has a Ph.D. in religion and is given to thorough dissection of biblical verses.

The interesting thing I found when visiting them, is that they still attend the Bible study group affiliated with the Mars Hill Church. This small group meets on Tuesday evenings in a member’s home to share a pot luck meal, Bible study, and prayer. Attendance is voluntary and the Techies enjoyed the group and continue to be part of it.

I saw the upside to participating in two different churches when I visited after their baby was born. Members from both churches brought meals in for two weeks or more after the birth. I was amazed at the plenty. The downside (at least for me) is that they belong to two groups to which they must now return the favor. Meal assistance in both churches is unassigned, so they can do it on their own schedule.

I see some real advantages to flexibility in attending the church or the portion of a church that meets the needs of individual families.

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Why I Don’t Need to Prove the Church Is True

I know this doesn’t sound very spiritual, but my favorite memories of growing up Mormon were the building and budget fundraising efforts. In the days before universal TV and DVD, our ward drew a huge audience every year by showing the old black and white movie, Topper Returns. The Rochester character would be considered racially offensive now, but Topper was equally foolish and bumbling. The open window with curtains blowing over the sleeping ingénue thrilled me every year as I anticipated the villain stepping through the window to snatch the girl and carry her through a hidden door, down a flight of stairs to the dungeon below. Not a spiritual experience? I don’t know—doesn’t religion feature a struggle with evil and the eventual triumph of good?

The ward bazaar was almost as exciting. My dad bought a $5.00 book of bazaar tickets and sent my brother and me to shoot the wad. We dined on hamburgers and root beer, took chances on the fish pond, and came home with a stuffed Bozo the Clown for our little brother. How much closer to heaven can you get?

Singing at church is a memory second only to fundraising events for me. I don’t remember Primary or Sunday School lessons, but I can still sing the songs. Wearing a new rose-pink, taffeta dress and going to church in the evening, which our family never did, I sang my testimony with the other Primary kids, “Jesus once was a little child, a little child like me” and  “. . . He called little children like lambs to His fold, I should like to have been with Him then.”

In our ward 8 year olds were advanced from Jr. Sunday School to Sr. Sunday School when school started in the fall. Before admitting us to the higher realm, the SS superintendent cautioned our class to be good examples since we would occupy the choir seats where everyone could see us. He then marched us into the chapel and presented us to the Senior Sunday School. Totally awed, we sat with folded armed and closed lips until dismissed for class. The SS chorister was a college student who talked to us like we were real people and let us help pick the songs before opening exercises. The adults may have gotten tired of “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel,” “I Stand All Amazed,” and “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” but those songs about service and the Savior’s love exemplified the gospel for me.

Church is about more than doctrine. It’s about love, acceptance, and being part of a group that acknowledges a greater power than one’s self. How relevant is doctrine if going to church makes you happy? Or unhappy?

Asked which is the right church, the Dalai Lama is reported to have said, “The one you’re born into.” My answer to that question is simply, “The one you enjoy.”

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