When I was a kid (approximately 8-10 years old), I used to get up every Fast & Testimony meeting and bear my testimony. I was so obnoxious, my family told me I didn’t need to get up every month. So, I took a few months off. One day we had Ward Conference (and I still don’t really understand why we have Ward Conference, but that’s a topic for another post.) The stake presidency decided to pick certain members of the ward to come up without warning, and give a short testimony. To my surprise, they called my name. I remember looking at my parents, wondering if I really was supposed to get up and bear my testimony, and they encouraged me to do it. I remember being apprehensive about Ward Conference ever since, but I have never seen that practice in another Ward Conference.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I attended a singles ward in Salt Lake City. About every 6 weeks or so, the bishopric would not call speakers. Instead, just as my experience in Ward Conference, they would call members out of the congregation without warning, to come up and bear short testimonies. They often picked new members of the ward, or people they hadn’t heard from in a long time. I found these unrehearsed, impromptu testimonies very heartfelt and spiritual, although nearly every speaker noted how surprised they were to be called to speak.
I also remember attending a fireside one Sunday morning at the Independence Temple (owned by the Community of Christ) following the Mormon History Association meetings the weekend before. The service was narrated by Apostle Susan Skoor and BYU professor Alex Baugh in which nearly the entire service was devoted to the hymns written by WW Phelps. It was one of the most spiritual, uplifting services I have ever attended, and I am not one who usually enjoys singing. The Community of Christ leaders allowed an LDS stake choir to occupy the choir seats and sing a few hymns; Skoor and Baugh alternated in giving background for many of the familiar LDS and RLDS hymns written by Phelps, and the congregation sang both LDS and CoC versions of “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet” among many other hymns penned by Phelps. It was a truly moving and spiritual experience.
In light of last week’s post about missionary farewells (and Pres. Hinckley’s decision NOT to have special music for them), and the strange comments from people that called such productions “entertainment”, and I wanted to put out some ideas out there for improving the spirit in our Sacrament Meetings. I think that much could be done to improve the spirituality of the meetings (and I think re-reading General Conference talks drives away the Spirit.) I haven’t had an impromptu testimony meeting since I was single, and I wondered how many of you have experienced these types of meetings, or Sacrament meetings devoted almost exclusively to music? Do you think a little variety in our meetings might help invite the Spirit? Is this something a motivated Bishop can implement, or will he be shut down by the Correlation Committee?