|In The Village by Orson Scott Card||Print | Back|
|By Orson Scott Card||August 18, 2011|
I have opinions on everything, whether I have any information on the subject or not.
As I pointed out in my last column, having really cool ideas all the time is part of what I do for a living.
This could be dangerous, if I had a position of authority, where my decisions might affect the lives of other people.
But the oddest thing happens when I actually do have the authority to make decisions: The Lord blesses me with "stupor of thought" (Doctrine and Covenants 9:9). All those cool ideas dry up and I become keenly aware of my own hopeless ignorance.
Meanwhile, though, my spectacular talent for coming up with ideas about everything is a vast resource that usually goes to waste, because people in authority pay no attention to me whatsoever.
Do you realize that church leaders at every level make decision after decision, year after year, without ever phoning or emailing me to find out what I think?
Oh, you, too? It's not just me?
People who don't understand us Mormons often think we do only what we're told by our leaders, like robots. Ha ha!
Anybody who has ever had any kind of church leadership position knows that Mormons rarely accept "because I say so" as a sufficient explanation. But that's good — none of the work of the church could be done by puppets.
We think for ourselves — and then, when called upon to do so, we act together.
Back in the 1970s, somebody noticed that with priesthood meeting at 7:30 in the morning, Sunday school at 10 and sacrament meeting at 4, we were doing an awful lot of traveling on Sunday.
That's fine if the meetinghouse is a couple of blocks away. Not so fine if you have to ride three buses. So somebody had the bright idea of consolidating that meeting schedule.
I have no idea who that was. Maybe a lot of people said, "Don't you wish we could just come to church once, have all our meetings in a row, and then go home and be done so we can actually do other Sabbathy things?"
Sometimes inspiration comes directly to the person in charge. But sometimes good ideas just pop up, and the inspiration consists of the person in authority thinking, "You know, we really ought to give that a try and see if it works."
Take our hymns. Every now and then, the music is arranged so that any men who are actually singing the bass or tenor line are required to fall silent — there's not a note for them to sing.
Musically, this can be quite a strong effect, as the lighter female voices sing alone, and then the male voices rejoin them for a clinching last line.
That's fine when it's a choir performing for a group of listeners. But with congregational hymns, we're not performing. The music allows us to speak the meaningful words of the hymn in unison — and the words matter.
So when, just because we sing the bass or tenor line, men are forbidden by the music to speak a quarter of the hymn's message, I think much of the purpose of a congregational hymn is defeated.
I'm afraid I'm not obedient to the hymn's arranger — I go ahead and sing the alto part, either above the tenor line or an octave lower, or else I sing the melody.
Still, when the next hymnbook comes out, I think it would be a good idea to rearrange all the hymns that have that "feature" so that everyone sings every word.
Here's another thought that keeps coming up. There are usually 52 Sundays a year. Twelve of them are fast Sundays. Twelve of them have high council speakers with a topic assigned by the stake presidency.
Two Sundays are stake conferences, two are general conferences and one is ward conference. Then there's the Sunday closest to Christmas and Easter Sunday, with topics pre-assigned by the calendar.
This leaves only 21 Sundays a year in which the bishopric is completely free to assign topics for the sacrament meeting speakers.
So why is it that in so many wards, all the speakers in a given sacrament meeting are given the same topic?
I understand the desire to develop a theme and really bring it home. The trouble is, all the speakers are likely to go to the same resources and quote the same scriptures.
More to the point, however, in a deeper sense all sacrament meetings have one great theme: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That's a huge topic, one that deserves exploration from every angle. With only 21 Sundays a year, wouldn't it be good to assign two or three different topics each week, so that ward members can bring their insights, experiences and inspiration to many more aspects of the gospel?
If, on any ordinary Sunday, the youth speakers and adult speakers were all talking about different subjects, wouldn't it be much likelier that members of the congregation would hear something that spoke to their particular need or interest?
I love general conference. I used to work at the Ensign, listening to all the talks with pencil poised to note any variation from the prepared text, so the speakers would have the option of publishing the words they spoke at the moment, or the words they wrote ahead of time.
I still listen that way. General conference talks are also published so they can be reread, and can be listened to in recordings.
So I'm always a little disappointed when bishoprics assign a general conference talk as the topic for a sacrament meeting speaker.
It's good to use those talks as a resource. But too often, members assigned that way simply repeat the main points of the general authority's sermon, sharing little from their own experiences and insights.
"For I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning" (1 Nephi 19:23). When people from our ward are invited to speak in sacrament meeting, I look forward to hearing what the Lord has taught them, through the experiences of their lives.
Each general conference talk represents what the Lord wanted that speaker to say that day; but this can also be true of the words of the Saints in our sacrament meetings.
I don't claim these ideas are inspired in any way; nor do I have the slightest authority to urge these as policy in any ward or in the church at large. I won't be offended if my suggestions are ignored.
But I fear I'd be a poor servant if I didn't make them available to those who are charged with the responsibility to make such decisions.
Copyright © 2011 by Orson Scott Card
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