03 August 2009

Of What Do We Testify?

I've spent at least fourteen years feeling seriously spiritually deficient, no matter how diligent I am about prayer, Scripture reading, etc.

The problem? It is very rare for me to get anything out of Fast & Testimony meeting (F&T). Listening to blubbering autobiographies, reports on vacations, thankimonies for all the goodies in the speaker's life, and so forth, for several minutes a speaker, with MAYBE, if the audience is lucky, a sentence or two of testifying of the Gospel tacked on as an afterthought, really doesn't inspire me, and in fact leaves me feeling like a spiritual failure because I don't find this uplifting and transcendently inspirational as I understand we're required to find F&T meeting to be truly LDS.

I actually took notes on yesterday's F&T (fair warning: I happened to be tired, hormonal, and not feeling well at the time. No, I am not pregnant). Please note that the meeting actually started at least 5 minutes late (my best guess: the bishopric was running on Mormon Standard Time). Here's the results:

1. Bishop's counselor rambled about the "fall backward for others to catch you" trust exercise, I think at some youth activity (I lost track of the rambling). To his credit, he did manage to eventually make some link back to Christ.

2. An adult sister gave a rambling thankimony about the awe-inspiring wonder that is Girls' Camp (automatically excluding all males, girls too young to go, girls who can't afford to go, and women who converted as adults from being able to share this). I'm not sure I heard anything relating to doctrine or anything really spiritual.

3. A brother rambled about various parenting books he's read, did talk a little about agency and seeing Christ in all people (or things?), apologized to anyone in the congregation who might have ever been offended by him, and did manage to express gratitude for the Gospel. This one was nearly the length a Sacrament talk usually runs.

4. A sister talked a lot about her mother, thanked prior speakers and other members, gave a fair amount of autobiography about self-worth, and did manage to actually bear a testimony of Christ and the Restored Gospel.

5. A brother rambled for a while about personal revelation, did actually give a testimony of the Gospel.

6. A sister spent several minutes doing a crying thankimony for priesthood holders and active members in her family.

7. Another sister talked about loving the Gospel and did a thankimony about her family and her Church membership. She closed by angrily demanding more missionary work among her hearers, in a rather aggressive tone of voice that frankly scared me a bit.

8. A brother talked about the priesthood, did bear testimony of Christ.

9. We have one sister in my ward whom I'm sure is a nice person, but I can't help cringing every time she gives a testimony or participates in class, since she takes every possible opportunity to go on and on and on about her deceased son, to the point that I can count the number of times I've heard her talk in seven months and not mention this topic on one hand and have fingers left. This F&T meeting was pretty typical for her: long patriotic ramble, much about her late son (and her late brother, who was killed in Vietnam), rambling about heroes and the Atonement, looped back to her son (she does have living children, about whom we hardly ever hear), looped back to patriotic rambling, and did eventually mention the Restoration in passing. She talked for at least five minutes, probably closer to ten.

10. A brother told a long, meandering story about gaining his testimony, but did actually bear one.

This is a pretty typical F&T meeting in every ward I've been in in my fifteen years as a member. It is a noteworthy rarity to hear anyone focus on the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ or the truth of the Restoration or modern revelation. Yes, I've tried to do my bit with concise statements of my knowledge of the truths of what we are taught in the Church, but it doesn't seem to help. Coming in fasting and praying doesn't help either. My physical difficulties added to the frustration level, but I can come in very well rested, feeling great, and not at a cranky point hormonally, and still have the same difficulty.

F&T is probably the least spiritually nourishing meeting of the month for me, and I feel like a complete failure as a Saint and a human being because of this.

However, I do know beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, and that He restored the true Gospel to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that He leads and directs His Church to this day by modern prophets, currently Thomas S. Monson.


  1. I have often felt myself feeling the same way, and frankly, wondering why we still do testimony meeting in the church. There have been a few times when it not only has been filled with thankimonies, travelogues, etc. but also has provided a pulpit for people saying some really crazy and offensive things. Rarely do I come away from one of these meetings feeling like I've really been uplifted. Occasionally there will be a testimony that really touches me, but usually not. What is your opinion on why we keep doing them despite many members feeling this way?

  2. My "top of the head" response has to do with tradition, but I can't convince myself that the Lord would allow this tradition to continue if there isn't some purpose to it. Of course, I'm also of the "brainwashed sheep" variety who believes that Christ leads this Church and will make sure the General Authorities run things as He wants them run.

    Thus, I have to think it's *supposed* to be of benefit to us to have these meetings. For me, it's largely an exercise in "enduring to the end" (of the meeting, anyway) and patience.

    Wonder if maybe we'll start hearing more guidance on this subject in Conference? (I hope!)


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