Now, I’m in no way attempting to be negative in this article, neither am I focusing on anybody in particular, as I’m focusing on the Church as a whole. If I offend anybody, then please accept my humble apologise, as it wasn’t my intention to offend. The purpose of this post is a positive one, that is aimed at helping us progress as Latter-day Saints. I’m only speaking on a few issues here, but future blogs will focus on the rest.
Opening and closing prayers
One of the things that we can all notice, is how many Latter-day Saints misunderstand opening and closing prayers at our Church meetings. I have been in Church meetings where some opening and closing prayers have gone on about five minutes, and the prayer turns into a general prayer, where members begin to pray for a peace in the world, our prophets, missionaries, etc etc. All of this is fine in personal and group prayers, but not for opening and closing prayers at meetings. Opening prayers are only for inviting the presence of the Holy Ghost, and closing prayers are a way to give thanks and close the meeting still in the Spirit. The Holy Ghost is a very busy person, and he only abides for a few seconds during prayers, he doesn’t have time to stick around, so long prayers will only lose the congregation.
Testimonies are supposed to be all about bearing testimony and declaring what you know to be true in regards to the Gospel. Testimonies are not a time for members to instruct others, to tell a story, or to give a sermon. Testimonies are supposed to be short and sweet, and they shouldn’t be more than a couple of minutes long. Also, we rarely hear of people testifying of the Gospel these days, we really only hear “I know the Church is true,” whereas the Gospel is rarely mentioned.
I have a very lengthy blog planned on this subject I’ll be writing over the next week or so, so I will not go into details today, but many Latter-day Saints are still influenced by 19th Century traditions regarding the use of the King James Version (KJV). No, Latter-day Saints are not commanded to use only the KJV, neither does the Church have any offical declarations regarding what Bible translations to use. The KJV is only primarily used in the Church because it was used by Joseph Smith, and it was once the leading translation throughout the English speaking world, but it is extremely dated by today’s standards, and many mistranslations have since been found by scholars. So I urge all Latter-day Saints who feel they’re not allowed to use and study from other translations to not be afraid, and to find a Bible translation that best suites you. Even using it in Sunday School if you feel you can better understand another translation. For example, the KJV Isaiah is very messy and very hard to understand, but if you read a more literal translation, it is actually pretty easy to grasp Isaiah, if you have the spirit with you. My personal favourite translations of the Bible are the NRSV, The NRSV Harper Collins Study Bible (the Bible translation most used by scholars and academics), the Jewish Study Bible, and the Thomas Wayment New Testament For Latter-day Saints.
Like Testimonies and prayers, blessings should also be kept short (unless the spirit dictates otherwise). I’ve heard blessings go on for much longer than necessary, and the spirit had already left the room not even half way through. It’s essential to keep blessings short, as we could be in danger of overthinking and using our own words which did not come from the spirit.
There is a big misunderstanding in the Church when it comes to conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost, baby blessings, and to some extent patriarchal blessings. Conferring the gift gift of the Holy Ghost is not a blessing, it is an ordinance, and it should only be a quick ordinance, but most priesthood holders feel the need to give a blessing afterwards, which is fine if the spirit dictates, but I’m certain that the spirit doesn’t dictate on all occasions to do so. The same goes for baby blessings, they’re actually supposed to only be about bringing a baby to the Lord and revealing to the Lord what the baby’s name is. Baby blessings tend to go a little overboard though nowadays, and much is promised to the child through the words of men and not necessarily through the spirit. After the naming, the baby should be blessed that “they should be receptive to the Gospel,” but a lot of blessings state all the things that are going to happen in the child’s life, and that’s not how the Lord works, and that’s not the intent of a baby blessing. Patriarchal blessings are actually not a prophecy or a look into your future, they are rather supposed to be the means in which we learn what tribe we belong to, and our all encouraged to study the roles and responsibilities of our tribe, so we will know what we will be doing in the times to come. I’ve had a couple of friends who have had extremely short blessings, only a few words really, after they found out their divine lineage.
This blog is to be continued…