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JUST ANOTHER TRIP AROUND THE SUN

 

Week 11 of 52 - St. Paul Lutheran Church

 

So far have traveled about 124,000,000 miles.

 

Thoughts during the week:

 

I noticed the full title for the church last week: "International Assemblies of the Firstborn." The minister's wife, whom I had known from Toastmaster's years ago, told me that it was basically a copy of "The Assemblies of God" in format. That was a common denomination in the area of my mission - West Virginia-Kentucky-Tennessee. Copy or not - they had to select a new title. I thought the title interesting. We began as "The Church of Christ," and after a court case changed our name to "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." I believe the group headed by Joseph's brother retained the other title. Another group titled itself "The Church of Christ, Temple Lot." They take the position that, since they own the lot where Joseph said the Savior would return, they must be the true church. They have twelve apostles - and last I heard, only about 2000 members. One of their "apostle's" sons told me that under Joseph Fielding Smith, the Mormon's offered them a million dollars for the lot.They said they wouldn't sell it at any price - that it was proof they were the true church and not the Mormons. We decided after that, that Joseph was not referring to that exact place - but to the general area. Now we donít need the lot. It's a silly need anyway. We don't need to be the only true church - being a good part of it would be wonderful. (It is joined by individuals - in individual ways - not run by organizations requiring conformance to a hundred details.)

 

Also noticed in the program - blessing for certain people - one was a girl beginning college in another city."Pray that she will always live in the protection of the Lord, and that she will become involved in a good church."

 

To us, there is good in all churches, but only one good church we would pray for one to find.

 

 

The Visit:

 

St. Paul Lutheran Church

 

Leona and I vote here.Leona suggested, "Why donít you go visit that Lutheran Church where we vote?"So I did.

 

They have a good-sized simple chapel.Floor is like linoleum tiles.Carpet glue-down only in the aisle.Large plain cross in rock wall at front.Very simple dťcor overall.

 

Only the minister was ever on the podium (stage).Even the organist was at floor level off to the right.Those were the only two ever at front.

 

Songs were sung from printed program - or from hymnal.It was very noticeable that everyone was looking down.There was no music director.

 

I'm truly beginning to appreciate the projecting of the words up front - it adds greatly to the quality of the singing - and the overall feeling of togetherness - and there are always lots more smiles.This is something we ought to try.Sometimes it's just the whole song up there - fancier ones project a line at a time in big letters, like carioke. (sp?)Believe me, this makes a very significant difference.Almost everyone sings.Eyes are focused at distance rather than for reading - making everyone visible to one another.As Martha Stewart would say, "This is a good thing."I like it best when there is a director also.They can slow and speed - bring about more or less loudness - and add other dynamics that you just can't get without a director - unless there has been rehearsal.A congregation is unrehearsed - and needs a director.

 

Attendance was very low.In a chapel that would hold 300, there were perhaps thirty.

 

I had one bishop at BYU that had an interesting policy.He interviewed every member at the beginning of each semester - asking them only a couple questions."What jobs have you had in the Church?""Which of those jobs did you like the best?"After receiving an answer, he asked, "Would you like that job in this ward?"His requirement for giving a calling was a yes to this question.In my case it was Sunday School Teacher, so that's the call I got in this ward.He instructed me further, "As a Sunday School teacher, your job is to increase attendance.If your class grows, you stay on the job."

 

After 11 weeks of this 52 week journey, I can see clearly that the high attendances are at churches where the programs are well-planned and executed.The low-attendance churches have boring programs, even though they may have good messages.We are not called "The Children of God" for nothing.If sacrament meeting were more like primary, just more serious in content, attendance would increase.We all know when a speaker comes up who has some visual aids prepared in advance, or something else that proves preparation and care, we like it better.

 

During this entire meeting, there was never applause (Same as in our meetings) - but also, there was never laughter.No humor was included in the message.

 

Meeting started with a song.The minister began talking in the aisle - proceeding to the stage and a lectern.Then there was a section devoted to the minister reading - and the congregation reading or singing a line - from a section in the hymn book.There are dozens of written scripts for this.They had titles - and this one added after the title, "without communion."I learned later in the meeting that communion (our sacrament) is served only on the first Sunday of each month.They call it "Communion Sunday."

 

There was a talk from the minister after this exchange - where he read from text printed in the program.He read it pretty much word for word.From Isaiah, from Romans - and then from Matthew.We see this now in our general conferences.I don't like it.Heber J. Grant once asked J. Golden Kimball to write out his talks and let them be edited - and then to read them word-for-word at conference.Kimball did so.Grant thought it was the worst talk he'd ever heard from Kimball - and later ordered him, "Brother Kimball - I take it back about writing out your talks - do not ever 'pre-meditate' a talk again."President Grant also said of Kimball, "He is one of the most spiritual men I have ever known."

 

Then they had the collection with plates.

 

Then the minister gave his prepared talk - less formal.The minister talked of "Muscle Beach."Imagine asking one of the muscled fellows there, "What is the most powerful muscle in the human body?What might he answer?"

 

"My Biceps - or Abs or something like that."

 

Now I knew he was talking about the tongue, but my thoughts ran a few places.Firstly, when we talk about the strength of a muscle, we are talking foot-pounds per second, not the "power" of communication.That power is metaphoric - not really power that a muscle gives.That metaphoric power could be given by pen rather than tongue - or a hearing-impaired person could do it with his biceps and other muscles in sign language.I also thought that he could have gone another way and said, "It's the heart - nothing is so powerful as love."Or he could have been talking about actual endurance - and not the weight that could be lifted - then we might select the actual heart muscle - which goes on and on without tiring.If I had been on muscle beach (I'm much too intimidated to be seen there), I would have answered as my ninth grade science teacher had taught us - "It's about a tie between the quadriceps (muscles in the front part of thigh) and the Gluteus Maximus (Our butt muscles)."These are the two main muscle groups we use to stand up - lifting the whole body.

 

But it was the tongue.

 

He talked of some things that are done with the tongue -

 

Lullaby

Army officer

Ambassador

Teacher

Attorney (Representing an innocent client, he added.)

Pastor

 

The pastor (Dan) was young - maybe in his 20's.

 

Then he talked about Lutherans being in parts of the world where we would not have thought."Who would have thought there would be confessional Lutherans in South America?But there they are - It is the will of God."I wondered if there are "confessional" Lutherans and just plain Lutherans - not sure what it means.Probably has to do with whether one is baptized or not.

 

It is because we talk about the Lord to people.Let the newscaster and the weatherman talk about small things; let us talk about the Lord.Let us use our strongest muscle to do this.

 

The pastor was a very nice young man - greeted me as I came in - and talked a little (knowledgably) about hotrods.The people also were friendly before and after the meeting.(Coffee - juice - cookies - fruit served informally after out front.People lingered about 20 minutes.)

 

Out by the road, there is a sign that says, "WHERE THE BIBLE IS TAUGHT AS THE INSPIRED AND INERRANT WORD OF GOD."

 

We, of course, word this significantly differently."The Bible is The word of God, so far as it is translated correctly."

 

I didnít talk to anyone at this church about this "inerrant" nature of the Bible, but I have talked to others before.I ask them, "Which version?King James?"They answer, "It doesnít matter what version."I say, "Well - if I write a version during this next year, will it be inerrant?"They are now a little puzzled."What if I put in it that the Lutherans are wrong - and the Buddhists are correct about everything."They answer, "Well - that would not be the Bible, would it?"I respond, "Right - I have translated incorrectly - so my Bible is not inerrant.Anyone who translates and does it incorrectly introduces error.How can we know that any of these versions is "The Bible" by your suggested requirement?To know that - you would have to have it revealed to you by God."

 

There were some bracketed words written in the program to be read by the minister after his more formal talk - I assume talking of the scripture - but not quoting it.This, of course, is another translation.It was about the parable of the sower.It began, "Listen then, to what the parable of the sower means:"

 

I have heard Mormons say that everything we need to know for our use in achieving exultation - is found in the standard works of the Church.

 

I ask those Mormons if the temple ordinances are contained there.

 

Our minds are more to be trusted than the written words of others.If we are true to what our mind tells us is good, we will be on good ground.I've taught lots of teenagers: "When it is time to decide what to do, ask this question in your mind, 'What will I wish I had decided when I think about it tomorrow?' "The answer to that question will usually yield the correct choice - from our own minds.Our minds are very trustworthy - if we use them honestly.We almost without exception know right from wrong.It's the doing - and not the knowing - that we mess up on.Satan himself knows right from wrong.So does every man and woman.There are exceptions - but as a general rule, it holds.

 

A person who truly cares for his fellow beings will do quite well, even if he or she never stumbles upon a Bible.

 

One thing that appears to run true through all these visits - is that the people seem to be of good will.It's amazing, in a way, that religions have so many times been the catalyst for warfare and other evils - when at their foundation, as a general rule, are people of good will.There is one particular thing that I think leads this direction in times of stress and competition - it is the belief that "My religion is right - and yours is wrong."Sometimes, the friction does not start by an action of this believer - it starts from outside - where that belief is challenged - and where it is a real or perceived threat to the well-being of others.We were very successful in Nauvoo, for example - it was larger then than the city of Chicago.Mormons held stock in companies that non-Mormons were not allowed to own.They had a militia that marched in the streets every Saturday.I think if we could visit there, we would have found primarily people of good will both in the Church and out of it - but someone somewhere - feeling threatened - would act - and then retaliation and escalation - and tragedy.Most of this would not have happened if everyone believed the other guy's religion was just as valid as his.Even if it turned out not to be true, this would be a favorable belief.Many untrue things are believed to our benefit.(Santa Claus.) (All people are equal under the law.)Many others.

 

We do believe that other religions have a right to be - "Let them worship how where and what they may."But we also believe they will be wrong if they select to follow anyone other than the Latter-day Saints. This exclusivist belief is uncomfortable to all those who desire and believe God is inclusive. Unfortunately, among all the religions, there are few who do.

 

I don't think I learned very much about the Lutherans on this visit.I need to do this for ten years instead of just one.(No no - I'll be back when the year is finished.)I do feel a general sense of understanding is forming - that will be good for the rest of my life.

 

 

Week 11 of 52 - St. Paul Lutheran Church

 

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