We just had stake conference this last Sunday and as I sat there with my family listening to the various talks I was struck by their similarity. Every single talk that was given was entirely focused on bringing other people into the church. Whether it was through inviting them to dinner, giving them a BOM, or sharing family history it was all about advertising the church to others. I felt like I was viewing a web page where all I could see were ads and the content was lost somewhere in-between.
According to the Church website there is supposed to be this Three-Fold Mission involving:
- Sharing the Gospel
- Perfecting the Saints
- Redeeming the Dead
I don't think I have ever really heard any talks that revolve around points 2 and 3 on this list. I mean sure I have heard talks about how guilty we are of sin in an effort to make us feel so guilty that we have the desire to run off weeping and throw ourselves at the mercy of the bishop in an effort to repent. But NOTHING about how one could actually become a better person in the community, to each other, or at school, work, or friends and family.
All they every seem to be able to manage with point 2 is that you SHOULD do it but never how exactly. It's almost as if they don't actually know how, or are so focused on point 1 that they either don't care or have no time left over to explain it. I just sat in the back of the meeting wondering what any non-members in the audience would be thinking. After all this really was just a bold declaration of the church's intentions, "Hey if you're not yet a member we want to make you one!" I wonder how I could have overlooked this obvious self-propagation my whole life. I guess Mormons really are good at turning a blind eye.
And redeeming the dead? What was the last time you heard anyone get up in sacrament meeting and give a talk on that subject? The closest to that I can recall is an announcement that the youth would be doing baptisms or that ward temple night would be this Friday (feel free to feel guilty for not going). Of course there is the watered down version where the focus is on genealogy (which will fill the lists at the temple for others to do the work for the dead.)
Every week seems to be the same thing. Even the classes are the same way, everything being centered around getting other people into the church. I'm sure I'm not alone in this observation that the church is more focused on expanding its membership rather than trying to improve the lives of the members living within it. Sure some classes get beyond that a little but I know that Elders Quorum meetings center around pushing people to do their home-teaching and various methods of sharing the church with others using stories of how someone else managed to share the gospel in some inspiring way that makes my want to *face-palm*.
The really funny thing to me is that the church has done such an amazing job in scaring members away from the evils of those outside the church that people are too afraid to have any contact with those evil corrupted-by-satan non-members that the thought of bringing them into the home is terrifying. I mean, *GASP*, what would happen if THEY wanted to share their beliefs! Oops, I mean spread their lies and poison from the grasp that Satan has on them. Because they know that non-members are just waiting to jump at the chance to deceive them using the silver tongued lies of the devil.
For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it -- D&C 123:12
Well I think everyone knows about Mormon missionaries so I don't think the argument of not knowing where the Mormon-truth is located would be a valid argument. And couldn't that apply to members as well? Wouldn't all denominations indicate that many members have been deceived? Whoops I guess Joseph Smith forgot to include that all important word "other" to say all other denominations. I'm sure the church will eventually put out a corrected version for that omission later.
I guess the alternative to hearing talks about missionary work would be testimony meetings with thank-you-monies and travelogues; when people get to stand up at the pulpit and declare, between tearful sobs, how thankful they are from the bottom of their heart for the various trials in their life, or all about their latest gossip with a little fiber-of-their-being sprinkled in at the end for good measure. As a missionary I used to cringe when it was time to attend testimony meeting because I never knew what oddities I was going hear. Now I go for the entertainment value of it all. I once heard a thank-you-mony that sounded nearly exactly like an acceptance speech at the academy awards.