You might have noticed that I have not had a lot to say about all the crazy and cool changes that have been surging through the Church lately – it’s been pretty quiet here on TWS. I beg of you to not mistake my lack of engagement with lack of support. I am fully in support of whatever changes are underway, and whatever changes are yet to come. My life experience has taught me that our Church leaders know what they are doing, and I am always blessed for sustaining and following their lead.
So why have I been kinda quiet? Pull up a chair… Come and listen to a story about a kid named Brad.
When I was a kid, we went to church twice on Sunday – once for Sunday school, and once for Sacrament meeting. Every Wednesday after school, we would walk up the hill from our elementary school to the church building for Primary. After-school Primary awesome. I still remember spending each Wednesday at school in my Cub Scout uniform. Even the kids were expected to head to the church three times a week. For some of the adults it was even more often – Priesthood and Relief Society were held as their own meetings at different times.
It was during this time that I had the rare privilege, (Twice) of singing with a Primary choir at General Conference. Back in those days, there were Primary Sessions, Relief Society Sessions, and even Tuesday sessions. There were about double the number of General Conference meetings.
One of those times we sang was to accompany the unveiling of a brand-new Primary program. Those old names are a blur, but I remember Blazers, Targeteers, Merrie Miss and of course, the Boy Trailbuilders. As a kid I thought the changes were weird and unnecessary, but it wasn’t that big of deal – and I got to meet the organist, Alexander Schriner, so there’s that.
The spring before I left on my mission, the Church announced the “Consolidated Meeting Schedule,” or, as we refer to it, the “Three Hour Block.” It was quite a shakeup. The design was to boost attendance, and it worked. I didn’t feel it much, because I was at BYU at the time, and soon to depart on my mission.
Not long after, I was serving in the Chile, Vina Del Mar Mission (’80-’82) and the Mission President, Gerald Day, called a bunch of us to travel to the Mission Home. No explanation given.
We gathered in the Mission Home, and the President explained to us that the Church had changed full-time missions for the Elders from 24 months to 18 months. Those of us in the room were already past the 18-month mark. He basically said, “You can call home, talk to your folks, and pray about it, but you need to let us know if you want to leave now, stay the full 24, or pick somewhere in-between. You have until tomorrow.” (FYI, I went the Solomon route and split the difference: 21 months.)
Obviously this was quite a shock and a shake-up. Not just for those making that choice, but for all the missionaries who had been out less that 18 months – they were automatically shortened.
In February, 1985, the missions were changed back to 24 months.
While I was on my mission, garment styles changed. I have seen changes in the temple ceremonies on a regular basis. It is never a stagnant experience. Never has been.
Why all these old stories? To help you see that as long as I can remember, the Church has changed things on a regular basis. A quick Rush song quotes: “We know constant change is here to stay.”
It seems that we are in a new era of change, but in reality, we have always been in an era of change. Sure, it has been extra intense lately, with the changes in Scouting, missionary age change, temple changes, two-hour block, discontinuation of Stake Mission programs, end of discussions and embrace of Preach My Gospel, General Conference adjustements, Elder’s Quorum/HP Group changes, 11 year-olds entering the Priesthood and Young Women, shuttering pageants, sister missionaries wearing pants, and the list goes on…
President Nelson made an interesting comment (I read it on hisFacebook, of all places.) “My dear friends, we are witnesses to the process of restoration. If you think the Church is fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. There’s much more to come. Wait until next year, and then the next year. Eat your vitamins, get your rest. It’s going to be exciting!”
The idea that the Church would be stuck in 1st gear forever flies in the face of modern revelation and the importance of living prophets. When you step back and look at it, if nothing ever changed in the Church, it would be a very awkward acknowledgment that God is not involved with His Kingdom on the Earth. Instead, we get a constant tinkering, because He is always adjusting and fine-tuning His Kingdom.
The world is changing – mostly for the worse. If the Church didn’t change along with it – to attempt to counterbalance, it would cause us to wonder if the agnostics might have a point.
Basically, the constant change we experience in the Church is a testimony that God lives, loves us and is at the helm.
We might feel that moving to a 2-hour block is a big deal. The Jews who were asked to abandon the Law of Moses and embrace a new law might disagree, as might those who were instructed to embrace, and then abandon, plural marriage.
So, while a lot of the changes are exciting, I don’t get too worked up, for several reasons.
- I don’t know which changes will “stick.” I don’t worry about this, because I know that being inspired to try something is not a guarantee that it will work. (i.e. United Order, polygamy, 18 month missions, etc.) It is also expected that the changes will continue – it is, and should be, a constant work in progress.
- I am change-adverse. While I am quick to embrace new things, I am also very mired in “tradition.” I totally understand where Tevye is coming from in Fiddler on the Roof. So, I do accept change, but I am not always racing to embrace it with googly eyes.
- I am sentimental. It is hard to let go of some things. I have fond memories of building Pinewood Derbies with my Cub Scout boys, etc.
- While the new is exciting, and many are thrilled to toss the old ways overboard, I simply have this to say: The old way served me and my family well. We raised five kids in the old system, and I can’t kick it to the curb without a twinge of melancholy.
I can look at the new changes and see how they will bless my life. More importantly, I can see how they will bless the lives of my children and their children. It is a different world out there, and these new adjustments will give them a boost, if they are willing to embrace them.
Many of the changes seem geared towards helping our young people interact more with the Spirit at an easier age – priesthood, home, temple and ministering service, etc. All of these harken back to the Proverb, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
As I work to learn to love the changes in the Church, know that I am operating from a default position that tells me that God speaks to us through His servants, the prophets. I always give them the benefit of the doubt, and move forward accordingly. Why? Because my life experience and testimony tells me this its the way to happiness and success for me and my loved ones.
And in a couple hours, I get to embrace the reality of teaching Primary – for the first time in my life!
I got this.