Getting a Bit Rusty

When we bought our Honda Civic back in 2007, it was with the plan to drive it until it dropped. Civics are generally fantastic when it comes to longevity, and ours has been no exception to that rule. It’s served us well (knock on wood), with no need to pay for anything other than oil changes since we bought it. (A far cry from my first car, a Pontiac Grand Prix, that needed serious work almost perpetually.)

Except now we’re facing something we hadn’t necessarily planned on: rust. In the undercarriage of the car, rust spots have developed. We can get them fixed for around $800/piece, but I’m not really well versed in rust lore. I know it theoretically is fostered by the heavily salted roads we have out here in Maine. I know it eats away at metal. But I don’t really know how to deal with it.

That’s where you lovely people hopefully come in. There are far more of you than there are of me. What sort of experience have you had with rusty cars? If we could patch these two spots up and then know we’d be fine for the next several years, I’d much rather do that than buy a new car. However, if these rust spots are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, perhaps we’d be better off selling the car now before it gets too bad, and moving on to a newer car.

How do you avoid this over all? I’ve heard washing your car more frequently keeps it at bay, but then again, I’ve heard other people say it’s inevitable, and there’s nothing you can do. Yes, I’ve got Google, and I can research this some, but once you start delving into these sorts of questions, it can be difficult for a relatively inexperienced person like myself to really sift through it all and tell what’s worth listening to and what isn’t.

We’ve had the car for coming up on 12 years. It’s certainly served us well. But it’s still doing just dandy, and I see no reason to abandon it now if this is a problem we can get through with not too much trouble . . .

Any and all advice would be appreciated.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Old School Gaming

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) turned 36 years old just barely, and last night I was introducing DC to some of the old NES games you can play on the Switch if you’re signed up with their online service. She’s a huge Zelda fan, so we played the original for a while, and then we shifted over to some fast and furious Dr. Mario action, and then a bit of Super Marios Bros. 3. A few thoughts:

First, it’s amazing how difficult the games are. She’s an accomplished gamer, having beaten Breath of the Wild on her own, but she wouldn’t make it past a few seconds on most of the Mario levels, and Zelda was a real struggle as well. Tomas tried to show her how it was done on Mario 3, but he also promptly died. The control schemes are much more precise than a lot of the newer games, allowing so much less room for error, it feels. Add to that the very limited number of lives, and you have to have a lot of patience for the game to be able to keep making progress. (I’m happy to report that, while I was a bit rusty at first, I was still able to make my way through the first world of Mario 3 with little difficulty (remembering where the warp whistle was, naturally), and I found the first dungeon in Zelda without making one wrong turn. It’s so nice that my brain cells are holding on to vital information like that.)

Second, it made me think back on my first experiences with the NES. My literal first computer games that I played were on an old Heathkit my dad owned. (Looking back at the specs, it appears that puppy cost around $2,000 back then, which is $4,761 in today’s dollars!) I played a ton of Space Invaders, DND, Zork, and ELIZA. Graphics were limited, often text based, and the screen was black and green. So when we got an Atari 2600, that was pretty incredible. Color! Pictures! I played a ton of Pitfall, Pac Man, Asteroids, Missile Command, Yar’s Revenge, Pole Position, and Centipede. Ironically, looking back at it, I don’t think I played any of them particularly well. I don’t remember getting very far in any of them. I’d know the first few levels quite well, but I’d die. A lot. The thing was, I just didn’t care.

All along, however, the system I wanted most was the NES. Those cool 8-bit graphics were so much better than anything the Atari could put out. I don’t think players growing up with current consoles today realize just what sort of leaps new systems made back then. Going from the Heathkit to the Atari to the NES to the SuperNES to the N64 . . . these were massive improvements. Playstation’s going to come out with a PS5. How different will it really be than a PS4? VR adds things to the mix, but other than that . . . it’s not the same.

But then again, gaming was different back then. Like I said, you were okay with dying all the time. That’s why there were point totals: so you could see you were making progress. We’d play against each other to see who had the higher score. These days, I think games are much more fun, but that makes sense. They’ve had so much time to evolve and learn how to do fun right. That said, I still find the old games fun. The aesthetic, the sound, the gameplay. It’s a blast to go back and remember what it all used to be like.

What was your favorite game from back then? What system did you start out on?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Stop Playing Trump’s Game

Trump is a racist. He’s also sexist, elitist, and many other vile things. But he’s also very adept at picking pockets. A well-trained pick pocket is really a master of diverting attention. If he’s going to take your watch, he’ll make you worry about your wallet. If he’s going after your necklace, he’ll have you holding on tight to your watch. In that manner, the pick pocket will shift your attention from spot to spot on your body, and you’ll pride yourself on how well you held on to the things he made you think he was after, only to discover later on that he took every last item he was interested in.

Trump could give a master class in this. No matter how much I want to believe he’s nothing more than an oaf and a buffoon, he’s somehow become very adept at this to the point that I think he does it instinctively. Sure, he might seem like a cartoon sleepwalker, stumbling from obstacle to obstacle, with each one promising complete disaster, only to emerge from them all unscathed. But at this point, I don’t think that’s likely. I have to think some of it’s intentional and calculated.

The press helps in all of this, perhaps inadvertently at times. They’re turning more and more into a business of eyeballs and not actual facts, and so more of the reporting turns into a stream of editorials and side notes, each of which does nothing but further upset Trump’s opponents and convince his base that he’s persecuted. I feel like he’s doing enough terrible things that the inflammatory articles aren’t helping anything. Report the facts accurately and trust people to be smart enough to recognize just what sort of a person Trump is.

Yes, the things Trump tweeted are racist. Yes, it would be lovely to have the whole country recognize that without needing a map, a compass, a flashlight, and a bright blinking neon sign above his head. But all this energy talking about it isn’t really getting anything accomplished. It’s not solving any of the many problems he’s created. Even if at the end of the day, he admitted to being a racist, that wouldn’t get him out of office. All it’s doing is distracting us from the pockets he’s picking.

I worry that Democrats are approaching this next election cycle like it’s a grand opportunity to get their most liberal candidate elected. That surely anyone could win against Trump. But that’s what they thought about Clinton, and how did that work out for us all?

If it were up to me, I’d have the Democrats nominate someone a bit left of center. Someone who won’t alienate a good portion of independents. Who might even be attractive to the Republicans who are disgusted by Trump. That road makes it much more difficult for Trump to convince his base that Armageddon is coming and it’s just him between them and the Antichrist. He’ll throw everything he’s got at the next candidate. The ultimate goal needs to be Get Trump Out of Office.

If there are two Democrat nominees to choose from, one of which represents 80% of the party ideology but is expected to just barely squeak out a win against Trump, and another that only represents 40% or something like that, but has a much broader appeal to everyone in the nation?

Please take the one with broader appeal. Sure, there’s a chance the very liberal candidate would win, but to me, it’s not worth the risk of another 4 years of Trump.

Can the election just be over now?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movies Worth Rewatching: Clue

Last night I had to scramble to come up with something to watch with the family. We’d been watching The Amazing Race, but that’s over now, so it was pretty open as to what we wanted to shift to next. I’d shown them Charade and To Catch a Thief, and they had enjoyed both of those quite a bit. This time I decided to give Clue a try. It’s always been a favorite of mine, but I’ve learned to never be very confident when recommending a favorite to my kids. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it falls flat.

Clue soared, and watching it fresh through my kids’ eyes, I could see why.

It’s the sort of movie that if it were to come out today, I think I’d give it an eye roll when I first heard the description. Based on a board game, and it’s not even a straight mystery, but a comedy-mystery, instead? Sounds like another money grab. But this is probably the best board game movie adaptation you could possibly come up with. Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, and Tim Curry lead a fantastic cast. It’s got great banter, laughs throughout, and some light scares thrown in for good measure. (I was stunned to see it only has a 36/100 on Metacritic and a 59% on Rottentomatoes. This is a movie that’s much better than critics initially thought.)

DC was laughing the entire time. She couldn’t stop. Tomas might have been a bit skeptical at first, but he was definitely won over by the end. It’s just a fun movie, plain and simple. Yes, there are some adult themes in the film, but they pretty much sailed over DC’s head just like they did mine when I was watching it as a kid.

The amazing thing to me watching it now is that the movie really shouldn’t have worked. I don’t blame the critics for getting it wrong the first go around. It was the first adaptation of a board game. How lame does that sound? Sure, it had some good actors in it, but it would be easy to be skeptical of it. And again, they decided to take this mystery board game and turn it into a comedy. But they did it so well. It’s not just the character names from the game (Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, etc.). They have practically everything there. The premise (Who killed Mr. Boddy, where, and with what?), the secret passageways (leading to the correct places, no less), the look of each room. The parquet floor in the hall. The weapons. They were almost slavishly faithful to the game in so many regards. And yet they also recognized how contrived the game’s setup is. Once that’s acknowledged, you almost can’t help but make it into a comedy.

Of course, it wasn’t all rosy. MC (who’s just 6) was too scared, despite my repeated reassurances that the movie was funny. She ended up heading off to watch PBS Kids a third of the way through. (I probably should have done that in the first place, but these days I try to do things together as a family whenever we can. It means MC and DC end up watching things I never would have let Tomas watch at their age, but . . . what are you going to do?)

Other than that, though, it was a great experience. Everyone loved the movie, and it appears to have made the jump between generations with no problem at all. It’s on Amazon Prime streaming even as we speak. Give it a shot with your fam. (And if you haven’t already seen it somehow, you really deserve to treat yourself.) 9/10

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Sunday Talk: On Reverence

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed its meeting schedule, it offered five basic reasons. Among them, the first two stand out:

1. Help every Latter-day Saint home become a place where family members love to be, where they can enrich their lives and find mutual love, support, appreciation, and encouragement;

2. Emphasize home-centered Sabbath activities;

They stand out even more when I add that these were the reasons given for the schedule switch that occurred in 1980, not the one that happened at the beginning of this year. Prior to 1980, the church schedule was about as clear as mud, speaking as someone who isn’t old enough to remember anything about it. Primary happened at 4pm on a weekday, unless it was summer, in which case it was at 10am instead. Unless it was August, in which case it just didn’t happen at all. Relief Society was on a weekday at 10am for eight months of the year. Sunday meetings started off with Priesthood in the morning, followed by a break long enough to let the men go home and get their families and come back for Sunday School (one for adults and one for children, with the Sacrament administered in both). Sacrament meeting happened last.

With all that driving and schedule switching, is it any wonder the other reasons provided for the change were to free up time, reduce travel, and conserve energy? But the two primary reasons still stand out for their stated goal of making Latter-day Saint homes more enriching, loving, and Gospel-centered. Compare that goal from 1980 to the goals listed by the Church when we went to a two hour block in January:

“Deepening conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthening faith in Them.  Strengthening individuals and families through home-centered, Church-supported curriculum that contributes to joyful gospel living.  Honoring the Sabbath day, with a focus on the ordinance of the sacrament. Helping all of Heavenly Father’s children on both sides of the veil through missionary work and receiving ordinances and covenants and the blessings of the temple.”

Almost 40 years later, and we’re still trying to make our homes more Gospel centered and our meetings more spiritual. While I’m personally a big fan of the change to a two hour block, I also don’t believe it will automatically lead to the stated goals given by church leaders for the change.

For one thing, the switch to a home-based Gospel learning program that was supposed to happen in January might have ended up much like the rest of the New Year’s resolutions that came about at the same time. The gyms are never busier than the beginning of January, and I imagine a much higher percentage of Latter-day Saint homes were gospel centric on Sunday, January 6th than on Sunday, July 7th. This trend will likely only continue.

Making true change to your life takes hard work and consistent effort, but that’s also what it will take to make our experiences in Sacrament meeting itself an impactful one. This past week during a stake self-reliance committee meeting, we discussed what it takes to make yourself spiritually self reliant. A lot of the time, we focus on the temporal aspects of self-reliance. Having enough savings to provide for yourself and your family, for example. But being emotionally and spiritually self-reliant are equally important.

Spiritual self-reliance, we decided, meant having a testimony strong enough to withstand challenges to it as they arise. One that isn’t dependent on someone else’s beliefs. How do you develop it? By going to church, reading your scriptures, praying, and fasting. By doing the things the church asks you to do, not because you’ve been asked, but because you get to the point where you truly believe those basic building blocks are essential.

It’s easy to forget the reasons we do things. Case in point: I work at a university, a place where all the students theoretically come to learn the things they’ll need to know in order to get a good job once the graduate. But speaking from experience as a recovering college student, it can be very easy to forget that over the course of your college career. There are so many other things that affect you in the short term that keeping the long term in mind is difficult. You’ve got a job, a social life, and a good GPA to keep in check. Why take a hard major when an easier one will still let you graduate? But behind that decision of which major to declare lies a bigger one: what career do you want? Because it’s off in the distance, it’s easy to ignore. And yet without that bigger picture, all the short term difficulties can end up being nothing more than four years of spinning your wheels and accumulating debt.

Education is a wonderful thing, but college is not an end in and of itself. Simply getting a degree does not unlock the wonders of the universe for you.

Likewise, sitting through two hours of church does not automatically make you a more spiritual person. Theoretically, I suppose it might be better than staying at home for two hours. Perhaps some of the talks and lessons will rub off on you in passing, but it’s going to be hard rowing for it to have an impact if you’re not at least making an effort.

I’m not typically a preachy person. I don’t like telling other people to do things, since there’s so much I need to improve in myself. It’s usually easier to use myself as an example. I’ve made enough mistakes over the course of my life that it doesn’t take me too long to come up with a bad decision I’ve made to help illustrated What Not To Do. So I’ll volunteer myself as a case study in being distracted at church.

True story. I used to do crossword at church. Right in the middle of Sacrament meeting, whenever I’d get bored, I’d whip out the current Sunday School manual, where my handy crossword was waiting for me, and then I’d pretend to be studying up for the coming lesson, all the while trying to figure out a seven letter word that starts with R and means “verify the addition of.” (It’s “retotal.” Just in case you were going to think about that now instead of my talk. I’m on to you.)

Denisa was, needless to say, not a big fan of this propensity of mine, and I’m happy to report that I abandoned the habit well before we moved to Farmington. I still do the crossword every day. I just wait until I’m home from church to do it. Honest. But as I look back at my actions, I find a few areas that stick out to me to discuss some valuable life lessons.

First off, I find it interesting I felt the need to hide the crossword in a church manual. As if the appearance of being churchy was still important to me, even though I had no real desire to participate in the actual church activity itself. To me, this indicates I knew that what I was doing was wrong. Just as wrong as the pharisees Christ spoke out against for their hypocritical ways.

Second, I look at the way I justified my actions. The talks were boring, I’d say to myself. If the talks weren’t boring, I wouldn’t need to distract myself with a crossword. I’d argue that doing a crossword took almost no real mental power at all, and that I needed something to keep my mind from wandering. I wasn’t slacking. I was multitasking. While I’ve put my crosswords-in-church days behind me now, something else has come up that’s way more tempting and convenient for a technology loving multitasker: my phone.

With my trusty smartphone by my side, there’s almost no question or task that’s outside my reach. Better still, I can do whatever I want while still using the same device everyone else is using to read the lesson and their scriptures. It’s brilliant! (Though a quick aside: speaking from experience, it’s much easier to tell what someone’s actually doing with their phone than the phone user would like to believe. Let’s face it: reading the scriptures or the lesson generally doesn’t involve madly slashing at the phone screen with your thumb, or using both thumbs to enter in text, and then chuckling to yourself as you read the funny message your friend texted back.) 

I’m almost sure none of you came to church today expecting to hear a sermon against multitasking, but I’ve got a microphone and a pulpit here, and I’ve got some strong feelings on the subject, so that’s what you’re going to get. And I say this as a person who really struggles with an almost constant desire to multitask. To do two or three things at the same time, so that I can be as hyper efficient as possible. After all, there are only so many minutes in the day. Doesn’t it make sense to use your time as effectively as possible?

Except multitasking does not exist. Not in the way I wish it did, at least. When we multitask, the research has consistently shown we actually lose efficiency. It takes about fifteen minutes to reorient yourself on a primary task after you’ve been distracted by a secondary one. In our effort to do two things at the same time, we actually just rapidly do something called task switching, changing our focus from one thing to another, back and forth. Our brain is a television. Only one station can play on it at the same time. Sure, there’s picture-in-picture technology, but even then, you can only watch one show.

When I was about ten, I was a certifiable reading addict. I devoured books. Ten or twelve a week, and I wanted to be able to read even more. So finally I tried a new approach. I read one book while I listened to a different audio book at the same time. I was multitasking at its finest. Except as you no doubt can guess, I remembered almost nothing of what I read or listened to. You’d think I would have learned my lesson then. You’d think wrong.

In general, I’ve found I’m most tempted to multitask when I feel like I’m doing something that doesn’t really demand all of my attention. Something that’s boring, perhaps. Or tedious. When I’m in the middle of a deep conversation, or when I’m about to watch a movie I love, or when I’m trying to understand a hard to fathom concept, I don’t think I’ve ever thought to myself, “Now would be a good time to check Facebook.” Because deep down inside, I know how poorly the results are with multitasking. When I want to be sure to not miss a thing, I do one thing at a time.

Multitaskers also aren’t fooling anyone. Sure, we may try to couch our second task in some sort of shiny veneer the way I put my crossword into a church manual, but it’s easy for people who are trying to interact with you to tell when you’re not giving them your full attention. It reminds me in some ways of the freshmen I used to teach at BYU. They’d turn in papers that were triple spaced, or with one and a half inch margins, or with size thirteen font, no doubt hoping they’d pull a fast one on me. It never worked. When you spend your days looking at paper after paper, anything even slightly different immediately sticks out to you. Likewise, when you’re teaching a lesson or speaking in church, it’s quite easy to know when people aren’t paying attention. Again, this is coming from someone who has both multitasked someone else and been multitasked by someone else. 

But multitasking isn’t just a rude thing to do. According to several scientific studies, multitasking reduces productivity by up to 40%, increases the time it takes to do a task by a third, reduces our overall attention span, and actually makes it more likely that you’ll experience anxiety and depression. I’m not kidding. In a study done by the University of Sussex, they found people who consistently multitask make their bodies weaker to emotional illness. There’s just no reason to do it.

How do we fight against this? An article in the Harvard Business Review suggests two simple things. First, shut out distractions. If you’re at work, this might mean closing your office door. If you’re at church, it might mean putting your phone away and committing to keeping it put away. We each tend to know the things that distract us most easily. Avoid them. The article’s other suggestion is just as straightforward: instead of trying to split your attention into as many parts as possible, throw all of it into one effort at a time. It will pay off in the long run.

So why does all of this matter? Of all the talks given this past General Conference, the one that made the biggest impression on me was given by Elder Holland, who spoke of the importance of restoring reverence into our meetings. Specifically into Sacrament meeting, which he called “the most sacred hour of our week.” He said, “Beloved friends, as we unite across the globe each week in what we hope is an increasingly sacred acknowledgment of Christ’s majestic atoning gift to all humankind, may we bring to the sacramental altar “more tears for his sorrows [and] more pain at his grief.” And then, as we reflect, pray, and covenant anew, may we take from that sacred moment “more patience in suff’ring, … more praise for relief.”

How can we make our Sacrament meeting experiences more like the portrait Elder Holland paints in his talk? So much of it comes down to one word. Reverence.

When I think back over my years of church attendance, the time when I think I’ve seen Peak Reverence would have to be during my days at the Jerusalem Center when I was doing study abroad with BYU. The chapel there has one enormous window at the front of it, so when you’re sitting there in sacrament meeting, you’re staring out over the old city. You can see the Dome of the Rock, where Abraham offered Isaac up as an offering. See some of the building where the Last Supper took place. Speaking from experience, it’s certainly easier to think about the Savior and His sacrifice for us when you’re looking right at the spot where it all happened.

Of course, there were other advantages that branch had. For one thing, it had no primary or nursery. There was no crying. No arguing. During the Sacrament, it was absolutely silent. This was an attitude that was further encouraged by the fact that the room itself felt different. Special. The Branch President arranged for student soloists to perform before each Sacrament Meeting as people walked in, so before you even arrived, the room had a serene feeling to it. Even when it was empty, I remember speaking in hushed voices there. It just wasn’t a place you wanted to be noisy. If you had something you really wanted to talk about, you’d take it outside.

I think some of that special feeling gets lost when you’re in a place for too long. When you’re too familiar with it. There are many people at church who I only really see once a week, and it’s my one real chance to catch up with them. If one or two people do that quietly, that’s one thing, but once the entire ward starts to catch up at the start of meetings or just after the meeting ends, it quickly balloons out of proportion. In many ways, it’s like the broken window theory in police enforcement. The concept that visible signs of civil disorder (like a broken window in a store front or on a car) lead to further civil disorder that escalates out of control. If someone sees an abandoned house with one window broken, it becomes likelier someone will feel like chucking a stone through one of the other windows, or perhaps spray painting the exterior, a process that continues until the entire building is ruined.

Certainly I’ve seen instances where the noise in a chapel gets to be so loud the organist feels the need to up the volume on their instrument, which in turn makes people want to talk louder so they can hear each other. That stand off between the organist and the congregation reminds me of another lesson I learned on reverence.

My grandfather was the organist for the Tabernacle Choir for 27 years. When he finished, he served a mission in Jerusalem, working with my grandmother to establish a music program at the Jerusalem Center. I was always amazed at how well he could play the organ. I played bassoon when I was growing up, and I had it out with me one year when I was visiting him. He offered to accompany me on a song I’d been practicing for months. “Are you sure?” I asked him. “It’s pretty hard.” “I’ll do my best,” he said, then proceeded to sight read the entire thing perfectly, making me realize just what a huge skill gap there was between us.

After he had retired, he was called as the organist in his local congregation. He would faithfully come each Sunday and play amazing compositions, improvisations, and arrangements of hymns, sometimes ones he’d come up with personally. But the thing about prelude music is most church members have been trained to basically ignore it. It’s like elevator music, but for church. Here was a man playing songs many non-members would pay money to hear in a concert hall, and no one in the congregation paid them any attention. 

When he passed away, he wrote a short paragraph that he asked be read before his funeral service began. It said, “Sacred prelude music does not serve as background music for conversation. Its purpose is to enhance the listener’s worship experience through music. Bob was often distracted and annoyed when he played sacred prelude music during his lifetime. Despite his careful practice of appropriate music, needless conversation usually occurred. This thoughtless act unfortunately intruded upon the reverent contemplation and rededication that each individual should have experienced as they focused their thoughts on the following worship service. As the organist plays the organ prelude today, Bob asked that those in attendance refrain from conversing while seated in this sacred chapel.”

He had a similar feeling about postlude music. To him, they should be bookends to an uplifting and edifying Sacrament service. In an ideal world, they would be. I remember when Elder Bednar came to speak to us in Bangor a while ago. How prepared we all were for that meeting. How we approached it with an expectation of revelation. How quiet it was in the chapel both before and after. It was an incredibly spiritual experience for me. Why wouldn’t I want that every week? There is no reason Sacrament meeting can’t be like that, and I believe that’s the bar we should aim for.

What we need to do, then, is to break it down into its fundamentals to see why it was impactful and ask ourselves how we can transition our local meetings to reflect that.

What comes to mind first? Well, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ was the main speaker. Duh, right? It would be easy to attribute all of the spirit of that meeting to that one essential difference, but I think that wouldn’t capture the whole picture. Elder Bednar spoke with the Spirit, and it’s the Spirit that made such an impact on each of the audience members. We are entitled to that same Spirit each week. Yes, some of that is on the speaker. They need to be fully prepared and take the time to ensure their talk is inspired. But much of it is on the listener, as well. I came to Elder Bednar’s meeting fully expectant to receive revelation. I had prepared myself in advance. I treated it as something special. If I took the same approach to Sacrament meeting each week, I can’t help but think my experience would improve, regardless of the supposed quality of the speaker or the lessons offered later.

Whenever I attend the temple, I look forward to the quiet that’s there. Before sessions, I enjoy sitting in peace and opening myself up to the Spirit. We live in a loud world. There are so many things out there vying for our attention. Yes, every now and then the Spirit might bop us over the head when we’re just not listening at all, but typically the only way we’re going to actually receive revelation is when we quiet our minds to the point that the still small voice can be heard. It would be lovely if that environment were fostered before and after every Sacrament meeting. Not just for a minute or two, but an almost permanent basis in the chapel. A place where anyone could come and have that peace, any time.

Ironically, I feel I’m often more inclined to be reverent in someone else’s place of worship than I am in my own. For example, when I visit cathedrals in Europe, I try to be quiet and respectful. Some of that’s because other people are doing the same thing. Why? Because people have been taught over time that it’s not a place for loud laughter and casual conversation.

Of course, our meeting houses are used for much more than just Sacramental services. We have concerts in them. Parties and socials. We play basketball and hold tournaments. They say familiarity breeds contempt, and perhaps this tendency has made it so we’re more likely to treat our buildings more casually than is beneficial. 

In describing our Sunday services, Elder Holland says, “When the sacred hour comes to present our sacrificial gift to the Lord, we do have our own sins and shortcomings to resolve; that’s why we’re there. But we might be more successful in such contrition if we are mindful of the other broken hearts and sorrowing spirits that surround us. Seated not far away are some who may have wept—outwardly or inwardly—through the entire sacramental hymn and the prayers of those priests. Might we silently take note of that and offer our little crust of comfort and our tiny cup of compassion—might we dedicate it to them? or to the weeping, struggling member who is not in the service and, except for some redemptive ministering on our part, won’t be there next week either? or to our brothers and sisters who are not members of the Church at all but are our brothers and sisters? There is no shortage of suffering in this world, inside the Church and out, so look in any direction and you will find someone whose pain seems too heavy to bear and whose heartache seems never to end. One way to “always remember him” would be to join the Great Physician in His never-ending task of lifting the load from those who are burdened and relieving the pain of those who are distraught.”

I personally am trying to make my Sundays more Christ-centered and my meetings more meaningful. It hasn’t been easy, and I keep regressing, but I’ve seen the way I feel when I take the time to make space for more reverence in my life. May we each continue to become more spiritually self reliant. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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