Sunday, March 23, 2008

Do We Worship?

Driving to church today I couldn't help but notice the packed parking lots of other churches as we drove by. It's nice not to feel like a weirdo for at least two Sundays a year. The signs outside of most of them announced, "Easter Worship Service."

That got me thinking: what exactly do we Mormons consider worship? Before my wife was my wife, and before she was baptized into the LDS Church, I attended her church one Sunday. We all stood to sing a contemporary worship song, and I tried to follow along with the words as they flashed on the screen. After the song, I went to sit down when I noticed everyone was still standing. The band started playing again and off we were singing another song. OK, I thought, they really like their songs--they sing 2 opening songs! Err.. make that 3... oh wait... 4... We stood for well over an hour singing songs before the sermon finally began.

It seems to me, in my limited experience, that other churches mean something very specific when they talk about "worship." A quick search at didn't yield much substantial in the way of what "worship" really is, other than the general "to give Him our love, reverence, service, and devotion". But if you were to ask the average member (by which I mean me) what the purpose of our church services is, he (I) would answer: "To bring me closer to God. To learn more about Him and Jesus. To help me learn the commandments and motivate me to keep them." None of that really comes close to what other churches mean by "worship." Worship focuses on God and us showing love towards him. But all of my responses seem to be about me and how church helps me. The only thing that resembles what others might see as "worship" is signing hymns, but that's only about 15 minutes total of the 3-hour block (maybe more if you're in relief society), and to be honest, the hymn signing usually is less than enthusiastic. The sacrament, which is the main purpose for our meeting, also comes close as sort of a personal worship, but even that also focuses on us remembering Jesus and repenting, rather than a simple expression of our love for Him (although no doubt that is a part of it).

I've quoted this before from Elder Hartman Rector, Jr.:

"You can tell what a man worships by what he does on Sunday—repent and start worshipping the true and living God, the maker of heaven and earth and all things that in them are."

So is this really all that we mean by worship: just spending time? Does worship, from an LDS perspective, include not only singing hymns but also reading scriptures, communing with others, learning and discussing the gospel, and spending time with our family?

Let me be clear that my intent is not to criticize the church's view of worship, just to contrast what seems to be our view with the rest of the Christian world. Such pondering no doubt will help in understanding the new investigator's experience attending our church. So do we worship enough in our services? Or do we just have another idea of what worship is?

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I have wondered this too.

I think there's some hesitancy to answer questions relating to worship. It is a sensitive topic, closely related to who we worship (the Father alone, or the Son, or both?) One time on Mother's day, the Bishop said "I know we're all here to worship the savior, but I want to take a few minutes to honor the mothers in the ward..." and I almost got up and left the meeting because he implied that our presence there indicates worship of Jesus, whereas I personally reserve all worship for the Father, I was afraid that my mere presence would be interpreted as worship. I remained confused on the subject even until today.