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Youth Conference
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Youth Conference

Probably Tammy would say that she enjoyed going to church because the spirit there made her feel close to Heavenly Father or something like that. She might even really mean it, too. I figured that that was a level of spirituality I should probably be striving for even though I found it kind of hard to comprehend. Personally I had a hard time seeing past the droning boredom of it all, and I found that I was slipping more and more into the habitual sleeper category. And my sister April generally read a book (not the Book of Mormon) throughout all of Sacrament Meeting. But it would be a sin not to go, so we showed up every Sunday more or less willing to participate or at least tolerate it.

I thought about how we Mormons pride ourselves on not having a paid minister to give a sermon but rather just have ordinary members of the ward give inspiring messages every week. Still, after being lulled to unconsciousness so many times by the same repetitive talks, I couldn't help but think that having a professional speak to us might not be such a bad idea. The faces changed from week to week, but about ninety percent of the time the talk would start with "The bishop called me up last week and asked me to give a talk on [insert topic here: faith, charity, tithing, etc.], so [this morning] I looked it up in Webster's Dictionary, and here's what it said." I added "this morning" as an aside because people wouldn't really say that, but it was pretty much understood that nobody prepares a talk very far in advance. Or, if the talk followed a musical performance, then the speaker would get a free opening line because it was unofficially obligatory to start by saying how inspiring the musical number was. The musical performances in Sacrament Meeting tended to be about the same caliber as the talks, but it was always necessary for the following speaker to say how good the singer/pianist/harp player was because the performer never gets any applause as it would be disrespectful to clap in the chapel. After the standard opening, the speaker would read some poem or anecdote on the assigned subject that they found in a church manual and which you would already have heard a million times, then the speaker would end with "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

My impressions of the of the efforts of my fellow imperfect children of God shouldn't be taken as intentionally unkind. To me, this was reality. This was how it was possible that I found it so difficult to concentrate on something that Heavenly Father clearly wanted me to be there listening to.

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EXMORMON

Already I was at a disadvantage because I had to get up at five to deliver newspapers, so I would normally be there in a sleep-deprived state. Then a couple of repetitions of "Here's a scripture on faith that I found by looking up faith in the index of my Bible" and I would be out like a light.

Fortunately I wasn't one of those people who snores during the meeting (at least I hoped not -- no one had ever mentioned anything to me to that effect) but it was really tricky to avoid doing the head-bobbing thing. You know what I'm talking about: It's when you start dozing off and your head starts to droop, and then you wake up a little and it suddenly snaps back up. The only remedy I had found was to rest my chin on my palms and my elbows on my knees and just give in to the call of sleep. This, by the way, is not at all a comfortable sleeping position, especially in the winter when the building's so cold. The church apparently designed the meeting houses for California and/or Utah and then decided to use the same floor plan for churches all over the world. I didn't know how well this design worked elsewhere, but in Minnesota eight months out of the year the classrooms could be used as freezers, and the chapel, the warmest room in the building, wasn't much better. But none of the minor discomforts (or even the spiritual rewards) proved sufficient to counter a sleep-inducing agent as powerful as Sacrament Meeting.

Usually the high point of Sacrament Meeting is the sacrament itself. I knew that partaking of the sacrament every Sunday was a commandment, and hence was supposed to be the primary reason for coming to church: to renew our baptismal covenants as mentioned earlier. I usually tried to think about that if I'd been reminded of it lately, but that wasn't really why I thought of the sacrament as the high point of the meeting. The real reason was that the sacrament was prepared, blessed, and passed by the boys from ages twelve to seventeen. The "priests" (sixteen and seventeen year-olds) sat in the front of the chapel to give the blessing. The "teachers" (fourteen and fifteen year-olds) prepared the sacrament. I wasn't sure precisely what this entailed since it took place behind a barrier nor why they were called "teachers" since the job certainly didn't require any teaching. The "deacons" (twelve and thirteen year-olds) distributed it. It wasn't so interesting back when Y was a teacher because the teachers' task is not visible, but since he had graduated to the priests' quorum, he sat up in the front of the chapel where I could shamelessly ogle him for the whole of the sacrament when it was his turn to be one of the two giving the blessing.

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