For the most part, I enjoy sacrament meeting. I like that it’s always been the final meeting in every ward I’ve been in.
It’s cool to sit close together with the family, even if our four-year-old is bending my shoe back trying to boost out of the pew and the eight-year-old is begging to go sit with Meghan, or Brittany, etc. I like the songs, the once-monthly testimonies and the wide variety, and quality, of the talks.
Maybe the comfort of sacrament meeting never really changing as long as I remember, satisfies this believing Latter-day Saint.
But, every December around Christmastime, sacrament turns into a bummer, at least for me. Almost every year, Jesus Christ seems to be a bit player. I don’t know who is to blame. Maybe bishoprics are instructed to have “Christmas Sunday” appear as just another Sabbath in the ward house, with a couple of religious carols thrown in the mix as a nod to the holiday.
And maybe there’s a good reason for that and I’m just not smart enough to understand it. But, nevertheless, as my longsuffering wife can attest to, I’m getting frustrated.
Every year I convince myself we’re going to have a real Christmas Sunday with talks on the Lord’s birth and the congregation singing Christmas carols along with the ward choir, and, well …
There are not-too-subtle conflicts. Although the word that we Mormons worship Joseph Smith is a myth, we do consider him a greater prophet than any of his colleagues in the Bible. And the prophet’s birthday is Dec. 23.
Although Joseph Smith, for all his recognition, is not the same as Jesus Christ, there have been occasions where “Praise to the Man” is sung more often than “Away in the Manger” on Christmastime Sunday.
But most of the time there’s just a maddeningly frustrating neutrality about Christmas, Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ.
Take the most recent sacrament meeting. The opening song was “The First Vision,” and then the bishop reminded us that during this season we should remember the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. That seemed an appropriate nod to the man and I was encouraged that there were two Christmas carols and three talks left on the program.
But the talks, which bookended a ward choir Christmas carol, were not about Christ’s birth, although they did capture His spirit.
They were well-prepared, informative and spiritual talks that would have been appropriate for any sacrament meeting, but why can’t we have had talks about the birth of Christ? Is there some edict against it?
The meeting ran long and the last talk, by a stake high councilman, was truncated into five non-baby Jesus minutes. Maybe that was supposed to be THE Christmas talk.
If so, I hope our ward does a better job of scheduling. Christ shouldn’t get the bump like a diet book author waiting his turn on a Letterman show that runs too long.
This column was published in the Dec. 25 edition of Currents, the Standard-Examiner’s digital-only section on politics and culture. For more information on Currents, call (801) 625-4400.