Why hasn’t even one person during my 40 years in the church challenged me by saying, “since the Spirit clearly isn’t present, why don’t you just (sit down and) shut up?”
Okay, this would be received better if done in a more kind and diplomatic way. But, in our passive-aggressive church, we don’t exactly have the inclination or the skills to offer or receive such a well-deserved rebuke.
And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach. (D&C 42:14)
I shrink and shriek at the thought of the number of lessons I have taught, testimonies I have shared, hymns I have sung, prayers I have offered, meetings I have attended, and comments I have made where the best description might be: spiritual vacuum. Worse yet are those times that I stand accountable for brandishing the nozzle and sucking that portion of the Spirit that might have been present from the room (another way of saying that I attempted to provoke participation).
I’m not being melodramatic!
The self-accusation is more potent because I know the Spirit. I know the difference between an emotional response and hearing in my mind and heart. I do not deprecate sincere and tender emotions. I recognize that the Spirit can invoke such a response. Unfortunately, those same emotions may be invoked by other stimuli.
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (D&C 8:2) [please note the word is “and,” not “or”]
The self-accusation is even more damning because of the many who cannot discern the difference, who need spiritual guidance, who need spiritual mentors and receive pathetic substitutes. I have been duped (inculcated) into thinking that “awkward” pauses of silence must be filled with some kind of noise rather than exist as opportunities for the “still, small voice” to be intelligible. Oy, when I think of the opportunities wasted in incessant, insipid grégarisme.
The self-accusation is further trumped because I have come to love and crave worshiping with the Messianic Jewish Fellowship. The Spirit there feels omnipresent; it feels expansive. Please don’t misunderstand, I also very much enjoy daily, personal spiritual experiences; these are characteristically sublime. Clearly, the expansive and the sublime should not comprise a false dichotomy; it is folly to pursue only one. Nevertheless, these do make obvious the singular fact that I enjoy no such experiences attending LDS meetings. I don’t know if that is because I have become “past feeling,” or if there is simply nothing there to “hear and feel,” or both.
I am hoping that at some future sacrament meeting, and/or at the upcoming General Conference, I can enjoy similar experiences. I am praying to be more hopeful (my expectation/faith in this regard is clearly wavering).
I will be more diligent in my attempts to bring the Spirit into upcoming primary classes that I teach. Though, I do wonder what a reasonable expectation might be for 11, busy, 10 year old children coming right out of 75 minutes of “reverent” sacrament meeting attendance (especially when taking into account our current culture).