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7/5/09

i start to get anxious every time i wake up to a flag stuck in my lawn

Because it usually means that the next Sacrament Meeting at my church will be filled with such "I love America" fervor that I start to get a little freaked out.


Now hold on. I love America. I feel blessed to live here. But I'm not sure what my love of America has to do with my beliefs as a Christian. Thus, I start to wonder about people who rely on America-is-great testimonies for several reasons:

One, our church is international. If a major part of your testimony centers on the blessing that is one country, what are you (inadvertently) saying about the members in other countries? That they aren't as blessed? Less Mormon?

I'd particularly like to pose that question to the person who included an impression of "other countries" in their testimony. Said impression included raising their voice and octave and sarcastically mocking other countries that don't always agree with America's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq: "Oh No! Those bad Americans trying to GIVE PEOPLE LIBERTY! OH NO!" Followed by a fervent vow to always love America, not matter what any freedom-hating-socialist European said. (Okay, not the socialist part.) **


I guess I'm saying that if your testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day- Saints doesn't mention Jesus, but does mention American superiority a lot, well, shouldn't you maybe find a different church? One better suited to your needs/beliefs?

Okay, that was snotty.


But in all honestly, after these sort of meetings, I always come home asking Dan "WHY CAN'T WE JUST TALK ABOUT JESUS AT CHURCH???????????"

To which he shrugs understandingly, and says "I don't know, Steph."*



I feel like I might get in trouble for this post, and I'm sorry if it offends anyone, but really, Why can't we just talk about Jesus?





*Also, I had an epiphany typing this, something along the lines of "Well, even if people aren't talking about Jesus during Sacrament, the least you could do was THINK about him, instead of judging other people," but the epiphany, while meaningful, didn't prevent me from publishing this post.

Because I still want to hear what you think.


(Play nice.)


**That part was originally a bit unclear. And for further clarification, I'm not necessarily opposed to people being grateful for the blessings America provides, but I do think that the glorification of America, especially when it includes bashing other countries, isn't an appropriate Sacrament meeting topic.

45 comments:

Crystal said...

Long time reader, blah blah blah...


I live in Japan. My hubs is in the Navy. He spent the fourth in Australia eating kangaroo while I got to wrangle two small children through the festivities.

Since we live in Japan and our branch is mostly made up of military/people who work for the military you can imagine that our testimony meeting was worse. Yes, our country is great, yes, you fight for it from your desk in Japan*, but um, let's talk about Jesus, mmmk?



*I mean no offense to any military members fighting for your freedoms, even if they are doing it from a desk, it's still fighting.

stewbert said...

I tend to feel the same way you do, although I don't usually get too worked up about it. And I have a 1-year-old who keeps me out of the chapel most of the time, so I don't have to hear it all every time. ;)

gurrbonzo said...

God bless THE PLANET.

I think we just like to think we're better/"chosen/more blessed (seriously, so) than others. That's ingrained from a lot of the VIP language we use in church, and it carries over into ideas about how the Restoration could only happen here (assumptions I dispute, though we both know how much I love Palmyra). I think it's that Americans like to entertain feelings of superiority, and so do (some) Mormons, so when you combine the two, there are some big and often well-intentioned though misguided self-absorption, a la "We're so awesome and powerful and coveted and misunderstood." Sigh.

End rant. Applauding your rant.

amanda said...

as a Utah born-and-raised member of the LDS church currently living and attending church in Ecuador, AMEN!

for heavens sake, let's be grateful to live in the U.S. if we like, but know that we'd likely be just as happy, if not happier, living somewhere else. and just as blessed.

Becca said...

We were lucky and only had one "America is awesome" testimony. I was born in the USA and honestly my American heritage started back when the youngest son of a not so wealthy nobleman went to the new world to find his fortune. He never got rich, but he never left.

I have gotten over being surprised when people don't even mention that its thanks to our nation's liberties that the church was able to be founded. Then again, many people think that any feeling that makes them cry is worthy of testimony meeting. I should get really mad, yell and scream and then cry. It will be a great testimony.
* I don't mean to trivialize these people's feelings, but lets be honest, its not a testimony its just crying in public.

Teryn said...

Agreed, I'm actually new to your blog and I've enjoyed it quite a bit as of late. As for the patiotism in testimony meeting. Maybe it would be more appropirate if people talked about Joseph Smith and the fact that if it wasn't for the freedom that our country allowed, our church may not have ever been allowed to form. Though then you would have to mention all of the tarring and the feathering and whatnot of the early days of the church- so I guess it really doesn't work either way. Growl!

Tammy said...

There will always be that percentage of Mormons who truly believe they are more blessed than others because the were born in America and they were also born in Utah and have pioneer heritage. Thus they will feel they must let everyone they know as kind as they can that they are more blessed. This greatly irritates me but I have discovered that they are innocent. They truly do not see themselves and how stupid they are being. They love their bubble and their world depends on it. They don't know or understand their religion well and that is ok with them. They choose to follow blindly without knowing amazing truths about their religion and life. If they are Ok with it then I guess I have to be too. I look at them as the innocents. They are like little children who don't know how cruel they are being so I try to look at them that way. It is the only way for me or I will go insane with anger. If anyone else has a better idea for me I am all ears. Sorry about the forever long comment. I have been reading for a while and finally felt like commenting. Thanks.

Mhana said...

OK I don't know you, just happened upon your post randomly but I totally agree. I was in a new ward this Sunday and it was something else. Our entire Relief Society lesson was about the history of the flag and I didn't even know the person I was sitting next to enough to know if I could get away with snarky asides! The teacher tied it all in loosely with a few scriptures and some patriotic hymns but why are we learning flag etiquette in church? Isn't that more of a scouting activity? The thing is, I don't have a testimony of America. I love my country and I'm grateful for my freedoms, but it isn't like we're the only free country on the face of the earth, and I have a hard time equating us with the righteous Nephites in terms of Heavenly Father's protection during war time. We are not the only people who have fought for freedom from bondage. What I'm getting at is Amen Sista! Wish you were in my ward!

JustMe said...

I know you've missed my comments.

We have a big, big, (ok - MEGA) church near me. We fondly refer to it as "Six Flags over Jesus". Their pastor is less than fond of Mormons – he actually preaches against the church quite often.

Several years ago we had a Gospel Doctorines teacher who liked to spend the entire lesson debating with a class member how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, so we would all know what great scripture scholars they were.

Finally a class member got tired of it and said “Last week one of my co-workers came in and said, “today in Sunday School we learned about the Mormons” (He attended the Six Flags church). Class member said, “that’s funny, in the Mormon Church yesterday we learned about Jesus.” “ So, can we please get back on the topic we’re here to learn about?”

Steph – please, I can’t believe you pay that much attention during Fast and Crying (uh, sorry TESTIMONY) meeting. Yesterday we had to listen to someone give a 20 minute talk on family history, and the ever popular 14-year-old who hasn’t missed a fast Sunday in the 6 years I’ve known her – shoot me in the face. Fast Sunday in my wards tends to be less than uplifting – though sometimes they are wonderful.

Nicole said...

Good point(s).

I can't tell you how many times I have sat through testimony meeting and waited (in vain) to hear someone mention Jesus.

I understand that people are grateful for many things and maybe want to express that gratitude in public, but I personally think those "thank-a-monies" belong in your personal prayers instead of in front of a whole ward/branch.

Really, I think a lot -- A LOT -- of people don't get what constitutes a real testimony. That being said, I've got to admit that things are better outside of Utah/Idaho. Don't get me wrong -- I've heard testimonies in Ohio, Texas, and Georgia that are downright bizarre (orange peels cure cancer, etc.) but for the most part the one-upping and extreme patriotism are absent.

aubrey said...

hahaha. Agreed.

However.

I think I would rather hear I HEART AMERICA than listen to the jaw-dropping oversharers that grace us each testimony meeting.

Yesterdays examples:

"My cousin recently started doing drugs. So I prayed to ask how to handle it, and my answer was to be honest with him and tell him I don't approve, so I did. But, he still does drugs. Amen."


"I am so grateful for personal revelation. So many times I find myself saying "Oh my God! Heavenly Father IS listening!"

and my personal favorite, the woman who just moved into our ward and insisted on giving her entire life history, including the time her marriage to her (now deceased) husband was strengthened through trials of sexual dysfunction.

gurrbonzo said...

p.s.

Love for the United States is NOT a true gospel principle.

Just wanted to throw that out there.

La Yen said...

Unlurk

I often say that I am grateful to live in a place where I can worship God according to the dictates of my own conscience. But that applies to tons of places, even El Paso.

I am in a ward in a military city, and we really don't get too much fervor. Prayers always include soldiers, though. Mostly we talk about Jesus. And the random squirm-inducing oversharing.

I feel for you. Testimony Meeting is hard enough to get through sometimes...

/Unlurk

NIKOL said...

Yesterday in our ward, a new Bishopric was called. The Stake President requested that the old Bishopric (and the former Bishop's wife) all bear their testimonies, and then the new Bishopric (and the new Bishop's wife) bear their testimonies. Those were the only ones shared. So we didn't even have ONE "yay, America!" person speak yesterday.

I totally agree that some people take it over the top when expressing their love for America. I also agree with Aubrey that the serial oversharers are worse.

Jen, RN said...

I'm also a long time reader-et. cetera-anyway I'm so glad that somebody has finally said it!!! Seriously I feel the same way around the 4th of July-we don't need to bear testimony of our country-we need to stick to Jesus-no big deal-why is it so hard? Yet I think if I said anything jaws would drop and I would be an outcast-on second thought-for fun-maybe I'll try it next year.....

Natalie said...

I like to call this "Audience Anxiety". And I have it ever first Sunday of the month. On average, I hear about 2 REAL testimonies a month. The definition of which is as you stated, about Jesus.

How many times does the 1st Presidency need to write a letter that has to be read over the pulpit stating what a testimony is? Because if they read it one more time and someone gets up to talk about how much grateful they are for their ward, or life, or calling, or job, or country, I might just hit someone.

thank you for your rage this morning. I appreciate it.

Hillary said...

I think it's fine to mention, in passing, that you're grateful for the blessing that come from living in America. After all, Mormonism and America are inextricably linked--it was founded here, its headquarters are here, etc.

But it would be foolish to center an entire testimony around patriotism for several reasons: Mormonism is international, and is growing at a rate that most members will be (if this hasn't already happened) citizens of other countries; insults, imitations, or one's own political agenda have no place in a testimony; most importantly, a testimony is not a travelogue, opinion piece, platform, soapbox, or a chance to explain why you've been "having a really hard time lately". A testimony should be about one's belief in God, the gospel, the scriptures, the Atonement, etc. If a testimony mentions none of these things, it's probably not a testimony at all.

Julie and Rob said...

Well spoken, Steph!

Maybe being grateful for principals of freedom, equality, justice and well-being IN GENERAL would be more appropriate (because lets be honest, the U.S. of A. isn't the only country employing those principals). Although why they need to be mentioned in a testimony of JESUS CHRIST is somewhat beyond me...

I find it difficult to pay attention or to really care when someone is blabbering on at the pulpet about what they are thankful for. For cryin' out loud, people it isn't a THANK-A-MONY!! Its a testimony, where we are supposed to testify of our KOWLEDGE of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel of the church...

Its hard enough to sit through a meeting full of REAL testimonies, let alone a bunch of thank-a-monies, cry-a-monies, I-love-my-friends-and-family-a-monies, etc., etc.

Okay, I'm babling. And I'm pointing out everything you just pointed out.

Thankfully (no pun intended) I missed the pious thank-a-mony meeting yesterday due to a 12 hour road trip.

I guess that's one benefit of being locked in a car for 12 hours...

P.s. I can help you read your hate mail if you want.

b. said...

Are you in my ward? I'm serious...

Also, I KNOW that we are beloved over and above all:
Doyle and Debbie (and apparently some testimoniers) say so.

b. said...

testimoaners?

Nemesis said...

We had two baby blessings, so all the testimonies were from the families of the babies. Babymonies, if you will. Which I suppose is a change from We'rethebestcountryeverandtheoneJesuslovesMOSTimonies. But still. It's like it just can't be normal . . .

Lori Ann said...

I think we may be the only citizens in the entire world who censure ourselves so stringently about expressing national pride. It's classic American puritanical guilt. "Oh, well, yeah we like our country, but that doesnt mean your country isnt really awesome and I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings"

America is a great land. I believe its sole purpose in being discovered and founded was to bring about the Restoration of the Gospel.

Anyway,

In my opinion, testimonies are like callings...sometimes they are for the benefit of those who recieve, but mostly they are for the benefit of those that give.

Maybe the point of testimony meeting is always to be fortified by the sharing of testimonies..maybe God is giving us an opportunity to learn patience and charity.

Stephanie said...

lori ann, i think it's like our good friend margaret thatcher once said,

"Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

Maybe by censuring ourselves a bit, our country (and church members) could become a little more ladylike, and less inclined to make fun of other countries in sacrament meeting.

The Boob Nazi said...

Okay, I may be a bad American, but I don't have any country pride. I wish I lived in a different country, but that's only because I want to experience a different culture for a long period of time.
I don't like the fourth of July. Maybe it's because I've never experienced true oppression. I've been raised believing I could do anything and no one would stop me, so maybe I've been spoiled. But that doesn't stop me from disliking the holiday. I also just see it as another holiday for people to get completed wasted, which drives me insane. I hate New Year's Eve as well. I normally spend it babysitting my nieces and nephew.
Okay, I hate all holidays that aren't my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. (Easter is pretty cool though. As is Passover. And Hanukah. And Veteran's Day because it gave me a day off near my birthday. And Memorial Day. Okay stop.) The holidays that don't really scream out FAMILY to me are the ones I don't like.

And I realize this was about testimonies at church. But I don't go to church. So here's my comment that's only SLIGHTLY related. I just wanted to rant about it but didn't want to write a whole blog about it. Gosh, I need to shut up now.

Mrs. Clark said...

I needed to think about your comments for a day before I responded.

It seems clear to me that this country is unique in its freedoms, and I also fervently believe that God wanted it to be the place where the gospel was restored. I feel very lucky to have been born here.

I don't necessarily look down on other countries, but I certainly would not want to live under Castro or Pol Pot. I pray that people who live under totalitarian regimes will be free.

So, yes, I guess I do believe that America is "better" than some other countries, but I don't feel like I'm a superior person because I was born here. And as much as I would like to see every country in the world governed by its people, with freedom of speech and the press, I don't think we should be going around meddling in their affairs.

So, I am not bothered when people get up and bear testimony of the inspiration that spurred the Founders to declare independence because that was key to the Gospel being restored, but I do agree that yes, Jesus Christ and His message should be the focus of every sacrament meeting.

Lori Ann said...

You are right, Stephanie:)

From now I plan to stick soley to making fun of other ward members and last months enrichment activity!!

But seriously, you have inspired me to write a blog about what I think consitutes a great testimony (I have a rating system..carefully developed over about 1000 testimony meetings!)

AzĂșcar said...

Know what I didn't like last sunday? The testimony of Glenn Beck and the Stadium of Fire.

Because REALLY? REALLY?

Lena said...

I have a problem with testimonies that start with "I am so thankful for..." Cause that is not a testimony, it is a thankful-mony. Tell us what you believe, then why you are thankful for it.

ryverfive said...

This was a great post. Like many of the other comments here I'm an American living in Guatemala and while appreciative of our country and the liberties we enjoy I don't think it's appropriate to have a testimony meeting focused on that. This past week our testimony meeting got off topic due to our Bishop sharing his testimony about Facebook (and yes he's a patriotic american too)! Do hymnals in other countries have their anthems in them? Something that would be appropriate I thought.

Sarah said...

I love 4th of July. Not because of the fireworks or because I think America is the best country in the world (though I do collect propaganda posters), but because I believe in celebrating great sacrifice that resulted in great success.

That being said, I believe there is a time and place for everything and Christ is supposed to be central to our testimonies as well as our church meetings--hence the church name. And though I enjoy pure testimonies, a testimony that dabbles in our all too common, American cockiness ranks higher on my list than long, embarrassing stories that sometimes tend to trail into false doctrine.

But hey, that's just my opinion.

p.s. Steph come stress sew with me.

Lauren Palmer said...

GAH! I so agree with you!!! Too bad we can't go back to the Catford ward in South London, where people bear testimony about the "molecules" and how "the Priesthood holds all of the molecules together." Too bad I can't send a voice-comment, so I could do the killer accent. Let's invite Jesus to sacrament meeting next week. Luckily, being in Boston (the capital of the state that just SUED the US government for not allowing gay marriage) we only had 1 testimony about loving America. From a visitor. What what!

cathy said...

Well, sure, there's a lot of crap that goes down during sacrament meeting, but I have mixed feelings how to respond. What is worse, actually committing a Mormon Culture Faux Pas or being among the number of those who criticize it? If we must share a church with those we deem as less sophisticated, whether culturally, politcally, or intellectually, must we also relish in our supposed superiority?
So, while snarking at our cultural idiosyncracies may be a favorite pasttime of mine, I find more and more that I'm happier when I simply give those the benefit of the doubt, and say what Pahoran did: "It mattereth not."
It's one thing to want to talk about Jesus, but quite another to actually be like Him.

Stephanie said...

sigh, i think it's possible to be both christlike and a critical thinker. and to question our subculture while remaining christ-like.

i don't think i'm better than my america-mony friend, i just think we see the world (and the purpose of sacrament meeting) differently.

and thats ok.

MrsM said...

Perhaps I'm the only non-Mormon who reads (or just the only one who is commenting) but I agree that Christianity is about Christ and church is not a flag waving mud flapping America parade. Not even during the 4th of July season.

God loves America. Sure. But God loves everywhere (and everyone) else too, equally and indiscriminately, so why not focus on Him rather than the random fact that you happened to be born in America?

Mom said...

I ask my husband the same thing...ALL the time...why aren't we just talking about JESUS?!?! Thanks. :) (http://grumpymormon.blogspot.com/)

L.Maughan said...

Interesting discussion! There were honestly too many comments to read, but I agreed with many.

I just want to add this thought:
If we all really really really appreciate Christ centered testimonies that are powerful and sincere....then lets all bear them! Then the fakeamonies won't have time to share theirs!!

It is so easy to complain about nuances of the Mormon culture ( I do) but (I hope) we have all been to really awesome meetings that are uplifting, motivating, and inspirational.

I live in Hawaii and ever meeting leaves me wanting to know my Savior better. I am working on a theory about Hawaiians...they are just special.

That said, now that we have these new perspectives on being American maybe we should all try to be BETTER Americans. (Or whatever country you live in). The world needs good people everywhere doing good. Not just talking about it.

Anyway, not calling anyone out...just writing what came to my mind.

Ace said...

I have no opinion about your approach to Mormonism. All I can say is that I have a nasty habit of lumping any religion into the kooky far right (have you seen the documentary "Jesus Camp"?). Your blog helps me keep my opinions of religion (and Mormonism) from being too injudicious.

It always surprises me how little I know about the LDS faith (or any faith for that matter). (e.g. what the heck is a sacrament meeting?) Regardless, I think I understand where you’re coming from. As an agnostic, I get frustrated on a continuous basis about loving this country... and a seemingly relentless insistence that I worship a god to do so (e.g. "In god we trust" and "One nation under god"). But screw it, whether patriotism seeps into your Sacrament Meeting or god seeps into my patriotism; It's a pretty good country for letting us worry about the issue in either direction (OK, the best).

Plain Jame said...

Well, as usual I started out laughing and then as I read the comments I found myself agreeing, and then towards the end I starting thinking WOW there are alot of people that just dont enjoy fast and testimony meeting. Then I started feeling sorry for people that annoy other people just by getting up and sharing.. then I started feeling insecure wondering.. Have I ever DONE THAT??

Then I started thinking that I dont really like when things get heated and when people get upset, so I just want to share that I really really love cake.

Am I spineless or what..?

Lori Ann said...

Plain Jame,

You are not spineless. We all love cake.

I think I speak for us all when I say that I believe that you need to share your love of cake with others..and what better time and place than Fast and Testimony meeting?

I wish I could be there for the worlds first "cake-a mony" :)

Alison said...

Just found your blog...I have to say that on many levels I agree with you. Christ is the cornerstone of our religion and always where the focus needs to be.

But.

If you have really studied the history of our country in depth, it is hard not to see the hand of God in it's formation, specifically for the freedom of religious worship and preparation for the gospel to be restored.

That is not to say that the PEOPLE of our country are in any way superior or more loved by God than those in other places. However, we are undeniably blessed, and can use the blessing of being an American to help others in various countries. I am really and truly proud to be an American. I don't bash other countries or people from other countries, but I also don't have a problem with it if a testimony of the restoration of the gospel is also wound up with living in this free country. They are intwined, after all.

Nicole said...

So I already commented WAYYY up there, but I have something else to add.

I just got back from camping in the Great Smoky Mountains and drove through Cherokee, NC on the way home -- straight through the middle of the Cherokee Reservation. And I was just totally depressed by it. Why? Because I had to face the fact that our founding fathers (who apparently were totally righteous men of God) came here and systematically removed, relocated, and often exterminated the native people. Not too Christlike if you ask me.

Does that mean that the U.S. is not a great country? Of course not. But I find it hard to swallow all the "founding fathers were inspired by God" stuff while we ignore the atrocities they committed when they got here.

End rant.

MamaBear said...

LMBO! i was on vacay when you posted this so didn't get here until now. (and i'm your other non/no-mo-mo reader.)

brings back memories, sho 'nuff! from my perspective, (especially Utah) mormons talk about freedom of religion, but don't really want to grant freedom to others who practice DIFFERENT religions. they are BAD.

(shut up, stu, you know i mean SOME Mo's.)

it wasn't the american testimonies or the intolerance that pushed me away. but they didn't exactly pull me close, either. and believe it or not, God has made it clear to me that i am where i belong now. (yes, non-mo's get prayers answered and know when God is communicating with them, gasp!)

ok, enough. it's essential to be able to laugh at ourselves and appreciate the humor in the situation. snarky is the new normal! good discussion, mostly; at least no name-calling (*coff* heathen *coff*).

love ya!

b. said...

These comments are awesome.

Especially the cake one.

Taralyn said...

Interesting topic and I tend to agree that, some LDS/Americans tend to assume that since North America is a blessed land. That they deserve or require superiourity over others.. That is so very far from that truth - Our Father in Heaven loves all his children from any lad the same...

We live in a very Blessed Land and should be greatful for that - we have freedoms many other countries don't have - That however does not make up Better People...

Lit Chick said...

I know I am about three years late with this, but you are so right! I have to say that I think this kind of thing only happens in Utah though. I moved to Utah from California almost two years ago and my first sacrament meeting up here happened to be on or around the Fourth of July. Sadly, it was also a fast and testimony meeting (I know that's hard to imagine what with the fourth day of a month ALWAYS falling in the first week of the month and all, but try to stay with me). I was appalled and aghast and, frankly, frightened of my new neighbors when a woman went up to the pulpit decked out in red, white and blue complete with various and sundry homemade looking patriotic accessories and proceeded to read her "testimony" of America's innate awesomeness from 3 x 5 cards. Yes. That really happened. She prepared and gave a talk that no one asked her to prepare/give and no one else in the congregation seemed fazed by it. The best part was that she went on for twenty full minutes and included all sorts of false factoids. FYI, America became a country when we defeated the British AND the French in, wait for it....the 1840's and she "personally had an uncle who was born in 1911 and was killed in action in the Civil War." Utah is just weird like that.