Say It Again, Sam
A man, who bore a grudge against my father because he took a hard line when it came to the Boy Scouts of America, bore an interesting testimony. He said that he'd received revelation that there was an evil man among us and named my dad (his first and last name) right there, over the pulpit.
My mom walked out, angry and unsure what to do (she now wishes she'd just laughed at it), but my dad thought it was humorous. The bishop stepped up, ended the testimony, and later forbade that man from bearing his testimony in our ward any more.
Then the meeting turned into sharing your testimony of why my father was NOT actually an evil man.
Even though there are occasionally these types of testimony-meetings-gone-awry, they are the exception and not the rule. What does qualify as "the rule" are a lot of people with good intentions who speak for 10 minutes and testify for 15 seconds of that OR people who use phrases that are so trite that they’ve lost all meaning or effect.
I know that much of testifying is for the testifier, and not those in the audience. What I don't understand is how can people can use the same phrase used again and again and again which can no longer retain it’s intended meaning? Some common phrases are just plain offensive and others come off as insincere. Here are a few that I take issue with:
- "If it wasn't for the church, I'd be a..." I know you can end this with a number of things (whore, alcoholic, flaming homosexual) because I've heard it in 95% of all youth testimony meetings I've ever attended. It does also crop up on the first Sunday of the month, though.
- "If I've ever offended anyone here, I didn't mean to and I ask for your forgiveness." I should probably mention that the man above, who called my dad evil, used to utter this phrase each and every fast Sunday. I always disliked this because it is insincere and will not actually result in anyone forgiving anyone else.
- "I want to tell [insert name] that I love them..." A testimony meeting is a time to speak of what you believe, not time to tell people that you love them. You can do that any old day. The same goes for turning your "testimony" into an "thank-a-mony" or any other permutation.
- Any singing at all during a testimony. There is a time and a place for singing... and this isn't it. I honestly believe that anyone who sings while delivering a testimony is just after glory for themselves.
The thing is, there is a part of me that always hated Testimony Meeting. Maybe it's the part of me that makes all of the meetings I run as short as possible. Maybe it's the part of me that doesn't allow my students to lead me off task while I'm trying to teach them about non-linear functions. Maybe it's the part of me that just hates to have my time eaten away by something that doesn't apply to me.
Whatever it is, I think that testimony meetings should be reformed. I don't think they do what they are meant to, for the most part, and that the church as a whole could benefit from an overhaul of 23% of the Sundays in each year.