The progressive Mormon’s survival guide to this Sunday’s testimony meeting: A drinking game!

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What's behind Testimony #1?

What’s behind Testimony #1?

The first Sunday of the month is right around the corner. And Mormon testimony meetings are always a bit . . . shall we say, unpredictable?

Normally, that’s why it’s my favorite kind of sacrament meeting. It’s Mormonism unplugged. Testimony meeting is where I find out what’s on the minds of my brothers and sisters in the ward — the things they’re thankful for, the hard times they’re getting through.

But I dread this coming Sunday, because one thing I don’t want to hear from my brothers and sisters at church is how they feel about politics.*

Judging from the comments I’ve been seeing for days now all over Facebook and the Bloggernacle, I’m not the only progressive Mormon who is approaching this Sunday’s meetings with anxiety. Feelings are running high, with some Mormons like me being exceptionally pleased about marriage equality in all fifty states and other Mormons — many, many more, from the sound of things — viewing this as the downfall of the world as we know it.

Cats and dogs MATING IN THE STREETS. Etc.

My general sense of spiritual safety is always a bit tenuous in sacrament meeting, but far more so this week. I learned today that local LDS leaders have been instructed to read aloud this letter from the First Presidency on Sunday. (Note that this is not apparently intended to be read aloud in sacrament meeting, where small children will be present, but will be shared with all adults and youth.)

It’s not that the letter says anything really new regarding the Church’s position. It doesn’t. What bothers me is that the Church felt the need to reiterate that position as part of our Sunday worship. This sets the tone for people to get up in sacrament meeting, potentially one right after the other, to fret about the wickedness of the age, how “the demise of the family” is bringing about the end of the world, and how strong members of the Church only need to follow the prophet and stop listening to worldly messages about crazy things like equality under the law.

I am going to survive by playing a Mormon-approved drinking game.

Cheerios against a white background.

Cheerios against a white background.

Fellow progressive Mormons, here is how to do it. Bring your very own sippy cup with some kind of juice or other non-wino beverage inside. This is not for the kids, mind you; this is your sippy cup. While you’re at it, bring your own Ziploc of Cheerios and perhaps a stuffed animal or PillowPet. You have permission not to share any of these items, just this once. You deserve some self-care.

Now, the keywords you’re looking for as your cues to drink and eat are going to be subtle sometimes. Don’t get so high on your Cheerio dust that you miss them. No one is likely to say aloud the word “sex,” for example. The words and phrases you’re looking for include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Traditional / nuclear family
  • Proclamation on the Family
  • Supreme Court decision
  • God’s law of marriage
  • downfall of the family / demise of the family
  • children need a father and a mother, not two fathers or two mothers
  • marriage is between a man and a woman

Every time you hear one of these, take a lusty drink and a handful of Cheerios! (You can also make up your own keywords based on how the meeting goes in your ward. The game gives you good principles, but lets you govern yourselves.)

Bonus point opportunity: For this last phrase, you get to drink and eat one extra time for every polygamous Mormon ancestor you have in your family’s history. So if someone bears a testimony of gratitude for the Lord’s one true way of marriage, which is “marriage between one man and one woman,” take six extra swigs and six extra fistfuls of Cheerios if you have faithful Mormon ancestors who practiced a different kind of marriage.

And actually, take an extra swig if you are a single parent. Or a child of divorced parents. Or you’ve never been married at all. Or you’re married but don’t or can’t have children. Or you’ve ever been part of a family that does not fit into the Mormon ideal.

If you’re brave and have the energy, you could change the tenor of the meeting by going up and bearing your testimony about one of the million and one other things besides politics that are appropriate to talk about at church. Like, I don’t know, Jesus.

But if you have been so beaten down on your Facebook feed these last few days that you can’t muster up the energy to take that kind of proactive approach, just roll out your PillowPet and go down for a nap. This could be a long meeting.

 

* And no, in answer to the question I feel forming, I don’t share my own political views at church. It’s not the place or the time. That’s why I have a blog.

** Update 7/1/2015: Thank you to the commenter who pointed out the main problem with this game: if it’s Fast Sunday, juice and Cheerios are verboten. Here’s an updated post with a different game for anyone who is fasting: “Testimony Meeting Bingo: Marriage Equality Edition.” Free downloadable bingo card included.

  • Yeah, this is quite a divisive issue. The moderators from the “Million Mormons on Facebook” page are banning and blocking folks who share contrary beliefs and statements. Classy. I was fairly excited that I had to miss last Sunday due to work and will likely miss this Sunday due to a new addition to the family.

    I do like this game, though. I just wouldn’t be sneaky. I’d bring a 2 liter of Coke or something and just take a swig every so often.

  • Dan the Mormon

    Us conservative Mormons would rather that you be there than not, so do whatever you need to to cope.

    Another game I would suggest is actually counting how many times people testify of the reality of Christ, the atonement, or forgiveness and then comparing it to the list of terms you listed in the article. It might be close this week, but my guess is that Christ, the atonement, and forgiveness will be mentioned much more frequently if you are listening.

  • John, I affirm your out-in-the-open Coca-Cola consumption.

    If nothing else, it will give people something else to focus on criticizing and judging besides same-sex marriage.

  • Diane Benson

    I’ve actually tried punting how many times Christ was talked about in testimony meeting. It was pretty heartbreaking.

  • Dan the Mormon

    It may depend on your ward. I know that when I lived in Philadelphia, Christ was definitely the major topic of every testimony meeting. Now that I live in Utah, people will talk more about their families, service, etc. But even now I am sure that my ward is mentioning Christ much more frequently than mentions of same-sex marriage. The term “family” might get mentioned more often, but even then I suspect Christ would win if I were actually counting.

    We’ll see what this upcoming Sunday will be like. I will be attending a Spanish language ward because of a baby blessing. My suspicion is that, as usual, most of the testimonies will not be political at all and will be focused on themes central to the gospel.

  • I dunno Dan, I have been to a lot of open mic Sundays where there is a lot of gratitude for following the prophets and Family Search and nary a mention of Jesus or the Atonement. I think we all have reason to be nervous this coming Sunday with people bearing testimony that their marriage is superior to all others, you know the counterfeit gay ones, the single and divorced people, those not sealed, etc. Sometimes in our church we use that Proclamation as a weapon that fits only narrow middle class white Euro-centric 1950s idea of what “ideal” families look like and how they effectively raise their children. The “eternal gender role” as prescribed by that document affirms the identity and family structure of very very precious few families in the world. We can do better, I think.

  • I think I am going to get lucky this time. Last week the ward I was in split and I’m in the newly created branch. I am expecting most of the testimonies to be about the opportunities that will come being in the new branch.

  • Hugh Stocks

    Of course, playing this game will give TBM/Pharisee members something else to talk about: you’re clearly not fasting on Fast Sunday.

    Oh, well.

  • Debbie

    I was really nervous when I saw that last week’s relief society lesson was on one of the Why Marriage talks from conference, and I nearly chickened out and left early. But there were only a few cringe-worthy comments and most of the lesson was good. Giving me faith and hope for testimony meeting.

  • Aaaaaugh. Somehow in all the sturm und drang I forgot the “fasting” part of the Fast Sunday equation. How could I forget that?

  • Bitherwack

    I’m sorry to report that the atonement has not made an appearance in our ward in recent memory…

  • Robert Versluis

    Thank you for being so “thoughtful” on your posts. Being Gay, LDS and married to a Man (23 years together, 7 years married) has certainly been a roller coaster these last few days. In one sense I have been overwhelmed by love and support from many of my family and friends. On the other hand, I am confused by the need that some of my former Facebook family and friends have had to make sure people (ME) “understand” that they don’t support me and that I am destined for hell (and specifically they refuse to recognize my marriage no matter what). I understand LDS doctrine I also understand that this exact rhetoric was used in the late 60’s to indicate the official stance of the Church on African American people and interracial marriages. While I understand they are different issues, I am still blown away by the similarities. I am hopeful you post this link: https://medium.com/@ungewissen/missing-church-in-july-928e90931ee1
    Thank you for being Christlike. I am riveted by your…

  • Amy

    I say you use skittles. Taste the rainbow!

  • I loved this. Thank you.

    One of the many good things about living in a gay-friendly neighborhood in downtown Salt Lake City is that I can totally guarantee there won’t be a lot of political posturing over the pulpit in my ward on Sunday.

  • Joella

    Im sorry for uou that you cant follie then prophet.i would like the old days ehm membership listen ti the prophet

  • Joel

    As people vent about the Supreme Court opinion, I just hope they will refrain from overreacting in their rhetoric. If they go on about how the country is going to hell in a hand basket because of homosexuality in general, they will frustrate the Church’s recent (and I believe sincere) outreach efforts.
    I’m thinking of a few struggling parents with LGBT children in our congregation. Hopefully, they won’t be too discouraged by well-intentioned bulls in the china shop.

  • LDSMan

    They can block who ever they want

  • You are funny, I love you, and I hope and pray there are more people like you (and me) sitting in those pews, thinking the things you (and I) are thinking.

  • Chad

    You can always be the one to stand up and discuss your testimony of the atonement. If it is so bothersome, than stand up and speak.

  • Rachel Wayment

    I love reading the Proclamation. It gives me great joy that at least some families are “traditional”, where the father’s have the primary responsibility of providing for the family.
    I am extremely grateful that my (wheelchair dependant) husband is a great housekeeper as I am a slob.
    You see, I work, he works, our family works!

  • Stacey

    This is perfect! I live in an ultra conservative ward so I will probably need 2-3 sippy cups and a box of Cheerios to get through the entire meeting. Really, thank you for the laugh! I needed that today

  • M

    Great idea. We should always focus on things that foster our negative feelings towards others and criticize our ward members’ testimony. That’s the best approach to developing charity. Thanks for the sound advice I’ll make sure I’m doubly sarcastic and cynical this Fast Sunday.

  • If the drinking game doesn’t do it for you, fly across the border to Canads where same sex marriage has been legalized a long time ago. I promise you won’t hear politics from the pulpit. Crazy, I can’t promise.

  • LDSMan

    Jana,

    Finally you acknowledge that you are a progressive/liberal Mormon after all this time. At least we know where you are coming from.

  • Susan

    Sounds rough! Best of luck. I left in 2008. I couldn’t sit through another anti-gay rally at church.

  • David

    I think I’ll point out that we can follow the prophet by advocating for rights of same‐sex couples in matters of hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment, and probate.

  • Keith

    Still very classy. VERY classy and open minded.

  • Keith

    Oh how I ached for such an acknowledgment. Now if LDSMan would just admit there is a reason that everyone is always asking him if he is gay or ever was gay, my life will be compete.

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  • Fred M

    You already did and it’s not even Sunday yet!

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  • I totally love this and just used the idea in a follow-up post on “Testimony Meeting Bingo: Marriage Equality Edition.” Thank you for the rainbow Skittles connection, Amy!

  • How many bonus points do I get if I am the second sealed polygamous wife? That’s got to count for extra.

  • Mommyreye

    First of all…what is a “progressive Mormon”?! You either ARE a Mormon, or you are not. Conservative and progressive? In my opinion it’s just a gauge on how far you have come spiritually and how far you have to go still – respectively. Can fast and testimony be rough sometimes? Yes. I concede the issue. However, your contempt for it only shows that you have not yet realized that everyone is at a different level and that none of those levels = good or bad. They just are. As long as your moving forward, doesn’t matter where you start.

    Oh, and just a reminder, testimony meeting is on FAST Sunday – you play this game and everyone will think your pregnant! Lol

    …(chuckle)…Progressive Mormon…SMH!

  • Elizabeth

    You know if more of us go to church with the spirit of Christ within us and to learn of Him, we won’t be so focused on the “game”. Much to the surprise of a lot of you, the subject of the testimony meeting was on family, faith, the gospel of Christ and the church, in “my Ward”. If we are living the gospel and doing as we should we don’t need this other, pardon me if you will, “crap” in this blog and other areas.

    Just concentrate on living the gospel and your own testimony. You are only responsible for your testimony, no one else’s. And if you are doing what you should be, then the rest will fall into place. Set an example, maybe someone will notice the positive side of you instead of the negative things of other people. “Just Do It”. Isn’t that what President Kimball said? “Just Do It”

    If this is your gospel preference, practice it with all of your heart. Live it! We don’t need someone’s negativity and poking fun at it. We just nee to LIVE…

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  • Oswaldo

    Can you please tell me again how you guys consider and have the guts of calling yourselves LDS?
    Since this article is about giving advice, I have a simple one: You guys are folloeing your own “church”. You are making your own doctrine. Why not creating your own church? You are already having a different church in your hearts. Put your action where your heart is and make your own. I even have a, suggestion for a name that will include all your “tolerant” and “progressive” point of view: The Same-gender Married Church of LDS. There! For sacrament you should use whole-wheat-organic-cheerios and Kool-aid.

  • Seth Weiler

    I feel that this activity would be quite distracting and inconsiderate to those around you and perhaps even a bit more irreverent. The gospel is all about forgetting ourselves and striving to be more like Christ, isn’t it? If you’re afraid of feeling uncomfortable in Sacrament meeting on Sunday, then turn to the Savior. Don’t turn to practices that distract you and others from Him. I guarantee you will have a much uplifting and fulfilling experience if you do! 🙂

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  • Stacey

    Wow! Sometimes humor is ok. It’s not like anyone is actually going to do this but for some of us crazy Mormon’s that believe that this is a legal right and not a religious choice, we can laugh a bit. The world is not going to end, God is not going to smite us. We’ve been beaten over and over for our views. It’s ok to laugh once in a while, you should try it. No one’s trying to start a new church, we love this one. Because we see this differently doesn’t mean we’re apostates. I am perfectly comfortable and happy to be a proud LDS wife and mother and support my son who happens to be gay. I have zero issues with that. Perhaps we could all open our hearts more because I promise that love is a much better feeling then hate.

  • LDSMan

    I was totally wrong about this whole thing. I should stop criticizing and be a little bit more sensitive to the needs of others. It is a very divisive issue. The next battle is whether the churches and businesses will be able to maintain its tax exempt status.

  • Jeanne

    Reading the letter last Sunday was unnecessary, and the GAs who know law, e.g, Dallin Oaks, understand for certain, for sure, for absolutely so that no church is going to HAVE TO marry a couple is does not want to. Check out we Mormons wanting to get married by a Catholic priest. Good luck with that. And it will not help to cry “discrimination” because no church has to marry people that it does not want to. Let’s render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, the secular law, and unto God what is God’s. And let’s not confuse the two.

  • Kathie Miller

    As a Lutheran, searching to learn more about the Mormon church and faith, I am sad to see that just as the Supreme Court decision has driven a wedge in secular America and in other Christian churches, the same is happening in the LDS church. I grew up in the days that interracial marriage and relationship was considered a moral sin and heard many sermons preached on that subject. Scripture was used to justify that tenet. Clearly Scripture does condemn homosexuality and yet those same verses include, liars, gossips, thievery, greed and general ‘unclean’ living. Not one Mormon or any other Christian has not committed and continues to commit much of the sins on the list, however since less than the majority are homosexual, that is the ‘sin’ the rest of us point to as the damnation of the world. Abortion, greed, lying, hate and coveting are what are bringing down the world. The Lord said to, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and Love thy neighbor.”

  • Peter&Paul

    Really ? unecessary ? I loved how our bishop did it… Not only did he read the letter, but asked us how we felt about it. He wanted all the youth and adults in the same room, but we just couldn’t all fit, so the youth and one counselor had one discussion and they adults another. It was great dialogue. I was with the youth, my wife with the adults. There were a lot of comments on both sides of the discussion. Isn’t that what we all want ? I know that there are some bishops and leaders that are closed to open dialogue and just read the letter and said.. ok, let’s move on but those like our bishop allowed for dialogue and discussion. I felt it was very good all around.
    Go get married by a Catholic Priest… great.. enjoy! it can be done, you would not be the first. You can always get sealed later. In fact in some countries it HAS to be done that way.

    And when secular law and God’s law come into conflict? then what ? Escape the Church of England and land in America ?…

  • Peter&Paul

    Ah the irony… condemnation of the condemners. If only the self righteous would just repent and stop judging others!

  • Peter&Paul

    Every single testimony I have every heard save 1 or 2 have always mentioned Christ as they all end in His name. But seriously… would you be happy to be a meeting where every speaker said essentially the same thing ? Talk about a snooze fest. I love the atonement and speak more about it than any other topic (though I typically use the word grace). But I am glad some people talk about the power of prayer and others about the influence of the scriptures in their lives. About the need for repentance, the power of the priesthood to heal/bless, the faith that there is life after death. It takes courage to walk up that path and say, “I Believe” and many don’t really know how to say what is in their heart.

    For me, the only thing I dread is the occasional 2-3 minutes of silence when no one seems to want to say anything.

  • This was quite an interesting read.