What I think about when I don’t want to go to Church meetings

I’m sure that every reader of this blog has experienced days — perhaps even months or years — when it is really difficult to get motivated to go to Church or specific church meetings.

Let me make this clear: I got baptized in my 30s and still have some of the fire of a recent convert, but I occasionally feel negative thoughts about a church meeting.

You are not alone if you feel this way. And you probably have some very good reasons for some of those negative thoughts.

Does this sound familiar?

Sacrament meeting: your kids will not sit still, and they fight with each other, and they run down the aisle, and they are noisy, and you, the parent, get absolutely nothing out of the meeting because you spend the whole time chasing them down or trying to keep them under control. Or if you don’t have young kids, how about the Sacrament Talk of Doom that is poorly organized, includes doctrine that is not correct or is horribly boring?

Your calling: you have been called yet again to (fill in blank here) calling that you really don’t like. The people you teach are not inspired and sit silently for an hour while you desperately try to get them to participate.

Priesthood: Once again, Brother Know It All is teaching, and he is spouting his crazy ideas. You look at your watch about 20 times during the lesson.

Relief Society: Once again, Sister Molly Mormon is teaching, and she is making you feel bad about yourself because you don’t do all of the activities she does.

The point here, ladies and gents, is that we all have felt these things at one time or another. There is nothing wrong with you if you have had these thoughts.

I have found that when these negative thoughts come into my mind I can drown them out with positive thoughts. Here are a few suggestions:

1)Church is not about my entertainment and my short-term pleasure. If it were, it would be different and certainly more worldly. But whenever I am having a negative thought about something, I tell myself: “Geoff B, Church meetings do not exist to entertain you or give you worldly pleasures.” That immediately changes my mindset.

2)”Geoff B, stop thinking about yourself, you selfish dolt. Think about other people. How can you help another person? Can you listen attentively to the poor soul who is nervously trying to give that boring talk in Sacrament? Can you ask a good, thoughtful question in Priesthood or Gospel Doctrine to help the conversation along? (I bet the teacher will appreciate it). Is there a visitor sitting in the back who feels lonely? Can you go talk to an older Sister or Brother who lives alone?”

3)Think about the Savior. Especially during Sacrament. I try to imagine Him on the Cross and think about how much I owe Him. He truly is a great Savior. I think about my goal, which is to have Him say “well done, good and faithful servant” when he sees me again.

4)I am not as smart as I think I am. Every time a lesson is taught poorly I find myself mentally criticizing the teacher. Sheesh, when will I stop only thinking about myself? Have I given any thought to the 15 hours that teacher spent this week preparing for the lesson? Have I thought about the fact that while public speaking comes easy to me, it is very difficult for other people, and perhaps I should give them a break when they do a poor job teaching a lesson?

5)Can I have a good influence on the people I am teaching? If I am teaching teenagers, can I show them that there is another adult besides their parents who has a testimony? Can I be a role model in any way?

6)Priesthood can be difficult for me because it starts at 11:15 a.m. right when I am beginning to think about my Sunday afternoon nap. There are times when I literally cannot keep my eyes open, regardless of the quality of the lesson. But I try. I really do. I find that if I participate in the class I am less likely to nod off to sleep. So I participate.

7)I try to find one volunteer activity a month, either working at the food kitchen, or helping a Scout with his Eagle project, or helping at Girls’ Camp, or helping somebody move. So I go into Priesthood thinking about how I can fit these things into my schedule.

8)Sometimes, if you are quiet and thoughtful, you really can learn something new. Somebody will say something in a way you never considered, or a scripture will really hit home for you. So, I try to be quiet and thoughtful.

These are just some of the things I try to think about. Perhaps you have other suggestions of ways to keep positive during church meetings that might not be the greatest in the world. Feel free to share.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

19 thoughts on “What I think about when I don’t want to go to Church meetings

  1. What helps me: Jet Alert caffeine tablets, 200mg, bottle of 90, under $4.00 at Dollar General and Walmart.

  2. It helps to remember that even when a lesson or talk isn’t entirely gripping, it may be exactly what someone else really needs. I have seen multiple times that at the ending of a lesson that I did not enjoy, a brother or sister will tell the instructor that they really needed to hear something specific in the lesson. On each such occasion, I found myself wondering whether I could have missed something myself.

  3. Thank you Geoff. That same attitude works for daily life too. I certainly needed to hear this today, as I am Kind of having a pity party today. Life ihas it’s way of bringing me down. We do need to look at the good around us, give others a brake and be thankful for the blessings we have. Thank you again, we humans do tend to be self centered.

  4. I find that if I pray for the speaker, it takes away my pride and fills me with charity. Developing charity is the key to both giving and receiving grace. And deep prayer helps me to stay awake. Sometimes.

  5. Geoff: it’s cheaper than Diet Coke or an energy drink. And I can pop 1/4 or 1/2 tablet in the chapel, without having to run out to my car to drink the Diet Coke. It’s also easier on the ol’ stomach than an acidic soft drink.

    One of the unpleasant facts of life is this: the faults we see in others, those faults of theirs that really bother us, are faults we have ourselves. You illustrated this when you wrote above:

    “Your calling: you have been called yet again to (fill in blank here) calling that you really don’t like. The people you teach are not inspired and sit silently for an hour while you desperately try to get them to participate.

    Priesthood: Once again, Brother Know It All is teaching, and he is spouting his crazy ideas. You look at your watch about 20 times during the lesson.”

    You’re the very kind of student in PH that you complain about in the class that you teach. 😉

    It’s not that we notice a fault in someone that means we have it, it’s when that fault we see in them really gets our goat, and bothers us, or offends us. And I’ve learned that it is almost universal, kind of a variation on “takes one to know one”. I think Paul meant that in Romans 2:1. Or at least it’s similar.

    If I can see someone’s shortcoming and think “awww, that poor guy” that means one thing. But if I see someone’s shortcoming and think “How dare he?!” that almost always means I have the same flaw.

  6. Book, I am not understanding your comment at all. Are you implying that I was criticizing you about your caffeine pills? That is definitely not what was going on. I just thought it was a funny comment, meaning “funny, ha ha,” and it made me smile.

    If there is something else going on with your comment, I am not getting it.

  7. We provide the entertainment for the ward most Sundays … so everyone can feel better about themselves. You’re welcome!

  8. Good ideas. In the end, for me, I go because I need to go. I’ll learn something (if only how to make it through).
    I need the sacrament, and I need the fellowship (even if sometimes it “hurts”).

  9. I remember one Sunday in particular when we were late to church. Again. All of the children were fussy and we were the entertainment for the rest of the ward as Joyce commented on. As I looked over my unruly and fidgeting flock I just “knew” none of what was happening in the meeting was registering with them. And so I asked a silent prayer, “Is this really where we should be? Even when they’re like this?”

    I’ve never had an answer come so fast. The fiery burning in my heart gave me a resounding “YES.” So, with fussy, noisy kids and a habitual propensity for being late, we’ve always come. Just my $0.02

  10. I have never really had a problem dealing with any of the above. This is partly because I am an introvert by nature and can easily withdraw into my own thoughts. Modern technology is also helpful as I use my tablet to read scripture or past Ensigns. To be honest, I probably need to pay more attention to even good presentations and lessons. As for the family situation with kids, can’t really come up with an idea other than find church related activities for them and be an example yourself.

  11. Good practical advice. Quite frankly, I don’t like going to any church meetings. (That may shock some of you). But, we really have to go for numerous reasons.

    I take comfort in the fact that C. S. Lewis didn’t like church meetings either.

  12. Geoff. I’m sorry. I did not mean to connect the two. And in hindsight my comment looks snarkier than intended. My apologies for that too. You’re one of my church heros, and I did not mean anything derrogatory.

    Subject 1) I have low blood sugar or some other thing going on. I really do take 2 to 2.5 caffeine pills every day. (400 to 500 mg caffeine). I used to drink 10 to 12 cans of Diet Coke every day. Then switched to two 2-liter bottles of it to save money. I forget exactly why I switched to pills from Diet Coke. Probably so I could take a “hit” at church without running to the car. I really did keep Diet Coke in a cooler in the car when at church on sundays.

    I then discovered after switching to pills that I didn’t need the Prilosec I was taking, and could also cut back on the antacid tablets. Makes sense, because carbonated drinks are acidic. CO2 (carbonation) turns into carbonic acid, H2CO3, in whatever water-based liquid it is carbonating.

    So…, seriously, I “need” caffeine to keep awake at church. I use quotes because I really need to address whatever the underlying problem is. But Jet Alert, at 12 cents/day, is cheaper than both prescription medication and Diet Coke.


    On to 2nd subject: you provide good rejoinders to the common reasons why people get bored at church, and common reasons why some people dont like going. All your rejoinders or answers are true and good. I wanted to point out a “meta” topic or principle that you touched on in the first half of your post, under the “negative thoughts” heading. That being… The frustration you felt as a teacher under the “your calling” heading is the flip side of the coin of what you felt as a class member under the “Priesthood” heading. This is a psychological phenomenon that is somehow tied to the gospel. Or, it’s some kind of eternal principle with an aspect in human psychology.

    Being aware of this phenomenon/principle is, or can be, a key component of being patient with, and charitable towards others. Awareness of this principle is, or can be, a key to self-awareness. Awareness of this principle then allows us to use other people as a mirror to see ourselves.

    I think it was the poet Robert Burns who said “oh what gift the giver give us, to see ourselves as others see us.” (Might not be exact.)

    Therefore, by measuring/analyzing our response to witnessing a shortcoming/flaw in others (IE, by asking ourself “Does that thing I see in him bother/offend/anger/aggravate me?”) we can thereby be made aware of our own shortcomings when they match those of that other person.

    In myself, remembering this principle (“when someone else’s flaw gets my goat, or aggravates/offends me, it means I have the same flaw”) reminds me that I’m arrogant and condescending whenever I’m offended by some other arrogant or condescending speaker. (And I’m not saying this is you. I’m using examples from my own life here.)

    It’s not just the arrogant who get my goat, it’s also those who exhibit severe low self-esteem. I am very uncomfortable around people who project extremely low self-esteem. And I have that too. I think I use arrogance to compensate or mask my underlying low sef-esteem. (Just like my father.)

    But it’s not just me. This principle holds true for everybody. I think it is a universal thing.

    It may not be obvious to many people, because many people do other simultaneous things, like put up facades, or overcompensate.

    It’s a slight variation of the saying “it takes one to know one”. That is not 100% correct. Under the principle I’m trying to describe, it’s only correct, well to a degree, when the observed trait of the other person _bothers_ you.

    It’s not immediately obvious in the Romans 2:1 verse, as I think there is a translation issue in that, and perhaps some idiomatic usage by Paul that didn’t come through. But upon pondering it, I think I see the connection Paul meant.


    Ok, so now the synthesis to the “church is boring” or “people at church are boring” subject. The resolution is not changing the people at church. The resolution is changing myself. (Which is essentially what your rejoinders in the OP do.) Because if this principle holds, then other people’s boring-ness will cease to cause me grief when I cure myself of my own boring-ness. Other people’s arrogance at church will cease to cause me grief when I cure myself of my arrogance.

    And I will probably have to rely on the Savior, the Atonement, and the Holy Ghost, and prayer, and scripture study, and service, etc., etc., to overcome all these flaws I have. And the more I work on my own flaws, the less likely that others’ flaws will cause me grief.

  13. OK Book. To be clear, the cases I mention at the beginning of the post are not necessarily thoughts I have had personally. I have no personal problems with Molly Mormon in Relief Society or Brother Know it All in Priesthood. And I can say that as a teacher people usually participate a lot in classes I teach, so that is not an issue either. I was just pointing out generic complaints I have heard from others.

  14. Good suggestions raised in the post. It is fairly rare for me not to want to attend a church meeting of any kind. Having served in various leadership positions, I know how hard I’ve tried to make the three hour block uplifting, leadership meetings helpful, etc. Therefore, I am very sympathetic to the efforts of leaders and teachers to uplift and inspire. When I don’t get much out of a particular talk or lesson, I shake it off and move on. It helps to remember my exposure to meetings is but a fraction of the amount of meetings general authorities attend. If they can do it, so can I. There is much we can do to sustain our leaders and teachers and sacrament speakers. Just a small “Thanks” or compliment will do wonders and propel many to prepare better or engage others just a little bit more. To those with young kids — been there, lived through it, and it does get easier. And then (hopefully) you’ll get another chance to do it all over again helping out with grandkids.

  15. Our ward has only age 65+ temple workers. The speakers are not boring, are well-prepared, but even so some members doze off.

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