Shortly after Roland was called to the bishopric, he was asked to summarize a talk that had been given about the conformity of testimonies and submit it to the monthly newsletter – which actually didn’t exist before this particular bishopric.
Now there are a few people in the ward who tend to drone on and on until the gratitude that is felt in their hearts turns into penetrating boredom on the part of the audience. Every ward has them. They start off by expressing what it is that brought them to the podium – and then they take us on a stroll down memory lane, or into their health, or into their entire week. Gradually the testimony gets lost in their words. And all eyes turn to the clock and you can almost hear a chorus of silent groans.
Sometimes there is a dead silence and often times the droner just feels it’s his (or her) duty to fill the silence while the audience wonders which is worse: the silence or the droning on and on.
Today it was announced in each first meeting (primary, Relief Society and Priesthood) that if one spends more than three minutes at the pulpit than it is no longer testimony. And we are reintroduced to five subjects that should be topic of one’s testimony.
I get it to a certain degree – the timing thing. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to register with the ones who are guilty of running off the mouth. And though I do have a testimony of the five given subjects, I don’t always feel inspired to share – especially because it now seems so conforming. I like to hear individual experiences and a brief history of the belief – but not by just one individual for the whole entire meeting.
Sweet Jeff got up to bear his testimony. He’d written it down so that he wouldn’t stumble. And yet he did. He is a member of the special Olympics. They treat him like he matters, but not all people do.
Our ward mission leader quickly followed him up to the stand, and stood by his side. The words he used were non-conforming and perhaps out of line with what a true testimony is – but it was real. It was genuine. And as he teared up with his plea for prayer support, the ward mission leader stepped closer to the mike and finished reading what Jeff had written.
Before Corey had even decided to go on a mission, my dad had had a series of strokes. His brain wasn’t able to communicate to his muscles quickly enough to have them do what and when he wanted.
He had a one or two minute talk, but it had taken him an entire minute just to get out the first sentence. Corey lovingly put his arms around dad and asked him if he (my dad) would like Corey to finish reading it. That moment between Jeff and our ward mission leader triggered those memories. I started bawling. But it was actually a good memory – for there had been so much gratitude on my dad’s part – it shined as he told Corey “thank you.” And I wasn’t the only one crying. Those who didn’t cry (if any) were definitely in the minority.
Shortly after Jeff sat down, a couple came to the stand. Roland and I often refer to them as Frank and Marie Barone –though he is certainly way more humble than Frank could even dream of. It’s just the constant bickering they seem to do with one another. They genuinely do love one another. And perhaps their arguments are just playful on their part (well at least on his) it still doesn’t seem in harmony with a happy marriage.
He got it. His testimony was short, sweet, covered at least three of the subjects. He was very humble. His testimony was genuine. It was nice.
His wife didn’t drone on as much as usual – but she did drone. Time to sit down, Marie. Oh, I would not want the bishop’s job for anything.
I enjoy watching the second counselor. His expressions often mirror my own thoughts. He looked like he was trying to keep from laughing while the bishop painfully checked the clock. She finally sat down without his inviting her to do so.
Overall, it really was a nice meeting. Not a lot of conformity. I must say I liked that as well. I realize that I do not go to meetings to be entertained. But the heart gives me more focus than guidelines do – though I really do understand their purpose. I just think it’s sad that so many of us have to be asked to conform because there are individuals that just don’t get it – even with the guidelines.