Author's Note: This is the first in a three-part series. Please be sure to read all three!
Christian, over at See Life Differently, messaged me the other day... he wanted to know what mormon piety looked like — how does a good mormon's faith make itself apparent in their daily affairs? He thought it might make a good post, and I agree with him.
Hopefully I won't fumble the ball.
This is mostly my view of things, so folks should feel free to chime-in if they have comments. Anyway, here goes:
Kyle is a young, single, Mormon man... He wakes early in the morning and kneels down at his bedside and says his morning prayers... they're not matins, really, as only a handful of prayers in the Mormon lexicon are rote... they're more like father-son chats. They may be out-loud, or be just an internal dialog. He works hard at getting the prayers "past his ceiling", by being earnest, and by leaving plenty of time to just listen. He may use "thee, thy, thou" or he may use a patois of "you" and "your", and the archaic stuff... but the "thee, thy, thou" is pretty in-grained, and not easily dismissed.
He tries to get in 30 minutes or so each day with the scriptures — the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price — but mostly he just reads from the Book of Mormon. He tries to do this in the morning, because he gets more out of it. But barring reading in the morning, he may listen to it on CD or MP3 during his commute to work. If all else fails (and this is a lot more frequent than he'd care to admit), he gets it in just before bed.
During his commute, he may turn off the radio, and just think over his day and seek inspiration for some big decisions that lay ahead. He's heard it since he was young: always keep a prayer in your heart, and this is how he does it. It's an important part of his personal relationship with his Heavenly Father, and a source of great strength for him.
He lives in a town with a temple (there are only some 120 in the world), so a couple of times a month, he takes a couple hours and attends a service. It's a wonderful place for him... a place of work, of worship, of fellowship, and of communing with his Heavenly Father. It's also a great strength for him. Most of the time he goes alone... but every few months he'll go with a group from his ward or a friend. He doesn't talk about the temple, really, outside of the temple... so these group temple sessions can be a wonderful time to "compare notes". If he didn't live in a town with a temple, he'd probably go a couple times a year... and probably with a large group from his ward. In fact, when he was a teenager, and lived several hours from the nearest temple, the biggest event of the summer was when all the ward's youth did an overnight trip to go to the temple.
Some time during the week he'll do his reading for Sunday School and Priesthood meeting lessons. He has a calling in his ward (translation for non-Mormons: he has a responsibility in his congregation), so he spends two or three hours each week doing that. And on Wednesday nights, he gets together with the singles in his ward for a little socializing or service project.
Worship services on Sunday start at 10 am... there are three wards that share the church building (8am, his at 10am, and one at noon). Because there is no payed clergy, the church is run by volunteers... so wards are geographical units that comprise some 300 members — enough people to do all the work that it takes for a congregation to run smoothly. Each ward then meets at a specific time in a specific building.
Anyway, worship services start at 10 am. They start with an hour-long meeting called "Sacrament Meeting", which is when sacrament (translated: communion or Eucharist or the Lord's supper) is celebrated, followed by a couple speakers chosen from the congregation. A couple weeks back, the bishop (read: pastor) asked him to speak this Sunday, so he has spent a couple hours preparing a 15 minute talk. After the sacrament is done, there's a youth speaker (a twelve year old boy speaking for 3 minutes on how he wants to get married in the temple) and then it's his turn to speak. He's talking on the Beatitudes. There's one more speaker after him, and then he heads to the second meeting of the three-hour service. This second meeting is adult Sunday School. An hour later he attends the last meeting, Priesthood, which is a lot like Sunday School... but it's gender-specific.
After church, he gives a ride home to one of the widows in his ward, and then heads home. Growing up, his family was pretty strict, so he kept his church clothes on all of Sunday... but now that he's on his own, he's loosened up a little, and changes into casual clothes when he gets home. He fixes lunch, says a short prayer — which he does over each of his meals... and often over desert — to bless his meal, then eats.
Like most of the active men in his congregation, he and a partner are asked to watch over a couple families in the ward... and to visit them once a month, and make sure that their needs are being met. It's called "Home Teaching", and it's a central part of the church's understanding of its own purpose. He calls one of the families he home teaches, and sets up an appointment for the following week to visit their home. The mother of the family has been ill, and he asks how she's been doing... and whether she'd like a priesthood blessing (most active men in the Church have the priesthood... it's a lay priesthood, but it's essential to the working of the church... as a holder of that priesthood, Kyle will sometimes be called upon to administer to the sick). He calls around to the other three families that he watches over, and then calls his home teacher, Jeff, to schedule a time when he and his partner can come visit. Jeff is struggling with church activity, so Kyle does his best to take what can be a pretty weighty responsibility as light as possible for Jeff.
After making a few more calls, he takes an hour nap (it's practically a commandment! :) ). He's having dinner with some married friends of his in the ward a little later, and then that evening he'll attend a fireside (I have no idea how to translate that... it's basically a spiritually themed talk given in a casual setting, followed by refreshments and socializing) with a girl he's been dating from his stake (similar to a diocese... 10 or so wards are grouped together into a stake... stakes are grouped into regions... we're very fond of order in the church). After the fireside, they go for a drive... they've been dating a while and have started talking about marriage. He then drives her home, kisses her goodnight, and heads back to his place.
He winds down by reading his scriptures — which he didn't get to in the morning — then writes in his journal. Soon, he changes into his PJ bottoms, kneels for prayer... then rolls into bed.
Next up: Mormon Rhythms: Part II of II... Our Liturgical Year.