This morning for some reason I got sidetracked into reading the texts of over 40 hymns – in a hymnal of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. I guess I always wondered what their hymns were like. Although I have no idea what the tunes are like after just reading them, I guess I am just SO very thankful for the Christian hymn tradition that we have in our church. It is VERY plain to see just from the hymn texts that Mormons are very far from Christianity and everything it is all about. In reading through (pretty carefully) over 40 hymns there were only a couple mentions of sin, no mentions of the Holy Spirit, a few mentions of a general redemption (sometimes naming Jesus, but usually Jehovah), but NO mention of the cross or the forgiveness of sin – EXCEPT in the case of three Christian hymns that were included. Many of the hymns were focused on heaven and the hereafter. Joseph Smith was also the subject of quite a few hymns. I noticed also that there were very few biblical allusions or references. Perhaps there were allusions and references – but only to the Book of Mormon? And can I say it? They just did NOT seem very inspired or beautiful! Maybe I am just so biased by the hymns I have loved for so long, but I am GLAD, all the same, that I am a Christian and have SUCH a rich tradition of beautiful hymns!
I was recently talking with a congregational member who I had encouraged to come to Bible Study after church. She was explaining to me that she listens and watches to two Bible study programs on the radio and TV before coming to church and so she thought that was quite enough Bible Study for the day.
I would hardly argue with the idea that listening to Bible teachers is a bad thing (depending, of course, on the teacher), but is listening or watching the same as a group Bible Study (or good substitute)?
These are important elements of the group bible study that you can’t get with the radio or TV or internet:
1) Recognize the “Body of Christ” as you spend time with other Christians and share the fellowship of Christ. You cannot enter into that “Holy Communion” without actually being together and supporting each other.
2) Growing in love toward one another. You can’t grow in love for others unless you know them and their lives.
3) Growing in knowledge and wisdom. The problems with “lectures” is that it is one way communication… and although it is often quite good, your mind easily wanders and if a question comes up, you have no opportunity to address it. In group Bible Study one of the most important things that we get to do is address the questions that are really bothering us!
4) Learning to articulate your faith. One of the most obvious problems in our faith community today is that no one really ever TALKS about their faith. As we might know, we often learn information by hearing it, but we really don’t “know” it until we can speak it and live it! The actual looking up the Bible verses, reading it out loud, and conversing about it is so very important for us!
I have to say that personally, I have grown more spiritually in group Bible study than any other way. I have been in several absolutely fabulous groups and I really feel badly for those who have never known it before. Of course there ARE dangers with group Bible studies… It can get especially crummy when certain people dominate the conversation or when it becomes gossipy and “cliquey”. We have to guard against these things, but they should never discourage us from seeking out good group Bible Studies.
It is important to take the time for group Bible Study! I know it might be “hard” for some personalities, but the rewards are worth whatever “suffering” it might entail!