Previously, we discussed how to handle a meeting that has gone to false doctrine when it relates to a classroom setting. In that instance it is not impolite to simply speak up and take control of the lesson in an indirect fashion. But what about those meetings that don’t offer such an opportunity, such as sacrament meeting?
Sacrament meetings pose a unique situation as compared to other meetings. Speakers vary from meeting to meeting and it is never obvious what content is going to be shared. Not only are the speakers constantly changing but once a month the mic is available for anyone to approach and abuse. You can’t simply raise your hand and expect to be called on. So what’s a leader to do when Brother Aliens-Visit-Me-On-Weekends stands up to share why we must gather our food storage to be loaded on the mother ship? There are options and they can turn the meeting around.
Anyone who has been to a handful of sacrament meetings could probably tell of a time when someone has said something a little odd but not necessarily out of line. From time to time this happens and it is obvious that no one in the audience is disturbed by it. This can simply be resolved by taking time after the meeting to quickly review with this person what is appropriate when speaking in sacrament meeting. Or, if it is innocent enough it may be something not to worry about. Other times you may have someone that is obviously altering the spirit of the meeting and something should be said.
For example, Sister Relief-Society-Pres-Offended-Me begins to approach the lectern during testimony meeting with an overripe look on her face. She begins to lecture and demean certain leaders in the ward. The congregation is suddenly looking at the floor and praying this ends quickly.
Step 1: Stand up and approach
If she doesn’t make it short you need to make that long two step walk to the lectern (assuming you are presiding). Cover the mic and help the offender know you are concerned about what is happening and give direction. “Sister, I am concerned with the spirit that is being felt. Please share your testimony or sit down.” Continue repeating this step until the speaker ends or changes to an appropriate topic. (If the speaker doesn’t give you enough time to approach the podium then start at the next step.)
Step 2: Address the congregation
Don’t expect anyone to jump up eager to share anything because the awkwardness is probably thick in the room. This means you have to break the silence and jump start the meeting again. It’s not necessary to address the words spoken by the previous speaker (unless you feel it is necessary). Simply express your love for the congregation and then pass the buck.
Step 3: Pass the buck
I don’t mean this to sound like you are asking someone else to do the grunt work and save the meeting, but rather to allow someone from the audience to get things going again. Turn it on one of your auxiliary leaders to participate. “Brethren and Sister, I am indeed grateful for these opportunities we have to hear from you. If you wouldn’t mind I would like to ask Brother High-Priest-Group-Leader to come bare his testimony.”
The high priest group leader stands and takes a few minutes to testify and invite the spirit. I recommend using an auxiliary leader because they have your trust and they can see what you are trying to do without you directly telling them. I remember sitting in a sacrament meeting as one of the auxiliary leaders when the bishop simply gave me a signal to come help the meeting get going. I stood and bore my testimony to the best of my ability and the bishop was very grateful for it.
What if Brother New-to-the-Ward stands to give his assigned topic and does a great job other than adding a slice of false doctrine. No negativity is part of his talk but everyone is looking at him cross-eyed thinking, “Is that correct doctrine?” Or others may be thinking, “Wow, I never knew that about the gospel.” Do you stand after he concludes and repair the doctrine?
If you were presiding, what would you do?