Thoughts on Moroni and Worship in the Time of a Pandemic

It’s been a long time since I’ve written on this blog, but after recently moving it over to a new server, I figured it was time to start sharing my thoughts again.

By way of preface to my point, I was recently called into my congregation’s leadership as a Ward Executive Secretary — basically a kind of executive assistant for the Bishop and his two counselors. I really love serving with these brothers, as we try to serve the members of the ward, but any of you who know me, and know how disorganized my life tends to be, will probably chuckle at the irony.

Anyhow, long-story short, in one our meetings last week, we were reviewing some guidance our church leaders had sent for holding church meetings during the pandemic, and were reading some scriptures they had included that were the doctrinal underpinnings for the policies they were recommending. The scriptures we were reading were in the last book of the Book of Mormon, known as the Book of Moroni, chapter 6, verses 4-5:

4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

5 And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.

Moroni 6:4-5

As I was thinking about this scripture, my first thoughts were thinking about how important being able to attend church services has been in my life, and how much more aware I’ve been of it during the pandemic. During the early stages of the COVID pandemic, during the shelter at home phase, public church meetings were completely suspended, and we had to do sacrament meetings at home. As restrictions in the state and county were relaxed, we were able to restart meetings, but with many changes both to meet local and state regulations, but also to protect the congregation — people who were under the weather were asked to stay home, the congregation was split up into smaller groups meeting in three shorter meetings, with families sitting in their own benches with the benches in front of and behind them vacant, everyone wearing masks, the music being played but not sung, etc. It was a lot of changes, but it’s been good seeing members of the church willingly abiding by those regulations, even in cases where they personally may have felt some of them were silly. It’s been a weird and stressful time, but I genuinely enjoy being able to gather with the saints. I may be an introvert, but only to a point. It’s been hard being separated and disconnected from people physically, and I really look forward to the time when our country and world have overcome this pandemic and are able to return to a more normal lifestyle.

My second thought though, was realizing that when Moroni was writing these scriptures about the importance of meeting together often, about a church that serves and nourishes and strengthens its members, Moroni had been alone for years, possibly even decades. A refugee of the genocidal civil war that had destroyed his people and killed all of his family members. Unlike us who can look forward to an ending of the pandemic and a return to normal worship services, Moroni would never have that privilege again during his mortal life. He’d never have the chance to listen to an inspiring sermon, to serve a fellow saint who needed help, or even to give a hug to someone who needed it. That was a sobering thought. In some ways, it’s interesting that of the last book in the Book of Mormon, Moroni, who’s now been alone and on the run for years, spends so much of his time talking about how his people did worship services, reviewing the words of the sacrament prayers, and sharing a beautiful sermon his dad had taught when he was younger. In some ways I’m a bit humbled, and embarrassed at any grumbling or impatience I’ve had about restrictions over the past months, knowing that at worst we were months away from being able to return to normal.

I’m writing this note from home. I was sick today so couldn’t join my family as they went to church. I had to sing, and say prayers, and bless the sacrament for myself. As I was reading those old Nephite sacramental prayers, the English translation of which we use to this day, I thought of how many times Moroni had had to do those alone, by himself, and what he must have been thinking about when he did so. How much hope and strength those must have given him, being all alone. I wonder how many times he thought back to worship meetings with his family before the war had ended that, or how grateful he must have been for the promise to have the Spirit to be with him, when he literally had no one else who could do so.

As part of my solo sacrament meeting, I also watched the beautiful Book of Mormon video they did of these final chapters. Doing this by myself, but thinking about how much more alone Moroni must have been, it sort of renewed my appreciation for Sundays, and for sacrament meeting, and especially for the privilege of being able to participate in such services with our friends and family. I really think we have no idea how much we take that for granted, even during a pandemic.

I look forward to the day when things can return to normal, and hope we can all have a bit more determination to endure these challenges with humility and gratitude, knowing that we will someday have the opportunity to gather and fellowship and worship again as we used to.

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