Just as the song lyrics lament “video killed the radio star,” some advances in technology have killed quirks that used to spice up Sunday services in an LDS chapel. Please feel free to add your own examples to my list, but here’s a tribute to bygone habits that confirmed the notion of Mormons being “a peculiar people.”
Back in the days before debit cards, men kept dollar bills in their wallet and a pocket full of change. I was often distracted when a Sunday School teacher stood before our class with a manual in one hand and compulsively jingled the pennies and nickels in his pocket with his other hand. I often wondered if he had plans to spend that money on his way home from church, if clerks distributed change for exact tithing donations or if rooms for priesthood meetings secretly sported vending machines. My judgments were eventually dispelled by my dad, who never shopped on the Sabbath but, after tightening his tie, habitually scooped the random contents of a bowl on his dresser to his pocket, which often included coins, clippers, car keys and a golf tee. Nowadays, my husband always seems to go to church with empty pockets.
The frequency of a person opening scriptures to read a verse during a sermon at the pulpit has diminished exponentially in recent years. Most quotes are now cut and pasted from the computer to their scripted talks while others use their iPad to glance at a scripture on a blue screen. One item of business during our last family home evening was an advanced tutorial by my 14-year-old daughter on how to more effectively use electronic scriptures on our portable devices, which proved to be very helpful and enlightening. But I do miss my childhood neighbor, Pam Worthington, who was quirky to a fault and once stood before our congregation, reached for her large Bible and dramatically blew dusted flour from the black cover before opening the red-edged pages. After all these years, I still remember her message on the importance of personal scripture study. I never wanted my scriptures to gather dust.
The librarians in our church building have been enthusiastically purging outdated resources as of late. Every time I pass a box marked “Free” outside the library door, I cringe to think my children will be learning the gospel so differently without the fun of flannel boards; film strips; audio tapes of dramatized readings from church history; and large prints of scripture story scenes. While I find the gospel art kits invaluable and manuals more helpful than ever, it is sad to think of some testimony-building teaching aids as disposable.
Like all of you, I embrace many advancements like emailing my visiting teaching reports rather receiving the dreaded reminder call, mass texts to communicate between busy moms about Scout meetings or youth activities, and sending Facebook messages to the students in my Sunday School class during the week.
What do you miss? What do you embrace? And can our peculiar nature perpetuate without some of our bygone church quirks?