Mormon Supplemental Worship

I’ve long held an interest in Mormons who supplement their weekly worship in Latter-day Saint congregations with occasional (or in some cases, very regular) attendance and participation in some other tradition’s meetings. That interest was initially sparked by my study of ungathered Latter-day Saint converts in the American South around the turn of the 20th century who, left to make of their new religion what they could in the absence of ordained priesthood and regular church meetings, continued to attend Methodist revivals or nearby Baptist meetings in between the often lengthy periods they would meet with other Mormons under the direction and priestly authority of the itinerant missionaries. That interest also results from my own appreciation (and in some cases, holy envy) for the liturgies of other Christian traditions’ as well. I’ve long loved the high church liturgy of Latin Mass in more traditional Roman Catholic churches and it will come as a surprise to no one that I hold a particular soft spot for the hymnody of the Methodist tradition. (It even appears that this has rubbed off on my wife a bit, who once attended a Methodist service in place of finding the local Latter-day Saint congregation while on a work trip in South Carolina). 

I was reminded once again of this supplemental worship last week, when I noticed my father-in-law, an orthodox and faithful Latter-day Saint by all accounts, watching Joel Osteen on Sunday morning while getting dressed for church. We talked about it a bit, and my FIL admitted liking Osteen, even as he critiqued the content of his sermons as not exactly theologically-deep. I hadn’t before considered televangelism as a potential form of supplemental worship for Mormons, and am intrigued. Anecdotal experience (mostly from catching the assorted facebook status updates of some Mormon friends on facebook) suggests that my FIL isn’t the only Mormon tuning into Osteen’s sermons on Sunday mornings. I doubt Mormons make up even a tiny fraction of the 7 million viewers each week, but I’m curious how many other Mormons out there watch Osteen with any regularity. If you do, or if someone you know does, please comment and share more.

I’m curious whether there are other televangelists that Mormons sometimes watch, or whether there is something unique about Osteen that seems less threatening to Latter-day Saints. Maybe his admission on Fox News in 2007 that he believes Mormons are (or can be) “true Christians” won over some Latter-day Saints. Or maybe his the content and tone of his sermons—which emphasize the power of positive thinking and focus on inspiring people to live happy, productive lives, sometimes to the exclusion of more traditional Christian evangelical themes—seem less threatening to the beliefs of Latter-day Saints, who can simply add on his motivational messages without worrying whether his beliefs about the Trinity, priesthood authority, and other issues conflict with their own specifically Mormon take on those points.

Thoughts?

  • Ignacio M. Garcia

    When I was a young boy I wanted to be a Baptist minister even though my mother would “drag” me to the 4th Ward in San Antonio, Texas. Ever since then I love to hear Protestant ministers though I often find many of them wanting. There is a Spanish-speaking minister in Tyler, Texas that I love to listen to when I’m down there. I always say in mind that that is what a good Mormon bishop would sound like if he were more evangelical. For several years before she died, my mother would attend a pentecostal church after LDS services. She liked the sense of community they had and they loved her because she could sing the hymns, could quote scripture and she always paid tithings to them. As a somewhat unrefined LDS she was not often appreciated in her own ward so she loved the fellowship of “los pentecostes”. But she never left the church and she had a firm testimony. She just thought Mormon sacrament speakers were the worse. And with some great exceptions I tend to agree with her, and I think that I go to a ward that has pretty decent speakers.

  • Saskia

    I remember being at a Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast on a Sunday morning and thinking it reminded me of the Joel Osteens of this world. In that broadcast, only the emphasis on progress and perfection “betrayed” it’s Mormon roots. So there seems to be something there that fits with both crowds, so to speak.

  • Andy Hardwick

    Osteen preaches the “feel good” gospel which suits Americans cafeteria style religion, a little bit of this and some of that without much guilt. I think Osteen is a good and honest man. I have had dealings with folks from his church here in Houston and they are not hard core fanatics or pharasaical types like many who profess evangelism. I say that if he can get people to change even a little for the better he is doing a great work. The spirit of Christ is present in all the world and manifests itself in many forms through different people.

    As far as attending other services, I have had occasion to go back to mass but find it boring as usual but that is my particular judgement. Many people would say the same of sacrament especially when the speakers just read their talks.

  • E

    When I was serving an LDS mission in the midwest, my companions and I often attended mass on Saturday nights because we enjoyed it and we rarely had any appointment on Saturday night.

  • Craig M.

    I listen to sermons on the radio from time to time, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a regular listener, I really enjoy listening to Ravi Zacharias if I’m driving on a Sunday night.

  • Eric

    Except when visiting relatives I haven’t attended non-LDS services in a long time, although I do read books and articles by various non-LDS Christian authors such as N.T. Wright, Philip Yancey and John Ortberg, all of whom have spoken to me in a meaningful way about my response to the Atonement. As to Joel Osteen, I have trouble with the amount of money he has earned in the religion business, but I can see why people like him. He preaches a positive message that’s extremely short on substantive doctrine.

  • DougH

    While I can’t remember ever attending a non-Mormon religious service, my favorite radio/internet program is Chuck Swindoll’s “Insight for Living.” Lots of excellent insight into the Bible without usually getting deep enough theologically to be an issue.


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