What is the purpose of ritual in the modern Church
There are times when I am frustrated while sitting in sacrament meeting on Sunday; like when sister Bertha Betterthanyou is bearing her testimony about how wonderful her son is, when that same son has been torturing my daughter for 3 years and his mother refuses to believe him capable of such behavior. Other times I am just plain uncomfortable, like when the poor priest is repeating the sacrament prayer for the umpteenth time. It is times like these that I think about the role of ritual in any organization, especially the church. Merriman Webster defines ritual, when used as a noun as:
- the established form for a ceremony; specifically : the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony
- ritual observance; specifically : a system of rite
- a ceremonial act or action
- an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner
In the Restored Church, we have very little in our regular meetings that would be considered ritualistic in nature. In fact, the only thing that comes to mind in the weekly offering of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Why is it, then, that we don't treat it as a rite, but rather (or so it seems to me) as a simple prayer? Why do we not require our Priests to memorize the prayers, rather than read them from a card? As a Freemason I have come to understand the benefit of a rote ritual, in certain circumstances. Ritual allows us to get past the words we are saying and understand the deeper meaning of what we are doing. In the LDS faith, we have 4 instances where the prayers we offer, or the ordinance we perform is written out and must be performed verbatim; the sacrament prayers, the baptismal prayer, the confirmation of a new member and bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Temple. The Temple ceremonies are by far the most ritualistic in nature, but much of the ritual is lost in today's fast paced "motion picture" ceremonies. I have learned many things in the live sessions that are not to be understood correctly from the films in the smaller temples. Next time you are thinking of attending the temple, and if there is a live temple nearby, go and see what I mean; it can be eye opening.