Our ward council decided to plan a campout for Labor Day Weekend. The kids could play, the adults could chat, the teenagers could talk about how boring everything is. In short, it would be a bonding experience. We even had plans for a special Sunday service at camp. If you’ve ever had sacrament meeting off the grid, you know how delightful it can be. Away from the trapping of the suits and trays and stands, there is something elemental and peaceful about renewing covenants while sitting on the grass. It connects you to someone when they pour the sacrament water from a plastic pitcher into your Dixie cup and then you do the same for the next person.
But that’s not what happened. The local bishop where we camped got wind of our presence (a disturbance in the force?) and paid our bishop a visit. Bishop Local told our leadership that we HAD to attend their ward, bring support staff for nursery and primary, and could not never no way no how bless and pass our own sacrament. Our people tried to reason with him, but Bishop Local just had Stake President Local call to reinforce whatever statute it is in the handbook that gives the geographic authorities stewardship over any ordinances performed on their land. Super lame.
This really irritated most of us. How dare this man hit us over the head with a Patriarchal stick when we just want to have Sunday services as a ward family. We knew our bishop was not happy about things and wondered what he would do. Would we grudgingly comply and mutter under our breaths during three hours? Or would we do sacrament at camp in defiance of the local authorities? Sunday morning over breakfast our bishop announced the following plan: we would have a 45 minute service at the campsite, and then those who desired would proceed to the local church, take the sacrament, and then leave. Right after the sacrament. I felt like this was a clever compromise. It satisfies the letter of the handbook while still allowing our ward to promote unity in holding our own meeting.
And our testimony meeting was very sweet. We sat on log benches arranged in a circle around a fire pit. Next to the fire was pile of big sticks. After people had shared their testimony, they were supposed to toss a stick onto the fire, symbolizing that the faith of the individual helps grow the faith of the group. You have never seen a testimony meeting were every boy from 3-11 INSISTED on getting up and talking. And my six-year old caught a salamander during the closing song. I think most of the kids would echo her statement that it was “the best church ever.”
But when it was over and we were supposed to head to the “real” church, I just couldn’t do it. I had all sorts of competing emotions. I have a touch of the ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) and did not want to give in to Bishop Local. I also felt weird going to take the sacrament when I was clearly feeling pissed off and resentful. But mostly the pleaser in me could not take how awkward it was going to be when 50 people stood up en masse to leave 20 minutes into their meeting. We would not just be snubbing that bishop, but an entire congregation. So I sent my kids with my husband and curled back into my sleeping bag and fell asleep contemplating things like unrighteous dominion, bonfires of faith, and the proper way to make a s’more.
I’m curious to know how other people would have acted in this situation. Should we just have gone to their ward? Were we right to compromise? Or should we have smiled and nodded and just done sacrament on our own?