"And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and direct my church, how to act upon the points of my law and commandments, which I have given." (Doctrine and Covenants 43:8.)
We are a people well met in the Church. We meet constantly, hoping to share with each other the goodness of the gospel message, to gain from each other the strength to continue our quest for salvation. It is, in fact, a commandment that we do so, and that we meet often.We meet to partake of the sacrament. "And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day," commanded the Lord (D&C 59:9) in a revelation to Joseph Smith, and it is an obligation we are eager to accept. This weekly renewal of our vows to live a Christian life and obey His commandments is a cornerstone of our faith. It acts as a restorative to our souls, allowing us to draw upon the strength of companionship with others of shared goals and dedication.
We are edified in the thoughtful, assigned meetings of the Priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School and Primary, each with a specific mission to fulfill and each ready to aid us in our own daily lives.
And there are other meetings. We meet to receive instructions and directions and to be told of the progress of the kingdom. A rapidly growing Church must be constant throughout the world, and thus a fair amount of our meeting time is devoted to teaching, learning, coordinating.
We meet to resolve problems. Members of the Church bring their greatest asset - their life experience, faith and testimony - to bear on problems both great and small. Experienced leaders use this great strength and draw upon these hard-won insights.
Sometimes we simply meet to socialize, to enjoy both activities and friendships of those with whom we share our lives.
With all this activity in a bustling, growing Church it's safe to say that at any given time, somewhere in the world a Church meeting is being held. That is a solid, comforting idea, especially considering the Lord's reassurance to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery that:
"Where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them - even so am I in the midst of you." (D&C 6:32.)
That's why our Church meetings begin and end with prayer.
Those countless gatherings also imply an obligation of Church members to gain the most from their precious meeting time. It is an obligation held equally by both those who lead our meetings and those invited.
Those attending should bring with them a prayerful attitude, a willingness to be instructed and to take an active role in the process. Those who simply arrive with a feeling that their presence alone has completed their part of the obligation make a mistake that will cost them dearly in lost time.
And those empowered to lead have an obligation to present a well-prepared, thoughtful and uplifting meeting. As stewards of other peoples' time, their goal should be to make certain that the irreplaceable currency of minutes and hours is spent well.
It's also a good idea to reread the words of Moroni as he discussed meetings of the early Church on the American continent:
"And their meetings were conducted by the church, after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done." (Moroni 6:9).
Among the times when Church members gather are many smaller meetings apart from those specifically designated for worship or formal instruction. In those moments we also need to be careful of our time. Who among us hasn't languished in a meeting whose purpose either escaped us or which had no bearing on our assignment?
Our Church manuals offer guidelines on how to improve these meetings. The marketplace also offers books on the same subject, so anyone offering advice runs the danger of leaving out some important points. Nevertheless, from our experience most of us could draw up a simple list of ideas. For example, invite only those directly involved. An agenda gives direction and structure to a meeting that otherwise can wander in a wilderness of words. It's a good idea to summarize the meeting's accomplishments. Make assignments to resolve unfinished issues. And to make wise use of time a real priority, set a limit on how long the meeting will last.