Sunday, April 24, 2011

Annapolis Newspaper Reporter Visits LDS Service At The Annapolis Ward In Maryland

Those of us who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have an extra incentive to be on our best behavior and to fellowship investigators who attend our Sunday services. The next unfamiliar investigator who walks through the doors may be more than just an "investigator"; that person may actually be a local reporter doing a story. It happened recently in Annapolis, Maryland.

Anne Arundel County in Maryland has about 260 churches representing more than 40 Christian denominations, plus a handful of synagogues and mosques. An estimated 42 percent of the county's 520,000 residents are adherents who attend services. So the local newspaper, The Capital, decided to send reporters to take in the services at local churches. Among their selections; a typical Sunday service at the LDS chapel in Annapolis. They did not initially specify which ward they visited; the chapel hosts three separate congregations, to include the Annapolis Ward, the Broadneck Ward, and the Spa Creek Spanish-speaking Branch. All are part of the Annapolis Maryland Stake, which oversees 12 congregations.

Most likely they visited the service conducted by the Annapolis Ward, since it's later mentioned by name, and it appears that from the account given, the reporter may not have stayed for the entire three-hour block, but attended only the sacrament meeting portion. That is permissible; a person is not required to remain for the entire three hours. If one wants to go to church primarily to worship the Lord, then attending sacrament meeting alone will satisfy them. The other meetings are intended to convey much more detailed knowledge and understanding of the Gospel, as well as promote what is sometimes referred to as "kingdom-building".

The reporter writes a fair and balanced account of his visit to the services. As a personal touch, he adds the story of Greg Hall, who converted to the Church at the age of 22 when he met and married a Mormon woman. He laments the fact that his five grown sons are no longer with the Church, which simply means that despite the best efforts of LDS parents, the kids can and will go separate ways when they go our on their own. The segment about the LDS Church visit begins after the jump:

A visit to the Latter-day Saints Church on Ritchie Highway across the Severn River from Annapolis showed that, contrary to a common misconception, non-Mormons are welcome at Latter-day Saints churches (though not inside the dedicated areas of more formal temples).

Latter-day Saints read the Bible and "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ." They believe that Christ visited the Americas between crucifixion and resurrection, but some people do not consider Mormons to be Christians.

Mormons keep their congregations (called "wards") small, so that members will know one another, like a family, said Greg Hall, who belongs to the 390-member Annapolis Ward.

Sermons, or talks, are delivered by lay members of the congregation, not by professional clergy. On this particular day, Andrew Mill, a pilot, compared faith in God to a pilot's faith in his flight instruments, and Dan Ganda spoke of "building faith in adult children."

Like Pastor Gray at Riva Trace Baptist, Ganda used the story of the prodigal son as his text.

"Families are forever; so is parenthood," Ganda said.

He went on to express gratitude that his four children, all grown men, are faithful Latter-day Saints.

As a testament to the Mormon love of family, small children and babies on bottles attend the main church services, and families sit together in the pews.

Hall said later that he found the service both moving and disturbing, because he has five children, all grown men, and none is "in the church."

"It breaks my heart," Hall said.

"But, there's always hope," he said.

Hall is passionate about Latter-day Saints theology, but what attracted him decades ago to the church at age 22, it turns out, was a force older than theology: He fell in love with a young Mormon woman who became his wife.

One additional item for non-Mormon readers: Wards are organized geographically. As a casual visitor, you may visit any ward. But once you join the Church, you will be encouraged to attend services at the ward governing your geographical area. Exceptions can be made by the stake president, but it is better to attend the designated ward for your area, unless you choose to attend a specialized branch such as Young Singles or one of the foreign-language wards.

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