About twenty years ago when I was in my teen years and still Catholic, I had some thoughts about using the lay population in the Catholic Church in a way to bring more life to the meeting. My ideas were very simple and probably not far reaching like the changes in Vatican II effecting the lay members. Before drifting off to sleep, I found myself thiking about how Mass would be more meaningful if people would stand up and share the feelings from their heart from time to time.
These thoughts were not tied to anything I had heard or seen at the time that I recollect. They may have been oddly out of place in the mind of a very content Catholic such as myself. I loved the beauty of the Catholic Mass. I enjoyed the parts where the flock would speak in unison a piece of creed or a prayer such as the Lord's prayer. I felt accomplished with the parts that I memorized through the repettition of attending Mass through the years. I liked the short sermons that seemed to make the Gospel readings of the day applicable to our lives. From the pettitions of prayer read as statements where the audience would respond with a phrase such as "Glory be to God" to the part of Mass somewhere in the middle where people were to share the sign of peace by shaking hands with people who were sometimes strangers if I did not know them from my Catholic school affiliations to the end when the Priest would tell us to go in peace but not as the world gives it, I found comfort in the Mass.
I recall as a youth hearing the Priest make the supplication that we were not worthy to receive the Communion but if God would only say the word we would be healed. Being of a rather literal mindset even later that children gernerally are, I would wonder what the "word" was. I would try to have very holy and noble thoughts as I grew and would approach the front of the Church where Communion was served. The meetings were also broken up with appropriate times to stand, to sit, and to kneel. The culmination of all this order was apart of what I expected from Church.
When I joined the LDS Church, I felt the Holy Spirit very present at the meetings. Yet, I longed for the traditions of old in the Catholic Church. The meetings seemed so plain and I felt so naked as I sat there without a kneeler and the only time I could speak was to say "Amen" or to join in song. Even the music seemed wrong in the LDS Church as I was accustomed to singing to guitar music. The melodies that I liked of the Catholic Church were simple and the tempo was what I was comfortable with. One of my favorite songs in the Catholic Church that we often song was about being raised up on Eagles wings. Such an experience. My voice seemed under the LDS music and airy and probably from the throat, which is always a no no in singing. But I could not find my way with the music.
Later I would have some favorites in the LDS Hymms such as "I Know that My Reedemer lives."
After becoming LDS, I don't know when it was that I had a vaguely remembered that I had pondered about bringing life to a meeting by people speaking from the heart. Upon reflecting on what I had envisoned before going to sleep one fine night, it was very much like Testimony Meeting and also the many occassions when members give talks in Sacrament, Family Home Evening, and Sunday School, Relief Society etc. It really is special to hear people speak with conviction whether it is polished or more humble in delivery. Some of my favorite talks or testimonies through the years were very basic. A sister who converted about a year before my entering her area shared a talk based on Articles of Faith and her understanding. I recall how a long-time member was touched by her words.
I heard a talk by a young man so drenched in enthusiasm as he was for the moment sober and sharing how Alma 32 applied right to his life. I am not sure if he stayed on the road of sobriety. If heart were enough, he would of surely been set free.
I also like talks of those who have become mature in the Gospel. I see a certain peace in those who have sought to live by drawing close to God and serving Him and especially love to hear Missionary Couples speak.. A testimony that stands out was a talk on sanctifcation by one of my friends from Young Single Adults who spoke of how he gained his testimony. That effort was required on his part surprised me as I figured he had his testimony handed to him on a silver platter based on his being related to the President Spencer. W. Kimball.
One of the older sisters in the ward who was a Stake Missionary really tried hard to ease my transition. She made an effort on what would have been Palm Sunday in the Catholic Church to be sensitive to the fact that we would not witness that tradition in LDS services. She also shared her testimony in private to me about when her son died and how her husband said that now is the time for them to decide if they really believe what they had been taught about Jesus Christ.
Through the years, I have come to love the LDS Sacrament Meeting, Stake Conferences, General Conferences, and Fast and Testimony Meetings as people speak right from the heart. As I have quietly listened to talks and testimonies, I have felt many messages so relevant to me and my life. And I have have loved the conviction of the members who share what they hold so precious.