Listening in Elders Quorum
By Marvin Payne

In my elders quorum I only hear about half of what the teacher says. Don’t get me wrong – we have amazingly good teachers. One of them always walks in with a coil of heavy rope, two hubcaps, and an aspirin. Or a water ski, a snow ski, and a banana. That’s Rod Miller, who I watched grow up in Alpine and who is big on object lessons.

Matt Bean is starting out as a family shrink (someday I’m going to ask him how he does it and if he thinks it’s entirely consistent with our mission to “replenish the earth”). He has an enourmous (that’s for Meridian readers in the British Commonwealth ) intellect, which he uses very much to bless us, but is moved by memories of passing the sacrament. He seldom brings rope or hubcaps, but yesterday he brought milk and cinnamon rolls, to no objective purpose I could discern except to be nice.

[Very Important Note For Those Who Are Particularly Sensitive About Obedience to Directives from Church Headquarters: It never says “No treats for elders quorum.” Look it up.]

Our third teacher is Rick Koerber, who is noted for two things, the first being that he is home taught by a bona fide (fair dinkum, for certain members of the British Commonwealth) Meridian Columnist, and the second being that he is on billboards around here as “The Free Capitalist” (as opposed, I suppose, to a capitalist for which money is charged). But that’s just his day gig. Then he comes home to us as a devoted Latter-day Saint and a voracious Gospel Scholar with the extra spark of the convert, which he came by honestly, because he is one. 

(Speaking of converts, I’m leaning toward becoming a capitalist. This is mostly because every time I tell somebody that I write for Meridian, I get this twinge of embarrassment from having been tempted to read, in my youth – quite without my parents’ knowledge or consent – that one book by Cleon Skousen, The Naked Columnist

((I’ve been writing historical fiction for a company in which my son, Sam, is the editor, and, therefore, sort of my boss. He’s been teaching me about using this punctuation “-” (((only without the quotation marks))) to set off parenthetical thoughts. Seems like a good idea, generally, except that you could wind up with writing like this: 

– -I’ve been writing historical fiction for a company in which my son, Sam, is the editor – and, therefore, sort of my boss. He’s been teaching me about using this punctuation “-“- – -only without the quotation marks – – – to set off parenthetical thoughts. – – – Sam is my oldest son. My youngest son, John, is learning Morse Code – this could confuse him. – – – – Apart from this one suggestion, he’s a pretty good editour  – – – – – If he were editing for a British Commonwealth audience, that’s how he’d have me spell it – – – – -. – – – – – – – -)

I don’t hear only half of what the quorum instructor says because we’re misbehaving in there (you may remember the milk and cinnamon rolls? ((Hey! I just discerned the objective purpose!)).) I hear only half because I’m trying to capture in my journal the last thing they, or, more often, the Spirit, has said to me. 

I think taking notes in elders quorum (in sacrament meeting, as well, if your daughter doesn’t mind being handed cheerios with ink on them) is a good idea, just like it’s a good idea to do it in general conference. (The last time I consciously chose not to take conference notes in my journal was during a Saturday afternoon session some years ago. I had just acquired a new rifle, and thought I could drive up on the hills west of town and plink cans with the car radio up real loud, and that I’d absorb most of what the Lord wanted me to hear. Right. ((<-sarcasm)) )

I learn great stuff. Let me leaf back to just earlier this year. (Don’t actually even know what’s there.)

27 January 2008
“Rod Miller says life is good because of God. That’s because all that’s good is because of God.”

So far, so good.

3 February 2008
“To be saved with no more effort than to confess Christ would be an acceptable idea if all the Lord had in mind for us was eternal existence. To feel His joy we must do His works and be strengthened by His quality of selflessness.”

2 March 2008
“A manager will effectively use his people to enhance results. A leader will effectively use results to enhance his people.”

(You might think, “Hey, that little two-sentence observation distracted you from half the lesson? C’mon!” But what took so much of my attention was figuring out how to write it good.)

9 March 2008
[Idea #1]
“Reading Joseph’s description of the Lord in D&C 110, I feel challenged to ponder long upon written images of Christ’s personal beauty and glorious actions.”
[Idea #2]
“Cain’s offering was certainly rejected because of the condition of his heart, but perhaps also because, absent the shedding of blood, it couldn’t have had the only meaning that sacrifice has – to point the sacrificer to the atoning blood of Christ.”
[Idea #3]
“In the elders quorum I am regularly fed by guys who are twenty and thirty years my junior.”

(On about the fourth Sunday after we first started attending this ward eight years ago, Colin Grant, the high priests group leader, pulled me aside and said, “Mahvin ((he’s from New Zealand, part of the British Commonwealth)), we’ve welcomed some of the (ahem) more mature elders to meet with our group as guests, if that would be more comfortable for them.” I didn’t tell him the first reason for not accepting the invitation, which was that I was shocked, shocked, to be thought of as “(ahem) more mature.” But I told him the second reason, which was that I was already teaching the elders. I keep getting these reinforcements, though, like in the following entry:

31 May 2008
“John [7 years old] and I took a little hike down by Dry Creek on the city trail. There’s a little notice there prohibiting motorcycles, and I mentioned that I’d like a motorcycle, but Mom wouldn’t feel I was safe. He said, ‘Dad, it’s kinda funny imagining you on a motorcycle, when you should be inside, sleeping.'”

Sheesh! ((Of course, I shouldn’t forget that on the “morning after” of the Fathers & Sons Outing a week later (((day before yesterday))) I was awakened by his voice from outside the tent door. “Dad, everybody’s gone but us!”)) Back to quorum notes.)

13 April 2008
“Considering the literal meaning of ‘sustain,’ is there a better way to sustain our immediate leaders, and even the Author of our priesthood, than to home teach?”

4 May 2008
“… President Allred [stake president, visiting our quorum to set apart a new presidency] then reported to us that President Eyring recently said, “This church is going to be very, very, very large.” By way of warning (I felt) as well as encouragement, he advised us to magnify our callings and sharpen our leadership skills so as to be ready to serve at any time, in any place.”

25 May 2008
“Sitting here in our quorum meeting about the mission and value of women, I have just imagined something I’ve never imagined before. A world without women. Imagine that baby boys emerge from oysters. It’s a terrifying picture. We’d tear each other apart. No ‘white and still,’ no ‘holy dreams.’ The moon is such a long way off.”

[These are allusions to an old song of mine about the Light of Christ:

“The woman and the moon, they do the same to me.
They change me for the moment.
They make me think my whole life white and still.
The woman and the moon have found a heart to fill. 

“The woman and the moon, they live outside my reach.
They call me ‘cross the evening.
They touch my face and teach me holy dreams.
The woman and the moon are so alike, it seems.”]

In my elders quorum, the Spirit often requires me to imagine things I’ve never imagined before.

8 June 2008 [yesterday, before I knew what this column would be about]
“In service, submission, and obedience we present the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. This can be as formal and regular as the ancient priestly offerings. It’s an ordinance. Now, in this ordinance, look for the manifestation of the power of godliness!”

I love my elders quorum. If ever anyone grabs me by my white beard and pulls me through the partition, the high priests group better be awfully good.


“…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (from the last page of the Book of Mormon)

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