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Church Costa Rica Style

Often times in an LDS church meeting you’ll hear a comment about how the church is the same all over the world. It’s not. Whoever says that hasn’t ever left Utah. However, one thing that was very similar, surprisingly similar, was watching adults try to get their teenagers to stop texting and pay attention. I’m not kidding. There we were in this tiny branch in Liberia, Costa Rica, and all of the teenage girls in front of us were texting through the whole meeting. I looked over my shoulder and the boys were texting right along with them, probably to each other. Makes a former young men’s leader like me feel right at home.

This Sunday Kelli and I went to our first Costa Rican church meetings. There is a chapel in Liberia, the branch that we belong to. The building is long and skinny with a sidewalk running the length of one side. Doors off of the sidewalk lead to each of the rooms, maybe 6 or 7 in total. Sacrament meeting involves the three largest rooms on one end of the building. Once that meeting was over, chairs were turned from facing the pulpit in the front to face sideways towards whiteboards on the walls. Then heavy curtains were pulled to divide what was the “chapel” into three classrooms, now to be used for Sunday School classes. Even in Brazil I had never seen that approach used. It really is an efficient use of space. But those curtains were not much for sound barriers. When it came time for Relief Society and Priesthood to sing opening hymns, there seemed to be a competition between the two groups as to who could disrupt the other more. And of course they made up their own tunes as they went along. Hilarious.

I think most people understand that church will be a different experience depending on where you go. There were a few members of this branch who have obviously been members for a long time, and many had served missions. But I don’t think there was one adult who wasn’t a first-generation member. What was fantastic to see was their zeal for the church and gospel, firm as rocks in their testimonies.

For sacrament meeting they chose the four longest hymns in the hymnbook, ones with beautiful music but difficult notes in some places. But I couldn’t believe how loud they all sang, belting out their testimonies in song. So as we’re all signing I Believe in Christ, miserably, and at times comically off tune and time, the spirit during that hymn was the strongest I’ve felt in quite some time and for me, one more evidence of how true this church is.

The same everywhere? Not even close. True everywhere? Absolutely.

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  • Kevin November 28, 2010, 3:13 pm

    Man, you’re making me think of the mission–hymns sung unaccompanied by earthly pianos. I once played the keyboard in a little branch in Argentina. It was so hard because I played the songs the way they were written. Took me a while to get it right.

    Fortunately, we’ve never had a problem here in our ward in Australia with kids texting during sacrament meeting. Or youth classes. We’ve got a switched-on group. But yeah, mostly first-generation members. You’re definitely right, though: the Church is the same everywhere–except in Utah 🙂


  • Leah Klein December 5, 2010, 6:39 am

    Wait til you get called into YM’s in your new branch!

    And the kid behind me was playing on his mum’s phone today but I don’t think Kevin would’ve seen it from the stand!

    Good times.

    • Brad December 5, 2010, 2:01 pm

      Ha! I thought Kevin might’ve been making those kids sound a little too perfect. Thanks for spilling the beans. : )

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