Let’s face it. LDS Church services are dull. The music is rather passive and most organists play the hymns too slowly. In fact, most congregational hymns sound more like dirges than joyful refrains.
So what can be gone?
We can borrow a page from other religions. Many forms of worship in the United States are becoming more informal. According to a recent third-iteration National Congregations Study, this informality is represented by raising hands, jumping and dancing, speaking in tongues, using video projectors, and PLAYING DRUMS. For example, in 2012, drums were played 46 percent of the time during the principal service, up from 25 percent in 1998.
While most of above activities are far too radical for immediate inclusion into a Mormon Sacrament Meeting, including drums might be a good first step.
According to S. Brent Plate, writing for religiondispatches.org:
[There are a] myriad religious rituals in which drums are played, from Tibetan Buddhist to Muslim Moroccan to Pakistani Qawwali to many Hindu gatherings. Perhaps none are as engaging as what is seen and heard in the Ethiopian Orthodox church’s use of the kabaro. Here the drums are one of the most sacred dimensions for Christians and present in all major worships.
I live part-time in Uganda, and drums are an important part of all African social activities and ceremonies.
So why aren’t there more drums in Christian church services today. According to Plate:
One of the reasons [for there not being more drums] is that as European Christians colonized much of the world they found people playing drums. Since these “other” communities could not possibly have true religion, drums must be associated with false or heathen religions. A history of Christian colonization and missionization becomes also a history of destroying drums.
And we Mormons certainly don’t want to look like neocolonialists.
But there are also many practical reasons why drum should be considered for contemporary LDS Church services, particularly those in Africa and Asia. The great violinist Yehudi Menuhin suggests that “Music creates order out of chaos; for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent.” And goodness knows, the Mormon Church has plenty of the “divergent” today. And drums certainly create rhythm.
Again according to Plate:
Bound to the creation and maintenance of the religious worlds in which we live, drums play a vital role in the existence of people. Their sounds form a sonic structure within which our bodies collectively live.
But perhaps, most important of all, drums could be used to keep the congregation awake during the usually dry and overly-long Stake High Councilman’s exhortation. Perhaps, before a major point of emphasis in his speech, the councilman could “cue the drum roll.” Thereby both waking up the congregants and highlighting a key element in his message. Playing the drums could be a great job for the Deacons.
Drums could also be used to highlight a joke. So after Elder M. Russell Ballard exhorts the sisters to speak up but “don’t talk too much,” he could cue the drummer for a “rim shot.” That way the congregants would know that he is joking and that its time to start laughing.