June 26, 2017
Hey Friends and Fam,
My first week in Goshen, CT has been unreal. We have 3 investigators who are preparing to be baptized, all of them definitely ready. Besides them, we have about 10 investigators who have not yet made the decision to be baptized, one of which came to church yesterday for the first time. He really liked it, and so did I!
The Goshen ward has a regular attendance of about 100 people. One of the Stake President’s counselors gave a great talk about the lessons from his mission that he didn’t learn until 4 years later. It was notable to me that every word spoken over the pulpit, in Sunday School classes, and Elders’ Quorum classes was true doctrine. I left church feeling refreshed and desiring to be a better man.
We went to visit a brother in the ward that hasn’t come to church in several years. He was really happy to visit with us. The whole time we were there, he was smoking and drinking, and he seemed very ashamed of himself. “I know I’ve got bad habits, I just can’t stop. I love Jesus, but there’s no helping me.” He had stopped coming to church long ago because he didn’t feel like he could ever change. He felt trapped. It was very clear to us that he was unhappy with his life, and wanted to change, but didn’t have hope that he could.
I had a very strong feeling to tell him, “we aren’t here to tell you that you need to change right now. We just need you to come back because we miss you, and the ward needs your service.” He was resistant to the idea, but we insisted. By the end of the visit, I could tell that he really knew that we cared about him. He told us that we just might see him at church on Sunday. We didn’t end up seeing him at church, but we are determined to invite him to come with us to help out some of the ward members.
The only level of “personal worthiness” needed to come to church and help others is just a desire to go.
Jesus taught us an important lesson when a certain man asked which of the commandments was of most importance:
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
When we love God and love our neighbor, we are 98% of the way there. If we truly keep both of those commandments, the rest of them fall into place. We just have to be willing to let the rest fall in. When we allow ourselves to believe that we are living too far from the Gospel to attend church and be a part of the body of Christ, we are cheating ourselves.
One commandment that I struggled to understand for much of my life was the commandment to attend church. I saw no reason why attending a social club of believers every week was important enough to warrant a divine injunction. The Lord has given plain and powerful instructions regarding church attendance through the prophet Joseph Smith: “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day.”
Church is not meant only to be a social club. It is a sanctuary from the often tiring tumult of everyday life, and the peace found there is not because it’s a “special building” where we meet “special people.” The peace of church attendance comes from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which he commanded his disciples to “always do in remembrance of [Him].” When we eat the bread and drink the water, we are certifying that we are willing to “take [Christ’s] name upon us,” “always remember Him,” and “keep His commandments.” When we do this, we are promised that we will “always have His Spirit to be with [us.]”
We love God. We love our neighbor. We go to church to renew the promises we made when we were baptized, and to receive the promise that the Holy Ghost will continue to be our constant companion. We need not wait until we are keeping all of the commandments to attend church and receive the blessings that God is waiting to give us.