Thursday, November 14, 2013

Read, Pray, and Go to Church

We're Missing the Mark

Quite often in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we hear the "seminary answers" or "Sunday School answers" of read your scriptures, pray, and go to church. I have been pondering on why we always hear those answers. The answer usually received as to why these are brought up is because that's all we need: that the gospel is beautifully simple and simply beautiful. While this answer seems good, I feel that it misses the mark.

Don't take that the wrong way! I'm not saying that we can cease to study the scriptures (particularly The Book of Mormon), halt communication with our Father in Heaven, nor discontinue attendance at our Church meetings. What I am saying is that those are just the basics. Every person needs to start with those three things to be spiritually alive. Full-time Missionaries today refer to these three acts as "CPR" which stands for "Church, Prayer, and Reading". It is good to be kept alive by CPR, and there are times where CPR is the only thing that can keep us alive. However, it is not the end, but a beginning.

In the fourth chapter of Ether, the Savior beckons, "Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief" (Ether 4:13). We can not become complacent to only do the minimum of what the Lord requires of us. If we only read, pray, and go to church, we will not have the knowledge of "the greater things". 

Not only should we be reading the scriptures, but we should be studying them daily. Only through the depth of studying, the searching, the pondering, and the prayers involved in that act, will we ever come to receive personal revelation about what the Lord wants for us to glean from the scriptures. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Salvation cannot come without revelation" (History of the Church, 3:389–90). And unless we are actively asking, seeking, and knocking, we shall not receive, find, nor have the door of revelation opened to us. Also, we should earnestly seek after this revelation. The scriptures and the words of the living prophets are not enough to survive in today's world. We should never be satisfied with the amount of the word of God already received."Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!" (2 Nephi 28:29). Rather we should seek after revelation through the scriptures, particularly The Book of Mormon, every time we read, which should be on a daily basis. For, "If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal" (Doctrine & Covenants 42:61). The words of God shall never cease. 

Not only should we be praying, but we should seek earnestly for a conversation with our Heavenly Father. Too often, many of us have prayers like: "Father in Heaven. I thank thee for this day. I thank thee for my many blessings. I thank thee for my home. I ask thee to bless the prophet, the apostles, the general authorities, the missionaries, and all my family. I ask thee to bless me to get a good night sleep tonight. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen." and then hop into bed without giving a thought to what we actually said or did. Too often our prayers become like the ones Jesus condemned at the Sermon on the Mount: "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matthew 6:7, 3 Nephi 13:7). Real, sincere prayer takes work. Real, sincere "Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other" (Bible Dictionary, Prayer). Merely throwing out words to appease some being who commanded us to pray is an act of hypocrisy, for he wants us to pray in the way the Bible Dictionary just taught us, not the vain, repetitious, childish "prayer" we so often fall back on. Yes, there is a pattern to prayer, and, yes, we should use it, and teach our children how to pray, but we must always remember what prayer truly is: speaking with our Father. We are not speaking at Him or to Him, we are speaking with Him. We must give Him time to respond through the Holy Ghost.

Not only should we go to church weekly, but we should be seeking the Lord's guidance, and in an attitude that shows our feelings towards the renewal of all our covenants. It is always possible to be at church without being in church. It is always possible to active in the church without being active at church. Being at church or being active in the church merely mean that you are attending your meetings -- faithfully, perhaps--but that's it. All you are doing is showing your face in the meetings you're supposed to be attending.  Being in church and being active at church require us to do more. They require us to faithfully participate in worshiping our Father, and deeply contemplating the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His Gospel. Being in church requires us to take seriously our covenants to "take upon [us] the name of [Jesus Christ], and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given" us (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77). This church never was, is not, and never will be a Sunday-only religion. The point of Sunday worship is to partake of the sacrament (to renew our covenants), and to have a place where we can be "unspotted from the world, [by going] to the house of prayer and [offering] up [our] sacraments upon [the Lord's] holy day;" (Doctrine & Covenants 59:9). It provides a "gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes...for a refuge from the storm" of the world, a place in which we can receive personal guidance from on high for how we personally can better live our covenants (Doctrine & Covenants 115:6).  Revelation comes through church attendance.

In reality, the Lord requires of us to obtain revelation from Him: personal revelation from Him directly to us. He gives us the Scriptures, Prayers, and opportunities to attend Church to provide opportunities for us to "receive revelation upon revelation" (Doctrine & Covenants 42:61). There will be those who take those opportunities, and will progress. Others will not take those opportunities and will be damned, meaning to hindered from the ability to progress to become more like our Father in Heaven for "Salvation cannot come without revelation" (History of the Church, 3:389–90). 

Reach up and hear the words that God has for you.