Today in Elder’s Quorum meeting, we discussed President Dallin Oaks’ address, The Need for a Church. It was a typical President Oaks talk – right to the point and preached with power and authority, leaving readers with no doubt that being active in the Church is the right thing to do.
It was, however, a personal experience that sent me home appreciating how important being active really is. My mind was opened to all of the different attitudes I’d had about being active in the Church. Sixty years’ worth!
I remembered, not to long ago, when I overcame feelings of being unappreciated, unloved and neglected by people of the Church. I seriously considered quitting Church (partly just to see if anyone noticed). Just as I was ready to pull the plug, an inner voice spoke to me.
“You go to Church to worship God and his son, Jesus Christ.”
I realized that involvement, friends, learning and assistance were nice side-benefits, but that the reason I participated in Church was that I was so grateful for God’s Plan of Salvation and Jesus’ wonderful and glorious atonement that saved me from death and hell. I determined, that day, to be there worshiping as God has asked. It took time, but eventually the negative feelings abated and I soon felt very comfortable in Church again.
I thought about the many times the Spirit and fellow Saints prompted me, during Church, to make important changes in my life. One was just after last Thanksgiving, during a lesson on compassion, when someone who had deeply hurt and alienated me flashed into my mind. I knew the Lord wanted me to help him, what this someone needed and that it would cost me.
Just then, a brother who I call a toasted marshmallow (he tries to be crusty on the outside, when he’s really soft, gooey and sweet on the inside) confessed that he often feels guilty for not following the promptings of the Spirit to make changes in his life. I felt like he was talking to me.
I went home that day, extended the olive leaf, paid the price and helped a man make a very big change in his life.
There have been times I really needed Church. One summer, I suffered from a two-month long anxiety attack. I lost all hope, feared death, feared life and lost my faith. I knew I didn’t want to feel like that or live like that, so I determined to rebuild my testimony from the ground up.
During that time of rebuilding, the Church became my source of strength and comfort. I listened intently to every word of every hymn. I searched the scriptures – not only for doctrine, but for light, inspiration and comfort. I hung on every word of testimony I could find from conference addresses to the testimonies of my fellow Saints.
Gradually my faith and courage returned and I was able to move on with my life.
I’ve had the opportunity to be deeply offended in Church, but I have also deeply offended others. As I look back of sixty years of membership, leadership and employment in the Church, I think the latter has happened far more frequently.
The few times that I have let love, the promptings of the Spirit and reason “school” my feelings stand out as some of my most joyous memories. The times I let anger, pride and intolerance “rule” my feelings stand out as my most bitter. But there is no doubt that I am a better man today because I had the opportunity to practice loving my fellow man and experimenting with Godhood in the laboratory we call the Church.
I thank God this prompting and the opportunity to fall in love, again, with Church — the people, the priesthood and ordinances, the communion.