When it comes to being active in the Church, we all know what the “right” answer is. You know what I’m talking about. Attend your meetings. Do your duty in your calling. The whole list we learned in Sunday School.
Yet the Church itself defines an active member as someone who just attends sacrament meeting once per month. That’s a pretty low bar to clear.
Many LDS singles want to marry someone who is active in the Church. But when you consider how the Church defines active, that standard suddenly seems deflated. That’s because you really shouldn’t be active.
Hold to your covenants
Some say you should be active in the gospel and not the Church. I both agree and disagree.
I agree that we should consciously choose our spiritual lives. Far too many Latter-day Saints simply go through the motions of what the subculture expects of them. They fail to distinguish between spiritual truth (what we learn from our covenants) and cultural “truth” (what we learn from our LDS subculture). For many Latter-day Saints, particularly in areas were the majority of the population is LDS, there is no distinction. It’s all one and the same.
And that’s where I disagree with being active in the gospel. Sometimes we define the gospel to contain elements outside our covenants. None of us ever covenanted to be perfect. Yet far too often we feel guilty for not having the perfect scripture study session or praying the perfect prayer. We singles lament our “imperfection” of singleness because that prevents us from having the perfect family while our married friends lament whatever prevents them from being the perfect spouse or perfect parent or having their own perfect family.
We never covenanted to do or to be any of that. If you doubt that, look no farther than in the prayer to administer the sacrament.
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
Did you catch that? We don’t covenant to be perfect. We covenant to be willing to strive towards perfection. That’s not just a subtle difference. That’s a huge difference.
Christ is the difference
I’ve never claimed to be anything other than a walking construction zone. Sometimes that means a building is still unfinished. As an introvert, I’ve always struggled with reaching out to other people and initiating conversation, especially one centered around sharing the gospel. I know missionary work is true and important, but I’ve always struggled with the personal application.
Sometimes being a walking construction zone means a building that was once erected has deteriorated or fallen down. Right now I’m struggling with home teaching. It wasn’t always that way. I used to visit all my families every month. But now I’m questioning my own participation in home teaching.
For many years, I sacrificed to serve. Now I need someone to reach out to serve me, but no one is there for me. I know that home teaching is true and important, but I’m struggling with the idea of supporting others when I myself need supporting.
If I were a typical Latter-day Saint, I’d feel really guilty about being less than perfect. Good thing I’m not your typical Latter-day Saint.
I’m not perfect, but I am willing to strive after it. Sure, I’m not doing my duty because I have questions — questions that I haven’t abandoned, questions for which I continue to search for answers. The moment I set my questions aside is the moment I quit trying. And that’s the moment that I truly break my covenants.
As we strive to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, we will all fall short somehow. Perfection in this life is impossible. That’s why the Savior is so central to everything we believe. Christ makes the difference between what we can do and what we need to be. Relying on Him to make that difference for you is a huge part of accepting His atoning sacrifice for yourself.
Yes, being perfect is a commandment. But it’s one that we aren’t expected to complete in this mortal life. All we are expected to do in this mortal life is to strive to do what we can. So long as we keep picking ourselves back up after we fall, God will keep accepting us. So long as we keep trying, we keep our covenant to be willing to live as much of the gospel as we can.
If you find yourself struggling with guilt and achieving an unrealistic ideal for yourself, please stop struggling and start evaluating what you do. Simply going through the motions of Church activity will offer no true and lasting joy because no life on autopilot can. Don’t be active. Be committed — committed to keep trying always. You truly fail only when you truly stop trying.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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