Monday, December 23, 2013

# 17: Other Churches Are Too Easy

The Church asks you to do a million things.  It asks you to attend three hours of meetings every Sunday, plant a garden, do family history, write in a journal, read scriptures daily, pray daily, fast once a month, read lessons in preparation for Sunday meetings, home teach or visit teach, give 10 % of your income to the Church, attend the temple, clean the church building, magnify callings, keep the commandments, hold Family Home Evenings, do missionary work, and serve a full-time mission.  It's not unusual to have those in leadership positions put in 10 - 20 hours of unpaid, church-related labor per week.

That's a lot of work.

Is all that work worth it?  Do all those hours translate into real spiritual nourishment?  Do they further Christ's kingdom? 

Some members of the Church go overboard trying to fulfill all their Church duties. Some work themselves into a frenzy trying to be the perfect Mormon.  It's as if they are running on a treadmill, expecting some day to really get somewhere.  They concentrate on qualities that are measurable and outwardly visible, like the Pharisees did. They love the letter of the law, but they miss the spirit of the law.  Sadly, many of these busy Mormons are depressed. Despite all their obedience and all their works, they never feel like they measure up to the standard the Church has set for them.  They miss the whole point of the gospel.

And what is the whole point of the gospel?  It's this: Jesus Christ came into the world to save us, because he loves us. If we accept his grace and follow him, we'll find peace and rest, in this life and in the life hereafter.  Everything we do in the Church -teaching, bearing testimony, Eagle Scout Projects, earning Young Women Medallions, making treats for Relief Society Enrichment Nights, sitting through meeting after meeting after meeting- ought to lead us closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Most of the time these church activities do lead people closer to Christ.  Most of the time these activities act as mediums through which God works.  Most of the time, through these activities, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the sick and the lonely are visited.  Sometimes, though, all this busywork is actually a stumbling-block to receiving and applying the grace of Christ.

For more on the grace of Christ, which is the most important topic in the world, read, "Believing Christ" by Stephen E. Robinson.  It's one of the best Mormon books ever written.  I also recommend reading or watching "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox.  Robinson and Wilcox really get grace.  And they are both faithful, active members of the Church.  The grace of Christ motivates them to do all the Mormon works, but in a balanced, spiritual way.  It is my hope that members of the Church will embrace the message that Robinson and Wilcox are publishing.  

But let me get back to reason to stay LDS # 17, "Other Churches Are Too Easy." 

Here is how things go in most Christian churches:  You go to church for one hour a week.  The pastor is entertaining, and the music is nice.  There might be a Sunday School one night a week, but it's completely optional, and not many people attend it.  You never speak in church, you never administer ordinances, you are never are asked to do service projects.  All you do is show up and sit in the pew for one hour a week.  In many denominations, you don't even have to dress up.  You can wear sweat pants.

It's good; don't get me wrong.  Non-Mormon Christian churches are good.  I would rather disenchanted Mormons convert to Lutheranism than atheism.  The other Christian churches I've visited are really nice.  But in my visits, I got the impression that they're too easy.

See, if you don't like the pastor, you can find another pastor that you like.  Switching churches isn't that big of a big deal to non-Mormon Christians.  If you don't like the people in the congregation, just find a new congregation.  If you want better musical performances at worship services, you can shop around.  As long as you love Jesus, you're good.  And you can shop on Sundays, you can drink beer, you can cuss, you can watch rated R movies, you can lie a little, cheat a little, take advantage of your neighbor a little... it's easy... too easy.

I'm reminded of the Zoramites who only talked about God once a week on their Sabbath day, and then did whatever they wanted to the rest of the week.

I confess I'm making unfair generalizations here.  There are plenty of wonderful and committed Christians in every denomination.  And there are plenty of horrible hypocritical people in the Mormon Church.  I realize that.  I'm just trying to make the case that it's more likely that you will be a committed follower of Christ in the Mormon Church rather than another church. 

The path to holiness is not an easy path.

The Savior taught, in Luke chapter 9, verses 23 and 24, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."

Here's my modern paraphrase: "If any of you want to be my disciple, don't think about yourself very much.  Lift a heavy burden, every day.  Sacrifice everything you have.  Sacrifice your whole life."

Likewise, Joseph Smith taught, in the Lectures on Faith 6:5 "Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things."

Jesus is asking for complete devotion from his followers. 

It's my opinion that the work the Church asks you to do is worth it.  All the work we do as active and faithful Mormons generally leads us, and those we serve, closer to Christ. 

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