I had one of those eye-opening moments Sunday morning. I LOVE those moments.
While everyone was busily getting ready for church, I popped in The Best Three Hours of The Week, a DVD recording of a youth fireside by John Bytheway. The thing that struck me was something he quoted from a talk by Russel M. Nelson. Elder Nelson gave a 2 question test he said we could use as a “spiritual yardstick” to rate our relationship with the Lord. The questions were…
1. What do I think about during the Sacrament?
2. Do I keep the Sabbath Day holy?
I thought those questions were interesting. Notice that the questions weren't “How often do I attend the temple?” “How many times have I read the Book of Mormon?” Or even, “Do I pray everyday?”
I know from my own life and experiences that I can have a testimony, go to church, faithfully attend all my meetings, really magnify my calling, truly love those I serve, attend the temple, pay my tithing, faithfully have FHE and family scripture study and prayer, and all the while NOT be faithfully saying my own personal prayers, not be thinking about the Savior during the Sacrament, and come home from church on Sundays and have the TV on all day. I know other wonderful members who are the exact same way.
But is the opposite true? Are there people who truly ponder the suffering and sacrifice of the Savior during the Sacrament but who don't go to the temple or pay their tithing? Are there people who honestly focus on the Savior during the Sacrament and spend each Sabbath Day NOT just avoiding all the “no-no's” but rather spend the day studying the scriptures, visiting the sick, preparing or studying the next week's RS or Sunday school lesson, working on geneaology, writing in their journal, having an investigator in their home, yet don't have prayer, or pay their tithing? I guess it's possible. But for some reason, it doesn't seem as likely to me. One seems to beget the other.
So much of our faith is seen by others. Attending our meetings, giving talks, teaching classes, answering questions in class, performing in our callings, going to the temple, giving compassionate service. Many of our “fruits” are visibly hanging on the tree for all to see, or at least, a few to see. And you can see whose mind is where it should be during the Sacrament. (Okay, maybe not. Half of those with their heads bowed and eyes shut are probably napping, right?)
I'm not suggesting that we magnify our callings or go to our meetings or to the temple TO be seen of others. Surely, those are done out of our faith and devotion to the Lord. Most of the time, when my family goes to the temple, no one in our ward knows we're going. And no one but my family knows when we're having family home evening and if we're really reading the scriptures together every night.
But even then, I admit that alot of that is a mixture of my devotion to the Lord AND trying to nurture the growth of my childrens' testimonies and help establish the pattern for them, as it should be. But isn't a major portion of the measure of our devotion what happens on the inside where no one can see?
If I didn't have children, would I be so insistent on having scripture study and prayer every night? To be honest, I don't think I would! How do I know that? Because we are *perfect” at having FHE each week and *perfect* at family scripture study and prayer everynight. But I do NOT have personal reading time and prayer as often and as faithfully as I do with the family. Knowing me, if I didn't have children to be teaching and nurturing, I would likely be on the couch every night, dozing off to the FOX News channel before having said my prayers.
I considered Elder Nelson's questions and tried to focus on the Savior during the Sacrament this Sunday and did a little self-evaluation. Here's what I came up with.
I'm often trying so hard to make sure my children are being reverent and quiet, that I'm not being very reverent myself. I fold my arms, bow my head and close my eyes. I begin to think of the Savior, then I hear a paper rattle or hear my kids whispering and my focus immediately turns to them. The truth is, I really don't need to be doing that. From all the comments I get about how well-behaved my children are in church, I sincerely doubt that my kids are as disrupting to everyone else as they are to me. But I'm always so concerned about them disrupting the spirit in the room, or distracting other ward members around us that I'm hypersensitive to it.
I admit that I get easily distracted by other children walking around, making noises or crying, (not a little noise, jibber jabber or cry here and there, but constant noise, a baby that is continually crying, constant shuffling of papers, kids walking back and forth in the pew or up and down the aisles, up and down the pulpit stairs, etc). It distracts my children. Their distraction, distracts me. I'm always worried that my kids' whispers and such are distracting someone else. My paranoia about their behavior and reverence practically takes over my ability to focus on what I should be focusing on.
Sabbath observance is easier for me. I can easily go without watching TV, though I could watch church films all day, which isn't necessarily a good thing when there are better things I could do. Sometimes I plan my next Sunday School lesson or work on Stake YW things, visit other wards YW programs, go to youth committee meetings, etc. But often, I find myself sitting on the couch with kids watching The Work and The Glory, John Bytheway, The Testaments, etc. Those are all great things. But I'm not sure that sitting around watching films all day, despite their religious nature is really what Heavenly Father would have me do.
I should write in my journal. I should work on geneaology. I should spend some real intense time in personal study and prayer. I should visit less-active members.
The amazing thing is, that the closing speaker this Sunday was a Stake High Counselor and he gave a great talk based on Elder Dallin H. Oaks conference address entitled “Good, Better, Best”.
Our guest speaker quoted Elder Oaks:
“We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it… Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”
Our high councilman then talked about “good, better and best” in regards to Sabbath day observance. He said that he and his wife had been sitting on their front porch with his wife last Sunday, talking about the day's Stake Conference with L. Tom Perry in attendance. A neighbor happened by and they ended up having a great discussion about the Church. He said that watching a church film that day would have been “good”. But having that discussion and doing some missionary work was a far better way to spend the day.
I consider it a little miracle that our high councilman just happened to give this talk on the very day that I was pondering Elder Nelson's “spiritual yardstick” questions and my own habits for Sabbath Day worship. Yes, it's good to watch a marathon of faith-building films like The Work and the Glory that reaffirm my testimony of the restoration and the prophet Joseph Smith. But it would have been better if I'd been sharing that testimony with a neighbor or less active member and helping to build their faith.
I'm actually a little excited to make a more conscientious effort to let go of my concerns during the Sacrament and allow myself to really focus on the Savior and his atoning sacrifice. I'm pumped up about really making the Sabbath Day a truly “holy” day by worshipping more outside of church through intense prayer and scripture study, working a little on my personal history or geneaology, and making a sincere effort to visit less actives, particularly those on my Visiting Teaching route.
Now that the weather is warm, we can even take a walk around the block each Sunday with a prayer that the Father will give us opportunities to have gospel discussions with our neighbors.
Adam offered the best of his flock to the Lord. The sacrifice we're asked to make today is a different one. But maybe it's about time I turned my “good” sacrifice to a “better” and “best” one.