The past four years I have struggled with attending all of my church meetings. I have always reasoned that the sacrament is the primary purpose of attending church and the other meetings are secondary in importance. The three-hour block seems like a waste of time especially when Sunday is the only day people have to spend time with their family. I also don’t enjoy attending church because I always find myself alone. Why is attending all of our meetings a requirement to enter the temple?
You are correct that sacrament meeting is the most important part of Sunday obligations. Elder Dallin H Oaks, current counselor in the presidency, has said that, “The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church.” (Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament) So you are right about that.
While it’s true, the Lord made Sunday as a day of rest, He also designated that day as a day to worship Him. Our primary obligation (even before family to some degree) is to worship and obey the word of God. Therefore, sacrament attendance is very important and that should be your priority. Just because it’s a priority and an obligation doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. In fact, President Uchtdorf, while speaking at a general conference, made a tongue in cheek comment about it. When an investigating couple asked how long church services were, a member replied “Three hours every Sunday!” They responded, “Oh my! Do members of your church actually do that?” The man said, “And we haven’t even mentioned family history, youth camps, devotionals, scripture study, leadership training, youth activities, early-morning seminary, maintaining Church buildings, and of course there is the Lord’s law of health, the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.” (Come, Join with Us) That story always makes me chuckle. It can at times seem that Sunday services are exhausting, but they are not a waste of time and it’s good to have a sense of humor about it.
The temple is a wonderful place. In fact, all of us should strive to have an active temple recommend and go to the temple frequently . The prophets and leaders of the church have told us the requirements to enter the temple, and they have included attending three hours of our meetings every Sunday in order to attend the temple. Therefore, there is no way of getting around it. The prophets have placed great importance on attending all three hours of church. They have taught us that going to church is a demonstration of our commitment and love for the Savior and his sacrifice on our behalf. When we consider that we have 165 hrs a week to engage in our own pursuits, surely we can commit ourselves to 3 hrs in Sunday worship.
I want to tell you that I admire you. I know of many, many people who also struggle with church attendance but instead of attending church at all, even for sacrament meeting-they just don’t show up. That you are struggling with this issue but still do your best to show speaks highly of your character. I also noticed that you said you are often alone in the ward. That, Logan, breaks my heart. It brought back many times in my life where I ate lunch in a cafeteria alone, or attended a business function alone. It can make an awkward situation worse because you feel very self conscious. That no one at church is reaching out to you or sitting near you deeply troubles me. Perhaps attending more often might enable you to create relationships in the church and then it would be easier to find people to sit closer to you. I have found that taking the initiative to befriend others and sit next to them has helped brighten their day as well as my own. You may not be the only one desiring to have a friend at church, perhaps a proactive approach may change that. If you attend church and still find yourself to be viewed as an outsider-then speaking to your priesthood leaders and/or the bishop would be a wise choice.
Bonnie L. Oscarson gave a talk where she said:
Another area of focus for our service can be in our ward families. Occasionally our children would ask us the question, “Why do I have to go to Mutual? I just don’t get very much out of it.”
If I was having a good parenting moment, I would reply, “What makes you think you go to Mutual because of what you get out of it?”
My young friends, I can guarantee that there will always be someone at every Church meeting you attend who is lonely, who is going through challenges and needs a friend, or who feels like he or she doesn’t belong. You have something important to contribute to every meeting or activity, and the Lord desires for you to look around at your peers and then minister as He would.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught, “A major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the ‘strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.’” He goes on to say, “This religion is not concerned only with self; rather, we are all called to serve. We are the eyes, hands, head, feet, and other members of the body of Christ.”
It is true that we attend our weekly Church meetings to participate in ordinances, learn doctrine, and be inspired, but another very important reason for attending is that, as a ward family and as disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ, we watch out for one another, encourage one another, and find ways to serve and strengthen each other. We are not just receivers and takers of what is offered at church; we are needed to be givers and suppliers. Young women and young men, next time you are at Mutual, instead of picking up your phone to see what your friends are doing, stop, look around, and ask yourself, “Who needs me today?” You may be the key to reaching out and touching the life of a peer or to giving encouragement to a friend who is quietly struggling.
Ask your Heavenly Father to show you those around you who need your help and to inspire you on how to best serve them. Remember that the Savior most often ministered to one person at a time.
Pray for help in recognizing those in your ward families who need love and encouragement. Instead of attending church with the question of “What am I going to get out of this meeting?” ask, “Who needs me today? What do I have to contribute?”
I’m praying for you Logan.