I’ve been silent for months. There’s a litany of reasons why, but in the end, they are all simply excuses. Today, I feel a need to share my voice again with my children. Perhaps they’ll find value in what I have to say, perhaps they won’t. Either way, I will share what needs to be said.
Of all the things in this world, my family is the most important to me. They mean everything to me. All that I do, I do for them. I go to work so they can enjoy the good things of life. I do projects around the house so they have a pleasant home in which to live. I go to church because it strengthens the bonds we share. It is this that I wish to write about today because the relationship between Christ and my family is undeniably intermixed.
My family began with Christ as a key partner. It has continued throughout the last 20+ years with Christ as a key partner. Are there relationships that last without having Christ included? Sure. But that’s not for me.
Part of the relationship with Christ that my wife and I share is our desire to attend church. There we are able to receive the Ordinances of Salvation and be taught the Principles of the Gospel such as: faith, love, repentance, forgiveness, work, and hope. In turn, we’ve tried to teach these same principles to our children. To do so on our own, however, would be a much more challenging act than if we associate ourselves with the Body of Christ.
This hasn’t always been a simple thing to do though. There was a time early in my married life when my wife and I were offended by someone at church. Someone who should have been a trusted confidant…a friend to help in time of need. Instead, they did something that I found reprehensible and nearly unforgivable. They caused my family significant emotional distress. The actual act doesn’t matter anymore. Suffice it to say, we were deeply offended. When it came time to go to church, we still went. We didn’t socialize with that person, but we also didn’t try to “make a scene.” Over time, we moved and I’ve not spoken to them since. I still remember their name, so perhaps someday when we meet again, I’ll remember who they are (then I’ll have another mental debate…).
It was not easy for me to heed the counsel the Savior gave on the Sermon on the Mount:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; …For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Here’s what’s on my mind…nothing can keep me from going to church. No one can make me stop going to church. Why? Because I want my children to be taught the ways of truth. Because I value my eternal salvation over my worldly feelings. Because I treasure the relationship with my Heavenly Father more than I desire a relationship with man. Because I need the power of the Atonement more than I yearn for the power of the world.
I know I’m not alone in how important attending church and partaking the sacrament is. I’d like to share an entry from my personal journal from the time I was stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan and was serving in the leadership of our congregation. We observed the Sabbath on Sunday, as usual, but we also offered a Sacrament meeting Wednesday evenings for those who worked shift or otherwise couldn’t attend church on Sunday.
I was rather tired today and I wasn’t feeling very well, so I left work at 1700 hrs to go take a nap. I got to work at 0545 hrs, so I didn’t feel bad about leaving early. I set the alarm for 1840 hrs so I could go to sacrament meeting. I had told Br Britton and President Allen that I wouldn’t be there tonight (because of a meeting at 1900), but my meeting at 1900 hrs was moved to tomorrow and I was free. I slept very well and woke up at 1840 hrs. I laid there a minute not wanting to get up or go to church, but I did.
I sat outside and waited for a few minutes before the other congregational leaders, President Cox and President Allen, showed up. Later there were five members that showed up. One of them was at Kandahar Air Field for only today. He is at Forward Operating Base Gecko and hasn’t had the sacrament in six months. He was touched by the service. We ended up singing a hymn, praying, and partaking the sacrament. Then I shared my thoughts on faith and President Allen shared his thoughts on hope. We closed with a hymn and prayer. It was a very nice sacrament meeting. I’m glad that I went even though I didn’t want to go. I later received an e-mail from this one brother. I wanted to include it here because he says things very clearly:
“I too feel that it was a blessing to be able to be there on a Wednesday. Sacrament meeting tonight was one of the most touching I have ever experienced. I was struck by the bonds of fellowship that extend between members of Christ’s church, especially when meeting together to worship. Thank you, and all the others there, for doing their part as members of the church. It was a memorable experience for me, and I felt the peace of the spirit like I have not felt while I have been here. The Lord has blessed us all to create such a fellowship for his saints, that we can be a part of it anywhere in the world.”
Personal Journal, 14 June 2009
There is something special about attending church. There is a strength that comes from worshiping Heavenly Father together. Sure, there are people in the world who do bad things. There are people in the world who are very offensive. Sometimes these same people walk the very halls we walk on the Sabbath day. That doesn’t change the role of the Plan of Salvation in my life. It certainly doesn’t change who God is or what He represents. I still need to take the Sacrament each week. I still need to commune with the Divine each and every day.
I find myself thinking of the words of James “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). Then I tell myself to breathe deep, think about what I’ve heard and what I want to say…then I try to speak well.
What I’m trying to say is I won’t allow someone to offend me to the point where I turn my back on God. Now, I don’t intend to insult anyone who has been offended, I simply extend to my children the idea that the most important thing in my life is my relationship with my family and with my God. I refuse to let man influence my worship of Jesus Christ. I refuse to let man influence the relationship I have with my family.