Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Spirituality and Righteousness Are Not Primarily Communal, Church Pursuits

I believe the general ideas of "spirituality" and "character development" are almost indistinguishable. If we accept Jesus not just as Savior and Redeemer but also as the Master Teacher and Perfect Example, and if we envision "godhood" as a "condition" of being like God, then it makes sense to me that the entire purpose of life can be wrapped up in that goal - to become more godlike - to pursue divine character development. Therefore, identifying what that means at the most basic, practical level and pursuing it makes sense to me as the most fundamental mission of mortality.

My moment of epiphany, if you will, came when I realized that this pursuit is very, very different than church activity. I think when we decouple the two and examine each separately, it is MUCH easier to see the true benefit of each - and that is the first step toward embracing each, in my opinion. For example, "spirituality" and "righteousness" are personal pursuits, at the most basic level; church activity, on the other hand, is a communal activity.

Even that distinction alone can remove much of what I believe to be the problem associated for many with church activity - since I think many members expect church activity to be the primary vehicle for personal righteousness and/or spirituality. I just see the purpose for that activity very differently, so I am not disappointed when I am not "spiritually enlightened" in my meetings - even though often I am spiritually enlightened at Church.

I tackle spiritual enlightenment outside of church activity; I attend church for very different reasons.

4 comments:

ji said...

I have sometimes thought that a ward council's main focus should be on providing meaningful and dependable activities and programs, rather than focusing on the spirituality and righteousness of individual ward members. Within that structural framework, so to speak, of activities and programs and sacrament meetings and Sunday involvements, each person at his or her own speed can tend to his or her own spirituality and righteousness.

ji said...

Perhaps like you, I find that I don't attend church meetings for what I can get out of then -- whether they enlighten or entertain me is not important -- rather, church attendance is secondary to my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I attend meetings BECAUSE of my faith, and I hope it is my faith, rather than my attendance, that defines me as a Latter-day Saint.

A pattern of dependable and meaningful communal church pursuits is the ground where so much spirituality and righteousness can grow, and in so many different ways. For example, if a priesthood quorum regularly looks for ways to help others, and one particular Saturday is replacing the porch of the old widow sister's house, maybe one person might come to help because he is looking to increase his own righteousness, but another might come because he NEEDS an outlet to bring his teenage son, and another might come because he likes being with the fellows, and another might come because he wants to get away from his wife, and another might come because ____, and so forth. And if the project was designed with Bro. X in mind to help re-activiate him, well, it might be that Bro. X doesn't even show up.

Our Primary children need dependable and meaningful programs and activities. Our teenagers need dependable and meaningful programs and activities. And some of our adults need it, also.

I tend to believe that if we focus our communal church pursuits on dependable and meaningful activities, appropriate to the locale and circumstances and so forth, then individuals can find opportunities when they're ready to nurture their own spirituality and righteousness -- and home teachers and fathers and so forth can find opportunities to help the spirituality and righteousness of their friends and family.

We can pray all we want for a good harvest, but we won't have much of a crop unless we work the ground. Focusing on the crop, and thinking about the crop, and praying about the crop, and talking about the crop, and having meetings to talk about the crop, won't do much good unless someone dependably and meaningfully tills the ground and pulls the weeds. I see a ward council as an excellent place to work the ground, so that parents, home teachers, and visiting teachers can use the ward's dependable and meaningful activities and programs for their own works of spirituality and righteousness.

Papa D said...

Well said, ji. I agree totally with everything you've written in these two comments.

Rich Alger said...

Awesome = "We can pray all we want for a good harvest, but we won't have much of a crop unless we work the ground. Focusing on the crop, and thinking about the crop, and praying about the crop, and talking about the crop, and having meetings to talk about the crop, won't do much good unless someone dependably and meaningfully tills the ground and pulls the weeds."