Jun 10, 2010

Spirituality > Religion

This will be the second act to my religious trilogy of posts, the third hopefully being written on Monday after going back to church the day before.

On my mission I came across many wonderful (and not so much) individuals whose excuse in not going or belonging to a church stemmed from the belief that Spirituality was far more important than Religion. A relationship with the Divine is better than a relationship with any minister or religious creed.

Who can argue with that? That being said, my response to them was always "Yes, but the best way to increase your Spirituality and relationship with God is through Religion." Presumably the right religion, and conveniently the one I was preaching.

I guess I need to go back and analyze that Elder Austin response. I'm sure some of you are thinking "That's it! Exactly! Way to go, Austin! That's what I'm trying to say! Religion/attendance doesn't equal Spirituality! Religion/attendance leads to Spirituality! I couldn't have said it better myself!" The others (or maybe the same people) are saying "What a hypocrite!"

Because I do believe Spirituality is more important than Religion. It will matter more to God (and to myself) what I did infinitely more than who I was. However, what better way to begin my weekly efforts in striving towards perfection than taking time out of a hectic week in worship with those with beliefs similar to mine? What better way to learn to live Christ's example than study and application? Go to church once a week.

And no, I'm not suggesting a Rameumptom. I'm saying what you already know. Austin, once you start going back to church, it will enrich the rest of your life as well. It gets you started on the right path. You are filling up your cup at the eternal well, and the living water will last you the rest of the week. (Mixed/broken metaphors there, but you see where I'm going, right?)

One of the reasons why I posted what I did in my last blog entry was I was stating how I felt, and how I wanted to change.

Church bores me. I don't feel like I get any improvement or growth out of it. And I want to. What's the problem? And it's not that I'm coming with a closed heart. I'm not expecting to have my spirituality poured down my throat. Sometimes church is boring. If I ignore the fact and go, I'll soon be right back here, with you shocked that I've gone inactive again.

What I've apparently forgotten is that those three hours are not church. Or, in other words, church is not three hours of attendance. They're not a Rameumptom. We are not just supposed to show up, say a prayer, sing a song, recite "Holy holy God" in our own way and go home, ignoring our religion the rest of the week. (Well, I don't do any of that at all, being inactive. But what I'm driving at is that's not the purpose of church, now is it?) The purpose for church is realigning ourselves to our eternal purpose, our goal of reaching perfection in the footsteps of the Savior.


On my mission, we taught that church attendance is like a fire. Everyone has a branch or log, alight with the flame of burning testimony. When we bring them together, such as in Sunday worship, the fire glows brighter. On their own, the fires die out.
A nice metaphor, and I disagree. At least in regards to myself. My fire of testimony thankfully hasn't extinguished. I argue the case that my lack of going hasn't affected my beliefs one way or another. I still believe all the important things, the Articles of Faith and testimony bearing checklist. But I felt that the fire analogy wasn't accurate to my situation. In going to church, I didn't feel my torch of testimony getting any brighter or dimmer, so I stopped going.

What I didn't realize was it's not about getting your testimony torch to burn brighter, it's about using it to see where to go. Church sets you on the path to righteousness the rest of the week. You're a Christian every day, every minute, not for the time you're in the Lord's house. (Thought hopefully you're one there as well.)

It's not about increasing testimony, it's about getting back on track with God.

I need a better reason than what I have to get back to church. I don't want to go back because I fear it will be the same boring, hollow experience I've felt in the past. I don't think my "torch" of testimony will brighten myself or brighten any others by going. And while being a good example to my son and wanting him to have the Gospel may be a good reason, it's certainly not the best reason to return to activity. What I want is to want to go to church again.

But, I think I'll have to apply the lesson of Alma the Younger and just plant that faith seed. Get my inactive butt off to sacrament and Sunday school and priesthood, attend with a broken heart, contrite spirit, empty cup, alert mind, listening ears, tight-fitting suit and untied shoes, (and metal hip) and leave the rest to the Lord.


Wendy said...

"What I want is to want to go to church again." That's the tricky part.

Laurie said...

I enjoy reading your thoughts.

I think there are two perspectives to life...worldly and eternal. Life is so much easier/happier/worth living if you have an eternal perspective.

For me church is a weekly reminder to have an eternal perspective.

Here is a tip from me, take it or leave it...stop convincing yourself church is boring, because your mind is what you feed it.

HayLee said...


Jacob I. McMillan said...

Here's your solution: make friends at church.


Once you find people with interests/ideas similar to yours, it'll give you a reason to keep coming back.

Kinda like when you're in school and you only go to that one class to see the hot girl again.

It is an organization and not a solitary practice for a reason: we're there to hold each other up.

Together we stand, divided something something.

Jacob I. McMillan said...

I want to add that religion with its dogmatic groupthink tends to conceal what interesting individual personalities there are in a congregation.

My advice is don't go in with any preconceptions about people (especially based on talks; these tend to be terrible across the board, so don't even pay attention during them), and be open and willing to learn.

And don't be afraid what anyone might think of you because your lifestyle may not fit the exact mold their church expects out of them because guess what? No one's does.

Just go there, be honest, be cool and be interesting.

And don't trust first impressions, they don't count for anything.

I love my long comments so I'm gonna add another line here.

JanB said...

Remember when you were baptized and you made covenants with God?
One thing you do at church that you can't do anywyere else is renew those covenants when you take the Sacrament.

I hope you get that "want to" back soon!

Charlo said...

Seriously. cheat and go to my ward for a while. I'll take turns taking moby out, and we can double dip and go to eachother's ward activities and make snide remarks about the cheesinesss of the activities. It would make my day.

I feel like the devil seducing you to my ward instead of your own. Maybe I shouldn't do that.

Heather Mae the DIY Gal said...

The ONLY reason my husband and I go to church for ourselves is to take the sacrament. Just like what your Mom said. I think we all forget the SIMPLE act of doing that every week is so much more meaninful that we realize and take it for granted.

Ryan and I also go for the hymns at church, it helps enrich our spirits.

The rest are just classes to help us learn and grow, and that is the HARD part when trying to make friends. In a few years you and Tracie will WANT to go, because you will want Morgan in Primary, such a vital place for young children to be to enhance those gospel lessons learned from home.

With that being said, yes church is boring, and the talks are mind numbing. The talks for more for the person who is giving it. The most important talk I have ever heard and listened to was that one that I gave myself to the ward a couple years ago and I still think about it. I still learn and think on it a lot.

Hang in there! You and Tracie will work this out eventually. Keep the faith and dust the whispering devil off your shoulders. (I had to do that MANY times)

(And Jacob: It is United we Stand, and Divided we Fall.) That part is so true, even in a boring ward.

HailerStar said...

I think you should go because someone needs you there. You might not know whom or realize it now but someone needs to hear what you have to say or needs the friendship you can give.
That said ... I'm in the same boat. I need to get my inactive butt back to church. (Tho, I'm also one of those cases where not going to church hasn't diminished or changed my testimony of the gospel, at all, my husband tells me this is a very rare thing ... to not attend and yet to still be faithful in other aspects ...)
I think if you find church boring ... start thinking of it as an archeological dig. You're sifting through what most people say to find the kernel of light that applies to and touches your individual self/spirit. Yes, the lessons are what you've always heard but the stories people interweave them with, the personal ones, are new and usually refreshing and a change of pace and perspective. (Also, it helps if you do what I do ... maybe ... take a pen and pad of paper with you. Write down what inspirations you get, quotes, ideas, funny stories, etc. Sometimes I sketch if I get bored ... but that way you're engaged in some form of listening to what's going on around you, and you have notes and thoughts to look back on later).

Ammon said...

While I won't argue that one can be spiritual to a certain degree without religion, I don't believe that we can achieve eternal salvation without the latter.

There is no more important place for us to be on Sunday than in the chapel, if for no other reason than to partake of the emblems of the sacrament and thus renew our baptismal covenants. There is no substitute for this--none.

Secondly, we are commanded to attend church. That's right, it is a commandment. Anyone who strives to enter the temple of the Lord will be asked prior to obtaining the required recommend if they attend all of their church meetings. If church attendance is a requirement to enter the Lord's earthly abode, will it not also be a prerequisite to returning to his presence?

Going to church with a little one is a challenge. There are absolutely days where I wonder what I'm getting out of attendance (days where I spend a majority of the first hour disciplining our son), but we don't need to understand to demonstrate obedience.

When Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden he was commanded to build an altar and make sacrifices. "And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me."

You've got my $0.03, you can do with it what you will.

Anonymous said...

Austin... You know what I'ld say if I was there... What I will say is, WOW... you have gotten the most inspirational, inspired and REAL comments/advice to your last two posts. I'm grateful you have such wonderful friends and family that took the time to share their insights. (I think I see a possible book in the making!) I'm also anxiously waiting to read tomorrow's post! I love you, Tracie and Morgan!