Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Have to v. Want to


This past week at practice I had a conversation with a teammate that went something like this:

“Oh, I thought that you would be going with them to do the circus.” (Some of my teammates are leaving for a four-month cirque tour which will be super cool for them.)

“Nah, not me, not this time.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I’ve got other things I’m doing. And I really don’t like to work or jump on Sundays.”

“Oh, you’re not allowed?”

“No, I just don’t like to, I don’t want to.”

“Oh, I thought maybe you were Mormon or something.”

“I am. And...”

“Then you’re not allowed.”

“No. I can, I can do anything I want to, I have the ability to make my own decisions, I just don’t like to jump on Sundays and don’t want to; it’s not fun for me.”

This is a pretty cookie-cutter example of conversations I have had many times with many different people. Sometimes the conversations are regarding jumping on Sunday, sometimes they are regarding going to church, sometimes they are regarding reading the scriptures or praying or serving a mission or not drinking or a host of other things.

There are many things which I do or don’t do that many consider “out of the norm.” Always people ask if what I do is because I “have to,” or they just simply assume it’s because I “have to.” Quite the contrary. All the things I do that are church-related I do because I want to, because I feel and have learned through experience that they are important, and because I love to do them.

Keeping the Sabbath day holy

I don’t work on Sundays and I am getting better at not participating in other recreational activities on Sunday (aka jump rope). Jump rope is not a bad thing and spending that one extra day together with my jump rope friends on trips is nice, but not better than going to church and doing other things I enjoy on Sundays. Sundays are a day to set aside the things of the world and focus wholly on the things that matter most. A lot of the activities in which we participate throughout the week are not bad things. Indeed, school, work, play, and jump rope are necessary things not only to sustain life but to enhance it and help us lead fulfilling lives (yes, jump rope is necessary to life--ask any jumper you know.) But Sundays are different. The Lord commanded that we remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, and through His prophets defined what that means.


Quite honestly, I really enjoy having that one day each week to do nothing other than concentrate on the Savior and others’ needs. It’s relaxing, it’s freeing, it’s stress relieving, it shows the Lord that He is first in my priorities, and it strengthens me to hold true to what I believe for another week. I have never regretted not jumping on a Sunday.

Attending church

One part of keeping the Sabbath day holy is attending church. This past spring, I had the opportunity to attend church in Germany. The family I was staying with-the wonderful Zeisslers-agreed to take me to the nearby town where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met, for which I was super grateful. When we arrived, the church building was locked and empty due to a regional conference of which I was not aware. I was certainly disappointed and on the drive home, the father, Armin, was concerned that there might be some negative consequence because I did not attend my church that day. Appreciative of his concern, I explained that my not going to church that day wasn’t the end of the world; I wasn’t going to get in trouble and no one was going to check up on me to see if I went to church, I just really wanted to go because church is something I look forward to every week.

I go to church because I love going to church. I love the companionship and the relationships I have with the people at church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feels the same all over the world and I love that feeling. I love the feeling of church and I love learning. I treasure the opportunity to take the sacrament, and I feel great about the opportunities to serve.

Reading the scriptures daily

On another occasion, one of my friends commented how she noticed that I read my scriptures each night at jump rope camp. Apparently she observed me reading my scriptures every night before going to bed, often times after everyone else had gone to sleep since that was the only down time I had each day. She, too, phrased her comment using “have to” and I explained that I did not have to, but that I wanted to, that reading the scriptures is important to me. I explained that I strive to read my scriptures daily-even on tired jump rope days-because I love the things I learn. I love the insights that the Holy Ghost teaches me. And I need the strength I receive from reading the scriptures. I choose to live standards that do not line up with the world very well and maintaining those standards is can be difficult sometimes so I need all the help and strength I can get. I also strive to pray morning and night to thank the Lord for all the great blessings He has given me and to ask for the strength and the knowledge to accomplish what the day requires.

If ye love me…

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t have a bunch of rules the regulations that leaders enforce or that you are punished for not following. Of course, the Lord has commandments that we are required to live if we wish to receive all the blessings He wishes to bestow upon us, and those same commandments protect us from unnecessary hardship and pain. Church leaders teach those commandments and stress the importance of obedience to the Lord’s command. They help us when we are struggling and when they see us faltering in any of the commandments because they love us and they love the Lord. They know as do I that those who keep the commandments, “are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received  into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness . . .” (Mosiah 2:41).

We are also required to live those commandments if we wish to partake of the blessings offered by baptism and the holy temple. However, if I teach at a jump rope workshop next Sunday or compete at the National competition on Sunday or don’t go to church or forget to read my scriptures, no one is going to get after me nor will I be banned from attending church or anything. The Lord has blessed us with the divine gift of agency that we may choose. The prophet Jacob taught:

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, according to the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27.)

Church leaders do take action if members break very serious commandments, especially if such actions affect other people. These more serious sins pertain to adultery, abuse, and embezzlement of Church funds and breaking other serious laws of the land. Consequences for such sins include loss of certain privileges and even potential loss of Church membership depending on what Church leaders feel is appropriate and what will help the individual the most.

Conclusion

I strive to live the teachings of the Savior for a few reasons. Firstly, I have seen how my life is better and more fulfilling when I regularly attend church, read my scriptures, keep the Sabbath day holy, and don’t drink or take other potentially harmful things into my body. Secondly, I have faith that the blessings and rewards of such a lifestyle will far outweigh the immediate gratification of not keeping the commandments. As much fun as the circus with my friends would be, I know staying true to what I believe is more rewarding. Thirdly and most importantly, I love Jesus Christ and I am grateful for everything that He has done for me. Jesus taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If for no other reason, we should desire to do as He asks because to show our love for Him and our gratitude for the great sacrifice He made in our behalf.

Remember the comforting, calling words of the Savior, “come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).

And John taught that we learn of Him when we keep his commandments (see 1 John 2:3).

So no, I don’t do any of these things because I have to. I do each of them because I want to. I want to be an example of the believers, I want to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him, and I want that comfort and rest promised by the Savior Himself to those who keep His commandments.

Jeremy