The focus of this lesson is on keeping the Sabbath day holy. That is a big subject, and one that cannot be fully, or even mostly, covered in just one article. My main aim today is to talk about helping each of us gain more from our Church meetings, since this is one part of the Sabbath we should all have in common.
The lesson brings up a good point about sanctification. The Lord has sanctified the Sabbath day. That means He has set it apart from all other days with the intent that only those things which lead to holiness are to be done on that day. It is a day of rest from the pursuits of all our worldly endeavors. On the Sabbath day we are to devote ourselves to our pursuit of godliness.
The temples are also places that have been sanctified, set apart for the work of holiness and salvation. Our homes should also be sanctified, that is they should be places where we actively pursue that which would make us holy and more acceptable to God.
Think about our expectations for activity and behavior when we enter the temple. We expect there to be reverence. We expect respect to be shown to everyone. Everyone is on equal footing in the temple. There is no such thing as those who are at the top of the social ladder, who are more important than others. In the temple we are all equal in the sight of God, and our work is done without expectation of payment in return. We are giving of ourselves in a very selfless way when we serve in the temple.
How does this translate to our behavior and expectations in the home? Are we as selfless at home? Are all members of our family, as well as our guests, on an equal footing? Are we serving each other without expectation of reward? Is our home a place of love and acceptance? Or is it a place of chaos and pandemonium (unless we are all asleep)?
To worship is to feel great respect, awe, admiration, adoration, devotion, and love for that which we worship. One cannot worship God in a state of complacency and with a nonchalant attitude. To worship is to be focused on the object of our worship. We must be willing to dedicate ourselves to what we worship. If we are not willing to do so then we aren’t really worshiping are we?
What does it take to place yourself into an attitude of worshipfulness? Can you just walk into the chapel and suddenly have all the feelings that worship involves at your command? I don’t believe we can. To begin to feel worshipful takes effort. It requires that we put out of our minds the pressing needs and demands of others and of commitments that are part of our lives the other six days of the week.
To worship requires that we mentally and emotionally go to a special place where we begin to feel gratitude for what God has done for us. This needs to be on a deeper level than just a casual acknowledgment that the Savior atoned for our sins. We need to recognize within ourselves what that sacrifice means to us. How does it affect us? What would happen to us without that sacrifice in place? We need to try to get a sense of the magnitude of God’s love, grace, mercy, and all that God has done for us. Only then can we begin to fully feel like worshiping.
The most important thing we attend Church for is to partake of the sacrament. This renewal of our baptismal covenants has been sanctified by the Lord as a time for us to take stock of our spiritual progress. This opportunity gives us a weekly chance to take a personal inventory of how obedient we have been during the week. We can check our progress for prayers, scripture reading, service, personal growth, etc.
This all takes time. It takes more time than is available to us during the sacrament portion of the meeting. This means that preparation is required beforehand so we are already in an attitude of worship when we arrive at the meeting house. I know what some of you are thinking. “What? I’ve got kids. It is a constant struggle to get everyone ready for church each week. How can you expect me to feel worshipful when I am wrestling twins or toddlers and trying to get myself ready for church?”
This is the universal challenge. We all have things that seem to want to derail our efforts to experience being able to worship the Lord in church. And it doesn’t help that our LDS culture has adopted a “meet and greet” attitude that begins when we enter the building and doesn’t end until we leave the building. This causes the chapel to be more like a social hall than a place of quiet reverence. It will continue this way until more of the Saints learn to treat the building like they do the temple. We need to learn to be more reverent in the halls, whisper more, and not be so forgetful that others are in sacrament meeting and need some quiet so they can worship during their meeting.
Being worshipful during church time doesn’t require a list of do’s and don’ts. What it requires is a change of attitude for most of us. This will happen one person at a time. It will require that we change some of our long-held habits of talking at full voice anywhere we please, calling down the hall to someone as if we were in a shopping center or other public place, and carrying on the business of our callings in the chapel itself. Have you ever been in a ward where the congregation seems to be in competition with the organist’s prelude music before the start of the meeting? The louder the organ gets the louder the people get, until you can’t hear anyone speak unless you are nearly yelling.
If we expect to feel worshipful then we have to put ourselves in an attitude of worship. This is not easy, but can be done. We will always have little children in our meetings. With children comes some amount of noise. But even children can be trained at home to learn to sit still for periods of time. We can also train them to engage in quiet activities that are Sabbath appropriate. The point here is that it takes forethought and effort on a continual basis during the week for this to happen. But when I learn to help my family act more reverent in church, it opens the door for the Spirit to help others to learn and grow spiritually, which is why we are at church in the first place.
We are a friendly people. We love our neighbors. We love to see them and to socialize with them, but the time to do that is not during Sacrament meeting. When we are in the church house we need to learn to act like we are in the temple. We need to teach our children how to behave with reverence. This means we teach them not to run and scream down the hallways. They need to learn to respect God’s house and their time spent there. We have plenty of other opportunities to chat and catch up that can take place outside the meeting block.
This might require that we rethink our social circles. It used to be that we visited with our neighbors during the week. It was not uncommon for people to go for walks and drop in on each other for a chat and visit. We seem to have become so caught up in our own schedules that we no longer have time for those we are supposed to be learning to love, as per the second great commandment. We can talk to our friends in person when we fulfill our home and visiting teaching assignments, when we clean the chapel together, when we go to the weekday meetings, and when we drop by to visit with each other to offer a helping hand on the spur of the moment.
I understand that this is hard doctrine. But if we are to become worshipful and actually worship the Lord when we go to Church, many of us need to become more humble, meek, reverent, and learn to display the respect for God’s house and His sacrament that will invite the Spirit to teach us of His ways. That is going to require some personal changes for each of us, myself included.