Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thoughts on worshipping God

I've been thinking a lot lately about the different ways that people worship God. We all interact with God in different ways, and none is superior to another. I'm grateful for a Father in Heaven who knows and understands each of our individual personalities. Only He knows the true intent of our hearts and how our minds process ideas, so I have learned to stop judging and start recognizing and respecting the many ways people manifest their love for God.

Here are a few of my observations:

The Spiritually Inclined
These are the people who respond to God on a very emotional level. They "feel" things, they react to the Spirit easily and openly, they get the "warm fuzzies" when talking about God and Jesus Christ. These people thrive on hearing how God has helped other people in their lives, they are uplifted and inspired by others' experiences.

The Intellectuals
Other people get excited about God and the scriptures by immersing themselves in study. Just reading a chapter from the scriptures daily doesn't really get them jazzed about Christ's gospel. By reading others' words, comparing ideas, discussing doctrine with others, thinking of God outside the box of the typical Sunday School answers, this is how they draw closer to God and feel His influence in their lives.

Those who worship God by worshipping the land
I see this a lot in my new community and my Grandad Cox was definitely this type of person. These people are generally quiet, not necessarily real "churchy", but they see the evidence of God in nature. They love the beauty and challenges of the land. They love God's creatures and have respect for them. By working the land, they feel the goodness of all that God created and that is their religion.

The Dutiful/Those who worship God by serving
These are the practical, "get it done" kind of people who don't say too much about religion, but when someone needs something, they're the first ones on the doorstep. They value hard work above all else and measure their success by their effort, not necessarily by the traditional results that much of the world values. They are the "doers" that God needs so much to help care for His children here on Earth. I came across this quote from Heber J. Grant (president of the LDS Church from 1918 to 1945) and it really struck me:

There is but one path of safety to the Latter-day Saints, and that is the
path of duty. It is not testimony, it is not marvelous manifestations, it is not
knowing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, . . . it is not actually
knowing that the Savior is the Redeemer, and that Joseph Smith was His prophet,
that will save you and me, but it is the keeping of the commandments of God, the
living the life of a Latter-day Saint. [Heber J. Grant, Improvement Era, November 1936, p.

Sometimes we get so caught up in worrying about whether we're "feelin' it" with the whole gospel thing, that we let that interfere with what really matters. Maybe you're frustrated because you don't understand exactly how God works in your life, maybe you feel inferior because you haven't had a "great spiritual experience" in a long time, maybe you just find church tedious and boring. But guess what, those things aren't critical. What matters most to God is that we are obedient. He doesn't expect that all of us will have a deep and abiding testimony of Jesus Christ's atonement or Joseph Smith's divine calling, or that we will be masters of the scriptures. Sure, He would love those things for us, but that's not what's going to save us. What's going to save us is learning what God expects of us, what our duties are, and then DOING IT. God knows what is in our mind and He has compassion for our weaknesses. He knows the things that challenge us. That IS why He gave us a Savior, after all.

What kind of worshipper am I? A combination, really. I'm kind of the first one, emotionally responsive to the gospel, but that's usually driven by the second one. I have a hard time really "feeling" excited about Jesus Christ until I really immerse myself in some study. I am most lackadaisical in my relationship to God when I'm not praying with sincerity and humility or if I'm just skimming the scriptures without devoting some time and attention to thinking about them. I love to talk about religious things. Some of my favorite talks about the gospel have been with my friend Lori who belongs to another faith. And yet, being a spiritually driven person, I still value duty and obedience above all else. I wasn't always this way. I used to think that you had to show all the outward signs of being a believer in order to have a "real" testimony. This was a great source of contention early in my marriage. But as you mature you realize that being on a constant spiritual high is just not a realistic expectation. We all go through phases in our spirituality, things ebb and flow, and you have to be realistic enough to know that sometimes the best you can do is just as President Grant said: keep the commandments and live the life of a saint. God respects that effort even if we're not feeling particularly close to Him.

Dan falls squarely in the Dutiful category. He has always been loyal to me, treated his children well, worked hard, taken on challenges and served with his hands (I can't tell you how many ways he helped my Mom when we lived with her.) I have loved that more and more about him as the years go by. He's also an Intellectual. Church can be a real drag, more aggravating than inspiring, if you just hear the same platitudes spouted over and over again. Dan loved teaching Elder's Quorum because he could take the discussion in a different direction and really get people thinking different ideas. He loved to research things and ask hard questions. For several years of our marriage, I wondered and worried about how deep his testimony was, but I can finally see the evidence that he loves and honors God and Jesus Christ by working hard, being willing to serve, and sticking to his commitments.

I also used to think you had to be pretty pious to be a true disciple of Christ. But, again, God respects our individual personalities. Some of us thrive on humor, some of us struggle with our tempers, some of us are just quiet so no one really knows what we think. I can guarantee there are many men in this community who have cussed at cows more times than they can count, but they still know and love God and know where their blessings come from. You can go to church and worship God in your cowboy boots (as long as you clean the manure off first) or a sweater just as easily as you can in a suit. God looks upon the heart, not on the outer appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). God gives us commandments because He knows those are the tried and true things that bring happiness. But He is patient with our weaknesses and is always inviting us to repent and do better. I guess I'm just saying that you don't have to be Molly Mormon or Peter Priesthood to worship and love God.

What kind of worshipper are you? Surely there are other categories that I didn't even touch on. What makes you feel close to God? Are there things you wish you could change about your relationship with God and how do you think you could accomplish it? I'd love to hear comments, even if they're anonymous, but mostly I hope this will get you thinking about your own relationship to God.


Lori Gerten said...

My favorite memories of the last few years of our realtionship (besides the other multitudes) are our talks about faith. I appreciate that we can be so open and understanding and accepting of our differences. I love your post and your honesty.

Kimberly said...

I don't know you and hope that you don't mind that I've read your blog...I came across it while reading another friends blog and I am ABSOLUTELY grateful for having read this entry. I am a convert to the church (13 yrs. now) married (to an amazing priesthood holder) & have 4 beautiful daughters (that I am so grateful to be raising in the church)this particular entry really touched my heart and has inspired me to really look at which "one" I am. Like you said there are definite ebbs & flows not just to church but life itself & I am always grateful to be reminded of how important the atonement is in my life and what my relationship with the Lord is...thank you for helping to remind me to always question where I am in that relationship & improve what needs improving. Thank-you.
Kimberly Parisi Sarasota, Fl. my blog: