Jesus Christ

There’s this line of thought I’ve seen crop up fairly frequently in church classes and talks expressed in a few ways: “the gospel’s really about the small things,” “what’s really important is making sure you’re consistently doing the little things” “you know, it’s all comes down to those sunday school answers, right? say your prayers, read your scriptures, attending church…” All of these are saying the same thing: the gospel isn’t really that hard! All you need to do is find a couple of church-y things to do in the midst of the non-church-y things you’re busy with all the rest of the week, plop them on top of your life the way you pour sprinkles on a sundae. If you’re watching YouTube for a couple hours anyway, at least spend two minutes watching a Mormon Message. Make sure you meet your minimum quota of Jesus for the week and then anything else church-y you’re able to put in is just, like, bonus blessings!

The problem with all this is that there’s never going to be a minimum amount of Jesus we need in our lives or any real distinction between “church-y” and “not-church-y” beyond what we choose to arbitrarily imagine. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph that “all things unto me are spiritual and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal,” that each of our  words and deeds, no matter how seemingly mundane, have spiritual implications (D&C 29:34). As Christians, our lives aren’t diametrically separated into church-y and non-church-y things like oil and water are in a jar: instead, our discipleship to Jesus Christ is supposed to dictate the attitude by which we approach every area of our life. Each of us needs to experiment ourselves on what it means to be Christlike while working, how we might carry the example of Christ into school, or the time spent with friends and family, or our hobbies, and everything else life includes. We convert each of these activities in the course of our lives to be Christlike activities in all ways they can be so. This is, of course, much more difficult than sprinkling one or two overtly church-y things into an otherwise mostly secular lifestyle; I don’t want to pretend like I’ve mastered it at all. But this life-permeating mindfulness is what I think we’re asked to commit (to covenant) ourselves towards in the prayers said over the Sacrament: “that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (Moroni 4:3). 

There is no minimum level of discipleship or any easy mode to Christian living that pares what’s required by the call “come follow me” down to “come follow me by doing two or three church-y things a day this next week.” At the end of that path lies only the sad idolatry of mistaking the tools of worship for what we are worshiping. The command at the climax of the Sermon on the Mount is “be ye therefore perfect”–whole, complete, purposeful–not a partial Christian or a dash-of-church-y-ness-where-I-can-squeeze-it-in Christian, but a whole-hearted, entire, and complete disciple (Matthew 5:48). Christ’s good news should have an impact on everything we do, even where (especially where) we don’t expect it to apply (I find Lewis’ parable about the house a useful illustration of this). Yes, it is harder, and I don’t mean to disparage or discourage those who are still finding their footing in Christ and who find it helpful to at first grab hold of a few overtly spiritual habits to help gain their bearings. But if we are to be truly nourished and strengthened in the gospel, we must move on at some point from its milk to its meat and this–“having the image of God engraven upon [our] countenances”–is a crucial step in our progress (Alma 5:19).