Friday, April 9, 2010

What I Should Have Said

Esprit de l'escalier, the French call it.  "A clever remark that occurs to one after the opportunity to make it is lost." (SOED)  Though it wasn't a witty retort I needed to make.  More of a testimony.

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing with a friend and her friend the important question of how to help our children stay active in the church.  We mentioned the usual recommendations, family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and seminary for the teens.  As we went along, he said something to the effect of "I'm not one of those people who think it's not okay to miss church once in a while.  My wife would be, but I won't let her."  While I tried to decipher his remark, they discussed their similar feelings on the matter and choices they've made.  And then he said, "Really, how can you know what's right?"

"Ask," I replied.

"Right," he said, "We can discuss it, like this."  And the conversation moved on.

But that's not what I meant.  Don't ask me.  Ask the Lord.  Remember James 1:5?

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

The promise applies to all of us, not just young prophets.  The Lord gave the commandments.  If you are not sure how to keep them, ask him. 

...and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:4)

The answer may come as you as you study the scriptures, or discuss with family or friends, or through the words of his servants, the prophets.  (I thought the talks by Keith B. McMullin and Bruce A. Carlson in this April's conference were helpful.)  But if you are really looking for an answer, you will recognize it because the Lord

...will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2)

We can know the truth, straight from the source.  He wants to tell us.  It is a promise.

Now, as it happens, I am one of those people who go to church every Sunday.  That is how I was raised.  We had family prayer every day.  Family scripture study was a later development.  If we didn't have family home evening, it was usually my fault.  I did learn a lot in seminary.  And we went to church every week.  My sisters and I still do.  I'm grateful that my husband feels the same way.  We go to church every Sunday, even if we are really tired.  Even if we aren't feeling well.  Even if one of the boys throws a major tantrum, gets strapped into his car seat kicking and screaming, and refuses to get dressed until we are in the parking lot.  Even when we are on vacation.  Of course, if someone is really sick, we make arrangements, but otherwise we don't have to decide about church attendance.  We have already chosen.  It is not always easy, but the blessings accumulate.  And, at least once, our habit has led to a missionary experience.

A couple of years ago, we took a somewhat chaotic vacation in Japan.  After a week full of travelling and sight-seeing, we were ready to go to church.  We were staying on base at NAS Atsugi, so we asked the chaplain's office for information about LDS meetings.  They didn't know the schedule, and the person on their contact list had an unlisted number, so they couldn't give it to us.  But they told us that the chapel was just outside one of the gates to the base.  So on Sunday morning, we got dressed and started walking.  It was a hot, humid August day.  As it became clear that the road to that gate went around the entire flight line, we had some discussion of "Where is the church?"  "How much farther is it?"  "What time were we supposed to be there?" (from Scoot the Punctual)  But I don't recall anyone wondering why we had to go to church, or suggesting that we go swimming instead.  We just kept going. 

Then an SUV traveling in the opposite direction stopped, and a family asked if we needed help.  We explained our situation, and they offered us a ride.  The wife had a good friend in the ward, and knew where the building was.  They were very friendly, but surprised.  "You want to go to church when you're on vacation?"  We told them we needed the peace the meetings would bring, a rest from seeing the world.  They dropped us off in time to take the Sacrament with the local ward, then join the Americans for classes.  After the meetings we learned that our chauffeur's wife had sent a text message to her friend to be sure that someone gave us a ride back to our lodgings after church. 

I don't know what happened later.  But I do know that our devotion made a good impression on this family.  We made them wonder what there was about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that would cause a family with small children to walk an unknown distance through the heat to attend meetings while on vacation in a foreign land.  We were not, and I am not now, trying to show off.  We were just doing what we have found to be right.  And it made us happy.

Ask, and it shall be given you... (Matthew 7:7)

1 comment:

  1. Love your experience - we always go to church on holidays - but we are usually in less exotic places (Australia is less exotic to us). It can be hard for my eldest who has difficulty with meeting new people but she knows there is no compromise.