The Church of Casual Saints

In the 25th chapter of Matthew is the parable of the ten virgins–five wise and five foolish. When reading the parable, substitute the word ‘casual’ in place of the word ‘foolish.’

Now, it is time for some personal introspection. Are there areas of the gospel where you have become casual? Do you recognize aspects of the gospel where your fellow saints have become casual? Is it in our dress, temple attendance, listening to our leaders, scripture study, prayers, etc.?

Elder Dale G. Renlund Of the Seventy noted in his October 2009 conference address about heart transplant patients who “become casual with their transplanted hearts,” which ultimately leads to rejection of the new heart and then death. 1

Have we experienced the mighty change of heart spoken of in Alma 5, or are we casual about how we treat our new hearts and reject the message of the Savior?

What can be done to overcome the casual observance of gospel principles? Discuss.

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1- Dale G. Renlund, “Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 97–99

29 thoughts on “The Church of Casual Saints

  1. A powerful image in a brief but thought-provoking post. Thanks, Brian.

    As for what we can do, I’ve been thinking that in the new year as we begin the Gospel Principles study, I would consider each lesson as if I were a new convert, and if appropriate, put the same thought and effort into living that principle as if I had the convert’s zeal. One at a time, it shouldn’t be so much, no?

  2. It’s interesting to note that is some ways our generation is more committed than past generations. If you think about Saints 100 years ago, many young men did not go on missions, many were not required to keep the word of wisdom and many were not full tithe payers, yet they were considered loyal Saints.

    We are all probably too casual in some ways, but beating yourself up about it isn’t going to get yourself anywhere. Can we ever do enough? Probably not.

  3. While at the Recommend Desk at our temple, if I see members arriving in casual dress, I make a note for the Temple President who calls the Stake President and/or Bishop and reminds them that dresses, tie and white shirt, and shoes are recommended to enter the temple. One day, an entire barrio from a seaside city had hermanas attending in flip-flops.

  4. Ardis: I too am excited for the new lesson plan for next year. I think we can all use a return to the basics when studying the gospel. A convert’s zeal is a precious thing that ought to be sought after by all Latter-Day Saints. I share your goal and hope to have my testimony renewed and invigorated this next year.

    Geoff: I agree, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up isn’t going to help anything. But where do we draw the line? What principles should we be allowed to remain casual about and which principles should we strive to be better about?

    R Biddulph: We had the same discussion in my ward about flip-flops for people attending the temple. Our stake president will turn members away for a temple recommend if they do not show up wearing Sunday dress.

    Interestingly enough, just before leaving for my mission, I was in SLC with some friends and my church clothes were dirty. I wanted to attend a session in the SLC temple. I showed up at the recommend desk wearing t-shirt and jeans. I asked one of the brethren wear I might be able to rent a suit so I could attend the temple. He inquired of me why I needed to rent a suit. He asked me what I would be wearing inside the temple. My reply: white clothing. He checked my recommend and then ushered me in and told me not to worry about what I was wearing.

    Should we be concerned about the outward appearance? Or should we look on the heart?

  5. “One day, an entire barrio from a seaside city had hermanas attending in flip-flops.”

    The horror! The horror!

  6. We went to my parents ward over Thanksgiving week. The HC speaker talked about a similar subject. He asked to we “Slip, Clip and Flip”? Meaning, slip out of bed, clip our hair back quickly and slip on flip-flops in our rush to get out the door to church at the last minute. It was good.

    My beef is with ‘terminal foyer’ dwellers, who seem to like Gossip Doctrine class more than Gospel Doctrine class.

  7. “What can be done to overcome the casual observance of gospel principles?”

    Elder Packer taught that “[t]rue doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the
    doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 2004, 77)

    Thus, my answer is a more complete and meaningful study of the gospel. Once we understand the doctrines, our behavior will automatically change for the better. There are too many “casual” members who think that simply reading the scriptures fulfills the “feast upon the words of Christ” recommendation. This is not so.

  8. I think we have become casual in some things. However, we are stronger in others. Overall, we are in the journey of life and take it day by day.

    I remember in the early 1980s leaders asking how many brought their Scriptures to church. Members now bring their scriptures to church and use them. All of them don’t, but those who don’t, is a small minority. Previous generations did not bring scriptures.

    We have a stronger percentage of youth in the church who are better prepared for missions. Where do they prepare for missions? In the home, in primary, in scouting, in Priesthood quorums, in Young Women classes, in seminary, and in Institute.

    In my post a few weeks back, I spoke on the basic principles of the gospel. http://www.millennialstar.org/back-to-the-basic-principles-and-doctrines-of-the-gospel/
    The new curriculum for 2010 and 2011 will be great.

    What are some of the things that can we do to really benefit from our Gospel Principles book? (this can apply to whatever we are studying)

    1> Skim through the chapters

    2> Read the chapters

    3> Think, Ponder, and Reflect as we read

    4> Study the scriptures that are listed in each chapter

    5> Answer the questions that are listed on our own paper

    6> When we are done studying, we can write a summary of the chapter, write our testimony on that doctrine/ principle, and write down a few things that we can do to apply that lesson into our own lives. This can be kept in a notebook, and at the end of 2011, we can look back and see how far we have grown spiritually in the gospel.

    7> We can do this before we go to class so that we can get more out of the lesson

    I think we can take advantage of every opportunity to learn, develop a stronger testimony, and to serve. We cannot say “All is well in Zion”. If we do, then personal apostasy can occur. We need to work harder/ stronger and have faith.

    The Preach My Gospel book is another excellent opportunity to get to the basics so that we are not the 50% that aren’t diligent. 50% of the membership of the church is not diligent (that is like the 10 Virgen parable). What percentage are we as a church that is faithful? We need to do our part so that we are on the winning army aganist evil and Satan.

    What would happen if rememorized the Articles of Faith? Memorized scriptures. Memorized quotes. What would happen if we had a ‘spiritual’ journal where we placed things that were spiritual. It is like Nephi making two sets of plates.

    Overall, what would happen if we rededicated ourselves to the cause, gospel, and the church? What would happen? Would we be dedicated as in Alma 5? Would we feel the spirit more?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints_membership_statistics_(United_States)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints

  9. Interesting discussion.

    I come from the old school of “teaching correct principles and letting us govern ourselves”. Over the course of my lifetime. I have noticed the church members, I have come in contact with, are evolving into a more devout membership. When I was a kid, men wore the most horrible leisure suits with the most gaudy looking shirts you can image to church. White shirts were unheard of. I saw Deacons passing the sacrament in jeans and t-shirts ( this was good old Wasatch-front Utah). Jesus was rarely mentioned in Sacrament mtg., very few people had read the Book of Mormon. Sacrament mtg. talks were food storage, pioneers, poems, the golden rule, etc… I was told as a teen, multiple times, we do not talk/teach about Jesus or God because they are too sacred.

    In my parents childhood, sometimes Priesthood mtg. and Sunday School were held, movies on Sunday were ok, fathers did not baptize or bless their children, few young men went on missions etc… Many young couples did not get sealed in the Temple for many years after they were married. Temple attendance was very sparse, once or twice in a lifetime was enough. Genealogy was not done like it is today. My father was taught, “we do not disturb the dead, they are asleep”. Home teaching was rare. Family Home Evening was almost non-existent.

    Now Relief Society that was an organization that had power. The Relief Society Halls were more grand than the church building. Relief Society in the 1920-40′s became LDS women’s form of worship. Relief Society meetings were always held. The Relief Society raised their own funds and did a lot of charity work. Often mothers did not attend Sacrament meetings, only Sunday School. Sacrament Meeting, (1-3 hours long) was attended by men and older children and teens. Children were not welcome into Sacrament mtg. until the 60′s-70′s.

    I think we need to think of the membership as many different kinds of people with different frames of reference. We need to be careful in making our peg board holes too small. Many sizes and shapes need to fit into our peg board of inclusion. We need to be more inclusive, rather than exclusive. I think of Christ opening His arms for all to feast at the table of the Gospel.

  10. What’s more casual for temple purposes a businesswoman in a very expensive pants suit or a woman in a denim jumper dress? Why the heck does it matter, they’re both at the temple to worship and the doors should be thrown open wide and welcome both equally. (As an aside, why do so many of these kinds of conversations revolve around how women dress?)

    I have been at more than one conference which unexpectedly ended early enough for me to swing by a temple on my way out of town. (At least here in the US, there’s many more temples to visit these days.) Usually I’m dressed casually sans a tie and even, as horrible as this sounds, not even in a white shirt. It’s nice to know there are judgmental,self righteous people like Mr. Biddulph gaurding the temples ready to report back to my Stake President or Bishop that I was too casual at a temple. Maybe next time I’ll just skip the temple altogether and catch an earlier flight home so the Mr. Biddulphs of the Church can sleep better at night. Fortunately, Mr. Duffin’s experience more closely mirrors the receptions I’ve enjoyed at the various temples when I’ve appeared casually dressed. Keep up the good work Mr. Biddulph, I’m sure the people waiting on the other side really care that someone wore flip flops or a colored shirt to the temple to do their saving work for them.

    Re: Elder Chritofferson’s talk. That was a wonderful talk until he wandered into open toed shoes and denim skirts. What the heck?

  11. JA, you make some good points…however, I don’t think it’s asking too much that we take more than 5 mins to get ourselves ready for church (physically and spiritually).

    On my mission it was rare that the brothers had a white shirt or tie, but what they did wear was clean, neat and their “sunday” best. Where I live in New Mexico it is not out of the ordinary to come to church in jeans (with a crease ironed in them of course).

  12. Did anyone read what Brian wrote? Or just the title of the post? Because I don’t think he’s actually asking about casual clothing.

  13. My second comment/ post that I wrote about this did not go straight in. It is right under my first one. I had to approve it first– pretty crazy. Take a read at it.

  14. rbc Amen and Testify!! :)

    Joyce- You are absolutely right. Whatever the standard is, we need to do it, not worry if our neighbor is doing the same or more. We attend a Messianic congregation on Saturday for the Jewish Holy Days. I was dismayed when my kids got all bent out of shape about how some congregants wear jeans and others wear suits and dresses. My kids of course, wanted to not wear their church clothes. It was good to have discussion, on how each person was doing their best in worshipping in whatever clothes had. My children had not attended another church before, so it was good to have this opportunity to teach them this is our personal standard in worship no matter where we are.

    Kristine- You are right. we did get off track. I emphasized clothing, but my point was the church members (i.e. in dress, temple attendance, mission, scripture study, emphasis on scripture, priesthood in the home) historically appear to be being getting less casual and more devout in worship. Thanks for reminding me of it.

  15. Bill-#10 good comment. I think we are getting re-acquainted with the basics of the Gospel is because we have so many new members, both young and old. We could all use a refresher course. We can weed out false doctrine and have a standard core of doctrine of the Gospel principles we really believe in Now that the church membership is capable of serious gospel study, we can truly study the scriptures and learn from each other.

  16. Interesting post, and I think that for me, I have to remember not to be casual in my relationship with the Lord. When I take time for my prayers, when I take time to really study my scriptures, it seems like my overall reverence for the gospel increases. Conversely, when I’m faltering at the simple things, I seem to get more casual about worship.

    In this way, I’ve noticed that small and simple things bring about great consequences.

    Thanks again for the post.

  17. RBC, please be respectful when disagreeing with someone. M* welcomes everyone’s comments and appreciates a civil discussion, especially when disagreements arise.

  18. JA…I want to come to the High Holy Days with you!! We only have a Jewish Community center in our town, and I don’t even know if there is a synagouge in Santa Fe (our nearest big town). That would be so awsome! And I have to say that after reading your post about Thanksgiving and Sukkot, we’ll be doing Sukkot from now on too.

  19. rbc: re: clothing at temple.

    My understanding is that the instruction to wear Sunday clothes when going to the temple comes from the Brethren. The Bishop and the teachers of the Temple prep classes usually (at least they’re supposed to) explain the dress code for going to the temple. The Bishop is in a position to notice what people wear to sacrament and help them with either loving instruction, or monetarily, so that they have some appropriate (according to the standards that the Brethren set) for wearing to the temple.

    I don’t know if the standard for men is a matching suit, or if a nice sport coat with dress pants would suffice. But Geoff did the right thing, with the temple pres sending the info back to the Stake Pres, so that it would be kept confidential, where the Stake Pres and the person’s bishop could confidentially educate the person without embarrassment, or help them out monetarily to buy some nicer clothes at Goodwill.

    I’ve seen some real good deals on NICE clothes at Goodwill, and if I were a bishop, I’d have no problem giving a temple-rec-holding family or individual some money to get clothing that was appropriate to wear to the temple.

    I don’t currently have a temple recommend, but, hopefully, those who do qualify for one would be humble enough to either receive instruction from their bishop/Stake Pres on the appropriate dress, and if needed, receive church assistance to purchase appropriate clothing.

    The temple is not a chapel where any scruffy bum off the street can enter.

    And, just for the record, I’ve seen a scruffy bum off the street come into an LDS chapel during the winter. Frankly, I thought he came in just to get warm, and possibly get a handout. But I observed the other members treating him with as much dignity as they would have afforded the mayor.

  20. Great comment Bookslinger. My parents had a homeless man who attended their ward for several weeks. He was treated very well by ward members and his wants were taken care of until he finally stopped coming. If the ward had been casual in observing true religion, this man would have gone without. What a blessing it is to be able to embrace whoever it is that walks through the chapel doors. In my estimation, that is what the Savior would do!

  21. There’s nothing wrong with Tevas. :)

    The wearing of sandals, or of clothes not part of the “norm” does not speak to the true nature of one’s belief in God and can even be seen as window dressing by those who are sinners within but keep the nice dress or suit on so they look the part and can evade scrutiny. And yes, I’ve worn my Tevas to the temple (and just about everywhere else) without anyone telling me to leave or even making a critique of my choice of footwear.

    It of course should not be necessary to remind others that Jesus himself wore sandals and even had a beard!

  22. Dan, I wore sandals to an early morning leadership meeting at the Stake Center on one occasion. No one said a word to me about my choice of footwear. I too was ready with the the same defense! :-)

  23. Sure, someday when I don’t have small kids, I’d love to work the recommend desk. I hope if I did I would follow the policy set by the temple president, whatever that policy is. ;)

  24. It will probably take some sort of crisis to wake people up. Anyone who wants to know can read their history books and scriptures. Only the strongest awake before the “hour of wolves.”

  25. Speaking of introspection, are we really any different as individuals and as a church than the Jews at the time of Christ? Comments critiquing people because of their clothing, what they wear, how they dress and implying (if not worse) that somehow this is indicative of a casual relationship with Christ. Can someone please show me where Jesus ever rebuked someone because they weren’t wearing what we’d consider proper Sunday attire (i.e. a business suit, cufflinks, a nice tie and shoes that were shined that morning)? Does anyone really think that the Lord cares if I wear, for example, a tie to church? All clothing, in essence, is little more than an attempt to satisfy our vanity. To have a stake presidency turn someone away from a temple recommend because they didn’t meet their standards of dress is a shame – an act that, in essence, is barring someone from access to the temple NOT because they were unworthy, but because they didn’t dress-up to someone’s standards of Sunday attire.

    Matthew 23:27–28 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees [Latter Day Saints], hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

    In my opinion, the place where we’ve become the most casual is in our acceptance of all that is Babylon. Cars, clothing, houses, electronics of all shapes and sizes (Christmas anyone?)…materialism at its finest. We go to college to become learned in the ways of the world. We then work to pay for this schooling and these material things every day of our lives (not to mention raising another generation fully steeped in increasing materialism), doing our very best to uphold the very society and secret combinations we’ve been told to flee from post haste. Unfortunately, we’ve even been told to uphold this makeshift world and society, despite its apparent disconnect from teachings in our very own standard works:

    “You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known. All around you is competition. You need all the education you can get. … Sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.” – Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2009 New Era, p. 17

    Really? Sacrifice “anything that is needed” to do the “work of the [Babylon]?”

    In the end, though, and in spite of our waywardness and general casualness with spiritual things, it’s only our relationship with Christ that matters – the only true way to the Tree of Life. If we’re close to Him and hold to Him, it matters not what others say and tell us to do because we’ll be following our Lord and Master. If we were closer to Him, whatever casualness we felt in our lives would become apparent and quickly changed. That casualness, however, would be an inward casualness…a cleansing from within.

    Sorry if I sound preachy…just some things I myself am working on and to suggest that casualness is related to outward appearances is to do a disservice to this discussion when the changes we ALL need come from the inside.

    The Hebrew word for “appearance” in the following verse is ‘ayin. This word relates directly to the eye and that which we see with our physical eyes, or, as one Hebrew dictionary states it: “as many passions of the mind, such as envy, pride, pity, desire, are manifest in the eyes…”

    1 Sam. 16:7 – But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

    Just my $0.04 (adjusted for inflation)

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