Rooting our Worship in the Savior

I recently had a dear friend publicly announce that she was leaving the Church. I have known about her objections and her decision for a while, but seeing her announce it was still painful.

One of her criticisms that I have also heard others mention is that she felt that teaching in the Church was not focused enough on Jesus Christ and too focused on peripheral matters such as tithing or food storage. She felt that these matters distracted from the focus on Jesus Christ and harmed her relationship with him.

Of course, there is some merit to this critique. We should always strive to do better in tying our discipleship and everything that we do to the Savior and his Atonement. Without him all of the commandments that we keep, callings we hold, and sermons we preach would be in vain. Without his grace, everything would lack efficacy and meaning. If we lose sight of that, we lose sight of the true core of the Gospel.

As President Boyd K. Packer emphasized, “[t]his is the very root of Christian doctrine. You may know much about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them.”

We can and should do much better at connecting our worship, sermons, and prayers to the savior. I am inspired by the example of one of my personal mentors, Judge Thomas B. Griffith, who as a Stake President directed that “every sacrament meeting talk and every lesson in Sunday School, Relief Society, and priesthood meetings must be related to the Atonement of Christ in a direct and express way.” I believe that such a course of action would be an immense blessing for the Church and for each of its members.

But waiting for change from above or for others to begin to preach better sermons or teach better lessons relegates us to the role of things to be acted upon rather than agents ready to act. Even if our Church services are not perfectly focused on Christ at times, our personal worship can be.

I have found that if I put in prayerful personal effort, I can transform even the most mundane lesson or talk into a spirit-filled one that helps me draw closer to the savior. President Eyring has shared a story where he talked to his father after a sacrament meeting that President Eyring found particularly boring. His father responded by telling him that he never experienced a boring sacrament meeting because “[h]e always tried to think along with the speaker, even developing ideas in his mind about what he would say to supplement the talk.” If a talk is missing the connection to Jesus Christ, then we can create that connection. We can ask ourselves how this principle or commandment helps us better understand Christ and draw closer to him. We can think of relevant scriptures that help to connect us to the savior. And I have found that when we put in that work it sticks with us far more than if the verses or teachings were spoon fed to us by the speaker. For the spirit will help speak to us and lead us to personal insight and revelation.

And there is so much we can do to help make our Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society classes more uplifting as well. As Elder Oaks expressed, the attitude that “I didn’t learn anything today” or “The Church is not filling my needs” is “self centered” and retards spiritual growth. We need to view our classes as an opportunity to uplift and inspire others. If we feel the discussion is lacking, we have a duty to do our part to be active participants and try to bring the spirit. And even if that fails, we can personally be blessed as we think of personal experiences or Christ-centered thoughts that are relevant.

I believe that every doctrine and teaching in the Church can help us draw closer to Christ. Learning about food storage can help us to strengthen our faith in Christ’s second coming. Paying our tithing helps us remember that God has given us all that we have in this life. Testifying of Joseph Smith can turn our thoughts to his visions of Christ and his testimony of the atonement. None of these teachings are islands or atolls in and of themselves. They all can help us to draw closer to the Savior whose Church this is. Whether and to what degree those connections are made are ultimately up to us.

14 thoughts on “Rooting our Worship in the Savior

  1. When a person leaves a marriage because they find it lacks the love that ought to be at the root of marriage, it does not invalidate the institution of marriage.

    There is something rather triumphalist about an individual proclaiming that all members of the Church eschew the worship of Christ, that the individual has had to go out into the desert to find what they seek.

    Yet just as we hold tighter to our loved ones when we hear the marriage of a friend has ended, so it is not wrong to hold tight to our love of God and His Christ when we learn of one who was unable to perceive that love.

  2. This reminds me of the story one of the apostles told about how he was driving with his son and was lost so they prayed for direction and the spirit sent them in the wrong direction. This enabled them to see the wrong way and know when they turned around they would be headed the right direction.

    God bless her.

  3. Thank you, Daniel. You have put what I feel into words more eloquently than I was able. I also have friends that are struggling with feeling that there needs to be more of Christ in our meetings. Coming from a background where I was raised as a Protestant, I have tried to point out that as mortals, it tends to be more satisfying to raise funds as a group, with all the inherent support within the group members, to “care for the poor”, than to quietly & privately pay a fast offering. It is hard to move beyond the mortal desire for positive reinforcement from others to the spiritual desire to do our good works where only the Lord can see, & feel the spiritual confirmation that He is pleased with us. The example of President Eyring’s father resonated with me, too.

    Meg, I love the marriage analogy.

  4. I was asked to give the talk about the Holy Ghost at the recent baptism of one of my grandchildren. I learned and remembered a lot as I tried to encompass the wonder and glory that is the Holy Ghost into a three minute presentation. One of the ‘advantages’ of being a conventional Christian is that whenever they refer to God they are also referring to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit because of Trinitarian doctrine. Perhaps with our understanding of the discrete personality of members of the Godhead we sometimes forget that that all work together, and our praise and gratitude include all of them as well.
    Most pictures in temples represent the Savior. The Book of Mormon is full of references to Him. The various apostates and apostasies found in the book all preached against Christ.
    Do talks about family history, food storage, emergency preparedness or chastity diminish our worship? Only if we choose to forget the role of righteous discipleship in honoring our God.

  5. I’m all for talking more about Christ in our worship services. However, some of the best talks given in general conference have barely mentioned Christ. Not that principles relating to the atonement or repentance or some other gospel principle weren’t discussed, but it wasn’t as if every other sentence referenced the Savior. Even our scriptures tell stories and chronicle people and teach lessons; they don’t always reference Christ. My worry is that those who want more frequent references to Christ want to model a typical evangelical service, where they might talk of Christ in the New Testament and nothing else. I don’t know how to strike a balance. It is possible to work in a reference to Christ in just about every good lesson or talk. But, I think there are enough gospel principles to include other topics as well. It’s been a long time since someone got up in sacrament and droned on about food storage (15 years maybe?) Our Sunday School lessons, PH lessons and sacrament talks do a pretty good job on focusing on Christ and His attributes.

  6. Such an interesting perspective. My husband is the ward mission leader. He and the Elders have been working with a gentleman for sometime now. This brother always says, “All you Mormons talk about is Jesus!”

  7. As I see it, this is a church of doing as much as a church of believing. After having established a belief in Christ, what next? Answer: obeying HIS commandments, repenting, sanctifying ourselves, pressing forward, enduring to the end. What are His commandments? Answer: the ones in the scriptures, and the ones that Prophets, Seers and Revelators presently preach over the pulpit at General Conference, and in the monthly First Presidency message of the Ensign. Special attention, or extra attention needs to be paid to the ones that are repeated frequently in the present. Repetition of something by the Brethren indicates an emphasis from the Lord, which pattern was established in ancient scripture. “I tell you three times…”

    I think IDIAT made an insightful comment about connecting the person mentioned in the OP to our evangelical brethren. To paraphrase James 2:19, “You believe in God? Okay. The devils believe too. Look what good it does them.”

    Perhaps there was a time when speakers in some local wards didn’t mention the Savior enough. But excuse me, local speakers in local wards don’t set church doctrine nor policy. Even if those talks were less-than-optimum or less-inspired, look how Satan has used that chink in our armor to get some people out of the true church. Yes, let’s keep improving our armor. But until it is perfect, we must also not let Satan take advantage of our imperfections to lead us astray.

    On the other hand, I’ll even grant the possibility that the Lord didn’t inspire those speakers to speak on faith in Him, because the audience wasn’t having any problems with faith, and what the Lord may have wanted those audiences to hear was encouragement for better commandment-keeping.

    When I see something less-than-optimum in the church, I sometimes consider “Is that a bug or a feature?” The Lord’s stated modus operandi is to use “weak and simple things” to “thrash the nations” and to bring about His purposes, so when I see weak and simple (ie, less than perfect) people with callings in the church I sometimes think “Yep, that’s one of the signs of the true church!”

  8. Good article. With this principle in mind, I once asked a sister to speak in sacrament meeting on “Tithing and the Atonement of Christ.” She magnified that assignment and gave a most effective sermon on tithing. More importantly, the Spirit was felt powerfully and the congregation was drawn toward Christ.

    I don’t think a talk or lesson needs to mention Christ in every second sentence, but it should be grounded in Christ and the Atonement in such a way that everyone can tell how the doctrine being taught relates to the core doctrines of the Gospel.

  9. I’m sorry about your friend. Their are too many battles currently being lost, good choice people. For me the imperfect church (imperfect members) is a testimony of this work. Provides many opportunities to serve. Constant choice between being selfish and not so much. Constant opportunity to repent and resolve to be more like Jesus and a constant opportunity to be.

    Among the many reasons for a church is the opportunities it provides to get involved and serve, magnify a calling and demonstrate faith. A volunteer organization full of good people making an effort, but not perfect. Why the church is as true as the gospel. I’m willing, but no question I’m not perfect. And who am I to judge you? Thanks to Jesus, I believe it will all work out according to justice and mercy in the end.

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