The View from Here: Beth Palmer: Why the simple 'Sunday school' answers work

Published: Monday, Oct. 25 2010 10:45 a.m. MDT

At some point, most of us have probably rolled our eyes — or at least wanted to — upon hearing the so-called "Sunday school" answers to questions about our time and priorities.

Prayer, scripture study, temple attendance, Sunday meetings, faith, service — isn't there some more elegant response? At some point, can't we get past this sort of milk mentality and sink our teeth into some meat? Must we forever dwell on these basic tenets of spiritual life?

I've certainly wondered that. I've found myself sometimes wishing for new ideas or solutions, new approaches to old questions — for freshness, maybe.

And maybe that's just natural. Spending as much time in church settings as we do, having these conversations and lessons so consistently, perhaps it's no wonder we sometimes want to shift our thinking completely outside the box on even the most basic questions of spiritual welfare.

Yet, by that sort of logic, I suppose I would also have to offer an exasperated sigh and short response to anyone telling me that, at the most fundamental level, the keys to making life work would include sleeping every night, eating every day, finding shelter against the weather and never failing to breath in and out, over and over and over again.

Is it basic? Certainly. Is it patently obvious? Clearly. Is it unquestionably true and non-negotiably necessary? Absolutely.

When it gets right down to it, the same thing is true of those simple answers about how to survive spiritually. They might not be intellectually complex or groundbreaking thoughts, but their lack inevitably saps any energy we'll need to explore that deeper territory — itself an incredibly worthy pursuit.

But — do we need to keep talking about it? Do we really need lessons on these same topics over and over again? After all, nobody needs to remind me to eat or breath or sleep. I manage to do all those things without repeated lessons.

I suppose we probably could manage spiritually with just our Primary-taught and experience — reinforced knowledge of these fundamental principles — just as we could survive physically on oatmeal and casseroles and frozen pizzas. But it doesn't sound like much of an existence to me.

As much as I study and experiment with new recipes in my kitchen and seek out interesting new restaurants, I'm constantly finding new ingredients and new flavor combinations I had never considered before. It's all still food, but the more I explore it the better it becomes — and the bigger it becomes. The more I look, the more possibilities I find.

I'm fairly certain I could study my whole life and not stop learning new things about faith; I could pray my whole life and never stop needing it, I could serve my whole life and never stop being enriched by it.

And maybe it does get old to feel frustrated with something, to feel some sort of lack, and hear for the millionth time that you already know the mechanism to make things better; personally, I'm sure that my occasional dissatisfaction with the simple answers of the gospel stems mostly from a subconscious hope that somewhere out there is a magic bullet that would both sidestep the effort and solve the problem.

It's natural, I suppose; that's a rather human response to adversity and a natural reaction to repetition, but as Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, those basic fundamentals of the gospel open us up to so much more.

"If we configure our hearts and minds properly," he said, "with faith, disciplined obedience, prayer, and scripture study, we can access the network of divine and eternal truths. We can receive the teachings and counsel of God's prophet, opening to us knowledge and revelation from our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ."

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