At the end of a long week, I sat down and evaluated my worship for the week. I concluded that while being incredibly busy, my week had failed to go beyond what I considered to be the bare minimum of worship. I had attended meetings at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, including taking the sacrament. I had studied and prayed both individually and with my family each day, but that was it.
As I looked at the activities my wife and I had been involved with, we had spent a total of 50 hours in church-related service. It was only when I looked at that figure, then my 40-hour workweek, that I began to explore what I could have done more. I then realized that in separating my acts of worship from my acts of church service I was missing the point.
What was the point? My church-related service activities were acts of worship within themselves. How had I missed this? Maybe a brief list of some of these activities might help the explanation. I had attended a local inter-faith meeting, my wife had attended a presidency meeting, I had spent two hours sending out invitations to an upcoming event, I had attended the local Mormon temple with two of my children (OK, that does count as worship), taught with the missionaries and so on.
Most of these events I categorized as administration or organizational, even the teaching I saw as an act of teaching rather than an act of worship. What I had failed to appreciate is that each of these activities were designed in some way to help others draw closer to Jesus Christ and, indeed, at the same time if I did them properly they could also help me draw closer to him. I needed to refocus my attitude so they became worship rather than activities.
As I developed this train of thought further, I had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate class on Islam. I taught about the word “Islam” meaning “submission” and that a Muslim would strive to submit to Allah in every aspect of his life. I realized that the re-evaluation of my church-related activities as worship was only the tip of the iceberg. If I applied what I learned from Islam, I realized that every aspect of my life — church, work and family — were actually all acts of worship that could draw me closer to the Savior.
How does this work? As a father, the way that I treat or speak with my children can exemplify my efforts to develop Christlike characteristics, or not as the case may be. The way that I exert my efforts in the workplace can similarly exemplify my promises “to stand as (a witness) of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that (I) may be in” (Mosiah 18:9).
I am reminded of a passage from the book "The Shack": “It’s simple, Mack. It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life. What we are doing right now — just doing this — and being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people and life is all about relationships.” Sharing life and engaging in relationships wherever they are found are the acts of worship I am striving to develop.
At the moment, I do not know how this newly discovered attitude to worship will work in practice. What I am sure of is that by striving to include all of my life as an act of worship then I can hopefully draw closer to Christ and feel less guilt about the “acts of worship” I so dearly wished to do.
It does not negate my responsibility to attend LDS Church services, the temple and to study and pray, but if I view every action — whether visiting members of the church, teaching a university class or spending time with my family as an opportunity to develop my relationship with the Savior as I develop my relationship with others, I may be on the right track.
James Holt is a senior lecturer in religious education at the University of Chester, UK. He occasionally blogs at www.ldstn.wordpress.com and www.theseplates.blogspot.com and his email is [email protected].