For some reason, life tends to speed up in the fall. Kids return to school, food is packed into canning jars and sandals get swapped for sweaters. The parade of major holidays begins. Like the squirrels that pepper our backyards, there is an urgency that comes with autumn.
LDS Church assignments take on extra weight in the fall as well. Ward choir resumes. Scouts, activity days, large ward events and programs fill our weeks.
It was on one of those recent weeks, with a big Relief Society activity, Scouts, leadership training and an upcoming choir number (all while my husband was out of town), that I began to wonder if this gospel that I have chosen actually complicates my life, or simplifies it.
If we’re not careful, we can easily get cynical about the demands on our time: the home and visiting teaching, seminary, mutual nights, church callings and the three-hour Sunday block. That doesn’t even include the personal and family worship at home: the prayers and scriptures, family home evening and temple attendance. This was echoed by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s recent general conference address, where he listed the many ways in which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commit themselves to the gospel.
Yet, if this gospel is so simple, why do we find it filling so much of our time? I went to the dictionary for the definition of simple. Here is what I found:
1. Easy to understand, deal with, use
2. Not elaborate or artificial, plain
3. Not ornate or luxurious, unadorned
4. Unaffected; unassuming; modest
5. Not complicated
I was surprised by these definitions. There was no mention of wide-open chasms of time. No mention of hermetic living, that cabin in the woods where all my troubles are miraculously solved. Yet each of these definitions describes the gospel of Jesus Christ as I know it.
We can look to the life of the Savior for an example of someone who led the unadorned, simple life. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t busy. The Savior was always working. He kept long hours, preaching to the people, feeding them both spiritually and physically. We read accounts of him trying to slip away for some quiet time, only to be followed and sought after. The difference between his manner and how we may run about today is that he made deliberate choices. His days were full of purpose and he knew his mission, to do the will of the Father who sent him. Nothing was superfluous.
If we have an understanding and testimony of what we’re doing and why, then our actions take on meaning. After all, everyone is allotted the same hours in the day, and the choice of how to fill them. As our church leaders have stressed over and over, there are a multitude of good things to fill our time. Yet only the best things will bring us closer to Christ, closer to our families, strengthen our ward members and increase our desire to serve others. Only the best things will matter beyond this life. We must be vigilant in carving out time for the things of God.
Perhaps, too, the fault lies in my perception of what to equate with simple. After all, there are choices we never have to wrestle with because of gospel living, and that is a form of simplicity. We don’t have to worry about the adverse effects of substance abuse, or what line to cross in regards to modesty. We know where to put our charitable contributions each month. And while we all learn and grow through spiritual questioning, we don't have to agonize over whether we’re alone in the universe. We know where to look for salvation. We know where to go when we have spiritual and temporal questions.
Most importantly, we can know that we don’t carry out these many spiritual and temporal commitments on our own, that the Savior supports us “moment to moment,” lightening our burdens. A simple life is not one where we wrestle with a plow in a solitary field, but where we share the weight of the yoke with one who is infinitely stronger and more capable. It is full of purpose and divinely led.
And it is ultimately more rewarding than that cabin in the woods.