Are we converted to Jesus Christ, or are we converted to the Church? That question sounds strange, but I believe it is one that we must ask ourselves. In asking this question, am I hinting that the Church is bad and that we should not be involved in its activities? No, of course not. The Church is important to all of us. I’m asking this question, because I suspect that some of us are converted to the Church as an organization rather than as the kingdom of God. Let me explain what I mean.
I know some wonderful people who seem to think of the Church as primarily a social organization. Their attitudes toward the Church seem to be passive, and because of this their behavior toward the Church is negative. They don’t see a problem with attending Church meetings sporadically. If they mow their lawn on Sunday, that’s ok. If they get upset with their Bishop, it’s all his fault. Obviously, I do not know the thoughts and feelings of these people, and I do not understand why they have their attitudes and behavior towards the Church. Because of this, I can only draw general, stereotypic observations about them.
I also know many wonderful, spiritual Latter-day Saints who have deep convictions of Jesus Christ as their Savior, as the Redeemer, and as the Son of God. These people have deep convictions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being the restored Church of Jesus Christ. These people are converted to both Jesus Christ and his Church. They attend Church meetings and serve in callings because they love the Lord, and their attendance and service is their way of thanking the Savior for his love and atonement.
The difference between the two groups of people appears to be that of allegiance and conviction. One group seems to think of the Church only in terms of social and family traditions, while the other group thinks, in addition, of the Church as an extension of Jesus Christ. One group owes its loyalty to a human institution, while the other group owes its devotion to an eternal master. One group has a limited picture of the Church, while the other group sees more of the full picture.
The Lord recognized that some people are not ready for the full picture of the Gospel, and he commanded us to give them a partial view of the Church.
And I command you that you preach naught but repentance, and show not these things unto the world until it is wisdom in me. For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must know these things, lest they perish. (D&C 19:21-22)
It is important that we don’t force people into “meat” when they need “milk”, but I wonder if it isn’t time for many of us to advance to the “meat” phase. This is something that we each must decide for ourselves, as we receive guidance through the Spirit. I conclude this essay by suggesting that it might be well for each of us to look deep within our hearts and ask ourselves why we attend Church.