I consider myself a good Mormon. My neighbors consider me inactive. Who is right depends, of course, on whose definition is used. A few years ago our stake presidency made a “Back to the Basics” list of gospel principles:
- Personal and family prayer
- Scripture study
- Family Home Evening
- Attending church meetings
- Temple attendance.
Their example caused me to create my own list of gospel basics—based on principles emphasized while I was growing up in the church:
The difference in the two lists probably explains why I’m more impressed with my Mormon credentials than are my ward members. How do I measure up to the first list—the list that probably represents how contemporary Mormons evaluate church activity?
- Personal and family prayer: Not publicly visible. When the home teachers make a formal visit and ask to leave us with a word of prayer, we always agree.
- Scripture study: I declined my visiting teachers’ invitation to join the Relief Society in reading the Book of Mormon in a month. I assured them that I have a daily study routine and showed them my collection of Bible translations. They were not impressed with my substitution.
- Family Home Evening: Again, not publicly visible unless my neighbors notice me driving off alone to a meditation group on Monday evenings.
- Attending church meetings: Now this one is visible. I refuse to spend Sundays listening to lessons and talks I’ve already heard 400 times. I do attend Fast and Testimony meeting each month to say hello to neighbors and ward members because they are good people and I like them.
- Temple attendance: I attended the temple regularly for 15 years or more because it gave me a spiritual lift. When the temple ceremonies ceased to lift my spirits, I opted to spend my time on other spiritual pursuits.
Well, I definitely come up short on my stake presidency’s list, but what really counts is whether or not I live up to my own standards.
- Love: Loving my friends and family is easy, of course. I try to see people who tick me off as children of our Heavenly Father, but that’s not easy. Is it possible some of them may only be very distant cousins?
- Service: I spent most of my life doing for others, can’t I rest on my laurels? My conscience does nag me to try to improve the community by carrying petitions for ethics reform in the state government and volunteering at an ESL Center. I try to leave a small carbon footprint although in cold weather I drive to pick up a carton of milk when I really could walk. But—I achieve 100% visiting teaching every month.
- Generosity: A couple of times a year I turn in a tithing envelope with my “user fee,” a small amount to help with the utilities and food for the meetings and social events I attend. I do donate above and beyond Mormon requirements to charities and organizations which relieve suffering, promote education and economic independence for people both at home and abroad. I don’t quite live up to the advice of C.S. Lewis, “The only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”
- Knowledge: Always my favorite gospel principle. No problem taking classes and burying my nose in a book.
- Work: Hey, I’m retired. Does gardening and doing my own cooking and cleaning count?