The Penitent Hermit

I have a confession to make…wait for it.

As you know, for most of us, we haven’t been attending normal church meetings at the chapel for months now. Instead, we have had our own home church meetings, with the sacrament in our home, and our kid’s homes.

Here’s the confession: I’ve loved it! In fact, I liked it enough that I’m in no hurry to go back to return to “normal.” Something about the simplicity and intimacy of having the sacrament and studying the gospel in my own home has really appealed to me.

Last week our ward began having limited-attendance sacrament meetings. We haven’t been yet – and I’m okay with that.

You know what all this means, don’t you?

It means that I need to repent.

Here is the simple truth: If I am content living the gospel in isolation, I simply don’t understand a significant aspect of the gospel.

Take a breath, hang on. I’m some of you are probably asking, “Are you trying to say that if we don’t want to go back to church, we don’t understand the gospel, and we need to repent?”

Yes, that’s precisely what I’m saying. (And yes, I already said that – this is just repetition to make a point.)

Jesus has had plenty to say about this idea when he said we need to be “In the world, but not of it.” (John 17: 15-18) As far as I can find, there are no other translations of those verses that say we can just hang out in “our own little world,”

Alma taught that if we are “to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn, yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” (Mosiah 18:8-9)

Now I’m sure some of you have still been serving up a storm, sharing the gospel and comforting your fellow saints during this pandemic – but I am pretty sure there are a lot of us who have hunkered down in this hermit mentality and just slowed it all down.

Christ clearly instructed the Nephites, “And behold, ye shall meet together oft,” (3 Nephi 18:22) so there must be a purpose behind it.

Elder Jospeh B. Wirthlin amplified this idea saying, “Ours is the commandment and the blessing to “meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of our souls.” In general conferences and in other Church meetings around the world, we come together seeking companionship—the good company of brothers and sisters in the gospel and the comfort of sweet communion with the Spirit of God. In our worship services, the presence of that Spirit fills our hearts with love for God and for our fellow Saints.” (link)

What an effective trick Satan has managed to pull: isolate us from each other, and manipulate the governments to forbid us to meet, unless we are in an airplane, a casino, or a riot.

Elder David Bednar recently raised a warning voice against government overreach when it involves limiting church attendance. He warned:

“While believers and their religious organizations must be good citizens in a time of crisis, never again can we allow government officials to treat the exercise of religion as simply nonessential. Never again must the fundamental right to worship God be trivialized below the ability to buy gasoline.”

His reasoning: “Gathering, in short, is at the core of faith and religion. Indeed, if the faithful are not gathering, sooner or later they will begin to scatter. And because gathering lies at the very heart of religion, the right to gather lies at the very heart of religious freedom.” (link)

We need to gather to maintain our unity. There are also people who are alone and need the interaction they get from attending church. Some thrive on it. Trimming our meetings by a third already made that more difficult, but now?

It’s been over four months since we’ve taught out Primary class. That’s over a third of the year! I have a calling to teach and testify about the gospel to those kids which I am not currently magnifying.

Ironically, a few months before the pandemic hit, I made a statement to some friends of mine which was something like this:

“All I need from the church are priesthood keys so that the saving ordinances can be performed, and prophetic counsel. The rest is dispensable.”

Looking more closely at that brash statement, there are two possibilities: It is true, or it is false.

Here’s how it would be false: No man is an island, and no family is an island. No matter how good, fulfilling, spiritual and enlightening our private religious services are, we have a singular problem:

It’s not just about me, or our own immediate clan.

Focus on “self” is the antithesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His gospel is about serving others; caring for others; feeding and clothing others; teaching and testifying to others; bearing burdens and mourning with others.

Most of those things cannot be done in isolation. We do not live in a spiritual vacuum…

…even though it is tempting and, at times, refreshing to clock out for a bit.

Our calling is to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause,” not hunkered down with Netflix. (D&C 58:27)

The part that is true is that I DO need the church to provide priesthood keys, saving ordinances and prophetic guidance. The gospel is powerless and pointless without those things.

We should note that we can receive much enlightenment, learning and growth as we are hunkered down in isolation with our families. I know it has been a fulfilling and an almost revolutionary experience for many.

That part can continue – and should – continue, but the rest of living the gospel requires us to engage with our brothers and sisters, and those who are not of our faith.

I do miss the talks, the lessons, the music, the formality of religious services.

But mostly, I miss seeing and interacting with my fellow saints. They are people whom I love, have served with, mourned with, and shared burdens with. I have taught and been taught by these good people.

I need them in my life, and, perhaps, some of them might need me in theirs. (Cuz it ain’t always about ME, ME, ME.)

The time will eventually get here when we can all resume attending our meetings, and we need to be wise in determining when that is. But, we need to be able to embrace that opportunity when it returns.

Back to my previous confession: I am not in a hurry to go back to normal church services. That said, I acknowledge that I am in the midst of repenting for feeling that way. Feel free to join me, if needed.

One other thing: I also miss the saint’s smiles – but I guess that will have to wait.

About the author


  1. Our ward has been having a weekly call-in devotional service for the last few months, with a weekly Relief Society meeting over Zoom. Next week, we’ll begin to have a shortened Sacrament Meeting at the church for up to 99 people. However, for those who can’t or shouldn’t go (age 65 or older and/or high-risk), we’ll continue to be able to call in to the meeting, which will be broadcast from the chapel. Our Relief Society meetings will become a more informal Come Follow Me study group. Although I’d love to go back to church, I won’t be there as I fall into the “shouldn’t go” group. For me, there is wisdom in waiting until the time that it is safer. Fortunately, there is technology in place to keep our ward members connected, though we’re physically separated.

  2. My faith feels shaken and then God sends a breadcrumb, like a fireside with John Bytheway, thanks to the Sunderland Stake on YouTube.

  3. As a single older sister who does not have the priesthood in her home, I truly miss meeting together on the Sabbath. I am uplifted by my brothers and sisters strength of spirit. I do go to my ministering angel’s home for the sacrament and get to have a discussion with her husband and her which helps. But, oh, how I miss the chapel experience.

  4. I really loved this post. I had been very contentedly going along with home sacrament meeting and frankly, enjoying the break from being burned out with all the busyness and demands that each Sunday brought. After I watched and re-read Elder Bednar’s recent (EPIC) talk on the importance of gathering (lest we scatter), it changed my heart. I realized that there was so much more to this than ME ME ME and my feeling burned out and loving the sanctity of my home on the Sabbath. We’ve started going back with tiny groups and it was awesome. It felt SO good. I have a new-found testimony of the importance of gathering as Saints, and my understanding of it was dramatically turned around because of what Elder Bednar taught. Thank you for your post and what you affirm in it!

  5. I miss physically seeing people at church and I really miss going to the temple, but I am happy staying at home for the present. I don’t think I would feel safe going back to church in a building until the virus is more controlled and the peace I feel having the sacrament at home is wonderful. I interact with my ministering sisters over Google Meet and we have ward meetings periodically. My empty nester group continues to meet either virtually or outside socially distant. There are ways to interact with your ward without always being in a building to do it.

  6. As a bishop, I have had a hard time away. However, being at home with my wife (whom I hardly see on any given normal Sunday) has been a rich blessing. We have had many great gospel discussions as we study our lessons. That being said we are gearing up for back to church in the Phase 1 protocol. I am anxious to get together with our ward and “meet together oft”.
    I love your blog. Keep up the great work!

  7. I have much of the same feelings as you, and have absolutely loved our special family worhip meetings, so thanks for articulating reasons to look forward to gathering and meeting together at church. This post reminded me of something I realized not too long ago. Developing unity is not a solitary activity. (See President Eyring’s talk from October 2008 general conference –

    Although it starts in our individual hearts and homes, you can’t build Zion without involving other people. That’s really difficult to do when we stay in our houses!

  8. I have loved home church, and hadn’t felt the longing to return in person. I’m supportive of the plan to do so, but had felt it didn’t need to be for us right away (we are a little more reserved in our outgoings than many right now, partly due to my professional dealings.)

    We chose to return to our first ward meeting last week since we had 2 kids with us and it’d be the only time we would be together due to a pending return to college. I was happy to do it to be together, more than the “need” for being in person for the meeting. And I had more hesitation because of the amount of CoV2 in our community.

    It was a great experience to be together, and gave me opportunity to repent of my previous position. I even had the clear feeling that we could have done more than 50 with little difficulty – really just opening the overflow.

    We’ll get there, and we’re getting there. But I was surprised, for me, how good it felt to be with and see people, even under different circumstances.

  9. Ok so I have a confession as well… I too have loved it! I have thought many of the sane thoughts as you. With the thought also of the great teachings in the New Testament that the true gospel of Jesus Christ involves community. That is utterly terrifying for an extremely shy introverted person. Loved this post so much ????

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