Yesterday was a lovely day, low 70s, sunny. A great day to play outside. I grabbed my drone and headed outside to goof around.
“You have a drone?” You might ask.
“Why yes, yes I do,” I would answer. Why do I need a drone? I don’t. Why do I have one? My sweet wife gave me one for my birthday because she is nice and thought it would be fun. (It’s a starter version.) Yesterday, I finally got around to figuring out how to use it.
I headed for the greenbelt by our house so there would be fewer obstacles for me to crash it into. After reading some directions, I gave it a go. It was easy. The controls are a lot like a game controller, so in a matter of minutes I was flying it around and practicing taking pictures and video.
All was going well until the drone got a little too far away and the controller started beeping at me. I looked down to figure out what to do, and by the time I looked back up the drone had gone rogue and was zipping through the sky. The problem was, it had travelled beyond where it could communicate with the controller, so I had no way to control it.
I checked the controller again, but couldn’t find what button to push to stop it. What can I say? I’m a rookie drone pilot. When I looked up, the drone was nowhere to be found.
An hour and a half later, two of my kids and I gave up searching.
The weird part about this story is that while I was playing with the drone, I was thinking about this very blog post. Stick with me and I’ll tie them together.
A few weeks ago I was visiting with one of my sons who is serving in a ward leadership position and I asked what challenges they were facing in their Ward. He said, ‘C0VID quitters.’ I hadn’t heard that term before, so I asked him what it was- and it is exactly what you would think.
What are ‘C0VID quitters? They re our brothers and sisters who stayed home from church during the pandemic, (like all of us) but after the restrictions were lifted, they simply never came back. Apparently there is a surprising number of folks in this category in some areas. There’s a good chance you know some who still haven’t returned. You might be one.
It seems that some who have not returned are those who just got out of the habit and have not found motivation to go back, yet. I know that for some this has been a gradual process. Some come back, but lack the ‘fire’ they previously had.
Frankly, I get it. It is so easy to get out of the habit of doing good things. It seems it takes ten years to develop a habit and about 3 minutes to blow it up. Many have always attended out of nothing more profound than habit or obligation. When either of those pressures are gone, returning is not at the top of the list of things to do on an bonus weekend day.
Others feel that they did fine spiritually at home during the pandemic and believe that they can maintain their spirituality and relationship with God without attending – so why bother?
My son told me about a third cause that I found rather heartbreaking: Some simply did not feel the loss when they stopped attending. Some even feel that their life is easier, less stressful and even happier than when they were attending.
This conversation was months ago, but it has been nagging at me since then – especially the last two groups. They worry me the most.
Someone who feels they can maintain their spirituality without regular church attendance does not understand/have a testimony of the Atonement or the ordinance of the sacrament. Hard, but true.
“By participating weekly and appropriately in the ordinance of the sacrament we qualify for the promise that we will “always have his Spirit to be with us.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Every week? But that’s just Elder Oaks – right? Well, (Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, said essentially the same thing.) I’m sure there are more, and multiple occasions to back up the idea. But nobody said it with more clarity than Elder Oaks in one of many talks he has given about the sacrament:
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are commanded to partake of the sacrament each week.” (link)
The idea of maintaining personal worthiness, spirituality and a functioning relationship with the Holy Ghost without attending church shows a dire lack of religious understanding. (HOWEVER, I will concede that this teaching did get muddied in some areas where the sacrament became a monthly, (or even less frequent) occurrence during the pandemic. As of today. this teaching of weekly sacrament is still intact and still correct – no matter what was done during the pandemic.)
The one that hurts my heart the most is how some people can step away from the church and not feel that it leaves any kind of void. Some claim to be happier without the pressure and commitment to attending – and we should believe them. I kinda get parts of it – Having a second Saturday every week could be nice! Life without callings would be simpler. But I know that I when I miss a lot of church, I feel the loss, and miss the sacrament even more. (HOWEVER, some could misconstrue the church’s push to move to home-based gospel learning, and the reduction of meetings as justification that the church is simply not as big or important part of our lives as it used to be – hence, more voluntary. Wrong, but understandable.)
The problem with this attitude is that when we walk away from the church because it is easier/more fun to not attend, we have a really bad case of myopia – we are short-sighted and more worried about this blip of mortality, rather than the eternities. As Peter said, “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (2 Peter 1:9)
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said, “we are to declare ourselves “all in.” (link)
I have learned that if we live “all in,” if we ever find ourselves “all out,” we will feel the void, and the loss of the companionship of the Holy Ghost, which should terrify us. Ameliki said it well:
“And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.” (Omni, verse 26)
“Playing the long game,” in mortality does take effort, faith, obedience, repentance, ordinances and constant effort. Walking away from all that for a life of ease might feel nice short-term, but it is myopic and, ultimately, damning.
We need to stay near the source of power and inspiration. We need to go to church and partake of the sacrament in order to have the communication from on high to help us through this life.
My drone went rogue and was lost when it stopped communicating with the controller.
Don’t go rogue – go to church.
Addendum: After searching for over an hour and a half, I gave up and started walking home, and there, lying on the grass was my drone. Yeah, it was weird.
Final thoughts: If you have loved ones who have left the church, keep the faith. You never know when – or what – might occur in their lives that changes their hearts and brings them back. There is always hope. Until that day, be patient, full of love and hang in there.
If you are one of those who has walked away, I echo the words of Richard G. Scott:
“To you who have taken this path, I plead, come back. Come back to the cool, refreshing waters of personal purity. Come back to the warmth and security of your Father in Heaven’s love. Come back to the serenity that distills from the decision to live the commandments of your Elder Brother, Jesus the Christ.” (link)
This is sad. Another point I would bring up is that our salvation is linked to everyone around us, including our local congregation. We need the church to serve the Lord through inspired callings. Reminds me of the talk “Why the Church?”.
Great article. I have two words: Wheat and Tares. And – – – most drones have GPS navigating that brings them home to their launching spot when their battery gets critically low. Hopefully that will also happen to many of those Saints who “go rogue” for a while.
Just yesterday I read a post from a sister in our old ward for whom I served as a VT. She and her family are leaving the church. She cites disagreement with church policy regarding gays … does not line up with her beliefs, but I think the Covid period hit many “fence sitters” hard and tipped them off into the void. With only the media to influence you, it is easy to find yourself criticizing the leadership of the church and letting go of the iron rod. I am sad, but unfortunately not surprised. I am also extremely grateful to have both the gift of discernment and the wise council of leaders that strengthens my own grip. Looking back, we were all given a new program that, if followed, would bring us safely through the spiritual challenges of Covid. The two parts, home centered and church supported, both must be employed for true success. We lived in a very restrictive state, so when church started again we had a quota and you had to sign up to attend. We were expecting to be allowed once a month and we’re happy for even that, but there were always empty seats so our family attended every week. Even with our family centered learning and being able to have sacrament at home, we wanted and needed the fellowship of being with ward members. We are now over two thousand miles from this dear sister, so I can’t be there for her. I can only pray for her eyes to be opened.
I was sitting on my laundry room floor last night about midnight-thirty having an ugly cry over the many families in our ward that have just quit. We have all three of your categories, and a 4th — they were people who lost their faith over the course of the lockdowns — like they are now openly critical of the church to the point of fighting the church and trying to get others out. We also have some people that will only come on the Sunday they need to do their callings, so once every few weeks. For my family Covid church was a testimony building experience. Our kids came out on the other side more spiritually versed and stronger in their testimonies. I am still trying to make sense of the last 3 years with all of this. Although, I am thankful for the preparation the church had under Prs. Nelson’s direction with Come Follow Me. That has been a great blessing for us.
I have a high level anxiety disorder and find it hard to put that back in a box like I used to on a regular Sunday. During the time church attendance wasn’t expected, Sunday became a wonderful day of worship instead of the most stressful day of the week. It truly was a day of rest, study, and a day to commune with the spirit. I attend now too, just not as regularly as I did in the past. Some of us may take a little longer in getting back to normal.
Love your blog. It hits home. I must say for my wife and I that we loved the home church. It was a great blessing in our life, but one of our children has become a CQ! Don’t know why. We just love.
I could have been a “covid quitter”; it was so nice not to have to drive 45 minutes to the branch building and then listen to less than great talks, and hear all the babble of children, and smell the stench of tobacco. At home we could sing hymns that went with the subjects of the General Conference talks we listened to; the Sacrament was deeply spiritual and personal, served by my convert husband. Sundays at home were spiritually refreshing to me and I thoroughly enjoyed them. BUT! Fellowship with saints, in all their wonderful imperfections, serving in a calling, and sacrificing personal comfort brings its own blessings and growth. I think in our branch we’ve had only a few quit and that has been for health reasons rather then testimony reasons.
I”m glad you found your drone.
I’m not surprised at dwindling numbers for two reasons. First, the scriptures clearly tell us there will be “few” who follow Christ in the last days. I’ve studied the scriptural use of the terms “many” and “few” for years now. Fascinating. The second reason is that although living the gospel brings many wonderful blessings, it is more difficult that not living the gospel. There are many great analogies; going to the gym, practicing an instrument, the way water flows and creates a lazy, curvy, path of least resistance river. Yes, you can argue that living the gospel helps avoid some of life’s challenges. But I’m not here to argue. I chose to live the gospel and “work out” my salvation. I know that in the last days there will be “few” who chose to do the same.
As always, love reading your thoughts every week. You inspire me.
one word: Awesome!