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)