I spent a lot of time this week thinking about less active members of the church, or in other words, people who had been baptized and joined the church, but have stopped attending meetings regularly, or even completely. I was told by my mission president that in places like the United States, it’s common to have around 70-80% of members who are on the church’s rolls attend on a regular basis. This number is about 20-30% in Spain and other places throughout the world (to which I’m sure that many of my missionary friends around the world can attest to). In other words, the majority of members on the church’s rolls where I’m serving right now don’t attend church meetings basically ever. Therefore, a lot of our work as missionaries revolves around finding these people, getting to know them and their needs, and helping them return to activity in the church.
This past Monday, we were stopping by the houses of some less active members, and we found a family who has not been attending church for decades. The 84 year old mother was baptized when she was younger, and her two sons, both in their fifties now, were baptized as children. Although they are very, very nice people, it’s sad to see that they had completely forgotten all of their knowledge about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and had even stopped believing in God altogether. What was once something important in their lives has now become but a memory. We also met this week with another less active member, who was active in the church growing up, but stopped doing so when he was a young adult. He has desires to come back to activity, but is afraid of the changes and work that it’s going to require.
During our interviews with President Andersen on Wednesday, I talked to him about this topic, and in our discussion, he read the following about enduring the end from Preach My Gospel:
“Faith in Christ; repentance; making, renewing, and keeping covenants; and being cleansed by the Spirit become a pattern of living. Our actions in daily life are shaped and governed by these principles. Peace and joy come by following this way, and we gradually grow in Christlike attributes.”
This is to say that becoming a member of the church is more than just being baptized. In fact, baptism is just the starting point; conversion comes bit by bit on the path of enduring to the end. I’ve seen time and time again throughout my own life and through experienced on my mission that those who stay active in the church are those who ultimately end up the happiest. Those who do the simple things like reading the scriptures and praying every day and attending church on a regular basis are those who have firm and stalwart testimonios that lead them to having lasting peace and joy. It’s all about patterned living and consistency. This is the type of living that leads us to the highest level of peace and joy that we can obtain. As it says in Preach My Gospel:
“Eventually, as we follow this way and “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ … and endure to the end,” we are promised, “Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).”
Sometimes it’s discouraging to see how many people have stopped living in agreement with the covenant they made at baptism. But, all we can do is worry about our own salvation, what we have control over, and help out those who are lost. Another quote from Preach My Gospel says:
“A few members do not endure or remain fully active. However, enduring to the end is a personal responsibility. We “work out [our] own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), and we serve and love those whose faith has grown weak through inactivity.”
I know, with all of my heart, that this church is true. Just like Joseph Smith said, “I [know] it, and I knew that God [knows] it, and I [cannot] deny it.” Living a patterned life following the example Jesus Christ gave us is the only way to find lasting happiness in this life and in the eternities after.
Élder Stark ??
1-5: We hiked up to the Castillo de Santa Catalina last preparation day
6: Elder Liza and I
7: A horse
8: Jesus Street
9-10: The District of Jaén: Elder Stark, Elder Trowell, Elder Liza, Elder Craven
11: With our recent convert Pablo
12: First time making cookies
13: Until next time