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I have a favorite song. It’s the Flower Duet from Léo Delibes’ opera, Lakmé. I find it absolutely ethereal, truly transporting to a higher realm. I think I could listen to it every day. Maybe every hour, though I haven’t tried that.
Like most of you, I find inspiration in my favorite books, movies, music, and pastimes. Most of us also have a favorite place we like to go—the mountains, the beach, or a local park can uplift us as we commune with nature. These pursuits, especially the ones that take us out of our routine and into the beauties of the world, can serve as a reset for body and mind.
I have many friends who have chosen to run, hike, kayak, and sail instead of attend church. They love the wind in their hair, the exhilaration of their chosen sport, the freedom from formal responsibility. Understandably, they love a variety of meditative, creative, and edifying experiences, and they tell me this is their church. This is where they feel closest to God.
I applaud any person who seeks out a connection with a higher Being. Knowing how real my friends’ experiences are, and having had many spiritual experiences outside of church buildings myself, I can imagine what they’re feeling. You can feel very close to God when appreciating his wondrous creations. You can feel close to him when volunteering in a hospital to help sick kids. You can feel close to him just spending time with your family and solidifying those relationships. These are all beautiful ways to draw close to our Heavenly Father.
But the purpose of church isn’t just to feel close to God (though that does happen). Attending Sacrament offers us an entirely unique and important experience: it is a time to celebrate promises to God. When we partake of the Sacrament, we renew the covenants we made at baptism. We consider what we are doing to draw closer to Jesus Christ. We repent, ask forgiveness, and pledge our devotion once again. We promise always to remember him. We receive his amazing promise that we can always have his spirit to be with us. This communal experience, when taken seriously, is enormous and life changing.
We should appreciate the marvelous spiritual stirrings that come from soaking in magnificent art or music and the vast stars of the Milky Way. We can be awe-struck just watching a newborn infant, or a flock of birds against an azure sky. There are hundreds of ways to feel close to God at random moments in life. I am so grateful that my favorite rejuvenating experience happens every single week.
“Going to church” is a multifaceted endeavor. For anyone who dreads the formality of a congregation, focus on the opportunities you have to renew and transform yourself through taking the Sacrament. Just as you might seek to gain more enjoyment from your favorite pursuits by taking educational classes or talking with likeminded people about their experiences, you can study and discuss baptism and covenants with the intent to get more out of Sacrament.
Here we give our hearts to our Savior. Here we can be forgiven and washed clean, as clean as we were on our baptism day. The Sacrament is a formal opportunity to do something actually a little radical: Demonstrate that our ongoing connection with God motivates us to commit to Jesus Christ.
Most people would love to have regular spiritual experiences, they just differ in how they seek them. As I look back at the many very tender moments when I’ve had such experiences, some too sacred even to share, I notice the majority have occurred in Sacrament meetings. Wow. Why would I miss standing in this particular holy place, when the results have been so undeniable?
On Sundays, I choose to covenant with my amazing Father in Heaven, and marvel that He continues to beckon me onward despite my mortal failings. I love the Flower Duet, and I find fulfillment in many activities– but none of them are as sanctifying and life changing as bread and water.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.