“How can I still feel involved and belonging when I can’t go to church consistently?” Ensign, Oct. 1980, 37
Shirley M. Armstrong, member of St. Paul First Ward, St. Paul Minnesota Stake; mother of two I can certainly sympathize with your situation. I joined the Church in 1968 and loved being fully engaged in Church callings and activities. But I too have a long-term malady that recurred a few months after my baptism. Within four years I was alone with two children, twenty-five miles from the meetinghouse, and so ill that sometimes during the next seven years I only went once or twice a year. Here are some things I did that helped me continue to feel involved and a part of my ward:
1. I tried to keep up with the lessons. Teachers were very good about sharing reading assignments and on the few occasions I could go I felt right at home. Friends were good to share the points of the class discussion by telephone. One Relief Society teacher gave me her lessons separately by phone for the three years she had that calling.
2. I took the Church magazines and the Church News. Reading them made me feel part of the worldwide Church; and I needed that monthly uplift from the magazines with their messages from the First Presidency, faith-building stories, and shared knowledge.
3. I tried to contribute within my limitations. I had the missionaries over for dinner occasionally. I worked at being a member-missionary. I baked secret treats as surprises for other families. Fortunately, we had a home Primary in the area and I was its librarian and secretary. It was a calling I could do and it helped make me feel a part of things. I also did some decoupage and woodworking projects to raise money for the building fund.
4. Reading the scriptures and praying daily helped me feel close to my Heavenly Father. I learned to really talk with God, no matter how I felt or what my circumstances were. Learning to acknowledge his hand in all things stretched my soul.
5. Our area has broadcasts of some general conference sessions and the Tabernacle Choir program. I love singing along with the hymns I know. Also, tapes from the ward library furnish me with my own personal firesides.
6. I did genealogy—a real blessing. Through correspondence I grew much closer to my family, some of whom traveled to Scandinavia to do research that I was able to submit. It was so uplifting to receive notice that the work had been completed. I also helped others with their research—including one woman who brought her information transcribed on, of all things, a fried chicken container!
7. I acted as if I could go to church. I dressed up every Sunday and made it a special day in other ways. On Fast Sundays, I fasted with a purpose and bore my testimony to my family. Having family home evening and paying tithing were two important parts of bringing the gospel into our home.
8. I appreciated the faithfulness of my home and visiting teachers and tried to let them know it. With the bishop’s permission, the home teachers could administer the sacrament in our home.
9. I had priesthood blessings. I can’t tell you how important they were—how much comfort and strength they gave me. Through one of these blessings I learned that the cause of my illness has been discovered; specialists assure me that treatments will be ready soon. After twenty-five years of waiting, you can imagine how ready I am! And one of my great joys in contemplating a healthy life again is the prospect of going to church regularly.