“Are You Living the Gospel Half-Heartedly?” Ensign, April 2019
“Do I have to?”
Have you ever had this thought before? It has run across my mind many times. And I’ve learned that such a seemingly insignificant thought is an important indicator of my attitude. Sure, we can all reach out and minister to others, we can accept and uphold our Church callings, and we can attend our Church meetings. Even done half-heartedly, these things can make a difference in our lives. But does it limit God’s ability to use you? Does it limit God’s ability to change you? For me, I think it does.
This idea makes me think of Laman and Lemuel, who did leave Jerusalem, who did go back for the plates, who did help build the ship, who did do a number of obedient things—but they did these things begrudgingly and half-heartedly. They didn’t allow their experiences to change them for the better. Instead, they always murmured and had rotten attitudes in every set of circumstances they found themselves in. And after realizing that, I really don’t want to be a Laman or a Lemuel.
Take a moment to really think about the reasons behind your actions. Do you reach out to others with a focus on the blessings in store for you? Or do you reach out to others because you sincerely want to share light and love with them? Do you do all that’s required for your calling because it’s what’s expected of you? Or do you do it because you want to serve the Lord and those around you?
These are the sort of questions I try to ask myself from time to time. Am I doing all I can to live like a true disciple of Christ with real intent? Or is my heart not completely in it? I think Bishop Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop, said it best: “Are we active in the gospel, or are we merely busy in the Church?” (“It Is All about People,” Ensign, May 2018, 112).
For me, when I’m only “busy” in the Church, indifference has sneaked into my mind. This indifference can stem from a less-than-enthusiastic attitude or even from allowing less-important tasks on my schedule to interfere with the ones that really matter. This indifference sneaks in when I’m sitting in sacrament meeting and not paying attention, when I’m saying my nightly prayers and my mind starts wandering to other things, when I quickly scan my scriptures without pondering them, or when I reach out to someone just to say I did so rather than to sincerely try to befriend them.
Sometimes I even feel frustration when I don’t see any progress in my life—when I’m simply being indifferent and “busy” in the gospel—and these feelings linger until I realize what the problem is. Sometimes I have to sit back, reconnect, and ask myself, “Am I giving this calling or this person or this prayer or this scripture my full attention and heart right now?”
After some such epiphany hits me, that’s when change really happens in my life. When I truly pray to see others the way Heavenly Father sees them, when I pray for ministering opportunities, when I pray for guidance in my calling, in my career, and in my day-to-day life, and most importantly, when I act on the promptings He gives me, when my actions mirror my inner desire to become better—that is when I’m being active in the gospel. That is when I feel a true shift in my attitude, in my heart, and in my soul. That is when I see miraculous things unfold. That is when I feel true happiness enter my life. That is when I’m truly trying to change for the better.
I think we can all look back at a few moments in our lives when our actions were noble, but our feelings behind them weren’t so much. Sometimes life does get busy, sometimes we aren’t always going to be completely happy in our circumstances, and sometimes things might not always work out the way we want them to. We aren’t perfect, but if we ask Heavenly Father to help us put our full heart into the sometimes tedious or time-consuming things we’re asked to do, we can learn to do them in a more Christlike way.
I can think of times when I reluctantly agreed to do a service project, only to have my heart softened and changed after the experience. Or when I got a calling and complained about it taking too much of my time, only for me to break down in bittersweet tears when I was released because I had learned to love it.
We can share light, fulfill our responsibilities, and receive answers to our prayers most effectively if our hearts are in the right place. If we take the time to analyze the attitudes and intents behind our actions and do everything we can “with a sincere heart, [and] with real intent” (Moroni 10:4), we will be able to better recognize Heavenly Father’s guidance, find greater joy, and make so much more of a difference in our lives and in the lives of others.