“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Mar. 1998, 17
Before we can answer this question, we need to look at the purpose of meeting together for worship and activities as a congregation of people who believe in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The mission of the Church is to help all come unto Christ and be perfected in him. By worshipping together and learning from each other as lessons are taught, little by little we work towards eliminating sin from our lives. So church meetings should be a place where everyone, even those who don’t always live as they believe, can come to learn how to be stronger and more righteous. Since none of us is living the gospel perfectly, we all have areas in our lives that could make us seem hypocritical to others.
But the scriptures warn us often about the dangers of being hypocrites. In Matthew 6:5 [Matt. 6:5] we are warned, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” And in verse 16, it says, “When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
We are warned about faking our devotion to the Lord. The hypocrites described in these verses were supposedly devoted religious people who pretended to fast and prayed openly just so others could see them and be impressed by how holy they were. And that’s all they got out of it. In other words, they have their reward.
The real reason we fast and pray is to draw closer to the Lord, so we may feel of his loving Spirit and have his influence and help in our lives. Isn’t that a much better reward? Having the Lord’s influence in our lives is the best thing that can happen to us. Those who are acting hypocritically don’t receive that reward. And even though other people may be fooled by their supposed show of righteousness, the hypocrites will still feel lost and empty because they have not humbled themselves and approached the Lord with a sincere heart.
In Matthew 6:6 we are told to “enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” A “closet” could be a room or any other place where you can have some privacy. There your humble, sincere prayers can reach our Heavenly Father.
We also have an obligation to each other. We should not make other people’s struggles to find the Lord any harder. We should not be the ones who are ridiculing, teasing, or condemning others for doing one thing during the week and another at church. Even if these people we notice really are being hypocritical, what better place for them to be than at church? Maybe over the weeks, months, or years, they will truly learn what it means to worship the Lord.
We need to take care of ourselves and our own attitudes. Each person’s road in life is different. We are warned not to judge unrighteously (see JST, Matt. 7:1–3). And we are told to take care of our own sins before we go looking for sin in others. “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matt 7:3).
Be kind to those who are struggling, but don’t follow the example of those whose actions are not in keeping with the teachings of the gospel.
We don’t go to church because we are perfect. We go to church to become perfected. It’s better they go to church than not go at all. Maybe when they are at church they will realize that they have been doing something wrong and try to change.
Tom Hamby, 15
St. George, Utah
Everyone makes mistakes. Maybe that’s why they go to church, to learn about the most perfect person in the world—Jesus Christ.
Laura Thornley, 17
Colorado Springs, Colorado
What people do is between them and the Lord. Usually it’s something they are trying to work on. We should show that we love and care for them.
Jessica Mikesell, 13
Everyone needs a chance to return to our Heavenly Father whether they are obedient at this point or not. Going to church reminds us that our Heavenly Father wants us to be our best in life, and knowing this helps us to change our weaknesses. We need to be patient and hope they’ll know the truth and abide by it.
Amber Payne, 16
Vermilion, Alberta, Canada
Befriend that person if he is a loner. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem in that person’s life. You never know, maybe things can turn around a lot faster than you expect.
Isaac Combs, 15
They are struggling to overcome their weakness. Some people get actively involved in Church activities in order to receive strength to overcome temptations. Satan tells them that they are no more worthy to associate with the Church until he lures them away into serious inactivity.
Innocent Ine Nwachukwu
We all have the right to choose our own path. If they make wrong choices, that is between them and Heavenly Father. All we can do is try to keep ourselves clean and offer advice if it is requested.
Ann Backes, 16