Dear 100 Hour Board,
There's a question that's been nagging at me for awhile now, and I was hoping to get some opinions. For anyone active in the LDS church, we believe that our purpose in life is hold to the iron rod and make it to the Celestial Kingdom when we die. So why do we bother striving for success in other areas of our life? Like I have so many goals and dreams and things that I want to do in this life that will ultimately be useless in the eternities, like being good at certain sports or speaking a bunch of languages, etc.
And with the way the LDS church is, there's always so much to do, it would definitely be possible to fill all of my free time with church-related activities. Magnifying callings, ministering, being ministered to, family history, indexing, studying the scriptures, going to the temple, FHE, Institute, going through conference talks, studying church history...the list goes on and on. (Honestly I find even the idea of trying to do all of that overwhelming.)
Looking at this logically, if my #1 goal is to make it to the Celestial Kingdom, wouldn't it make sense to dedicate all of my time to doing that? So why don't I do that? (I have a hard enough time reading my scriptures every day.) Why do I have so many goals and interests and hobbies outside of the Church? Why care about anything other than the Gospel? It doesn't make sense to me.
Why doesn't God expect us to dedicate all of our spare time outside of work/school/survival to doing Church stuff? If He wants us all to return to Him, why does He support us doing other things? Looking at things from an eternal perspective, I just don't see the point.
The Church is an organization; it is not the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus there are good things that are part of Christ's gospel that aren't explicitly parts of the Church. What the Church advises we do are great things, but if you were to go through every Church publication ever, you still wouldn't arrive at a monopoly on all good things to do ever. Furthermore, in D&C 29:34, God states that all things are spiritual. To me, this suggests that a lot of our daily activities should be considered perhaps more spiritual than we may be inclined to think.
When I do mathematics, I see greater truth, and am filled with awe of a system perfectly consistent in beautiful and strange ways. When I do yoga, I am able to relax, and have a sense of excitement from doing poses better. When I go hiking, I feel closer to Creation. When I hang out with friends, I learn more of loving people around me. When I read books, my imagination is activated and thoughts are provoked. None of these activities--which account for the bulk of my day-to-day life--are items in the laundry list of "church responsibilities". But I still consider performing them to be holding to the iron rod. This is because they make me into a better person, which is kind of the entire point of this life.
I believe that God imbued every single person with Light. This Light may manifest itself in a desire to excel at sports, or any other field (excepting things like mass-murdering, becoming the world's cruelest dictator, etc.). When we pursue this Light with the purpose of glorifying God, I believe we cannot fail to please God.
The point I've been trying to get across is that going after your goals that aren't necessarily part of the Church's main list of good things to spend your time on can still be just as effective at preparing you for Eternal Life.
The early days of the church were very busy for the saints. Most of them were farmers, and they were also occupied with raising families, building communities, making temples, serving others, avoiding persecution, and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ through missionary work. Despite all of the important duties they had they still found time to dance, write, act, and play sports. There were theaters, and dance halls, and baseball teams. After settling in the west Brigham Young even sent some saints to study art in Europe. Why would the saints be spending their time and energy doing these things when making a living and spreading the gospel were incredibly hard?
I believe it's because those things are important. Not just of some small and temporal importance, but important in an eternal perspective as well. Part of the 13th article of faith is "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." We seek after things that are not only virtuous, but also lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy. Those adjectives apply to so many wonderful and beautiful parts of life that aren't considered "churchy" things.
Anathema, Alta, and Anne, Certainly, all give wonderful explanations of why these things are important, I just wanted to share this example of how important these things were to the early saints. I think the pioneers were great examples of faith, balance, and determination to follow the Lord. They used art, sports, and music to enjoy life, come closer to God, and to better build the church in a difficult time. We can definitely learn from them.
The ultimate purpose of life is not just to return to God it is to become like Him. That means knowing more and being able to do more and be more, including in areas of life that extend beyond obviously "churchy" things. He wants us to develop into all of the good things we can be, not just into righteous people.