You could be with me wasting your time.

Sitting in mission prep last Sunday, I realized something: the only thing I’m really good at—not just talented or gifted, but actually good at—is knowing the gospel and the ordinances of salvation. I don’t dare say I’m good at living the gospel because I am so flawed, but I do know how to anoint and give a blessing and baptize for the dead. I’ve learned the temple endowment (though I haven’t begun to understand its significance,) and understand the organization of the Church. I know the scriptures really well—I’ve been home from my mission for over two years and still know where to find support for whatever claim or problem. Being a church member (at least the logistical parts,) is something I excel at.

I don’t write that to brag, but to make a point. There is nothing I am better at than knowing the Church, but it’s not the thing I focus on most. Almost all of the time, I’m interested in Transformers 2 or new Animal Collective music or writing some crummy short story. I check my e-mail at least twice an hour when I’m on campus and my Facebook account almost as frequently. [Grammar question: should a comma have gone between “campus and”?] I've deliberately stayed away from Twitter because constant real-time updates of everything will be the destruction of productivity. I spend two, maybe three hours a night with friends, and then I read a few token verses of scripture at night to partially fulfill the commandment. Too often, my prayers are, “I’m sorry, God, but I’m really tired tonight. Bless so-and-so, though. Thanks.”

As a regular member of the church, I have never been consistent in my scripture study or prayers. I’ll do really good for about two weeks at a time at most. I plan blocks of time to study when I register for classes, but more often than not I'll take a nap or watch stupid YouTube videos.

Today, as I sat in the hot and sticky back seat of my family's 1984 Volvo sedan riding to my sister’s high school graduation, I remembered what I had asked my mission President Alan Ashton at his homecoming a year and a half ago about maintaining spirituality after I got home. I was in his Disneyland-like house and asked, “How do I maintain the desire to always be my best? What can I do?”

He replied, “Always read the Book of Mormon.” I was disappointed for a moment—I thought that he meant just keep up on your scripture study. Then he pulled out his Palm Pilot and showed me what he meant. “Whenever I get a free minute here and there, I open my scriptures on my Palm Pilot and read a few verses.”

Brilliant. The first chapter of Joshua teaches us to never let the book of law depart from our mouths, but to meditate therein day and night. Here is the single most Christ-like man I’ve ever met telling me how he got to be the way he is and how to apply it modernly.

I’d forgotten about that lesson until today. I have my iPod touch on my person constantly, which I used to read e-mail or get the updates to my RSS feeds or check Facebook. I have a few free seconds or minutes most of the day. Heck, I’ll sit and write during class because I’ll be bored; why not read the scriptures to try to be consistent for a while? Could it help?

I ask myself, “Why can I compulsively check Google Reader but not read my scriptures?” but I know the answer. I'd like to think that I can tap that compulsive nature to read the scriptures, but that's not really how God works. I'll probably be asking these same questions a year from now.


cinderkarli said...

no comma...
I think that everyone feels the same. Although one action is better than a thousand good intentions, I think that God is pleased with our sincere desires to be better. I like what Pres. Benson said in his talk, "A Mighty Change of Heart," about how, in actuality, the process of repentance for most saints is a subtle, day by day process of trying to move closer to God. I think we all feel that.

Kaitlin said...

Amen to Karli's statement. You echoed a lot of feelings I am experiencing right now, Matt. My dad asked me a little while ago how I spend the majority of my free time, and I honestly couldn't give him an answer I wasn't ashamed of: ummm...I text a lot, I strum the same little tunes over and over on the guitar, I check to see if there's anything worthwhile to watch on TCM or FoodNetwork or TLC. None of these things are bad, per se, but there are a great many things I could be doing that would be a better investment of my time. I usually read my scriptures after midnight, when all I can really think about is my pillow, so although it's been daily, I haven't gotten much out of my scripture study lately. And I feel a lot of guilt because of it. It's tiring and frustrating to set the same goals every night and find them yet again unaccomplished the next day. How do you get out of slumps like that? Because quite honestly, I don't want to be asking myself why I still spend my time in the same foolish ways a year from now. I want to improve.

Chan said...

It's been my goal for about three or four weeks now (this is just the latest stint) to go to bed at 11:00. I don't think I've made it once.

Sky said...

Almost a blood essay. Nice writing. Insight, detail, strong voice--all mixed with lots of humility and honesty. I have lots of thoughts about this one. A treat to read.

Britt said...

I'm glad to know that I'm not alone. I feel like I've had the same goals since I was old enough to know what a goal was. I think Karli's advice is great and I have a personal testimony of what your mission president taught you but I still struggle with not only personal sanctification but smaller things like going easy on the mayo and saying "no" to J.Crew sales.
I guess that is what New Year's, the beginning of semesters, and Sundays are for. All I can say is hold on to the desire to do better because once you lose that, that's when you're really in danger.

P.S. I was just wondering: how is your mission president's house "Disneyland-like"? I mean, does he have a roller-coaster, or is it just really big, or does he have a lot of Asians running around?

meghan & jason said...

I was wondering the same thing about the Disney house, Britt. Also, I am grateful that Heavenly Father made Sundays once a week, because obviously we need these sorts of reminders and fresh starts much more frequently than each New Year. I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with meaningful study. It used to be one of my strengths, ironically until halfway through my mission. Since then I've had to work extra hard to do it and learn from it. If so many of us struggle with it though, what could happen in the Church and world if we all did a little bit better at it? Miracles? Thanks for sharing, Matt.