Chucking the Church Checklist

checklist-2077023_1280 | Irinna Danielson | January 27, 2019

I love checklists, but I don’t always write them out.  My life is more filled with small post-it notes everywhere to remind me of things I need to get done.  I suppose that’s close enough to a checklist.  I am a seminary teacher.  Each and every day my eyes are peering into the scriptures to study the chapter before I prepare my lesson.  Preparing a lesson, combined with the study, can take me up to a couple of hours each day.  I’m not complaining…in fact, I love it!  I enjoy it so much that many times my other duties, groceries, laundry, and so on, get delayed because of it.  That’s where my post-it checklist notes come in.  ~Emilia

I love lists. Well, let me clarify. I love to cross things off my list. There is something about writing out everything I need to do and then checking them off one by one. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something when that seemingly endless list of “to do’s” starts to shrink.

I live by lists at work. I live by lists at home. And at times, lists help keep me on track when it comes to living the gospel daily. Say my prayer. Check. Read my scriptures. Check. Go to church. Check.

I had never really thought of checklist living as a potentially bad thing, until a sister in my ward gave me some eye-opening perspective about doing something because it’s on a checklist and doing something because you’re truly converted.

Her family had recently been sealed in the temple. She and her husband had spent most of their marriage out of the Church. In her talk she shared how during those years of inactivity, there were times when they did things just because it was on the “Church checklist.” When she had a baby, she had her blessed. A few years later when she gave birth to twins, she thought, “It’s time to cross baby blessings off that checklist again.” But this time, a bishop intervened. He invited her husband to work toward getting the priesthood so that he could bless their twins himself. He accepted the challenge. She thought, “It’s another thing on that ‘Church checklist.’” Receive the power of the priesthood. Check. Give your babies a name and a blessing. Double check. Bless and pass the sacrament. Check. Check. As they began checking more and more things off the “Church checklist,” she noticed that their lives began to change. They started saying family prayer. They started saying personal prayers. They started to come to church every week. As their habits changed, so did their hearts. They started to want to really live for the blessings of the gospel and not just check things off of a list. It’s why when it came time to prepare to go to the temple they did it wholeheartedly, not because it was something to cross off of a list, but because the blessings of the temple were what they truly desired for their family. They had moved from checklist living to a life of continual conversion.

Her story got me thinking of mine. I was raised in the Church. I’ve always been active. I’ve always tried to do what I’m supposed to do. But why was I doing it? I couldn’t help but think of how guilty I had been of “Church checklist” living.

“Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger,” he said. “It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel.”

I came across a quote from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf that read, “There is more to … Church (and more to life) than simply checking things off an assigned to-do list. … It might be wise to look at … the scriptures not as checklists or detailed scripts but rather as opportunities to prepare our minds and hearts to receive divine inspiration.”

An opportunity. I’ve never thought of scripture study like that. It’s not about getting in that verse or chapter for the day (as good as that is) to say I’ve done it; it’s about me reading for the opportunity to get answers. It’s about me reading for the opportunity to receive inspiration. It’s about me reading for the opportunity to have renewed faith that these are more than just words on a page. They’re God’s words. And if I read with real faith, I can trust that God will speak to my heart and my mind when I read, when I pray, when I go to church, when I pay my tithing.

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