“Is There Any Reason You Can’t Come to Church?”


When the bishop phoned to ask if he could visit my husband and me in our home, I wanted to say no. The last thing we wanted was a lecture on why we should be in church. However, believing it wrong to not welcome priesthood representatives, particularly the bishop, into our home, I grudgingly agreed to his visit.

The night of the visit arrived. Lacking a reason to cancel the appointment, we waited uneasily. To my dismay, the bishop was late. That compounded my misgivings at having felt obligated to agree to the meeting in the first place.

Finally, the doorbell rang. My husband, Jim, and I greeted the bishop, who was accompanied by a regional representative.

Our apprehensions melted as the bishop told us how they’d been led to our home after much prayer. Jim and I were touched by their concern and by the warm spirit they’d brought into our home.

Then the bishop asked, “Do you have any problems that we can help resolve?”

“No,” we answered.

“Has anyone offended you?”

“No.”

The bishop then asked the question that changed our life. “Is there any reason you can’t come to church on Sunday?”

Regarding each other for a moment, Jim and I knew there was only one honest answer. We turned to the bishop and shook our heads. “No.”

Our worries about being snubbed by ward members the next Sunday proved to be groundless. From the moment we entered the building, various ward members showered us with kind attentions. Their love helped us feel right at home.

In the year since the bishop’s visit, I have often thought about his final question. While I knew then that there was no real reason for our not being in church, I’ve since learned some very good reasons why we—and everybody, in fact—should be there.

First, God loves and cares about all of his children, even when we aren’t living up to our potential. That truth hit home one night a few years ago when our house could have burned down.

The fire department responded quickly to our call, and the blaze in our bedroom (caused by a small electric appliance, plugged in but turned off) was soon controlled.

One of the firemen said to me as he left, “You were lucky—five more minutes and we couldn’t have saved your home.” Then, referring to both the power failure at our house that preceded the fire and the smoke I’d detected, he added, “You were warned of the danger in time to avoid it.”

That last sentence gave me pause. Where had I heard those words before? Then I remembered: a line in my patriarchal blessing reads, “You will be warned of danger in time to avoid it.” Stunned by such a direct fulfillment of a patriarchal promise, I knew then as never before that God loves me unconditionally. It was humbling to know that he was mindful of my needs even when I’d distanced myself from him. He wants all people to learn of him, to honor their covenants with him, and to follow the example of his Son.

Another reason to attend church is to receive instruction and counsel from inspired leaders and teachers. (See Moro. 6:9.) They, too, love us and are concerned about our welfare. My husband and I learned that when the bishop and regional representative visited our home with the purpose in mind of truly helping us, not out of duty but out of love.

Last, regular church attendance enables us to enjoy the love, spirit, and testimonies of our fellow Saints. The hand of fellowship can be stronger than the grip of inactivity; the testimonies, spoken or not, of ward members are a powerfully motivating, healing balm.

One Sunday soon after our return to church, Jim was out of town, so I attended church alone. The president of our Sunday School class welcomed me and asked about Jim. I explained Jim’s absence, adding, “But you don’t have to worry about us coming to church—we’re here to stay.”

The good brother responded, “Oh, I wasn’t worried about that. I just wanted to be sure Jim wasn’t ill.”

A ward filled with dedicated Saints was there to welcome and to love, not to condemn or rebuff.

Our experience is nothing that would make headline news, but to us it was a miracle of love and caring that has wrought a mighty change in our lives. We learned that there is no burden that cannot be lightened by the Lord and his servants, and no joy comparable to the joy found in living the gospel and mingling in the good company of the Saints. Ours is a gospel of love.

[illustration] Illustrated by Keith Larson

Jackie Ireland serves as Relief Society compassionate service leader in the Santa Monica Second Ward, Los Angeles California Santa Monica Stake, and as a temple worker in the Los Angeles Temple.