David Heap has graciously agreed to hang out with us this week. He describes himself thusly: “David Heap is a Phoenix lawyer,
married, with four adult children.”
President Boyd K. Packer has distinguished between being “active in the church” and “active in the gospel”:
“Once in a stake meeting, I noticed a larger than usual number of older members, most of them widows. I mentioned to the stake president how impressive they were.
“The president replied, ‘Yes, but they are not active in the Church,’ meaning they did not serve as leaders or teachers. He spoke as though they were a burden.
“I repeated his words, ‘Not active in the Church?’ and asked, ‘Are they active in the gospel?’ He did not quite understand the difference at first.”
Boyd K. Packer, “The Golden Years,” Ensign, May 2003, 82
I believe that, in the eternal scheme of things, it may be more important to be active in the gospel than active in the Church. Of course, in many cases, being active in the gospel is reflected by our also being active in the Church.
I think one can be active in the gospel without being active in the Church, even when the lack of Church activity is not caused by age or infirmity. Persons under Church discipline can be active in the gospel, as can children whose parents prevent them from attending or being baptized. Some may stay away from Church for a variety of reasons, including having taken offense, disillusionment or boredom, but in their daily interactions with others they may model the highest teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. I expect many such individuals, whom we may rarely see at Church, will one day hear the Savior say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
I would take this further. Just as the Lamanites were “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not,” 3 Nephi 9:20, I think many people who do not purport to be “active” in religious life actually are active in the gospel without knowing they are.
What do you think? What are some ways to be active in the gospel without being active in the Church? What are some ways to be active in the gospel while being disengaged or disaffected from the Church? Or being a member of a different faith tradition? Or of no faith at all?
Note: As many know, Elder Ronald Poelman delivered a wonderful address 26 years ago on a related, but different issue—i.e., the distinctions and the relationship of the Church and the gospel, which he then revised (the revised version is the official one in the Ensign). Both versions are found here, and both are worth reading. I would prefer, though, that this thread not be used to focus on or argue which version is more correct or the circumstances of the revision.