Q: How do you get to the Celestial Kingdom?
A: Praxis, praxis, praxis.
More than any other religion I can think of, Mormonism is characterized by the stuff we do, day in, day out. Some of these activities are cultural markers and shibboleths; others seem more oriented around generating habits of worship. I wanted to make a list of the ‘small stuff’, those daily (or regular) tasks we engage in that aren’t mandatory aspects of being LDS but are nonetheless strongly encouraged. Here’s a sample list:
- Daily scripture study
- Daily personal prayer
- Regular temple attendance
- Weekly church attendance 
- Attending Stake Conference
- Watching General Conference 
- Subscription to LDS magazines
- Family Home Evening
- Temple images in the home
- Becoming a Teacher/Priest/Elder/High Priest/Whatever’s next
- Paying Fast Offerings
I’d be curious to see what else you guys would add to this list, but the actual content of this list of regular activities isn’t what I’d like to talk about primarily; rather, I’d like to explore what the existence of this list means for LDS and how LDS folk use this list as part of our culture. I characterize these items as non-mandatory; by this I mean while they may have a salutary effect, they are not salvific in and of themselves and are not, to use a well-worn phrase, “necessary for our salvation.” I’ve consciously left some of the more praxis-oriented temple recommend elements off this list to avoid needless debate  around those. Here’s a famous example, retold last year by an area authority, of how we sometimes explicitly use this list:
Some years ago Harold B. Lee served as the President of the Pioneer Stake. One evening he found it necessary to hold a disciplinary council for a man who had violated the laws of chastity. The disciplinary council lasted late into the night and finally the decision was made to excommunicate the man. The next morning as President Lee went to his office he was confronted by the man’s brother. The man said: “I want to tell you that my brother wasn’t guilty of what you charge him with.” President Lee replied, “How do you know he wasn’t guilty?” The answer came, “Because I prayed, and the Lord told me he was innocent.” President Lee then invited the man into his office.
“How old are you?” asked President Lee.
“Forty-seven” came the response.
“What Priesthood do you hold?”
“A teacher, I think.”
“Do you live the Word of Wisdom?”
“Do you pay your tithing?”
“Do you attend church regularly?”
“No,” and he didn’t intend to as long as the current bishop was serving.
“Do you read the scriptures regularly?”
He said his eyes were bad so he didn’t read much.
President Lee then told the man that he had a wonderful instrument in his home called a radio. It could broadcast music and talks from thousands of miles away and bring them into his living room just as though the performers were there. The sounds were received by crystal tubes. If one of them wore out he might hear some static. If another wore out the sound might fade in and out, and if another tube went bad the sound might discontinue altogether.
Then he said our spirit is like that radio set. We have what you might call a Word of Wisdom tube, and read the scriptures tube, and perhaps most importantly a morality tube. And if any of these are not functioning it adversely affects our ability to receive and recognize impressions from the other side.
Then he said in essence, “Last night 15 of the best men in Pioneer Stake all received the same impression that your brother should be excommunicated. And you, who have some of these spiritual tubes malfunctioning, received a different impression. How would you explain that?” Then he said that the man gave a classic answer, “I think I must have gotten my answer from the wrong source.”
If our worthiness tubes are in order we will receive and recognise promptings as they are broadcast from the divine source; if not it will be difficult, if not impossible, to recognise the divine signals that are being sent.
You see, it’s a series of tubes!
In the example given by President Lee, a failure to engage in these everyday duties of membership results in “spiritual tubes malfunctioning.” President Lee essentially uses the list as a
weapon tool to establish the primacy of the high council’s revelation over the brother’s. This is an interesting use of the list, as presumably President Lee could have drawn from a host of different arguments to reaffirm the high council’s decision, from simple administrative hierarchy to a better understanding of facts to the individual’s personal responsibility to submit to the decisions of priesthood leaders. But aside from that effect, Lee’s doctrinal point — that failure to perform some of these tasks tarnishes our ability to receive revelation — is interesting. If we can accept that some or all of those list items are not necessary for being saved, then we are saying that being saved is not a sufficient condition for receiving correct revelation. Per President Lee, you must also be regularly reading the scriptures, attending Church, etc. for that to occur.
President Lee’s story has been applied and misapplied many times since it was first delivered . The doctrinal point seems to be largely secondary, and instead the primacy arguments are the most-used subtext — the story is about why my revelation is better than yours. We now can also apply it beyond the rare circumstance of direct revelation vs. direct revelation. For example, why should I listen to your complaints about the role of women in the Church when you don’t even attend Sacrament Meeting? Your arguments about the treatment of homosexuals in our culture are invalid — you’re 47 years old and only a teacher. We use the list as a tool for cultural demarcation, but more importantly (and pointedly) we use the cultural demarcation in turn as a substitute for accepting the arguments of others. If you are one of us and do as we do, we will listen to what you have to say. But if you never attended Seminary and you don’t show up to Ward Talent Night…
I don’t think Mormons are the sole group to use shibboleths. But we are a peculiar people to say the least, and a highly insular group, so these markers and tasks take on life within Mormonism and threaten to supplant our primary directives to treat each other with Christian love and charity. What if, instead of using it as a sign that we may disregard the speaker, we used that list of everyday to-dos as a sign for when we must pay particular attention to what the person is saying? What if we threw the list out the window and just decided to keep it simple, stupid?
There are other points worth exploring here: when did this list get formed? How does the list get added to or taken away from? How would this list have looked in 1843? 1943? But I am a slacker and a poor historian, so this is what you get for today.
 This one might be mandatory – the Church is commanded to meet and pray together oft. Debatable as to whether this means the 3-hour block each week.
 Extra points if you watch Saturday.
 Suffice it to say as an example out of personal opinion, I think you can be probably be saved and exalted if you violate the Word of Wisdom. I’d be honored to befriend the man whose sole sin was drinking a beer now and then.
 Ask me how I know this.