Why Do You Travel So Far for Church? (3 Nephi 19)
For quite a few years, my family lived in the town of Thorndale, Pennsylvania, and we attended church services in the town of Levittown, Pennsylvania. If you look on a map, you will see that these two towns are both located in eastern Pennsylvania, but they are in fact 60 miles apart! Yes, every Sunday, my parents and my sister and I dutifully piled into the car by 8:45 a.m. to make the hour-plus trip to Levittown for Sunday school and the worship service and then traveled the same distance to return home, arriving home sometime in the mid-afternoon.
Every so often, one of us would be in a conversation with someone about the church, and when we mentioned where the church was, the same questions would be asked. Why do you travel so far for church? Isn't there a church in this area that you can attend?
Many of you have probably experienced something similar to this at one time or another — perhaps you still do — traveling farther than what would be considered "normal" to attend church services.
So, what do you say when someone asks you why you travel so far for church? Why not select a church the way you select a favorite grocery store? Would anyone travel 60 miles to buy groceries? I doubt it. So, why do you do it for church?
In 3 Nephi 19, Jesus ascends into heaven after His day with the Nephites but indicates that He will return the next day. The people are filled with excitement. The word passes quickly even before it's dark — Jesus is coming back tomorrow! The homes of many of the people are a great distance from where Jesus will be. Do the people say it's inconvenient to travel or they'll just worship the Lord near their home? No, their response is — If Jesus is going to be there, then I'm going to be there too!
"Even all the night it was noised abroad concerning Jesus; and…there were many, yea, an exceeding great number, [who] did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude." (3 Nephi 19:3)
If you found out today that Jesus was going to be in a specific place tomorrow, wouldn't you do your utmost to make your way to the place where He will be?
Years ago, a sister in the church had a dream in which she was speaking to Jesus, and He said in her dream that He attends all of the meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ. To the extent that that's true, why would we want to attend church anywhere else?
Yes, there's a certain level of comfort in worshipping at the church we've always attended, but we could likely become comfortable somewhere else. Yes, we love to be together with the brothers and sisters, but that probably wouldn't be enough of a draw to travel great distances on a regular basis (sorry, folks). No, the primary reason that we make the effort — even if it is a great distance — is because we want to commune with Jesus Christ. If the Lord is going to be there, then that's where we want to be too!
Perhaps, you may ask, "What if I don't feel the presence of the Lord at church?" If that's how you feel, the solution is clear: Bring Him with you! The Spirit of the Lord is within each of us, so any of us can help bring the Lord's presence into our worship services. It doesn't always have to be about what kind of blessing I'm receiving, but it can also be about what kind of blessing I'm bringing to church.
So, the next time someone asks why you travel so far to church, you can say it's because you know the Lord will be there. You don't necessarily have to go so far as to say He isn't anywhere else — we're not the judges of that — but if we know that Jesus is going to be in attendance at The Church of Jesus Christ, then why would we want to be anywhere else?
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.