On May 19, the Church released guidelines about reopening and returning to regular meetings. This signals a return to church-church (as opposed to home-church) in the near future.
Not everyone is pleased.
Some are anxious, and that’s understandable. It’s hard to sift information from misinformation these days, let alone make judgments based on that information.
But even more than that… home-church has been AWESOME! Why on earth would we want to go back to church-church when the alternative is so great?
That’s not unreasonable either. In my house, we’ve absolutely loved home-church and the break from broader responsibilities. Why would anyone want to give that up?
Short answer? It’s not all about you.
The Ancient Ahupua’a
The islands that dot the Pacific are beautiful. It’s no surprise they draw thousands of tourists from far dustier corners of God’s green earth every single year. And yet despite this beauty, the ancient Hawaiians lived in some of the most difficult conditions of their time. As it turns out, these islands are far less hospitable without modern conveniences like room service and kayak rentals.
Still, undeterred by these conditions, the Hawaiians developed a system that may have supported up to a million natives. Today there are not even 1.5 million people in the state of Hawaii. Sustaining life as the ancients did – before electricity, sanitation, and imports – was a tremendous feat.
How did they do it?
They did it by working as a community in self-contained districts called ahupua’a. Ancient Hawaiians divided entire islands, or mokupuni (like O’ahu below), into many ahupua’a. These pizza-slice-shaped land divisions provided everything the Hawaiians needed to survive. Each was overseen by an ali’i, or chief.
That included forests to provide wood for making homes and boats, fertile land where they could farm crops like taro, space to live and harvest coconuts, and an ocean that provided seaweed, fish, and salt.
Individuals and families living in the ahupua’a would be given a kuleana. “Kuleana” is a Hawaiian word that literally means “right” or “responsibility.” Your kuleana was your portion of the work in the community. You might have been responsible for harvesting wood for canoes, or for making nets for fishers, or for working a land tract and growing taro, or for repairing structures in the village. Then, regularly, villagers would meet and trade, bringing those things others needed and taking for themselves what they needed. In this way, the community ensured that all needs were met.
Fulfilling your kuleana was critical to the community. If a farmer did not grow taro, it wasn’t just him that would be without taro; it was the entire community. If those making fish nets failed to make them strong, the fishers would fail and the entire community would be impacted. If one person failed in their responsibility, everyone felt it, and in this kind of environment, someone could die.
You might wonder why someone would live like this, so dependent on others for their survival. At least for the Hawaiians, this is what allowed for their way of life – vibrant, rich, and lasting.
Our Ward Ahupua’a
I have loved home-church. It’s been refreshing to be laser-focus on my family and to personally administer the sacrament for those I care about most.
But there’s more to church than taking the sacrament. In an entire Ensign devoted to the blessings of the formal Church organization, Sister Sharon Eubank said,
“As the world becomes increasingly secular, however, many people wonder why organized religion is necessary. They feel that they can be close to God in settings outside of a church. While it is true that we can feel the Lord’s Spirit in many places, this issue of the Ensign explores a few of the reasons the Lord organized His Church and how His restored Church focuses our learning and amplifies our individual responses to His Spirit for good in our day.“
As with the ancient Hawaiians, there are talents we bring that no one else can provide. In our absence, the entire community suffers. Similarly, there are talents others bring that we simply cannot replicate on our own. We can get by in times of hardship, and the Lord can magnify our efforts; still, meeting together in branches and wards and stakes provides blessings that come in no other way. Our regular opportunities to trade – to bring to give, and to take to live – are critical to our local ahupua’a.
Come Back to Church
Maybe you’ve grown accustomed to home-church, and you don’t need traditional church (you do). Please share what you have anyway; someone else is depending on your strength and testimony. Chances are your ward will suffer – spiritually and temporally – for your absence. You will also find yourself bolstered and blessed as ward members and friends share their own talents with you. You might miss home-church, but really, there is little you can’t continue to practice once church meetings resume.
Even our best efforts will be far from perfect, but there is an Ali’i, a Chief, greater than us all. He is looking over the ahupua’a and caring for those within. I know that He will consecrate our efforts for our good and the good of the ahupua’a.
Come back to church.
- “The Lord is My Light” -Elder Quentin L. Cook, April 2015
- “The Needs before Us” -Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, October 2017
- “Knowing, Loving, and Growing” -Elder Hans T. Boom, October 2019