After reading this article about "Why Christianity Needs a Church", I decided to write my own post about this subject.
Some people don't like religion because they see the extremes in churches, and worry that people are being duped. I agree that there are some corrupt churches today. Some people are out there just to make money.
Because people do have a need for religion, they seek out the church that makes them feel the most comfortable. It doesn't take much to form a church as long as you have the energy to recruit members. It's always amazing to me to see how many churches can exist in the same city! People can shop for churches they way they might shop for a new cell phone. One acquaintance of mine is a lesbian. She found the teachings of one church to be unaccepting of her lifestyle, so she "shopped around" until she found a church with a lesbian pastor, who would accept homosexuality.
I have friends who have that "anti-church" attitude. They have been persuaded to believe that if they attend a church, they could be brainwashed. One friend told me that she attended a revival, and really got emotionally caught up in the fervor of the preaching by the pastor and started to cry. She felt that she was being emotionally manipulated through the music and preaching. As a consequence, she doesn't attend a church now.
So what can I say to those who don't believe in "church"? There are many who say that they can worship on their own. To them I say, "Yes, but when do you? When do you actually pray to God? When do you actually worship?" My guess is that if they don't go to church, they don't worship God. "Communing with nature" is not the same as praying. "Communing with nature" isn't even the same as worshipping God. And when do they actually learn about God? Do they actually read the scriptures? My guess is that they don't.
One of the prophets of the Book of Mormon wrote about why the people of his time went to church. He said, "And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls." Moroni 6:5. Going to church helps us remember what we need to do and know concerning our eternal salvation.
Elsewhere in the Book of Mormon we read a sermon about why we should be baptized in to the church. King Benjamin said to his people, "Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?" Mosiah 18:9-10 King Benjamin lists many of the benefits of belonging to the church:
1. to be called God's people
2. bear each other's burdens
3. mourn with each other
4. comfort each other
5. the gift of the Holy Ghost that comes to those who are faithful
Those are but some of the benefits of belonging to the church of God. For me, the weekly reminders about what God has done for us, and the education I get each week in church are great helps to me in my life. I feel buoyed up by the Spirit to help me resist temptations and attacks from the adversary.
I encourage those who have set their mind against religion to give it a chance. Try observing the Sabbath once a week, and see what it can do for your soul. Try worshipping God in a formal environment once a week, and see how much closer it will make you feel to God!