Some years ago, my mom said to me that she thought my dad, who had served as a bishop as well as countless other callings and was in his 50's at the time, was, in his spiritual life, about the same place he would have been if he had gone on a mission. What she was saying is that it had taken him 30 years of active gospel living to get to the same place he might have been after a mission. It was an interesting thought, but one I tucked away and didn't think about much after. Until just recently.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book titled Outliers, that garnered a fair amount of press a couple of years ago. In the book he popularized the notion that, for complex tasks, 10,000 hours, on average, is the amount of time required for success at a high level. (Some have refuted his claims, but he cites his research and maintains his assertion.)
I was thinking about Gladwell recently because of an interesting essay of his regarding his rediscovery of faith. His essay, and his earlier ideas about the 10,000 hours led me to think about what it takes to become an expert in gospel living.
We talked about this idea in my Sunday School class a couple of weeks ago and ran some numbers. If you never do anything but attend church, it will take 64 years old to become an "expert."
If you do a calling that takes you up to two hours a week on top of church then you are looking more at 38 years.
If you add in 2 hours of scripture study/prayer to the mix then you are looking at 27 years.
Now add home or visiting teaching (an hour a week?) to family home evening (another hour) and random service (another hour) you get 19 years.
That is looking at about ten hours a week.
If you add weekly temple attendance to your ten hours the number goes down to about 16.
Attending four years of seminary gives you another 800 hours.
A mission probably adds another 5,500 hours in just proselyting time.
Don't get me wrong. Understanding the gospel isn't about punching an imaginary time clock. And merely going through these motions will never produce a mighty change of heart. But I maintain that not putting in the time can never sustain that converting feeling.
Many of our apostles have reiterated the notion of being "born again by degrees," possibly first coined by Elder Bruce R. McConkie. That our converting experiences happen line upon line, growing from grace to grace, and coming to a more perfect knowledge of truth. I believe strongly that they happen while we are all in the process of doing these things that fill our 10,000 hours.
What do you think? How does putting in the time help with that change of heart?