Today the semester begins and that means I start teaching Book of Mormon classes again. As this beginning has approached, I’ve been thinking a lot about what religion is. We all use the word and usually when we do we are thinking of it simply as a denomination. For example, “My religion is Catholic or Baptists or LDS.” But that use of religion is synonymous with denomination. But when I say “Religion is a way of life,” what does it mean?
Our English word religion comes from the Latin word religare which means “to bind.” So the word originally referred to that which binds a person. When used in the context of an institution which administers the things which bind us we realize that refers to the covenants, vows, and ordinances available in the Church which are meant to bind us to God. But on another level we realize that what binds us to anything are our habitual attitudes and feelings. There is a valuable insight in this distinction. If our covenants, vows, and ordinances do not become habitual attitudes and feelings they fail to bind us to God—they remain only uttered words.
Religion, then is a way of thinking and living. It is something very internal to our being, Thus everyone has a religion, and it is important that we each determine what our religion is. Is it the same as what our covenants have proclaimed or is it something different?