What if the Church is like a language primer, giving you exercises and programs that exist to teach you the structure, the sound, or the feeling of living a life centered on Christ, just as you would be given phrases to repeat and worksheets to write out until you get the feeling of the structure, sound, and feeling of a new language? Then, the goal of the church is not to make people who have their Duty to God awards (or Personal Progress medallions), but to create people who understand how to serve God and what it feels like to give to our fellow man.
About getting a PhD, I once thought, focusing on getting the degree and finishing grad school is like taking pride in shopping for a really great drill. I want to do my homework, I want the drill to be the right drill for the job, I need to know what it was designed to do and how to use it, but I went out to purchase that drill so that I could build with it. The shed in my yard, the new shelves in the garage, and the numerous tasks around the house that needed the tool are the reason that I bought the drill. Buying the drill was not an end in itself, but a specific tool to help me achieve the real end. In marketing, we say that when a man buys a drill, he's actually buying the holes it makes-- this is the distinction between the benefit and the product.
Church is the drill. It is the PhD program. It is the training wheels for what we're trying to eventually do with our lives-- the real end to be achieved. For me, the real end is nothing less than to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. In ward conference, President Gordon said, "Our mission is to help God bring to pass his work and his glory. The gospel is to love and to serve."
That is lovely and simple, but it is still too vague. If I asked 100 people what it means to love and serve, I'd get 100 different answers. So that is why most everything else in the Church exists-- to help us correctly interpret and understand that most simple statement of the church. Christ gave his answer to the plotting question of a lawyer:
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.“This is the first and great commandment.“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” Matthew 22:36–40
Love God and love our neighbor. It's that simple. And how do we love God?
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father” John 14:21
Keeping the commandments is loving God. Obedience to God is loving God. Loving our neighbor is loving God. The Church's goal becomes to show us how to love and show us how to serve.