Spiritual Dangers of a Casual Disregard
A talk given by Bishop Craig Broadbent
Moorestown Ward, June 20, 2010
Look carefully at this sentence… There’s a lot of people in this world. Do you notice anything wrong?
Same sentence in a slightly different way… There is a lot of people in this world. Notice anything this time?
Now look at this sentence… There are a lot of people in this world.
Now do you hear it? The last sentence is the grammatically correct one. The first and second are incorrect (There’s vs. There are).
One of the dangerous things about sloppy grammar or spelling is that after a while, when it’s been used countless times (especially without correction), it starts looking or sounding correct. Or, it becomes acceptable when permitted to go on uncorrected.
Texting and spelling checkers, among other things, have, to some extent, bred in all of us a casual disregard for correct spelling. (Now you’re all going to be watching for my grammatical mistakes instead of listening to my real message.)
Considering this example, isn’t this exactly what has happened (and continues to happen) in many areas of our society? For those who remember it (or have heard about it), in the first decades of TV, married couples were not shown in bed together and were often shown as having separate beds. Strict rules of television broadcasting restricted an on-screen kiss to under six seconds, and the participants could not recline during the kiss. Contrast that with what is often shown on TV today with characters who aren’t even portrayed as married. Gradually, standards have declined until extra-marital sexual encounters are the norm. The slow introduction of this practice has brought about a certain familiarity, and familiarity has bred a casual disregard for the sanctity of virtue and chastity.
This can also happen to us in many other aspects of our lives as well. We need to be particularly mindful of those areas which have eternal consequences. We’ve all heard the saying… “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It originates from one of Aesop’s fables about the Fox and the Lion… which goes like this…
When first the Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood. Next time, however, he came near the King of Beasts, he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by. The third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family were, and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony. Thus we see… “Familiarity Breeds Contempt.”
There are two definitions for “contempt” —
a : the act of despising : the state of mind of one who despises : disdain … OR…
b : lack of respect or reverence for something
It is the second definition we will begin with, and we will call it by another name: “Casual disregard.” Familiarity breeds a casual disregard. This is what the Fox experienced in the fable — a casual disregard for the Lion’s power to attack and eat him.
It seems to me a casual disregard creeps in well before full contempt. From there, it grows into to total disregard and finally to hatred and enmity.
Taking the TV example, consider how those who now oppose the immoral acts often portrayed on TV, are viewed by the general public… as closed minded, politically incorrect and unaccepting — basically as the bad guys.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British philosopher said –
“The aspect of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.”
There is an important truth in this statement regarding members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Part of my message today is to not let things familiar to us (particularly related to the gospel and one another) breed in us a casual disregard for their importance.
Familiarity breeds casual disregard
What do I mean by a casual disregard? I’d like to read part of a story told by President Boyd K. Packer about Spiritual Crocodiles. Some of you may be familiar with this story. I believe its theme is an example of the casual disregard of which I speak.
(President Packer related the following story after attending to an assignment in Africa…)
We had no automobile, and without telephones there was no way to get a replacement until late in the day. We faced the disappointment of sitting around the compound all day. Our one day in the park was ruined and, for me, the dream of a lifetime was gone.
I talked with a young ranger, and he was surprised that I knew many of the African birds. Then he volunteered to rescue us.
“We are building a new lookout over a water hole about twenty miles from the compound,” he said. “It is not quite finished, but it is safe. I will take you out there with a lunch, and when your car comes late this afternoon we will bring it out to you. You may see as many animals, or even more, than if you were driving around.”
On the way to the lookout he volunteered to show us some lions. He turned off through the brush and before long located a group of seventeen lions all sprawled out asleep and drove right up among them.
We stopped at a water hole to watch the animals come to drink. It was very dry that season and there was not much water, really just muddy spots. When the elephants stepped into the soft mud the water would seep into the depression and the animals would drink from the elephant tracks.
The antelope, particularly, were very nervous. They would approach the mud hole, only to turn and run away in great fright. I could see there were no lions about and asked the guide why they didn’t drink. His answer, and this is the lesson, was “Crocodiles.”
I knew he must be joking and asked him seriously, “What is the problem?” The answer again: “Crocodiles.”
“Nonsense,” I said. “There are no crocodiles out there. Anyone can see that.”
I thought he was having some fun at the expense of his foreign game expert, and finally I asked him to tell us the truth. Now I remind you that I was not uninformed. I had read many books. Besides, anyone would know that you can’t hide a crocodile in an elephant track.
He could tell I did not believe him and determined, I suppose, to teach me a lesson. We drove to another location where the car was on an embankment above the muddy hole where we could look down. “There,” he said. “See for yourself.”
I couldn’t see anything except the mud, a little water, and the nervous animals in the distance. Then all at once I saw it!—a large crocodile, settled in the mud, waiting for some unsuspecting animal to get thirsty enough to come for a drink.
Suddenly I became a believer! When he could see I was willing to listen, he continued with the lesson. “There are crocodiles all over the park,” he said, “not just in the rivers. We don’t have any water without a crocodile somewhere near it, and you’d better count on it.”
I could see for myself that there were no crocodiles. I was so sure of myself I think I might have walked out just to see what was there. Such an arrogant approach could have been fatal! But he was patient enough to teach me…. (Boyd K. Packer, “Spiritual Crocodiles,” Ensign, May 1976, 30).
Do we have a CASUAL DISREGARD…
- For counsel from the prophet, leaders, parents, etc? (Do we feel that we ultimately know what’s best? Do we listen to General Conference, or read the talks in the Ensign magazine?)
- For ordinances – how do we approach the Sacrament each week?
- For one another (members of our family or even for one another in the Church)?
- For the need to repent?
- For reading the scriptures, praying, and attending our church meetings?
- For magnifying our callings?
- For the ways we worship?
- For the covenants we have made (baptism, temple)?
- And, for living the commandments with exactness and diligence?
George Sands said, “Admiration and Familiarity are strangers.” Antoine de Rivarol said, “Familiarity is the root of the closest friendship, as well as the intensest hatreds.” William Bernbach said, “In communications, familiarity breeds apathy.” I think this quote perhaps has much broader applicability than just communications.
When we casually disregard the aforementioned things, there may be nothing that happens immediately, the first time we do/don’t do it. There may not even be apparent consequences the second, third, or fourth time we behave with casual disregard for the things on this list. However, the message here is that eventually we will be bitten by the spiritual crocodiles, most likely when we are least expecting it.
The Book of Mormon suggests at least one possible source for the growth of a casual disregard.
“Yea, and we may see at the very a time when he doth prosper his people… yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One.
“Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!
“Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide” (Helaman 12:2, 5-6).
“Slow to give ear unto his counsels,” and “Set at naught his counsels…” These phrases sound to me like the same thing as casually disregarding His counsels.
Obedience with exactness
But what’s so harmful about a casual disregard for things related to the gospel? Often times we’re not even in the act of blatantly sinning. However, it is contrary to our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness.
So, what does the opposite of “casual disregard” look like? In Alma we read about the Stripling Warriors…
“Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them” (Alma 57:21).
The scripture indicates that they did “perform every word of command with exactness.” As a result, according to their faith, it was done unto them. The full-time missionaries can certainly attest that they are taught of the importance of exact obedience to the mission rules. They can also testify of the blessings and miracles, as they have done so.
“We all are prone, once in a while, to be in a state contrary to the nature of happiness, and not necessarily because we have pursued wickedness or iniquity to a full extent. But so long as we are in this earthly probationary state, the adversary can influence us. We may have become a little careless. We may have neglected our relationships with those closest to us—those who are our first responsibility—our spouse, our children, or our parents. Perhaps we may have permitted small bad habits or attitudes to enter into our lives; or perhaps we have even lost to some degree an understanding of the importance of keeping a covenant with exactness. If so, we are in a dangerous state. We must become aware of it. We cannot afford to ignore the situation. We may observe that for some time we are not really happy, that we must constantly force ourselves to smile, or perhaps that we are in a state close to depression. One may not yet have formally broken a covenant, or may even still manage to hide behind a facade of happiness. Although we might deceive others, we cannot deceive ourselves, and we cannot deceive the Lord.
“When the Spirit of the Lord is withdrawn even in part, we feel it… Shadows of darkness will fall upon the soul, and, in this state, an awareness of what is happening to us is essential (Elder F. Enzio Busche, Of the First Quorum of the Seventy, May 1989).”
The Book of Mormon prophet Alma said, speaking to his son, Corianton:
“And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness (Alma 41:11).
The good news is that as we strive to live the commandments with exactness (and as we strive to eliminate casual disregard for those things in our lives (especially those which are most important for us), we will be aligned with our Heavenly Father’s plan of Happiness. And, His desire is for us to have joy in this life.
When Jesus Christ first began to teach in the Holy Land, he was casually disregarded by many of the Jews, particularly by the Jewish leadership. They were “familiar” with him as merely the son of Joseph, a carpenter. Over the course of his ministry, however, that casual disregard grew into vehement opposition.
For Christ’s Atonement to be effective in our lives, we must exercise our Faith in Him continually, consistently and completely… NOT CASUALLY. I believe that a casual disregard of the gospel or of spiritual things is essentially a form of sabotaging our faith, making his Atonement less effective or ineffective in our live. The scriptures indicate, as a result, we remain in our carnal and fallen state.
“But behold, they have received many wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free; and they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually; and their faith is strong in the prophecies concerning that which is to come” (Alma 58:40).
Brothers and Sisters, it is not my intent to pound the pulpit or to suggest that we are in a wicked state. In large part, I suppose that my message today is a reflection of things that I’ve pondered regarding not only the ward, but my own life and my own need for improvement. My message is more of a reminder, an invitation and a challenge to all of us is to claim the blessings of happiness of the gospel by…
Not letting the Familiarity of our families, each other, and the gospel breed a Casual Disregard in us… and…that living the gospel with more exact obedience will bring greater protection, power, and happiness (and eventually Eternal Life).