Filed under: Doctrine & Covenants, History, Joseph Smith: Mormon Prophet, Making Decisions, The Prophet
Ezra Booth, a former minister, became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often called Mormons, in 1831, when the church was still new. He had seen Joseph Smith heal the arm of a church member, and this was his reason for joining. However, Mormons know miracles don’t really convert people. The miracle must be followed up with appropriate steps to gain a true testimony, including study and prayer. However, Booth did not do this and so he had only the single miracle to bolster his thin faith.
In the early days of the church, adult men, even those married, could be sent out on missions and often did so when they were quite new to the church. This is not the case today, where missionaries must be well-versed in their religion and have strong testimonies. Ezra Booth left on his mission only a few months after joining. This mission demonstrated his lack of true testimony as he faced his first necessity to sacrifice for his faith. He was angry over having to walk to his destination instead of being given transportation, even though the young church had no money for such things and neither did he. He began to feel upset that he didn’t see a continual stream of miracles, not understanding that miracles are miracles precisely because they are rare. Missionary work wasn’t the glamorous task he expected it to be.
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).
Filed under: Finding joy within the gospel, Overcoming Adversity
When I tell the story of Joseph and the multicolored coat, from the Old Testament, to young children, they never really get the story. In fact, they never really see Joseph as the hero. Those with younger siblings immediately side with the brothers, and think it’s really unfair Joseph got a beautiful coat and the brothers didn’t. Not only do they approve of Joseph’s brothers selling him, but they express a longing to do the same to their own seemingly more favored siblings.
Preschoolers want everything fair and equal. Sometimes, even as adults, we wish everything were equal. We look around and wonder why some people don’t seem to have any trials, or why some people have more blessings than others. We then wonder if that means God loves some of us less than others. Read more
Unless we know what matters most to us, we will spend much of our life doing things that don’t matter to us as much as the things we neglect. To use our agency wisely, we have to know what we want out of life. One question I often as myself when faced with a choice to make is this: Is what I’m getting worth more than what I’m giving up?” This question reminds me that each time I choose something, I am giving up the other options. The challenge is to choose the option that gives me what I really want from life—not right this moment, but for eternity. Read more
Filed under: For the Strength of the Youth, Life Lessons, Making Decisions, Old Testament
In order to learn to make wise use of our eternal gift of agency, we must understand that each choice we make has consequences. These consequences can affect our entire lives and even our eternities. They also affect others. When we learn to evaluate the consequences of our choices, we are better able to make wise choices and get the most from our agency.
In the past, many Mormons used the term “free agency” to describe our God-given right to choose for ourselves. Today, church leaders discourage that term, because agency is not free, and they want us to understand this. Instead, they encourage the use of the term “moral agency.” Read more
Filed under: Becoming More Christlike, Discovering Yourself, Finding joy within the gospel, For the Strength of the Youth, Living the Gospel, Making Decisions, Peer Pressure, Teens & Seminary
The teen years are filled with temptation. The media, peers, even teachers and other adults can try to convince a young person that sin is okay, natural, normal, and fun. For a teenager with high standards and an eye for eternity, it can be a challenge to stay on the right path, when so many people are determined to take her off that path. Fortunately, God and His servants have outlined effective ways for teens—and adults—to stay safe.
Staying safe is a matter of choices, and to make wise choices, we have to understand the concept of agency. This article will focus on agency, and future articles in this series will walk through the process of using that understanding to make eternally safe choices. Read more
Filed under: Adversity, Family & Friendships, The Adversary
Mistakes! We’ve all made them. Some mistakes are easily corrected, others can take quite a lot of time and effort to fix. I’ve made my share of mistakes. I will probably make a few more before my time on this earth is through. Big or small, I can honestly say that I’ve learned from my mistakes. They’ve made me a better person, a better mother and wife. My mistakes and my journey to overcome those mistakes are as much a part of me as any other attribute that makes me – me.
But what happens when our children make mistakes? Are we as patient or as understanding? Do we forgive? Do we look at it as an opportunity for them to grow, or do we only see the looks that we imagine our neighbors and friends are giving us? Do we view it as a reflection of our abilities (or lack thereof) as parents? Are we somehow threatened by our children’s mistakes because of the way it might make us look?
One of the hardest things a parent has to do is watch their children make mistakes. It is hard to stand by and watch your child make bad choices. It’s even harder to watch them suffer the consequences of those poor choices.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught that each of us is given the gift of agency. Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that he allowed us to choose.
And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.
He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you. (Helaman 14:30-31)
He will not force us to obey Him and follow His will. Instead, He gave us the freedom to choose for ourselves. Knowing the pain I feel when I watch my children make mistakes, I can imagine how much more our Heavenly Father hurts when we make mistakes. Yet, as a loving Heavenly Father, His way is not to force, but to guide, to forgive, and to give us chances over and over again.
Can we do any less for our own children? Yes, we’d rather they didn’t make some of the mistakes they made. Yes, we wish they had made smarter, better, worthier choices than they made. Yes, we hurt, we’re disappointed, sometimes we’re even angry. But now is not the time for “I told you so” speeches. Now is the time for love, an outpouring of unconditional love.
As a mother, I need to trust that I’ve raised my sons the best way I know how. I need to remember that I’ve taught them the word of God. I need to remember that I’ve tried in every way I know how, to instill in them a love for everything that is good, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Then, I need to stand back and allow them to exercise their agencies. I will always guide, counsel, and advise, but in the end, it is up to them. I need to acknowledge that they too will make their share of mistakes. When (not if) they fall, I will be there to help them pick up the pieces. When they fall, I will be there to help them find their way back. When they fall, I will forgive them.
President Howard W. Hunter, 14th President of the Church, taught:
To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess. He wants to help us and pleads for the chance to assist us, but he will not do so in violation of our agency. He loves us too much to do that, and doing so would run counter to his divine character.
Given the freedom to choose, we may, in fact, make wrong choices, bad choices, hurtful choices. And sometimes we do just that, but that is where the mission and mercy of Jesus Christ comes into full force and glory. He has taken upon himself the burden of all the world’s risk. He has provided a mediating atonement for the wrong choices we make. He is our advocate with the Father and has paid, in advance, for the faults and foolishness we often see in the exercise of our freedom. We must accept his gift, repent of those mistakes, and follow his commandments in order to take full advantage of this redemption. The offer is always there; the way is always open. We can always, even in our darkest hour and most disastrous errors, look to the Son of God and live.
Don’t you just love that? There aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am for the gift of the Atonement.
I’m thankful for a loving Heavenly Father and for His gift of Agency. The knowledge that He trusts me so much that He allows me to choose gives me the courage to pick myself up when I’ve made mistakes. I’m so grateful for a Church that teaches us about the wonderful principle of Agency. I’m thankful because I know that this gift is available to my children as well. It is available to all of us.
This, and other teachings of the Church, gives me eternal hope. I have hope that, whatever mistakes my sons may make, they will make it right. I have hope that when they do mistakes, they will remember that their Heavenly Father will forgive them if they sincerely repent of those mistakes. I have hope that when they fall, they will pick themselves up and try again. I have hope that when they fall, they will learn and grow and become better men because they corrected and overcame their mistakes.
Filed under: Becoming More Christlike, Blessings, Obedience
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
It goes on with more great counsel and blessings, but I’d like to focus on just these verses for a moment.
I like the imagery of the vine and the fruit. I wonder how much nourishment I’m taking from my Master to bear sweet fruit. He gives us a wealth of council and knowledge which, if heeded will make us something more wonderful than we could ever imagine for ourselves. The less we heed that same counsel and knowledge, the more we shrivel and die on the vine. We can also become weakened and experience insults from outside of the vine. Again, the choice is ours as to whethe r or not we will treat these problems, or let them destroy us and cut us off from the vine. There will be times in our lives when we will find ourselves without so much fruit; times when the Master prunes and picks to allow us to become stronger and experience further growth. We decide how we will respond to these trials, as well.
Note that in all these cases the vine is still there at this point. It is the fruit and the branch that has changed. Eventually, that connection will change. Eventually, the Master will remove the dead fruit and the bare branches, so that those which are still growing can do so unimpeded. That is yet to come. Right now each of us is still on the vine with a choice to make. That choice concerns exactly how much of our Savior’s love we are willing to let into our lives and how much of the world we will keep out.
Let’s talk about the figurative worms and pestilence that can attack us in the world. These can and should be treated. Even when under attack the fruit can still be saved. Especially with the Master as the vine, each of us can be restored no matter how hopeless the situation seems. The choice is still ours; we decide if we can and want to be healed. He reaches out to honor our wishes and love us as much as we will let Him.
Consider the advice of James E. Faust.
“I believe that all of [you] want to be happy and find the peace that the Savior promised. I think many of you try very hard to keep up with all of your responsibilities. I do not wish to offend anyone. I am reluctant to mention a matter but feel it should be said. Sometimes we carry unhappy feelings about past hurts too long. We spend too much energy dwelling on things that have passed and cannot be changed. We struggle to close the door and let go of the hurt. If, after time, we can forgive whatever may have caused the hurt, we will tap “into a life-giving source of comfort” through the Atonement, and the “sweet peace” of forgiveness will be ours. Some injuries are so hurtful and deep that healing comes only with help from a higher power and hope for perfect justice and restitution in the next life. [You] can tap into that higher power and receive precious comfort and sweet peace.”
James E. Faust, “Instruments in the Hands of God,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 114
The Savior’s plea to each of us in these verses is to “Abide in me, and I in you.” He asks us for permission to enter our hearts and lives. He asks that we let Him love us. If we do that, we are called His disciples and our lives are filled with sweetness and peace. How do we invite Him in? How do we receive His greatest blessings? How do we feel His love? The answer is also given, “keep my commandments” and you will have joy. By simply using Christ as our example and living God’s laws, we can be filled with His love. He nourishes us and blesses us. He abides in us when we are trying to abide in Him.
“For the fruit of the gospel to blossom and bless our lives, we must be firmly attached to Him, the Savior of us all, and to this His Church, which bears His holy name. He is the vine that is our true source of strength and the only source of eternal life. In Him we not only will endure but also will prevail and triumph in this holy cause that will never fail us. May we never fail it nor fail Him . . . ” Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘Abide in Me’,” Liahona, May 2004, 30–32