I’ve been around for more than half a century. I’ve seen society change drastically. The technical aspects of entertainment have vastly improved, but the morals of that same entertainment have reached new lows. Public behavior once had standards held by most people in common. Now you are held in derision if you try to hold anyone to standards of behavior or decency. These downgrades in morals and behaviors are seen in every aspect of life. Eventually we will have to say to ourselves, “I will go no further! I am putting my stake in the ground. Here I stand.”
Back in the gold rush days and during the times of settling the Western part of the United States, when you “staked out your claim,” it was by literally putting a wooden stake with a flag on it in the ground. That showed everyone else that you had picked your spot and would not be moving elsewhere. I would like to talk briefly about the idea of putting our collective stake in the ground as Latter-day Saints.
Bro. W. Don Ladd of the Quorum of the Seventy said, more than twenty years ago:
“We all need to build a personal ark, to fortify ourselves against this rising tide of evil, to protect ourselves and our families against the floodwaters of iniquity around us. And we shouldn’t wait until it starts raining, but prepare in advance. This has been the message of all the prophets in this dispensation …”
Our youth find this tempting stuff all about them. They need the help of their parents in resisting it. They need a tremendous amount of self-control. They need the strength of good friends. They need prayer to fortify them against this flood tide of filth.
Speaking about pornography to the adults in a talk from 2010, President Hinckley said:
It is like a raging storm, destroying individuals and families, utterly ruining what was once wholesome and beautiful. I speak of pornography in all of its manifestations.
The use of artificial lures to fool and catch a fish is an example of the way Lucifer often tempts, deceives, and tries to ensnare us.
Like the fly fisherman who knows that trout are driven by hunger, Lucifer knows our “hunger,” or weaknesses, and tempts us with counterfeit lures which, if taken, can cause us to be yanked from the stream of life into his unmerciful influence. And unlike a fly fisherman who catches and releases the fish unharmed back into the water, Lucifer will not voluntarily let go. His goal is to make his victims as miserable as he is.
What Control Do We Have?
There is no inhabited place on earth that is free from Satan’s touch. As an example let me share my personal experience as a fourteen-year-old in a small branch on a military base many years ago. The man called to teach the Teachers and Priests was only marginally active. My brother and I were mocked openly in priesthood class because our parents did not allow us to read pornographic magazines. He couldn’t see how we could possibly know to choose not to read these magazines if we had never had them in our home. He made sure his son had them to look at so he would be able to make a “smart” choice, not one based on “blind” belief. What should have been a safe place had become anything but a safe place.
Following are some questions I would like you to consider. At what point are you going to say that enough is enough? How much blood and gore in the television program is too much? How much profanity does it take to reach the limit of your endurance? When will we say that watching same sex kissing and sex is not acceptable? What about promiscuity in general? How much is too much?
My point is this – most of us don’t seem to be drawing a line and saying I have gone as far as I am willing to go and will go no further. Most of us have not, up to now, been willing to put our stake in the ground and say that “Here, I make my stand!” Sooner or later the world will make us either go with them or we will have to choose to live completely different lives, no matter how that makes us look to others. It is becoming increasingly difficult to “straddle the fence.”
There is Safety
President Hinckley also said the following:
Suppose a storm is raging and the winds howl and the snow swirls about you. You find yourself unable to stop it. But you can dress properly and seek shelter, and the storm will have no effect upon you.
Likewise, even though the Internet is saturated with sleazy material, you do not have to watch it. You can retreat to the shelter of the gospel and its teaching of cleanliness and virtue and purity of life.
It doesn’t matter where the evil comes from. It doesn’t matter if it is political backstabbing, social double-crossing, workplace politics, gory computer games, or bullies in the schools or neighborhood.
The world is full of evil, and it is getting worse all the time.
There is an age-old adage about boiling a frog. If you place a frog in boiling hot water it will immediately jump out. But if you put the frog in comfortable water then slowly warm it up, the frog won’t notice that the water is becoming dangerously hot, and hence will unwittingly allow itself to be boiled to death. Hopefully, we are more aware of our surroundings than the frog. We need to decide when it is time to get out of the water.
The gospel of Christ is safe. Only in the confines of the scriptures and teachings of the prophets will we find safety from what ails the world. But it takes a lot of work to keep that safety. The world works very hard to lure us in and get us to partake of its ways. We will have to be just as committed to teaching our families and friends a better way, or the world will win.
What can we do?
Here are some suggestions. You will probably think of many more, but this can get you started.
1. Decide what your personal limits are. If you cannot justify why allowing one sin is okay, but not allowing another, then you haven’t pulled back far enough. Compare your limits with what the Lord and the prophets have taught. You may need to accept totally new limits on what you will accept by turning to the scriptures and the words of the modern prophets to see what we should be doing in our lives.
2. Decide not to participate in the things that keep getting worse and worse. That may mean turning the channel or turning off the television. It may mean choosing a new kind of music or radio program to listen to – one that is more uplifting and wholesome. Remember, accepting some evil as okay is a slippery slope, because there is no valid justification for it. This makes it a difficult standard to uphold.
3. Decide what you will change in how your home runs to incorporate better, and safer practices. You may have to visit Family Home Evening with more sincerity and effort. You may have to start reading your own scriptures so you can set an example for the rest of the family. Decide to make some change for the better. This is the only way to counter all the changes for the worse going on around you.
4. Decide to do something that will bring joy to your family. I’m not talking about thrill rides or excitement. I’m talking about the joy of service. The joy of gospel learning. The joy of finding answers to your prayers. What can you do to help the members of your family find joy in prayer?
I think you get my drift with this list. What I am advocating here is that we decide to be proactive about our own salvation and happiness. We don’t have to let the world drag us down with them because that is what happens to be on television this year. We don’t have to pay to go to movies that are not going to bring us closer to God or each other. If we have to make excuses why it is okay to participate in something, then chances are we probably should be avoiding it all together.
The prophets have given us regular advice and counsel about how to find joy in an increasingly hostile and sorrowful world. Turn to the scriptures, turn to prayer, and turn inward and search your soul for where you really want to be when this “dog and pony show” we call mortality ends.
The following Conference talks were used as references for this article.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.