I am still reeling from an enthusiastic tangent that developed in a church class today. In an effort to demonstrate how individuals “protect their happiness”, the majority position clearly was to avoid watching or reading the news. Period. And cheerfully so. While I can appreciate this might be a worthwhile tactic for a traumatized person to pursue temporarily, this kind of separatism is not helpful toward our goal as Latter-day Saints.
We have a spiritual duty to our fellow citizens to be informed, participating Christians who are intelligently aware of the issues of the day and do our part to contribute solutions wherever possible. To follow a course of avoidance to the realities in which we live is a misguided self-indulgence.
None of those expressing personal comfort in avoiding unpleasant news would withhold their charity or service; I know them to be quick and generous respondents when help is needed. But the attitude of waiting for someone else to alert them to the need, is what stunned me!
We of all people should be expert at identifying our place in the world and presenting our religion as a valid extension of who we are. Our good influence cannot expand to others if we are unconscious to their plight. Nor can we truly foster gratitude if we have no comparison to the contrary. Finally, we fail to protect our families if we cannot identify the ever evolving and subtle face of danger.
Our church leaders have repeatedly and powerfully challenged us to 'come out of obscurity' and step to the forefront of community service. We do not limit our concern to local needs, but are deeply devoted to world-relief. The far-reaching success and efficiency of the LDS humanitarian efforts (accomplished without one penny of government money) are unparalleled. The missionary programs (proselytizing and health missions) serve millions of communities across the globe. Our anti-malaria, family hygiene education and fresh water projects in desperate places partly inspired my daughter Robin to go to Mozambique and volunteer in AIDS orphanages. More specifically her desire to wholly invest herself came from a keen attention to the news of the day. She is a journalist. Awareness of the need is imperative in attempting to heal it.
Current events are superb teaching tools for parents to teach children action in gospel principles. When I was teaching Seminary, the students brought in news clippings all semester to add to our "Signs of the Times" board and class discussion. Their world literally mushroomed beyond pop fashions and school romance as they explored first-hand how prophecy and scripture spoke to them personally in 1993. Some of the prayers they uttered for people they did not know suffering elsewhere were humbling. Their resolve to stand up for their beliefs gained confidence as their ability to recognize challenges for what they were increased. The scriptures stopped being fancy words old guys wrote a long time ago.
Many of our family prayers at night have been in response to something presented in a news cast. I remember when the Russian submarine sank and her crew was in peril. Asia was only a little girl, but she prayed faithfully for their rescue every day. When the tragedy finally concluded in the worst possible outcome, she cried with a broken heart. Then she did something that makes me so grateful I could witness little miracles; she wrote the Russian people a letter. It was beautifully written. She told them she was hoping for their comfort in this time of great sadness. She carefully drew little flowers on the borders with colored pencils. We sent it in care of a newspaper which had featured the emotional saga.
I have never heard a General Conference address recommend our withdrawal from society so we could feel 'safe' or 'happy'. Rather, thanks to trail-blazing of media expert President Gordon B. Hinckley, the Church is seriously committed to the best of what modern media offers in an effort to communicate with the world as never before. The Gospel teaches us that peace is achieved through righteous living and doing. Living is not avoidance. "We live in a harsh world, and we need to be aware of what is happening around us and how it may affect us. Knowing about these issues and problems is the first step in preventing, mitigating, and finding solutions." - Phil for Humanity, a guide for improving the world, society and yourself
While we speak of home and hearth and preserving our families in the midst of a world in turmoil, there is much that disquiets, much that infringes upon our peace. Yet we know faith conquers fear. We unwittingly deny ourselves and our families profound benefits of applicable knowledge and inspiration how to more effectively interact with our world if we bury our heads in the sand and invite someone else to act the part - our part. It is not reasonable to dismiss the world by saying it is 'depressing' or 'scary'. We do not present ourselves nor our credo well if we are unversed on the issues of the day. We ought to be "up and doing" instead, strengthening our ability to accomplish good by joining with our neighbors, stepping forward confidently into this most awesome of times.