Sunday, June 28

A Case for Informed Participation

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.


Cynthia said...

That was an interesting comment in class, but it's one I've said myself. I am a regular news watcher/reader though. I read the news every day. But there have been times when life gets busy and I'm away from my regular reading routines, I have said to myself "If anything bad enough happens, someone will tell me" and they do (case in point - my chiropractor told me about Michael Jackson within 5 minutes of it being announced in the media). I guess it's my way of realizing I'm not going to miss a huge news story or that I don't have to be glued to the TV daily. I agree with you, we need to be involved in our world, but I guess I'm just thinking that we used to have news fed to us once every 24 hours, now it's 24/7. Sometimes it's a little much.

Yaj said...

Some people can't see the forest for the trees. But you have to look to see anything at all!

You mean we can "watch" the news?

two forks said...

this ties in to our sunday school lesson too - to seek learning - spiritual learning as well as learning and knowledge of nations.

"Teach ye diligently... in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms— That ye may be prepared in all things..." D&C 88:78-80

i think the key is that being informed and being knowledgeable are two different things.

Bandanamom said...

I have to say I wasn't all that surprised by that statement in class yesterday. It's something I've noticed people say over and over again. I don't get it - but I know it's a prevalent attitude.

I think it's true that you can feel happier uninformed, or even, sans knowledge in a little self-created bubble world. And a lot of people chose to live in that world I suppose. But the problem is exactly as you've indicated - those people often have no participation with the larger world - no interaction - and very little awareness. As LDS men and women we really need to stay involved in the larger community and I don't see how we can do that by staying in our little bubbles.

Recently, Kirk issued a challenge to some of the leadership in the ward regarding missionary work. It was a really simple request to just do something with a non-member sometime during the week or have them over to your home for dinner or something. This was not to be a pressured missionary situation, just a challenge to get to know your non-member neighbors better (or friends). It was astounding how many people said they didn't even know anyone who wasn't LDS. What? We don't live smack dab in the middle of Provo Utah - there you would MAYBE have an excuse. We live in Central Phoenix for pete's sake. But honestly, I think it's all part of the same mentality. It's this strange idea that if we stay home, mingle only with other LDS people, don't read, don't turn on the news, etc. We'll be safe and happy.

I sound like I'm being really harsh and some of these people are really nice people who mean well. But I honestly think it's so misguided.

I watch the news fairly often, but especially I read the news every day, usually in multiple formats and from multiple sources. Yes, sometimes the news can be slightly discouraging. But honestly? I'm not unhappy, I'm actually a very happy person - it's all in having the proper perspective. If we truly have a testimony of the gospel, we shouldn't be worried so much about this type of thing.

Leiland said...

Good blog mom,

I think this discussion revolves around two very important gospel issues that in our ‘A.D.D.’ culture today are quasi-nebulously addressed at best.

First issue, I do not believe that a person is happier in ignorance; I think there is plenty of scriptural evidence to support that idea. The issue is one of spectral profundity versus stagnant complacency. If indeed there exists a correct eternal principle which states that a greater happiness is achieved through ignorance and complacency, the Fall would never have been executed by our First Parents. “They would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” Their spectrum of happiness was limited because of their ignorance – they partook of the substance known as the “knowledge of good and evil” so that mankind could experience joy, the unlocked the spectrum of happiness. The event of happiness in our lives is predicated on making correct decisions because of our knowledge – Happiness is the product, not the variable – therefore happiness is amplified ONLY by the depth of our knowledge. The more we know, the happier we can be – the more profound our spectrum of happiness. Because happiness is a spectrum and because by Celestial law there is opposition in all things – for every stratum of happiness gained by an increase of knowledge, a stratum of misery is also earned. Does not God weep because of the wickedness of his children? Was it not necessary for Christ to ‘descend’ below all things in order to comprehend all things (D&C 88:6)? Absolute despair and spiritual death was by law a requirement to effectuate the Atonement, and provide access to the absolute of happiness and glory, the pinnacle of the spectrum – THIS was the Garden of Gethsemane and Golgotha. We are to be ‘like’ Him in every way, this cannot be accomplished without experiencing happiness and misery through knowledge, intelligence, the Glory of God in all of its forms. When Joseph declared, “that it is impossible for a man to be saved in Ignorance” he was not solely referring to ignorance of the Eternal Plan of Salvation, but also to the crafts, sciences, and societies of all of God’s creations. Being informed of current events contributes to that knowledge.

Leiland said...

The second issue is directly related to our 24 hour ‘news’ blitzed society. The Book of Mormon was written for our time, it is laced with stories of wars, eras of righteousness and lapses of wickedness, and secret combinations. I don’t think it was a coincidence that during our Sunday School studies of the Book of Mormon last year the topic of the Gadianton Robbers and secret combinations was addressed in the month leading up to last year’s election here in the U.S., and that it is studied every 4 years at the same time before elections for that matter. Does the lesson apply to administrations seeking power? – It might – but one entity that I have no doubt the warnings of satanically directed secret combinations applies to is the news media (and T.V. in general for that matter). Never before has Satan had such an advantage over the children of men as he does right now with the technology we enjoy and use to promote the Lord’s work. His ‘reign’ on earth expands through endless avenues and tentacles into our devices that hang on our walls, in our bedrooms on dressers, in our pockets on cell phones, on our front porch every morning, at our fingertips at work or at home on the computer, or even in our cars as we drive… Why wouldn’t the father of all lies infiltrate the medium considered to billions of individuals so vital in obtaining information upon which lifestyles, opinions, worldviews, and ACTIONS are based? I tell you he has. In recent years with the development of 24/7 news his efforts in that regard have undoubtedly been doubly focused… is not a great separating of the ‘wheat from the tares’ occurring right now within the Church? Could it be possible that some we know and love are among those to be separated? Should we not be more vigilant? Instead of die-heartedly supporting divisive political theories and blindly being herded into partisan warfare, or forced to defend political affiliations whose precepts and goals might no longer be harmonious with Gospel Standards revealed by Living Prophets, should we not rally behind what we know without a doubt to be Eternal? Have we not seen the effects of news media or entertainment media split and divide wards, stakes, and friendships within the Church in light of gay marriage discussion? With every passing year fierce and spiritually damaging division within the Church is visible because of the worldly affiliations campaigned by media outlets… if you’re not a Republican or a Democrat than you are irrelevant, even though satan has undoubtedly penetrated both parties and seeded corruption throughout. Sadly, as members of the Church we are a habitually devout people, and because we are very devout and very faithful to causes we deem worthy we fall into the trickery of satan by defending his vehicles and worldly standards that he has raised and which are mingled with the political or organizational affiliations that we are encouraged by the media to pledge allegiance. Perspective is necessary. Eternal perspective is necessary. The commandment of the Lord to garnish every thought unto Him is more now than ever a difficult task – with 24/7 news, we must be cautious so as to use a Gospel filter on everything we digest.

So while true knowledge in all things is essential to power, happiness, and Salvation, I think knowledge of the opposition and persuasions that exist within and throughout those who deliver the temporal information is vital for our efforts in seeking unity and brotherhood within the Church.

Mom, sorry this is so long, but you got me on a roll…


the guitarist from hell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.