What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
In recent weeks and months the following passage has been in the forefront of my mind:
Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; 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, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.
And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.
O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
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! (Helaman 12:2-5)
Today I was thinking about recent worldwide events that have brought death, despair, and temporal displacement and poverty. The most recent event to speak of is Hurricane Katrina. While reports estimate that there were around $5 billion in NGO donations (add onto that the smaller organizations whose numbers weren’t included, as well as governments using the tax dollars of their citizens to render aid). That’s a lot of money. When a catastrophe strikes, we are very willing to give of our time, talents, and possessions (both monetary and otherwise) to help those who are in need.
But are we as charitable and service-oriented sans disaster? Do we make it a point to help and assist others when their story isn’t shown on the 9 o’clock news?
As Phillips Brooks has said:
Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones. (Who You Are When No One’s Looking, p. 7)
The above-cited scripture is very telling in this regard. We (speaking in general) are quick to forget God and the covenants we’ve made with Him (if baptized, one of those is to assist others both spiritually and temporally), especially in times of peace and prosperity. I hope that we don’t need further disasters—be they natural or man-made—to remind us of our covenant to render aid (to all who need it), and the commandment to be equal in temporal things.
I hope that, having the scriptures and modern prophets, we are not as “slow to remember” as our ancient counterparts. But they had scriptures and prophets as well… Especially during this time of year I feel a little bit better about the condition of our society when I see people reaching outside of themselves to brighten somebody’s day or feed a hungry mouth. I just hope that it’s a practice we can carry on year round.