August 17th, 2012

The Seductiveness of Sweetness and Light

"As a people," President Ezra Taft Benson once said, "we love sweetness and light—especially sweetness." In these few words, the human condition is pathetically summarized.

Sure, people watch the so-called “news” and are bombarded with one bad story after another—information that is bitter and dark. And they tolerate it so long as it doesn’t affect their lives, so long as their status quo is left undisturbed. And a complicit media conglomerate is all too willing to exclude information that would suggest that their viewers were just as guilty as the crooks they saw on TV.

What President Benson was referring to was not the crimes and accidents that happen daily, but the conscious and consistent actions of individuals who should know better. He was referring to people not wanting to be called out for behaving in a way that they shouldn’t, ever anxious to obtain carnal security by believing that all is well—that no significant changes are needed in one’s life.

The apostle Paul encountered this same trend in his day. Counseling young Timothy, Paul observed that people would reject the truth, and “after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” In other words, the people only wanted to hear what they liked hearing, and therefore rejected those who said anything uncomfortable. “They shall turn away their ears from the truth,” wrote Paul, “and shall be turned unto fables.”

Our day is no different; as the following comic suggests, and as a casual observation likewise demonstrates, most people prefer not to hear hard truths.

Samuel the Lamanite was even more direct in assessing the same situation in his side of the world. Rebuking the prideful, wealth-driven Nephites, he noted the exact same condition:

Behold ye are worse than [the Lamanites]; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.

It is human nature to grow comfortable to one’s preferred environment, and resist forces that would undermine that cultivated condition. We naturally resist those who say or do things that disrupt the status quo, even prior to researching and determining whether they may in fact be right.

Despite its being turned into a political slogan, people don’t like change. As one of countless examples, consider the recent political turmoil regarding cuts in Medicare. Both sides of the false left/right political spectrum are up in arms over $700 billion in cuts over 10 years, when that merely reflects roughly a 10% reduction in spending in a single federal welfare program (out of dozens)—hardly a steep cut that would create any significant change in the social welfare system. Even the smallest of threats to one’s situation is rejected outright.

George Washington once said, “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.” Pains indeed—advocating truth can at times be like trying to encourage abstinence in a brothel, or well-rounded nutrition to drug addicts. The medicine is tough to swallow, and so people would rather avoid it altogether. Those who recognize the need for and potential benefit of that medicine are viewed by many not as a helpful friend, but an insensitive enemy.

The rejection of medicine does not mean that the medicine is ineffective. It simply suggests that the would-be patient is weak in mind and spirit.

As President Benson said, “The message I bring is not a happy one, but it is the truth, and time is always on the side of truth.” Abinadi brought such a message to King Noah’s court, and was executed for his supposed heresies. As he burned in the flames, one can only imagine what was going through his mind. Surely he considered himself a failure, not having persuaded anybody to change their ways and repent. He went to his death having obeyed God’s instructions to preach repentance, but in his mind, not having been successful in actually getting anybody to repent.

But, of course, he was wrong. Alma was listening, and would soon afterwards repent. He encouraged others to do likewise behind King Noah’s back, built up a following, founded a church, and built up an entire society of Christians—all because of Abinadi’s efforts. Abinadi was more successful than he could have imagined.

This story goes to show that while the masses overwhelmingly embrace only those who fill their ears with sweetness and light, there is always somebody who is receptive to the hard truth and willing to make needed changes. Our mission to preach repentance, spread the gospel, advocate the truth, and point out the threats to our liberty, must therefore not be deterred by its unpopularity. Though sweetness is seductive, the truth is essential.

Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. ¡Viva la revolución!

14 Responses to “The Seductiveness of Sweetness and Light”

  1. August 17, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    But, Connor, all is well in Zion. Yea Zion prospereth, all is well.

    Now turn out the lights and let me go back to sleep.

  2. August 17, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    It was Jesus Christ Himself who said the very elect would be deceived and the people in Utah are definitely the most deceived as the church has fallen into the trap of believing “the prophet” will “save” everybody, and that of course has seeped into the government will also “save” everybody. Now then, whose plan was it in the pre-existence to establish false gods to be placed on pedestals and would “save” everybody? Hint: Not God’s.

  3. August 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Connor,
    There are some “Inconvient Truths” which many people wish to ignore, and wish to continue to do things as always, even when “change” is required. Taking a look at environmental problems is probably the least popular thing. At least any radical action or non-action that could make a real difference.

    Is there ever going to be an update in LDS and christian philosophy in general to embrace a way of life that is sustainable for the planet?

    The ‘fables’ paul was talking about are competing myths of his time. Some were Jewish (Titus 1:14). I always found this verse kind of strange, as I believe all the apostles were jewish.(with christ of course) I can only speculate that Paul was re-working and developing an ‘update’ of a reasonable understanding of the world for his time?

  4. August 18, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    “AMALICKIAH was no ordinary apostate. He had ambitions to become KING . He had the support of the other apostates and it included a large segment of the lower JUDGES who were ambitious to get POWER for themselves.
    He filled their ears with flatteries and assured them that if they would support him in overthrowing the laws of the land (setting up judges) and make him KING he would make them the RULERS over the people.” -WCS Treasures from the Book of Mormon — Volume Three Alma, Chapter 46

  5. August 18, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    well-said–

  6. August 19, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    Some find it uncomfortable that the current brethren have not spoken up about these issues of liberty that many of us are very concerned about. I’m not. I truly believe the church has said their piece about it. We have their words and they have never been revoked. Many of the prior generation rejected those words and continue to do so. We do not need to be commanded in all things to know truth. In fact, we are commanded to learn truth from all sources. Ultimately the fountain of truth is the Lord and his Holy Spirit not our prophetic leaders in SLC. They are only ONE source of truth. So when you come upon truth through the power of the Holy Ghost, unless the Lord commands you to treasure it up and not share it and as long as it doesn’t contradict the words of our prophets, proclaim it from the mountain tops as the revealed word of God. For when a man speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost it becomes scripture, the mind, will, and word of God. Keep it up Connor and everyone else willing to proclaim liberty. You may be an Abinadi to another Alma.

  7. August 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    Baerman,
    I am not so sure thats the recommendation from the GE of the LDS faith. I think there are more limitations than that. ALL sources are not approved by LDS authorities. I believe that the recommendation is to seek knowledge from the best books or best sources.And I think that those are judged by how well they measure up to LDS doctrine, belief and practice. Especially noted by your statement, “…as long as it doesn’t contradict the words of our prophets”.

    I heard something about Dalai Lama being willing to reject any and all of Buddhism if science does not support it, or if it does not match experience. He claims his religion is testable, and if it fails, you don’t have to follow it. He could be wrong about something.

  8. August 20, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    Jimy, my point is that LDS leaders don’t give pointed, specific direction for each one of us at all times. I can find truth through the spirit that applies to me and my family that may not apply to everyone as a whole. Paul speaks of this notion somewhere in Romans. Truth revealed by the spirit of god won’t contradict the truth revealed through prophets. It’s a deep concept but quite thrilling to begin to delve into. There is much more truth to be learned than can be contained in a single manual, general conference, or book of scripture.

  9. Rhonda
    August 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    The real “inconvenient truth” is that Jesus Christ is the only way for all forms of salvation: spiritual, physical, economic, national, global. He created this earth with enough resources for us. We do need to be wise with them but not in a way that turns our freedoms over to a group of power-hungry people. Our biggest threat is not global warming, but spiritual blindness.
    Leviticus states: (18:25) And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.

    26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:

    27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)

    28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.”

    We’re in danger of the land vomiting US out. We can only turn our nation around by turning our hearts and realizing we are fully accountable to God. The solutions to our problems are to repent, “with all thy getting, get understanding”, to hunger and thirst after righteousness and love God above all and love our neighbor as ourself. If we do this, we earn liberty back.

  10. August 22, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    Rhonda,
    Jewish laws concerning abominations must be considered as a whole. (Deuteronomy 4:2) Quoting anything from Lev. 18 makes no sense unless you also advocate all the food laws (Leviticus 11). To quote one without the other is to basically edit the whole of the jewish ‘law of holiness’. Very few xtians adovate the food laws, clothing laws, observe the sabbath day (saturday) etc…. Not that I believe anything or advocate anything from anywhere in the bible, it just seems odd to me that xtians generally don’t consider the whole of the law, but sure like portions of it for some reason.

  11. August 22, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    Baerman,
    I generally understood most religious laws to be rather general, and usually not specific. Unless a religious passage is addressing a historical figure, or a particular class of people, like a priestly class thats dedicated to a particular service. Xtians usually look to the bible as the standard for truth, as far as salvation goes. But some take it further and take it to mean its the only source thats real and true. For example, favoring creationism as described in the Bible over evolution.

    Its less clear to me what the LDS picture is, but its probably expanded to include LDS works, and commentary by its leadership on various topics? Do these set the standard to measure everything ? I generally thought that LDS shy away from external sources for spiritual truth, for example quoting the Bhavagad Gita, as that would lead to reincarnation.

  12. August 22, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Jimz – scriptures and the words of the prophets are considered the sources to measure other things to. I do think the gospel truth can encompass all the other truths found in other religious/philosophical persuasions. Just one example of my point. My wife has arthritis aggravated by eating animal products. She decided to go vegan. Scriptures and some prophetic commentary advocates eating meat sparingly (but not forbid consumption). The longer we are animal product Free the more these passages come to light and validate our way of life. However, I won’t go around to my LDS friends saying they are not obeying gods word by eating three meals a day, seven days a week with meat. We just live the truth we feel is right and bear our witness of it lovingly when the topic comes up. I do the same with matters of liberty.these things are not preached from the pulpit but I don’t need to be commanded in all things in order to follow through with what we feel is right for our family. I wholeheartedly listen to and consider our leaders to be prophets. I just acknowledge that they arent the only source of truth from god. I believe in personal revelation. Hope that helps. It’s been fun exchanging some dialogue. I’m done for this topic.

  13. Rhonda
    August 23, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Jimz-
    You are making the same claim as some people just after Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 15:5-20), and it is patently false. Although the Law of Moses no longer applies, many of its principles do –and are reiterated in the New Testment and other books of scripture– as they are eternal laws with eternal implications. Immorality, whoredoms, homosexuality, sacrifice to idols (applies here to abortion and more) are still abominations to God, and are still reasons the land will ‘vomit’ us out if we don’t repent. That’s one of the truths that, as Connor says above, people don’t want “to be called out for behaving in a way that they shouldn’t”.

    If I recall an earlier post correctly, you used to be active LDS, but no longer agree with many of our beliefs. It’s interesting that you like to argue with many of Connor’s posts and commenters. Still, it helps me make sure what I’m saying is accurate. Thanks.

  14. August 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    Rhonda,
    Acts 15:5-20 pretty much states that the whole law is inconvient, especially for gentiles, but that even jews have a difficult time keeping all the law.

    “why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?”

    The early christians needed gentile converts, as their message had less appeal to jews. Here is the opinion of this particular writer.

    ““It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.”

    I was trying to point out that a lot of things are inconvient for people to follow. It was just my opinion that what elements of the law the apostles choose to keep didn’t make sense to me.

    I am not sure what the whole ‘vomit’ thing is you keep making reference to. Whatever is the original event, It is most likely is only refering to ancient jews who were constantly moving from location to location. Is there any other context for this reference?

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