Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gospel Scholarship: Coming Distractions

Gospel Scholarship: Coming Distractions

In the recent popular Disney movie, “Up” (disney.go.com/disneypictures/up/), we find an old gentleman who lifts his home into the sky with thousands of helium balloons, in order to settle it in his dream adventure location. Along the way, he picks up a cub scout and meets up with dogs with special collars that allow them to speak in... Squirrel!

The heroes win in the long run because the evil dogs are prone to distraction. Their main goals often fail because of such distractions. Perhaps distractions are one of Satan’s primary tools to prevent us from becoming all we can become as sons and daughters of God.

According to statistics, in 2006 the average household watched over eight hours of television per day (http://www.turnoffyourtv.com/). Imagine how that is today compounded by the number of people seeking to be entertained on IPhones, IPads, Twitter and Facebook! (see also: http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html )

American University law professor Jane Raskin stated in 2004, "Everybody’s got values.... The thing that frightens me is the way that an eroding public school system ... and television on all over the place is leading to a steady dumbing down of the American public and a corrosion of basic critical thinking in the population." (http://www.turnoffyourtv.com/)

I recall a few years ago giving a talk on gospel scholarship. One of the key points made was to continually be reading, learning, and questioning things. Afterward, an older lady came up and told me that she agreed how important reading was. She went on to explain how she had read hundreds of Harlequin Romance books. It took all my strength to refrain from commenting on how she totally missed the point of the lecture.

This isn’t a new problem, either. The Lord warned the Laodicians: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16) Today, many people are lukewarm in their testimonies because the world distracts them. They have a testimony and attend Church, but are too busy with looking at shiny objects the world dangles in front of them that they do not notice that they are spiritually adrift.

Mormon noted, “But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they.” (Mormon 5:18)

Ships use sails and anchors to guide and stop. In conjunction with charts and other tools, they guide a ship through dangerous waters to safe harbors. However, when sails and anchors are not used, the ship is left to aimlessly drift with the currents, distracted by every tug on the bow.

Does this make television and other entertainment evil? In many cases, no. But is it the best use of our short lives? Was our life created for us to be simply entertained? Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Twelve Apostles spoke of Martha and Mary, close friends of the mortal Lord, who had different focus. Martha busied herself cleaning house and making dinner for everyone, while Mary sat at the Savior’s feet listening. When Martha complained, Jesus explained that Mary actually had chosen the better part.

In this life there are good things, better things, and best things, according to Elder Oaks,
“Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families....To our hundreds of thousands of home teachers and visiting teachers, I suggest that it is good to visit our assigned families; it is better to have a brief visit in which we teach doctrine and principle; and it is best of all to make a difference in the lives of some of those we visit. That same challenge applies to the many meetings we hold—good to hold a meeting, better to teach a principle, but best to actually improve lives as a result of the meeting. “ (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best”, Ensign, Nov 2007)

Are we properly using our time to its best? Are we using it to develop talents, knowledge, skills, family relationships, and serve others? Or do we spend our time seeking to be entertained and numb our minds towards the realities around us and the things of God?

What goals have we made for ourselves, our families, our jobs, our church callings? Are we just doing the bare minimum to get by, eagerly awaiting for the end of the week so we can play? Or are we making the best of each moment?

Each of us should sit down weekly and review the week, our successes and failures, and determine where we can do better in the following week. Goal setting is necessary to achieving a fulfilling life. Both long term and short term goals need to be set. How many books will you read this year, this month, this week? What kind of books? What new talents or knowledge will you develop over the next year or two? How can you improve on your home/visit teaching? Is the major babysitter in the home a television or a set of books? What can you do to make a difference in the world today? Are you hot, cold, or lukewarm?

“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God. “ (D&C 88:118-119)

What is it that we should learn and why?
“And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
“Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, 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 when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.” (D&C 88:77-80)

As we learn to focus on what is best, eventually the squirrels will no longer distract us from our true potential as sons and daughters of Heavenly Father.

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