Are you able to answer the question – can ye feel so now? It is a question that Alma asked those present and is contained in Alma 5:26. It follows after this comment – if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? It is a very penetrating question and one that provides the framework of Elder Quentin L. Cook’s General Conference talk on October 6, 2012. In our society and culture today, there are greater challenges that we face today. Regardless of whether we are young men, women, married, single, or in our golden years; Elder Quentin speaks to the youth, parents, families, and all members of the Church. He also speaks to those who have allowed themselves to become complacent in their approach and commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The focal point of Quentin’s talk:
Some in the Church believe they can’t answer Alma’s question with a resounding yes. They do not feel so now.
Elder Quentin observes:
This question, “Can ye feel so now?” rings across the centuries. With all that we have received in this dispensation – including the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the outpouring of spiritual gifts, and the indisputable blessings of heaven – Alma’s challenge has never been more important.
Because of this talk – the 182nd Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took on a personification of calling members of the Church and those of all other Christian faiths to arise and awaken themselves to the reality of the challenges that we are facing today. In addition to this, Elder Quentin also shares his thoughts and insights into how and why it is important that we remove ourselves from the seat of complacency and stand in our commitment to preach the Gospel and to seek out those who want to partake of the Tree of Life – the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, this is the first of a four-part article where we will investigate and study four key points from Elder Quentin’s talk. The second part (which is already published) will focus on Spiritual Apathy and how to overcome spiritual apathy. The third article will focus on parental responsibility in rearing children in righteousness so that they can face the deteriorating society with courage and strength so that they can become a beacon of light unto all those who are clinging to the Iron Rod so that they too can partake of the Tree of Life. The final part of this series will summarize and focus on ways we can stand with courage, overcome spiritual apathy, and how we can awake and arise to go forth and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ – fulfilling the admonishment of our Savior to be a Light unto the world.
Key point 1: Two challenges face us today – (a) increased unrighteousness in the world; and (b) apathy and lack of commitment of some members.
Observation of how we are living in trying times has not only come down from the General Authorities and Presidency of the Church, but are also becoming more and more dominate in fields of social and human services, as well as behavioral studies. Furthermore, the nightly news and various media outlets are constantly streaming stories of human atrocity, wickedness and perverse depravity that place us in fear of our lives, our homes, and wondering where there maybe refuge from such vileness.
Along with this, there are many members of the Church that have engaged in spiritual apathy when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Excuses are being made not to fulfill our basic duties in developing and strengthening our faith. Interestingly enough, Elder Quentin quotes from George Albert Smith when Ezra Taft Benson was called to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ:
“Your mission … is to … warn the people … in as kind a way as possible that repentance will be the only panacea for the ills of this world.”
The reason this is interesting is because Ezra Taft Benson became a very strong proponent of reading the Book of Mormon, preaching about the dangers of socialism that was creeping into American society and culture, the reality of members standing up for freedom and engaging in their patriotic duty, as well as fulfilling their obligations as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This included speaking frankly, honestly and poignantly about how complacent members of the Church were. One talk in particular is called Not Commanded in All Things and was given at the April 1965 General Conference.
In this specific talk, Elder Benson stated:
The overall objective to be accomplished in missionary work, temple work, providing for the needy, and bringing up our children in righteousness has always been the same; only our methods to accomplish these objectives have varied. Any faithful member in this dispensation, no matter when he lived, could have found righteous methods to have carried out these objectives without having to wait for the latest, specific church-wide program.
Benson continues with this thought:
Sometimes the Lord hopefully waits on His children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize, and the Lord will either drop the entire matter and let them suffer the consequences or else he will have to spell it out in greater detail. Usually, I fear, the more he has to spell it out, the smaller is our reward.
Think about this for a moment and reflect upon all the General conference talks within the past couple of years and notice the constant council given from the Prophet and the General Authorities that are called to speak by inspiration and revelation to how we are to strengthen our faith and testimony. Reflect upon the constant reminder in our Sunday school classes, Quorum and Relief Society meetings where we are constantly encouraged to develop these essential duties to strengthen our testimony and rearing up our children in righteousness.
Benson goes on to explain the importance of Family Home Evening, warned the members concerning the dangers and threats to our freedom and the culture of our society, and concludes how the war in heaven is raging here on earth today – and that we are in the midst of the greater part of the battle.
Yes, we are faced with an ever-increasing battle of human depravity, wickedness and unrighteousness in our society and culture. This is not just happening in our own community, State, or even nation, but is happening throughout the world where there are uprisings, and even persecutions for just believing in Jesus Christ. The enemy is hard at work to bring down the hearts and souls of men to captivity where there is great misery.
The time is past and we no longer have the opportunity, nor can we afford the ability to remain complacent about our sacred duties and obligations in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and calling all men to repentance and know of the sacred sweet nectar of the Atonement that will bring them happiness, liberation, and salvation. Our obligation is to help protect our families, teaching them and developing a desire to pray and study the scriptures, serve our neighbors, and be a voice of warning to all who are ready and willing to seek refuge from the growing storm.
Key point 2: We are living in an ever increasing society that is deteriorating. This is due to the “constant portrayal of violence and immorality in music, entertainment, art, and other media in our day-to-day culture…”
Along with the increase of human depravity and wickedness, our society is deteriorating. Again, our Prophets and leaders have constantly warned us of this deterioration. Families are shattered and broken because of various reasons. Sexual immorality is rampant in our society, especially with the advent of particular reality shows that portray such sexually immoral acts as something that is good and beneficial. Television shows are more violent today than ever before, especially with the newer forms of digital graphics and technologies.
Take for instance the American Psychological Association and their report on the Sexualization of Girls. According to this 72-page report that was updated in 2010, and originally published in 2007, we read the introductory paragraph:
There are many examples of the sexualization of girls and girlhood in U.S. Culture. Toy manufactures produce dolls wearing black leather miniskirts, feather boas, and thigh-high boots and market them to 8 – 12 year-old girls (LaFerla, 2003). Clothing stores sell thongs sized for 7 – to 10-year-old girls (R. Brooks, 2006; Cook & Kaiser, 2004), some printed with slogans such as “eye candy” or “wink wink” (Cook & Kaiser, 2004; Haynes, 2005; Levy, 2005a; Merskin, 2004); other thongs sized for women and late adolescent girls are imprinted with characters from Dr. Seuss and the Muppets (Levy, 2005a; Pollett & Hurwitz, 2004). In the world of child beauty pageants, 5-year-old girls wear fake teeth, hair extensions, and makeup are encouraged to “flirt” onstage by batting their long, false eyelashes (Cookson, 2001). On prime-time television, girls can watch fashion shows in which models made to resemble little girls wear sexy lingerie (e.g., the CBS broadcast of Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, on December 6, 2005). Journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents, and psychologists have become alarmed, arguing that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls (Bloom, 2004; “Buying into Sexy,” 2005; Dalton, 2005; Lamb & Brown, 2006; Levin, 2005; Levy, 2005a; Linn, 2004; Pollet & Hurwitz, 2004; Schor, 2004).
Any person who believes that the Prophets and Apostles are out of touch with what is going on in our society and culture and speak out of antiquated and outdated moral perspectives have no real understanding of how true and substantial support for their warning for us as members of the Church, fellow Christians, and those who are open and willing to give head to the voice of warning. In fact, we are being called to turn from our wickedness, to include those who are complacent and feel that such things are tolerable and will not pose any harm to our families, our children and our eternal destiny.
Lehi, a prophet who was warned that Jerusalem would be destroyed because of the culture of unrighteousness and wickedness of his people, spoke these words that are just as important for us today as Alma 5:26, and the speeches that came out of this General Conference:
O that y e would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe. Awake! And arise from the dust, and hear the words of [the Prophet and Apostles] … (2 Nephi 1:13-14).
Not only is there a pandemic of a highly sexualized culture and society that we are living in, human trafficking is becoming more and more dominate world-wide, where young girls are kidnapped, drugged and forced into prostitution. This includes child prostitution. According to the website Polaris Project, the average age of entry into the commercial sex industry (Prostitution, Pornography and any forms of sexual gratification) is between 12 to 14 years of age.
Yet, despite these startling statistics, pornography and sexual immorality is becoming more and more tolerable in our society. The CDC even reported that majority of new AIDS/HIV cases stem from men having sex with other men and the dominate group of men are Caucasian, where in 2009 the CDC estimated that 11,400 new cases will come from White men engaging in male-to-male sexual encounters. In addition to this, a public library does not filter out pornography, instead, allow patrons to access pornography through the internet and even have subscriptions to porn magazines.
As for violence in the media, the American Academy of Pediatrics joined the American Medical Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Psychological Association where they issued a “Joint statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children” at a Congressional Public Health Summit in July 2000. From the abstract:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games, as a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents. Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed. Pediatricians should assess their patients’ level of media exposure and intervene on media-related health risks. Pediatricians and other child health care providers can advocate for a safer media environment for children by encouraging media literacy, more thoughtful and proactive use of media by children and their parents, more responsible portrayal of violence by media producers, and more useful and effective media ratings.
These are the real facts, the real truth, and that truth should become the cause for Latter-day Saint Christians, and all people everywhere, to hearken unto the voice of warning from modern day Prophet and Apostles. Yet, many will not heed these warnings, and sadly, there are many members within the Latter-day Saint community that, because of complacency and spiritual apathy, feel that such statements and warnings from the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no real veracity of truth. Critics of our faith have also claimed that these are not inspired men. The reality is, Elder Quentin speaks and his warning and call to action is backed up by extensive study and research in how deteriorating or social infrastructure is becoming – and it is deteriorating because many of us have become complacent and allowed it to happen. We make up excuses, we intellectualize and doubt such things, or we just ignore these warnings to our own peril.