Thursday, April 2, 2009

Leaving the ways of the World

One of the most dangerous and pervasive aspects of Babylon is the mindset and philosophy that we must discard. That is not to say there are not good things out in the world, but when we say, Babylon, or The World, we mean what is worldly from a gospel perspective. Unconsciously we have absorbed a “network of ready-made solutions”, which can be as much of a problem, as our problems themselves. In other words, when we have problems, or stresses, the solutions we often revert to, are those we have seen used around us.

One philosopher had this to say:
“One of the factors that makes up our destiny is the mass of circumambient convictions in which we find ourselves. Without realizing it, we find ourselves installed in that network of ready-made solutions for the problems of our lives. When one of these problems weighs on us, we revert to that treasure.... “

And what does this “network of ready-made solutions” tell us? They tell us not merely how to answer questions, or what questions to ask, but how to answer those questions.

Nor is it necessary to ask such questions; from the very moment of birth – in family life, in school, in reading, and in social intercourse – we are constantly trying to receive and absorb those collective convictions into our veins before, almost always before, we have become aware of the problems for which they are, or pretend to be solutions. To that when we come to feel actual distress in the face of a vital question, and we really want to find int solutions, to orient ourselves with respect to it, not only must we struggle with the problem, but we find ourselves caught within the solutions previously received. The very language in which we will have to think our own thoughts is itself an alien way of thinking, a collective philosophy, and elementary interpretation of the life which so closely imprisons us.

To simply intend to be good is entirely insufficient as long as we have rely on the network of ready made solutions – solutions that are at odds with what God desires of us. This is part of the reason both pornography and associating excessively with immoral people is problematic – we tend to pick up on their “ready-made solutions”. That is the problem with even the casual references to sex, we see in prime-time TV. We unconsciously and unavoidably begin to see wrong things as normal and we begin to see things from the World's point of view. It is that point of view that makes all the difference in the world. That point of view changes our behavior more than seeing certain actions do.

Thus, in the parable of the Sower, the weeds that choke the seed, are worldly concerns
And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
Luke 8:14 cf. Mark 4:19; Matthew 13:22

Likewise, the Lord warns us that that a reason we are called, yet still not chosen, is that our “hearts are so much set upon the things of this world”. D&C 121:35

And what does the world think of sex? It is either spoken of in the crudest terms, or the crudest actions, are spoken of in the sweetest terms. The language we use subtly influences, and sometimes limits, the way we think.

Using the wrong words may either convey as vulgar something that should be sacred, or it sugar-coats what is blatant sin. And as bad as vulgarity is, it is the sugar sweet words for sin, that are most dangerous.

The secular world frequently accused Christianity as seeing sex as something dirty. However, quite the opposite is true. They see it as a filthy thing, and denominate it as such. It has been made into a degrading and wholly self-centered activity. Now, some may object to criticism of the world, because sex is important. That is not something I want to deny. In fact, we don't pay nearly enough attention to the importance of sex. It should be an act of intimacy that helps two people love each other more deeply. Yet, what has it become? Has it lead to greater love? Where it would have once enabled greater love for spouse, only greater focus on personal pleasure is realized. There is nothing enlightened about it.

So, on one hand, we see women referred to as b*tches, or whores (or much worse I will not mention here) while what should be the ultimate act of human intimacy, is demoted to simply “f**k”, as well as a host of euphemisms that usually convey nothing of intimacy, either in intention or action.

Of course, there are many people who do not call sex vulgar things. And that is a positive step. But unless it is followed through with the corresponding commitment that God requires, specifically marriage before intercourse, then the nicer words used, are partly empty, because they don't have the actions to back them up.

But it is when honey-sweet words are used, that we are in the greatest danger of unconsciously believing lies. When we call 'love-making', what is a simply lust, our minds will begin to confuse the two. When we use words with sugar poured on them, like 'friends with benefits', we speak a lie. Because those 'benefits' are not beneficial. Nor is 'getting lucky' something that we should aspire to.

I am deliberately blunt here so we can see things as they are – and the bluntness is important so I encourage the more sensitive to see that if we never speak of things as they are, if we always use sugar-coated words, we do not convey the appropriate horror we should. It is as though we refer to the Holocaust as “the Nazi-waties used gasy-wassy to killy-willy the Jewsy-whoosies.” No one in their right mind would say that. We use words like genocide and cold-blooded murder to describe it because we want people to understand the appropriate horror of that event. We need to be careful, that in our zeal to avoid vulgarity, we do not endorse sin by calling it sweet things.

We have grown so used to this in our own culture (and most of us read too little of other times and cultures) that we are used to this, and think of it as normal. But it is not.

Sex is become an abominable and degrading thing when stripped of such reverence and awe as it should have.

The way we see sex, is a reflection of how we see ourselves and others. It may either unite us in greater love, or a string of used partners, even if the use is mutual. Sex will draw us nearer to Heavenly Father, or it will debase us to Hell. How sacredly we regard both our bodies and sexual functionings, speaks volumes about how sacredly we see ourselves. We can not see ourselves as children of God, as Temple of God, if we think of ourselves in such a manner, or speak in such a way of what is sacred.

Even before the Fall, before Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, they were cleaving together as “one flesh”. It is because of is underappreciated sanctity and importance, that immorality in all its forms exists.

We can not denigrate body without denigrating how we feel about it. If we do not regard our bodies as sacred, then we can not regard truly regard ourselves as children of God, for they are one and the same. Our bodies are an important part of us. Further, the way we see others, is a reflection of the way we think of ourselves, at the deepest level.

If we have the spirit, we will be able to resist temptation. But not lusting and not committing adultery is only half the story. We want more than mere absence of sin. We want actual virtue. And we can only have that virtue when we have the spirit of God.

Virtue is not merely kept by having the Spirit, (Gal. 5:16 Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh) nor is coincidentally lost when we lust (D&C 42:23; 63:16). Virtue and the spirit of God are one and the same. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and what ever temple is desecrate, that is to say, devoid of the Spirit of God, that temple will be destroyed. Let us not obsess that the building blocks of our personal temples are fallen and mortal, but consider it a warning. Remember the great temples in the Old Testament, such as Solomon temple. When the people kept the commandments, and had the spirit, then the temple worship was preserved. But when their hearts yearned after idols, which symbolized the things of this world, then the temple fell into decay and was eventually destroyed. That will be our story. If we will keep the our temple holy, by obtaining the Spirit of God, then we will be able to maintain our lives as we should.

If we have the spirit of God with us, then we will be able to act virtuously. But if we do not have the Spirit of God, we will not be virtuous, regardless of whether any overt sins are committed or not. It is entirely possible to be as wicked as hell and yet have complied with the letter of the law.

During the Exodus from Egypt, the Children of Isreal were fed with manna. This manna could not be gathered all in one day to suffice for the week. It had to be gathered daily. This was an object lesson from the Almighty to teach them they needed spiritual nourishment continually, and that sporadically is simply not sufficient.

This necessitates that we do not mere have the Spirit from time to time. If we are to be able to resist moral temptation, we will need to have the have the Spirit with us always. In fact, this is the stated purpose of the sacrament, that we partake of weekly.

In fact that is the meaning of the second birth, the rebirth of spirit, being born again. It means the introduction of the spiritual in place of the natural man. This also necessitates that our spirits govern our bodies, and not vice versa. Our literal physical bodies are still the same, so we must work and struggle and receive this spiritual reawakening as many times as necessary. Alma reminds us, that while it is good to have been born again, “do ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:14,26)

No matter how much our spirits intend to be good, we must be born again. No exceptions. Willpower alone can not return us to the presence of the Father.

Alma the Younger, speaking of his conversion, said;
And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
Mos. 27:25-26

Naturally, on this Earth, temptation can be quite severe. Satan seems to derive a certain pleasure from wearing us down with stress, problems, and temptation. And some of those who carry these severe burdens, through no fault of their own, feel particularly hopeless about their situation.

Our flesh is weak and prone to error. It takes a lot of effort to keep on the Strait and Narrow Path. And not only getting on the path, but staying their takes infinitely more. Some of us are given temptations much stronger than those around us. It may not seem fair.
Jesus himself said,
Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matt 26:41 cf. Mark 14:38

If we desire rest from the temptations and stresses that pull us down, we may receive that rest through the Spirit of the Lord. If we will have the Spirit with us always, we will not fall.

We are holy Temples to the degree we have the Spirit of God with us. Likewise, we are virtuous to the degree we have the constant companionship of the Spirit. To do this, we must abandon the ways of the World. We must see ourselves, body and spirit, as holy and in the very likeness of God.

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