The first decade of the 21st century is winding to a rapid close. We all wondered what it would be like – to live in the 2000s. Well, now we know. It’s kind of the same as 1998 and 1999…
Frank Rich of the New York Times summed it up nicely in a recent Op-Ed piece: “A decade that began with the ‘reality’ television craze exemplified by ‘American Idol’ and ‘Survivor’ — both blissfully devoid of any reality whatsoever — spiraled into a wholesale flight from truth.”
What a thought-provoking and damning phrase: “a wholesale flight from truth.” Lies and scams have become the norm, not the exception. And we’re becoming less startled and more accommodating – of our corporations, our investment advisors, our politicians, and even our professional golfers. We are lowering the standard of civility and safety at an alarming rate.
We have allowed reputation to trump character. One can fabricate a reputation. With good PR and the right talk-show appearance, one can become acceptable again. Our cultural love affair with celebrity status has severed the time-honored link between choices and consequences. We are living in a consequence-free zone. Or so the lie goes.
In the real game of life, the only thing at matters is character. And character is the measure of how tightly and completely one has embraced love (of God, self and man) and truth (non-negotiable universal and eternal principles) as the essential guideposts for living. The degree of the embrace dictates the integrity of all our choices. And it defines the depth of one's character. This includes choices that may be quite important and those that are seemingly insignificant. And all choices have consequences.
When I was a teenager there was a popular song called “American Pie” by Don McLean. It was a number-one U.S. hit for four weeks in 1972. Amongst the lyrics were these three lines:
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
As we look at what we’ve done to the first ten years of the 2000s, who could blame anyone for taking the last train to the coast? One might suggest that, “All is lost!”
In the current space in which I live and love, a different perspective holds forth.
Are we not children playing dress-up? Though trying to act like we know what we’re doing, most are muddling their way through life. Failing to acknowledge and respond to the “still small voice” within us, we often drive our lives into the weeds and mess everything up. We play by the wrong rules and allow lust, pride and envy to rule the day. We place no boundaries on our passions or appetites. We forget that happiness and joy come from love, service and sacrifice. We forget that life is a proving ground for what comes next. We have no vision, we have no faith, we live only for today. In a consequence-free zone.
This photo is of the three men I admire most. They are the First Presidency of our Church. The man seated is Thomas S. Monson, the President of our Church. He is also a prophet of God. There is no other person on earth with this title and this God-given authority. No pope, no priest, no ayatollah, no monk, no saint, no TV evangelist. There are many good men and women of all faiths, but there is only one prophet. Knowing that there is a prophet on earth today gives me great hope and confidence. Love and truth have yet to be extinguished. There is great reason to live – and to find joy, purpose and place in all that we do.
The secular world regularly castigates our religion as something that is quaint, uber-conservative, and out of step with mainstream culture and society. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies as we respond clumsily and defensively to the predictable onslaught of attacks. Though they can and will attack our reputation, they cannot touch our character. Our character is neither home-made nor man-made. Our character mirrors that of heaven and its Architect.
Here’s my take on it: This religion offers the greatest hope for all mankind. It is neither quaint nor conservative. It is aligned directly with the intelligence and designs of God. It contains the blueprint for successful living and loving. It contains the blueprint for economic, political, social and moral progression – for all people in all cultures. It transcends traditional Christianity on both ends of the time spectrum. It makes New Age philosophies feel middle aged. It both excites and delights the deep internal senses. It speaks truth to the soul and love to the heart. It provides a bullet-proof pathway for repentance, forgiveness, healing and transformation.
Frank Rich, in the New York Times, bemoans a “wholesale flight from truth”. Yes, of course. This is the predictable course of the natural man. But not all men and women. What security it gives me to tie my ship each night onto a bouy in the safe harbor of restored truth. And then each morning I untether my lines and sail north, south, east and west. The winds blow and my ship with them. I must be in this world – fully engaged – but there is no desire to be of this world. I earnestly rub shoulders with all men, hoping that some of what I believe might rub off on them.
The three men I admire most are smiling. They know that God lives. And that He knows each of His children and hears their prayers. The three men I admire most know that true happiness and joy – the deep inner peace so essential for real living – is available to anyone and everyone. They understand the true nature of God, the true purpose of life, and the essential role of Jesus Christ as savior and redeemer.
The three men I admire most invite you to smile and feel and believe as they do – for this is what Heavenly Father hopes and desires for each of His children.