Not all the signs of the times are as obvious as events such as the sun turning to blood or a nuclear apocalypse, complete with an accompanying zombie invasion. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we are going to have a zombie invasion. All I am saying is that some signs of the times are obvious, but others are more subtle. It is these subtle ones that worry me.
I know I am not the only one in the world to feel agitated about the state of international politics or even the condition of the citizens of my own country. For the sake of this article I will only address what is going on in the USA. Have you noticed that ever since our political elections in 2016 the vitriol, or spirit of spite has only increased in our country? Everyone feels they have the right to weigh in on any topic anywhere in the country. After all, we all have access to social media, and as such, dirty laundry aired in Miami is as accessible as the dirty laundry in Spokane, Las Angeles, or Bangalore, Maine.
We all seem to feel like the world is entitled to our opinion. And in some cases, people act like the world cannot move another inch through space unless our personal opinion has been aired on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or wherever. Everyone seems to be getting up in everyone else’s face about almost everything. People are deliberately setting up situations that cause others to lose their jobs because they are lying about what happened, only to have evidence come out later that shows the accusers were lying all along. There is rarely any demonstrated shame or guilt shown by those who do this.
The whole nation is getting swept up in wave after wave of controversy. If it isn’t about the color of which lives matter or who should be allowed to bake a cake for whatever reason, it is about gun control or sex trafficking. At the time of this writing the hot topic is about separating parents and children at the border when people illegally enter the country. Whatever the current issue is, look at how emotionally wound up everyone is getting about the topic du jour (in other words, the topic of the day).
Start looking at how people are acting when they talk about the latest topic of discussion. Some all but begin to froth at the mouth they get so worked up about the subject. Why? The subject was here yesterday, and will probably be here tomorrow, but why in the present does it cause so much angst?
And talk about cover ups! Those who have operated for decades committing heinous crimes or practices are now being exposed publicly. But which disgusting practice do we espouse to wipe out? The menu of repugnant practices keeps growing faster than we can get a handle on the last half dozen just exposed. Are you seeing a pattern here?
For many of us, these events are disturbing and troubling. It seems like the world has gone crazy. The latest outrage, and they all seem to cause outrage, can be over whether someone ate chicken during gay pride month (how dare he!) or whether someone mistakenly caused a public melt down because they expressed an opinion in private and someone threw it on Twitter. Even the smallest of things enrage one group or another. Just this morning I read that the President has given one political group exactly what they asked for, but now that same group is screaming accusations against the president of racism and of being a white supremacist. None of it is true, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Rhetoric doesn’t seem to have to be based in reality any more.
This is going on all around us, and not just in the political arena either. So what gives? Where has this insanity come from? As I fretted and stewed over how uncomfortable I am about this state of my country, and the world, a scripture visually entered my mind. I saw a small boat in the middle of the ocean. The winds were howling, tossing the boat like a reed in the wind. The boat was completely uncontrollable. All everyone on board could do was hang on and try not to get swept away. Ephesians 4:14 says this.
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
In the past I have always assumed the doctrine mentioned here was only religious ideas or teachings. But combine this verse with what I found in 3 Nephi 6:13–17 and you get a whole new level of meaning. In 3 Nephi the people had only just outlasted the multiple-year siege from the Gadianton robbers and had gone home to rebuild their homes. For a year or two they were righteous and had peace. But then some began to be lifted up in their pride, and class distinctions appeared, and all of society began to give way to the temptations of the devil.
13 Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.
14 And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.
15 Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.
16 And thus Satan did lead away the hearts of the people to do all manner of iniquity; therefore they had enjoyed peace but a few years.
17 And thus, in the commencement of the thirtieth year—the people having been delivered up for the space of a long time to be carried about by the temptations of the devil whithersoever he desired to carry them, and to do whatsoever iniquity he desired they should—and thus in the commencement of this, the thirtieth year, they were in a state of awful wickedness.
My point is this – what leads people to do the things they do? We do things that we think will fulfill a need of some sort. It could be a sense of self importance, it could be we believe that by doing something we will gain a small measure of control in a life that feels out of control. We might be seeking popularity or some other vain or foolish thing. The point is that Satan has mastered the art of exploiting our weaknesses, as well as our strengths. Only doing what the Prophet has told us to do will help us stay protected from Satan’s increased power to “lead away the hearts of the people to do all manner of iniquity.”
Look at verse 17 again. Sound eerily like the Ephesians verse? “The people having been delivered up for the space of a long time to be carried about by the temptations of the devil whithersoever he desired to carry them, and to do whatsoever iniquity he desired they should.” This is basically that same statement about being carried about by every wind of doctrine. Isn’t that what is happening in our society today?
None of the social hot topics of today are the root of our problems. By focusing rage and indignation, fervor and fretting on one topic after another that have nothing to do with each other, Satan, and those who follow him, are able to keep everyone off balance, distracted, and unable to see what is really going on. We are being thrown one red herring after another – one distraction after another. Each of these is fraught with emotion and charged with social outrage over some indignity or some horrendous type of behavior. But none of them even remotely hint at our need to repent, to search the scriptures, to love and serve one another, etc.
The more we buy into what the world is being buffeted by, the more we ourselves will be buffeted by these same winds of doctrine. The prophet has shown us how to avoid being buffeted by the concerns of our society that change with each change of the wind. Here are some of President Nelson’s words from the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference from April, 2018.
Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work. …
Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.
My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. … Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and to hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.
Please don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that some lives matter more than others. I am not saying that one political party is better or worse than another one. I don’t claim to be indifferent about whether children are separated from their parents who illegally entered our country. What I am saying is that the rage, the indignation, the emotionally charged conversations that take place around these changing topics is all unnecessary. When our main focus is on seeking the peace only the Spirit can bring, we will be able to see beyond the hot topic of today, and see that the greater issues reside in whether or not we are reading our scriptures enough, attending the temple often enough, serving our neighbor with greater love, etc. These are the real issues that should govern our lives, not what is popular to discuss on social media.
More and more I am coming to realize that I can be in the world, and aware of what is important to the world, but still be able to go my own way. All the problems of the world will someday go away. They will all just disappear, but only as soon as the people repent and turn to God for help. Until that happens, Satan will lead the whole world on a merry chase that leads nowhere, but to hell. Every new disaster will engender greater rage and sorrow, more and more distrust and resentment, and harden hearts instead of soften them.
I believe that today’s social behavior is one of the signs of the times. The world is getting caught up in everyone else’s business, but neglecting their own salvation. The saints shouldn’t follow this example. We have had our priorities and responsibilities laid out for us by our leaders. If we want peace in our homes and neighborhoods, we must leave the contention and fluster of the world at the door and revel in the spiritual gifts that come from ministering in love to our family and friends. We will sleep soundly, knowing our behavior is pleasing to God and our Savior. Remember, the problems of the world will only get worse. That doesn’t mean we have to let any of that in our homes, wards, branches, and stakes. Now is the time for us to rise above the degrading society in which we live, and live a better life in Christ and his gospel.