To Live Freely: Part Four

Living a Lie)

Thus far I have shown an example of those who live in the full light of the truth and are more fulfilled as a result, I have also demonstrated how building our science and technology on physical truths resulted in far greater accomplishments than could be achieved in any other way, and I have also illustrated the chaos that arises by accepting untruth. I have presented each of these as demonstrations of how being founded upon truth brings about greater growth and fulfillment and knowledge than any other course.

There is another way that we can strengthen the argument for living a life founded on truth, and that is by refuting its alternative. Let us consider an opposite philosophy, such as “sometimes a person will flourish more if they believe a lie.” If we can provide evidence that this is false, then that leaves as the only other option that we should live in the truth.

And this philosophy we will seek to discredit is no mere imagined thing. There really is an idea in our society that people will be happier if they don’t have to deal with certain unpleasant realities. It isn’t only suggested that they are better of living in ignorance of a truth, but that they should actively believe something that is opposite to that truth. One example is that a husband shouldn’t tell his wife about an affair, and another is that a child should be led to believe that his parents are biological, when in reality he is adopted.

We will examine both of these, and point out the damage, not comfort, that is inherent in each. Today we will cover the first example, that of whether infidelity should be concealed from a spouse.

The Fall)

The reason typically given for hiding a betrayal of marriage is that it only causes the innocent spouse to feel pain and anguish that she doesn’t deserve, better to let her remain happy with her home and family life. It is the burden of the unfaithful spouse to carry his transgression himself, not hurting those that did nothing wrong themselves. This is his penance.

There is much that is initially appealing in this line of reasoning, but it is extremely condescending to the faithful spouse, and also it sets her upon a treacherous trajectory. By the husband doing one thing, and then allowing his wife to believe that he didn’t, he has rotated her alignment away from reality, and worse, done so without her consent. Falsely aligned, the wife is now put in the awkward position where she might now be the instrument of her own continuing harm. She might willingly take on debt with her husband for a large purchase, such as a new home, only to be hurt financially when he announces his intention to divorce, and the property must be divided. She might unknowingly abet her own betrayal by encouraging a friendly relationship with the very person her husband is sleeping with, or even just by staying at home and watching the children while he goes out for another liaison. She might burn bridges with people that cast aspersions against her husband, even though they are the ones genuinely acting in her favor. She will continue to invest care and warmth in a man who can only offer shallow counterfeits in return, which means wasting more and more of her time and energy. She will lose years that might have been spent with a more faithful partner.

There are numerous ways that a deceived wife is likely to dig the foundation out from under herself, totally oblivious until the ledge she is standing upon suddenly breaks and she falls and hurts herself. When one is first told a lie there is a separation between their reality and true reality. As time continues that gap can only expand. Breaking the ledge and falling from perspective to reality is a painful experience. The higher the drop, the more injury incurred.

Even in the case that the wife never does catch on to the truth, it is still morally wrong to leave someone in danger of that fall, especially when the distance of that potential fall is growing greater with every passing day. Yes, she would be hurt by the truth, but then the wound could heal and there would be no threat of continuing harm. To instead leave the spouse in a place of constant and increasing danger is an act of criminal negligence.

Of course, most of us know that a spouse who decides to shield the other from the truth is almost certainly doing it more out of self-preservation, no matter what noble motivations they might pretend to. Yet even if we were to find a case where the intent really and truly was only to spare the heart of the betrayed spouse, good intentions alone do not make an action moral. One of the key things that makes an action moral is whether it creates good, or at least the potential for good in the life of the other. One of the key things that makes an action immoral is whether it creates evil, or even just the potential for it in the life of the other. In the long term, deception can only foster evil, not good, and so it is immoral.

Optimism in a Falling World- Question

I have always meant for these studies to be based around universal and timeless questions, rather than obsess over whatever the latest social controversy is. But of course I am a member of this world and I cannot help but feel affected by the great, rolling movements that disturb it.

And in all these passing tumults I have often seen a repeated theme of discord. I have an overwhelming sense of sides unwilling to work together, of a world falling apart, and of an impending fallout looming ahead. And as one man in a sea of billions I feel helpless to turn that tide. Even the scriptures foretell of our world falling to ruin before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

When I consider thoughts like these I find it very difficult to invest in what appears to be a losing battle. What would be the point? Shouldn’t I just take care of myself and let the world fall away?

But that doesn’t feel right to my heart either. Despair has never been one of the virtues championed by the gospel! With this study I want to examine how we can remain optimistic in a world falling away. What exactly is our duty to society as it becomes increasingly disinterested with our mission? How did the early disciples remain motivated in the face of apostasy and martyrdom? What can we do to increase our sense of hope, and what is that hope founded in?

In the meantime I’d love to hear about your own experiences dealing with cynicism. Have you ever lost faith in humanity, but then found it restored? Or are you even now struggling to keep your “perfect brightness of hope” alive? What have you asked in prayer and done in your actions to help with this matter?

What Chance Do I Have?- Question

One day I considered the records we have of faithful disciples who eventually fell away from the gospel, and it made me wonder if I might ever do the same. I have no intention of ever abandoning my faith…but then that seems to be true of so many that do. And to be clear, I’m not talking about halfhearted disciples who were never invested in the message of the gospel, and unsurprisingly sifted out over time. I am speaking of spiritual giants, ones who it appears had so much more depth of spirit than I ever have, yet somehow still lost their grasp on it.

Judas walked with the living Savior, Solomon was blessed with the wisdom of God, nine of the ten lepers had their bodies restored by a miracle, Lucifer was a son of heaven. These were the elite, the greatly blessed, the glorified…and still they fell. If even these were subject to gravity, then how can I ever hope to defy it?

In times past I have thought up some answers to these questions, but I would like to take a formal study to see what deeper insights the scriptures can provide. The gospel is one of hope, and so I am convinced that I can find the encouragement I need to address this concern.

In the meantime I would be curious to hear if you have ever had thoughts like these? How do you maintain confidence in self, even in the midst of stumbling? What do you think the key difference between disciples that fall and disciples that hold firm is? How do you keep yourself among the latter?

Divided from God- 2 Nephi 2:24-25, Matthew 6:8

But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

COMMENTARY

All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things
Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him
We have already discussed how in this fallen world we feel a strange strain, one where need God’s presence, but lack the ability to commune with Him directly. Not only this, but also we are a soul divided, some parts of us craving for divinity and others for debauchery.
It is natural to wonder why are we divided so? Why is our spirit so willing, but our flesh so weak? Why do we search for God but do not see Him? Why can’t it all be more straightforward?
It is a strange, fallen world we live in, but perhaps we can take solace in the knowledge that this is how it is supposed to be. God simply would not have let us come here unless it was for our own good. God knows what we need even before we do, and provides what is good for us.
Perhaps we cannot fully understand why. Perhaps we do not need to. In the end all that we need to do is accept that God god “knoweth all things,” and that what He has orchestrated has been “done in wisdom.”

Divided from God- Doctrine and Covenants 29:40-41, Alma 42:7

Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation.
Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death.

And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will.

COMMENTARY

Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from my presence, because of his transgression
Our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord

We feel a separation from God and we feel frustrated by it. The first thing to understand is that this is perfectly normal, in fact our instincts are exactly correct, because we do have a very real divide from God. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind has been cut loose from the direct communion that was once our daily pleasure.
There is a direct analogy in this to a newborn having its connection to the mother, the umbilical cord, cut at birth. Of course, there yet remains a form of sustenance available to the baby through suckling, but can any of us blame that infant for mourning its sudden separation? Neither should we be blamed for mourning the very real absence of God’s direct presence. We were made to be in His presence, and now we are not and we feel that absence deep in our souls.
Like a newborn, we do learn to move on, and with the rest of this study we will examine how. But I just wanted to pause here at the start and appreciate that our perplexity is very real, and we need not be ashamed for feeling it.

Faith vs Fear- Matthew 14:29-31

And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

COMMENTARY

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid
O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Faith and Fear is a dichotomy. It is a choice between which side we put our trust in, the power of the world or the power of God. Whichever side we trust in the power of we also give power over us.
Peter was filled with faith and he walked upon the water. The only reason why he got into any trouble was that he acknowledged the storm. He had been defying the laws of physics, but in that moment he regarded them, feared them, and gave them power. In that moment the storm, not the miracle, defined his reality. And he sank.

And he said, Come.
Jesus knew that Peter could do the miracle. He knew that Peter had the faith, even if only for a moment. Though Peter may have slipped, the Lord did not cease to invite him to keep exercising faith. Though Peter would slip again in the future, still Jesus called on him to lead the others.
“And he said, Come,” is therefore not a one-time invitation. Perhaps we will succumb to fear at times in our own discipleship as well. It is alright, the invitation to rise again remains forever in full force.