Monday, April 23, 2012
"The Whirlpool of Spiritual Stupidity"
I am moving forward with the assumption that you spend some time in the Book of Mormon every day. Right? Since you are so well-versed in it's teachings, it will come to no surprise when I make the following observation:
It is amazing how quickly a group of people can go from good to bad, and bad to good. Sometimes it takes several generations to make the "shift", but often it is only a matter of a few years. Remarkably fast. Mormon probably felt like he was editing a tennis match as the pendulum of righteousness swung back and forth.
What about individuals? Have you ever had the joy of knowing someone whose life swung from bad to good in the blink of an eye? I have. I have seen miraculous conversions where - through the gospel - the Lord heals and blesses a penitent soul's life with lightening speed. The old man is cast off, only to be replaced by the new man. It is understandable that a conversion from bad to good can happen so quickly, because God has power, and mercy, and He can apply both when he sees fit.
But what about when it goes the other direction? Have you ever known anyone who is strong in the faith, has a testimony, and then - almost suddenly - they are out of the church, lost in the wilderness, or turning against the church?
I have seen that too, and it is as heartbreaking as a conversion is joyful. Sadly, personal apostasy can happen with the same blinding speed as a conversion. One minute they seem to be doing OK, the next you can't even believe you are talking to the same person.
How? To explain, I would like to introduce you to "The Whirlpool of Spiritual Stupidity".
Before we understand the "WoSS", we need to recall a few of important gospel principles:
1) When we are baptized, we are baptized by water and by fire - the Holy Ghost is the fire that cleanses us from our sins. (D&C 33:11 & Moroni 6:4)
2) The Holy Ghost can teach us the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:5)
3) The Holy Ghost can guide our decision-making process. (2 Nephi 32:5, D&C 11:12)
4) The Holy Ghost will not stay with an unclean person. (Alma 7:21)
5) They Holy Ghost will withdraw from an unrepentant person. (D&C 121:37)
6) Without the Holy Ghost, we are left to our own devices - and are cursed. (2 Nephi 28:31)
Back to the "Whirlpool of Spiritual Stupidity"...
We are confronted by decisions each and every day. Some not so important: What flavor of Pop-Tart should I have for breakfast?, and important decisions: Who should I marry? Where should I go to school? What career path should I take?
The Lord has blessed us with a companion to help us make wise choices. When we make choices in accordance with the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we will choose well. If we do not consult with the Holy Ghost, we may or may not choose well. That is where the WoSS kick in.
Worst-case Case study:
Ralph comes home from serving two years as a valiant full-time missionary. He did a great job, was faithful and obedient in all things. After he gets home, he eases back into the normal collegiate life - staying up late, playing video games, surfing the web, etc. Things like scripture study and prayer begin to fade from priority. Unknowingly, he is drifting closer to the whirlpool.
One day Ralph happens upon a website that features a steamy link. He is curious, so he clicks. Before he knows it, two hours have gone by, and Ralph has exposed himself to some rough pornography. He is now below the edge of the whirlpool.
The Spirit flees.
Later that night, with the Spirit gone, the only voice he hears is that of the adversary. "For the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray." (2 Nephi 32:8) So Ralph goes to bed feeling guilty - no prayers - no repentance.
The next day, as Ralph finds himself at the computer again - now in a weakened spiritual state - he brushes off the prompting to stay away, and returns to the pornography. Several days go by, and the voice of the Spirit gets easier and easier to ignore. Without prayer, and without promptings of the Spirit, Ralph gets pulled farther and farther down the whirlpool. He ignores the pleadings of the Spirit to stop, to repent. With amazing speed, Ralph is now walking through life devoid of the Spirit. He is becoming spiritually stupid - or stupid to the things of the Spirit. He is on his own - or at least he thinks he is - but the adversary has been willing to stick around, because he still has a lot to say - and the adversary eventually talks him into immoral behavior - beyond just looking at it on the computer. Deeper and deeper.
Remember, Ralph is in the middle of what Elder Robert D. Hales called the "Decade of Decision", but he is trying to make his way through those decisions without the help of the Spirit. Ralph is now deep enough into the whirlpool that he is too embarrassed to do anything about it - it would break his mother's heart - and he's not about to go see the bishop - so he just keeps moving forward. Stupidly.
Now come the big decisions: Where shall I go to school? What shall I study? Who shall I marry? Where should we live? What job should I take? But Ralph is spiritually stupid. He has put himself in the dangerous situation of having to make all these decisions without the help of the God that loves him. So one of two things happens: 1) He avoids making those decisions- it is easier to sit in the basement and play video games. Or 2) He goes on, pretending to be what he is not, and making the best of it, while bearing the burden of sin and the associated guilt.
Ralph meets a great girl, falls in love, decides to marry her. He never bothers to ask God if she's the right one - he has stopped asking things by now, because he knows he doesn't deserve an answer. His new bride loves him - she is excited to find her RM, oblivious to the fact that he is unworthy to take her to the temple to fulfill her lifelong dream.
But he takes her to the temple anyway. A little lie here, a little lie there. Deeper and deeper.
So the young couple begins their new life together - one in sin, the other unaware. Both are unaware that the sealing - the marriage they waited their whole lives for - was not sealed by the Spirit, and is void before God. (D&C 132:7)
Ralph's wife quietly wonders why her husband complains about going to church, why he refuses to lead the family in scripture study and FHE. Then she wonders a little more loudly. Why won't he take me back to the temple?
They are not happy - because "happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ", etc. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World) The strains begin to show in the marriage, and the cracks begin to appear.
Deep down in the whirlpool, Ralph tells himself that it wasn't supposed to be like this. His wife's nagging and guilt make him miserable - and if it weren't for the baggage the church loads on him, things would be a lot better. It's the Church's fault! Those unrealistic expectations are causing the problems in his marriage, and in his life. The adversary is quick to agree, and lets him know that it is not his fault, and that he is not alone.
Ralph soon discovers that there are thousands of people online that are just like him! He has found a home with other people - people unhappy with the Church, and the gospel - loud people who think that the Church can't possibly be true, or it wouldn't be so oppressive, and make them feel so bad about themselves. And it follows that if the Church isn't true, then Joseph Smith must not have been a prophet...Right? And the downward spiral continues...
And thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell." (Alma 30:60)
There is a lot of spiritually stupid company at the bottom of the whirlpool.
A couple of finer points:
Am I making an assertion that sin precedes apostasy? Yes.
How? Plain and simple: People who have the Spirit don't leave the Church. Period.
Can it really happen like it did to Ralph? Sadly, yes. It is very common, and very tragic.
Are you asserting that much of the unhappiness in life, and relationships, can be directly traced to unresolved sin? Yes.
Do you deserve Uchtdorf's Hammer? No, I am just explaining how it works. I'm not condemning any specific person.
Can pornography really be that dangerous to priesthood holders? Yes. So can many other things that offend the Spirit. This example is why pornography is such an effective weapon. Offend the Spirit - then destroy the man.
What are some of those other things? Contention, criticism of leaders, ingratitude, Word of Wisdom issues, gambling, idleness, etc.
Is there a way to keep from getting sucked into the whirlpool, or a way to get out once you are deep inside? Yes - and I will discuss that part later - because there is hope.