Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spiritual Sunday

A longer than expected Spiritual Sunday...

I recently listened to a podcast of This American Life entitled The Devil on My Shoulder. Initially they refer to The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis who describes the subtleties of temptations as compared to the cartoon version of the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other battling it out. These fictional explanations of behavior serve to illustrate the difficulty we have in attempting to explain why we do things (good or bad) not to mention trying to decipher the actions of others.

The podcast goes on to talk about two approaches to influencing kids to do good and avoid bad and prompts reflection on the question of why we do what we do. The first is a dramatic production called Hell House, initially done by Trinity Church in Texas and now spread across the States. It occurs around Halloween and basically depicts people doing bad things and then going to hell. It is expected that the fright of these scenarios will prompt the audience to stay away from certain evils and follow a righteous life. I might disagree with their specific methods but the idea of using fear to influence behavior exists in the scriptures.

The prophets often speak of the negative consequences (in this life and the next) of doing wrong. For example, the prophet Enos wrote, "And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them" (Enos 1:23). Even in the Psalms, which are usually upbeat we read, "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup" (Ps 11:6).

The next part of the podcast was about rumspringa which refers to a period of adolescence for the Amish when they are encouraged to go out to experience any sort of worldly evil from electricity (which I don't really think is evil) to drugs and immorality (both of which I agree aren't good). After this period of rumspringa the individual then decides whether or not to return to the clean Amish way of life or leave it forever. I believe it is roughly 90% of these young people that decide the outside world isn't for them and return to living the simple Amish life with their families. Although we are taught that inevitably we will all sin (and we should of course learn from our past misdeeds and strive to not repeat them), I'm not familiar with any scriptural teachings that encourage us to seek it out so we can really know what we'll plan on staying away from for the rest of our lives.

These are just two examples of how religious leaders and parents are trying to influence young people to live a certain way. Will a teenager be motivated by such fear? Will an adult remember the negative experiences with drugs and immorality he had as a teenager and stay on the straight and narrow?

We're constantly facing situations where we're trying to influence other people to act a certain way. I can think of dozens of examples from today alone of attempting to influence other people's behavior. Some aren't terribly important like trying to get my kids to go to bed. Others are of greater importance - like having a conversation about how to influence someone to return to faith and religious worship.

Dallin H. Oaks once spoke of our motivations? (BYU Annual University Conference on 23 August 1998 - Why Do We Serve?). He was speaking of why we serve in the church but many of his comments could be applied to the general question - why do we do good things? He describes six different types of motivations from "the lesser to the greater." It would be easy to see how these different motivations could be used to provide an angle for attempting to influence someone else.

1. For Riches or Honor - in parenting we would probably call this bribery
2. To Obtain Good Companionship - we often meet good people when we do good things
3. Fear of Punishment - man made punishments, the natural consequences of our actions and eternal judgments
4. Duty or Loyalty - I think this explains a lot of people's behavior
5. Hope of an Eternal Reward - really the flip side of number 3 and the extension of number 2
6. The Highest Motive - Dallin Oaks explains this highest motive by stating, "If our gospel service [again, I would say this applies to any good act we do] is to be most efficacious, it must be accomplished for the love of God and the love of his children."

I'll make two points about appealing to the highest motive in others. First, from Abraham Lincoln, "If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend." In other words, you must make your own motivations clear (i.e. becoming a sincere friend) before influencing another individual's motivations. Second, Boyd K. Packer has said, "true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior". For anyone to act on a love of God they must first know Him.


Alysha said...

GREAT post!

ElderChild said...

“Love Not The World”

”For the WHOLE world(not just a portion) is under the control of the evil one”.......(I John 5:19)

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world will pass away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of The Only True GOD will abide for ever.” (I John 2:15-17)

“If you were of the world, the world would love it’s own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his Master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:19-20)

“Where do wars and fighting among you come from? Do they not come of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is to be at enmity with The Only True GOD? Therefore whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of The Only True GOD.” (James 4:1-4)

“The world cannot hate you; but the world hates Me, because I testify that the works of this world are evil.” (John 7:7)” and “The Messiah gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of The Only True God, Our Father.”(Gal 1:4)

The Messiah testified: “If the world hates you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”(John 5:18) Truly, Truly, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall have it unto life eternal.” (John 12:24-25)

John testified: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13) “ James testified, “Whoever would be a friend of this world is the enemy of GOD”(James 4:4)

The “earth and it's life forms” are The Creation of The Only True GOD, Father of ALL! The “worldly” systems are the creation of, and under the dominion of “the god of this world”, he who is “the father of lies”, he who “has blinded the minds of those who believe not The Messiah”! All the nations of this world are under the dominion of, and serve, the evil one for he provides the fuel that feeds mankind’s “imag”ination, and mankind’s “imagination is destroying Creation(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Truth, Life, Love, Peace, Faith, Simplicity, Wisdom, .etc.) ;-(


ElderChild said...

Once again, the “earth and it's life forms” are The Creation of The Only True GOD, Father of ALL! The current “worldly” systems are the creation of, and under the dominion of “the god of this world”.

Those who “love this world” all serve “the god of this world”, and play their part in the processes that seek to destroy The Creation of The Only True GOD. “And The Only True GOD will destroy them who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18c)

Global warming, polluted air, land and waters, toxic wastes, sexual perversion, evil inventions of destruction, greed, hate, carnal warfare, dis-ease ,,,etc,,, are all destructive processes that have their root in “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life”.

The Truth Is Alive in those who have been born of The Spirit for “they no longer love this wicked, evil world and it’s things, nor do they love their own lives in this world”.

They but seek and desire The Will of GOD, their Father and Creator, as they await their final transformation. “Corruptible to Incorruptible" ndeed and Truth!

Now “the ground was cursed for Adam’s sake” because he “hearkened unto the woman”.

Adam listened to a woman rather than obeying The Only True GOD. Yet because of Faithful Noah, The Only True GOD “no longer would curse the ground for man’s sake” because Noah obeyed The Only True GOD! (Genesis 8:21-22)

And the Faithful today are exhorted to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”

Be not of those who deny and defy “The One GOD, Father of All”. Be not of those who are destroying Creation(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Truth, Life, Love, Peace, Hope, Mercy, Faith, .etc.)!

“Set your affections on things above”. Desire heavenly, eternal things. Quit serving ‘time’ in the prison that is this world and take heed unto The Call of "The Only True GOD" to ”Come Out of her, MY people!”

“Come out” from among those who are destroying Creation and perverting that which is Spirit. Be of those who follow The Messiah on “The Way to The Truth of The Life”.

“Come out” of the worldly systems, which are the product of mankind’s “imag”ination, especially the systems of religion. "Pure religion and undefiled before GOD The Father is this, to visit the fatherless(those who know not their Father[Creator]) and widows(those who have not experienced The Messiah and The Power that raised Him from among the dead") in their affliction and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world." (James 1:27)

Simply, all other religions are impure, defiled and of this wicked, evil world.......

"religion" is personal(oneself), not corporate.......

Faith will not create a system of religion!

Faith is Family, not "religion", and The Brethren of The Messiah seek and desire that which The Messiah sought and desired above all else:

"Father, not My will, But THY Will Be Done".......

Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE world(not just a portion) is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth......

Truth is never ending.......

Abby said...

Interesting - we just watched a documentary on rumspringa, and hell house recently. Pretty extreme stuff. I think that those who do good things out of fear (or for other reasons) will have their reward (they are still choosing to do good things after all), but I agree with you that love (which sometimes includes a bit of tough love)is the most powerful and appropriate motivator, and carries with it the blessings of true conversion, which the others often do not.