It's so good to be writing this week. The weather here in England has gotten cold and a bit wet, but oh well!
The talk I'll discuss today attracted me because of its title: "Lamentations of Jeremiah: beware of bondage". Isn't that the best title? It's also a pretty good talk, by Elder Quentin L. Cook, who was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 6, 2007. Elder Cook gave these remarks during the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 2013 General Conference.
I had never read Lamentations (in the Old Testament) before reading this talk, so I was a lot curious to see why Elder Cook used this title and how he related his remarks to the book -- written by the prophet Jeremiah (and probably others) to lament the destruction of Jerusalem by the hand of the the Babylonians. The chapter heading to Psalm 137 in the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible reads: "While in captivity, the Jews wept by the rivers of Babylon—Because of sorrow, they could not bear to sing the songs of Zion." By turning away from the Lord, the Jews put themselves in bondage and were scattered. Elder Cook lists a few of the lessons we can learn from this tragic period in the history of Israel, to encourage us to "do everything within our power to avoid sin and rebellion that lead to bondage."
These are the four kinds of abuses of moral agency that Elder Cook describes "pernicious" and "destructive":
1) "Addictions that impair agency, contradict moral beliefs, and destroy good health cause bondage". This is all around us unfortunately. Drug addicts and alcoholics, people addicted to pornography or who enter into large debts place a heavy burden on society at large. The 2008 financial crisis, caused by people, financial institutions, and even governments that outspent money they did not have, still influences our lives today and has caused so much poverty and bondage.
2) "Addictions or predilections [that,] while not inherently evil, can use up our precious allotment of time which could otherwise be used to accomplish virtuous objectives." A bit of social media, a bit of sport or recreation have never killed anyone; Elder Cook, though, is warning us about the dangers of excessive use of these and others. The main danger being that of not spending enough time with our family because of those very activities. Elder Cook shares the interesting story of a colleague of his who struggled to balance career, marriage and children:
"She always felt like a juggler trying to keep three balls in the air at the same time. One ball was her law practice, one was her marriage, and one was her children. She had almost given up on time for herself. She was greatly concerned that one of the balls was always on the ground. I suggested we meet as a group and discuss our priorities. We determined that the primary reason we were working was to support our families. We agreed that making more money wasn't nearly as important as our families, but we recognized that serving our clients to the best of our abilities was essential. The discussion then moved to what we did at work that was not necessary and was inconsistent with leaving time for family. Was there pressure to spend time in the workplace that was not essential? We decided that our goal would be a family-friendly environment for both women and men."Many of us could easily find themselves in the concerns expressed by this woman lawyer. Women and men. The gospel of Jesus Christ indeed offers the solution to this problem, by putting family first. Families are forever, and all the rest is an appendage. Our jobs, our recreational activities, even our activity and service in the Church should point us back to our families. When the work-hard-play-hard philosophy crowds out family time, it is self-defeating.
3) "Ideology or political beliefs that are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ." Elder Cook refers to these as "the most universal subjugation in our day, as it has been throughout history". He notes that the Athenians to whom Paul preached in the 1st century AD rejected the gospel because it was too simple, and probably not new to them. It was too simple therefore they mocked him. "We will hear thee again of this
"Now, let me say unequivocally that I am thrilled with the educational and other opportunities that are available to women. I treasure the fact that the backbreaking work and domestic drudgery required of women has been reduced in much of the world because of modern conveniences and that women are making such magnificent contributions in every field of endeavor. But if we allow our culture to reduce the special relationship that children have with mothers and grandmothers and others who nurture them, we will come to regret it."4) "Forces that violate sincerely held religious principles result in bondage". This fourth point refers to all those forces who force, for example, doctors to choose between practicing abortions or losing their job. In Elder Cook's words:
"The Church is a relatively small minority even when linked with people who are like-minded. It will be hard to change society at large, but we must work to improve the moral culture that surrounds us."This doesn't mean that everyone should become a Mormon (although that would help, if they chose to!), but we still have a responsibility to make the environment in which we live better.
Elder Cook leaves us with a challenge: "Our challenge is to avoid bondage of any kind, help the Lord gather His elect, and sacrifice for the rising generation. We must always remember that we do not save ourselves. We are liberated by the love, grace, and atoning sacrifice of the Savior."
What are we going to do to rise to this challenge from a modern-day apostle?
Bye for now :)