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Monday, August 11, 2014

A World in Turmoil

A WORLD IN TURMOIL

I don’t like watching the news. It’s not because I don’t want to know what’s going on in the world, but because it either makes me sad or angry, there is enough spin to throw me off the carousel, or I don’t care what Megan Fox wears to every TMNT premier, especially right after hearing about some act of terrorism, or mass genocide somewhere in the world.

It also makes my life feel small, and insignificant. My problems are infinitesimal in comparison to the rest of the world’s problems. I broke my foot in late July. So what? A young mother in Iraq wishes her son still had a foot. I don’t always like my job. So what? A street urchin begging for change in Denver’s 16th Street mall gave up on employment months ago.  My apartment is small, overpriced, and laid out strangely. So what? A war veteran, who will be sleeping underneath Portland’s Burnside Bridge tonight, would be happy to wake up here every day. It’s too hot outside. So what? Millions of people live in the hot African sun, with no shelter to speak of, and less water to drink for the whole day than I just washed my hands with.

What right do I have to complain while my brothers and sisters suffer throughout the world?

Earlier today I was reading about violent acts of anti-Semitism throughout the world. If anything gets under my skin its violence, abuse, or hatred of any one people based on something that separates them from others, i.e. race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, class. Unfortunately, there has been a rise in this kind of hatred in recent years. I see it all over the internet, on TV, out of the mouths of loved ones, on the street, everywhere. I am continually appalled by the thoughts, words, and actions of otherwise upstanding citizens.

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR

Are we not commanded to love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves? I was recently asked what that means, because every person thinks of love differently than every other person. I’ve thought about that question a lot since it was presented to me, and the answer came to me while studying for our Elders Quorum lesson. That answer comes from our prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith. President Smith’s third wife, Jesse, “often said of her husband, ‘He is the kindest man I have ever known. I have never heard him speak an unkind word.’ He would respond, with a smile, ‘I don’t know any unkind words.’” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, chapter 15)

You can rest assured that President Smith was human. Like any other man, I am sure he knew many unkind words. However, I think what he meant was that his heart didn’t know any unkind words. This goes the step beyond Thumper’s mother’s saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” The saying, though classic, and well said, still allows us to feel unkindness in our hearts. President Smith’s example is for us to have no unkindness in our hearts at all. If there is no unkindness, then there is nothing you have to keep yourself from saying.

Is this not an attainable Godly Attribute? Can we not turn our hearts in love toward our brethren? Can we not change the world, just a little bit at a time by committing ourselves to loving our fellow creatures in Christ?

COMFORT

As Latter-Day Saints we have a sure knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, and know our place in it. We know that this life is but a small part of our own eternity. My Patriarchal Blessing tells me, “While the world is in commotion and there’s a lot of unrest, and there’s not the happiness that needs to be there, remember that in the Kingdom of God things are intact.”I think this is important for people like me, who empathize with the world, and are saddened by the poverty, and the acts of hatred and violence that are so prevalent in today’s world. If you’ve gotten this far in reading, then you are also likely to benefit from such comfort.

While all is NOT well in Zion, it is well in the Kingdom of God, and will all be straightened out on the other side. The saddest part may be the number of people whose hearts are closed to the word of God because of their hatred for the God’s children who do not match their narrow description of good human beings.