Who likes being told what to do? Or how to do it? Or when to do it? Who likes being controlled, constrained or dominated by others?
In general, we abhor bullies, thugs, abusers and dictators. We despise those who misuse the authority given to them as a result of either selection or election. We object to all forms of unrighteous dominion, through physical, emotional, military or political oppression. We naturally want to free those who have been falsely imprisoned and to liberate the captive.
This need for expression and development of our individuality is inherent within the human spirit.
Any attempt to exert external control is felt as unwarranted trespassing and is instinctively rejected.
This particularly human point of view transcends races, religions, geographies and all periods of history. Yet we are not immune to the influence of current culture upon our seemingly objective outlook on life.
Evidence for this abounds. Teenagers, whom we rely upon for refreshing the anthem of personal freedom, eagerly strive to create their unique stamp of individuality through hair style, clothing, language, music and so on. And yet when visiting a local school or gathering place, what does one immediately notice? They look and act the same!
We can laugh at this, but a more serious point must be examined as we acknowledge the influence of culture upon our life view. To think that teenagers are the only ones who succumb to societal influence is not only false, but is a form of self-deception that leads to false understandings of the right way to live.
Is there a right way to live? This very question suggests limitations to personal freedom and forced group conformity. It seems to runs contrary to the hope and aspirations of the human spirit. And who, by the way, is in charge of defining and imposing one right way to live?
This world is vast! With billions of people competing for their daily bread, all are thrust into a complex mishmash of languages, cultures, religions and political systems. How dare anyone suggest that there is but one right way to live. How audacious. How presumptuous. How bold!
Yet it was Jesus Christ who pronounced over and over again that there is but one right way to live. He explained why it was vitally important to each and every son and daughter of God. He taught that this one right way makes all the difference, while all the other ways make no difference. And then he demonstrated how and why to do it.
In his earthly life, he had nothing to gain from such teachings. He did not make money from his venture. He did not run for office. He did not attempt to gain control, acquire power or usurp authority. What then was His motive?
“I am the way,” He said. His oft-repeated invitation is, come unto me … and watch how I live, how I treat others, how I deal with problems and relationships, and then do it the way I do it. And when you make mistakes, make amends and get better at it. Observe the reverence, respect and subjugation I regularly and humbly give to my Father in heaven. And do the same. I know you and love you. If you love me, do it my way because it is the right way. And then you can become whom you are meant to be. And you will complete your earthly sojourn victorious. Not only will you go to heaven, but you will become like God and will receive “all that my Father hath” (D&C 84:38).
This new view of man and his potential ups the ante. Not only do we have the potential to become something on earth, but also now we know that we have the potential – and some might suggest, the responsibility – to work to become like God. In fact, this is the ultimate goal and provides the answer to the question every child is asked, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” The answer for one and all is, “I am going to be like God and receive all that He has.”
One of the great paradoxes of life, seemingly impossible for many to reconcile, is that of insisting on the inalienable rights of individuality while, at the same time, conforming to the will of God.
Traditional religious and philosophical systems break apart when attempting to explain, in terms understandable by the rest of us, how this makes sense. This why those who identify themselves as intellectuals often align themselves as atheists or agnostics or apathetic or uninvolved.
For this reason, we live in a very special time -- a pivot point in the history of the world. Through the integration and restoration of lost truths, not only can sense be made of the illogical, but also the logic (that is, a plan from heaven that connects all the dots) is now sensible. Unfortunately, our religion, which hosts these restored lost truths and welcomes new truth via revelation, has been conveniently branded as “hokey”, “uneducated”, “odd”, “wrong”, “not Christian”, “founded by a scoundrel”, and the list goes on and on and on.
This intentional and highly effective negative and demeaning branding has, over many years, resulted in society turning a deaf ear to heaven’s blueprint for solving the most complex earth-bound problems – poverty, war, inequity, social decay, etc.
The seemingly intractable problems of the world will remain just that as long as powerful men and women use their agency for personal advantage, status, control, pleasure and wealth. These are appetites that can never be satisfied – hence the mayhem. Until our motives are all in alignment with those of Jesus Christ – “not my will, but thine be done” – we will struggle for survival (see Luke 22:42).
This institution called the Mormon Church – or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – is not an invention of man. It is so much greater than that. It is the reconstitution of God’s plan for the earth and all His children – for all cultures and all peoples. It is not an American church. It is neither a conservative church nor a liberal church. It is independent of labeling – but it is entirely dependent upon God for its name and its authority.
The restored doctrines and continued revelation of God’s true church described with great clarity the right way to live. Might we yield our will with love, patience and faith -- and become the much needed light on the hill for a world stumbling in darkness.