Casual about our testimonies

There was a time when many members took most every doctrine or teaching seriously.  Things were pondered and prayed over as individuals and families.  In the past, there were fewer challenges: television and movies were generally family friendly. The biggest problems in school were running in the halls and chewing gum in class. Marriage didn’t have to be defined as traditional or otherwise. Families spent time together, because that was the norm.

Now, we live in a day when the traditional family is in the minority, among divorces, living together and other arrangements. Many choose not to have children, or at least delay until later in life. As we all carry no fault insurance on our cars, we now wink at no fault divorces. Family friendly movies are harder and harder to find.

Worse, our members are succumbing to many of the things of the world, simply because of a casualness that has arisen in our ranks.  Many don’t think twice about watching an “R” rated movie, regardless of the strengths or problems in the movie.  Many do not think twice when their friends divorce, or marry for the nth time.  Temple sealing cancellations are no longer a rare event.

A bishop friend of mine told me that he was having to explain to youth that oral sex is sex. Sexting becomes a norm for many, as does other sexual intimacies.

In our casual view of the world and the gospel, do we spend too much time justifying the time we spend in and of the world?  Is being too casual with spiritual and worldly things causing  spiritual casualties?

When we watch R or PG-13 movies that are very sexual or violent in nature, how are they impacting us and our families spiritually?  When our quality time with our kids does not include quality prayers, scripture study or FHE, how does such casualness impact us?

In the Book of Revelation 3:15-16, the Lord spoke out against those who are lukewarm:

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Laodicea was a city without a source of water.  In the distance was Hieropolis, where hot springs bubbled forth, making the place a resort for aching bones.  On the other side of Laodicea was the city of Colosse, known for its refreshing cold springs.  Waters from both Hierapolis and Colosse were sent to Laodicea by a series of acqueducts, providing the city with water to drink.  However, by the time the water reached the city, it was neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm.

When we are casual about our lives and our spirituality, we are like Laodicea – lukewarm, because we have no internal source of life giving water.  We tend to lean on others’ testimonies and works.  Others do the hometeaching and visit teaching. Others, who are a source of hot or cold water, become bishops and Relief Society presidents and nursery leaders.  Casual people allow others to prepare their kids for missions, the temple, take them to seminary, and gain a testimony.

Why? Because their own source of living waters is dried up. The world fills them with worldly interests and awe, while they die of spiritual thirst.  There is no refreshment, when they must borrow from others’ testimonies.  Second hand spiritual strength is lukewarm at best, especially when delivered over long distances and with no inner source to strengthen it.

Sadly, this also holds true with our Sunday meetings.  Too many of them are filled with talks that have no spiritual resonance.  They are lukewarm, casual in nature, because the correct preparation was not made.  They may be filled with good humor and interesting facts, but be bereft of the spirit. How often do the hot and cold waters evoke a refreshing of spirit in our meetings?  How are our children to learn to receive revelation, if we cannot provide them with a source within ourselves?  And how will they recognize or hear the whispering of the Holy Ghost, if all our efforts are casual ones?

24 thoughts on “Casual about our testimonies

  1. I’m not convinced there is too much lukewarmness in the church, but if there is, the members don’t bear all the blame. The church itself, in its well-intentioned efforts to help, has perhaps unwittingly made things too easy, and has substituted itself as the debate facto parents of our youth. When the church undertakes to minister directly to children and youth, even for good reasons, it essentially lets parents off the hook. Perhaps a cure, if there really is a problem, would be for the church to minister to adults and let them minister to their children.

  2. Ji, I think you are well-intentioned with that suggestion, but I could not imagine anything more likely to hurt kids’ testimonies than stopping the act of other adults teaching them for two hours every Sunday and one hour (for older kids) during the week. Kids are in school and sports with non-members for eight hours a day (at least in Colorado they are). They come home to do two hours of homework and then get 10 minutes of scripture reading and a family prayer. FHE one day a week. Family day on Sunday. Parents simply cannot afford to be the only people who help teach kids. Having other adults confirm their testimonies to kids is incredibly important, imho.

    And then if we follow your advice, no more seminary because the Church is only ministering to adults, remember?

    The entire world is telling our kids constantly that their parents’ religion is foolishness. Parents do not have much time to counter that, and having a few people a few days a week telling their that their parents’ religion is NOT foolishness is, in my opinion, a pearl of great price.

  3. In our ward and stake they are constantly telling the parents that church is a review of what they should be teaching at home.

  4. I agree with the sentiments expressed in the post but don’t know if I have a good solution. It seems like there are plenty of lukewarm members, but I have a feeling that has always been the case.

  5. Reading the history of the Church, there has always been lukewarm members. The whole point of Brigham Young’s “reformation,” good or bad, was because of that prevalence. The visions of Joseph Smith came from the “burned over” time that was started by preachers worried about lukewarm faith. Its just that to be lukewarm in today’s world is far more serious because, as stated in a General Conference talk, what used to be a few inches difference has become miles apart in morals from the world. There is no easy answers, and perhaps sadly all we can do is preach like Moroni and watch things go their course with the hope some make good choices.

  6. This is absolutely nit-picking, but I feel that it is important regarding the assertion that “Family friendly movies are harder and harder to find.”

    I won’t argue that sexual content seems to have increased in the last three decades, but I think there is evidence that movies are trending toward being less explicitly violent. The face melting scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, PG) would likely earn the movie an easy R rating today– the 2008 four-quel Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was much less violent than any of the prior films, and it still earned a PG-13. The MPAA is less willing to let gory violence slide in G, PG, or PG-13 than it has in the past.

    There may be fewer family movies now (although I don’t have the numbers) but I have been pleased to see the decrease in violent material in movies that are targeted to children.

  7. I have a hard time getting past the intro here with your blithe recitation of how blissful the world once was. Do you really think people “don’t think twice” when friends divorce? Divorce is always never easy for anyone involved. And you think there was ever a time when the worst things in school we’re running in the halls? Wise up–it’s just that back then girls were too afraid of carrying a lifelong stigma if they reported that rape under the bleachers. Especially if the boy was white and they weren’t. Life isn’t hunky-dorey now and it never has been other than for a privileged few. We have our challenges, but resurrecting Walley and the Beav to glorify the past doesn’t help solve current problems.

  8. Owen, I would agree that people sometimes have a tendency to over-glamorize the past. There were certainly other problems during the “good old days.” Nevertheless, when it comes to marriage and divorce we are living in very perilous times (historically). The U.S. marriage rate is way, way down from historical levels (going back to the 19th century), and the divorce rate is way, way up (going back to the 19th century). In general, the marriage rate began to fall in the late 1960s and the divorce rate began to increase. This is simply a fact. So, when discussing the pressures on families as an aggregate, Rame is correct that there are special concerns for our day.

  9. I have a hard time accepting people simply staying married as a major indicator of the health of society. More divorce also means women getting out of bad situations. The church is much more accepting of divorce now for good reason–women and children are no longer viewed as property, and beating your wife behind closed doors is no longer accepted. More sanctified marriages based on mutual love and respect would be an unambiguous good, but a single figure of percentages of marriages ending in divorce is nearly useless. The basis for this post is a litany of completely unsubstantiated hand wringing ala Glenn Beck.

  10. And I include in that the level of religious devotion among the saints–I would content the LDS are more committed and more observant now than at any time in the past. One needs look no further than our youth, so many of whom possess true testimonies based on revelation, in contrast to the “good old days” of sending boys on missions to find a testimony. Of course my perception is only a personal opinion as well.

  11. I wholeheartedly agree that there are too many people who feel lukewarm about the gospel. I am in the primary presidency in our ward, and we have a horrible time getting people to accept and fulfill their callings. We have had many teachers (like, at least five or six just in the last year) accept their calling, show up to teach their classes once or twice, and never show up again. When a member of the presidency meets with these individuals, they invariably swear that they love their calling and they love teaching the kids, but then they continue to shirk their responsibilities. We have some special needs children in our ward and this is particularly disruptive for them.

    Don’t even get me started on the trouble we have with getting people to sub in primary in classes their own children attend. It is not a happy situation.

    I can’t speak for the Church as a whole, but our ward absolutely has a problem. Too many people fail to take their responsibilities seriously. I am of the opinion that you don’t “get” to not have responsibility if you want to be a member of this church. But at the same time, it would be better for our primary if those who have no intention of actually teaching primary would refuse to accept their callings, so we can find someone who will.

  12. Some real data on family home evening and family scripture study would be highly enlightening. Anecdotally I would expect those things happen more now than twenty years ago. I know Mormons attend sacrament meeting in much larger numbers than at some times in the past (1900-ish), although I have no idea what the trend line is like recently.

  13. Owen –

    your points on divorce are only true if you believe most divorces are due to abuse. Since that isn’t true, your point fails. If most divorce were really due to abuse, then I might agree; since they are too often due to “not being in love” or “not feeling fulfilled” or “this relationship just isn’t working out” then the divorce rate is too high.

    The benefits of a high divorce rate do not outweigh the damages done (especially when children are involved). In individual cases, the benefits may outweigh any negative effects, but as a whole, there are too many divorces in modern society.

  14. However, I have to say I don’t agree with the overall post here, because (as others have already said), I think it’s always been this way. Yes, we are too casual, but I think that it’s always been that way – it’s just that we’re casual in different ways.

  15. With a purported 2/3 of the Church less active, it’s hard for me to imagine that today is any different from any other time. It is, as has been commented on, just different. the distractions are different, the people are different and the overall circumstances are different.

    The dedication to the Gospel is purely an inner desire and expression. Those that want to be completely dedicated, will be and it will be reflected in their lives. those that don’t, won’t and likewise that will be reflected.

    All the best intentions in the world cannot replace agency. The situation around marriage and family may be a real issue Things like R-rated movies are a throwaway given other much larger issues.

  16. Steve Smith, if you would like to comment on M* I would kindly ask you to control the snarkiness and save it for other blogs where it is more welcome. Personal attacks on posters are not welcome here. Thanks for understanding.

    Your comment has been deleted. If you would like to try again — without the snarkiness and personal attacks — please do.

  17. Steve Smith: Traditional marriage, as used in what you quoted, likely was intended by Ram as shorthand for opposite sex, and legally documented with a marriage certificate (ie, not shacking up). To conflate or compare that with the issues of inter-racial marriages and arranged marriages is either disingenuous or sophomoric. Please go troll somewhere else.

  18. I think people conflate activity in the Church with being good enough with God as long as you show up a couple of times, have a good enough job then why worry about increasing your faith in Christ, increasing your knowledge. In my Canadian Stake this leads to A High Councilor (who simultaneously attends the Catholic Church) plagiarizing an Elder Christofferson talk two sundays ago, a high priest who didn’t know how to baptize someone until he got into the font, another guy on the High Councilor who doesn’t read the Book of Mormon” because I know all the stories”. As long as you have a good job then why worry about God, what need needs filling, it’s all a social thing without any real conversion-in saying that our stake had 2 High Councilors go inactive when they got released and both had some personal bumps along the way and that was it. That is the attitude and behaviour around here. It reminds me of what Pres. Packer said in 1984 “Some time ago I interviewed a young bishop in Brazil. He was twenty-seven years old. I was impressed that he possessed every attribute of a successful Church leader—humility, testimony, appearance, intelligence, spirituality. Here, I thought, is a young man with a great future in the Church.

    I asked myself, as I looked at him, “What will his future be? What will we do for him? What will we do to him?” In my mind I outlined the years ahead.

    He will be a bishop for perhaps six years, then he will be thirty-three years old. He will then serve eight years on a stake high council and five years as a counselor in the stake presidency. At forty-six he will be called as a stake president. We will release him after six years to become a regional representative, and he will serve for five years. That means he will have spent thirty years as an ideal, the example to follow, the image, the leader.

    However, in all that time, he will not have attended three Gospel Doctrine classes in a row, nor will he have attended three priesthood quorum lessons in a row.

    Brethren, do you see yourselves in this illustration?

    Unless he knew the fundamental principles of the gospel before his call, he will scarcely have time to learn them along the way. Agendas, meetings, and budgets and buildings will take up his time. These things are not usually overlooked.

    But the principles are overlooked—the gospel is overlooked, the doctrine is overlooked. When that happens, we are in great danger! We see the evidence of it in the Church today.”

  19. I am fairly sure that members are no more/less casual in their testimonies now as they have been in past decades. That said, the world around us is very different. About 35 years ago, Pres Kimball asked a stake president how often he had family prayer with his family. The stake president admitted that it was usually once a day. Pres Kimball told him that once a day was probably sufficient at that time, but the day would soon come when it would not be.
    President Benson stated that a curse would fall upon the Church if it did not start paying attention to the Book of Mormon. We can perhaps see what that curse is from what is left of the Restoration in the Community of Christ. We live in a day when many “Christians” think commandments are just suggestions, can be ignored or replaced by modern philosophies and thinking, and where even the resurrection is doubted by many of those Christians. Such issues are pushing into the :LDS Church, as even “good” LDS question key components of the gospel: did Joseph Smith really see the Father and Son? Are prophets any different than other charismatic church leaders? We have those claiming to be sincere members with doubts (and there really are some like this) who are really wolves in sheep clothing, attacking the Church and its claims. When Pres Uchtdorf encouraged us to “doubt your doubts”, one such wolf attacked him on Facebook.

    IOW, we have the new danger of wolves among us. And we have greater numbers of temptations and wolves on the outside. Members are being plagued by pornography, destruction of the family, good called evil and evil good.

    As for the things Steve Smith noted, it is a non sequitur. I’m speaking of traditional marriage between man and woman as Western Europe and America have enjoyed and supported for centuries. I wasn’t discussing marriages in third world nations which have yet to receive the fulness of the gospel, and often dwell under radical concepts that make women property.

    The past was not a perfect place to be. It suffered from racism, totalitarianism, and other terrible things. That said, today’s ills include racism, totalitarianism, and so many more issues that are destroying the good things history has passed down to us.

  20. I agree with this article. I’ve lived all over the world and have seen first hand the casual epidemic throughout the membership of the church. They so often set aside the handbook and doctrine for easier things (often substituting substance with humor and their own culture). It is damaging to water things down. I’ve also found that the youth want depth. They crave it. But when the adults don’t give it to them and don’t follow the handbook and the fantastic new youth curriculum, they suffer (both parties). We need stronger doctrine, not a casual approach to teaching the gospel. Especially where there are part member or broken homes without a mother and a father who are actively engaged in teaching and living the doctrines.

  21. St. Augustine spoke of the shame people feel at being without shame (i.e., sufficiently virtuous that there is not shame). “Ashamed to be shameless” is the pithy modern English soundbite.

    And yet though it is therefore not new for people to be ashamed of being overtly righteous, there is a difference in the level of behavior and discourse in our modern age. Despite the hedonism in movies prior to imposition of the rating system, marriage was still portrayed as a norm. With the rating system, we entered an era of squeaky clean portrayals, and students of film note the audacious exceptions as artists began to chafe against the strict morals (and arguably insipid drama possible within the strictures).

    In the recent past, we’ve seen movies go from audaciously portraying alternate marriage standards to portraying sexuality without any expectation of marriage as the norm. Society has followed, where young people engage in sexual recreation as easily or even more easily than they engage in casual friendship. I cite the book Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both as a recommended read for folks who doubt that a massive shift in sexual attitudes has occurred.

    In light of the significant movement of society away from traditional morality, it become awkward to proclaim publicly one’s adherence to belief in the gospel. Thus we become ashamed to be without shame, lest those who would have felt shame in a prior age (perceived as a majority) cease to understand the regard and love we have for them.

  22. Omni wrote what may be the most pathetic words in the Book of Mormon: “But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done.” Omni 1:2.
    His son Amaron reveals that ‘the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed’ because the Lord would not suffer their wickedness to persist. And all this within the first few hundred years after Lehi left wicked Jerusalem. I’ve observed an ebb and flow of dedication and sloth not only in my own life, but in the Church in general over the span of seven decades. I detected an interesting tendency while reading obituaries several years ago. Many were sealed to spouses years after marriage. This seemed to indicate an upturn in dedication, possibly in reaction to the rise in disintegration of traditional morality seen in the sixties. I am certain the pattern of the so-called ‘pride cycle’ will continue to escalate just as it is described in the book of Helaman. For each of us the question must be, what words will describe our own position when we are called to account?

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