December 31st, 2006

Immediate Counsel

I find it interesting how quickly I am counseled by the Lord. When I make a mistake, I frequently find out quickly what it was I did wrong, and what I need to do better. Perhaps He deals with me thusly because were it any other way, I would forget, move on, and put the action behind me. This pattern would be unproductive for my spiritual growth, I think, because I would not learn from my mistakes and become more able to “be perfect”.

And so, I am usually immediately counseled. When I do something wrong, I soon come across a quote, statement, thought, or scripture that almost always has direct application to the event in question.

I thought I’d share today’s counsel. Today during Sunday School the classes for Gospel Principles and Gospel Doctrine were combined into one. I was excited to have more people in the classroom and hopefully participate in a good gospel discussion. Instead, upon entering the room I found a TV/VCR set at the front.

The video displayed for our viewing was “Johnny Lingo”.

While I’m a fan of this movie, and find it entertaining to watch (maybe once every few years or more), I felt like I was in primary. People were rowdily talking amongst themselves, and I was looking around to see if there would be refreshments afterwards.

I chose instead to study my scriptures while the movie was playing. This was hard to do with such little light in the room (all the lights were turned off) so I left and went to the foyer to study.

I didn’t want to appear like I was exiting on a high horse, so I made as discreet an exit as I was able. I did notice a few people look at me as I left, and wondered with curiosity what their thoughts were.

When I came home, I was looking up some quotes on the internet and found this page by BYU professor Jeffrey Marsh (who was my instructor for my favorite class I took at BYU: Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith) that served as my counsel:

3. Living Gospel principles is like walking a tight-rope with a balance-beam in hand.

If we under-do principles we could fall (that is, if we are too lax, too loose with things that really matter most, we’ll come up short). If we over-do principles, we become manipulative, critical and coercive of others (that is, if we wear our halos too tight, instead of our spirituality being dignified and an edifying experience, it becomes awkward and even offensive.

I had a student in class years ago at a university, who felt that to be spiritual he had to live all the mission rules after he got home. He couldn’t distinguish between “mission rules” – temporary guidelines to protect the missionaries – and “gospel principles” which are eternal. Among other things, he wore a suit every day, because that’s what he had done in the mission field. His misunderstanding of what it meant to be spiritual led to a holier-than-thou attitude that offended and ostracized others.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks once gave an example of how even good desires, if taken to extremes, can have negative spiritual consequences:

Weakness is not our only vulnerability. Satan can also attack us where we think we are strong-in the very areas where we are proud of our strengths. He will approach us through the greatest talents and spiritual gifts we possess. If we are not wary, Satan can cause our spiritual downfall by corrupting us through our strengths as well as by exploiting our weaknesses.

….A related strength that can be corrupted to our downfall is a desire to excel in a Church calling. I remember a graduate student who used his Church service as a means of escape from the rigors of his studies. He went beyond what we call Church-service time and became almost a full-time Church-service worker. He consistently volunteered for every extra assignment, giving help that was greatly appreciated in the various organizations and activities of the Church. As a result of this inordinate allocation of time, he failed in his studies and then mistakenly blamed his failure on the excessive burden of Church service. His strength became his downfall.

Similarly, I remember the concerns President Harold B. Lee expressed to me when I was president of BYU. Shortly before the Provo Temple was dedicated, he told me of his concern that the accessibility of the temple would cause some BYU students to attend the temple so often that they would neglect their studies. He urged me to work with the BYU stake presidents to make sure the students understood that even something as sacred and important as temple service needed to be done in wisdom and order so that students would not neglect the studies that should be the major focus of their time during their student years.” (“Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall” BYU Fireside, 7 June 1992. Printed in BYU Today Magazine, November 1992.)

Reading this quote, I got the impression that it was wrong of me to leave the class. I did so in the spirit of making better use of my Sunday School time. I thought that what I was doing would be more appropriate for Church worship than watching “Johnny Lingo” would be. While part of me fully resonates with the quote above, part of me still disagrees with the choice to show such a video to mature individuals who would most likely gain much more out of a productive gospel discussion. Instead, laughs and giggles were shared while quoting “Mahonna, you ugly!”

The rebuke I feel in having read this quote deals primarily with my attitude in making the decision to leave the classroom, rather than the action itself. I don’t think the action of leaving was all that wrong. I definitely think that thirty minutes of scripture study is more appropriate for class time than is watching the video.

What would you have done?

4 Responses to “Immediate Counsel”

  1. Jason
    January 1, 2007 at 1:36 pm #

    Good story, good post. Would I have done a similar thing in that situation? Quite possibly, would probably depend on my mood that day 🙂 Was it a poor choice of a Sunday School filler? Absolutely. Now, the cause may be understandable (oops, someone forgot to check if the teacher would be back from vacation or the teacher got delayed en-route or something) but I agree with you Connor, there are a multitude of better alternatives than Johnny Lingo (gospel discussion on a topic of the class’ or Bishopric’s choosing, or at the very least a better video — First Vision, MoTab, Seminary videos, etc…). I’d say you still learned a lesson because of the whole experience so in the end, it was perfect 🙂

    I had another thought while reading your quote, a story about a man who always carried his notebook with him to church meetings. People were impressed that during sacrament talks he would be taking what looked like copious notes from the speaker’s message, but come to find out he would be writing just as much while listening to a Primary child’s talk. Now, i’m not saying the only or best way to learn is to take notes, but the prinicple is that he found a message and learning opportunity in every meeting.

  2. Naiah Earhart
    January 5, 2007 at 10:13 am #

    Oddly interesting that, as I’m catching up on your blog, I’ve read this post just after the one on balance. 😉

  3. Connor
    January 5, 2007 at 10:39 am #

    Oddly interesting as well that I hadn’t made a connection between the two.. thanks for making the connection for me. 🙂

    I think that the lesson (for me, anyways) is that balance is not a good idea, but the implementation of your stance is. While I don’t have to capitulate or compromise my ideals and practices, I should try to maintain respect for those of others at the same time. Not always easy to do…

  4. Connor
    February 10, 2007 at 6:17 pm #

    Looks like I received my vindication today.

    During the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting this afternoon, Elder Holland said:

    Audio/visual aides are just that—aides. They are not a substitute for a lesson. Use them like you would a spice in cooking… No one wants a meal of spices only.


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