Sunday, November 8, 2009

Moral Discipline

The article two weeks ago discussed how God loves us and therefore He gives us commandments that we may know how to become truly happy. This week's article discusses our need to be obedient to those commandments in spite of the world of changing and shifting values that surrounds us.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, apostle of Jesus Christ, gave a talk entitled, "Moral Discipline," in the most recent General Conference. He said:

Moral discipline is the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. It rejects the self-absorbed life in favor of developing character worthy of respect and true greatness through Christlike service (see Mark 10:42–45).

What is right is defined by God, not by us or by anybody else. Often the teachings today are about choosing for yourself, letting the individual decide what is wrong and what is right for his or herself because truth is relative to the individual person. As Elder Oaks taught in last week's article, the commandments of God apply to all and we cannot pick and choose which commandments we like and which ones we do not. Sin is sin, no matter what one wishes to believe because truth is defined by God, not us.

In his talk, Elder Christofferson also addresses the responsibility and importance of parents teaching their children right and wrong. He said:

I have heard a few parents state that they don’t want to impose the gospel on their children but want them to make up their own minds about what they will believe and follow. They think that in this way they are allowing children to exercise their agency. What they forget is that the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are (see D&C 93:24). Without that, young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the alternatives that come before them. Parents should consider how the adversary approaches their children. He and his followers are not promoting objectivity but are vigorous, multimedia advocates of sin and selfishness.

Seeking to be neutral about the gospel is, in reality, to reject the existence of God and His authority. We must, rather, acknowledge Him and His omniscience if we want our children to see life’s choices clearly and be able to think for themselves. They should not have to learn by sad experience that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).

People put their children in sports or music with coaches and instructors who push them to achieve their potential without waiting for the child to say, "yes, this is what I want to do." Then, in the future, when the child is old enough they may decide that they don't like the sport or instrument and drop out or they decide they do and now they are a lot better at what they do because of the years of earlier preparation that they would not have otherwise had if the parents had waited for their child to choose for themselves.

Think of any child who has ever said, "oh, I love school, and homework, and I never want summer break or holidays because school is just so great." Right... Yet we don't allow the children to start their education when they are ready and when they feel that school is important. Instead we have laws that force children to go to school until they are a certain age. These laws exist because older, more mature people understand the importance of education and understand that a love of learning and education needs to be instilled in the child before they get too old and have started down damaging paths. Hundreds of thousands of people go to college voluntarily and are prepared to learn and be tested because of the education they received when they hated school and didn't want to go. They even pay to go because they now understand the importance of education and what it can do for them.

With this in mind, why would we think that teaching our children gospel principles and teaching them that they have a Father in Heaven who loves them is not totally and completely necessary and vital?

Elder Christofferson taught that many of our societal problems stem from the lack of moral discipline. Our choices affect more than just ourselves or those immediately around us. Truth is truth, it doesn't change from day to day, from era to era, or from society to society. We need to have the strength to do what is right despite what others think or do. Only this way can we be truly happy, only this way will we, as Elder Christofferson said, "have an influence for good and inspire others to pursue the same course. We may thereby have an impact on future trends and events. At a minimum, moral discipline will be of immense help to us as we deal with whatever stresses and challenges may come in a disintegrating society."

God is our Father in Heaven. He is the source of truth and light. He desires our eternal salvation and happiness. I love Him.