Seek Ye First

Dear Will:

I have a friend whom I admire deeply. He is not a man of great social station or professional credentials, nor is he a man of letters or great wealth. As a matter of fact, as so many others around us, he is currently in the midst of great financial upheaval. At a time in which he should be contemplating retirement, he is contemplating bankruptcy instead.

And yet. . . .

I admire him because of his humble faith. He is not the sort who thinks he has all of the answers. To the contrary: He often asks the sort of candid questions that reveal his own insecurities and ignorance, questions which may make others squirm a little due to their honesty. He also has a genuine desire to serve others in spite of whatever personal inconvenience it might entail—not to be seen of others or because “it’s the right thing to do,” but simply because he genuinely wants to help. I’ve known him and watched him for over a decade, and during that time no one has inspired me more to be a better, more genuine person.

Two or three weeks ago, my friend stood in a church meeting to share a profound statement that has caused me much reflection since. I am well familiar with his current financial woes—woes which were brought on, he admits, by some foolish choices that he made in spite of clear counsel to the contrary—so I was not prepared for what he said: In spite of their misfortunes, he said, “my relationship with my dear wife is better than it has ever been.” The reason? Because they are embracing the gospel.

How many marriages have been ruined by financial troubles? How many relationships are unable to withstand the pressures that come from modern living? And yet this couple have found happiness in the midst of difficulties, closeness in spite of heartache, renewed faith even as they are losing so much of what the world would consider important.

My friend and his wife are a living manifestation of a familiar verse of scripture. It was King Benjamin who said to his people: “I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.  O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it” (Mosiah 2:41).

Of course, my friend does not yet enjoy the temporal blessings King Benjamin alludes to. Or does he? The calm with which he faces his financial difficulties is astounding—another reminder to me that there is much more to life than money or status. I don’t really know the full extent of the challenges which lie before him, but I can tell you this: He and his wife are going to be fine. I have no doubt in my mind.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God” is what Jesus said, “and all of these [other] things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). It’s important advice to all of us as we face the economic challenges associated with a prolonged recession. And the promised blessings that come from following that advice are of greater worth than anything you or I can imagine.

Would that we each might embrace the gospel and enjoy the happiness which follows.

PW

On the Wrong Road

Dear Will:

I recently began reading the autobiographical Beat classic On the Road by Jack Kerouac.  Jack and his book are so often referenced in other things I read that I finally decided to see what all of the references mean.

If you’ve never read it, I’m not sure I would recommend it—I’ve yet to find a single, endearing person with any redeeming value in the book. If you have read it, you know that it is sort of an out-of-control treatise on self-indulgence.  The characters in the book are unprincipled hedonists seeking to maximize the buzz of any given moment.  It is an amoral tale of drifters and con artists, careening through life without concern for tomorrow.

In other words, it has nothing to do with the things I believe in.

As I read this tale, it’s not hard to look into the hearts of its characters and see a deep, abiding sadness.  Without the benefit of eternal perspective, their lives are reduced to a futile quest for fun and excitement.  Unfortunately, the thrill of the moment, as we know, is transitory at best.  It is as if they search without knowing they are searching, and thus they find precisely what they are searching for.

Of course, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is precisely what these spiritual nomads need.  It provides purpose and meaning along with a moral compass.  It points to a Source for comfort, inspiration, and direction.  It provides perspective and hope even in times (such as these) when evil is all around us.

What Jack and his friends really needed, in my opinion, is a copy of the Book of Mormon.  I know that sounds funny, but the thought keeps coming back to me as I read his narrative.  “If they had simply read the Book of Mormon they could have begun to understand that there is more to life than cheap thrills and selfishness.  And if they had lived the principles it teaches, they could have avoided both imposing and suffering an awful lot of heartache.”

Like it does any good to mentally evangelize dead authors, right?

Still, if I had had the chance, I might have pointed them to the great discourse of King Benjamin (see Mosiah, chapters 1 through 5).  For in that section there is wonderful explanation of the Atonement and a real life example of the change of heart which makes eternal joy possible.  One passage, in particular, illustrates so much of what was missing in the lives of those depicted in On the Road:

“And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”  (Mosiah 2:41)

Of course, unless you’re a big Jack Kerouac fan, I’m not sure what any of that necessarily has to do with you, but it was on my mind and I thought I’d share.  If nothing else, should you have a Book of Mormon handy, you might take it out and read those few pages in Mosiah.  I guarantee that you will be moved by the account.

Hope all is well for you and yours.

PW