First, my personal thanks to Peacock Hill neighbors of our new chapel there, for their patience during the 14 months of construction. The new meetinghouse was dedicated on Nov. 17, and 1,500 of our members attended.
Also, the first of what will surely become an annual tradition — the Gig Harbor Nativity Festival on the weekend of Dec. 6-8 — was a beautiful success, with some 2,000 visitors who viewed about 650 nativity scenes. Visitors are always welcome at LDS churches.
Now, some thoughts on practical religion.
Pragmatism may be stated as “a philosophy of practical living for a happier, more successful life that involves a sensible, commonsensical approach to problems and situations,” writes Kristine Frederickson in a recent Deseret News column she wrote, exploring religious issues and topics (“LDS World: The gospel is eminently practical,” Dec. 15, 2013).
While Latter-day Saints declare that every individual can know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ through prayer, careful study and the witness of the Holy Ghost, there also is much evidence, Frederickson wrote, that “the principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ are eminently pragmatic and, if for no other reason, membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and abiding by its teachings benefits individuals, communities and humankind.”
In the setting of a religion class Frederickson teaches at Brigham Young University, where the discussion was the importance of teaching children gospel truths in the home as societal standards seem to ever distance themselves from the teachings of Jesus Christ, her students compiled a list of some of the “culturally encouraged” behaviors and practices in modern American society.
Among other societal trends, the students noted partying and binge drinking seemingly tolerated on many college campuses; guilt-free promiscuity; co-habitating before marriage, if they marry at all; “disposable marriage” or divorce for social convenience; and seeking instant and self-centered gratification.
None of those behaviors qualify as pragmatic, Frederickson asserted, yet they saturate contemporary movies, TV, literature, magazines, music and advertising, seeming to drown out or overwhelm the voices which still advocate the nobility of honorable and moral conduct.
What are the practical or realistic consequences of those popular behaviors?
Borrowing from Frederickson’s discussion, here are some of my observations of the sad societal results, especially among the rising generation:
Besides the obvious hangovers, partying too often results in loss of clear thinking and self-control, STDs, sexual assaults, unwanted pregnancies, abortion and the demise of real, personal self-respect.
Statistically, co-habitation is not practice for marriage; it is practice for separation. Without the degree of commitment expected in marriage, if a man co-habitates and then leaves, it is difficult, without the force of law, to compel the man to provide for the woman and any children, and he often leaves them in dire economic straits.
Legal marriage, contrary to popular opinion, provides limits and important protections to individuals who marry.
Still, “disposable marriages” too casually entered into and terminated for convenience, often take a financial and emotional toll on both parties, and an even deeper emotional damage to children.
Self-centered behavior has its societal costs, on the streets and in broken homes and fatherless families.
As Frederickson noted, “In a world where there is growing economic disparity, suffering and want, selfishness assures the reality of persistent, deeper, more widespread suffering.”
No pragmatic person, one who follows a philosophy of practical living for a happier, more successful life, would choose the lifestyle popularized by such a culture, she wrote.
Mormons have not given up on teaching proven and practical values and standards. Besides teaching a love of God and of all men, we teach our youth sobriety, chastity, fidelity in and before marriage. We believe in marriage, family and the eternal nature of those bonds — that families can be together forever.
The fruits of these teachings are impressive in contrast to society’s unhappy outcomes.
If followed, gospel truths “promise the possibility of a rich, full life — not necessarily one without challenges, but one where individual peace and joy abounds,” Frederickson wrote.
Our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ love us with a perfect love. They desire our happiness.
While it may never be popular in the trendy media, the gospel of Jesus Christ is eminently pragmatic — sensible and practical — and it leads the followers of Christ to the peace and joy each desires, now and in the eternities.On Faith columnist Alfred Gunn, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Gig Harbor, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.mormon.org.