Monday, February 2, 2009

A Return to Virtue

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

A Return to Virtue, by Elaine S. Dalton
Young Women General President

We have a credit card that pays cash back that accumulates. It also gives the option to upgrade to a higher valued gift card at various stores. For some time we've enjoyed getting the card for a large-chain bookstore and finding fun books for our family, particularly from their clearance section. We made a special trip to the bookstore for this purpose today. While there I/we had an interesting experience.

We had just started looking in the childrens' books clearance section when we noticed that the song had changed to an intrusive song with a peculiar beat and style that seemed to bore its way into your cognizance. We became uncomfortable.

A short time later, I walked around the corner to the adjacent isle to see what was there. I was greeted by a variety of books, but a small cluster caught my attention. Right at child's-eye-level were graphic adult-themed books (probably disguised under the topic of health). I was first shocked, but then felt a distinct desire to discreetly reach out and see if the inside was as bad as the cover—after all, I reasoned, I am married.

I'm happy to report that the temptation died a violent death shortly after its inception; the thought was thrust out of my mind with extreme force. Nevertheless, as I walked away, I realized that the store's music had changed to a new song, one with heavy sexual undertones. In addition to feeling very disappointed by the surroundings I had placed my family in, I wondered how the music's mood had influenced my thoughts. I also noted how difficult it had been to be virtuous in that environment.

In her talk, Sister Dalton reminds us of the definition of virtue: "a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards." In application, she said, "Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength. They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost."

I am grateful that despite the awful background music, I somehow was able to hear the quiet guidance of the Holy Ghost in that bookstore today. The progression of my temptation experience reminded me of Alexander Pope's poem, which Sister Dalton referred to:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

While I may pat myself on the back at having showed courage and virtue, I need to ask: What could I have done to not even been tempted in the first place?

Sister Dalton related the account of Lehonti, from the Book of Mormon, who came down from his protected place on the top of a mount after only "four tries, each one more bold than the previous." Where is my protected mount? I'm sure it is not in places where the quiet whisper of the Spirit is nearly drowned out by loud, lustful, lascivious lyrics.

The sharing of a marathon champion's words seems appropriate; he is quoted as saying, "The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare." I can say that I want to be clean and virtuous all I want, but if I don't take the first steps (or, in the bookstore case, not take the first steps into a less-than-ideal environment), I won't win. Sister Dalton continued:

Now is the time to prepare by exercising more self-discipline. Now is the time to become “more fit for the kingdom”(see “More Holiness Give Me,Hymns, no. 131). Now is the time to set our course and focus on the finish. A return to virtue must begin individually in our hearts and in our homes.

The crux of the call to virtue lies in the "Savior's example and the 'infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice'" (see The Living Christ). I want to be "purified, even as [Christ] is pure" (Moroni 7:48); that is the protected mount where I want to be with my family.


I enjoyed a video I saw today that puts a visual spin on Sister Dalton's questions:

What could be more deceptive than to entice women, young and old, you and me, to be so involved in ourselves, our looks, our clothes, our body shape and size that we lose sight of our divine identity and our ability to change the world through our virtuous influence? What could be more deceptive than to entice men—young and old, holding the holy priesthood of God—to view seductive pornography and thus focus on flesh instead of faith, to be consumers of vice rather than guardians of virtue?

2 thoughts

Maryann said...

I think it is a sad thing to see girls (sometimes myself included) become so insecure in themselves that we have to "paint" ourselves up to feel beautiful.
I really liked that video clip. Thanks for sharing.

The King family said...

Clark, I came to your blog after googling Elaine Dalton and virtue. I was so interested that I also visited your family website. I am impressed with you and your family. You are what is right with the world! You are doing a great job with your blog. Best wishes to you and your family.
Amy King