Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Priesthood of Aaron

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Priesthood of Aaron, by L. Tom Perry
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

As you enter many homes nowadays, the first thing you see is a large television central to the family's main living area. If you visit a park or playground, you will see children playing on the equipment, but the parents are glued to their smart phones or are talking mindlessly on cell phones. As you drive from here to there, you see many SUVs with blank-eyed children in the back seats, seeing nothing but a small screen in front of them showing a movie or television show (even on short trips across town).

Entertainment and media access have become more and more important in our lives—at least it looks that way by how we live. 25 years ago, Elder Perry spoke in conference, addressing his eldest grandson. Among other things, he took responsibility for the state of the world (along with his colleagues):

I believe we’ve greatly failed you in what we have allowed the conditions in the world to become. . .

We have brought into our homes radios, record players, and television sets. While each has the potential of providing wholesome entertainment, so much of what has been produced for our listening and watching pleasure is not of the caliber to inspire and encourage young men. In fact, most of what is produced is degrading. The flip of a switch right in your own home has the potential of destroying within you a sense of what is right and what is wrong.

In Sunday School two days ago, someone commented that there isn't much hope for the future generations because with iPhones and other devices, we hold in our hand the world's vault of pornography, accessible anytime, anywhere.

Yesterday I listened to a radio interview with an old-time stuntman who said that he cannot stand the recent use of computer graphics in stunts and action shots in movies. He preferred the real feel of stunts, performed by real people (interview here). As I considered this, I thought of something Elder Perry said: "The more things change, the more they stay the same—except for technology."

This morning we're going to take a family trip to the movie theater to see a film. This is something we don't usually do, but we wanted to have an adventure and see Tangled. I expect that there will be humor and an end-of-story good message, but I'm concerned that the way things are portrayed—even though it's a cartoon—will be too intense for my pure children.

The more technology advances, the more we can see fantastic things portrayed in films and other entertainment. (Remember the stunt man who prefers what can be done in reality.) Despite the innovations in presenting reality, altered reality, or science fiction, I'm thinking of something else that is truly fantastic; there are historical events that are linked although they are separated by centuries:

Central to the Book of Mormon is the account of Christ visiting the people in the Americas. From the Introduction, we read:

The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.

1,800 years after this glorious appearance of the Son of God to faithful saints in what would become the New World, the same resurrected Christ appeared with His Father to Joseph Smith, ushering in a new dispensation of the fulness of the gospel. As part of the Restoration, Joseph Smith had the opportunity to assist in translating from ancient records what would become the Book of Mormon. While translating in 3 Nephi—where is recorded Christ's visit to the people—Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were thrilled by Christ's teachings of baptism and had questions. They prayed for guidance and John the Baptist, who had baptized Christ, appeared and conferred upon them the authority to baptize; they received the Aaronic Priesthood.

Later, Oliver recounted the event in these words: “But … think, further think for a moment, what joy filled our hearts, and with what surprise we must have bowed … when we received under his hand the Holy Priesthood.”

After mankind had been waiting for centuries for God’s authority to be restored, the power and glory of the holy Aaronic Priesthood returned to the earth.

We can talk of representations of things that are fantastic in films and shows, but I don't think they can ever match or replace the reality of events that are truly fantastic—events like Christ visiting people and the conferral of the priesthood (whether by angels or authorized mortals).

We can talk further of the perils of access to media that can degrade, influence for evil, and otherwise harm. Despite poor possibilities, I have hope for the future. Elder Perry quoted President Benson:

Give me a young man who has kept himself morally clean and has faithfully attended his Church meetings. Give me a young man who has magnified his priesthood and has earned the Duty to God Award and is an Eagle Scout. Give me a young man who is a seminary graduate and has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon. Give me such a young man, and I will give you a young man who can perform miracles for the Lord in the mission field and throughout his life.

There have always been temptations and options for bad choices. While the access and prevalence of such may be ever-increasing, the power of God is eternal, and as we choose to follow His plan we find something that is better than the thrill of disobedience or sin; we find happiness and eternal life.

This is reality that cannot be matched or exceeded by any special effects!

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