The Importance of Compasses and Reliable Instruments
Play a couple of guessing games with a "standard" and then the right "standard":
1. How much does it weigh?
2. How long is it?
Is it important to have reliable instruments when building a house? cooking? flying?
Then what about living your life and people telling you how to live it?
You are ultimately responsible for how you live your life
While you may receive guidance from your parents, your teachers, your friends, the prophets and any number of people and voices in the world today, at the end of it all, it is up to you to decide.
My goal today, is drive this single point home: You (each of us) wholly own our thoughts and actions. As such, each of us has to take that responsibility seriously. At the end of the day (or this life) we can't say, "my parents made me do it" or "I was just trying to follow my leaders."
After WWII, the Allies put many of the Nazi leaders and industrialists on trial for their war crimes. Many tried to use the defense, "I was only following orders." But in many cases, that defense was not successful, because the crimes they committed were so egregious - essentially the Allies were saying "you should have known better as a human being." The Wikipedia page on "Superior orders" does a good job explaining this.
Mark Hofmann, the Prophet and Forgeries
Everyone can be deceived; which is why it is so important for each of us to really check our assumptions and underlying philosophy. We simply cannot outsource our personal philosophy or religion.
As primary kids, we sang the song "Follow The Prophet"; the chorus goes:
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; don’t go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; he knows the way.
Each of the verses talks about how people regretted not following the prophet. Unfortunately, "the knife cuts both ways." There have been times when people did follow the prophet and regretted it.
It is wise to remember we all, including prophets, are fallible and subject to deception. Again, this underscores the fact that we need to be responsible for our own beliefs and philosophy - we can't just delegate this responsibility to others.
Case in point is a man by the name of Mark Hofmann and how he deceived many of the leaders of the LDS church. It all started, if you recall, when Joseph Smith and Martin Harris attempted to get a professor to vouch for the reformed Egyptian characters. The professor's name was Charles Anthon. Martin Harris took a paper with some of the Egyptian characters on it and asked Anthon if they were legitimate. Supposedly Anthon said they were, and he signed a document stating as such. But upon further inquiry, Harris told him all about how Joseph found and translated the Gold Plates, at which point, Anthon asked back for the paper and ripped it up. What became of the paper that had the Egyptian characters is up for debate. No one really knows if it still exists today or not; it is called the Anthon Transcript. Under this cover, Mark Hofmann created a forgery and claimed it was the real transcript. He took it to Church leaders, who evaluated it, were deceived by the excellent forgery, and then proceeded to purchase the forgery for $20,000. Thus began Mark Hoffman's career in forging Church History artifacts.
He continued to create forgeries and the Church continued to collaborate with him and purchase them. Hofmann was secretly trying to make the leaders look bad. He created what was called the Salamander Letter, which basically tried to make it sound like the angel Moroni did not visit Joseph Smith, but instead a spirit in the form of a white salamander, appeared to Joseph at the time of him obtaining the gold plates. The Church bought this letter, which caused many members to stop believing in Joseph as a prophet. Many top Church leaders, including President Oaks, defended the forgery. What is even more fascinating is that two avid critics of the Church (Jerald and Sandra Tanner) readily criticized the forged letter, saying it was fake, despite the Church saying it was real. At this point in the story, you may begin to feel a bit of vertigo yourself. Who can you trust? Who is right? Who is telling the truth? And you'd be right and justified in asking those questions.
Eventually Hofmann was caught in his lies and, sadly, killed people who were catching on to his lies. To this day, he sits in a Utah prison.
Who can you trust? What measuring stick or instrument can you rely on? What is constant and unchangeable and undeviating? That is the real question we must all try to find.
What is the 'measuring stick' for life?
Again, each of you will need to decide what your moral compass is. You may find that what you think is right, is actually not. You may find that after going down a path - a way of life - you conclude it was not right for you. Many claim to know what the correct philosophy is, but it is interesting that on some points they agree and on some points they disagree.
For me, personally, I think it all boils down to the two great commandments:
1. Love God with your whole heart
2. Love others
If we do well in those two commandments, we can comfortably stand before God at judgement day, and honestly say we've lived those two commandments, then that is the best we can do.
Focus on finding contentment and happiness in things you can control. Accept the things that are not in your control. After repeated practice, you will begin to find that virtues such as self-discipline, courage, justice and wisdom are indeed in your control and are also the attributes, which if you develop, will bring you contentment in your life. Other things that may worry you, such as pursuing money or lucrative career, seeking a life of ease and pleasure, indulging in excess, selfishness, dishonesty, fear, anxiety or general worry - these things are not important and are generally out of your control - so why set your heart on them?
Why would our hearts fail us? Read this post to find out.