Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wisdom and Simplicity, or Learning the Hard Way

Can you tell where I've been reading lately? Here's some more great counsel from Paul:

I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.   Romans 16:19

The footnotes give the Greek translation of the word for simple as blameless or innocent.

Right off the bat, this reminded me of feelings I had toward the end of law school. During my penultimate semester I took a class on internet regulation, and a large portion of the class focused on pornography, since that was a field my professor was working hard to help regulate. I wrote a paper for that class on law and moraliy, and then expanded that into my 30-page substantial writing requirement during the following semester. For both the class and the paper, I read through a lot of studies and watched a lot of forums, and I recall feeling ambivalent about the studies that were conducted about pornography. On the one hand, they seemed necessary to evidence the damage that pornography can inflict on its viewers, but on the other hand it didn't seem quite right to make people watch pornography in order to study its effects. I myself wouldn't feel comfortable participating in such a study. Yet that exact study seemed so pivotal in substantiating my point.

Paul reminded me of the fundamental problem: the world insists on learning things the hard way! It should be enough for us to study and familiarize ourselves with what is good, so that we can quickly recognize and cast away evil. If we are wise as to the good, we don't need to study evil in depth to know we should avoid it. But the world, which so often mocks and derides the good, requires proof of a terrible consequence before possibly admitting that something may be bad. Thus the Lord instructed:

Wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth.   Doctrine & Covenants 38:30

With respect to parenting, I am reminded of how the Savior himself was raised:  Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.  (Isaiah 7:15) We don't need to teach our children all about evil in order for them to avoid it. Spencer W. Kimball told a story of a young man who had gotten involved in various perversions. When asked where he got the idea for such things, he said that he'd gotten it from his bishop. In an attempt to warn the young man about every possible evil, the bishop instead planted unworthy thoughts in the boys' head that, when fed, manifested themselves in sin. (See Faith Precedes the Miracle. I don't have the book here, or I'd find the page.) The world will do all it can to teach our children about sin. We can focus our energy on showing them the sweetness of every good thing.

UPDATE: Funny, today (May 4th) on Facebook someone posted this quote from Brigham Young:
We should not only study good, and its effect upon our race, but also evil, and its consequences. (JD 2:93–94.) Ha ha ha. So clearly there has to be a balance; we can't just ignore that evil exists, and we should acknowledge and even study its consequences. But still that does not require becoming an expert in evil itself. Always a balance...

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post and something I should ponder more about. I agree that seeing the consequences of evil (which are so plentiful around us, providing ample teaching opportunity) is important in order to avoid the flaxen cords of the devil, with which he carefully draws us down to hell (2 Ne 26:22, 28:21). But the concept taught in Isaiah 7:12 is one I had not considered before. It's such a beautiful idea and makes me feel warm and tingly inside when I consider my own children being raised that way.