Historically and scripturally the lives of most of those committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ have been marked by suffering, sacrifice, and great physical struggle. Although there are still members of the Church who face persecution for their beliefs and there are those who still struggle to provide food, shelter, and clothing for themselves, the vast bulk of the Church membership is wholly or partially participating in the tolerance and affluence of the twentieth century.
Admitting first that there are very real advantages to this general condition, it might also be appropriate to raise a danger signal.
Is there a possibility that things have become so “good” that many of us are forgetting that it is one thing to be in the world and quite another to be of the world? Peter told the early saints that they were a “peculiar people.” (See 1 Pet. 2:9.) There are grounds for believing that many modern saints are hardly “peculiar” at all. In looks, actions, attitudes, and life style there is nothing to set them apart from their neighbors.
No one is suggesting the adoption of strange costumes, offensive manners, or a holier-than-thou attitude. But the time may be ripe to remind ourselves that the world does not represent the pattern we should emulate.
The scriptures tell us: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15–16.)
Consider just one facet of what might be termed worldliness. The Greeks called it hedonism; that is, that pleasure is the chief good and that one’s moral duty is fulfilled in the gratification of pleasure-seeking instincts and dispositions.
This worship of pleasure is certainly not a modern disease, but as the struggle for survival has become easier, the opportunity to pursue physical gratification and entertainment has increased. Children are being taught by inference as well as directly that the name of the game is fun.
The evidence that this is true can be found on beaches, at resorts, in campgrounds, at sporting events, in restaurants, at amusement parks, and in front of the television set. And this only touches the list of forms of pleasure and entertainment available to us.
There is no intention to suggest that recreation and entertainment are not appropriate for Latter-day Saints. They are. It is fitting that individuals, families, and friends do things that are fun.
The point that is being made here is that there may be some of us who are placing pleasure before our responsibility to God, family, and fellowman. It is a matter of excesses and priorities: the hunting trip is more important than time with the family, the football game takes precedence over a Church meeting, satisfying appetites at fine restaurants on a weekly basis wins out over building up a savings account.
Many of us will shake our heads in agreement as we read these words and yet may not recognize that we are also guilty of worshiping at the shrine of pleasure and materialism.
Some forms of pleasure-seeking are just plain evil, so the message there is pretty clear. Other pleasures become evil when done in excess or when done at the sacrifice of more important things. Determining where we stand on that count requires honesty, courage, and prayer.