Erik is my guest writer today. His head is full of information that he likes to transform into life lessons. I think you’ll enjoy this even if you aren’t the religious sort– my friend’s all have pretty firm “mommy standards.”
It is interesting how so-called lesser laws of most countries are just as important if not more important as big laws in protecting their citizens. I am thankful to my fellow drivers on the road who stop at red lights and keep the speed limit. I am thankful that the people who built my house followed the building code. I am thankful that the people processing the food I eat follow safe food handling guidelines. My life has never been threatened directly, but it is protected directly by these laws.
Just as I am thankful for the laws of my country I am thankful for the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just like the laws of the land, in the gospel we have lesser laws, standards, and bigger laws, commandments, that guide and protect our spiritual lives. Just as in society, the lessor laws in the gospel seem to have greater importance in protecting us.
In all of the general conferences I have heard I have never been admonished to not commit murder. The very thought of taking the life of another makes me extremely uncomfortable. I have heard in general conference and everywhere else in gospel teachings to love my wife and children, to be honest in my dealings, to do my duty in the church, and to fill my life will life with good wholesome things. None of these teachings or the acts they encourage, taken singularly, will change the world. However, the cumulative effect of doing them all are the first steps to a blessed life of happiness and success. These steps will eventually lead to a fullness of happiness.
The seemingly undramatic effect of keeping the lessor laws of the gospel also makes it easy to neglect them. One foul word spoken in anger will not cause a life of misery. One date before the age of 16 will not lead to a broken marriage. But the consistent practice of dropping the standards of the gospel will eventually lead to the breaking of the big commandments.
Several years ago in a family home evening lesson my family discussed the origins of the metric system – a well accepted standard of weights and measures. In the 1790’s the greatest scientists in France realized that the varied ways of measuring things would greatly impede the progress of the world. To inspire the world to accept a universal standard they measured, as best they could, the distance from the North Pole to the equator and divided this distance into 10 million equal pieces. The result is the meter. So that they could remember the standard the scientists made a bar out of precious metals that would not decay with two marks on it. When the bar is cooled to 0 degrees Celsius the marks on the bar will be exactly one meter apart.
Since this time scientists have devised other ways to measure a meter, but the important point is that whatever way it is measured it must be constant, the same length as every other meter, an unchanging guide. Imagine the chaos in the world if the standard was forgotten and the length of a meter changed every few years.
The standards of the gospel are like a meter. They don’t change. Regardless of how hard we try to rationalize our way around them they will not change. No matter what the current fashion of the world is our bodies are to be treated like the temple of God and must be adorned as such. Our language must convey ideas with respect and dignity no matter how popular the vocabulary of rappers and movie stars becomes. No matter how sophisticated, intelligent and rational relationships in our modern world become the power of procreation must be controlled and treated with sacredness within the bonds of marriage.
I love the symbolism of a bar being used as the standard. If only the scientists who established the meter could have used a rod of iron, the symbolism would have been perfect. The rod of iron in Lehi’s dream symbolizes the standards and commandments of God. We can either follow the commandments and the rod of iron will lead us to happiness or we can throw ourselves against it in a vain attempt to change it and eventually leave it for a life of misery.
From our family home evening lesson we came up with the phrase, “A meter is a meter is a meter.” This means that the standards of God will not change no matter how badly we want to avoid holding on to them. We say “A meter is a meter is a meter” to ourselves whenever we are making decisions and we feel we might be trying to rationalize our way around a standard. It is amazing how clear a situation becomes and how firm our resolve to do the right thing becomes when we say this.
A tragic example of the misery that comes from consistently not following a standard culminated in September of 1999. That month NASA lost a $125 million satellite. The Mars Climate Orbiter was launched perfectly 10 months earlier and sent toward Mars with the intention of slipping into a gentle orbit around Mars to study the atmosphere of that planet. Several groups of engineers, rocket scientists all, worked on the project. One outside group was in charge of sending guidance instructions to the satellite along its journey. Unfortunately, this group of engineers did not realize that the metric system was the standard at NASA and had been for many decades. The guidance instructions were sent in English units instead of metric units. The amount of force provided by the navigation rockets was very small, but over the course of the very long journey to Mars the accumulated mistakes were huge. NASA is not sure if the Mars Climate Orbiter silently drifted off into space or ended its life at the bottom of an impact crater on the surface of Mars, but the end result is the same – the satellite was lost and the mission failed.
Interestingly, NASA officials took responsibility for the accident. Although NASA had used the metric standards for decades they simply assumed that everyone working on the project knew the standard. Rather than shift the blame to someone else NASA took full responsibility for not insuring that everyone involved knew the standard.
Similarly parents need to instruct and re-instruct ourselves and our children about the standards of the gospel so that our spiritual lives do not end in a comparably disastrous way. We all have free agency, but we need to use that agency in informed circumstances.
I have sometimes been hesitant to explain my standards to people who do not share them – the situations can sometimes be awkward. While tact and sensitivity must be used to explain them I am proud of my standards. We should hold our standards up as the life saving and happiness enhancing guides that they are. I am thankful for the the leadership of the church and their publication of the pamphlet “For the Strength of Youth”. It clarifies in young minds the standards we are expected to live by. Our family discusses material from this pamphlet often. It is a precious metal bar that helps us remember the standards.
As grateful as I am for the laws of my country and the standards of the gospel I am even more grateful for the love of God and the gift of His Son. A meter is a meter is a meter and I don’t always measure up. I know when this happens I can repent and the atonement of Jesus Christ will make up the difference. Through the process of repentance and continually striving to live the standards of the gospel I will successfully complete my journey through life and return to God.