On a Collision Course with Truth
By H. Wallace Goddard

Every once in a while, an experience (or set of them) pierces with unusual force. It penetrates to my core and humbles me. It reminds me that I regularly forget God’s core truths.

Three experiences were on a collision course recently: One evening Nancy and I followed the recommendation of a good friend and went to see the movie, “Confessions of a Shopaholic.” On a recent Saturday, at a training for volunteer seminary and institute teachers, we watched the video of a talk by Elder Quentin L. Cook. Today, in preparation for teaching my Gospel Essentials Sunday school class, I re-read Hugh Nibley’s “Work We Must, But the Lunch is Free.”

Three powerful experiences collided! My peaceful coexistence with worldliness was destroyed-at least temporarily. My self-satisfaction suffered serious injuries.

Perhaps the collision will have a different impact on you. I pray that you may feel some of what I am feeling-because it feels like a holy invitation from God. It feels like a call to repentance

The choices we make

The first experience: “Confessions of a Shopaholic” reminded us that some people will pay $120 for a scarf. Some people worry about a brand or label: Asprey, Henri Bendel, Barney’s, Cartier, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Gucci. It is far too easy for each of us to be swept up in the contest for the goods of this world. While the movie finally takes a stand against materialism, it may have been too little too late. We laughed uncomfortably through the movie wondering if we aren’t-as a people and a nation-too easily seduced by the things of this world.

For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel . . . more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. (Mormon 8:37)

The second experience: In Elder Cook’s excellent message to church educators, he quoted Harold B. Lee as saying that we should give first class devotion to first class causes. Too often we give first class devotion to second and third class causes: business, wealth, recreation, prominence, style-there are so many distractions! Elder Cook told of two men, one of whom focused on his career and the other who focused on family and faith. You can guess the outcomes.

Thou shalt have no other God before me . (Mosiah 12:35)

The third experience: Re-reading “Work We Must” by Hugh Nibley had nearly the same effect on me that it had decades ago when I read it the first time. My house of cards tumbled. Nibley persuasively shows that our focus on getting more and more is at odds with God’s focus on learning the lessons of eternity and helping our fellow travelers. (If you would like to read or re-read the article, click here.)

And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches -yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. (2 Nephi 9:42)

I wonder why I keep forgetting such fundamental lessons.

Regular reminders

Just more than ten years ago President Hinckley challenged us in general priesthood meeting: “I urge you, brethren, to look to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage” (October 1998 General Conference).

Wow. God gave us ten years to apply that counsel. In contrast, the people of Egypt (of whom President Hinckley spoke!) had only seven years.

Gucci is not the path to happiness. I should admit that my excesses are usually no more than buying an extra tie because it is on sale at J. C. Penney. I have never owned any vehicle more exotic than a Honda Civic (though I have coveted Mazda Miatas). Yet, if we piled up all the silly toys I ever bought, you could supply a Toys R Us.

So I wonder: Despite our modest spending, do I spend more on clothes in a year than I give in fast offerings? Why do I buy trinkets and toys instead of saving? Is our food storage in order? Am I helping those around us whom God would have us help? Am I truly grateful for the good things God has given me?

As wise counselors have suggested, the key to our prosperity may have less to do with stimulus packages than heeding the counsel of God. That counsel includes living providently, caring for the poor, and living gratefully. We should not, as President Uchtdorf reminded us in the priesthood session of conference, allow the good to crowd out the essential.

I’m grateful that God has given all of us another nudge toward repentance.

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