451--The Temperature at which a Society will Burn

Banned Books Week is a special time of year for me, a time both of mourning and celebration. It is a time of reflection over the state of my world, and the direction it is heading. Inevitably, that reflection and the questions which arise from it lead me back to one book in particular--a book I believe everyone should be required to read at least once in their lifetimes. Indeed, I believe anyone who has ever wanted to censure a book should be required to read this book first.

Fahrenheit 451 is as real to me as any prophecy from Isaiah. I give his words an almost identical credibility because I see his words unfolding in the world around me. We assume, falsely, that one needs to be a prophet or a self-professed man of God to predict the future. But recognizing evil, trends, pride, or incivility in a society doesn't require that association. All it takes to see the future is a knowledge of the past and a recognition of evil. It only requires anyone, regardless of their beliefs, to pay attention. 

In fact, religious people can be some of the more willfully blind people in a society because they are afraid of evil. The unfortunate lesson from history is how good people never stop to think of how their fearful silence and acceptance contributes to the downfall of a nation. In the end, it never is the one who is wrong that destroys a nation; rather, the silent embrace of the willfully blind majority has always been the invitation for corruption.

That is why President Thomas S. Monson, quoting Alexander Pope, has warned:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Ray Bradbury voices a similar warning through the main protagonist, Guy Montag. He begins to recognize how censorship has destroyed all reason, virtue, and conscience in his society. When he attempts to show this to his wife, she responds with willful blindness, and demands that he leave her alone.

"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?"

Willful blindness is extremely dangerous. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reveals the danger of ignorance in this month's Ensign, in his article The Justice and Mercy of God:

"If you are like other mortals, you have some areas in which to unchain yourself, you have some bonds and fetters you could be free of, and you have some sins you could repent of. May I isolate just one example: the bondage of ignorance. 
What seems to me the supreme initial bond in our lives is simply not to know enough. We learn little clich├ęs early in our lives. Two of them are “Ignorance is bliss” and “What I don’t know won’t hurt me.” Let me say with all the intensity I have that nothing will hurt you more than what you don’t know. I believe that we will be indicted for the resulting bondage that we incur and that we will serve some sentence in this life or the next for that which we fail to learn."

Because we teach that no man is held spiritually accountable for the sins he commits in ignorance, it can lead to the false belief that ignorance means there will be no consequences for anything we do wrong. This viewpoint is not only foolish, it stands in direct contradiction to reality and the sad experience of history.

I believe that this willful blindness, and the tendency to become a silent, acquiescent majority, is why the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is focusing their attention on the matter of religious freedom; not because "other people in the world" need to be warned about becoming complacent, but because WE as members need that reminder. The videos are for US.

It breaks my heart to say it, because I never wanted this to happen, but this question of gay marriage and the rights of homosexuals has developed into a full-blown attack on religious freedom. While I believe that most homosexual citizens are only concerned with living their lives according to their desires, it is the militant challenges of their extremists (a small minority) that feel the need to take this challenge to the next level. We need to be more aware and active in the conversation about gay rights because the most vocal activists on this issue, and those who would eliminate the rights and protection of religion, are quickly becoming the same people.

I love my gay brothers and sisters. I want them to feel my love and acceptance of them. Part of what has kept me away from this issue, and in many ways a vocal proponent of their protection, is because I love them. I have friends and family who are gay. I want their rights to be protected, in all fairness under the law. They are citizens that deserve to be treated with respect and Christian understanding.

I have always been the first to correct any member of the Church who shows blatant disrespect to homosexuals in any setting, regardless of who it is. I have walked out of sacrament meetings where disrespect, and not doctrine, have been paraded around as truth on the subject of gay marriage. I care about this issue, and I will be the first one to correct anyone who says Mormons hate gays, because they DO NOT speak for me or my feelings. I will go so far as to say I am ashamed of and embarrassed by anyone, especially in my Church, who confuses hatred with devotion. It is wrong. It is not Christian. Anyone who confuses upholding the standards of Christ and His doctrine with hating, abusing, or mocking God's children needs to repent.

But I also will not allow anyone to take my rights of religious observance away from me. Above anyone and everyone else, my devotion is first to God, and an undeniable aspect of Christianity is what Jesus Himself taught about marriage. He said:

Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Matthew 19: 4-6

So when God Himself has commanded me, in my moments of study, private reflection, and exchanges with the Spirit, to lift up His standard of marriage to the world, I must do so. Love, devotion, faith, and trust in my God are MY identity, as real to me as homosexuality is to those who live with it. I can't change, even if I tried, to quote a popular anthem for gay marriage. And if I have to actively stand against the very group of people I have tried so hard to protect, according to my conscience, then so be it.

General Conference is coming, and based on the following statement from Elder Russell M. Nelson's fireside at BYU-Hawaii, I think it's rather indicative of what we can expect from this General Conference.

"You wonderful youth of the noble birth rite, you need to understand the far reaching consequences of society's current skirmish over the very definition of marriage. The present debate involves the question of whether two people of the same gender can be "married." If you have a question about the position of the Church on this or any other important issue, prayerfully ponder it. Then heed the prophetic messages at this forthcoming October general conference of the Church. Those inspired addresses, plus inspiration of the Holy Ghost, will bring to your mind a fuller and truer understanding."

His advice goes hand-in-hand with the advice of Faber, an intellectual from Fahrenheit 451 who helps Guy Montag come to an understanding of how to go about changing the society in which he lives. Faber says that change requires three things, "Number one, as I said: quality of information. Number two: leisure to digest it. And number three: the right to carry out our actions based one what we learn from the first two."

We may have every resource under heaven to provide us with information, and devotion enough to provide time to digest it--but without the freedom to observe what we learn, the first two are totally useless. God's plans become frustrated. And tyranny is a consequence from which He will not save us if we choose not to be saved. When He tells us to raise our voices in His name, to reveal the forces that might have otherwise gone unseen, we must obey. We must be the change we want to see in the world, and be diligent in spreading the standards of God to all men. Teaching the standards of God, the missionary work to the entire human family, is our only protection. But in the end, society can only reap what it will sow.

She was always my favorite character. She hardly said anything in words, but her actions inspired huge change in the life of one man, who then acted to change and heal an entire society

Without religious freedom, there is no conscience. History is forgotten, then erased, and finally burned. If Ray Bradbury's timeless message about book burning, censorship, and political correctness were ever needed, they are needed in our time. If we expect to avoid a society in which freedom is totally absent, now is the time to resist and to have our consciences heard.

In this coming General Conference, I expect to hear more counsel on religious liberty. I expect we will be counseled to participate more actively in our local politics, for the protection of traditional marriage in the societies in which we live. I expect that we will be encouraged to study more fully, and dedicate ourselves more sincerely to the principles taught in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. As long as we respond in faith to His instructions with exactness, I know that God will protect us. As it says in Doctrine and Covenants 82: 10, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."

I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that He sees the conspiring forces that mobilize against us. I know that He is aware of the plight of all of His children, on both sides of any issue. He never ceases to reach out to them, even when they reject Him, or are blind and deaf to His voice. I am unafraid of the future because I can hear His voice. I know that as long as I continue to love Him with all of my heart, seeking to do good in every place that I might be, I can make a difference in the world I have inherited from those who came before me.

I also know that the Book of Mormon and the living prophets provide counsel which we need to withstand the evil in our day. If we are vigilant in heeding those words, no force on earth can overcome our witness of the truth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Truth Eternal Tells Me I've a Mother There

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