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For a statement on the unofficial nature (i.e., personal interpretation for discussion purposes, not necessarily representative of church doctrine) of these lessons, see this notice.
PROBLEMS OF THE AGE
Dealing with Religious, Social and Economic Questions and Their Solution.
A Study for the Quorums and Classes of the Melchizedek Priesthood. 1917-1918.
By Dr. Joseph M. Tanner
XV. – A Pleasure Loving Age
Pleasure and Joy. – Shall we have pleasure? What is pleasure? It is the one thing the age is striving for. Toward it men and women in all lands are bending their energies and for it they are consuming their wealth. But pleasure is neither joy, nor happiness. The latter words may be used interchangeably. The book of Mormon teaches that “Man is that he may have joy.” Pleasure is an experience, chiefly one of selfishness. It is also physical and administers to the sensations of the body. It is intoxicating to the mind and produces the dizziness of hilarious pastimes. But what is joy? “It is the rebound of sorrow,” says Straghan. “blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Comfort is joy. If we read what gave joy to the holy men and women of the Bible we shall get perhaps the best interpretation of it. But pleasure is not happiness. It may be well to keep that distinction, paradoxical as it may seem. It is often said that those who pursue pleasure never find it. They may find pleasure but not joy. Do we want pleasure, do we need it? Undoubtedly, there are wholesome pleasures, physical, intellectual, and spiritual. They are such as come from a healthy state of our being. They are never an aim in themselves. They are scattered along the way of life, and are experiences that come from wholesome living. Is happiness the rebound of sorrow? We have a beautiful example in Sarah, who through a long life sorrowed for children. “My heart,” she said, “exulteth in the Lord.” The Hebrew poet sings the praises felt by the sorrowing exiles after their long years of separation from their beloved country.
When the Lord brought home again the captives of Zion.
We were like them that dream,
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
And our tongue with melody.
Joy expresses itself nowhere better than in manifestations of gratitude. It praises God in an exultant spirit. In Nehemiah the Jews were told that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” What a sorrow hangs over the world today! Will it bring comfort to those who mourn?
There is no happiness without work. It is work that brings to the human soul the satisfaction of a great reward. It is not so much the satisfaction of a material reward as it is the ability to enjoy what God has provided for us. Work brings fatigue which makes sleep, food and rest so enjoyable.
If we are drifting away from the God-ordained duties of life we curtail our joy whatever the momentary pleasures may be. A pleasure loving world becomes sensational. Its ideals are misshapen, and distortion disturbs seriously all the functions of life. The conscience is deadened; the organs of the body give pain. The rebound from excessive pleasure is pain.
Temptations of Pleasure. – Pleasure lends itself to temptations that in turn lead to pleasures that are iniquitous. It greatly disturbs the serious nature of man, and unfits him for the higher duties of life. There is no age set apart for pleasure. To the young it is a snare and robs the soul of youth of its preparation for the struggles of life. It weakens the young in the presence of responsibilities. Bodily strength gives way in the midst of it.
Has God, in his infinite mercy, called a halt upon the frivolities of human life by throwing it into the whirl of a destructive war? The young manhood of our nation is in a process of decay. The great majority, we are told, are not fit for service. We are marshaling our young into training camps that they may be finished by strenuous exercise for service. It is possible that the great army of unfits shall be left to perish by its own hands. Can some means not be found for regeneration? What a dismal outlook confronts the world. Self-destruction and war threaten the world with annihilation. Is universal destruction decreed? In the midst of it all the excessive worldly pleasures go on. Men and women refuse to become serious minded. There is no stop to “hear and hush” to the roar of cannon. Out of the harrowing scenes of the battlefield writers seek to feed the morbid curiosity of millions who have no thought of consequences.,
Fashions. – Fashions are displayed through public print for an age that is more absorbed in the fancies of the world than in its sobriety. “Suggestive” dress enamors the public eye. The spirit of the world is “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The headlong rush into earthly pleasures foredooms the world to its own destruction.
As I write, I take up the London Times of August 17, and in the fashions column there appears the following:
A very dull old rose velvet looked well in a little dress trimmed with brown fur and a touch of old gold embroidery. For evening wear some are rather bright when black and black-and-white are set on one side, but black and black-and-white models abound. Fine pale rose taffetas, delicately embroidered in silver, with puffy short sleeves in white tulle sprinkled with silver, make a youthful dance dress, and a regular Court dress was in turquoise blue velvet and tulle. But the black satin, black messeline, black net and black velvet dresses with jet trimmings were more frequent. The embroidery at a certain house is extraordinarily fine and eighteenth century in style. No coarse woolen embroidery is to be seen, but delicate silk and thread and silver and gold work on silks, satins, and messelines, and fine serge.
This is England in war, England in distress. It reads like a page from Ancient Rome, when women were doing their full share to bring a universal destruction of the Empire. The fashions and follies of the age suffer little restraint in the presence of calamities which threaten even social existence. Pleasure will not surrender its indulgences, however grave the situation.
Rivalry. – Excessive social pleasures are sources of jealousy, envy and quarrelsome relations among the yong. They do much to destroy the cordiality that should exist in social life. They break up young couples in courtship and bring dissension in the home. They beget a selfish spirit that is destructive of useful service in all the walks of life. The thought beneath a pleasure loving age is what others do for me, not what service I may render to others. Pleasure breeds discontent and ingratitude. Social disruptions and bickerings grow out of it. When sacrifices come, as they must come to the lives of all, they are borne with impatience and hatreds. There can be no ultimate satisfaction in a pleasure loving life, which creates disappointment rather than joy. First comes envy of others, then hatred of them, and more deadly still, hatred of one’s self. Such a life poisons the soul, warps the judgment, and embitters the hearts of men and women. It leads to quarrels in the home, and often ends in divorce. What is perhaps the most serious result of a life given to pleasure is the destruction in mature years and in old age of the peace and satisfaction which advancing years must have if life is to become tolerable. In the end pleasure strives for social distinction, and the advancing generation finds itself thrust aside by the new. More and more the devotees of pleasure learn that the fruits of their efforts and ambition are bitter; their attitude to life is one of regret and sorrow.
Pleasure and Learning. – Disappointment and emptiness teach pleasure nothing. When excessive it cannot learn, for it is self-absorbed. It e4nters into school life and robs the young of that application which they need so much for their intellectual advancement. It robs boys and girls of their efficiency, and leaves them the victims of an unreal world. They lose the power which enables them to resist temptation and it creates habits of life that often lead to despair.
On the other hand, happiness has a well-founded reason for its existence. It represents the fruit of right living. It is the reward of truth, service and devotion. Those who see nothing in their lives for which they may hope for happiness try worldly pleasures as a substitute. There is no way of drowning sorrow by a plunge into the whirl of a pleasure loving age. “Drowning sorrow” is the philosophy of despair. How shall this world-wide evil that is destroying usefulness and happiness be corrected?
The spirit of duty and responsibility si the antidote for the idolatrous pleasure of the age. Sometimes our young people are heard to complain that they have too many organizations in the Church. Night after night some meeting makes its demands for them. There are home preparations to absorb their leisure hours. To them duty sometimes grows irksome and some escape the responsibilities which the church puts upon all who will work. To escape responsibility is to court failure. To shirk a duty is to enter a temptation. A life of responsibility and duty is full of all the good things which God has in store for his children. A life of pleasure is full of emptiness. If the temptations of life with the long train of evils growing out of them are to be withstood, a great effort must be made to correct the excessive love for pleasure which is a besetting sin of the present age.
“But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” (Doc. and Cov. 49:20).
“And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances; not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance * * * * the fulness of the earth is yours” (Doc. and Cov. 59;15, 16).