The Greatest Danger

I love good questions; both answering them, and hearing others thoughtfully try. I have often asked, “what is your greatest fear?” For the longest time, I considered mine to be letting down someone who depends on me; someone who trusts me and should trust me…  But another has pervaded my thought.

I now think what scare me most is something more subtle and much more personal. It happens inside our minds and by our own choice. Put simply, it is desensitization. Whether to sin, to the present, or any other good thing, it is what allows us to act in opposition to deeper, truer understanding. 

Desensitization is a process. Just as self-discipline is like a muscle that strengthens with consistent use, every single time we perform below what we truly desire, we lower our threshold for what we find satisfactory. Over time, what we once held in high esteem becomes negatable. Through many tiny offenses to our sense of purpose or our moral code, we become desensitized.

Desensitization is weakness. One bad choice makes it easier to follow up with more choices that you know you will regret later. The process of desensitization stands in oppositions to the process of strengthening self-will through exerting initiative, and one of these processes is always working. It sets us apart. You will find that the most intrinsically powerful people you know of are function on the high side of the spectrum. They have learned to recognize the danger in the small things where they are prone to rationalize, and they have learned to hold to a higher standard.

The idea that we can reach a pre-determined point and stay there is a myth. It’s not enough to aim for the minimum threshold with which we are comfortable because in our fallen state, we will make mistakes, and occasionally underachieve. If we are not actively trying to improve, we are falling backwards. It may be so gradual as to be practically incomprehensible, but if not caught, the tragedy can be limitless.

It is difficult to recognize where we have become latent. We teach ourselves to either heed or disregard the conscience of our subconscious over a lifetime. To ignore the slightest sensation that something is wrong, facilitates the eventual feeling that nothing is wrong, which is why it is so difficult to recognize that you began ignoring it the first place! To wake up to the error of your ways requires intense introspection, perceptivity, or a strong—often painful—stimulus.

Desensitization is the process by which we take our blessings for granted. It contributes to every rationalization or excuse we make.

I wrote this as a missionary is Lousiana shortly after hurricane Harvey devastated the area. At the time we were involved in relief efforts mucking out houses and I thought of this principle:
5 Sep. 2017 – “I have so missed hard, dirty work. Give me a claw hammer and I am the happiest person in the world. It is so fun! We go in, hug the crying homemakers, yessir the stressed homeowners, and the remaining 8 hours our attention is turned to ruined carpet, drywall, flooring, insulation, refrigerators, etc.  Pretty much we go into soaked houses and rip out everything within a foot of the water line. Simple right? Well, it would be if it was your typical sweet and toothy swamp water. Unfortunately it’s busted septic systems, and dead hogs, armadillos and pit bulls. Being the first work crews in, they say it hasn’t even started to stink. It’s all good though cause in a couple minutes you can”t smell anything. So as I sat among friends, thoroughly enjoying a brisket sandwich, I pondered this phenomenon, that when I first walked into this room, my olfactory faculties were telling me this environment was not conducive to continuing life, but now I was chilling eating lunch here. An application came to mind because for all things there is a spiritual parallell: When we begin to sin, there are red lights flashing in our minds. We may feel guilt, and our spirits cringe. When we ignore these signals, over time, they become easier and easier to disregard. Spiritual desensitization may not take minutes, like getting used to the smell of flood water, but as we continue to sin, there will come a time that we forget we ever knew that what we are doing is wrong.
     All too often we consciously consent to tolerate only a portion of that which offends our spirits. We rationalize that to a certain degree it is acceptable. We don’t acknowledge that we are killing the delicate and sensitive part of our spirit that would protect us from evil and bring us so much greater light and joy in the future. My friends, every one of us does this, and every one of us can do better. My limited perspective will counsel that some things truly are insignificant, but it is between each individual and God to determine what is or is not harmful to you and those who’s lives you influence. Prayerfully poder what changes you can make. What changes can bring you closer to our Savior and bless you and your family? What is limiting your progression? Remember the principle of desensitization.”
We will never sin without being warned by the Spirit first. Listen, I beg you. Ignoring the Spirit is responsible for the greatest heartache I have ever experienced in my life. The devil works through many ways to desensitize us and lead us with a flaxen cord down to Hell, as described in Alma 28: 21-22 (“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateththeir souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.)

To receive the blessings and happiness our Father desires to give us, we must prayerfully recognize that we need to change, and with the strength of the Lord, change. If we understand and embrace the law of sacrifice, we will be able to withstand the traps of the Devil, regardless of how weak we are, because Christ will make up the difference.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work. I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself. My will shall become your will. My heart shall become your heart.'”

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My mind has recently been drawn back to a time years ago as I lay in bed, preparing to sleep. I contemplated my existence on this earth, the purpose of my life, my potential as a daughter of God, and what lay ahead. I contemplated the undeterminable period of time I spent preparing to come to this earth, to be tested and tried, to experience pain and joy, to live in a state of mortality, with no recollection of my existence before birth, or surety of life after death. I was to experience all this and so much more within a mere century. Could I have imagined just a few decades would seem so long? Weeping silently and softly, I wondered how on my own attic floor mattress, I didn’t feel home. A parable unfolded in my head–based on something I’d been taught before–and it helped me understand just a little bit more.

Surely, before passing through the veil separating premortal and mortal existence, I thought of earth life as I would mortally consider the taking of a scholarly test. You walk into the testing center–which of itself is not a particularly fun place–and alongside many other test-takers, you demonstrate what you know, extrapolate your knowledge to guess what you don’t, and in a matter of minutes you walk out of the testing center back to the trees, wind and sunshine of real life. What you may have spent hours preparing for determines your performance in that comparably short test. Its end brings relief.

Imagine you are stuck in this testing center, but while inside, you have no understanding of the expanse outside this shuttered building from whence you just came. You are aware that the test is timed, but you have little surety of the precise length of time. It would be miserable. However, a lucky few have other test takers approach them and explain that this is only one testing center on a vast planet. They would point out the light, seeping weakly through the blinded windows and they would tell you of the sun which is its source, set in space infinitely larger than that contained in these walls. They would point to the test in your hand and tell you, “That test is the reason you are here. Remember your preparation and do your best, and you will come out of this center with no regrets, and again see the sun.” Even choosing to believe that there is a purpose to this test and that it will be worth every effort, the time spent in the testing center would still be tedious. We certainly could never be satisfied staying forever. But because our perspective is limited only to the time spent there, it would literally be forever. Thus we would never be satisfied.

Though the scale is many trillion times too small, this example helped me understand that earth is like a testing center. The rest of the world–its mountains and cultures, richness and diversity, sun and wind and snow–represents the realm in which we were created; the sphere in which we are meant to inhabit and thrive. It is not a realm where time exists as we know it. It is an eternal sphere, and we are eternal beings. We have been placed here for a time that is so relatively insignificant, we could never fathom just how tiny a fraction of eternity our entire mortal life will be. We were not created to exist here. This realm is not the sphere we are designed to inhabit. This is not the end to which we were made. We are children of God, and contained in us is the potential to become Gods and Goddesses just like our Heavenly Father and Mother. As they are eternal, so are we. Eternal beings are not meant to dwell in in time or even mortality. We were conceived and raised in eternity. That is our home, and it is back to that existence we will return after this brief time here. We will then be home, and mortality will seem as the blink of an eyelash. We will immediately wonder how we ever got distracted by such insignificant things that may have even seemed important to us during earth life. We will rejoice in our righteous decisions, for they will color our eternal existence, but the pains and loneliness and turmoil of that limited and fallen sphere will fall from our minds, leaving only understanding to be applied here, home, eternally.

Right now, we aren’t at that point yet, but we have such a rare and blessed opportunity to determine what that moment will be like, based on what we do now. Our time is limited, and the test is in our hand. It is a format unique to only you, but it is open book. Though others may fool around and deny the importance of those problems you diligently attempt to solve, you’ve chosen to believe that your effort will be worth it. Your eyes, your mind and your heart are fixed. You know that the Sun awaits beyond those doors, so you endure with diligence. When you finally feel its warmth and experience His light, you will have no regrets.