In the Book of Mormon there is a story about a man who desired to become the king over the Nephites (see Alma 46-47). He gathered together a group of his like-minded followers and came up with a plan to overthrow the legally organized system of government.
He was discovered, confronted, and after violent resistance, escaped to live with the Lamanites.
Unwilling to let go of his desires for kingship, he devised a plan to ingratiate himself with the king of the Lamanites. The unwitting king, power hungry himself, fell right into the trap and lost his mortal life and the leadership of his people.
While a cautionary tale of what can happen when people become fixated on having power over others, there is another message I have recently gleaned from this story.
It has to do with a word we don’t use much these days. Some of our prophets have uttered it and I wonder if we might not be wise to add it to our vocabulary. It describes exactly what goes on in our modern, sophisticated (hmmm, maybe this word is related) world.
SOPHISTRY – subtly deceptive reasoning or argument
|O, the trouble a little member can make.|
As I understand, it is the taking of a truth and twisting it (sometimes ever so slightly) to fit some desire that is less than righteous.
For instance, there are many in our world – government, religious, social, etc. – that would have us believe it is just fine for a man and woman to live together without the contract of marriage. After all, loving someone is what is important. If there is no marriage license, well, that’s alright if they love each other.
And the truth is, we have all come to accept these arrangements because they have become so common.
For a second example, I will refer you to this post by my lovely daughter. She has hit a home-run with her insight on this matter.
I submit that sophistry is a HUGE force in many aspects of this world. Consider how often politicians – on both sides – say what is expedient for the moment and then change their tune when the smoke drifts another direction.
But you may wonder: is sophistry really that harmful? If a slight twisting of the truth accomplishes a good thing, isn’t it appropriate?
My response is to cite the end of the story begun at the top of the message.
When the rebellious Nephite ascended to the throne of the Lamanite nation, he did it by orchestrating the death of the Lamanite king. His deceptions were undiscovered and he was lauded as someone who would successfully fill the old king’s shoes in leadership.
Not satisfied with the kingship alone, this wicked man also went to the widow of the dead king and offered to “take her to wife” that she might not be left alone. She accepted – not knowing that the very man who had murdered her husband had just become her new spouse. Had she taken a little time to consider recent events or ask a few questions, she might not have been so accepting of the proposal.
When we let the sophistries of the world corrupt our vision of truth we are bound for difficult times. Instead of seeing what IS, we begin to see what someone wants us to see. The more we see it, the more it becomes what we believe is true.
BUT IT ISN’T.
As a Latter-day Saint I am often accused of hating different groups of people. It is not true. There are actions that LDS believers cannot accept but we are willing (and try to) love all people.
|Used to be people believed this more|
but not so much today.
I can tolerate many things but I cannot accept as right any action or belief that violates the laws of God as given by His prophets and the scriptures. Yes, I am a sinner and have my own problems to work out, but that does not mean I have given up trying to overcome my weakness as I encourage and help others to do.
The results of sophistry are always negative to individuals and societies. The fall of every great civilization began with little, subtle arguments that led to great changes in morality. Fighting against that which corrupts and destroys is not hatred, it is loyalty to God.
|The way of worldliness.|
To close, I offer a quote from a modern prophet of God. He specifically addresses some of the sophistry that invades the lives of all who live on the earth.
I need not remind you that the world we are in is a world of turmoil, of shifting values. Shrill voices call out for one thing or another in betrayal of time-tested standards of behavior. The moral moorings of our society have been badly shaken. So many of the youth of the world, and likewise so many of their elders, listen only to the seductive voice of self-gratification. You single young women face tremendous challenges, and we know it is not easy for you. I cannot say enough of appreciation for your determination to live by the standards of the Church, to walk with the strength of virtue, to keep your minds above the slough of filth which seems to be moving like a flood across the world. Thank you for knowing there is a better way. Thank you for the will to say no. Thank you for the strength to deny temptation and look beyond and above to the shining light of your eternal potential. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1995)
You might also be interested in this message from Elder Dallin H. Oaks, given recently at BYU-Idaho.