In his loneliness as the sole survivor of the annihilated Nephite nation, Moroni recorded a prophecy of conditions in the latter days, when the Book of Mormon would come forth to the earth's inhabitants:
"It shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth," he wrote. "There shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity." (Morm. 8:31)Apparently, the future had been unfolded to Moroni in graphic vision. He asserted, "Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ has shown you unto me, and I know your doing." (Morm. 8:35.)
For many parents who struggle with the challenge of raising children in righteousness against a background of increasing wickedness and spiritual peril, Moroni's predictions are real, often alarmingly so. The "pollutions" he describes are reflected in these true scenarios from recent happenings:
- The rising number of illegitimate births in the United States is correlated with a trend beginning in the mid-1960s of relaxed moral standards in movies, television and popular music. Randal A. Wright, a speaker at BYU Education Week Aug. 19 who has studied the declining standards in entertainment media, notes that in 1960, 5.3 percent of all births were illegitimate, compared with 28 percent in 1990.
- A famous jeans designer launches a national advertising campaign showing very young adolescents, half dressed in settings and postures with clear sexual connotations. The designer withdraws the campaign only after being pressured by public outrage.
- The pervasiveness of hard-core pornography on the Internet prompts Congress to debate and pass legislation to protect children from indecent material conveniently available via computer modem. But some observers consider enforcement problematical.
- In a daily newspaper, on a page of articles "written mostly by and for
localT high school students," a teen-age correspondent poses the question, "Should sex be a part of prom nights?" Responses reflect an attitude of impunity, such as: "It shouldn't be a major issue, because prom night is just supposed to be a good time. If the good time is in the hotel room, that's cool, but if not, that's OK too." (From The Arizona Republic; syndicated editorial commenting about one of the articles, reprinted in Deseret News, "Teens ignore the consequences of sex," April 10, 1996.)
Faced with widespread spiritual pollutions, what can families and individuals do to find safety and refuge from the taint of wickedness? Perhaps the answer is found in a Doctrine and Covenants passage.
Section 45 echoes the theme in Moroni 8 regarding the last days. It predicts wars and rumors of wars, love of men waxing cold, abundant iniquity, earthquakes, killings, the coming forth of the fulness of the gospel and the widespread rejection of it. The despair, hopelessness and spiritual death that result from continual violation of God's laws are prophesied in the statement, "Among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die." (See verses 26-33.)
But in the midst of the dire warnings, Christ offers this assurance: "My disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved." (D&C 45:32.)
The verse offers the hope that there are "holy places" of refuge, that safety is found in discipleship, in constantly being where one should be and at any given moment, doing what one should be doing.
The late Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: "Men in our time will never find peace or safety or salvation in the world. Wars and plagues and desolation shall continue to sweep the earth as with a flood.
"Crime and evil will increase; iniquity will abound; the love of men toward each other shall wax cold. (See Matt. 24:12.) We need not look for a day when men of themselves shall usher in an age of righteousness.
"But those who turn to Christ, who believe His gospel, and join His church, and live His laws, and who thereby worship the Father in His holy name - such shall find peace and safety and salvation. In the world men shall have tribulation; in Christ they shall find peace. (See John 16:33.)" (Conference Report, October 1980.)
The formula seems simple enough to follow; the challenge lies in exercising the self-discipline to overcome the enticements and distractions that lead one away from holy places and into doing what one knows is wrong.
"Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon," the Lord commands in the Doctrine and Covenants. "But verily, thus saith the Lord, let not your flight be in haste, but let all things be prepared before you; and he that goeth, let him not look back lest sudden destruction shall come upon him." (D&C 133:14-15.)
The passage alludes to an Old Testament incident that might be viewed as an analogy for escaping spiritual peril. In Genesis 19, the Lord commands Lot to take his family and leave Sodom lest they "be consumed in the iniquity of the city." (Verse 15.) Lot and his daughters go to a mountain, where they are preserved, but his wife looks back and becomes a pillar of salt. (See verses 15-30.)
Thus, it seems that sure safety can only be found in unequivocal rejection of the world's wickedness and by embracing and living the teachings of Christ.
On this week's Church News cover, the family of Pres. Scott R. Jenkins of the Salt Lake Stake is pictured on a mountain peak. The sky, ominously overcast at twilight, could symbolize the spiritual danger in the world. Yet the countenances of the family members reflect the joy of being together and of having escaped iniquity by standing in holy places.
Pres. Jenkins and his wife, Sandy, find that remaining on safe ground depends on time spent together as a family in righteous endeavors, "to have our family prayers and home evenings, to read the scriptures together."
"We encourage our children - and they are eager - to go to seminary in high school," he added. "They find that to be a spiritual haven, and they enjoy being there."
Perhaps the holiest place on earth is the temple.
"We go there as often as we can," Pres. Jenkins said, and our daughters enjoy going to perform baptisms for the dead."
The family lives in a multi-cultural stake, with many residents who have immigrated from other nations. For Pres. and Sister Jenkins, standing in holy places does not mean isolating oneself from the company of those who have not yet embraced the gospel. Rather, they strive to follow the counsel of Church leaders in extending friendship to others and in sharing the gospel with them as opportunity arises. But, they point out, that can only be done by clinging to righteousness in one's own life.
In his classic sermon, "Stand Ye in Holy Places," President Harold B. Lee warned: "You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is. You must be sure, if you would rescue the man, that you yourself are setting the example of what you would have him be. You cannot light a fire in another soul unless it is burning in your own soul." (Conference Report, April 1973.)