A powerful paradigm shift is occurring and disciples of Christ must learn to recognize good from evil amid Lucifer’s tactics, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told students at Brigham Young University during a campus devotional on Feb. 7.
“One of the most cunning aspects of the adversary’s efforts to thwart our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness is his deceitful teaching, that there is no evil influence or devil, and his attempt to redefine evil as good and good as evil, darkness as light and light as darkness, bitter as sweet, and sweet as bitter,” said Elder Cook. “This is sometimes called a paradigm shift — or ‘when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new or different way’ thus portraying things to be exactly the opposite of what they really are.”
Speaking in the Marriott Center on the BYU campus, Elder Cook said Lucifer’s only hope of success is through a paradigm shift or values inversion — characterizing the Father’s plan as resulting in grief and misery and Lucifer’s plan as resulting in joy and happiness.
“The truth is, not only do the enemies of Father’s plan attempt to undermine the doctrine and principles of the plan, but they also attempt to mischaracterize the blessings that flow from the plan,” he said. “Their basic effort is to make that which is good, righteous and joyful, seem utterly miserable.”
Elder Cook then shared some of the adversary’s efforts to mischaracterize and undermine the blessings f living according to the Father’s plan.
Word of Wisdom
Recognizing the understanding that has come over the last few decades, Elder Cook reminded listeners of the distortion — or paradigm shift — that used to be. One example was the glamorization of cigarette smoking in the 1920s. It wasn’t until 1964 — 43 years after President Heber J. Grant, inspired by the Lord in 1921, encouraged members to more fully live the Word of Wisdom — that the Surgeon General of the United States concluded cigarette smoking is a hazard to health.
“As if cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, and an opiate epidemic were not harmful enough to society, we now see the forces of evil pushing legalization of recreational marijuana,” Elder Cook said.
It is through following the laws of God that a person will find ultimate joy and happiness, rather than grief and misery.
“It is fairly common in today’s world, in another paradigm shift, to trumpet alternative choices in a positive way that are in direct conflict with [the Father’s] plan and are unfavorable to marriage and family,” he said.
Drawing from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Elder Cook spoke of family being ordained of God. He reminded listeners that “marriage between a man and woman is essential to God’s eternal plan, and that children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”
Elder Cook spoke of the paradigm shift that targets women by painting motherhood as a “dead-end road of drudgery” and targets men through painting fatherhood as unimportant and fidelity “old-school.”
“The alienation and objectification of pornography is an example of immoral conduct being substituted for the sacred institution of marriage,” he said. “It underscores the horrific turning from truth and righteousness that the adversary seeks. Inappropriate alternative choices are painted as appropriate in helping to achieve the worldly goals of freedom and equality.”
Elder Cook spoke of the worldwide decline in population. He asked students to stand if they are the oldest child in their family.
“In today’s world, in many countries, but not the United States, most of the rest of you, who are still seated, would never have been born,” he told the crowd.
Then, Elder Cook had everybody who is the third or later child in their family stand.
“You would not have been born, even in the United States, if the current trends applied. Can you see why they call it the ‘demographic winter?’ ”
Elder Cook told of an experience he had while visiting Jerusalem last October.
“We visited the Children’s Memorial Museum, which is part of the World Holocaust Remembrance Center,” he said. “Elder Holland and I, together with two American Jewish leaders, laid a remembrance wreath.”
As they moved through the Children’s Memorial, the first names of the children and their age at death was announced one after another with a background of music that portrays the “terrible atrocity.” Elder Cook said it is believed that over one million Jewish children were killed during the Holocaust and as he visited the museum, he was “overcome with emotion and completely devastated.”
“Standing outside to regain my composure I reflected on the horror of the experience and suddenly realized that in the United States alone there are as many abortions every two years as the number of Jewish children killed in the Holocaust, during the Second World War.”
Recognizing that the motives and intent are entirely different — that the Jewish children were killed because they were Jews and there is “no analogue to this in all history,” Elder Cook said that the intensity of his feeling was about the loss of children.
“Bringing children into the world is a sacred part of our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness,” he said. “We are so numbed and intimidated by the immensity of the practice of abortion, that many of us have pushed it to the back of our minds and try to keep it out of our consciousness. Clearly the adversary is attacking the value of children on many levels.”
Abortion needs to be approached very carefully, Elder Cook said, adding that it is a problem that will probably not be solved by personal condemnation or judgmental accusations.
“Some have cautioned — do not judge a ship or men or women, without understanding the length of the voyage and the storms they have encountered,” he said. “I might add, many who engage in this deplorable conduct do not have a testimony of the Savior or knowledge of the Father’s plan.
“However, for those who believe we are accountable to God, and even for many of those not of our faith who are secular but pride themselves on being on the so-called ‘right side of history,’ this has become a tragedy of monumental proportions. When you combine it with the demographic winter that we have just explored, it is a serious moral blot on our society.”
Recognizing decisions — such as the number and spacing of children — should be made prayerfully by husbands and wives, Elder Cook said, and “such decisions should never be judged by outsiders.”
“Some faithful saints are not able to have children or have the opportunity to marry,” he said. “They will receive every blessing at the ultimate banquet of consequences. Nevertheless, Lucifer has supported abortion and convinced many people in a horrific paradigm shift that children represent lost opportunity and misery, instead of joy and happiness.” Latter-day Saints must be at the forefront of changing hearts and minds on the importance of children, the apostle taught.
“In all marriages and in raising children there are challenges and sacrifices,” he said. “But the rewards both in this life and in the eternities, are breathtakingly beautiful. They emanate from a loving Father in Heaven.”
Prospering in the land
“Along with having the Spirit, sacred teachings of the Church establish ‘having sufficient for our needs’ as the best measure of temporal prosperity,” he said. “Lucifer’s paradigm shift here is to elevate the seeking of great wealth and the acquisition of highly visible luxury products. Some seem absolutely driven to achieve the ‘lifestyle of the rich and famous.’ Excess wealth is not promised to faithful members, nor does it usually bring happiness.”
Some achieve wealth as the result of very worthwhile and appropriate pursuits, he said, and use that wealth to bless mankind and further the Lord’s purposes.
“Wise financial principles include seeking the kingdom of God first, working, planning and spending wisely, planning for the future, and using wealth to build up the kingdom of God,” he said.
Elder Cook said it is important to pay an honest tithe, live on less than a person earns, learn to distinguish between needs and wants, develop and live within a budget with planning for some of the unexpected, and to be honest in all financial affairs.
Lucifer’s objective is to undermine the Father’s plan
“In addition to portraying blessings as misery, Lucifer’s objective is to undermine the Father’s plan and destroy faith in Jesus Christ and His doctrine,” Elder Cook said. “The assault on the Bible and the divinity of Jesus Christ has never been more pronounced in my lifetime than it is today.”
That is why it is so important to build upon a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.
“It is one thing to be misled by the adversary,” Elder Cook said. “It is another to be one of his mercenaries.”
It is important to not be distracted by a little status, money, praise or fleeting fame.
“Bad choices result in a banquet with bitter, rancid, nasty and miserable results,” he said. “Compare this to the glorious banquet of consequences that are promised to you who are faithful. You will be filled with the glory of the Lord, sanctified by the Spirit and the renewing of your body, and all that the Father hath will be given you.
“Such a banquet of consequences is where the spiritual food we feast upon is delicious, savory, sweet, succulent, nourishing and fulfilling and will allow our hearts to rejoice.”