Perspectives and principles

Sometimes it's just a matter of perspective.

To whit: In America, the day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the kickoff of the Christmas season. Certainly in mind — if not in bodies — millions turn their attention to shopping, decorating and countless other preparatory activities as they begin the one-month final countdown to the year's biggest holiday.

But also in America, the day after Thanksgiving has become a time for college football. College athletic departments, television networks and team boosters, seizing on what for many is a four-day weekend, have targeted that Friday as a prime time to draw large audiences to their contests.

In some homes, those traditions can create conflict.

Sensing a busy month ahead, a wife may target the day after Thanksgiving to get a jump on the season. "Why not," she wonders, "get our home completely decorated?"

Believing that he's just survived a busy month, a husband may have his heart set on a couple of hours on the couch, TV remote in hand, to enjoy what promises to be some great football.

That, obviously, portends a conflict.

But even if this husband is a sensitive man who believes he is thinking about his wife's needs — there can be problems.

"We should all pitch in and help with the decorating," he proudly says to himself. "I don't have to sit on the couch and watch football. Heck no, I'll be happy to help decorate — while I'm watching football. In fact, I'll even keep the sound off."

Unaware of his great "concession," his wife is glad to have her husband's help decorating — but wonders, at first to herself and then aloud, "Why do we have to have the TV on? Can't we just enjoy the decorating?"

Conflict continues.

There are, of course, a number of practical solutions to this conflict — better communication being a prime one. But for our purposes here, the point is not to solve the conflict. Rather, it is to highlight the notion of varying perspectives.

One cannot definitively and unequivocally state that either the husband or the wife was right. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of perspective.

But sometimes it isn't.

When we rationalize that a clear choice between right and wrong is just a matter of perspective, we step squarely onto that slippery slope that slides almost irreversibly toward spiritual destruction.

The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches and provides the tools for us to return and live in eternal joy with our Heavenly Father. But that clearly requires an understanding of what God requires, the willingness to do what God requires and the integrity to become what God requires.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve in the October 2000 general conference described it this way:

"The final judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts — what we have 'done.' It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts — what we have 'become.' It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become."

Making correct choices — those that lead us to put off the natural man and become what God would have us become — is not a matter of perspective. Rather, those choices are made as a matter of principle: God's principles. And these principles are both unchanging and clearly defined. No matter how much we may wish otherwise, wrong will never be right, bad will never be good and wickedness will never be happiness. (See Alma 41:10.)

While the choices might not always seem easy, they are always essential. As observed by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, "God's plan is not the plan of pleasure; it is the plan of happiness." (Conference Report, October 2000.)