Thursday, January 24, 2019

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the challenges of society and moral discipline

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (born January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"In most of the world, we have been experiencing an extended and devastating economic recession. It was brought on by multiple causes, but one of the major causes was widespread dishonest and unethical conduct, particularly in the U.S. housing and financial markets. Reactions have focused on enacting more and stronger regulation. Perhaps that may dissuade some from unprincipled conduct, but others will simply get more creative in their circumvention. There could never be enough rules so finely crafted as to anticipate and cover every situation, and even if there were, enforcement would be impossibly expensive and burdensome. This approach leads to diminished freedom for everyone. In the memorable phrase of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, 'We would not accept the yoke of Christ; so now we must tremble at the yoke of Caesar.'
"In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay. Societies will struggle in vain to establish the common good until sin is denounced as sin and moral discipline takes its place in the pantheon of civic virtues.
"Moral discipline is learned at home. While we cannot control what others may or may not do, the Latter-day Saints can certainly stand with those who demonstrate virtue in their own lives and inculcate virtue in the rising generation."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Moral Discipline," General Conference October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Christofferson's premise is that financial, economic, and societal challenges are the result of "widespread dishonest and unethical conduct." Governments respond by trying to enact more regulations to control behavior; but that only evokes more creative misbehavior. As the rules and controls pile up, we not only struggle with the burden of enforcement, but inevitably see a loss of general freedom.

It's been said that "you can't legislate morality." You can only attempt to control behavior. But the underlying motivations must come from a well-defined moral foundation in order to truly find peace and success:

And so it becomes ever more critical to "inculcate virtue in the rising generation." Without that foundation being established, society will continue to struggle mightily to define a proper course.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

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