Thursday, July 7, 2011

Futility of Morality

"Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me."
—Hymn #166, Abide with Me!

It is discouraging to try again and again to do the right thing, to follow the teachings of Christ and, again and again, look around and see those who act for themselves prospering.

I have been reading a little Nietzsche lately, and while I know he is chock-full of the philosophies of men with almost nothing of God in his words, somehow what he says about the master- vs. slave-morality resonates with what I observe. I feel the pull of just letting go and doing what seems best for me, rather than trying to act as I believe God would wish.

Job, Jeremiah, David and even Joseph Smith witnessed the seeming triumph of wickedness over good. It is hard when you have done everything as thoughtfully and carefully as you can, have turned the other cheek and forgiven, have tried to rise above life's disappointments, but your life is nothing like what is promised. Either there is something wrong with the system, or there is something wrong with you. And deep down, I can't believe there is something wrong with the system.

I want to clarify that I'm not looking at specific lack of blessings. I'm just looking at an overall trend of what I have accomplished or been blessed to receive versus what I have been promised.

But despite repeated failure, there is something deep in me that cannot concede defeat. I know what path I have chosen, and I know there is no option of going back now. Even if I fail to teach my children morality because they are surrounded with immoral success, even if I conduct the rest of my life alone, even if I never succeed in overcoming my personality flaws that keep me from realizing happiness (alone or not), I will trust my Savior.

Oh, Thou who changest not, leave me not comfortless!


  1. Success gained through immoral behavior. Anything from lying to obtain good standing in the Church to bullying to gain popularity.

  2. We should act for ourselves if we don't who will? The trick is to align those actions with God. Personal and spiritual growth are required to receive the blessings we have been promised and from what I know about your life you are doing that now. From my limited vantage point I don't see repeated failure I see rapid progress. Am I missing something?

  3. "But despite repeated failure, there is something deep in me that cannot concede defeat. I know what path I have chosen, and I know there is no option of going back now."

    This is you winning and being successful. This is strength beyond anything Nietzsche understood.

  4. Howard—Acting for ourselves is not a divine attribute, I think. We are to act for God and let God act for us. Easier said than done.

    And thanks for the support. There are external incidents that I don't share here which are definite defeats.

    That's a good point, Bohdan. I'm going to have to think that one over. Because if that is success, it feels an awful lot like defeat.

  5. I agree with Bohdan. I am not sure if this is what he meant, but to me, defeat is merely when we stop trying. As long as we keep trying, that is success, no matter the actual outcome.

  6. SilverRain No it probably wouldn't be a divine attribute. I can see God's hand in many things but paying my bills doesn't seem to one of them. I'm not familiar with acting for God and God acting for me unless you mean spiritually. I'm skeptical of the concept as applied to the material world it sounds psychologically unhealthy. Can you point me to doctrine or scripture?

  7. The Devil takes care of his own in the time frame that he can.

    God will take care of His own, in His own due time.

    Does that seem pat and simplistic? Maybe. But after all, we are told that this life is the time for us to prepare to meet God. (Alma 34:32)

    We have to be wary of the desire for instant or at least very soon gratification. That is not the way God works. Maybe we don't want to be tried and tested. But that is the way God works. We have the choice to try to follow the way God works, or to give in to the desire to get it all now, much like the prodigal son.

    The system is not broken, but our rewards are deferred. And we will have a long time to enjoy them when we get them.


  8. I don't know if you've read my post on called "The Yellow Brick Road Syndrome." I've learned recently that the only blessing we can be guaranteed in this life for righteous decisions is a clean conscience and the companionship of the Spirit. Beyond those two blessings, the Lord will sometimes bless us in other ways for doing what's right. Other times, He'll lead into further furnaces of afflictions. I've experienced that (probably not as much as you, though). I've come to terms with the fact that I can't make my life go well by righteous living. That's beyond my control, and God has plans I know nothing of, and those plans may not be pleasant for me. But He is still my God, and still worthy of worship and obedience.

  9. I don't know what your particular sorrows are, but nothing I've experienced is worse than the loss of the spirit of God in my life. My own choices have often left me depressed and full of despair, when I've become impatient for blessings I thought were overdue and I've "taken matters into my own hands".

    More recently I've found that while many of those same "overdue" blessings have still not materialized, my life is full of other blessings, my heart is full of joy (mostly), I'm at peace with a merciful and kind father in heaven, and I am absolutely convinced that His plan for me is much better than my own. I think I'm honestly accepting "thy will be done" for the most part and I'm finding great peace in that.

    I believe we are frustrated when we put our plans ahead of what God plans for us. For instance, I used to fast & pray for particular blessings, and then be disappointed in the whole process when my blessings weren't granted. Now I fast & pray to know what His plan is for me in a particular situation first, then pray for the blessings I need to accomplish HIS plan. And you know what? Those prayers are answered every time. And they result in much more happiness, here and now, as well as hoped for eternal happiness.

    We don't know what God's plan is for all those around us. (For that matter, we don't even know what His plan is for ourselves.) So we will experience constant frustration if we observe what little we can in others lives and try to compare our "blessings" with theirs; it's an invalid comparison. But if we sincerely turn our hearts to the God of the universe and allow Him to put things into our life, He will then be able to accomplish His work in our life, change us into what He sent us here to become, and do what we came here to do, and then take us home to enjoy the eternal results of what we've become. If we focus just on what we want to do/get/have/experience on this little earthly sojourn then we'll likely experience a lot of frustration. We have our agency, God won't force us to turn to Him, but until we do, His hands are tied to a great extent, and he can't really accomplish the changes within our souls that he sent us here for. He can do no miracle until there is sufficient faith to let Him do His miracles in our life.

    I believe life is all about faith, trust and love. He will continue to put things into our life that are calculated to get our attention, to convince us to have enough faith to trust Him, to love Him more than anything else, and to put His will above everything else in our lives. Once that happens we will then accomplish everything he sent us here do do and to become.

    And once that happens we won't even notice if someone else, who maybe hasn't had that change of heart, gets some material "blessing" instead of us. We trust that everything He does in our life is "fair" and we know He loves us and we have His spirit to comfort, strengthen, teach and protect us. What could be better than that?

  10. I honestly don't think I'm looking for instant gratification or particular blessings that I have envisioned. The Lord has made particular promises to me, ones that are specific and clear. And while I know that part of faith is waiting upon the Lord's time, that makes it no easier. I am not demanding blessings, I am pleading with Him much as Joseph, Jeremiah, and many others did. I think that yearning after promised blessings is not a sin, so long as one recognizes that it is His call. And for whatever reason He is waiting, it will be for good.

    I am not frustrated because I am putting God's plans behind mine. I am frustrated because I have trusted Him and stepped into the darkness only to stumble again and again and again. In my life at this moment, the reward for faith is punishment. I know I am not the only one who has experienced this, and I trust that it is for a reason, but the point of my post is that EVEN IF IT ISN'T, it changes nothing. I have committed to do and be His disciple, and if I die without realizing the blessings He has promised, that doesn't change.

    I am not His disciple for the blessings. I am His disciple because He is worth my all and more.

  11. Jeffrey—I have read your post, and have been meaning to comment on it for some time. I love what you teach there, and believe it true.

    There is one part that I don't understand, and I'll elaborate there.


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