[Greg usually prepared his talks by putting together extensive quotes from General Authorities. I suspect that is what he did with this talk.  However, it is difficult to tell from his text. This talk was made to be given over the pulpit, not necessarily to be read. Please forgive his lack of documenting sources for this reason.]

Distractions and Deceptions of the World

The world we currently live in is full of both distractions and deceptions, all of which may confuse us and lead us astray from the truth of the gospel.  It is often very difficult to know what is true and what is false.  This is found in all of the news and opinions available on the Internet.  Totally opposed so-called facts are all claiming to be true.  It is extremely confusing and misleading.  For most topics, it is hard to know what to believe at all.  Often there is some truth mixed in with lies.  How is someone to know who or what to trust?  Who has the time to thoroughly check out everything we hear and see?  Even if we had the time to investigate each and every thing we heard and saw, what source to we have to go to in order to learn the truth?  Many will refer to online sites, like Wikipedia or Snopes, but they are not always accurate.

The only source we are told to believe is the Word of God, yet there are many different sources claiming to be the Word of God.  Each different religion and often each different congregation will often view this somewhat differently, causing much confusion.

In today’s busy world, it seems like everything is available at our fingertips and in an instance.  While this may be very helpful; it may also be confusing and distracting.  If I have time for TV, I have time for scriptures.  We need to find a balance and do the right thing at the right time.  The problem is not watching bad shows or listening to inappropriate music.  The problem is letting entertainment take up what little time we have for spiritual things.  Or as Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “When things of the world crowd in, all too often the wrong things take highest priority. … Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people.  It is distraction.  He would have good people fill life with ‘good things’ so there is no room for the essential ones.”

Now, some of you may be overprogrammed with lots of activities, including good ones.  Please be careful not to over-program your children.  Turn off social media and other outside distractions from time to time to sit and talk and enjoy each other’s company.  Regularly hold a family council.

Remember, the Lord counseled us to find time to “be still, and know that I am God.”

Build absence into your lives.  Set aside time to unplug, allow yourself a space of quiet, wherein you can add to your knowledge of the Good and learn to curb your restlessness.  Build spaces of quiet into your lives and be patient, and I think you will be surprised by the results.
Avoiding distractions, the importance of focus  -  When we are distracted by the things of the world, we are robbed of time we could invest in doing good, plus we miss out on the spiritual world around us.  Distractions rob you of time that could have been invested in doing good.  The ability to focus helps us avoid distractions.

If we are so focused on the things of the world, we can miss a whole spiritual world that is all around us.  We may not be able to recognize the spiritual promptings that the Holy Ghost is anxious to give us to direct our lives and to bless others.  Conversely, if we focus on the things of the Spirit, we’re less likely to be sidetracked by the temptations and distractions of the world.

As the Lord declared, ‘Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment: Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known’.

We are often unaware of the distractions which push us in a material direction and keep us from a Christ-centered focus.  In essence, we let celestial goals get sidetracked by telestial distractions.
One of the more difficult challenges for young people, and some of us older ones alike, is to stay focused and stay on course; to finish what you have started.

Distractions and discouragement are some of Satan’s most effective tools.  He finds ways to help us make excuses as to why we can’t do this or that.  He gets us involved in wasting our time and resources in things that lead us away from improving our lives and developing our talents.  He blurs our focus by diverting our attention.  And this can happen to the very best of us.
When we keep a prayer in our hearts, we eliminate the distractions of the world and focus on spiritual things.
In today’s world we must provide quiet, reflective times for our children and teach them how to listen to the still, small voice. With all the blessings our modern age has given to us, let us not give up the things that promote the workings of the Holy Ghost: time alone to pray, ponder, meditate, and read the scriptures; and time with family undisturbed by noise, distractions, and too many activities.
There is a parade of false philosophies which are trumpeted as new and modern answers to the problems of the world.
As we are learning to discern the promptings of the Spirit, there are so many distractions.  At one time President Ezra Taft Benson reminded us that “the world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost”.  Each of us has to learn to be sensitive and to listen to the whisper.
Of course, to do this we must live close to the Spirit through prayer, study, and righteous living in order to avoid the distractions and more selfish goals which might frustrate the Lord’s design for us and cause us to forsake it.  Whatever our role is, we must seek it through righteous living and personal revelation.  We must not lean on the arm of flesh nor the philosophies of men or women.  We must have our own personal Liahona.
When Peter began to pay more attention to what was happening around him, ‘the wind boisterous,’ he began to sink.  What are the winds boisterous in our lives?  What are the things that distract us from the Savior, that turn our hearts and our minds away from Him?  It may be thinking more about pleasing our friends or other people than we do about pleasing God.  It may be the loud and confusing voices we hear on TV, in videos, in music.  Sometimes we just don’t care.  Our hearts are hard.  There will always be distractions, winds boisterous, but if we choose to turn to the Lord, to believe in Him, to follow Him, we can increase our faith.
In Lehi’s dream an already difficult journey gets more difficult when a mist of darkness arises, obscuring any view of the safe but narrow path his family and others are to follow.  It is imperative to note that this mist of darkness descends on all the travelers; the faithful and the determined ones (the elect, we might even say) as well as the weaker and ungrounded ones.  The principal point of the story is that the successful travelers resist all distractions, including the lure of forbidden paths and jeering taunts from the vain and proud who have taken those paths.  The record says that the protected “did press their way forward, continually holding fast” to a rod of iron that runs unfailingly along the course of the true path.  However dark the night or the day, the rod marks the way of that solitary, redeeming trail.
Distractions and opposition to righteousness are not just on the Internet; they are everywhere.  They affect not just the youth, but all of us.  We live in a world that is literally in commotion.  We are surrounded by obsessive portrayals of “fun and games” and immoral and dysfunctional lives.  These are presented as normal conduct in much of the media.

Sometimes it feels like we are drowning in frivolous foolishness, nonsensical noise, and continuous contention.  When we turn down the volume and examine the substance, there is very little that will assist us in our eternal quest toward righteous goals.  One father wisely responds to his children with their numerous requests to participate in these distractions.  He simply asks them, “Will this make you a better person?”

When we rationalize wrong choices, big or small, which are inconsistent with the restored gospel, we lose the blessings and protections we need and often become ensnared in sin or simply lose our way.

We should be particularly concerned with foolishness and being obsessed with ‘every new thing.’  In the Church, we encourage and celebrate truth and knowledge of every kind.  But when culture, knowledge, and social mores are separated from God’s plan of happiness and the essential role of Jesus Christ, there is an inevitable disintegration of society.  In our day, despite unprecedented gains in many areas, especially science and communication, essential basic values have eroded and overall happiness and well-being have diminished.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ inspired message distinguishing between ‘good, better, best’ provides an effective way to evaluate choices and priorities.  Many choices are not inherently evil, but if they absorb all of our time and keep us from the best choices, then they become insidious.

Even worthwhile endeavors need evaluation in order to determine if they have become distractions from the best goals.

In addition to finding time to contemplate and meditate, we also need to find a place, as mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants, that will be “a defense, and … a refuge from the storm.”  We need a special place of refuge where we can wean ourselves from the distractions of our electronic devices by unplugging them so we can connect to the Spirit of God.  It is important to be still and listen and follow the Spirit. We simply have too many distractions to capture our attention, unlike any time in the history of the world.

Everyone needs time to meditate and contemplate.  Even the Savior of the world, during His mortal ministry, found time to do so: “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”

We all need time to ask ourselves questions or to have a regular personal interview with ourselves.  We are often so busy and the world is so loud that it is difficult to hear the heavenly words “be still, and know that I am God.”
I encourage everyone, young and old, to review goals and objectives and strive to exercise greater discipline.  Our daily conduct and choices should be consistent with our goals.  We need to rise above rationalizations and distractions.  It is especially important to make choices consistent with our covenants to serve Jesus Christ in righteousness.  We must not take our eyes off or drop that ball for any reason.

This life is the time to prepare to meet God.  We are a happy, joyous people. We appreciate a good sense of humor and treasure unstructured time with friends and family.  But we need to recognize that there is a seriousness of purpose that must undergird our approach to life and all our choices.  Distractions and rationalizations that limit progress are harmful enough, but when they diminish faith in Jesus Christ and His Church, they are tragic.
Hardest of all is achieving the right mix or balance between competing good things.  No secret formula will achieve this for us.  We must avoid the ‘false balance’ that becomes a mere excuse for avoiding difficult choices.  Self-awareness, an honest assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, is critical.  Then righteous living, thoughtful meditation, and heartfelt prayer place us in the path of heavenly inspiration as we make daily decisions.  The right balance is probably different for each person and also changes for each person over time.

Set righteous goals.  Many things will compete for your attention as you pursue your course through life.  There will be endless distractions. People and things will call to you, singing the siren songs of wealth, pleasure, and power.

Success is a seductive word.  Thousands of books have been written on the subject.  They promise money, freedom, leisure, and luxury.  More utilitarian formulas advocate variations on a singular theme.  You must focus all your thoughts, feelings, and actions on your goals.  You must want your goal with all the passion of your heart.  You must focus every thought on your goal.  You must concentrate all your energy into achieving your goal.

Of course, when applied to righteous ends, these methods may be of great worth.  The problem is that in most cases the search for wealth, pleasure, and power leads to a place that may seem at first glance to be desirable, but the closer you get, the more you see it for what it is.  The price for worldly success too often comes at the price of your birthright.  Those who make that bargain will one day feel as Esau, who, after realizing what he had lost, “cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry”.

Another trap we often fall into when we become obsessed with success is that we credit the strength of our arm and power of our thought and forget the Lord, who has blessed and prospered us.

Moses told the children of Israel that one day, “when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, …  “And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; …  “And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. …  “And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish”

Do you think you can use the money you have earned in this life as currency in the next?  Put your Heavenly Father first in your life.  Commit to follow Him and obey His commandments and strive every day to become more Christlike.  Focus your efforts on obtaining heavenly riches.  To do otherwise will ultimately end in disappointment and sorrow.

I am reminded of the Savior’s parable of the man who worked hard to build wealth.  He had so many goods that he did not have a place big enough to hold them.  So he built great barns where he could store them.  His idea was that as soon as he had a safe place for all his resources, he could then retire and lead a life of leisure; eating, drinking, and being merry.  But just as he finished his buildings, “God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” 

A sobering question the Savior asked those of His day echoes through the centuries to ours: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Is money necessarily evil?  The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob answered this question.  He taught his people to “think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.”  “And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good: to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted”.

In the rush of our daily lives, we, like Marley and Scrooge, can easily get our priorities mixed up and forget the small things that are the most important.  The one we need to assist could be sitting right next to us, but we do not see that person.  Perhaps the person needing our individual attention has worked in the same office with us for years, and yet that person is invisible to us. If we become too preoccupied with the distractions that crowd around us, we may not feel the prompting when our Heavenly Father has an assignment for us.
The answer to our prayer of how to meet our children’s needs may be to more often technologically disconnect.  Precious moments of opportunity to interact and converse with our children dissolve when we are occupied with distractions.  Why not choose a time each day to disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other?  Simply turn everything off.  When you do this, your home may seem quiet at first; you may even feel at a loss as to what to do or say.  Then, as you give full attention to your children, a conversation will begin, and you can enjoy listening to each other.
Disconnect and Listen with Love  -  Unfortunately, the distractions of this world prevent many children from hearing encouraging words that could shape their view of themselves.
How to Hear the Knock  -  The scriptures often encourage us to “be still”.  But sometimes noises and distractions from the world around us can make it hard to stop and listen for that “still small voice” of the Spirit prompting us to turn to the Savior.  Don’t worry. You have the power to create those still moments in your life.

Start by finding a quiet place.  You can go outside or even just sit in your room. If you need to, listen to peaceful music or hymns or even put your headphones on without any music playing to crowd out other influences and create a few minutes of peace.

Remember what Elijah learned: “The Lord was not in the wind; … the Lord was not in the earthquake: … the Lord was not in the fire,” but the Lord spoke in the “still small voice.”

Then, wherever you are, be still.  Think about spiritual things, read the scriptures, and pray.  As the Spirit speaks to you in these quiet settings, practice recognizing those messages by writing them down or even saying them out loud to yourself.  Then act on those promptings.  The more you practice, the more you’ll understand how the Spirit speaks to you.  You’ll start to recognize promptings more often and in more places.
We live in a world that can cause us to forget who we really are.  The more distractions that surround us, the easier it is to treat casually, then ignore, and then forget our connection with God.  The Saints in Liberia have little materially, and yet they seem to have everything spiritually.

While modern technological advancements can enhance the work of the Lord and bless us and our families, we must be careful not to fall victim to their destructive side.  We must not only avoid the base and degrading content some sources contain, but we must also recognize when electronic distractions keep us from quieter, more significant uses of our time.  We must guard against becoming so attached to digital devices that we become detached from God.

Let us recognize the need for personal revelation; develop the desire for these divine communications; seek revelation through scripture study, prayer, and pondering upon the mercies of God; and obey His commandments.  Finally, we must recognize that revelation is available to anyone who is worthy and asks God in faith.

We must guard against becoming so attached to digital devices that we become detached from God.
We cannot simply point and click on or download a personal, revelatory relationship with our Heavenly Father.
One of the most difficult challenges is to stay focused and stay on course; to finish what we have started.  I am convinced that distractions and discouragement are some of Satan’s most effective tools.  He finds ways to help us make excuses about why we can’t do this or that.  He gets us involved in wasting our time and resources in things that lead us away from improving our lives and developing our talents.  He blurs our focus by diverting our attention. This can happen to the very best of you.
It is a glorious thing to be a Christian and to live as a true disciple of Christ.  Of us He said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”  To keep ourselves unspotted from the world, He expects us to avoid such worldly distractions of businesses and recreational facilities on the Sabbath day.
Sadly, some young men and young women in the Church today ignore “things as they really are” and neglect eternal relationships for digital distractions, diversions, and detours that have no lasting value.  My heart aches when a young couple; sealed together in the house of the Lord for time and for all eternity by the power of the holy priesthood; experiences marital difficulties because of the addicting effect of excessive video gaming or online socializing.  A young man or woman may waste countless hours, postpone or forfeit vocational or academic achievement, and ultimately sacrifice cherished human relationships because of mind and spirit-numbing video and online games.  As the Lord declared, “Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment … : Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known”.

The gift of the Holy Ghost helps you to see through the fog of this world and find your way back to your Father in Heaven.  The Holy Ghost helps you recognize distractions for what they are.  He also gives you strength to resist temptations, and peace when you are faced with difficult traveling conditions.  All in all, the Holy Ghost clears the window of your soul and gives you the visibility needed to avoid life-threatening accidents and destructive detours.
The feeling of love from our Heavenly Father is like a gravitational pull from heaven.  As we remove the distractions that pull us toward the world and exercise our agency to seek Him, we open our hearts to a celestial force which draws us toward Him.  Nephi described its impact as “even unto the consuming of [his] flesh”.  This same power of love caused Alma to sing a “song of redeeming love”.  It touched Mormon in such a way that he counseled us to “pray … with all the energy of our heart” that we might be filled with His love.

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