Friday, December 14, 2012

What Do We Do Now?

Thanks to facebook and twitter I've seen a lot of reactions to the horrific acts carried out today in Newtown, CT. Most reactions to this senseless act of violence (are there any sensible acts of violence?) seem to fall into two groups. First, there are the people who mourn with those who mourn, i.e. those who send their thoughts and prayers to those directly affected. Second, there are those who propose answers to the question, "What should we do now in order to prevent this from happening again." Naturally the two groups are not mutually exclusive. I think that both reactions are warranted and helpful in moving the country through this tragedy in a way that is respectful to those affected as well as productive in terms of creating a greater sense of unity and purpose for the population as a whole.

The first response is invaluable. These kinds of acts shake the very core of our humanity as we ask how any member of our race could enact such evil. As we question the goodness of our race in general, it brings me hope to see people coming together to create this solidarity and becoming a community of mourners. Doing this can and will help the American people on the whole make sense of what has happened and get through it in a way that will make our country stronger.

The second class of response is similarly helpful as it addresses the problem of moving forward head on. We recognize that there is some kind of deficiency in the way we the people operate, and so we strive to fill that deficiency with new and improved policies.

From what I've seen there are two main issues that people seem to be bringing up:

1) gun control 
2) mental health 

Naturally there are many differing opinions about the specifics of what we should do with these issues, which opposition of course carries with it the possibility assurance of contentious argument. The truth is these questions don't have obviously simple answers, though that doesn't stop people on both sides from pretending that they do. I have my opinions, but they are not what I want to talk about here. I agree that these issues need to be talked about, but, frankly, I'm not really in a position to do anything about them myself.

So for me the more important question is what can I do? What should my response to this situation be? I've thought a lot about this, and to answer that question, I'd like to quote some of the words of Ezra Taft Benson. 

"We are commanded by God to take this gospel to all the world. That is the cause that must unite us today. Only the gospel will save the world from the calamity of its own self-destruction. Only the gospel will unite men of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family." (qtd. in L. Tom Perry, "Proclaim My Gospel from Land to Land", April 1989)

I firmly believe that learning about and putting into practice the doctrines of the gospel of Christ can bring peace both to the individual and the collective whole.

For the human race collectively the gospel can bring peace in unity, because living the gospel doesn't just affect the way we act, it affects who we are at our central core. Instead of taming, corralling, and limiting the sphere of influence of the evil impulses within us, it roots out those evil impulses altogether and changes our hearts. Such change of heart, were it to take place on a broad scale, would lead to a much more charitable and loving world. We would stop caring so much about number one and look for ways to serve and uplift those around us. Followers of Christ teach and preach many things, but the end goal of them all is love. Making us into a loving people is the purpose of Christ's teachings. As Paul said of charity:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)

If I have not charity, I am nothing. The gospel teaches love. After what happened in Newtown, I think we all agree that we, as a people, could use a little more love.

For the individual, an understanding of the truths of eternity taught by Christ and his prophets can provide a peace and comfort that is unparalleled. In the words of Christ:

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)

The truth of the matter is, bad things happen, and they happen to the very best of people. People like small, innocent schoolchildren. They happen because while on Earth we are given agency, the gift of choice, and some people choose to act poorly. God doesn't force or demand or even cajole. But when choices are made that lead to bad things happening, He's there to comfort us. And it's not comfort as the world giveth, but rather a peace "which passeth understanding, [and that] shall keep [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Now I can't say that I've ever personally experienced a tragedy on par with the events of today in Newtown. But because of the personal trials and tragedies that I have had to face, I can say unequivocally that God is there. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and it can bring peace, hope, love and comfort to us even when we're in the darkest nights of our anguish. All wrongs will be made right in and through Jesus Christ. As Joseph B. Wirthlin said:

"Each of us will have our own Fridays--those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays. But I testify in the name of the One who conquered death--Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come." ("Sunday Will Come", Oct. 2006)

So for me, the answer to the question "what do we do now?" is proclaim the gospel. Share the joy and hope and peace that I find in learning, understanding and applying the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. Others more capable than I will figure out the logistics of the appropriate response in terms of public policy.


  1. Well written, Sammy D. This was very inspirational and brought hope to a terrible and tragic day. Thank you.

  2. Thanks so much for this Sam. I needed a reminder :).

  3. At the risk of entering a very long comment, may I ruminate a little? One of the lesser, but widespread sad results of this is event is the number of people who have said something like, "Why would or could God allow something like this to happen?" While we know the answer, it is difficult to voice that answer. To those of us who know, your answer is sufficient, but to those who do not understand, perhaps there is a little more we can say. First of all much of 3 Nephi 17 shows how much Jesus loves each of us, but verses 11,12,20, 21, 23, 24 speak of the little children. I quote,

    "11 And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought.

    12 So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him.

    21. . .and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.

    23 And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.

    24 And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them."

    Thus the Savior's love of little children is obviously illustrated. There are numerous other examples. Perhaps more importantly here are the verses that explain why something like this can happen. Those occur in Mosiah chapter 3: 17-18

    "17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

    18 For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent."

    Thus we see that we must take the eternal perspective to understand that these children are saved. That is most comforting in the face of such a tragedy.