Sunday, January 04, 2009

catching monkeys

Yesterday I read a delightful post by Mama Ava and it reminded me of one of my favorite essays by Spencer W. Kimball. It was published in the June 1976 Ensign, and is entitled "The False Gods We Worship."

In Mama Ava's post, she relates how she was prompted to think more deeply about idol worship when she visited Buddist temples in Thailand. While we may be too sophisticated to bow down to figures made of silver and gold literally called "gods," that doesn't stop us from worshipping idols. As President Kimball said, "Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn't also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry."

He goes on to explain just how we do it: "Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, stocks, bonds, investment portfolios, property, credit cards, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout, it is hoped, a long and happy life. Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God -- to further the missionary effort and the genealogical and temple work; to raise our children up as fruitful servants unto the Lord; to bless others in every way that they may also be fruitful. Instead, we expend these blessings on our own desires, and as Moroni said, "Ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and you notice them not" (Mormon 8:39)."

It happened coincidentally that we talked about this in Gospel Doctrine class today. I found more of President Kimball's thoughts on idolatry he wrote in the book Miracle of Forgiveness. He quotes Brigham Young as saying, "I would as soon asee a man worshipping a little god made of brass or of wood as to see him worshipping his property." He talks about the obvious tangibles, the material wealth that we can readily identify as false gods, but he also talks about the intangibles: "degrees and letters and titles." As Mama Ava noted, C.S. Lewis brings it all back to pride. The things that keep us from being humble keep us from God and thus turn into our idols.

What are my idols? I'm afraid that sometimes it is as Paul put it, my "God is [my] belly." What will bring me immediate comfort? Other times it is the pride of wanting to do things MY way. Another false god I worship on a daily basis is the internet.

The post title comes from an analogy in President Kimball's essay: "I am reminded of an article I read some years ago about a group of men who had gone to the jungles to capture monkeys. They tried a number of different things to catch the monkeys, including nets, but finding that the nets could injure such small creatures, they finally came upon an ingenious solution. They built a large number of small boxes, and in the top of each they bored a hole just large enough for a monkey to get his hand into. They then set these boxes out under the trees and in each one they put a nut that the monkeys were particularly fond of.

When the men left, the monkeys began to come down from the trees and examine the boxes. Finding that there were nuts to be had, they reached into the boxes to get them. But when a monkey would try to withdraw his hand with the nut, he could not get his hand out of the box because his little fist, with the nut inside, was now too large.

At about this time, the men would come out of the underbrush and converge on the monkeys. And here is the curious thing: When the monkeys saw the men coming, they would shriek and scramble about with the thought of escaping; but as easy as it would have been, they would not let go of the nut so that they could withdraw their hands from the boxes and thus escape. The men captured them easily."


Chocolate on my Cranium said...

I've never read that article by Pres. Kimball....I'll have something good to study this week. ☺

It's typically the little things that cause the most harm or "do us in." I've been working on a new schedule for our whole family that we will start on Monday. I've had to take a look at what I really want to accomplish but haven't because I've been caught up in the "little" things that aren't important - like the internet and blogging.

Anonymous said...

As we contemplate the struggles around the world, it is easy to see how humanity gets caught up in misdirection. It is natural for us to give too much value to the opinions of those we perceive as over us. The need for independence and the coping skills when working as a society are often hard to manage.

Mama Ava said...

So how does this work? You quote me...and now I want to crib a bunch of stuff from this post and re-post's quite a vicious circle possibly!

So true, what you said, though...When I read those things, I feel so shallow and mean and small. I can do so much better...why don't I?

Calandria said...

Cocoa, I agree that the "little" things, given too much priority, can wreck havoc. :)

Dad, I don't understand what you mean by the following as related to my post: "It is natural for us to give too much value to the opinions of those we perceive as over us."

Mama Ava, I know what you mean about feeling "shallow and mean and small." But we can always repent!

Anonymous said...

I think Dad means, choose who you listen to. I get that feeling when I listen to Dr. Phil. He had a show years ago where he was just so totally wrong and had no experience in the advice he was giving yet everyone in the audience clapped and cheered. All those people were giving him importance in something he knew nothing about.

Anonymous said...

I am often puzzled by church references between religious idols and the idols we "worship" such as money, fame, beauty, etc. It seems like a likely comparison, but when you think of someone knealing in front of a cross to pray, or praying to a little or big statue thing maybe they are using these as a specific way to visualize their gods in their head. I mean, they can't actually think that the statue is a god can they? I honestly don't know? What do you think?

ML said...

Thank you especially for the third paragraph--I can't stop thinking about it.