Sunday, November 27, 2005


Know Your Religion

Chapter 13

Pentagonal People

The Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., was acclaimed as a marvel when it was built. People still get lost in its complex mazes. From the air, however, it presents a picture of balance—a five-sided architectural wonder with all its sides the same length and its angles exactly equal. In form it represents an idea for which to aim in our self-development lest we become lopsided or go off on a tangent. If we think of a five-sided figure with each side representing a facet of human development -spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and social—we need to keep all five sides even in order to insure equality of all angles and balance of the figure or life.

If things get out of balance and one ore more aspects of a person’s nature is extended to the exclusion or partial exclusion of any or all of the other parts, the whole pattern is thrown out of kilter.

We should be careful that we do not get the wrong impression from the above diagram, for having a well-balanced life does not necessarily mean that each facet of life has the same degree of emphasis or the same amount of time and effort assigned to its development. Being “off balance” means that one does not have the appropriate or ideal amount of development in one or more aspects of life. This is very different from having the same amount, and lacking the ideal amount of any aspect of life makes for imperfection.

It must be remembered also that each of the five sides of life affects the other four, and only the balanced effect of all make for an ideal life. In practical terms this means that less time may be spent on purely spiritual affairs in life but the influence of spirituality on the other four will be very great.

Take a basketball player who devotes a lot of time to practice to perfect his timing and his shots, increase his stamina, and work out various plays. Might it not be possible that other things would suffer such as his studies, social life, or even church activities? Perhaps this would not be harmful if it lasted only during the basketball season for the years he has in high school, but suppose this exaggerated emphasis on physical development carried over into his latter life as it has for many athletes. Might it not upset the balance in his life?

On the other hand, many teenagers fail to get enough physical activity. There is a generalized resistance to physical education and spectator sports keep many young people flabby. Some overdo in the intellectual sphere and retire to the academic world, where there are no social challenges or threats, no athletic events, no emotional problems to meet head-on, perhaps even few spiritual considerations. Of course, it is an exaggeration to single out any one of these facets of life, because for most people there is some development in all of them. The point is that the gospel plan neglects nothing, but, within the framework of the Church, it allows for the total development of the whole person—in fact, encourages it.

It becomes the responsibility of the Church, the conservator of our religion, to provide means and direction whereby humanity may be led into paths of happiness. This responsibility includes every need of man. Whatever pertains to human welfare must be the concern of the Church. The function of the Church is all inclusive, comprehensive; hence all issues of life must receive its careful consideration. Whatever concerns man is the concern of the Church, whether of earth or heaven, whether of this or a future life. Only on such a platform can the Church meet its responsibilities properly and fully. It dare not shirk any labor by which men may increase in happiness.1

Think for a moment of the opportunities offered to each of you during any given month
of church participation. They include public speaking, singing, athletic activities, dancing, social events, scripture reading, partaking of the sacrament, prayer, testimony bearing, drama, service, and class work. All these are the outgrowth of the Church’s basic philosophy set forth clearly in the thirteenth Article of Faith.

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

These basic philosophy seeks a “well-rounded” balance and it discourages (leaves no
time for) going off on tangents or getting bogged down in one kind of endeavor.

The Savior’s Life Was Balanced

The Savior is often mistakenly pictured as effeminate, or at least as having somewhat
womanly qualities only. But his life was arduous and demanding and he lived it vigorously and zestfully and set a pattern even in the little we know of him, of all well-rounded (or evenly angled) life.

Charles Edward Jefferson presents this picture of him:
But when we come to Jesus we find ourselves in the presence of a man without a flaw.
He was enthusiastic, blazing with enthusiasm, but he never became fanatical. He was emotional, men could feel the throbbing of his heart, but he never became hysterical. He was imaginative, full of poetry and music, seeing pictures everywhere, throwing upon everything he touched a light that never was on land or was never flighty. He was practical, hard-headed, matter-of-fact, but he was never prosaic, never dull. His life always had in it the glamour of romance. He was courageous but never reckless, prudent but never a coward, unique but not eccentric, sympathetic but never sentimental. Great streams of sympathy flowed from his tender heart toward those who needed sympathy, but at this same time streams of lava flowed from the same heart to scorch and overwhelm the workers of iniquity. He was pious, but there is not a trace about him of sanctimoniousness.2

From its very beginning, the Church has put emphasis on the training and expanding of the minds of its members. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, on May 6, 1833, the Lord gave a revelation which contained the following:
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake that evil one.
But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth. (D&C 93:36-37,40)

From that day to this, the Church has endeavored to carry out this commandment in many ways. Dr. John A. Widtsoe and Elder Richard L. Evans, members of the Twelve, have written concerning some of the teachings and accomplishments of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

Within a year of the organization of the Church, in 1831, provision was made for schools, teachers and schoolbooks. A little later, in 1833, a school for mature men, known as the School of the Prophets, was conducted. This anticipated the present worldwide movement for adult education. In 1842, when the Missouri refugees were building the city of Nauvoo, a university was founded.
On the trek westward, following the expulsion from Nauvoo, school sessions were held in the moving camps. A few weeks after reaching Salt Lake Valley, school was begun in the sage encircled, pioneer log cabins. One of the first legislative acts, after provision had been make for roads in the wilderness, was the chartering in 1850 of a university, the first west of the Missouri River.
Since then the people, despite the toil of compelling a stubborn desert to serve civilized man, have fostered the training of the mind, with all the attendant arts and cultures.3

In the article reference was made to Dr. Edward L. Thorndike’s study on men of science, as follows:
In the number of men of achievement, Utah, on a per capita basis, was the highest and led the nearest state, Colorado, by about thirty percent.4

Currently, the Church maintains Brigham Young University at Provo, Utah, with the
enrollment over 25,000 and Ricks College, a junior college at Rexburg, Idaho, with an enrollment of more than 4,000 students. [Remember this was manual was printed in 1973] Both are the largest church-supported schools of their class in the United States. In addition, the Church maintains the four-year Church College of Hawaii at Laie, Oahu, Hawaii, with an enrollment of over 1,100 students; the Church College of New Zealand (600), the Church College of Western Samoa (1,250); and the Juarez Academy in Mexico for secondary schooling; and many elementary schools in Mexico and parts of South America and the Pacific Islands where only very limited schooling opportunities would otherwise exist.

At over 300 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, there are adjacent institutes of religion to provide a variety of classes in religious studies for LDS and other interested students. In 1968-69, the institutes served some 36,642 students. Seminary classes for high school students are increasing in number each year. In 1968-69, 125,725 students were taught in the released-time, nonrelease-time, and Indian seminaries in North America. A new home study program for students of seminary age has been instituted in English-speaking countries and is so popular that it is expanding rapidly, especially in England and Australia, and consideration is being given to introducing it in several non-English tongues. Requests have been made for similar home study courses for adults. Money, time, ingenuity, and effort are being poured into educational enterprises on many fronts by the Latter-day Saints, who believe that no man can be saved in ignorance.

There are several reasons why a young member of the Church is encouraged to be vitally interested in his own education.

First, the world needs people who can decide not only between good and evil, but between less good and better. An education that has taught one to reason carefully, analyze, and make decisions, as well as giving one specialized knowledge, will be of critical importance.

Secondly, a person’s work has a direct influence on his community; and his salary (a person who finishes sixteen years of training will normally earn approximately four times as much as the person who finishes only eight), which in turn determines his home, car, vacation time, clothes, insurance coverage, and retirement. His physical health, his children’s schooling, his presence in the home to help with the family, his participation in Church work and hence possibly his salvation all related to the quality and skills of his vocation.

In the words of the First Presidency in a letter to Church leaders, April 1, 1966:

The Church has long encouraged its members, and especially its youth, either to obtain a college education or to become well trained in some vocation in a trade school. In our fast growing industrial society, this becomes almost a necessity, for unless our young people are well educated, or well trained, they will not be able to obtain proper jobs or positions in the future. The jobs that require no education or training are decreasing from year to year and soon will be practically non-existent.

Third, nearly everyone wants to have the repeated thrill of intellectual accomplishment,
whether it be gained in repairing a car, baking a cake, walking through the woods, or reading a book. Much that we feel and love depends exclusively on what we have learned about the world in the process of training. Each member of the Church is urged to study diligently from the time he learns to read until he can no longer do so and to share his leaning with others both within and without the Church.

If a person had no formal schooling after he learned the three R’s, other than what the Church provides, and if he took full advantage of that, he would be encouraged to learn on his own and would be guided in how to do it. Probably he would cease to be satisfied, too, with only an elementary education and would seek greater intellectual growth. The Church is in the process of lifting great numbers of people to a higher level of life and appreciation of it through education.

Emotional Stability

Much that is important to our success depends on our emotional maturity. If we will be happy, we must not always be thinking of ourselves and what we can get out of everything, but rather we must turn our thoughts and actions outward to others. We must stop looking for friends and start being a friend ourself.

Consider what an effect such Christlike attitude would have on all concerned. Everyone is drawn to an outgoing young person. His parents find him cooperative, pleasant conversation becomes the rule, duties are done swiftly and well, and all different kinds of people are blessed from associating with him. His friends, teachers at school, even perfect strangers—all treat him with respect and love.

Employers have much more difficulty with people who cannot get along with other people than with people who cannot do their jobs. Good interpersonal relationships depend on the degree of emotional maturity in the people involved. Someone looking for slights, imagining hurts; someone militantly defending his “rights,” resenting authority; someone sulking over disappointments, worrying over things that never happen—in a measure, all such “someones” are immature emotionally. Like babies, they have a sense of being at the center of the universe, either solicitous or hostile, and they demand attention and seem to think that all things begin and end with them. Few are entirely free from emotional prejudices, and everyone’s behavior is colored by feelings. What, then, is emotional maturity? How do you know whether your are grown up?

Our emotions can be controlled, and wven more significantly, they can be channeled into worthwhile pursuits. We can learn better ways to meet everyday life. One of the best things a person can learn is to express his feelings in socially acceptable ways instead of letting them “fume and fester” inside, producing an eventual explosion. Learn to talk things out calmly instead of resorting to bursts of profanity, throwing things, or fighting. Learn to listen. Try to see the other person’s side. There will be need for this kind of control wherever you go.

A related concern for youth is handling disappointments. During the teen years, these may seem to come too ofter. It’s an experimental time, starts and stops, high excitement, and bitter frustration. Gradually, the violent ups and downs level off, and the person who maintains his equilibrium through them gains considerable maturity.

The gospel here too helps people maintain their equilibrium with opportunities to work with other people in many types of activities; to receive counsel; to attend classes where much can be learned about emotional maturity and how to achieve it; to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost; to pray, and to study of others who have weathered such storms as now we know, and how they did it. Like a gyroscope, the gospel at the center of our lives will keep us on course steadily; unlike any earthly gyroscope, however, it helps us to grow and develop emotionally so that we do not lose our balance.

Perhaps above all else, the young member of the Church today needs to have courage; to be almost fearless. In times past, many young people have had to face grave dangers and master their fears, sorrow, hate, even happiness and love, for the sake of a cause. They had to have courage, faith, and knowledge.

The present and future times will be no less demanding. The young member of the Church today is asked to take a firm stand against indulgence in drugs, immorality, and breaking the Sabbath and the Word of Wisdom. Many may be asked to stand against godless, atheistic, and satanic forces at the cost of their lives. In the days of persecution they will be asked to show love toward their persecutors. At a time when selfishness seems so prevalent, they are now asked to give generously of their time and talents, and in doing so gain a stability for later turbulent times.

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness is a complex term including such items as oral hygiene, dental care, medical examinations, vaccinations, proper diet, sufficient rest, and exercise. Exercise is only a part of physical fitness, however, an essential part.

A sixteen to seventeen year old should, if in good health, be able to chin himself at least three times, do at least thirteen sit-ups, and four squat jumps. Each of these groups should be ably performed in not more than ten seconds.

If you are not up to these standards, you would do well to get some more exercise. Now is the time to learn athletic skills which you can use as you grow older. Besides exercise, these provide you with ways to use your spare time constructively with other members of your family and friends. In an era when the working man is apparently going to have more leisure time than ever before, this will become increasingly important.

There are other good reasons for keeping your body trim and healthy, too.

Many young people are bothered with bad complexions. For this reason you may elect to avoid highly spiced foods and chocolate. A sound physical condition contributes to emotional stability, good spirits, and high morale. With good health, you are more likely to get your work done with a resultant boost to your self-esteem. You can take emotional and physical shocks more easily. You are far more likely to have the enthusiasm and alertness which act as magnets on other people. Everyone enjoys being around a cheerful, energetic person.

The typical problems of teenagers, such as underweight or overweight, acne, poor posture from a body that is in rapid growth, awkwardness, and emotional changes, can all be helped by a sound physical health program.

Our bodies, as we have seen, are precious gifts from our Heavenly Father, given to us as a vital part of our progression. We cannot abuse them without suffering the consequences.

Man’s good physical health has long been a concern of the Lord. Few other good things are possible without it. In the Word of Wisdom, as we have already discussed, he provides the basic rules for good health, together with the promises that will follow obedience to them. Part of the Church program for young people is directed to the building of healthy bodies, as well as the enjoyment of the fun of competitive sports. Full Church activity will contribute to normal physical development and good health.

Social Life

We are all brothers and sisters, and from the time we are born into a family, we start getting along with one another one way or another. Social development cannot take place without some difficulties. The give-and –take of everyday life sometimes jars our feelings. Nevertheless, no one can retreat into isolation and be a good member of the Church. Social maturity calls for good mental and emotional health, and there is consequent growth in all these areas within the gospel.

One of the beauties of the gospel is that its basic message is also the secret of getting along with other people—love. This sounds simple, but it is sometimes difficult to do. Things and feelings get in the way. It seems sometimes that the very most difficult people to get along with in the world are members of your won family. And it is here, in the family, that living (gospel or otherwise) is learned, if it is learned at all. The home is the basic unit in the Church, and gradually many thousands of scrapping children have been led to the surprising realization that brothers and sisters can be friends, as well as to the broadening concept that friends are brothers and sisters. The difficult lessons learned in the home extend, through Church activity, to all the world. The second part of the first and great commandment, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39) is a doctrine of salvation, and the living of it brings to Church members such glad implications that most of them get all choked up trying to tell about it.

All the way through life the social implications of the gospel are with us to make us joyous. Dances, parties, activities of all kinds, as well as class discussions, quorum meetings, and gatherings in the foyer point up to the social nature of the life God ordained for us to live. We are his children, and this kinship fosters in us feelings of brotherhood that buoy us up in time of trouble and give us cause to rejoice when things go well for anyone we love.

Spiritual Sustenance

This whole lesson is an elaboration of the idea that the gospel will build us up in every aspect of life—emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and social. We have pointed out that the spiritual should have the strongest ties and therefore the greatest influence and control over the other four. But full spiritual growth comes best with the appropriate development of each of the other facets of life and it must be permitted to permeate everything else with which life is concerned. This is more than having perfect symmetrical development, it is having perfectly balanced and controlled development. This means that life is lived well on a wide range of interests and needs, but it also means that there is harmony and wholeness in it.

  1. John A. Widtsoe, The Program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1938), p. 24
  2. Charles Edward Jefferson, The Character of Jesus (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1908), p. 87
  3. John A. Widtsoe and Richard L. Evans, “The Educational Level of the Latter day Saints,” Improvement Era 50: 446 (July 1947).
  4. Widtsoe and Evans, Improvement Era 50:446.

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