May 23, 2010

Talk on Temperance

This was the talk that I gave in Sacrament Meeting today.


The first thing I thought of (which I am sure many in our church would think of ) is Moderation in all things— and it reminded me of an experience I had when Jeff and I were dating. You see, my husband is very passionate about a lot of things in life. One time we were having a discussion (of course we never argue, we just discuss,) and I quoted that whole “moderation in all things,” at him.

He looked at me for a moment, then said, “Moderation in all thigns. I’ve had that quoted at me a lot. Are you sure it’s in the scriptures?”

I said, “Of course it is… the D&C, I think.”

He said, “well when you find it in the scriptures, let me know.”

So I looked it up, sure I’d find it within a few minutes.

To my surprise, I found it was not in the index, not in bible dictionary.

In the Topical guide, there is an entry: listed under Moderation is this:
See Self-mastery, temperance, Word of Wisdom

Under those entries, the word Moderation is not mentioned even once.

Self Mastery: see also Abstinence, Temperence

I was getting a sinking feeling that I had lost the argument, but I thought I’d scour these entries to see if there was anything I could use to prove him wrong.

Entries that stood out under Self-Mastery:

1 Cor. 9:25 every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate

Mosiah 3:19 becometh a child, submissive

Alma 37:33 teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil

Alma 38:12 Bridle all your passions

Under Abstain, Abstinence: (See also self-mastery, the Word of Wisdom)

Acts 15:20 Abstain from pollutions of idols… fornication

D&C 49:18 Keep thyself unspotted from the world

88:124 Cease to be idle, cease to be unclean

None of these things sound moderate, to me.
In fact, where did this phrase, moderation in all things, come from?

I googled it.

Terence, Andria
Roman comic dramatist (185 BC - 159 BC):
Moderation in all things. He said some other wise things, like “Charity begins at home,”
And “I am a man, nothing that concerns humanity is alien to me,” (interesting, sounds kind of humanist,)
And also:
That is true wisdom, to know how to alter one's mind when occasion demands it.

So, these sayings are clearly interesting, perhaps wise, but certainly worldly—humanist, in fact. Terence was not a religious man, he was a humanist.

IN fact, in the bible, we are given several indications that moderation is not really what Heavenly Father wants from us. Consider this verse:

Revelation 3:16

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Titus 2:14

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

So clearly, Moderation is not something we are supposed to practice. Which makes sense. If Moderation in all things is true scripture, other things wouldn’t make sense. Try being Moderately chaste, or Moderately honest. Moderately following the ten commandments… it just doesn’t work.

But the closest thing, I think, to moderation—perhaps what people mean, when they quote this saying, is Temperance. What is temperance, then, if it is not moderation in all things? There are plenty of scriptures which say we are supposed to be temperate.

Here are some of them:

Galatians 5:23

Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Doctrine and Covenants 12:8

And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.

So clearly, temperance is important.

But what is it??

I went back to the topical guide. Entry for Temperence:
See also self-mastery, Wine, Word of Wisdom.

(incidentally, no mention of moderation in this one.)

Ok so this is the second time I went through the process, preparing this topic, and found temperance classified with self-mastery and the Word of Wisdom, which is about self-mastery. And wine… that also implies self-mastery. Could temperance be self mastery?

Well… maybe that’s a facet of temperance.

This talk by elder Kent D. Watson at the November 2009 general conference gave me another hint at the true meaning of temperance with this story:

A few years ago, I was driving home from work when a large semitruck, traveling in the opposite direction, lost one of its dual tires. The tire flew over the median separating our lanes. It came bouncing down my side of the freeway. Cars were swerving in both directions, drivers not knowing which direction the tire would bounce next. I dodged left when I should have dodged right, and the tire took its final bounce right on the corner of my windshield.

A friend called my wife to inform her of the accident. She told me later that her first thought was of lacerations from shattered glass. Indeed, I was covered with beads of broken glass but did not suffer a single scratch. It was definitely not because of my driving skills; rather, it was because the windshield of my little car was made of tempered glass.

Tempered glass, like tempered steel, undergoes a well-controlled heating process which increases strength. Thus, when tempered glass is under stress, it will not easily break into jagged shards that can injure.

Likewise, a temperate soul—one who is humble and full of love—is also a person of increased spiritual strength.

Consider the process that creates tempered glass. It undergoes difficulty and becomes stronger. We all go through life with difficult times, sometimes extremely difficult challenges.

Thinking about this, I had another question. What, in the process of enduring challenge, makes it so that we are tempered, rather than broken? I mean, I have to think that some of these sheets of glass shatter in the tempering process. Or break, or something. I’m sure that, in the wrong conditions, the tempering process could serve to make glass weaker instead of stronger. So what do we need to make sure that, in the face of trial, we are tempered rather than broken?

Brother Watson said that a temperate soul is also humble and full of love. Is this a variable that results from the tempering process? Well, love likely does increase as strength increases.

Could these things that Elder Watson mentioned be important, though, in the tempering process?

Consider these stories from scripture:
1 Nephi Chapter 17:

2 And so great were the ablessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon braw cmeat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.
3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and astrengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did bprovide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.

So one key to being “temperable” shall we say, to gaining strength in trial, is righteousness to the commandments. Sometimes this is very hard to do… sometimes when we have trials come upon us, we’re tempted to act out. Get mad. Do stupid things. But this is the most important time not to do those things… we can be blessed with temperance, with strength, if we don’t allow a trial to break us in this manner.

Here’s another example, in Mosiah chapter 21:

5 And now the afflictions of the Nephites were great, and there was no way that they could deliver themselves out of their hands, for the Lamanites had asurrounded them on every side.
6 And it came to pass that the people began to murmur with the king because of their afflictions; and they began to be desirous to go against them to battle. And they did afflict the king sorely with their complaints; therefore he granted unto them that they should do according to their desires.
7 And they gathered themselves together again, and put on their armor, and went forth against the Lamanites to drive them out of their land.
8 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did beat them, and drove them back, and aslew many of them.
9 And now there was a great amourning and lamentation among the people of Limhi, the widow mourning for her husband, the son and the daughter mourning for their father, and the brothers for their brethren.
10 Now there were a great many awidows in the land, and they did cry mightily from day to day, for a great fear of the Lamanites had come upon them.
11 And it came to pass that their continual cries did stir up the remainder of the people of Limhi to anger against the Lamanites; and they went again to battle, but they were driven back again, suffering much loss.
12 Yea, they went again even the third time, and suffered in the like manner; and those that were not slain returned again to the city of Nephi.
13 And they did humble themselves even to the dust, subjecting themselves to the ayoke of bondage, bsubmitting themselves to be smitten, and to be driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies.
14 And they did ahumble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would bdeliver them out of their afflictions.
15 And now the Lord was slow to ahear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their bcries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage.

As you know, this story continues with the people escaping by getting the Lamanite guards drunk, and going out a back way. The king pursues them but they get to Zarahemla and are safe.

Contrast that with this story:

King Limhi, one of the wicked priests of King Noah, has become a leader over Alma and his people.

Starting with verse 8:

8 And now it came to pass that aAmulon began to exercise bauthority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children.
10 And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
11 And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he aput guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their ahearts to him; and he did know the bthoughts of their hearts.
13 And it acame to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the aburdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as bwitnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their cafflictions.

The temperance verse—remember, tempered glass? Is this one:

15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did astrengthen them that they could bear up their bburdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with cpatience to all the will of the Lord.
6 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
17 And he said unto Alma: Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go awith thee and deliver this people out of bbondage.
18 Now it came to pass that Alma and his people in the night-time gathered their flocks together, and also of their grain; yea, even all the night-time were they gathering their flocks together.
19 And in the morning the Lord caused a adeep sleep to come upon the Lamanites, yea, and all their task-masters were in a profound sleep.
20 And Alma and his people departed into the wilderness; and when they had traveled all day they pitched their tents in a valley, and they called the valley Alma, because he led their way in the wilderness.
21 Yea, and in the valley of Alma they poured out their athanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their bburdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God.

So what was the difference between these two groups of people?

The people of Alma immediately cried out to their God, the other group started by murmuring to their king.

The first group tried force, (their own strength, I guess you’d say) and lost a lot of lives in the process. Alma’s people, after praying, submitted cheerfully and waited for the Lord to tell them what to do, or to deliver them (this is not an easy thing in the face of trials.)

The people of Alma humbled themselves in the midsts of their afflictions from the very beginning. Eventually this first group also did this, and God allowed them to figure out a way to deliver themselves. I’d submit that, because Alma’s people were humble and submissive from the first, God delivered them and heard them from the beginning.

Not really a fun realization, in some ways.

Also the people of Alma immediately thanked Heavenly Father, and were not pursued.

Back to the whole Moderation vs temperance, thing: there is this scripture.

1 Cor. 9: 25 man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.

Now this sounds a whole lot like the Terrence quote. It might be the reason that some have equated it with the “moderation in all things” bit, and made moderation scriptural in their minds. But the problem with that, as we have read, is that temperance and moderation are not the same thing. Moderation is quantitative, basically the thought that if you strive too hard in any one area or do too much of one thing, you are unbalanced and therefore, unrighteous. But there are so many exceptions to this rule, in fact the whole gospel is about being unworldly, about striving hard to be righteous, and so moderation clearly does not work in the context of the gospel.

Temperence, however.

I guess the real secret behind Temperence is humility. It takes humility to keep the commandments, to pray and look to the Lord from the first, and to submit cheerfully. It also takes humility to thank God for deliverence.

Trials can harden you or soften you. A hard heart is not a temperate heart, and it will shatter under the impact of strain. A soft heart, though it seems counter-intuitive, is the strongest heart. And to me, that is the true meaning of temperance.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Putz said...

did you know joseph smith never did say moderation in all things and if he had said that he would have been wrong>>>>>>>moderation in murder, moderation in rape, moderation in lies, in theft>>>>no what joseph did say was not in all things, but in GOOD things, let there be moderation in good things

Anonymous said...

Wow! I wish I'd been there to hear this in person. It was quite thought provoking. How can people say that the scriptures are for wimps and sissies? They just don't know what a treasure trove of wisdom is contained therein.

rajiv said...

In fact temperance, according to Aristotle, means restraint on bodily desires for food and sex.