"If it's causing you more stress than it's worth... it's not worth it." - Yellow
Question #91843 posted on 06/26/2019 1:01 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Do you honestly think the world is going to pieces? I ask in sincerity; every conference we are reminded the world is losing its morals and getting worse and worse. And while there are certain trends (cough politics) that greatly concern me, I just don't see it overall. What am I missing? When exactly was the world aligned with the gospel anyway? It wasn't the 50s! One might point out that people identifying with an organized religion is decreasing, but it's 2018 and women being able to speak out against sexual assault is a fairly recent/ongoing development! The civil rights movement wasn't long ago either. Standards of living are improving throughout the world, and overall I'd go so far as to say things are trending toward the positive in the long term (except climate, we're pretty screwed there, but we might yet adapt). I can see how some people might say that, from what might be termed an orthodox doctrinal view, the legalization of gay marriage is a "sign of the times," but I don't buy it; even if such legalization is "misguided" by orthodox doctrine, the people I know are in support of LGBT folks do so out of love and compassion--which is very Christlike!
The internet and everyone literally always having cameras on them at all times certainly makes it easier to spread bad news--I suspect if the world looks like it's getting worse, it's actually because we're just now exposing the existing rot.
Long-winded, my apologies. I'd make it more concise but I've got to get to bed.
I'd love a good debate :)

-Optimistic, the reader, not writer

A:

Dear Optimist,

Remember that time you asked this question, I thought it was great, we talked about it in person, you said I could take my time on an answer, and then I took waaaaay too long to actually finish it? My bad. Apparently you should never tell me to take my time, or I will abuse that privilege. Sorry I'm the worst. Anyway, though, I would love to hear what specifically about the 50s you think isn't in line with the gospel--I have plenty of my own thoughts about that, but I would be interested in hearing what you're thinking of--shoot me an email at alta@theboard.byu.edu.

May I direct you to Board Question #87410? Someone asked a similar question, and to show why the world has always been terrible and I genuinely don't think we're any worse off than we used to be, I made a list of terrible events throughout history. My list was definitely not comprehensive, and if I were to redo it now I would absolutely add more (especially about Africa)--the Boer War was the first use of concentration camps, King Leopold chopped off workers' hands in the Congo, the US backed several awful regimes and got rid of good leaders like Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, there were 4000 lynchings in the US in less than 50 years, US politics used to be even worse than they are now (the caning of Charles Sumner and Burr killing Hamilton, for just two examples), worldwide drought during the Medieval Warm Period, 1500 Jewish families killed in Granada during the Convivencia, the Rwandan genocide where normal civilians who were part of the Hutu majority hacked their Tutsi neighbors to death with machetes (and in fact, there was another genocide in 1960 known during the Rwandan revolution), Sierra Leone's 11 year civil war, the so-called gunpowder empires--Abbasid vs Ummayad--had so much warfare, dead bodies were built into the Great Wall of China, the rape of Nanking, etc etc etc. The point is, life has always been accompanied by terrible violence and devastation, in every period.

So to sum up, I think people who say the world is worse off than it's ever been are ignoring history. It's easy to look at our current problems and say, "This is so awful. No one understands my pain," (just ask any angsty 13 year old), but, unfortunately, no matter what awful thing happens, it has almost for sure happened before. Suffering is not new.

Not to say that there aren't some truly terrible things happening now, though. Trump undermines the rule of law and democratic norms that are essential for a pluralistic society, everything with Putin and Russia is a dumpster fire, North Korea is a nightmarish hellscape for those who live there, Venezuela is having a major economic and humanitarian crisis, natural disasters like hurricanes and fires are becoming more frequent and more destructive (thanks to climate change), China has weird reindoctrination camps for a certain sect of Christians, the Taliban is regaining control in Pakistan and Afghanistan, last year Madagascar had a huge outbreak of the plague, mass shootings are disconcertingly frequent, the conflict on the Gaza strip is heartbreaking, people are being sold into slavery in Sudan, the US is putting children in concentration camps at the Mexico border, we seem to be on the brink of war with Iran, I could go on and on. But although the specifics of what's happening are new, the experience of bad things happening is not.

This answer so far has been depressing, because the world is and always has been filled with some truly horrific things. But, like you said, there have also been some super positive trends lately, too! We're getting better at recognizing and calling out bad things, and most people I know genuinely try to help people who are suffering. Education is more available throughout the world, newer generations are more compassionate and tolerant than their predecessors, there are amazing advancements being made in medicine, technology has improved standards of living by a lot, ordinary people are organizing protests and marches to help the disadvantaged, poverty rates are decreasing, access to clean water is up, we're getting better at preserving natural resources; there are some really positive trends happening right now. If you think of the world like a vase, it got shattered long ago, and the bad things we see today are largely a continuation of a lot of bad things that started centuries ago--we're not shattering the vase all over again, we're just continuing to keep parts of it in shards. But, and this is important, we've also started fixing some of the broken pieces. It's not fast work, and it's certainly not easy, but it's happening! Instead of being sad that the vase isn't totally whole yet, I think we should at least be encouraged by the progress being made.

If you want to contribute to making good things happen, contact your representative and encourage them to make sound decisions regarding some of the current problems we're facing (for example, asking them to AT THE VERY LEAST give detained children the same amenities that Somali pirates and the Taliban give to kidnapped hostages, but that the US government is currently denying those children).

-Alta

A:

Dear You,

I do think that the world is going to pieces, however I also feel like the world is also being put together. The two aren't exclusive, and I believe that both are happening at the same time. Sure there's a lot of corruption, conflict, and public support for immoral things, but there are a lot of amazing things going on as well. Literacy has skyrocketed the past few decades in Africa, antibiotics and modern medicine have improved world health, and the internet helps connect people. So while some things are falling apart, we're putting other things together again and it balances out.

One thing that I think has changed has been that the terrible things that have always happened are now more visible. It's not like sexual assault, and violence, and oppression never happened. Now we know more about them. I personally think that's a good thing. The more we bring those things to light the more we can change them. Studies show that all of this communication and connectivity due to social media have made millennial the most empathetic generation to date (source). I also feel like social media will help make people more involved in their communities which is definitely a good thing.

We talk about this and more in our lovely podcast which you should totally listen to #ShamelessPlug! To find it go to archives-podcasts-2018-season 8 episode 1.

Peace,

Tipperary

A:

Dear you,

It's not. There's just more light on horrible things that happen in the world. We also see certain things (such as slavery and marital abuse) as bad now, when people in the past didn't view it as such. There's always been human suffering and misery, it's just that today we recognize it as bad and see it more clearly.

Also marriage has constantly undergone changes. In the past people got married to have kids, or to form allegiances between families or nations. When people started getting married for love I guarantee you generations were scoffing at them and saying how horrible that was and how that was defying the true reason of marriage. We're just undergoing another transformation of a social institution, which has happened multiple times in the past and, as it always has, faces opposition and "that's not the way things were when I was a child!" Just use polygamy as an example. According to a true orthodox view, using Joseph Smith and Brigham Young's teachings, polygamy is God's true form of marriage. "Celestial marriage" in D&C 132 is polygamy, and William Clayton, Joseph Smith's personal scribe, wrote that, ""From [Joseph Smith] I learned that the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth and that without obedience to that principle, no man can ever attain to the fullness of exaltation in celestial glory." (This all comes from my past answer on polygamy.) Brigham Young taught that monogamy caused the fall of Rome. So technically marriage between one man and one woman is "misguided". (To be clear I'm not attacking early prophets or beliefs, simply pointing out that the "correct" form of marriage has undergone changes, even among Latter-day Saints. This shows that things aren't getting worse, they're just changing, which is exactly what happened to how Latter-day Saints viewed marriage in the past two centuries.)

-guppy of doom

A:

Dear you,

The world as a whole? That's tough. Parts of the world? Abso-freaking-lutely. Here's a non-comprehensive list of things that I think are pretty bad about the world:

  • Political Extremism
  • Staggering homeless populations
  • The divorce rate
  • Income inequality
  • Economic class divisions
  • Social media arguments
  • Rampant pornography
  • Race divisions

However, I think there is a lot of good in the world as well. I'm not the biggest fan of the answer that the world is basically the same because that isn't a very comforting idea to me. I mean shouldn't we have made progress by now? The fact that we might be stagnant is almost just as depressing as saying we're going downhill.

-Sunday Night Banter

P.S. Still looking for the second coming....

A:

Dear Optimistic,

I don't know about falling apart, but there are certainly a lot of problems in the world that concern me. Climate change, for example, and some of the issues that other Board writers brought up. Defaulting to "well, the Second Coming must be near" seems a little ineffective to me because a) lots of generations have thought that they would witness the end of the world and none of them have yet, and b) it makes it easier to give up and not try to solve the problems.

It's easy to feel powerless about these things, but in times of turmoil, this verse from the New Testament has stuck with me: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21) No matter how frightening some issues may seem, we always have the power to put more good in the world one day at a time. It might not solve the large-scale problems all at once, but it can change the lives of those we meet and care about.

-Van Goff

A:
Dear Optimistic,
 
I love this question! This is something I talk about with Rubik all the time, so I'm glad you brought it up.
 
No, I do not think the world is getting increasingly wicked, despite what we may hear over the pulpit. Many good points have already been made here. As Alta mentioned, history is riddled with horrible atrocities and misdeeds. And, as you mentioned, only in recent years have significant (though minority) portions of the globe moved towards equality for people of every ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. We may not have conquered inequality yet, but at least we're moving in a positive direction.
 
I agree with Uffish (below) that the doomsday mentality is a problem in the LDS church. It seems to me that when we focus too much on this "be in the world but not of the world" mantra, we start to assert our moral dominance over our neighbors. That's problematic for two reasons. First, there are many, many, MANY people who are working to advance moral virtue in society, most of whom, statistically, are not LDS. Many of these people are finding success and increasing the world's goodness. Second, if we focus too much on this "growing divide between the world and the church," we may distance ourselves from helping our neighbors to move the world forward. It does absolutely no good to look down at a sinful world from a holier plane and mourn its loss. It does a lot of good to embrace the positive changes being made in the world and work with people of all belief systems to accomplish those changes.
 
Love,
 
Vienna
 
A:

Dear,

I think the world is mostly improving, but there's an increased information flow coming from all over, and what gets noticed and talked about most is the bad stuff. It's one of my pet peeves when the idea of the world being terrible gets trotted out in church or by my more conservative friends and family, because it often feels self-congratulatory and demonstrates an unwillingness to recognize and celebrate people who (to flip the phrase on its head rather awkwardly) are righteous differently than we are. 

But people care about justice and looking out for the little guy and treating others well these days, we've made huge advances in science and health and tech that often make our lives much better, war and violence are actually less disruptive overall, and we've got so much excellent art and experiences in so many varieties at our fingertips, if we seek them out. I love those things, and the evil/misguided people and genuinely horrible situations certainly are awful, but I'd rather live now than any previous time (when I'm not rose-colored-glasses-ing some idyllic pastoral situation). 

-Uffish Thought