Recently I have been struggling with the basic question that all of us reach at one point or another: where do I go from here?
This question has lead me to conduct some personal studies and reflections regarding the matter of receiving a higher education; and, at times, I have found myself downright discouraged. However, I don't think that this is the Lord's plan for me: to be discouraged and bought down by things that are outside of my control. I know that He wants me to be happy and to succeed, to press forward and to have faith in His plan.
As I have gone throughout my short college experience, the biggest struggle that I have had is one that I believe is quite "common to man" (1 Corinthians 10:13). I have had trouble deciding on a major and a career path. I have been afraid of making the wrong decision; and, as a result, I now find my education at a complete stand-still for fear of incurring further financial debt and heading down the wrong path. Frequently I have wondered if a college education is even for me, or if there is some other path that I am intended to take. As I have shared these doubts and concerns with my family and friends, I have had a broad spectrum of advice given to me in return.
In one of these responses, some of my friends recently referred me to a documentary on YouTube created by the NIA (National Inflation Association), titled "College Conspiracy." As I began to watch the documentary, at first I completely agreed with everything that the documentary was saying and felt myself nodding my head and being filled with the conviction that I was a victim of an unrighteous society. I felt angry, bitter, shocked, and betrayed.
Then, suddenly, my mind took a step back and looked at where this was going. I immediately evaluated my feelings more closely to determine the source, and to associate these feelings with experiences I have had in the past.
In my minds eye, I suddenly found myself in a little house in the woods of Whitehorse, Canada, sitting on a couch across from an old canuck. Bitterness and hatred filled his eyes as he leaned toward my companion and I and complained of all of the injustices that he had fallen victim to in his life. For the past few weeks, as we had met with him, it had seemed quite comical that he would continually blame all of his problems on outside circumstances. Sometimes he would even blame people that he had never met, like Winston Churchill. He would lock eyes with mine and angrily declare that "Hitler was framed! He was an honest man and Churchill was a drunk!" But today, it wasn't funny anymore. I felt sick as I listened to him begin rant again and closed my eyes to say a silent prayer to know how we should act.
I felt calm as I opened my eyes and clearly said, "Brother, we have come as always to see how it is that we could help you and your family today. We are here once again to extend the invitation for you to come with us to church on Sunday, to no longer deny your family the blessings that come from attending and partaking of the sacrament. That simple invitation will always stand. And as many excuses as you have for us, the fact is that there are no outside influences keeping you from coming." We left shortly thereafter. We continued to try with the family, making short visits every so often, but this man would not change his heart. He continued to harbor anger and bitterness in his heart towards the members of our small branch.
I have felt that same feeling of sickness within me, as I felt listening to him complain that day, whenever I have been subjected to anti-Mormon material. I have felt that same sickness whenever I have put off or brushed aside something that I knew I should do. I felt the same way as I watched some of the men and women speak during the documentary. To me it feels a lot like watching the news. A list of a lot of problems, with a very short list, if any list, of solutions. A large dose of degradation with no uplifting spoon full of sugar to help the bitter medicine go down.
May I be so bold as to say that conspiracy theories, and the documentaries created to portray them, can be in and of themselves a form of terrorism. According to dictionary.com, the third definition of terrorism is "a terroristic method of...resisting a government." I'm not saying that I disagreed with the documentary in its entirety, but I am saying that it is important for us to not allow ourselves to be manipulated by the opinions of others. I have had many friends in high school and in college who thought that they were just victims of others actions and that the government and everyone around them was out to get them. They treated large five part internet documentaries, such as Zeitgeist, like gospel truth. These films would definitely fulfill their purposes in making one more aware of the problems in the world today, but would offer no solutions, suggesting that one simply live in fear, anger, and hatred, feeling victimized evermore.
Even the music behind these documentaries seem geared to further drag you down. Its as if someone said to an unsuccessful composer "Give us a musical score that will make things look (and sound) just as bleak as possible! Plenty of dissonant chords, make sure that its always minor, and, if need be, simply sustain the notes as you go up and down the synthesizer at half-step intervals."
Pay attention to how you feel when you, instead, watch something like this:
It is important for us to evaluate our feelings when we partake of different forms of media, including music, movies, television shows, and yes, internet documentaries. Anything created to instill any of these negative feelings within us is not from our Creator, but from the adversary. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7) and "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance." (Galatians 5:22-23) "Whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Therefore, choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices. It will allow you to enjoy yourself without losing the Spirit of the Lord." (For the Strength of Youth)
I agree that there are many things in the world that are unfair and unjust, that there are evil and conspiring men who will continually try to tear others down in order to lift themselves up and to get gain. I also agree that we should be aware of the problems that exist in order to find real solutions, but what will focusing on the negative do to improve circumstances?
I want to be more like my friend Amy Schweitzer, who uses her time to focus on the positive and is continually, actively and productively trying to make the world a better place by uplifting and showing love to others.
I want to be more like my Savior, who came "into the world [not] to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17)
May we "stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1)