The end of the world is on my mind.
The East Coast is recovering from a devastating storm. We just pushed through a long and divisive political race. At this point, 50 percent of Americans are in mourning over the results of the presidential election. As happens every four years, the doomsday prophecies are loud and brittle.
By nature, I am an optimistic person. I’m also a pragmatic dreamer, which may seem like a contradiction, but I’m sticking with it. And I don’t think the world is going to end anytime soon.
We’ve been through some rough patches before. I wasn't alive in the 1960s, but if I had been, I think I would have thought the world was ending, that it couldn’t get any worse than riots and racial tension and assassinations. The Dark Ages were, well, dark. I would have kept the book of Revelation tucked under one arm during the Bubonic plague, in which nearly half the population of Europe died, because surely things could not be more horrific. Even the early Mormon Saints were certain the end was near as they fled the mobs.
It’s important to recognize the signs of the times. Virtue is on the decline. Honesty, hard work and morality are harder to come by. Yet all around me I still see goodness in abundance. Here in the heart of America I observe families who go to church, teach their kids to mow the lawn and live out their days with kindness and respect. This fills me with hope. Not everyone is eagerly clambering aboard a ship headed for Dante’s Inferno.
The only time I fear is when I open the magazines, switch on the TV, flip open the paper or tune in to certain radio stations. I like to be informed. I believe in being informed. But we need to remember that the majority of media thrive on crisis, chaos and controversy, and in today’s constant feed of news, everything is condensed into one of those C’s.
Here’s what I could worry about, if I let myself: I could worry about the BPA in my canning jars, the slipping test scores of American children, the decline of the MPAA rating system, the death of the honey bees, the trace arsenic that was recently found in rice. Rice! That most lovely and benign of all foods! I could fret over the lyrics in today’s pop songs, the fact that kids don’t read like they used to, that I can’t recognize half the “food” in the school cafeteria, that faith in Jesus Christ is increasingly marginalized and belittled in the public sphere.
I don’t mean to trivialize any of this. I mention these things because I have worried about each and every one in varying degrees. I also know that there are real atrocities happening throughout the world, and to ignore them carries its own debilitating repercussions.
But I’m not a fan of the current hand-wringing that happens in the public sphere. (And I’m not just talking politics here.) This type of attitude encourages us to be reactionary. It wants us to don my sackcloth and ashes and declare this the end of civilization as we know it.
Fear is the opposite of faith. While it’s important to be prepared (no “All’s well in Zion” around here!), to fret and worry is not the way of the Lord. After all, he’s got a plan, and we’re part of it.
The impact we can have is immeasurable, even if our circle of influence does not extend beyond our neighborhood or even our front lawn. That’s where we can make a difference. We can kneel by the bedside of our little ones and fill their future with bright things. We can teach them the way of the Lord and do our best to hold up good values. We can teach our kids to be mindful stewards of the earth and thoughtful and engaged citizens.
Most important we can show the people around us that this life is about joy. “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Do our kids see that in us? If not, it’s time to set aside the gloom and doom in exchange for hope.