Welden C. Andersen
A painting of Jesus Christ in the entry of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple.

People joke about beauty pageant contestants who, when asked, explain that their greatest desire is “world peace.” While we might chuckle, in reality, it is an eminently desirable goal. Imagine a world without hatred, violence or malice, where people are kind, considerate and care for others. It would be the utopian world of many people’s dreams.

Unfortunately, in many ways, today’s world is further from realizing this dream than ever before. This is because we are encouraged to indulge our passions, expect instant gratification, act selfishly and engage in lascivious behavior. Today’s “me” society is widely promoted in movies, books, magazines, on social media and by social commentators. Complicating the problem, those promoting an indulgent world face little resistance because it’s easier to indulge our passions than restrain them.

Consider some examples of the hideous consequences of self-indulgent societies:

• Because we rarely distinguish love from lust today — lust being selfish, love being selfless — we fail to understand that sexual self-discipline is necessary to loving, kind and considerate communities (see "Love vs. Lust" by President Spencer W. Kimball, given atBYU on Jan. 5, 1965). Instead, there is widespread encouragement to indulge our sexual appetites, resulting in exploding rates of out-of-wedlock births, often leading to child neglect, abuse, abandonment and poverty (see "Out-of-Wedlock Births Rise Worldwide," published by Yale University at yaleglobal.yale.edu on March 16, 2017; and "Kids of Single Parents More Likely to Witness Domestic Violence," published by Institute for Family Studies at fstudies.org, published Jan. 5, 2015). Sexual harassment, sexual assaults, rapes and pornography (which socializes individuals to aberrant behaviors) are on the rise (see "U.S.: Soaring Rates of Rape and Violence Against Women," published by Human Rights Watch at hrw.org on May 16, 2018).

Myriad “crimes of passion” are consequent to infidelity, and burgeoning numbers of women and children are exploited by human traffickers (see "Sexploitation Stats: Over 6,000 Sex Trafficking Cases Reported In The U.S. In 2017," published by Fight the New Drug at fightthenewdrug.org; and also "11 Facts about Human Trafficking" published at at dosomething.org and "Human trafficking — statistics and facts" published at statista.com).

Such practices are inevitable in societies that encourage sexual self-indulgence.

• Drug and alcohol use are selfish and destructive behaviors, yet individuals are heavily propagandized by Hollywood, by sophisticated advertisements and by the highly touted, often uber-indulgent lifestyles of the rich and famous to not only consume alcohol and drugs but to do so in copious, even dangerous amounts — which easily transforms into drug addiction and alcoholism (see "Celebrity Addictions: Painkillers and Hollywood" published on abcnews.com). (One contributor at IMDb.com has compiled a list of "My 10 favorite teen movies about sex/drugs/drinking" and on ranker.com, there's a list titled "The Best Drug Movies of All Time" with other lists with similar titles.) The media-portrayed solution to almost any problem these days is to abandon self-control and get drunk.

Opioid addiction alone is at epidemic proportions, generously strewing bodies, misery, brutality and crime along the way (see "Opioid Overdose Crisis," published at National Institute on Drug Abuse," published at drugabuse.gov, revised January 2019).

• Violent behavior is encouraged — stridently negating Jesus Christ’s injunction to be peacemakers, and heaven forbid we turn the other cheek (although a greater manifestation of self-control is difficult to find). Everywhere around us individuals spew coarse, filthy, bullying language, and encourage others to acts of violence (see "Violent Media and Aggressive Behavior in Children," published by Psychology Today at psychologytoday.com on Jan. 8, 2018). Ever-increasing body counts saturate video games, big and small screens worldwide, and our appetite for increasing levels of gratuitous violence is readily satisfied in comics, movies, books and pornographic films (see "Violent Video Games and Aggression," published by the National Center for Health Research" at center4research.org and "New Study Claims to Find Link Between Violent Video Games and Adolescent Aggression," published by Fortune at fortune.com on Oct. 2, 2018; also and "Violence in Movies: More, Bigger — Worse" published by Psychology Today at psychologytoday.com, on Nov. 18, 2013).

Yet we wonder why violence increases.

• Lying, stealing, cheating and slander is widespread, and manifestly selfish, yet increasingly excused in our day (see "The Truth About Lying," published by Psychology Today at psychologytoday.com and "Lying: Why You Don’t Tell The Truth And Why You Should Start," published by HuffPost at huffingtonpost.com).

Nothing in any of the above behaviors supports the advancement of civilization, let alone a happy, peaceful, loving world. Truth be told, without individual self-restraint the goal of peaceful, loving societies is extinguished and readily replaced by rapacious, treacherous communities.

However, a peaceful, loving world is possible — although only as individuals choose to follow the teachings, principles and commandments of Jesus Christ which promote peace based upon individual self-restraint and a stringent quest for self-mastery.

We see this after the Savior’s Atonement when he appeared to his righteous followers in the New World. After reiterating his gospel the people organized a community based upon his precepts. Consequently, “There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. … There were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders nor any manner of lasciviousness … and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (4 Nephi 1:15-16).

Conversely, as individuals rejected Christ’s teachings and indulged their passions— “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11) — their loving, caring, peaceful society imploded. They became “lifted up in pride …wearing (of) costly apparel. … hav(ing) their goods … no more common among them … (and) began to be divided into classes” (4 Nephi 1:24-26). Inevitably, societies begin to “murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness” (Helaman 6:23). In this “awful state” the powerful “trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and meek,” and the “guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money … to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world” (Helaman 6:40, 39; 7:5).

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The apostle Paul forewarned, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace,” and, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Romans 8:6, NIV;Galatians 5:22-23, NIV). Loving, caring communities are realized by, “Those who belong to Christ (who) have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24, NIV). As Paul makes clear, individuals must “crucify,” or rid themselves of self-indulgent desires and passions if they truly seek a peaceful, harmonious world.

Peace can be had, but only as individuals strive after self-control and self-mastery as taught by the Savior, Jesus Christ.