Sunday, December 1, 2013

You Cannot Serve Two Masters

Yesterday, my grandson and I went down to Salt Lake City, Utah to the Energy Solutions Center (the home of the Utah Jazz professional basketball team) to watch Brigham Young University and Utah State University play each other in a basketball game. It was my grandson’s birthday and I took him to the game as a birthday present. We had a great time. The Arena was packed and the game was close for most of the game before BYU pulled ahead midway through the second half and ended up wining by eleven points.

I graduated from BYU with my undergraduate and graduate degrees and now work for Utah State University. I love both teams. I enjoy watching the BYU football teams and basketball teams and cheer for them. My grandson and I go to many of the USU basketball games that are at home and even some of the football games and love cheering for them. My problem is whom do I cheer for when they play each other, which they do several times in basketball and football. My solution is to cheer for both teams. As you can see by these pictures I had shirts showing support for both teams.


Whichever team was ahead at that time in the game, that was the shirt that I had on. I thought it was fun, but I was sitting mostly among other USU fans. There were a few BYU fans scattered around but it was mostly USU fans. Both sides were not happy that I was willing to “sell my soul” to the opposing team and they let me know of their displeasure. During most of the game the USU Student section was obsessed with putting down the BYU team and the BYU fans on the other side of the floor were constantly yelling obnoxious things towards the USU team and fans. This has become the norm for most sporting events. One side vilifying the other. 

Most of the game it was easy to cheer for both sides, though I did feel intimidated by the other Aggie fans as they growled at me for supporting BYU. As the game went on and the Aggies started struggling, I found myself cheering for them and their struggles to come back into the game, but it was not to be. Both sides thought I was suffering from a split personality and just ignored my craziness.

Then there were the “obvious” miss calls by the referees that were continually going against the USU Aggies. I again found myself getting angry with the BYU Cougars and their “foul deeds” that went unpunished. I found myself getting pulled in by the fans around me that were feeling the same things.

While the BYU team had no “obvious” advantage by the official and the Aggies played just as physical as did the Cougars, I was being influenced by the crowd and getting caught up in their emotions and it was getting difficult to switch sides and cheer for the other team. I was facing a dilemma – I could not continue supporting both sides. I had to chose one over the other.

The Savior in the Sermon on the Mount taught in Matthew 6:24 :

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

Now I am not going to say which team is represented in this scripture as God or mammon because both sides traded being on one side or the other, but I can tell you I understand why you cannot serve two masters at the same time. We live in a time today when it is getting more and more difficult to support both teams in the spiritual battle or even sit on the fence and not take either side.

President Marion G. Romney, 1st Counselor in the First Presidency, in 1983 said:

“Earth life is a period of trial for every person of two mighty forces pulling in opposite directions. On the one hand is the power of Christ and His righteousness. On the other hand is Satan and his fellow travelers. Mankind, in the exercise of their God-given moral agency, must determine to travel in company with the one or the other. The reward for following the one is the fruit of the Spirit—peace. The reward for following the other is the works of the flesh—the antithesis of peace...

“…Now there are individuals who try to serve the Lord without offending the devil. They raise in the minds of many truth seekers the vexing question, is there not some middle ground upon which peace may be secured and maintained? Must the choice lie irrevocably between peace on the one hand, obtained by compliance with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and contention and war on the other hand?
“In answer to this question, I feel safe in saying that if there is a middle ground it is as yet undiscovered; and that, too, notwithstanding the fact that the search for it has been long and tortuous. Ignorant of, or ignoring, and without any thought of paying the price of peace, men have tried many approaches.” (“The Price of Peace”, Marion G. Romney, Ensign, October 1983)

Today we live in a time where a person of faith is ridiculed and sometimes condemned for believing in the commandments of God and teaching against the evils of abortion, homosexuality and other sexual perversions. We are told that religion has no place in our civil governments and that salespeople cannot even tell someone “Merry Christmas” for fear of offending someone. Our right to worship “according to the dictates of our conscious” (12th Article of Faith) is being lost and driven out by those who teach their “religion” of non-belief as being the true religion of governments. In response too many believers are being driven into the closets and out of the public, while the agnostic and atheistic beliefs are being taught freely in our schools. There are even those who once boldly stood on the Lord’s side, that have switched sides as easily as I did at the basketball games by switching shirts and are now taking up the cheer of those who support Satan and his lies. D. Todd Christofferson said in a conference address in 2008 had some advice for those who struggle with which side they should be on in this spiritual war. He said:

“The Savior was critical of some of the early Saints for their “lustful … desires” (D&C 101:6; see also D&C 88:121). These were people who lived in a non-television, non-film, non-Internet, non-iPod world. In a world now awash in sexualized images and music, are we free from lustful desires and their attendant evils? Far from pushing the limits of modest dress or indulging in the vicarious immorality of pornography, we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. To come to Zion, it is not enough for you or me to be somewhat less wicked than others. We are to become not only good but holy men and women. Recalling Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s phrase, let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon (see Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light [1990], 47).” (“Come to Zion”, D. Todd Christofferson, General Conference, October 2008)

President Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told of a letter he received from a man that had tried to have a home in Zion and a cottage in Babylon and eventually repented and became committed to living the commandments fully. He shared a paragraph from the letter, it said:

“I have had to learn for myself (the hard way) that the Savior was absolutely correct when He said, ‘No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.’8 I tried, about as hard as anyone ever has, to do both. In the end,” said he, “I had all of the emptiness, darkness, and loneliness that Satan provides to those who believe his deceptions, illusions, and lies.” (“Dare to Stand Alone”, Thomas S. Monson, General Conference, October 2011)

In that same conference address President Monson tells us that those of faith must be willing to stand alone if we must in defense of the truth and the gospel standards. He said:

“…none within the sound of my voice should be in any doubt concerning what is moral and what is not, nor should any be in doubt about what is expected of us... We have been and continue to be taught God’s laws. Despite what you may see or hear elsewhere, these laws are unchanging.
As we go about living from day to day, it is almost inevitable that our faith will be challenged. We may at times find ourselves surrounded by others and yet standing in the minority or even standing alone concerning what is acceptable and what is not. Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone?” (“Dare to Stand Alone”, Thomas S. Monson, General Conference, October 2011)
While there are no eternal consequences in switching between two basketball teams, the choices we make in choosing to be on the Lord’s side and disregard all those who are screaming that we should be more tolerant, more accepting of other’s choices to disobey or that there should not be any choice at all; these do determine our eternal destinies and happiness.

So even though I will continue to choose to support both BYU and USU and their athletic teams, when it comes to choosing between Satan and the world or keeping the commandments of God, then “as for me and my house we will choose the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). It is my hope and prayer that you will choose to stand with me. Together we will win, even against all the “obvious” advantages and in spite of those who would tell us that the game is lost and there is no chance of victory. Just ask any fan from Auburn if they had any chance of beating Alabama the number #1 team in the nation in football until yesterday. But that is a story for another day.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

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