This is a General Conference Odyssey post.
Alma said, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). After Jesus Christ left the Nephites and Lamanites in the land Bountiful, His spirit remained in the hearts of the people for almost 200 years (see 4 Nephi). During this time, there was no contention and all were of one heart and mind. That means the first generation of witnesses remembered throughout their lives and taught it to the next generation who remembered throughout their lives. After that, Jesus Christ’s visit must not have been taught quite so much or remembered quite so vividly.
This past summer, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit Pompeii. Everyone knows the tragic story of how the volcano covered the entire city and it lay buried and petrified for several hundred years.
What we don’t realize is that Pompeii was a well-known port city. It’s miles away from the sea now, because of the ash, but in its day this port city had a very prominent Red-Light district.
If you take your young children on a tour of Pompeii today, the guides will assign them special privileges to run up ahead of the group to reserve space at the next point of interest. This way, the children are occupied while the tour guides reveal the obvious rooms where the sailors found their pleasures.
The tour guides are almost giddy at the telling of this discovery. Frankly, it just left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not saying Pompeii was destroyed by the Lord because of its wickedness, but it was destroyed. And they clearly had their wickednesses.
The scriptures make no secret of what happens to the wicked:
And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh.
And at my command the heavens are opened and are shut; and at my word the earth shall shake; and at my command the inhabitants thereof shall pass away, even so as by fire (Ether 4:8-9).
And if you don’t believe the Book of Mormon, the Bible is even more direct:
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it (Proverbs 2:22).
This week, we cover the October 1977 opening session of conference. Pres. Marion G. Romney spoke on “The Tragic Cycle,” which brought to mind my experience in Pompeii. The world has gone through multiple cycles of righteousness followed by a forgetful people who fall into wickedness and must be destroyed. You know, the real tragedy in this is that Jesus Christ wants everyone to be righteous enough to return to the presence of their Father in Heaven, but they keep messing up! I believe the reason the wicked are destroyed is to simply stop the wickedness and give righteous people a chance to be righteous.
In our day, we see all too clearly how people, through wicked means, try to prevent the righteous from choosing a lifestyle of happiness. They change our laws, they threaten our neighborhoods, they demand that their rights must replace our safety and security, and wickedness continues.
Luckily, God gives us a prophet who will speak truth to cut through the misery. In this session of conference, 40 years ago, Pres. Kimball said in his talk, “The Foundations of Righteousness,”
And now in the year of our Lord 1977 there are among us those same vices which we have seen wreck empires, and we see them becoming flagrant in all nations. Shall we, like Belshazzar, sow the wind and reap the whirlwind? Shall we permit the home to deteriorate and marriage to become a mockery? Shall we continue to curse God, hate our enemies, and defile our bodies in adulterous and sensuous practices? And when the patience of the Lord with us is exhausted, shall we stand trembling while destruction comes upon us? Or shall we wisely see the handwriting on the wall and profit by the sad experience of the past and return unto the Lord and serve him?
Pres. Monson wasn’t in attendance at our most recent conference, but his words were still shared to give us needed direction. Elder Anderson quoted our prophet, who said, “Take the time to read the conference messages.”
You may be aware already that next year the Priesthood/Relief Society lessons will mostly come from conference talks. The words of our present-day leaders have become the most important words to obey for our day.
Last April, President Thomas S. Monson gave a message that stirred hearts across the world, including mine. He spoke of the power of the Book of Mormon. He urged us to study, ponder, and apply its teachings. He promised that if we dedicated time each day to studying and pondering and kept the commandments the Book of Mormon contains, we would have a vital testimony of its truth, and the resultant testimony of the living Christ would see us through to safety in times of trouble (See “The Power of the Book of Mormon,” Apr. 2017).
As we continue walking the tightrope of life, may we stay firmly planted on the path that leads to the great and glorious Tree by clinging to the Iron Rod, even the Word of God. This is where we will find happiness. Because wickedness is happiness said NO ONE EVER.