The Moral Hazard of the Gospel
Back in the 1930s, America went through an economic depression that lasted an entire decade. This devastation led to a decline in money supply and output and a rise in unemployment. As a result, it was decided that the government should bail out banks to prevent bankruptcy.
Fast forward 80 years to when America entered the Great Recession, which was signaled by risky bank practices. Again, banks were bailed out and the original risk taken didn’t hurt so bad after all. Okay, let’s get to the point.
When there is a lack of incentive to guard against risk, that’s what is called a moral hazard. Any type of insurance can be considered a moral hazard.
Studies show that driving speeds increased after the advent of mandatory seatbelts in cars. Seatbelts ensure safety, but then counterintuitively promote more reckless driving. I’m not saying seatbelts should never have been invented. No, they save lives for sure. I’m just saying, that’s the reality of a moral hazard.
The way I interpret this concept is…
A person becomes incentivized to act morally counterintuitive due to mitigated risk.
So how does this apply to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Let’s talk about Flattery & the Coming of Christ
In the Book of Mormon around 100–120 BC, there was a King-Prophet named Benjamin who gave a pretty important speech about Christ and His impending first coming. The kids present at the time of Benjamin’s speech eventually grew up not understanding his words “and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers,” which was a belief in “the resurrection of the dead” and a belief “concerning the coming of Christ” (Mosiah 26:2).
As a result of their unbelief, their “hearts were hardened…and they would not call upon the Lord their God.” They refused to be baptized and join the church. Their unbelief even led them to persuade those away from the church who did believe. They did this by using “flattering words”. To flatter is to gratify by falsification or to praise insincerely, effusively, or excessively.
Another Book of Mormon antagonist who persuaded believers in Christ not to believe in His coming was Sherem. He declared to the people that “there should be no Christ” (Jacob 7:2). He did this so he could “overthrow the doctrine of Christ.”
How did he try to accomplish this?
“He was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil,” The Book of Mormon reads.
Time and time again, flattery is used to dissuade us from more fully following Christ and learning of His doctrine.
Flattery sounds like
Flattery may sound a lot like…
“You deserve this.”
“Noone will find out.”
“Why does it even matter?”
“You’re in control.”
“You only live once.”
“If God loved me, then…”
“If the church…then…”
“If the prophet…then…”
“If, if, if…”
What does it sound like to you?
The inherent hazard to our moral progression is that our egos are falsely gratified through excessive praise, which leaves us to believe we are operating our existence independently of a creator.
C.S. Lewis described this phenomenon perfectly, “Pride…the movement whereby a creature (that is, an essentially dependent being whose principle of existence lies not in itself but in another) tries to set up on its own, to exist for itself,” he continues, “From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the center is opened to it.”
Flattery is an essential strategy in stroking our egos to set us up to save ourselves, something we will only do in vain.
The Coming of Christ
The adversary will dissuade us…
first, from believing in Christ altogether.
Secondly, if we believe in Christ, then to believe He won’t come again.
And lastly, if we believe in Christ and that He will come again, then to believe it won’t happen anytime soon.
Basically, we wait while we are waiting. We wait to make necessary life changes while we are waiting for His coming. We adopt the false belief that our lives are on hold in one way or another. We adopt the belief in universal reconciliation and believe that in the end, no matter what, we will all sit down to be friends with Christ, which is what reconciliation literally means.
We are persuaded to act counterproductively to the welfare of our souls when we are flattered to not believe in the coming of Christ. We may tell ourselves, “if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 28:8).
Christ ultimately came to save us from our sins, the stains that prevent us from wanting to return to our heavenly home. He is our insurance against spiritual and mortal death through the assurance of the Spirit.
I love what Elder Richard G. Scott shared years ago. “The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.”
Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.
None of this is meant to seem doomy and gloomy. On the contrary, it is meant to reveal mistaken beliefs that lead us to places where we cannot grow and where we will not find peace. The beautiful message of the gospel is that we do not have to wait to change, despite the flattery that may influence us to remain in that state of thinking and unskillful behaviors.
The Moral Hazard of the Gospel
The moral hazard of the gospel is adopting the belief that we may dance now without paying the piper because Christ already did.
Of course, Christ will always forgive us as we call upon him with “full purpose of heart,” whether that comes now or later, but we must always want it first.
It is only Christ who can determine the true desires of one's heart who calls upon Him on their deathbed.
But it is worth considering the question, “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him and he receive not the gift?” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:33).
What growth and progression do we forfeit or postpone by not receiving His gift?
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior,” Elder Boyd K. Packer taught.
As I reflect on the many mistaken beliefs that have halted my spiritual progression, not truly believing and actively anticipating that Christ will come again has been one with doctrinal domino effects, perhaps domino effects that can be articulated in another article.
I do believe He will come again. I look forward that that great day. In all reality, I haven’t always looked forward to that day, which is probably a good litmus test of my heart’s focus.
I determined that I want to greet Him with confidence when He returns. I want to feel comfortable in His presence. I want Him to call me His. I want to see Him as He is, my master and healer.
Believing this causes me to reflect on how I am preparing for that moment and causes me to let Him transform me more intentionally, something He is anxiously waiting and wanting to do for all of us.