One form of foolishness is to take seriously things that aren’t important—to obsess over trivial things. But a more dangerous form of foolishness is to treat lightly things that really are important.
When King Benjamin invited his people to gather and hear his final words, he urged them to adopt an appropriate mindset to receive his message:
I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.Mosiah 2:9
After experiencing the First Vision and before seeing the angel Moroni, Joseph Smith was troubled by some poor decisions he had made. What were these mistakes? “I was guilty of levity,” he explained, “and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been” (Joseph Smith—History 1:28). I don’t think Joseph was saying that laughter is always wrong. But laughter can take on a life of its own, especially in a group setting. We can let our guard down and begin to laugh at things that aren’t funny.
In 1829, Joseph received a revelation on behalf of Oliver Cowdery. The Lord assured Oliver that he had a spiritual gift, but then gave the following warning: “Make not thy gift known unto any save it be those who are of thy faith. Trifle not with sacred things” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:12).
What’s wrong with treating sacred things lightly?
- We may lose our sense of propriety and make poor decisions.
- We may hurt other people who care about those things.
- We may drive away the Spirit of the Lord and thus deny ourselves of additional knowledge and power.
From Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith wrote the following:
The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 22: Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths
He went on to observe how far we fall short of this ideal: “How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of his will, from before the foundation of the world!” (“Letter to the Church and Edward Partridge, 20 March 1839,” page 12 on josephsmithpapers.org).
Today, I will “trifle not with sacred things.” I will treat important things with the seriousness and the respect which they deserve. I will focus my thoughts, my conversations, and my meetings on topics of importance instead of on trivial things.