One thing I like about the Church is that it preaches the ideal, and recently I was pondering about why that is. I think that “the world” sometimes lowers expectations and how standards are defined (and people in the Church may be tempted to do so too) because of the “reality” of what’s reasonable or what most people actually do, and to not scare people away from even trying (which is something to consider, and I’ll explain). However, it may be blasphemous for the Church to represent God’s standards as any less than they are. And more importantly, the Church provides the ideal standard so that those sincerely seeking truth may know how to improve themselves and their lives. Because of “hard” standards some may be discouraged from even trying, or feel that the rules are unreasonable or unnecessarily strict, but all such thoughts come from Satan and a misunderstanding of how the gospel works.
Discouraged from trying
God sees our hearts, and forgives our sins, if we sincerely seek to keep his commandments and repent. Every effort counts and shows we care. Sincerely choosing limits for what we consider acceptable is much better than not having any limits. The goal is perfection, yet we know that we can’t be perfect in everything in this life, which is okay, because of Christ and repentance. At least we know what we can do to work toward the goal of perfection.
The Church does take steps to help people not be discouraged. Missionaries aren’t advised to teach all commandments and sins to avoid in the first lesson. We seek to focus on the essentials. The essential aspects of the gospel are the everlasting love of our Heavenly Father and Christ, who enables us to return to Him.
Feeling that the rules are unreasonable or unnecessarily strict
The standards exist, whether we follow them or not. What the world, most people, even the school or government, considers acceptable may very well not be acceptable by God’s standards. The commandments are for our benefit, and will help us find true happiness. Following the commandments grudgingly impedes our happiness. Loving God itself is a commandment, and such love would cause us to love to keep his commandments, do His will, and become like Him. We are seeking to become gods, and that is not something we can attain unless we eventually reach the highest standard.
If Church leader’s teachings or standards were to be lenient on sin, it would be more confusing, and it would be harder to trust such standards.
What do I do?
There are other factors that may come into play when deciding whether something is appropriate or not (such as media). The Spirit helps us distinguish and know what is edifying to us. By the Spirit, I don’t mean only a feeling of right or wrong (for example, feeling “uncomfortable” watching something). I also mean pondering and sincerely thinking things out in our mind, which the Spirit helps us to do. Consider, what is my motive for watching what I’m watching, reading what I’m reading, listening to what I’m listening to, etc.? Is it edifying?
Should everything that we do always be edifying? I believe so. Recreation and entertainment, since it is recommended by God, can be and should be edifying. Education should be edifying. Work should be edifying. Spending time with our family should be edifying. Our motives in all of these activities can be edifying.
Some things are good but not best, or not the best for the current situation or time. By the time we become perfect after this life, we’ll have gotten in the habit of choosing what’s best. The sooner, the better; now is best.
I think that when we are completely willing to do anything, forsake anything, and discipline ourselves in anyway, in order to follow God, is when we have truly turned our hearts over to God. It is when the Spirit can reach the center of our beings, and when we can feel true joy in the presence of God.
There comes a point where one must decide whether to simply be “okay” at keeping the commandments, or follow the “mostly righteous” crowd, or whether to go all the way in, and give oneself, without reservation, to God. If one gives oneself to God, “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever” (D&C 121:46).