I have seen a couple of movies lately that really made me ponder. This is not intended at all to be a movie review, although I thought both movies were very good. Instead, I want to use bits of these movies to illustrate some thoughts that I have been having lately.
The first movie was “Captain Phillips” – the story of the pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alabama off the Somalian coast in April, 2009. This was a very tense and dramatic film, well-acted by both Tom Hanks, as Captain Phillips, and the actors who portrayed the pirates.
The story began by depicting the disparity between the comfortable domestic life of the Captain and the life of the pirates in a poor coastal village in Somalia. After following Captain Phillips’ trip from his rural Vermont home to a large airport (probably Boston Logan), including a realistically tender parting with his wife, it transitioned to a sleepy morning in the Somalian village. The village’s illusion of peace was aggressively interrupted by armed militia demanding that the men of the village go “earn some money” for the local warlord. Under the implied threat of violence, they immediately organize small crews and set out, as they had obviously done many times before, in search of 21st century pirate booty.
The young pirates, reportedly between the ages of 17 and 19, were actually very courageous, even if their courage was, by our standards, terribly misdirected. I couldn’t help asking myself, “Why were these young men willing to throw away their youth, risking their lives in such a fashion? What was the moral code by which they justified their actions? Why are they so different from us?” The answer, I think, was suggested as their 20 foot “pirate ship” approached the 500 foot, 17000 ton cargo ship. This David and Goliath encounter echoed the theme of the opening scenes of metropolitan America, with its suburbs, freeways and busy airports, juxtaposed against life in the tiny Somalian village. This contrast was made even more stark toward the climax of the movie when 3 American warships, massive in size and loaded with billions of dollars of high-tech weaponry stalked the 28 foot life boat in which the 4 illiterate Somali teenagers were holding Captain Phillips hostage.
These pirates were desperate; they were greedy, they were brutal, and they were scared. They were not only scared of the immediate situation: they were scared of life – so scared, so frightened, so desperate that, despite their natural instinct to survive, the thought of dying was not that much more terrifying to them than the thought of continuing to live the life they knew.
My point, and the message I took from this story, is that this is a world of great injustice and inequality. With the exception of the industrialized Far East, this injustice is largely perpetuated by the developed Christian world – a Christian world that supposedly holds up Jesus Christ as its model. Yes – that Jesus Christ – the epitome of justice, mercy, equality, love, sharing, and fairness. The irony is simply stunning.
The second movie was “The Book Thief”, a fictional story of Liesl Meminger, a young girl growing up in WWII Germany, who eventually became a world renowned author. There were two scenes in this movie that are pertinent to the message of this post. In the first scene, Hans Hubermann, Liesl’s 50-something adoptive father, is conscripted into the military. After all, the monster must be fed. I immediately imagined a battle scenario in which the most expendable – the very young and the very old – were sacrificed on the front line. Our American “heroes” – doing what they thought they were supposed to be doing – would have no choice but to kill this grandfather, turning him and his family into anonymous and largely forgotten casualties of war. I pictured an American GI walking through a field strewn with bodies and recognizing that these were children and old men, and grimacing at the recognition of what he had done – of what the war had done – of what his “warlords” had done. It doesn’t matter that the plot didn’t go that way. We all know it could have.
The second scene depicted the effect of the allied bombings on the civilian population. World War II significantly advanced the phenomenon of civilians becoming “collateral damage”. This merciless and brutal killing has continued to be more and more justified to the point that civilians account for far and away the lion’s share of the casualties in 21st century warfare. And why? Just as the young Somali pirates were bullied into seeking pirate booty to satisfy the greed of their ruling warlord, so I contend soldiers throughout the world are likewise bullied, but in a much more sophisticated fashion, one worthy of Satan himself. These young men are tricked into risking and sacrificing their lives, and taking the lives of their “enemies” for no other purpose than to preserve the power of the ruling elite – the “secret combinations” against which we were warned so eloquently in Ether 8:24 and in other passages of the Book of Mormon.
“The Book Thief” poignantly contrasts the beauty of humanity and the love of family and friends against the indiscriminate brutality of warfare, which continues to evolve inexorably under the direction of the great destroyer. After all, Satan promised that he would do this, didn’t he?
I HATE THIS WORLD!
I hate lying. I hate violence. I hate bullying. I hate manipulation. I hate sexual immorality. I hate abortion. I hate the fact that so many people seem to think that the only way they can protect themselves is by controlling others. I hate the fact that so many people are fooled into thinking that the welfare state is good for this country and for those who are on it. I hate a world that drives teenagers to commit desperate acts of piracy and kills innocent people in order to preserve the power of ruthless bankers and politicians.
I LONG FOR ZION!
I long for a world where I can trust other people. I long for a world where people take responsibility for their actions. I long for a world where people speak truth. I long for a world where people’s actions declare, “I love God, and I love you!” I long for a world where everyone has enough and they’re grateful for it. I long for a world where justice, mercy, fairness and honesty – in short righteousness – are the only law required. I long for the love that Liesl, Hans, Rosa and Max had for each other in their little home in Molching, Germany, and for the easy childhood friendship that Liesl and Rudy had. “You can trust me”, Rudy said, and then he proved it – right until the end. Finally, I long for a world where everybody listens to the spirit, and as a result, we are all one with each other and with God.
I recently attended a block of church meetings in Galveston, Texas. It was the first week of the new year, and the young Gospel Doctrine teacher was introducing the new course of study for the year, which was the Old Testament. She asked the class what they would like to learn over the course of the year. I said, “I would like to study the Old Testament in the context of Zion. The scriptures represent an account of God’s relationship with man. I believe that the entire history of that relationship is the result of God’s repeated attempts to establish a Zion people. Even though most of those attempts have failed, He keeps trying. It’s also interesting to note that accounts of the only two examples that we know of from Biblical History – The City of Salem and the City of Enoch – have been eliminated from the Bible.” It’s as if that is the ultimate act of rejection.
I asked the Lord this morning if I was ready for Zion. The spirit whispered, “No, you’re not”. I said, “Well, I sure want to be! Please help prepare me!!” Perhaps this partially illustrates what is meant by “endure to the end”. I suppose I just have to keep learning. After all, it’s easy to love those who love you. I need to learn to love all mankind as God does – in spite of their immorality and brutality and desperation. Sometimes I understand why some are tempted to just bail out of society and go off and start one of their own – the proverbial utopia – except these experiments have only worked twice, and that was thousands of years ago. And why do they not work? I suspect it’s because we’re not ready!
So, if I, who am “not ready” for Zion, am so pained by what I see around me – can you imagine how our Heavenly parents must feel? Yet they continue to love us. I guess I must learn to love as they do. Then, I hope I will be ready.
Brothers and Sisters, let us keep constantly in our mind that the Lord’s plan for us – on this earth – has always been the establishment of a Zion society. It continues to be so today, even though we, His children, have repeatedly rejected that plan. Let us constantly work to prepare ourselves for Zion. I’m pretty sure there could be no greater gift we could give to our Heavenly Parents.
P.S. – Conversation with God # 3a:
Heavenly Father, I really want to be ready for Zion. Will you help me get ready?
YES, I WILL
What do I have to do?
YOU KNOW ALREADY. LOSE YOUR JEALOUSIES AND FEARS. STRIP YOURSELF OF PRIDE.
Yes, I know. I’m already working on that.
YES, YOU ARE.
It’s a slow process. Sometimes I get impatient.
YOU GET IMPATIENT?!!….HA, HA! YES, I’M SURE YOU DO, BUT YOU MUST BE PATIENT. IF THE PROCESS IS SLOW, YOU HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT YOURSELF. THAT’S JUST WHO YOU ARE. KEEP WORKING. YOU’LL GET THERE.
Father, please don’t give up on me!
OH, I WON’T. I CAN’T. REMEMBER, I’M PREPARING FOR YOU TO COME AND LIVE WITH ME. BELIEVE ME, I’M NOT GOING TO GIVE UP ON YOU.
Thanks, Heavenly Father. After all, to whom shall I go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)