Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Sinister Side of Secrecy

Helen and Brent Goates, 1975

My father, L. Brent Goates, now in his 91st year, served as a mission president in the California Arcadia Mission back in the seventies. Twice a year at General Conference time he continues a tradition started when he was serving in that calling. He sends out something he styled as "Heartlines" to about a hundred of his former missionaries and friends. 

He selects a topic that interests him at the moment and summarizes his thoughts by laboriously reducing them to writing on his old IBM Selectric typewriter that dates back to his days at the LDS Hospital. His physical strength is waning dramatically these days, but his spirit and mental faculties are still very much in evidence. 

This month everyone's mind has been preoccupied with the duplicitous nature of the Obama administration. Dad's not nearly as politically attuned as I, but he finds ample evidence to suggest my assertion "the most transparent administration in the history of the Republic" has become anything BUT that. I have also been appalled at the recent death of the Libyan ambassador and the subsequent withholding of the details for political expediency.  

He shares my concerns of the long-term suffering of people we know who have conducted double lives. He has witnessed and lived with those deleterious consequences and they still trouble him. With his permission I share his latest missive: 

October 2012 

The history of The Book of Mormon, my dear companions, reveals the sad demise of two great civilizations which God transported to the new and promised land of America. Both fell to the master Devil’s power when they forsook their Godly heritage. 

Through secret combinations the Jaredite world was continually threatened and finally succumbed. Such bands were a threat to the Nephite and Lamanite nations, challenging righteous authority and eventually seizing power to prevail. These secret societies were not original. They were the offspring of Satan and have existed since the day Cain prepared to kill his brother Abel. (Moses 5:29-31, 51). 

The trademark of Satan’s power operates under the protective cloak and pervasive use of secrecy. This is explained in Helaman’s record: 

Satan did stir up the hearts [of man]. . . and did enter into their covenants and their oaths that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders and their plundering and their stealing. . . . 
They did have their signs, yea their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenants and whatsoever wickedness his brother should do, he should not be injured by his brother nor by those who did not belong to his band who had taken this covenant. (Helaman 6:21-23). 

Secrecy does have its legitimate place, such as in secret prayers and secret philanthropy. It might be justified in some cases to refrain from providing details or identities about people and their failings for the purpose of protecting their loved ones from hurt when no harm would otherwise result. 

Personal secrecy becomes dangerous and wrong when it is used to cover up one’s own sins. Since the Apostle Paul taught, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), it would be wise for all of us to examine our own sins. If in doing so we are reluctant and unwilling to set them aside, and when necessary make them known to those we are closest to – our loved ones or our ecclesiastical leaders – we should then be aware we are in dangerous territory. Modern revelation tells us when confession is necessary or complete: 

By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins – behold, he will confess them and forsake them. (D&C 58:43). 

If we are not able to abandon our sin through true repentance and we are too ashamed and unwilling to make our sins known to those closest to us, an alarm signal “beep” should sound off in our minds. Hopefully, in that soul searching examination we will find ourselves in an atmosphere of loving confidence and understanding with parents, spouse or the Church’s “common judge in Israel,” so our confessed disclosures will be kept confidential. This is another area where righteous secrecy is demanded. The Savior taught that after repentance, “I, the Lord, will remember them no more,” and I found as a Church leader that He allows us too, to forget after we have done our duty. 

When the recognition of the misdeed has brought a remorse and yet there is an unwillingness to seek forgiveness, then we are left alone with our sorrow. We are cast down into a world of secrecy with its multiple hazards. This is the place where Satan thrives best. Alone with our guilt in this realm of personal darkness, we become easy prey for the further influence of Satan, who delights in minimizing the seriousness of our transgressions and assures us that many others are likewise engaged and managing; therefore, our inaction is justified. 

Then comes the inevitable cover-up with its dishonesty, denial and deceit – and the “Secret Life” is born. Living two lives, one of total secrecy from loved ones and Church leaders is both frightening and exhaustive. As we persist in this direction we lose control over our judgment and so we become gripped by the awful tongs of addiction. Then, only pain and tragedy will follow because some day, after immense sorrow and suffering, the truth will be known. 

The most heinous crime and despicable sin emerge from a quiet and almost unnoticed beginning. Think of the tragedy that could have been averted if timely and humble repentance could have abolished the infractions in their infancy. 

In my experience such a narrow focus on secrecy has seldom been studied. For this reason I have dared to address such a personal and tender topic. Remember, that which we choose to keep secret to ourselves should be constantly under our own scrutiny and can be the tipoff for our future, either leading to rectification with peace or constant personal misery. We get to choose. 

As one sinner to all other sinners, I testify that God and true Saints love the repentant sinner. 

Always, your friend, 

President L. Brent Goates

1 comment:

  1. My heart was deeply touched by Pres. Goates council in this printing of "Heartlines". For all these 34 years, I have looked forward to receiving council and love from this great man. I love him, I admire him and am so grateful for his influence in my life.