We live in a complicated world. Never has more information been available, all accessible via a few keystrokes on our computers or handheld devices. Never in the history of mankind have we had so many choices.
Yet, rather than increasing personal satisfaction and peace, a world where one can choose everything from one’s hair color to one’s gender, from whether to pursue a certain career or terminate a unwanted pregnancy—all seemingly without consequence—has left many feeling anxious, apprehensive, discontent, unsettled and confused.
Take The Jam Experiment, for example. Sheena Iyengar, a business professor at Columbia University, set up two different grocery store displays, one with 6 different flavors of jam, and another that offered 24 flavors. In both situations, shoppers lingered, asked questions and enjoyed tasting the various flavors. However, when it came to buying, those who were offered only 6 choices were 10 times more likely to purchase one of the jams.
Among other things, Professor Iyengar concluded, “in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating.”
In addition to sheer numbers alone, contradictions and a great deal of “gray area,” add to the confusion factor.
Bishop Gerald Causse, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, in 2012, said, “Confusion is evident in the barrage of messages that surround us. With the advent of the Internet, for example, an uninterrupted avalanche of contradictory opinions and information invades our everyday lives. These contradictions can become disconcerting and paralyzing.”
When it comes to jam, chocolate or even which new car to buy, another researcher, Benjamin Scheibehenne, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, said sorting out the contradictions, “can depend on what information we’re being given as we make those choices, the type of expertise we have to rely on …”
So, how do we emerge from the confusion that surrounds us when it comes to moral choices, to questions of doctrine, to concerns of eternal significance? In a similar way, it comes down to “the type of expertise we have to rely on.”
When we read something disturbing, when we hear a fellow ward member whose views seem to contradict our own, when we feel confused and tossed by the winds that surround us today, to what source do we look for answers?
The young Joseph Smith, finding himself surrounded by the confusion of his day, “came to the conclusion that [he] must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else … ask of God.”
Bishop Causse said we are to do the same if we are to escape the confusion of the world.
“Disciples of Christ hunger and thirst every day after spiritual knowledge. This personal practice is founded on study, contemplation and daily prayer,” he said. “Studying the word of God protects us from the influence of false doctrines.”
There is simply no better way—no other way—to find peace and surety in a confused and troubled world than going to the source of all order.
“Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.”