The counterculture event called “Burning Man” in Northern Nevada every year around Labor Day has grown to an enormous size. Over 70,000 attendants now come from all over the world and there is a lottery system for obtaining tickets with a follow-up scalping system (that is unapproved) resulting in people paying thousands of dollars to attend this event.
I did not go. I didn’t even bother to apply for a ticket and some of my friends are happy about that. There really isn’t much hope for me to ever attend this “Festival” unless some major changes take place.
Why, you may ask? Let me try to answer although I have already had many say they don’t care.
On purpose, I’m going to avoid a number of cultural clichés and accusations made by those who claim they are more religious. I’m going to try to stick to a very simple answer to this even though it is a religious answer. I will try my best to avoid the plague of self-righteousness, but admit many will view it this way. Talking about this issue brings out heated debates on both sides and I have even lost business because of it because they don’t like my position. Trying to be a peacemaker and still stand for something is a Herculean effort that I probably won’t succeed in. It would be easy to just say, “Do whatever you want. Eat, drink, and be merry while you’re dancing around naked. Nothing matters and there are are no consequences.”
But it would be a lie.
Every day we face decisions and we are told that we must judge good vs. evil and not get them switched around. But what is the basis for such judgment? Some people claim that we’re not to judge at all, but that isn’t what the Scripture said. It says that we must judge righteous judgment and by whatever judgment we judge, we shall also be judged. So the real key here is to how to determine what is right and wrong, good or evil and then choose the right.
Many people have a hard time making such judgments or decisions. It may look fun, entertaining, fancy, able to feed our pride or ego, build up our status or just be downright tempting. But if we are going to be judged by how we judge then it becomes imperative that we make the right decisions.
Let me give you a secret or key as to how to judge every single thing you come across. It’s extremely simple, but most people will find it much more difficult than it appears and many will be unwilling to follow its precepts.
In the Book of Mormon on page 522 a Prophet by the name of Mormon (the same prophet who actually wrote most of the Book of Mormon) wrote a letter to his son Moroni and gave him these instructions. These are some of the most important verses in scripture and are some of the last things he says before closing the record. I’m going to give you these verses in their entirety and then make comments afterwards.
10 Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.
11 For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.
12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.
Notice it says that all things which are good come from God. Everything that is evil comes from the devil who is an enemy to God. A bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water and a man being evil cannot fully follow Christ. It is imperative that we do not judge that which is evil to be of God or that which is of God to be of the devil.
This is very simple. He then says that we may know with a perfect knowledge the truth of what is right or wrong, good or evil, as daylight is compared to darkness. Everyone has been given the “Spirit of Christ” to know good from evil. We are all born with it. Everyone knows what is right and wrong but over the years many of us have ignored that spirit. It’s that still small voice we feel more than hear. It is sometimes depicted (incorrectly, by the way) as a little angel on our shoulder, like in the movie “The Emperor’s New Groove” where Kronk has a battle between the good angel and bad angel resulting in some pretty funny conversations.
Here’s the secret: everything which invites us to do good and to try to persuade us to believe in Christ is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ. We may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. There is no question here and that is the main point. If it causes us to believe in Christ and serve God and fellow man, then it is from God.
But the opposite is also true: whatsoever thing persuades people to do evil and not to believe in Christ and to deny him and not serve him, then we may know with a perfectly clear knowledge that it is from the devil. This is how the devil works because he doesn’t want men and women to do good. He wants us to do anything that is not good. He wants us to do things that tear down God or follow carnal, sensual or devilish desires. He and his minions want us to worship anything other than God. They want us to feed the flesh and misuse our bodies in any way possible and destroy our spiritual connection to our Father in heaven.
I have had many discussions over the years with people regarding Burning Man. They’ve made many comments about how wonderful the art was and the total freedom and openness of the entire event. I asked them if there was people running around naked and they said, Yes. I asked if there were drug use, and again, Yes. How about sexual acts performed out in the open, pedophiles, homosexuality openly exhibited and downright perverts who were in attendance? They said, “Of course there is, you just have to look past it and enjoy it.”
I admit, that it would be fun to see some of the art as I have been raised in an artistic family and have a degree in graphic design. I took part in figure drawing classes, portrait classes and used to do lots of airbrushing and oil painting. But every one of those classes was done under restraint as every model in attendance at least had a bathing suit on.
But I could not enjoy the art at an event like Burning Man. Just like the images you see in a magazine, video or snap chat of pornography, it’s something you can never get out of your mind. Whatever you plant in your brain will grow and the saddest thing to me is learning that children are taken to Burning Man so that they can experience it at a young age. Don’t they realize what they’re doing? Would you take a child to an R or X-rated movie? Would you want them to take drugs when they are 3 years old? How about giving them alcoholic beverages or teaching them how to smoke? What kind of future would they have? I don’t think there is any question that the end result would be some sort of cancer or addiction that would afflict them for the rest of their lives. Yet the images, actions, the things they hear and see at a place like Burning Man will also scar them for life and distort their perceptions of reality.
According to the Scripture that I have quoted above, lets apply the principle and ask as we look at Burning Man, “does it propel us to believe in Christ? Does it make us want to serve our fellow man better, or, does it just feed the desires of the flesh?” To me the answers clear and simple. It is not something that makes me want to believe in Christ and do better. It’s hard enough every day to make sure that I’m doing everything I can to be more Christlike by abiding by this principle and choosing the right. To me it’s easy to see the Burning Man is a great distraction from such a principle. Yet in my opinion I see it as a growing event that is dragging more and more people away from God and away from true and righteous principles.
A recent article in the local paper talked about how Burning Man has been abhorred by some of the small rural communities in Nevada since it started. But over the years as more and more money has come into their communities they have become more accepting of the event. That’s how things always are. Once people can make money from it, people look the other way as to whether it is moral or immoral, right or wrong. It has always been that way. Many of Nevada’s greatest money makers have been from changing a vice into a tax and giving it some legitimacy, providing income for local schools and governments.
Yet Burning Man is not new. There is one event that I will mention in history that is very similar to what is happening in the Northern Nevada deserts of Black Rock City. There were 2 cities of the plain called Sodom and Gomorrah who were doing almost the exact same thing. They had become completely immoral and he had become so evil that the Lord was left no choice but to destroy it. I used the phrase “Sodom and Gomorrah” in comparison to Burning Man to a friend of mine who loves the event. He shot back that that was a mythical story and an unfair comparison.
Well, what else was he going to say? The only way to combat scripture is to call it a myth, ridicule those who stand for something and continue doing what your doing. Its like they are saying,
“We don’t want to change something we like doing, even if God commanded it. There is no God anyway as Man is his own god and we are going to burn him in effigy showing the temporal nature of our existence and do whatever feels good because we only live once and then we are gone, just like the revered structure we worship. We are going to spend 5 days in the desert and do anything that feels good, whether its sex, drugs or admiring fire-breathing, neon-lighted dragon style art cars blaring heavy metal music to dull our senses. We want to get rid of the guilt we feel and the best way we found to do it is a giant group therapy session where everybody else does the same thing and call it a gathering of like-minded people who just want to live together in love and peace. Stop trying to denigrate this event as it is bringing the world together.”
I’m here to tell the world that there’s a better way. There are eternal truths that people just do not know that can bring them true and pure happiness. I’m here to testify that I know that God lives and that we are all Brothers and Sisters, spirit children of Heavenly Parents. We’ve been sent here on this Earth to gain experiences, to obtain this physical body and to learn what is right and wrong for ourselves. We are here to develop faith and to overcome the desires of the flesh. God has promised great things to those who would turn to him with full purpose of heart.
Tonight, as a family we were just reading the Scriptures in Matthew chapter 13 about the parable of the sower. It clearly lays out that there are 4 types of people on the earth and how they react to spiritual manifestations, writing, teachers, events or opportunities:
- Those who care nothing for spiritual things,
- Those who when hearing the word of God, received it with gladness but quickly turned away once persecution and tribulation appeared,
- Those who got caught up in the things of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and were overcome, choking the Word out of their lives and producing nothing, and
- Those who receive the good seed and hearkened to it and brought forth a massive harvest.
I testify that God has not left us alone. He has given each of us the Light of Christ to guide us in this life. He has revealed his word to prophets again on the earth today and for those who are willing to change, who want to get rid of their guilt and pain, who desire the things of heaven, he has provided the sacrifice of his own son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins and remove our guilt. I have experienced this for myself.
The whole experience of Burning Man is a great distraction and diversion from the truth. It does not lead us to believe in Christ or make us better people. It is the great counterfeit of that which is just and true.
I urge you to attend a meeting house of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on any given Sunday anywhere in the world. Just attend the three-hour block of sessions and see what you find and pay attention to what you feel. There won’t be any rock bands or loud choirs. There won’t be any laser light shows or giant screen video displays. There won’t be spirited paid professional speakers whipping up the crowd into a frenzy shouting Hallelujah and having everybody dance around or wave their arms in the air.
There will just be a sweet, peaceful feeling that is unmistakeable. There will be a desire burning within your heart to be better. There will be a desire to draw closer unto God and a real “burning of the bosom” will follow those who put for the effort to find the truth of it all. Instead of a “burning man” there will be a burning inside and it is impossible to forget.
I know people that have joined the LDS Church in their sixties and said that this was something they had looked for all their lives and wondered why it had taken them so long to find it. I know many, many people who break down in tears of joy when mentioning the missionaries that taught them the gospel and the spirit they felt the first time attended a meeting or recalling when were baptized.
In reality, I am pretty sure all of us want the same thing: we want peace and happiness. But Christ warned us that straight and narrow is the way to find that happiness and there is a broad, wide open field that leads to the destructions. We are eternal beings and are older than the stars we see at night. We will live long after our death in eternity depending upon the choices we make while in the short span of mortal existence. We will be judged for the rest of our Eternal lives by the choices we make, the actions we did and the thoughts we think. Burning Man does nothing to add to those positive choices. The sin and debauchery committed at this event will burden the people for the rest of their lives, and possibly for eternity.
I’ve seen the people that have come back from Burning Man close-up. They do not look happy. They have just been bombarded by a massive 3-5 day dose of carnal, devilish and sensual acts and images that titillate and entice. There is a darkness about them and it is more than just being tired, dusty and in need of a shower. These people look stunned, dazed and confused.
The spirit of God does not work that way. The spirit of God is light and love and clarity.
I know what it’s like to feel God’s love and that is why I spent all this time trying to write this detailed and lengthy response to what I see happening to our society. Burning Man is not a place to find happiness that people are searching for. The only place I know where true happiness can be found is within the walls and covenants made in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.