Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Cost of Admission

Dad tells me stories of a time when he could see a movie for the sum of ten cents. As a kid I found that hard to believe, especially when I was the one asking for a few dollars to see a show with my friends. Plus there was the cost of concessions which I usually couldn’t afford. Mom and Dad were good to help me once in a while, though I didn’t appreciate what the cost meant to them.

Recently, my wife Liz and I considered seeing a movie in 3D at a nicer theater. The cost was close to $10 a ticket. Funny thing is, I still can’t afford concessions. Sigh. Some things never change. The price was more than we would usually pay for a movie, but the previews we had seen looked captivating and our curiosity was piqued. We went back and forth, debating whether or not to spend the money and go see it. In actuality, there was another cost we were considering.

If you have ever asked a friend for an opinion about something and found that sometimes it matches yours and sometimes it doesn’t, then you know a lot about uncertainty. Friends don’t always agree or see things the same way. In those times where your friend’s opinion does match yours, it feels good to have that in common. When it doesn’t, you feel alone. In this case I was glad that I had talked to a close friend, and that we saw eye to eye.

Prior to viewing the movie, Liz and I acknowledged the possibility that we might not stay for the whole show. There were a few things we had read in the movie reviews that we were unsure about. In doing our homework, we looked at online reviews in the local periodical movie section as well as sites such as and We decided a long time ago that it just isn’t worth sitting through a movie that makes you uneasy.

After arriving at the theater, the film started, and we ended up sitting through the whole thing. It was a very enjoyable film. There were a few things that we didn’t like, but it didn’t make us uncomfortable enough that we felt like we had to leave. Instead we were both glad we went. I suspect that the threshold of discomfort may be different for each of us. But that is not my focus here. Instead I think it more important to consider what you do when you are uncomfortable.

Things could have been different for us watching the film that night. While discussing movies with a friend of mine this week, he told me about a recent date with his wife where they had also decided to go see a show. Unfortunately, they did not have the same good fortune that we did. They were so embarrassed after the first few minutes that they got up and walked out. Having done the same thing before, I knew what they were feeling. I understood how much they wanted to see the film. I could also relate with their disappointment that something they wanted so much ultimately made them feel awkward.

Another type of show comes to mind that makes me feel awkward. I suspect that most have had a dream at one time or another that is very disconcerting. Often the person having the dream has a varying amount of clothing on, which is enough to catch them off guard and make them feel out of place or embarrassed. Tension in the dream may increase if the person dreaming has to perform some task in front of other people. To make matters worse, there may be a lack of preparation, knowledge, or skill that intensifies the moment of embarrassment. Suddenly there is a spotlight and all attention is on you. Then… well, you can insert your own ending. You have probably had this dream before and know it well.

It is hard to make a good decision when you are under pressure and the focus is on you. You may not find success in real life when you are not having a nightmare, but wish you were so you could get out of the situation by merely waking up. In this instance, the cost of admission makes all the difference.

I was surprised a few years ago, after boarding a small plane, to discover that a flight attendant who was not part of the crew came on board and asked for a certain individual to identify themselves. I’m not sure how the passenger got there, and I don’t know how the attendant made the discovery, but the individual had gotten on the wrong plane. The likely conclusion to that trip may seem a little funny to the outsider, but I doubt it would have seemed very humorous to the individual had they realized their mistake after the plane had taken off the ground. The ramifications of being in the wrong place could have had some very expensive consequences. In this case, the cost of admission was salvaged with enough time to make a change.

Whether you are watching a movie in a theater, or you happen to be the star of the show in your own life, we may have times of discovery or awakening where we find ourselves in the wrong place. Failure to make appropriate changes may result in a very disappointing destination, especially if loved ones are waiting for you on the other side of the flight.

Another type of admission that comes with a cost is simply being willing to admit that I am in the wrong place and then fix it. Whether it is a movie or an airplane flight, our choices will take us to another destination. We are often less concerned with a destination that does not involve any travel, thinking that if I finish where I started I’ll be fine. Not necessarily so. Who can see the distance the mind travels while the traveler is stationary? Who can see how far the mind will take the heart when there are no travel restrictions? Why is it that we won’t permit someone to take us to a physical place against our will but we will allow others to direct our minds and hearts when both will tell us it is a bad idea? Hmmm. It is worth considering.

So why do we choose not to listen to our hearts and our minds when we receive warnings? Perhaps we are too afraid of the embarrassment we feel in our dreams to take a stand in a crowd that is sitting. Maybe it is because we are afraid of admitting our weaknesses, knowing that once we do we will have to fix them. We may also be afraid of hurting a friend’s feelings because we know they share a different opinion. Weaknesses, mistakes, and sins are not fun confrontations with yourself. It may be weakness that admits you to the wrong movie, the wrong plane, or the wrong decision. It may be a mistake to decide that your choice won’t be that bad after all. At some point, when you realize that you have made a mistake and you choose not to fix it, but just ride it out instead, you are in the realm of sin. A conscientious decision not to do anything about a problem is still a decision to do wrong.

In addition to considering what you should do when you are uncomfortable, I think it is also worth considering what you should do if something should make you uncomfortable and doesn’t. Is it because I am confident and unafraid? Or is it because I am unable to recognize that I have made a mistake? It may be difficult to tell. Since we don’t often choose to be wrong, it stands to reason that we would assume the default position of being right most of the time. This is a dangerous place to be. Someone who is casual in their faith in God may not have a reason to question their choices. I believe a deliberate disciple of the Savior will always recognize that they are imperfect, and will measure their actions against the only perfect example who has ever lived.

Jesus, in speaking to the people of ancient America after His resurrection, said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him. … Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” (3 Nephi 18:15, 18) We have a need to be watchful and prayerful, even when we are not on our knees.

There is another cost of admission that is very important. Our purpose for coming to this earth is to be tested so that when we are proven faithful, we may be admitted into the presence of the Lord. For the deliberate disciple of the Savior who wishes to do so, there is a cost. Jesus also said, “ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” (3 Nephi 9:20) It is not a coincidence that the cost for us to admit our sins is the same cost to be admitted into heaven. Both require complete integrity of the heart and a willingness to do the right thing, just because it is right.

When we have to take a stand for what is right, in spite of the crowd who remains sitting around us, we may have a need to call upon the Lord for more courage than we possess. It is a great comfort to know that he is willing to grant according to our desires. Jesus taught His disciples, “Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name; And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you. Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.” (3 Nephi 18:19-21) It takes faith to have courage in the face of fear. Faith alone is not sufficient, but faith in Jesus Christ is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth….” (Romans 1:16)

I am happy when I see someone that has faith in Jesus Christ because I know that path will lead them to greater happiness. I am delighted when I see that same person take a courageous stand to do what is right, for no other reason than they know it is right, because they are paying the cost for admission. They are learning a simple truth; you never stand alone when you stand with God. He can give courage, comfort, and strength to the faithful disciple who seeks His help.

Moses encouraged Joshua in his task to lead the people of Israel. It would be difficult. He was one among many, and the Israelites were among many, many more. Moses said, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Sometimes, after having paid the cost of admission to the wrong movie, we may be tempted to make our own concessions, which we probably cannot afford. If we concede our will, our choices, and our agency because we are afraid, we may find it harder and harder to choose the right. If we justify our actions and we become too comfortable with incorrect choices, we may be choosing to leave the gift of the Holy Ghost behind. Ironically, a choice to sit in the crowd and not stand leaves us feeling far more alone than if we were the only one standing for the right. To see this truth for what it is requires great faith.

Integrity is an attribute of power. It does not come easy, but it can be bought for a price. The cost is the cost of admission, one ticket at a time. We purchase integrity when we choose to do the right thing instead of worrying about getting our money’s worth out of a movie ticket. That same ticket can be used to admit that you were wrong, and nothing is worth being wrong. When we recognize we have made a bad decision, and we call upon God for strength, He can grant us the faith necessary to fix it. This is the cost of admission into the kingdom of heaven.

Is the cost a heavy price? Yes and no. If you had to come up with the full measure of discipleship in one deathbed repentance payment, you would likely find yourself short of the cost. On the other hand, if you make a conscious choice to follow God, one decision at a time, you will still come up short. The difference in the latter case is that He will make up the difference. He has promised that He will save us after all we can do. God also has integrity, and he keeps His promises. This knowledge is worth the cost of admission to any movie.


jonesmama said...

Hi, John,
I was checking the family blog his morning and saw that your blog had been attached to ours. I really enjoyed your "The Cost of Admission" thoughts. I look forward to catching up on some of your other postings. That sounded like a really great stake conference address.....if you can sit down and write something like that off the top of your head I'm going to have serious issues with envy which, of course, will require massive repentance.
We're looking forward to the summer reunion with great enthusiasm.
Please give my love to your family!

XXOO Suzanne

John said...

Hi Suzanne,

It's so nice to hear from you. Somehow I missed your comment. Thanks for reading. I really doubt you'll have to do much repenting. Tell you what, though, as far as this summer goes, I'll see your enthusiasm and raise you a couple of outstanding memories. There's no gamble there. I am really looking forward to our reunion, too.

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