The following thought-provoking article is adapted from a story by Warren Aston this week in Meridian Magazine

The central message of the Book of Mormon is Christ’s universal mission and that his atonement is accessible to all.  Making that central point over and over again, the ancient prophets of the Americas recorded for us the great Cycle of Pride.  They knew then what we should have learned by now in our day, that pride truly is the universal sin.  And they painted for us a strikingly vivid picture of these cycles in the Book of Mormon and the terrible consequences its people experienced. This is much more than merely fascinating history.

Initially, righteousness brought peace and prosperity to the ancient Nephites.  Quickly, however, material comforts bred divisions within the people of the church.  The poor among them became neglected.  Thus diverted from their reliance on God and complacent in their sense of security, the Nephites saw their sophisticated society as superior and secure. Its collapse was, to them, unthinkable.

In little more than 50 years, we have witnessed sweeping changes in our society.  Some have been marvelous.  Advances in health care, travel and communication have been particularly welcome.  The internet has connected and revolutionized our society as much as electricity did.  We have begun to expand the human presence into space.  But there have been other changes, many of them also striking — but in a way that is anything but marvelous.

Several of these changes involve processes processes that are destabilizing huge sections of our society.

1. Moral collapse at the ground level of our western society.  What was unthinkable a few decades ago is increasingly considered normal.  A coarseness has crept into our discourse, our entertainment and interaction with others. Rationalism has replaced moral values for many.  We witness a constant stream exposing corruption, scams, waste, abuse and infidelity in high places that increasingly seems to be tolerated as a new “norm.”

2. Physical destabilization, mainly from the impact of weather events and earth changes.  Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornados, hurricanes and volcanoes remind us how quickly things can change.  They can unleash a tsunami killing a quarter of a million people, such as that on Boxing Day 2004, or destroy towns and cities as we saw in places as diverse as Haiti, Japan and New Zealand, among others.  Who can forget the spectacle of a major US city in total collapse for days after Hurricane Katrina – or of a government relief effort that was almost unbelievably incompetent?  They can bring famine and starvation to whole regions such as what is unfolding right now in the Horn of Africa.

3. The possibility of worldwide economic collapse is something the world finds it must now consider. For failing something as basic as living within their means, a number of countries are staring at a very real abyss that could far exceed the Great Depression in the 1930’s.  The world’s largest economy –  the US – is not alone in this situation; European countries such as Italy and Spain are also close to breaking point.  Japan, the world’s second largest economy, took a tremendous economic hit earlier this year with the earthquakes and tsunami.

Division is taking place within society as we adjust and respond to these processes.  Too many of us still live in comfortable bubbles of habit, lulled into a false sense of security.  Many people are in denial about how quickly collapse can come in our sophisticated culture, how little it would take, for example, to remove food from our supermarkets and gas from the pumps.  The normal order of things can shut down very quickly.  Civil unrest, as we have seen in recent days in London, can erupt with little provocation.  As our world becomes increasingly destabilized and vulnerable it is time to prepare ourselves.

The storm clouds, heralding perhaps the preaching of the Lord’s own sermon, are gathering.

Read the complete article in Meridian Magazine

The following short video from producer David Kat uses excerpts from General Conference and other addresses to liken the times in which we live – the present day – to those days immediately preceding the flood of Noah — when “they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage… and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away.” (Matt 24:38)