"For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation."
About a month ago, someone in church repeated a variation on the story that when people of the current rising generation die, they'll be greeted by spirits who are awed that they lived in times when it was so difficult to live the gospel. In some versions of the story, there's a pre-existence element as well: we were Generals in the War in Heaven and thereby proved ourselves prepared for the challenges of 21st century life, or something like that.
The First Presidency has issued letters emphasizing that these stories are neither doctrinally accurate nor helpful, but the stories keep getting told.
I think it's because in a larger sense, we really do feel that we've got a uniquely tough job. We live in a culture of material excess, in an atmosphere of sexual irresponsibility, and get made fun of at school for being Mormon. Who could have it worse?
I'll live it mostly to the reader's study of scripture and history to answer that question. My guess is that careful study will reveal that we:
-worry a lot less about forgetting our faith every time we move, either by choice or because someone took over land, slaughtered thousands of our people, and forced us into slavery.
-have an easier time studying scripture, since we know how to read, and since we don't have to risk our lives getting copies of the scriptures to read from.
-don't live in a culture where every other church in town has ritual prostitutes.
Maybe our times are not so bad after all. Maybe, from a historical perspective, it's downright easy to live the gospel today. Peer pressure probably does not compare to invading armies. The worst of Hollywood probably doesn't hold a candle to the sexual and violent entertainment promoted by certain brands of Biblical-era idolatry.
So what is the challenge of this stage of the last days?
Along with scriptures on the internet comes the commission to preach the gospel in all the languages of the world. Along with the relative political stability we prosper under comes the commission to build Zion before things turn really sour again. Along with a knowledge of numerous gospel laws comes the necessity not only to live them, but also to be ready for more commandments and revelations, to hope for them even.
Unto whom much is given, much is required. That's the real burden of our days.