November 27, 2007 Observation:
Several years ago Jo Anne and I went to a movie that many of you undoubtedly saw as well, entitled "The Illusionist." The illusionist in the movie was a master magician who was able to create illusions that seemed very real to his audiences. He was so skillful that those who attended his shows could not distinguish reality from the fiction he created. It really was quite an entertaining movie, and started me thinking about the concept of illusions. The world we live in is full of illusions and the illusionists that create them. An illusion is "the action of deceiving -- the state or fact of being intellectually deceived or misled." [Merriam-Webster online dictionary]
I believe the first, and possibly most blatant illusionist, I have ever encountered was a fellow I worked with the summer I drove truck for Kennecott Copper Corp. at the Liberty Pit in Ruth, Nevada where I grew up. I worked the graveyard shift -- 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Every night just before we began our shift a man would drive into the parking lot in a beautiful Cadillac. He was always dressed in an immaculate blue suit, sparkling white shirt, a gorgeous tie, and the shiniest shoes imaginable. To top it off he also wore a very expensive gray hat with a very large cigar clamped between his teeth. Being an innocent youth I asked one of my fellow truck drivers if this might not be the president of Kennecott Copper Corp. who had condescended to fly over from New York to check out the graveyard shift at the Liberty Pit. My friend laughed and just said, "Keep an eye on him and see what happens." The man in the blue suit disappeared into the locker room and in just a moment or two emerged looking a whole lot like the rest of us, wearing coveralls and old beat-up shoes. Still watching him I was astonished when instead of mounting one of the huge earthmovers we were all driving he climbed into the water truck. His job, the easiest and most mundane at the Liberty Pit, was to drive around and sprinkle the dirt roads to keep the dust in check. At the end of the shift he again disappeared into the locker room and emerged as he had entered eight hours earlier. I am sure his neighbors and other acquaintances believed him to be at the very least the vice president of the Ely, Nevada, Last National Bank.
His illusion was harmless, but as I have thought about this experience over the years it has occurred to me that many of us have a lot of the "blue suit" in us in that it is a very real temptation to appear to be what we are not -- deceiving others and oftentimes even ourselves. Sad to say, during this coming election year we will have paraded before us any number of illusionists running for public office who will strive to intellectually deceive or mislead us. We must work hard at discerning the truth from the illusion we are given.
How wonderful it is to know people who are not illusionists, but are exactly what they appear to be. In July when my stomach hemorrhaged, Dr. Nakano whispered in my ear, "Jack, if I don't operate now you will die!" She looked like a doctor, she acted like a doctor, and I could sense there was no "blue suit" in her. I simply said, "Do it!" She knew what she was doing because of years of arduous study and work and proved to be a blessing in saving my life. I feel the same way about my ophthalmologist, Dr. Appa, who looks like a big 17-year-old but is no illusionist. He knows what he is about and blesses countless lives because of his expertise developed over many years.
Perhaps one of the great challenges of life is not to create illusions in our own minds -- intellectually deceiving ourselves -- somehow convincing ourselves we are something we really are not and have not paid the price to be. Appearance seems to have replaced substance in so many aspects of our society and lives. One of my favorite lines from "My Fair Lady" is when Henry Higgins, in commenting on the various languages of the world, said "The French don't really care much what they do as long as they pronounce it correctly." We spend so much time, money, and effort decorating ourselves and our homes that at times we forget to decorate appropriately our minds and souls.
Of course the master illusionist is Satan -- the great deceiver. He would have us believe, for example, that "Wickedness can bring us happiness" which is contrary to the eternal truth that "Wickedness never was happiness" because it is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in God! And yet, through the ages how many sorry people have bought into this illusion? I believe a daily challenge we all face is to separate truth from illusion, and especially to not deceive ourselves regarding ourselves.
Elder Gene R. Cook in talking about a family vacation on one occasion said:
"Last summer on a lonely stretch of desert highway, we saw ahead what appeared to be the road covered with water. My children would have wagered their entire savings on that fact. But within a few minutes we were at the distant spot and saw not one drop of water. What an illusion. How many things there are in this life that appear to be one way and all of a sudden are the reverse. … Satan operates that way. He is the master of illusion. He creates illusions in an attempt to detour, dilute, and divert the power and the attention of the Latter-day Saints from the pure truth of God” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 35–36; or Ensign, May 1982, 25).
I think we need to be so very careful that we do not let the master illusionist detour, dilute, and divert our power and attention from the pure truth of God.