A few years ago, my wife and I used to watch ‘Big Brother’ pretty regularly. Hopefully most of you are familiar with the show (or others like it) – only because it will allow this comparison to be clearer, but for those of you who are not familiar with the show, I will include a brief summary.
Big Brother is a reality TV show (but it’s also very much a game). The premise of the show involves a select group of people, called ‘houseguests’, living together in a specially constructed large house. During their time in the house they are isolated from the outside world and are not commonly aware of outside events (no TV, no internet, no social media, no letters, etc.). In-house television cameras as well as personal audio microphones continuously monitor the contestants during their stay and record every word and action between contestants. Each game (involving the house guests) lasts for about three months, with at least ten contestants entering the house. To win the final cash prize, a contestant must survive periodic (usually weekly) evictions and be the last housemate or houseguest remaining in the house by the series’ conclusion. Similar to other game shows like survivor, biggest loser, etc. there are challenges, competitions, and prizes for various events, but the basic idea is to be the last one standing at the end.
This show (similar to other TV game shows) was developed primarily for TV viewers, so naturally it is jam-packed with drama (intrigue, deception, alliances, conniving, lies, false promises, and every other tactic that contestants can come up with) in order to win, which obviously gets people to watch.
The fundamental purpose of every single contestant is to win the $500k prize. Let’s be clear on that point. Otherwise, why enter the game? A subtle secondary purpose might be to become famous, so let’s just assume that’s a part of the overall purpose). Each individual is trying to win the individual prize. There are no team prizes, as it is not a team game. It is every man for himself, yet as it has always been (and always will be) the contestants enter into ‘alliances’ with other contestants in order to improve their individual chances, help eliminate other strong contestants, or to create some type of a team. This is where it gets tricky – and exciting.
Once the alliances start to form (which is usually right away), the viewers have an advantage over the contestants, because the viewer can see the entire game all at once (at least what the network wants to show us – which if we are honest is just enough to make the drama reach it’s absolute maximum point). The viewer is privy to both sides (or all sides) of the story. The viewer can see that the alliances that are formed don’t have an ounce of loyalty – at least not when it comes down to ‘you or me’. Because we can see one contestant enter into 2 or 3 alliances and promise or (or swear) loyalty to each. The viewer knows (and can easily see) that each contestant is only loyal to the alliance if (or as long as) it is beneficial to him/her.
Inevitably, we all see the episode where one of the alliance members is ‘blindsided’ and voted out, and then acts hurt or emotional and completely surprised about it. Let’s remember our first fundamental here – each contestant entered the game to win. The contestant cannot be surprised when another contestant turns on them can they? Is that possible? How is that a difficult concept for the contestant to understand? That doesn’t make it easier to swallow when you’re the one that was blindsided, but you had to expect it at some point right? It’s not even strange to see an alliance within an alliance – or alliances all over the place, because every contestant is trying to put him or herself in the best position overall – to end up on top.
After the contestants are eliminated, the orchestrator(s) of the eviction is always found saying something like this: ‘no hard feelings (contestant name), I had to get you out before you got me out’ or ‘you were such a strong competitor, we had to get you out as soon as we could’. Meanwhile, the eliminated contestant is sitting there in shock (while watching this all play out)– angry and bitter and hurt – wondering what happened. Then the show host asks that question “what happened”? “Didn’t you see this coming”? With rare exceptions they quietly sob and say, “no, I guess I trusted them. I thought we were a team. I really did believe that they had my back, and that they would look out for me. I thought that we had an alliance.”
If the orchestrators and schemers could hear those words (of the dejected contestants) – they would likely laugh and say something like this; “oh that’s cute, you actually thought I cared about you”. Or if they are honest it would be something like this “that is so cute that you actually thought I had any plans of bringing you with me, because I didn’t. None. I used you just like I plan on using everyone else here to get what I want. But I’ll take it as a compliment that you believed me, because that means I played a good game”.
We’ve all seen it a hundred times right? And as a viewer of the show it is so easy to see it coming. We can yell at the screen, we can groan and ask them if they are blind, and we can even wonder to ourselves if they’ve every actually watched the show before (because it happens every single season, literally over and over again). But then we see the face of the dejected and evicted houseguest and realize – they actually believed the schemer. They really did think that he had their back. They actually and honestly believed it. And then you understand – and you get a little sad for them.
Now, if we have ‘eyes to see and ear to hear’ we can see the exact same things happening in our game of life. We can hear those who would like us to join their ‘alliance’ and they speak softly and encouragingly: “Unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us – not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance” (3 Ne. 3:7). Come and be part of our alliance. It looks like you don’t have many on your team, and/or your team is made up of weak old-timers and stiffs. We are strong and you can be a partner with us. We have money, we have power, and we have a solid backing of sponsors and supporters. These are the orchestrators, who claim to have our back, yet will toss us away as soon as it fits their (unspoken) strategies. And, as I mentioned, if we have eyes to see, we too can see it coming from a mile away.
There will be many who will speak ‘flattering words’, and yet are full of ‘cunning devices’. They have learned this art from the master liar and if we don’t think that’s true – then we are naïve. So, to illustrate the past in order to understand the present and future – let’s encapsulate the entire big brother premise in a single concise statement – based on someone playing that game in 72 B.C. – which happens to be a chapter heading from the Book of Mormon (Alma 47) which reads “Amalickiah uses treachery, murder, and intrigue to become the king of the Lamanites”. Since there is no way to adequately capture or explain all of that intrigue – I will encourage you to read chapters 46-51 of Alma for the full story as it’s much better than any season of big brother. 1
In summary: Amalickiah dissents from the Nephites (because they didn’t elect him to be their king) – so he became ‘wroth’ and convinced his cronies (who happened to be lower judges in the land who also “were seeking for power” which is the hallmark of bad guys. He led his ‘alliance’ with flatteries that “if they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people”. So they run away and convince the (existing) king of the Lamanites to go to battle against the Nephites – because if that happened (war with the Nephites) it would be beneficial to Amalickiah – so he (Amalickiah) “being a very subtle man to do evil”… laid a plan in his heart to dethrone the king of the Lamanites”. He takes the army that the king gives him (the king gave him orders to compel the other Lamanite armies to go to battle), but had absolutly no intention of actually fighting (or compelling the other Lamanite armies to fight with them) because he actually surrenders to Lehonti (a Lamanite chief) as a ploy to become #2 in charge (of now two armies), poisons Lehonti to become the chief commander of both armies, and then comes back with a larger army to the real king and under the guise of ‘bowing down as if to reverence him because of his greatness’ has one of his cronies stab the king, cause a distraction, blame the existing servants of the king and become the king of all the Lamanites. “Thus, by his fraud, Amalickiah gained the hearts of the people”. It was quite the show. He was able to ‘gain the hearts’ of people with false promises and cunning treachery. Another telling truth about this ‘leader’ is found in the statement that Amalickiah “did not care for the blood of his people”. He was in it for himself. As I read these stories I wonder how the Lamanites missed it…
The Book of Mormon is literally full of examples just like this. How many times do we read about individuals and/or groups that dissent or revolt because they (the dissenting group) want to see themselves in power? Like 683. It seems that every few years there is another group that wants to have a king (which is code for “I want this guy to be king so that he can give me more power”). And in each case, this revolt starts with a fancy talker who convinces many by flattery, that if they elect him to be the king he will put them in power, somehow convincing everyone that they really will defeat everyone else (even though everyone else is the whole city) and somehow take over (sound like big brother yet)? They honestly believe that when the battle has been won, they will share the loot or that they really will be put in power and everything will be awesome. Not likely.
The point of all of this is to highlight the fact that these secret bands, or alliances that promise security and protection are so ridiculously unloyal. Because truth is truth, and truth says that (speaking of the devil) “the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell” (Alma 30:60). Interestingly enough, this scripture comes after a fancy talker was left on his own after joining an ‘alliance’ with the sweetest talker of them all. If you think I’m joking, just imagine the devil in the diary room after your eviction from heaven (because you joined his alliance because of his ‘pleasing words’ only to then be stabbed in the back when you needed him most) where he says something like this: “oh that’s cute, you actually thought I cared about you”. Or if he’s brutally honest it would be something like this “that is so cute that you actually thought I had any plans of bringing you joy, because I didn’t. None. I used you just like I plan on using everyone else here to get what I want – which happens to be your misery. But I’ll take it as a compliment that you believed me, because that means I played a good game”.
The best example of these ‘alliances’ being made of lies, comes from the book of Helaman, when the prophet Nephi is lamenting the people’s wickedness on his garden tower and the people wonder what he’s doing. He tells them in chapter 8 (among other things) to “go ye into the judgment seat, and search, and behold your judge is murdered, and he lieth in his blood; and he hath been murdered by his brother who seeketh to sit in the judgment seat. That pretty much sums up the whole reason that alliances don’t last – because everyone that belongs to that alliance is after the same thing – power (or in this case, the judgment seat). Yet Nephi continues “behold, they both belong to your secret band”. What? How is this possible? How is it that everyone in our secret little band is not loyal to the cause? Especially to one’s own brother within the secret band…oh yeah, it’s because every single person who belongs to our secret little band wants to be in charge of our secret little band, and as soon as they see a window of opportunity – they will throw their ‘oaths’ out the window and do whatever they can for their own individual benefit.
The hard part is trying to figure out how they ever think their deception and scheme will last. They were part of the same ‘alliances’ when they schemed to murder the chief judge, but somehow think that other ‘alliances’ within their overall alliance will somehow stop trying to ‘get gain’ once they have become the chief judge. Only to be disappointed (put this cycle on repeat) because the people in this alliance are only interested in themselves. Shocker right? Yet, we see it over and over again and we want to scream at the TV or the book – how did you not see this coming?
These secret bands are the people who will do “all in their power, by whatever means available, to bring us down, to woo the people with sophistry, and to take control of the society”. 2 These are the people that will step on others to get on top. These are the people that will say anything and everything (knowing full well that it’s not true) in order to get ‘followers’ or people to believe in their cause, their projects, or their purposes (code for give them money), while having completely different intentions all along the way. These are the people that do not care for the blood of their followers. And, if we think that secret bands or alliances are only to be found in reality TV game shows, we are naïve. These secret bands are found everywhere in life. They have been for a long time (see Moses 5:51) and they are among us now (see Ether 8:20).
It seems so easy for us to see these things playing out when we read them in the Book of Mormon, or we watch big brother on TV, but for some reason it is a bit more difficult when we are ‘in the game’. Somehow we miss the ‘tells’ or some of the seemingly insignificant things that help us realize that these groups may not actually have our best interests at heart. In fact, they may be out to abuse us entirely – regardless of what their slogan(s) or outward appearances may be. When we watch the game from the outside – we are able to see the true intent of the schemers, and wonder with that same prophet Nephi – “HOW could [these participants] have given way to the enticing of him who is seeking to hurl away your souls down to everlasting misery and endless wo?”… “Behold, he shall scatter you forth that ye shall become meat for dogs and wild beasts” (Hel. 7: 16-21). How indeed. Doesn’t everyone know that Satan an his followers do not have good intentions – despite what they are telling you? Somehow everyone seems to miss it – perhaps because we are trying so hard to ‘play the game’ to get our own schemes in place – that we miss out on the fact that we’ve been hooked. How many movies have this as a premise? Lots.
This same amazing prophet (Nephi), includes a phrase that I absolutely love in verse 25 of chapter 7 (still in Helaman) which says “wo be unto you because of that great abomination which has come among you; and ye have united yourselves unto it, yea, to that secret band…”. I cringe when I think of all of us who are so busy getting on with life, constantly making choices, choosing sides on hot button issues within and without the church, aligning ourselves with the ‘right’ people, groups, or activities (playing the game of life) only to realize that the greatest evil in the entire world (that great abomination) has quietly come among us and has become the most pervasive thoughts, groups, organization, or ideas in our society and not only have we allowed it, but we have ‘united ourselves unto it’ because they sounded so reasonable and logical (not to mention the social pressure, conforming thoughts and the widespread acceptance they receive). What an awful thought. Imagine sitting on the wrong side of that eviction (after being completely blindsided) and wondering how this all came to be (asking yourself – what happened?).
So, let us have ‘eyes to see’ so that we “suffer not that these combinations get above [us], which are built up to get power and gain. When we shall see these things come among us (and they are among us now), that we shall awake to a sense of our awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among us…. For whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies.” 3
Let us not think that these groups, people, ideas, organizations, thoughts, etc. will be labeled as clearly as we would hope. No doubt they will come packaged in very enticing ways that seem to fit the mold of goodness and justice and rights and fairness and privileges. They will all claim to be good, and they will all claim to lead us to safety. Let us be ever dependent upon the spirit and the truth, and the chosen leaders of the church.
1 When you read these chapters, I have found it very helpful to see the ‘types’. For example, Amalickiah is a fascinating ‘type’ for Satan and how he fought in the premortal world, and how he works today, and Moroni is a type for Christ and/or Michael in leading the forces against Satan both then and now. I think we can learn a lot by assuming that these ‘types’ are some of the reasons the war chapters are included in the Book of Mormon for us to read – today.
2 Gordon B. Hinckley, ‘The Times in Which We Live’ – January 2002
3 See Ether 8 (the whole chapter)