Back when I was about 15 our scout group went on a campout to Flaming Gorge. My preparation was very thorough as I carefully loaded up my backpack for our 3 day camp. Thanks to my thoughtful considerations to the necessities our trip would require, our entire group of already obnoxious, rambunctious and annoying teenagers increased our capacities to annoy. This was all thanks to my backpack, which consisted of almost nothing but candy. While the leaders likely thought the mixture of not only teenagers, but sugar crazed teenagers in the confines of a 4.5 hour car drive was exhausting, my energy seemed to increase the longer we drove.

Upon arrival we promptly set up camp and upon completion I loudly asked “what are we doing now?” We were by a lake, in the mountains, and I had roughly 7 pounds of sugar circulating in my bloodstream. My leaders (who already looked like they wanted to go home) responded with as much enthusiasm as Ben Stein in the old claritin clear commercials and said “play cards”. I thought for a moment then said “okay, then what?” Their response: Silence… and they both climbed into their tents. I asked “what day are we renting a boat to go on the lake?”… “We’re not” was their response. “Did we really drive all the way here to play cards?” I asked? “yes”, came the response. I quickly realized the fun police had apparently threatened my leaders with their very lives at any attempt no to bore us to death. I felt like I had no freedom to enjoy the wild outdoors. So, naturally I did what any logically thinking teenager would do in the wilderness with no compass, no sense of direction, while in a place he’s never been. I grabbed my buddy and we left the group and snuck off to enjoy our newly taken freedom and fun.

Hours later it started to get dark so we headed back to camp. We entered our camp before sundown, both soaking wet from swimming, and I with a bloody earlobe thanks to a not so cool live lizard earring experiment that sounded a lot cooler than it really turned out to be. We received the welcome I should have expected. Our leaders chewed us out, and lectured us about the importance of not leaving the camp with the security of the others. They were upset we had not told anyone where we were going or when we’d be back. They had no way to track us or contact us and were clearly upset with us. From that moment we were then forbidden to leave the camp again unless our entire group was together or we had a leader with us. Bummer! This we realized was “true” lack of freedom and our actions lead to the lamest scout trip in history basically sitting in camp playing cards for 3 days.

We had wanted freedom and fun and thought we were getting it, but that was not the case. As it turned out our “fun and freedom” lead to exactly the opposite. It lead to being captive in a place we thought would provide us freedom. What we thought was the solution, was actually the problem. We had misread the entire situation, we had been deceived.

How many people in the world today have been deceived by this very thought process. The adversary is an expert in the art of deception. He and his followers have the whole “smoke and mirrors” game down pat. The world accepts, rewards, and even glamorizes the empty, hollow, and superficial things of the world while doing the opposite to the positive and righteous things. Sound familiar? How about Isaiah 5:20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter”!

How many of us buy into this? How many of us go in search of things, places, substances, or activities to fill a void, bring a solution to, or bring us what either ourselves or the world incorrectly perceive as “happiness” or “fun” to provide what we feel is “freedom” but it doesn’t last. Why doesn’t it last? Simply because it never was! Wickedness never was happiness. (Alma 41:10) Smoke and Mirrors is all a game, the adversary’s game, and any game you play with him, you lose.

The world has and will continue to judge and call the LDS Church as something it is not. Our religion is viewed and described by the world as “restricting” and “no fun”. The adversary’s smear campaign is well funded, and is running on all cylinders. They have the support of the mass entertainment industry that constantly puts out product that is immoral, and filled with lyrics about sex, violence and drugs. They boast about and glamorize the adversary’s best weapons. The very same weapons he uses and employs on anyone and everyone including those helping him move his work along.

The world has painted a lie as the truth, and the truth as a lie! However, words, thoughts, actions, laws, and opinions of the world cannot and indeed will not change the truth. A lie is a lie, no matter how many believe it. The FACT is, the TRUTH is, it’s our abstinence from these substances, materials, things, and behavior that NOT restricts us, but allows us our freedom! Avoiding drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, or other addictive items or behavior is exactly what allows us to remain free. It keeps us free from slight to even crippling addictions or lifestyles. How many marriages, families or friendships are broken up due to addiction of various kinds? How many people live subject to, or as an absolute slave to a drug, a cigarette, alcohol, gambling or pornography? How many people have to schedule their days and even their entire lives around something that has such a grip on them they can’t function without it? Their addictions have their full and constant attention and affect them physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially? Addictions can be destructive, crippling and destroy everything you have including life and health itself! After reading the “fine print” packaged with the world’s idea of “fun” does it still sound like fun? Does it still sound like it provides freedom?

Finding a solution to a problem has never been nor will ever include trying to forget it or drowned it out with any type of activity or substance. I’m not trying to be insensitive to or offend those with any type of addition, or who participate in these actions. Nor am I saying they are bad people, I’m just pointing out that those actions or substances don’t provide what they are advertised or pretended to provide. This is simply the adversary in one of his areas of expertise: False Advertising.

The reality is and will always be this: Happiness doesn’t come from a “thing”. It doesn’t come from a nicer car, bigger home, nicer clothes or material goods. Happiness doesn’t come from anything that money or influence can buy. Happiness doesn’t come from anything that can be destroyed, traded or taken from you. Rather, true happiness comes from something worth more than anything money can buy. Something worth so much, it’s priceless. Something made affordable to every single person on the face of the earth because it’s free! I am talking about a relationship with our Living and Loving Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ.

That is true happiness. Lasting happiness. Happiess that lasts because it is and always will be. The best part of all this is that Christ loves you and will help you out of any situation or addiction. Whether a lifestyle or substance is life altering or simply nagging, our Father in Heaven can help. He can guide you away from the smoke and mirrors to something stable, unchanging, everlasting and solid. Himself.