Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students


Literary Societies

It is often asked, Are literary societies a benefit to our youth? To answer this question properly, we should consider not only the avowed purpose of such societies, but the influence which they have actually exerted, as proved by experience. The improvement of the mind is a duty which we owe to ourselves, to society, and to God. But we should never devise means for the cultivation of the intellect at the expense of the moral and the spiritual. And it is only by the harmonious development of both the mental and the moral faculties that the highest perfection of either can be attained. Are these results secured by literary societies as they are generally conducted? CT 541.1

Literary societies are almost universally exerting an influence contrary to that which the name indicates. As generally conducted they are an injury to the youth, for Satan comes in to put his stamp upon the exercises. All that makes men manly or women womanly is reflected from the character of Christ. The less we have of Christ in such societies, the less we have of the elevating, refining, ennobling element which should prevail. When worldlings conduct these meetings to meet their wishes, the spirit of Christ is excluded. The mind is drawn away from serious reflection, away from God, away from the real and substantial, to the imaginary and the superficial. Literary societies—would that the name expressed their true character! What is the chaff to the wheat? CT 541.2

The purposes and objects which lead to the formation of literary societies may be good; but unless wisdom from God shall control these organizations, they will become a positive evil. The irreligious and unconsecrated in heart and life are usually admitted and are often placed in the most responsible positions. Rules and regulations may be adopted that are thought to be sufficient to hold in check every deleterious influence; but Satan, a shrewd general, is at work to mold the society to suit his plans, and in time he too often succeeds. The great adversary finds ready access to those whom he has controlled in the past, and through them he accomplishes his purpose. Various entertainments are introduced to make the meetings interesting and attractive for the worldlings, and thus the exercises of the so-called literary society too often degenerate into demoralizing theatrical performances and cheap nonsense. All these gratify the carnal mind, which is at enmity with God; but they do not strengthen the intellect nor confirm the morals. CT 541.3

The association of the God-fearing with the unbelieving in these societies does not make saints of sinners. When God's people voluntarily unite with the worldly and the unconsecrated, and give them the pre-eminence, they will be led away from Him by the unsanctified influence under which they have placed themselves. For a short time there may be nothing seriously objectionable; but minds that have not been brought under the control of the Spirit of God will not take readily to those things which savor of truth and righteousness. If they had had heretofore any relish for spiritual things they would have placed themselves in the ranks of Jesus Christ. The two classes are controlled by different masters and are opposites in their purposes, hopes, tastes, and desires. The followers of Jesus enjoy sober, sensible, ennobling themes, while those who have no love for sacred things cannot take pleasure in these gatherings, unless the superficial and unreal constitute a prominent feature of the exercises. Little by little the spiritual element is ruled out by the irreligious, and the effort to harmonize principles which are antagonistic in their nature proves a decided failure. CT 542.1

Efforts have been made to devise a plan for the establishment of a literary society which shall prove a benefit to all connected with it—a society in which all the members shall feel a moral responsibility to make it what it should be, and to avoid the evils which often make such associations dangerous to religious principles. Persons of discretion and good judgment, who have a living connection with heaven, who will see the evil tendencies and, not deceived by Satan, will move straight forward in the path of integrity, continually holding aloft the banner of Christ—such ones are needed to control in these societies. Such an influence will command respect and make these gatherings a blessing rather than a curse. CT 543.1

If men and women of mature age would unite with the youth to organize and conduct such a literary society, it might become both useful and interesting. But when such gatherings degenerate into occasions for fun and boisterous mirth, they are anything but literary or elevating. They are debasing to both mind and morals. CT 543.2

Bible reading, the critical examination of Bible subjects, essays written upon topics which would improve the mind and impart knowledge, the study of the prophecies or the precious lessons of Christ—these will have an influence to strengthen the mental powers and increase spirituality. A familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures sharpens the discerning powers and fortifies the soul against the attacks of Satan. CT 543.3

Few realize that it is a duty to exercise control over the thoughts and imaginations. It is difficult to keep the undisciplined mind fixed upon profitable subjects. But if the thoughts are not properly employed, religion cannot flourish in the soul. The mind must be preoccupied with sacred and eternal things, or it will cherish trifling and superficial thoughts. Both the intellectual and the moral powers must be disciplined, and they will strengthen and improve by exercise. CT 544.1

In order to understand this matter aright, we must remember that our hearts are naturally depraved, and we are unable of ourselves to pursue a right course. It is only by the grace of God, combined with the most earnest effort on our part, that we can gain the victory. CT 544.2

The intellect, as well as the heart, must be consecrated to the service of God. He has claims upon all there is of us. The follower of Christ should not indulge in any gratification, or engage in any enterprise, however innocent or laudable it may appear, which an enlightened conscience tells him would abate his ardor or lessen his spirituality. Every Christian should labor to press back the tide of evil and save our youth from the influences that would sweep them down to ruin. May God help us to press our way against the current. CT 544.3