This post is an extension of remarks I offered in a recent sacrament meeting. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have paid clergy or preachers. Rather, each week different members of the ward (congregation) are asked to speak on a specific subject. I was recently given this opportunity with the prompt “How can we be in the world but not of the world?”
I feel that we frequently focus on the end of that phrase- not OF the world. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, succinctly and eloquently taught us how to do this:
“We will have to stay calm under peer pressure, not be impressed by popular trends or false prophets, disregard the ridicule of the ungodly, resist the temptations of the evil one, and overcome our own laziness.”
This is so important especially in our day where so many lines are being blurred and crossed, however, I think we sometimes pay too little attention to the beginning of that phrase where we are asked to be IN the world.
While this exact admonition is not found word for word in the scriptures, the idea is certainly there and similar commands are made both anciently and in modern times.
In Matthew 5 we read:
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Additionally, Elder Quentin L. Cook said:
“We cannot avoid the world. A cloistered existence is not the answer. In a positive sense, our contribution to the world is part of our challenge and is essential if we are to develop our talents.”
We are not to be cloistered, or under a bushel. We need to be on a candlestick and contributing.
Why is that important?
President Russell M. Nelson taught:
“True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world.”
I don’t know about you, but I would like to be counted as a true disciple.
President Spencer W. Kimball offered these thoughts:
“Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.”
While that was specifically directed towards the women of the church, it does not take the men off the hook. Missionary work is driven forward as we are different, and articulate. As we stand out and speak up, and as we are a light.
How then can we appropriately be IN the world to be this light?
Where do we do these things? Sister Neill F. Marriott taught that we carry a circle of influence with us wherever we go. I want to discuss 3 circles in which we can carry a significant influence.
First in our communities.
Do you know your neighbors? Are you involved in their lives to any degree? Do you include them in yours? My uncle once said that the garage door opener was a destructive force in neighborhoods. And it’s kinda true, we never have to talk to our neighbors because we don’t have to spend time in our front yards unlocking our doors and it feels awkward to just ring our neighbors’ doorbells for no reason. Which is why I love Halloween…I get to ring my neighbor’s doorbell, they give my kid candy, and then we chat for a second.
Other Holidays are a great opportunity to connect- I used to make plans to carol to our neighbors at Christmas, but to the dismay of my high school dreams of eternal duets, my husband doesn’t like singing in public, my kids don’t sing on command, and it’s a little less cute for me to sit there and solo on the porch. Also, we always get overbooked and sick right around Christmas. So the last 2 years I scrapped the Christmas caroling idea and now we take treats to our neighbors for Valentine’s day. They love it. We have an older, wheelchair bound gentleman down the street and he loves our visit. This last year we met a new neighbor on Valentine’s day, she was actually crying when she opened the door because she was going to have to put down her dog the next day. I followed up with flowers a few days later to make sure she was doing ok, but I would have had no idea what was going on if I hadn’t taken her a Valentine treat. Find a reason to knock on your neighbors’ doors periodically, and spend some time outside- in your yard or out for a walk so you have opportunities to meet and talk to your neighbors.
Additionally, the Church Handbook of Instruction states:
Members are also urged to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families.
This will depend greatly on your season of life and time availability, but find ways to serve whether on a regular and scheduled basis, or simply donating goods. There are many opportunities to serve refugees in our community depending on your time and resource availability you could set up an apartment for an incoming family, make and drop off a meal for their first night in the country, stock them up with groceries- you can even do a clicklist and someone else can pick it up if you have the money but not the time, or you can simply donate goods as you declutter your home. You may be involved on the PTA, or HOA. Join a club or sports team. I’m part of a community choir, I’m the only active member of the church in the group- which is completely opposite of any other choir I’ve ever been a part of, but I’ve had many opportunities to answer questions, and share experiences with other members of the choir.
Get in the world by being involved and inclusive in your community. Avoid being of the world by being offish.
The next sphere I want to talk about bridges both locally and nationally. And since we’re already discussing one taboo topic- religion- let’s just go ahead and discuss politics while we’re at it.
Again from the handbook:
“As citizens, Church members are encouraged to participate in political and governmental affairs, including involvement in the political party of their choice.
Members are encouraged to register to vote, to study issues and candidates carefully, and to vote for individuals whom they believe will act with integrity and sound judgment. Latter-day Saints have a special obligation to seek out, vote for, and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise.”
In the last Presidential election, which as you might remember was a little heated to say the least, and an incredibly close call in the end, 45% of adults in the US did not vote. Please don’t be part of that 45%! We just had an election about 2 weeks ago…did you vote? We have another one coming up in about 2 months, will you vote in that one? And more importantly, will you be an informed voter?
Getting informed is time consuming and can be frustrating as it can be difficult to find unbiased information but it’s SO important. Take a look a multiple sources, including looking into the other side of the argument. It may or may not change your opinion, but it will certainly help you make a more informed decision. It will also help you engage in more civil and constructive discussions on the topic.
We also need to decide what principles will guide our decisions and stick to them. May I suggest that one of these guiding principles would be to follow the prophet, even, and especially when he may say something that goes against our typical political line of thinking.
Earlier this year I posted something from President Nelson that went against the grain of a certain line of political thought. The topic and political side are unimportant, but I want to share an exchange that occurred with another member of the church that I knew from my mission.
“I’m alarmed that the prophet would make such a [leftist or rightist] and non-sensical comment.” She went on about her thoughts on the topic then concluded with: “Why do people… now apparently including our prophet!, think that laws impact people’s choices at all??? Utterly ridiculous”
I was a bit shocked that a fellow active member of the church would speak out so derisively of our prophet. Even to go so far as to call him ridiculous. But, while this example was extreme, I had noticed multiple examples of a similar attitude when the church made an official statement that went against someone’s political leanings.
I responded to her with these thoughts:
“I don’t think of this as a [leftist or rightist] view. I think that the Prophet is the center, and sometimes the right aligns to center, and sometimes the left aligns to center.
I think the most important thing is to look introspectively and make sure that we are aligning our political views, the policies we support, and our general behavior with God and His teachings rather than trying to make Him and His teachings fit into our political views.”
With the recent statement on the Medical Marijuana bill in Utah, a friend and fellow blogger published an amazing article on this exact same subject of following the prophet. I highly recommend reading the post, but here is a quote I stole from it by Elder Neal A Maxwell from 1978:
“Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. … But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).
President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life” (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ.”
Please be IN the world by being involved and informed politically but avoid becoming OF the world by putting party above Prophets.
The last sphere of influence I will discuss today is our potential global influence via the world wide web.
Social media is a two edged sword, on the one hand it can turn into a major time suck which can take us away from real relationships and higher priorities as well as turning into a war of words and tumult of opinions. On the other hand, it offers a convenient way to keep in contact with friends, family, and associates and gives us the opportunity to share goodness on a large scale.
Elder David A. Bednar, in his address that began the #sharegoodness campaign, taught the importance of our online presence:
“The Lord is hastening His work, and it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families. And I believe the time has come for us as disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively to testify of God the Eternal Father, His plan of happiness for His children, and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world; to proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days; and to accomplish the Lord’s work.”
Sharing goodness isn’t just about always sharing church related material. I feel it’s more about HOW we share than specifically WHAT we share, and should certainly extend to how we share our opinions on secular matters such as politics, current events, and really any issues that are argued on the internet.
He offered these guidelines to help us as we post on social media:
Be Authentic and Consistent and Seek to Edify and Uplift
“Our messages should be truthful, honest, and accurate. We should not exaggerate, embellish, or pretend to be someone or something we are not.”
Last year I posted an “end of year review” detailing some of the fun things we had done throughout the year. We had gone on several trips, etc. After I posted it, I just didn’t feel well, authentic. The post made it seem like 2017 was this beautiful fairy tale year. When in fact, 2017 was a really hard year. I was struggling with post partum depression, we had 3 ER visits, found mold- hence the ER visits, and my car basically exploded. Yes, it had a lot of fun moments as well, but I realized in only sharing the fun, I failed to share the goodness. I failed to share how we had learned and grown and the miracles we had seen despite the challenges. So I wrote a blog post end of year review to be more authentic and accurate.
From Elder Bednar:
“Our content should be trustworthy and constructive. And anonymity on the Internet is not a license to be inauthentic.”
“We and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle.”
Before you post something, make sure it comes from a trustworthy place. Unfortunately, many entities put together posts and click bait articles that are not entirely true (or just outright lies) and specifically intended to stir contention. Before you share stop and check that it is true, and then think about how it is worded, will it be informative and potentially inspirational, or will it primarily come off as judgmental and offensive? A good guide can be to ask yourself if you would say it or share it if the person you disagree with was standing right next to you. Name calling or insinuating that the other side is stupid is by no means constructive, it merely tears down and creates a bigger divide. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.
Consider the example I gave earlier of my friends’ response to what I posted from Pres. Nelson. She used words like non-sensical and ridiculous to describe our prophet, even if it wasn’t the prophet, but someone else I held in high respect it would still be rude. She also insinuated my stupidity which immediately put me on the defensive. Perhaps a better way to have worded her post could have been:
While I respect our prophet and your opinion on this issue, I am confused by this statement. The church often emphasizes the need for personal responsibility, and I’m concerned that more laws would not change behavior.
That would have gotten her same point across without being offensive. You can and should boldly share your opinions, but you ought to do it pleasantly. Because…
“Authenticity is strengthened through consistency. The gospel messages you share will be accepted more readily if your Christlike example is evident in the ongoing pattern of your posts.”
If your other posts and comments do not follow His example and demonstrate His love, then people will not be keen to listen when you share a message that is specifically gospel related.
Elder Bednar went on to say:
“Brothers and sisters, share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others. Be courageous and bold but not overbearing in sustaining and defending our beliefs, and avoid contention. As disciples our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ into a world that increasingly is dark and confused.”
Let’s be in the world wide web by being inspirational but not of the world by being offensive.
In closing I want you to consider the many temples we have in the world. While we have temples in many areas that are primarily known for their high Latter-day Saint populations, we also have temples in places like New York City and Las Vegas which are certainly more well known for their worldliness. Temples are here IN the world, but are certainly not of it.
Sis. Marriott shared this insight:
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” We too as [children] of God have been placed all around the world, like temples, and we each have our own unique look and outward design, like temples. We also have a spiritual light within us, like temples.
We have our own roles on the earth. Each is influential. Each role will have moral power as we reflect gospel truths and temple covenants in our lives.”
I invite you to consider how you can individually be more IN the world by being involved, inclusive, informed, and inspirational then having the integrity to not become OF the world.