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n the World
The phrase “be ye in the world, but not of the world” is actually not found in scripture, nor is it attributable to any one prophet. Rather, it seems to be a rhetorical statement—one that is also known outside of this church—that has its roots in certain declarations Christ made in reference to his disciples’ understanding their place in the world. Nevertheless, since modern day prophets and apostles themselves often reference the phrase, it is an admonition worthy of our attention. The admonition “be ye in the world, but not of the world” has two parts: “be ye in” is the first, and “but not of” is the second. Jenefer’s remarks focused on the latter half, “but not of”. I would like to turn my attention to the first part of that admonition: “be ye in the world.” As Latter Day Saints, our familiarity with the phrase “not of the world” offers a tempting, neatly-packaged justification in support of our leading detached, insular lives. But I submit that we would be mistaken to merely focus on the second half of the admonition while ignoring the first. Elder L. Tom Perry has said: “It is ‘in the world’ we have had the privilege of coming to have a mortal experience. It is ‘in the world’ where we are tested and tried. It is ‘in the world’ that we have the opportunity of partaking of sacred saving ordinances… . It is the world that must be saved; it is to the world that the Christ must come again. It is the world that will be our eternal home.
[We will play no part in saving our world, in preparing it for its destiny or in making it a better place in which to live, if we refuse to be a part of it and make our contribution to it while we live.]”
As a counselor in the First Presidency, President Hinckley later elaborated on the admonition: “I do not advocate a retreat from society. On the contrary, we have a responsibility and a challenge to take our places in the world of business, science, government, medicine, education, and every other worthwhile and constructive vocation. We have an obligation to train our hands and minds to excel in the work of the world for the blessing of all mankind.” I wish to explore more the admonition “be ye in the world” more in depth by examining three areas: how we can be good neighbors in the world, how we ought to interact with those in the world who share different faiths, and how we become sanctified through service in the world. Being N eighbors in th e W orld
Each of us in the congregation is a member of several communities, but chances are we spend more time with our neighbors and co-workers than we do among our fellow ward colleagues. I’ve always thought that our friends and co-workers deserve to feel like we treat them with the same respect, time, and compassion as we show towards those of our faith and in our ward family. Consider that Jesus’ first public miracle—changing the water to wine at the feast of Cana—was an act of neighborly hospitality. Of the miracle, Talmage wrote: “He was neither a recluse nor an ascetic; He moved among men, eating and drinking as a natural normal Being. On the occasion of the feast, He recognized and heeded the demands of the liberal hospitality of the times, and
provided accordingly. He, who but a few days before had revolted at the tempter’s suggestion that He provide bread for his impoverished body, now used His power to supply a luxury for others.”
Having recently purchased a new house, and finding that in our neighborhood we are surrounded by dozens of friendly, honorable families, these words from a 2001 conference talk given by Elder Ballard have often come to mind: “Get to know your neighbors. Learn about their families, their work, their views. Get together with them, if they are willing, and do so without being pushy and without any ulterior motives. Friendship should never be offered as a means to an end; it can and should be an end unto itself…” I have strived to do this with our next-door neighbors. A few weeks ago they invited us to their son’s birthday party. Upon arriving, I was honored and humbled to find that we were among a handful of guests who consisted primarily of family and lifelong friends. Interacti ng w ith Those of Other Faiths
A necessary aspect of “being in the world” is learning how to interact with individuals who share different faiths in ways that will bring both parties closer to our Heavenly Father. We should avoid undue focus on whether or not our neighbors are members of our faith. In the talk I quote above, Elder Ballard continues:
“…I believe it would be good if we eliminated a couple of phrases from our vocabulary: ‘nonmember’ and ‘non-Mormon.’ Such phrases can be demeaning and even belittling. Personally, I don’t consider myself to be a ‘non-Catholic’ or a ‘non-Jew.’ I am a Christian. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is how I prefer to be identified—for who and what I am, as opposed to being identified for what I am not. Let us extend that same
courtesy to those who live among us. If a collective description is needed, then ‘neighbors’ seems to work well in most cases.”
In our interactions with those of other faiths, may I suggest that it is simplistic of us to think of the end goal as merely showing respect towards other faiths. We ought to go way beyond this. Last year I read a biography of David O. McKay that left me deeply moved. Of the accounts in that book, one particularly stood out. Shortly after McKay became the prophet, he found himself recovering from gastritis on his 78th birthday. While he was napping, the Episcopalian Archbishop of Utah paid McKay an unannounced visit. Having learned that the prophet was napping, the bishop left a note. Despite McKay’s doctors’ orders to stay in bed and see no visitors, when McKay later awoke, he dressed, drove to the reverend’s apartment, climbed four flights of stairs, and knocked on the reverend’s door. The two visited for a short time. McKay’s journal continues: “As I picked up my hat to leave, the Reverend came over to me, put his hands on my shoulders, bowed his head, and ga ve me a blessing .
I reciprocated by giving him a blessing…I left the Reverend feeling satisfied that I had done the right thing by repaying his visit of this afternoon, and that much good would result from the contact we had with each other this day.”
I can think of few stories from the lives of the modern prophets that more convincingly demonstrate a Christian disposition than President McKay’s acceptance of this good man’s blessing. I hope that, placed in a similar situation, none of us would be like Judas who decried Mary of Bethany’s anointing and washing Jesus’ head and feet with oil. [In this regard, L. Tom Perry has also said
If we who are within the Church associate only with each other, give our time and our means only to internal Church causes, we remove ourselves from the world. Then two particularly negative results occur: First, we become more parochial, more narrow, less compassionate. We lose our perspective and have fewer chances to use and to spread the real gospel. Second, the people around us and the causes around us lose the potential benefit of our association and our help. …The traditional values we embrace, our hopes, our dreams, our freedom of liberty all are shared by right-minded, principled Christian people throughout the world. If we build bridges rather than walls, we begin to see that the gospel principles always unite and never separate.]
Becoming S an ctified th ro ugh Service i n the World Where all of this leads is the fact that ultimately our being in the world has the purpose of allowing us to become sanctified through service. To become sanctified means to be consecrated or set aside for a holy purpose. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ intercessory prayer reveals that those who follow Him are meant to occupy a place in this world. John 17:15 says: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” Verses 18&19 continue: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”
Therefore, just as Jesus was sanctified through the giving of his life, so are we sanctified by taking our place in the world and giving our lives in representing Him to the rest of the world. It is easy for each of us to think of the major acts of “Service” we have been a part of: Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, missionary service, church callings, and the like. However, I also hope that as each of us grows older, the tapestry of our lives will be made up largely of the small, Christ-like ways we have managed to find our place in the world through service—the good relationships we have built with our neighbors, the encouraging remarks, the feelings of camaraderie and respect. Jenefer’s father Dale frequently demonstrates a talent for offering encouraging words when they are needed the most. Recently when he was shopping for a suit, he discovered that the young girl helping him was from his home town. He said that to look at this girl you would have thought she had everything she wanted—she was a beautiful, confident young student. Dale asked who her father was. The girl bowed her head in shame and announced she was too embarrassed to tell who her father was. I think most people would have left the matter alone at that point. Dale tenderly pressed on, and in his quiet sincere way he asked again, “No, it’s okay. Please tell me who your father was.” She did, and he realized the cause of her embarrassment. Her father was a man notorious in their small town for having lived a troubled life. He was an alcoholic who had experienced problems with the law and with his family. Dale thought for a minute and responded, “Do you know that when we went to high school, everyone loved your father? He was tall, dark, and handsome, and was a talented athlete and musician. I can remember him singing to us at school assemblies. He was the type of guy that everyone wanted to be around, all the time.” He continued by pointing out that none of us fully understands the struggles of another individual—we don’t know their home life, the way they were raised, or what kind of experiences have shaped their personality and attributes. Dale noticed the young girl had begun to sob. She said that nobody had ever told her about the type of person her father was in high
school. She had grown up in a small town of hundreds of people who had known her dad, and none of them had given any thought to telling her what kind of person her dad had been as a young man. How much better would the world be if each of us took time each day to step outside of our insular lives, and look for ways to offer encouraging words and gestures to those in our world who need them? In doing so, we truly consecrate our lives by using them to make the world a better place. (Conclusion and testimony)
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