In the World But Not of the World

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By Emilia Julian | August 10, 2018

Sometimes our sacrament talks become our best blog posts.  Such is the case with this one.  I presented this talk in September 2012 to the congregation at my church. The talk has been revised a little for the purpose of this blog, but otherwise, still mostly as I presented it.  

I have observed much in my days since I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For one thing, like many others who join the Church, I needed to make a significant adjustment in my life that took effort and commitment.  In order to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ, I needed to switch my mindset from living in a worldly way to living “in the world” in a Christ-like way.  It was difficult at times, but I found that as I drew closer to the Saviour, my heart was thirsting more for the gospel light, and worldly pursuits or possessions became less important.  Don’t get me wrong…there’s nothing unacceptable about enjoying some of the things in the world…and I do…as long as our hunger in life is directed toward heaven and not on what society leads our attention to.

We have been blessed to be born into this beautiful world, a world that the Lord HimselfHope and Happiness created for us to find joy, build character, learn and grow, and have experiences that will strengthen us if we allow it to do so.  We’ve been placed here for an extraordinary purpose, and there is an eternal plan established just for us.  I feel so much joy knowing that I have found the path that leads me to have true happiness in my life, even when things are not perfect.  That path is there for anyone who desires to travel it, but some don’t find it or see the value in taking that route.  They dismiss it because it goes against what the world has taught them.  LDS.org has stated it beautifully under the topic of Our Eternal Life: 

“Many of us spend our lives looking for something to hold on to, something that will last.  We look for ways to avoid aging or become famous or rich.  But we eventually realize that mortal life is temporary.  Friends and family members grow old and die, the famous are soon forgotten, and wealth is lost as quickly as it is won. 

“Our hope and happiness lie in knowing who we are, where we came from, and where we can go.  We are eternal beings, spirit children of an eternal God.  Our lives can be compared to a three-act play:  Premortal life (before we came to earth), mortal life (our time here on earth), and postmortal life (where we go after we die).  God has had a plan for our lives since the beginning of the first act–a plan that, if followed, provides comfort and guidance now, as well as salvation and eternal happiness in our postmortal life”. 

Understanding this can help us live a happier life now and in eternity.  Living here, in the second act of our life’s play, can be a serious challenge at times.  There is opposition in almost everything we do, and sometimes that opposition becomes a strong force and can take over us if we’re not careful.  If we are in a state of weakness, that opposition, those temptations, they can swallow us up and steer us in the direction of fierce misery, hurt, loneliness, confusion, and obscurity.  Unfortunately, within the beauty that God provided us, there is also a darkness that tempts us to mingle with evil pleasures.  Those pleasures are often disguised as things that may be good, but they are far from good.  As members of the Church, we are all aware of what the Plan of Salvation is.  We have been taught through the scriptures that we have come to this earth to grow and learn and be tested.  We have full control of what we want the “third act” of our lives to be, but we also know that we must make a choice of whom we are going to serve in this world, and that will determine where the rest of our eternity will be spent.  “For thus saith the scripture:  Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve (Alma 30:8)  Knowing what we know, how do we keep ourselves unspotted from the world?  Following God’s plan for us is the surest way to find happiness and endure life’s challenges.

Many years ago, when my son was in his early teens, he was listening to a song in his room that I have never heard before.  After several times of playing it loudly, I began to be familiar with the tune, but the words were unfamiliar to me.  It worried me a little when I understood some of the lyrics in a verse as saying something about there not being “any more normal families,” and “parents acting like enemies.”  Like any concerned mother, I strolled right into his room and asked him what the song was about, imagining the worst of what it could be teaching my son.  It turns out that the song was from a group called SIMPLE PLAN (I’m sure many people are familiar with them) and the song entitled CRAZY.

Here are the lyrics:

Tell me what’s wrong with society
When everywhere I look I see
Young girls dying to be on TV
They won’t stop ’til they’ve reached their dreams
Diet pills, surgery
Photoshop pictures in magazines
Telling them how they should be
It doesn’t make sense to me
Is everybody going crazy?
Is anybody gonna save me?
Can anybody tell me what’s going on?
Tell me what’s going on.
If  you open your eyes
You’ll see that something is wrong.
I guess things are not how they used to be.
There’s no more normal families.
Parents act like enemies,
Making kids feel like it’s world war III
No one cares, no one’s there
I guess we’re all just too darn busy. (Word changed for appropriateness)
Money’s our first priority.
It doesn’t make sense to me
Is everybody going crazy?
Is anybody gonna save me?
Can anybody tell me what’s going on?
Tell me what’s going on.
If you open your eyes
You’ll see that something is wrong.
Is everybody going crazy?
Is everybody going crazy?
Tell me what’s wrong with society
When everywhere I look I see
Rich guys driving big SUV’s
While kids are starving in the streets.
No one cares,
No one likes to share.
I guess life’s unfair
Is everybody going crazy?
Is anybody gonna save me?
Can anybody tell me what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
If you open your eyes
You’ll see that something is wrong.

The world is not equipped.When I had finished learning what the words to the song my son was listening to were, it made me reflect on how sadly correct those lyrics were in so many instances around the world.  People can be so easily influenced by the things of the world that the things that really matter don’t matter anymore.  It’s no wonder the world is becoming lost and confused.

In a General Conference address by President Monson entitled Believe, Obey, and Endure he states the following:  “The world around you is not equipped to provide the help you need to make it through this often-treacherous journey.  So many in our society today seem to have slipped from the moorings of safety and drifted from the harbor of peace.

“Permissiveness, immorality, pornography, drugs, the power of peer pressure–all these and more–cause many to be tossed about on a sea of sin and crushed on the jagged reefs of lost opportunities, forfeited blessings, and shattered dreams.

Is there a way to safety?  Is there an escape from threatened destruction?  The answer is a resounding yes!”

The gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to all of our problems.  The gospel is not a secret.  It is not complicated or hidden.  It can unlock the door to true happiness.  It is not someone’s theory or proposition.  It doesn’t come from man.  It springs from the pure and everlasting waters of the Creator of the universe, who knows truths we cannot even begin to comprehend.  He has given us a divine gift, the ultimate formula for happiness and success.

Sadly, most places we attend are surrounded by the messages of the adversary.  When we subject ourselves to his influences, he will weaken us.  We will begin to let go of eternal things that mattered to us most or will divert us from learning the truth of the gospel.  He will encourage us to justify ourselves by whispering, “Just this once won’t matter.”  “Don’t worry; no one will know.”  Decisions are always before us.  To make them wisely, courage is needed–the courage to say no, the courage to say yes, and the courage to stand firm in our beliefs.

Here are the words of another song we are familiar with:

Choose the right when a choice is placed before you.
In the right the Holy Spirit guides;
And its light is forever shining o’er,
When in the right your heart confides.
Choose the right!  Let no spirit of digression
Overcome you in the evil hour.
There’s the right and the wrong to every question;
Be safe thru inspiration’s power.
Choose the right! There is peace in righteous doing.
Choose the right!  There’s safety for the soul.
Choose the right in all labors you’re pursuing;
Let God and heaven be your goal.
Choose the right!  Choose the right!  Let wisdom mark the way before.
In its light, choose the right!  And God will bless you evermore.

So how do we keep ourselves unspotted from the world?  How do we live here without getting dragged down by the ways of the world?  The answer is straightforward.  We immerse ourselves in the gospel.  We feast on the words of God.  We fill our minds with positive thoughts and fill our days with service and love.  We do everything we can to drown ourselves with the Spirit and allow the Spirit to take over by following His promptings.  We must pray consistently, pouring our hearts out and humbling ourselves before God.  We must study the scriptures…feast on them as if they are what will keep us alive.  And we must apply Christ’s teachings and examples to our lives every day.  We must listen carefully to our prophets and be obedient to what they ask us to do.  Attending sacrament meetings is a must!  It allows us to renew our covenants with our Father and remember that each time we reach out for the sacrament, we are essentially reaching out to the Savior.  The Church has provided us with wonderfully inspired classes and programs that help us grow stronger spiritually…we must take advantage of each of them.

And just as important as all the spiritual reminders, we must also remember to avoid situations that may lead us to be tempted.  That includes associating with people that will pull us down.  We must choose our friends wisely.  They don’t have to be members of the Church, but they should be respectful of our faith, encourage us to be our best us, and inspire us to be the best we can be.  I know that as we do these things, our hearts will begin to change.  Our desires will start to shift and become more righteous.  Before we know it, we will have a closer and more meaningful relationship with our Father in Heaven and couldn’t imagine going back to the way things were.  We will have humbled ourselves and be filled with gratitude.  People will begin to notice the positive difference in us, and God will be able to use us to bless the lives of others.  I can testify to this because I have put it to the test, and my life, even through my trials and tribulations, became more joyful for me.  My eyes were wide opened, and each day I feel the comfort and peace of the Spirit guiding and directing me, helping me to understand that all will be well.

When our faith is weak, we get trapped into living what I call “double lives.”  We act one way around members of the Church, and another way around our school friends or work associates.  We quickly become influenced and transform ourselves into what we feel others would like us to be, just because it’s easier that way.  When we were baptized and made covenants with our Heavenly Father, we promised that we would serve Him full time…not only when it suits us or when it becomes convenient for us.  It is a full-time journey, and we receive full-time blessings when we are obedient.  Let’s not wait for a few hours on a Sunday to live the gospel.  Let’s do it at all times and in all places, and with whomever we are with.

As a youth leader, I thoroughly enjoy attending Youth Leadership Conferences.  It always astonishes me to watch the transformation the youth make within themselves in just a few short days that they are taken out of the world to focus solely on their spiritual needs.  They do in just a few short days, what it takes many others years to accomplish.  Why do you believe they feel the Spirit so strongly at YLC (Youth Leadership Conference)?  I can tell you exactly why!  Because for the duration of the time that those 700 youth are together at a college campus, their cell phones were not allowed, which gave them the opportunity to speak face to face with their peers, listen to the devotionals, pray and study without outside interruption, and put all their focus on spiritual things.  The loud and sometimes inappropriate music that is played on their iPods or phones for several hours a day were non-existent, which allowed them to listen and feel the Spirit instead.  They attended workshops and devotionals, which taught them, inspired them, and strengthened them.  Prayer and study time became routine and dressing modestly and appropriately according to the standards of the church granted each of them the opportunity to focus more on respect, integrity, and individual worth.  They made several new friends that shared the same standards, and they felt accepted and more unified than at any other place in the world could have offered them at that moment in their lives.  For those few days, they were living in the world but yet weren’t part of the worldly living society offers.  In the end, when they were given the opportunity to share their testimonies, I could feel the spiritual growth in their hearts.  I could feel the strength of the gospel in their spirits.  Although they were taken out of the world, along with their treasured worldly possessions, they were happy.  They were free to worship and free to be the sons and daughters they were meant to be.  All they had to do once they returned home is maintain and apply the things they have learned.  That’s not to say they shouldn’t have their cell phones or enjoy other “worldly” things.  But it sure does mean creating balance and placing the eternal things top on the list of priorities.

Just like these fantastic youth at YLC, for us to keep these feelings alive in us everyday, we must, “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9)“Be though an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (Joshua 4:12).   “Be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works” (Mosiah 5:15).  Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly: then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).  “Arise and shine forth that thy light may be a standard for all nations” (D&C 115:5).    

When we do these things, the world we live in can become a holy place.  One in which we find joy and love.

Here are the lyrics of one more familiar song.  If we are obedient to the gospel standards on a full-time basis, we will see “What a Wonderful World” this really can be when we live in the world but not become part of the worldly ways.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and for you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue, clouds of white
Bright blessed days, dark sacred nights
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
The colors of a rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying, “how do you do”
They’re really sayin’, “I love you.”
I hear babies cry. I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself, “what a wonderful world.”

This isn’t the gospel according to me.  I’m not preaching anything new.  All I am saying is that I’ve tried and tested this for myself and it has worked for me, and I know it has worked for others.  These are things I’ve learned in time through studying the gospel.  It has brought me the peace and joy I know I was meant to have.  My faith has been strengthened, and I have gained a personal relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  I am comfortable with who I am, and I feel free to be ME!  I am a child of God.  I know He loves me.  I know it, and I feel it.  My desire is that others may experience this for themselves.

May our homes be filled with so much love and that we find the strength, courage, and faith that we require to bring heaven a little closer to us here on earth.

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