“In(fluence) the World,” Ensign, February 2019
There’s a lot of bad stuff going on out there. So it’s a good thing we Latter-day Saints can just watch it all from afar within the safety of Zion, right? I mean, it’s nice not to have to sully ourselves with the world’s petty feuds, isn’t it?
What’s that? Oh, yeah. Of course, the reality is far more complicated.
Before the end of His mortal life, Jesus Christ prayed to the Father for His Apostles, saying, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). He knew that He would be leaving the world, but His disciples needed to remain in the world to carry on His work.
As the Savior’s prayer for His early Apostles shows, He knows better than anyone what kind of evil we will face in the world. But face it we must, though the evil in the world is relentless and ever searching for new ways to spread its influence in our families, communities, culture, and government.
While the Savior said that His disciples are not of the world, He also said that He was not asking for them to be taken out of the world (see John 17:14–16). He knew that the wheat and the tares would grow together and wouldn’t be completely separated until the very end (see Matthew 13:24–30). These teachings contain principles vital to our understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
We rightly focus a great deal of our attention on how to remain untainted by the world’s ways and set our sights on the eternities. But do we fully understand the active role disciples of Jesus Christ should play in the world? As Elder L. Tom Perry (1922–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “It is ‘in the world’ where we have opportunity to serve and make our contribution to mankind.”1
Our mission in the world is not just to be there but to try to make it better, to be a light to the world (see Matthew 5:14–16). We’re not meant to disengage, to withdraw, to cloister ourselves and say to the rest of the world, “A pox on all of you! And if you want to know more, go to our website.”
The scriptures and modern prophets and apostles have taught us correct principles for engaging in our communities and nations so that we can have the kind of influence that disciples of Jesus Christ ought to have—in all areas of life. We do this by knowing and doing.
For disciples of Christ to make a difference in the world, it’s essential that they know something about it. We’re encouraged to get a good education and to continue on a path of lifelong learning. For a disciple, one purpose of this education is to be of greater service to others around us. As President Russell M. Nelson has said, “Education is the difference between wishing you could help other people and being able to help them.”2
We should also keep current and informed about what’s going on in our communities and in the world. So, will the Church ever provide us with a list of the best news feeds, websites, blogs, newspapers, magazines, cable news networks, and other news sources for us to follow? Of course not. But when it comes to being informed, we might take our cue from the General Authorities. Have you ever noticed how many different sources they cite in their general conference talks? Well, that’s the kind of variety we should seek out in our efforts to stay informed.
The news media in our day have become more numerous and ubiquitous, but many of them have also become more narrow, appealing to a specific niche audience with certain biases. So as we look for trustworthy sources of information, we should seek a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. That doesn’t mean that individually we won’t still find certain ones more persuasive and appealing, but at least we’ll have a better chance of knowing what’s really going on.
And as disciples of Jesus Christ, we probably ought to pay special attention to issues related to family, morality, education, poverty, religious freedom, and other such topics. The more we know about these things, particularly as they affect our local communities, the better able we’ll be to engage in the conversation, teach our families, and make a difference.
Beyond knowing about what’s going on in the world, disciples of Christ can also make a difference by going out and doing some good in it. Now, we’ve probably all heard the message “Be involved in your community” so often that it has about the same effect as someone’s saying, “Eat a nutritious diet.” Eyes glaze over. So, just how ought we to “get involved in the community”? Here’s just a sampling of what Church leaders have had to say about it:
President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018): “We have a responsibility to be active in the communities where we live, all Latter-day Saints, and to work cooperatively with other churches and organizations. … I think it’s important that we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute for it the strength of people working together” (in “Who Are the Mormons?” Topics, mormonnewsroom.org.uk).
Elder L. Tom Perry (1922–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “How can we ever expect the world to embrace the righteous principles the Lord has declared to govern His children here if we do not extend our influence outward?
“… Rather than spend time complaining about the direction in which [government and community] institutions are going, we need to exert our influence in shaping the right direction. A small effort by a few can result in so much good for all of mankind” (“In the World,” Ensign, May 1988, 15).
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “It is time to get involved and take a stand for religious freedom. …
“Begin by becoming informed. … Next, speak up. … Next, get involved. … Finally and above all, as the Apostle Paul wrote, ‘be … an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity’ [1 Timothy 4:12]” (“Religious Freedom—A Cherished Heritage to Defend” [address given at Freedom Festival Patriotic Service, June 26, 2016], mormonnewsroom.org).
Of course, Church leaders don’t necessarily tell us exactly how to get involved. That’s up to us, and it’s part of the agency we’re expected to exercise in order to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27).
So, just as the Savior prayed for His Apostles, we should also pray that we can be kept from the evil in the world. But we shouldn’t try to remove ourselves entirely from the world. We’re in it. And it needs us—because we follow Jesus Christ.