We have been counseled to be in the world, but not of the world. I’ve carefully considered this counsel over the years to determine what it means.
The world is a scary place. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes of listening to the news to realize the evil and wickedness that surrounds us. Reports of murders and acts of violence are commonplace. Even more frightening, are the reports of school violence. When I was in high school, I’d never heard of any school shootings and now, it’s not uncommon to hear a report of another student bringing a gun to school and opening fire on other students. Even in our high school, a student was apprehended with a gun and my children were in a lockdown situation for a few hours. On that same day, my younger children were in a lockdown in our elementary school while a member of our community was in a standoff with the sheriff’s department.
With all of this violence it may seem reasonable to shelter our children and hide from all that’s going on in the world. We may be tempted to shut ourselves off from others in an effort to protect our families. We may even take it so far as to separate ourselves from those we feel are living unrighteously. We may encourage our children to not associate with those who we believe are making bad choices.
This is a fine line and relates directly to the counsel to live in the world, but not of the world. We, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, must live in this world. Heavenly Father created it for us. He has abundantly blessed us. Yet, we must also be careful to not condone nor support behaviors or activities that we know oppose God’s teachings.
This is when we must learn to separate people from behaviors. Yes, we do not want to have close associations with those who seek to drag us down or sway us from the path back to Heavenly Father, but we must be careful to not close ourselves off so tightly from our neighbors that we shelter ourselves and our families and lose opportunities to share the gospel.
My kids have friends at school that don’t live the gospel. In fact, before meeting my kids, most of their friends didn’t know anything about The Church. It has been through the associations with my children that many others have learned about the gospel. I counsel my kids to be kind and respectful to those around them, but to choose their closest friends wisely. When my son was in high school, one of his close friends had very different standards, yet he always respected my son and his standards. In fact, at one point my son’s friend volunteered to live the standards in For the Strength of the Youth for a month. That may not have ever happened had my son not associated with him. Though none of my children’s friends have joined The Church, hopefully they will have good feelings about it and, perhaps, someday they may be interested enough to investigate and join.
We can’t bring the gospel to others if we deny all associations with them. We must hold fast to our own standards and stay on the right path, but as we do that, we should befriend those around us and invite them to follow the same path without being judgmental. Though we may be tempted to shelter ourselves from the world, we can only be effective missionaries when we are in the world.
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