Chapter 19: In the World but Not of the World
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, (2013), 240–51
During 2014, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith
The Lord expects us to forsake the evils of the world and live as becometh Saints.
We are living in an evil and wicked world. But while we are in the world, we are not of the world. We are expected to overcome the world and to live as becometh saints. … We have greater light than the world has, and the Lord expects more of us than he does of them.
In the seventeenth chapter of John—I can hardly read this chapter without tears coming to my eyes— … our Lord, in praying to his Father in the tenderness of all his soul because he knew the hour had come for him to offer himself as a sacrifice, prayed for his disciples. In that prayer he said,
“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:15–17.)
Here is something Latter-day Saints and Evangelical Christians can agree on: forsaking the evils of the world. Such a concept is very important to Christians, which we call sanctification. After a person has been justified from sins–something taking place apart from anything that could be done on one’s own–good works becomes vital. As Paul said to the Corinthians, a believer is a new creation where the old things are in the past and everything becomes new (2 Cor. 5:17). As James 2 says, “faith without works is dead.” And though we are not justified by our works, as Ephesians 2:8-9 explain, we have created as God’s workmanship to do good works, which God prepared from His people before the very foundation of the world (v. 10). What constitutes the Christian’s marching orders? As Smith quoted from John 17, God’s Word (which Christians believe is found in the Bible) contains reliable truth. This is why Christians are commanded to study these 66 books, as determining God’s ways and purpose for our lives is crucial.
If we are living the religion which the Lord has revealed and which we have received, we do not belong to the world. We should have no part in all its foolishness. We should not partake of its sins and its errors—errors of philosophy and errors of doctrine, errors in regard to government, or whatever those errors may be—we have no part in it.
Preach it, Mr. Smith. But here’s the problem, as I addressed in my review of his previous chapter (18). In Mormonism, doing good works (“enduring to the end”) is a requirement to be “justified” (if there really was such a concept in Mormonism). In other words, attaining this is based on one’s good works. There is no grace unless it’s earned, which in effect negates it from being a gift as it was so intended. There is a huge difference between the motivation a Mormon and Christian may have when it comes to doing good works. For the Mormon, good works are accomplished for salvation. Keeping the commandments is crucial. For the Christian, good works are what is done because of salvation. It is a person’s response to the valuable gift imputed. “For” does not equal “because of.” There’s a Grand Canyon worth of difference between the two.
The only part we have is the keeping of the commandments of God. That is all, being true to every covenant and every obligation that we have entered into and taken upon ourselves.
And just as I said, this is what it’s all about. If Smith were to give his above remarks and not insinuate that keeping these things somehow provides God’s favor, we would agree. But as chapter 18 pointed out , we don’t keep the commandment, as it’s impossible to do. According to Mormonism, failing to do what is necessary will never allow a person to “know” that he or she has eternal life (1 John 5:13).
Do not get the impression from what I have said that I feel that we should keep aloof from everybody outside of the Church and not associate with them. I have not said that, but I do want us to be consistent Latter-day Saints, and if the people of the world walk in darkness and sin and contrary to the will of the Lord, there is the place for us to draw the line.
Bad character corrupts good company, the apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:33. And he’s correct.
When we join the Church … , we are expected to forsake many of the ways of the world and live as becometh saints. We are no longer to dress or speak or act or even think as others too often do. Many in the world use tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor, and are involved in the use of drugs. Many profane and are vulgar and indecent, immoral and unclean in their lives, but all these things should be foreign to us. We are the Saints of the Most High. …
Stop for a second and consider the ridiculous comment that Smith has made (and is repeated in a current LDS manual). Somehow drugs and tobacco are equated with tea, coffee, and even liquor. In moderation, it’s a matter of free choice when it comes to alcohol, tea, or coffee I believe the principles of 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 take precedence, as long as moderation is stressed. As far as tobacco, this drug has been proven to be unhealthy for our bodies. The same goes for illegal drugs. Because 1 Cor. 6 says our bodies are temples of God, we should be careful about doing things that would harm our earthly vessels, including smoking, not getting enough exercise, and overeating. However, it has been shown that coffee and alcohol, taken in moderation, can even be healthy for the body. I just find it silly that the editors used this quote.
As one Mormon who struggles with the Word of Wisdom told me, if this command was meant to be taken seriously, no summer bar-b-qs’s would be taking place throughout Utah. After all, the “revelation” clearly teaches that meat should be eaten only in times of famine or severe cold! In addition, I find it hypocritical to outlaw hot coffee and tea and yet not ban hot chocolate. I spend a lot of time at Temple Square in Salt Lake City during the Christmas season. It seems that every third person holds a cup of this hot drink in their hands. Why is this hot liquid somehow lawful but coffee is not? If it’s because of the caffeine, both have it! If caffeine is not the problem, why isn’t decaffeinated coffee approved? Many Mormons have never sorted through the silly rules that have been created to conform to D&C 89.
I call upon the Church and all its members to forsake the evils of the world. We must shun unchastity and every form of immorality as we would a plague …
If “unchastity” refers to sexual immorality, I agree. First Corinthians 6 clearly teaches this.
As servants of the Lord, our purpose is to walk in the path he has charted for us. We not only desire to do and say what will please him, but we seek so to live that our lives will be like his.
This is also the goal of Christians, to follow in the path God has charted for His people.
Keeping the Sabbath day holy
I want to say a few words in regard to the observance of the Sabbath day and keeping it holy. This commandment was given in the beginning, and God commanded the Saints and all peoples of the earth that they should observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy—one day in seven. Upon that day we should rest from our labors, we should go unto the house of the Lord and offer up our sacraments upon His holy day. For this is a day appointed unto us on which we should rest from our labors and pay our devotions unto the Most High. [See D&C 59:9–10.] On this day we should offer unto Him our thanks and honor Him in prayer, in fasting, in singing, and in edifying and instructing each other.
The Sabbath day has become a day of pleasure, of revelry, anything but a day of worship, … and I regret to say that too many—one would be too many—members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have joined that procession, and the Sabbath day to some members of the Church is looked upon as a day of revelry, of pleasure, rather than one in which we can serve the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our mights, mind, and strength. …
Now, this is the law to the Church today just as it was the law to ancient Israel, and some of our people get rather disturbed because they feel that observing the Sabbath day curtails their activities.
We have no business violating the Sabbath day. … I regret very much that, even in communities of Latter-day Saints, this doctrine is not looked upon as it ought to be by some; that we have those among us who seem to feel that it is perfectly right to follow the custom of the world in this regard. They are partakers of the ideas and notions of the world in violation of the commandments of the Lord. But if we do this the Lord will hold us accountable, and we cannot violate his word and receive the blessings of the faithful.
The problem is that, for many Latter-day Saints, the “Sabbath” becomes a day of do’s and don’ts. Observing the minutest part of the law and forgetting the heart of it seems to be commonplace. This is what legalism does. I agree that bodily rest as well as devotion to God is important for one day each week. Going to church to fellowship with others ought to be a priority. But it borders on legalism to say, no, you can’t do your laundry, no television is allowed, and if you are going to read anything, it ought to be your scriptures. Where are these rules found in the Bible? Or in the Book of Mormon, for that matter?
Even resting for the sake of “resting” is not allowed. The church manual Gospel Principles explains,
“President Spencer W. Kimball cautioned, however that if we merely lounge about doing nothing on the Sabbath, we are not keeping the day holy. The Sabbath calls fro constructive thoughts and acts.” (141)
So what are we limited to? The manual says this:
“We should consider righteous things we can do on the Sabbath. For example, we can keep the Sabbath day holy by attending Church meetings; reading the scriptures and the words of our Church leaders; visiting the sick, the aged, and our loved ones; listening to uplifting music and singing hymns; praying to our Heavenly Father with praise and thanksgiving; performing Church service; preparing family history records and personal histories; telling faith-promoting stories and bearing our testimony to family members and sharing spiritual experiences with them; writing letters to missionaries and loved ones; fasting with a purpose; and sharing time with children and others in the home.” (141-142)
I have nothing against these things–fine things, I would agree– but what I do have a problem with is the legalistic attitude that is attached to Mormonism’s insistence in Sabbath-keeping. You know, Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders for having an attitude of pride and legalism. In fact, He enjoyed ruffling their feathers by allowing his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23ff) or performing a healing (Luke 14:3ff). When the Pharisees complained, he told them that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. It was not meant to be part of a “to-do” list that somehow gets checked off.
In addition, Mormons celebrate the “Sabbath” on Sunday even though the Sabbath takes place on Saturday. (Hence, this is the day the Jews continue to honor.) The early Christians began meeting on Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection, even calling this the “Lord’s Day.” But let’s not pretend the Sabbath is Sunday. Either change the name to “Sunday observance” or move the restrictions to Saturday!
Obeying the Word of Wisdom
The Word of Wisdom is a basic law. It points the way and gives us ample instruction in regard to both food and drink, good for the body and also detrimental. If we sincerely follow what is written with the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, we need no further counsel. This wonderful instruction contains the following promise:
“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” [D&C 89:18–20.]12
Billions of dollars are spent annually for intoxicating liquors and tobacco. Drunkenness and the filthiness which these evils bring to the human family are undermining, not only the health, but the moral and spiritual bulwarks of humanity.
Another issue that Jesus dealt with the Pharisees involved what a person ate and drank. Consider what Mark 7 says:
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
As I said before, I don’t believe in licentious behavior, drinking until drunk, and smoking like a chimney. But as Jesus said, it’s not what goes inside a body that defiles a person but what comes out. Instead of putting such focus on dietary law, Jesus emphasized abstaining from such things as sexual immorality, theft, and murder. Those who want to observe the “Word of Wisdom” by refusing meat, tobacco, alcohol, hot chocolate, and coffee…that’s their prerogative. But making up rules that affects eternal salvation (as a person cannot get a temple recommend without following the Word of Wisdom) is legalistic and abhorrent.
Respecting the name of Deity
We should hold the name of Deity in the most sacred and solemn respect. Nothing is so distressing or shocks the feelings of a refined person more than to hear some uncouth, ignorant, or filthy creature bandy around the name of Deity. Some individuals have become so profane that it appears almost impossible for them to speak two or three sentences without the emphasis—as they think—of a vulgar or blasphemous oath. There are some individuals also who seem to think … that it is a manly accomplishment and elevates them from the common run of mankind, if they can use blasphemous language. … Filthiness in any form is degrading and soul-destroying, and should be avoided as a deadly poison by all members of the Church.
Good stories have been frequently ruined simply because the authors have not understood the propriety of the use of sacred names. When blasphemous expressions are placed in the mouths of otherwise respectable characters, instead of enhancing the story they detract from its value and interest. … How strange it is that some people, and good people at that, think that to use some expression involving the name of the Lord, adds interest, wit, or power, to their stories!
Colossians 3:8 says “now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” And Ephesians 5:4 adds, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
Dressing modestly and keeping the law of chastity
The Latter-day Saints should not follow the fashions and the immodesty of the world. We are the people of the Lord. He expects us to live clean, virtuous lives, to keep our thoughts clean and minds pure and faithful in the observance of all his other commandments. Why should we follow the world, why can we not be modest, why can’t we do the things the Lord would have us do?
As I walk along the streets on my way to or from the Church Office Building, I see both young and older women, many of them “daughters of Zion,” who are immodestly dressed [see Isaiah 3:16–24]. I realize that times and fashions do change. … [But] the principle of modesty and propriety is still the same. … The standards expressed by the General Authorities of the Church are that women, as well as men, should dress modestly. They are taught proper deportment and modesty at all times.
It is, in my judgment, a sad reflection on the “daughters of Zion” when they dress immodestly. Moreover, this remark pertains to the men as well as to the women. The Lord gave commandments to ancient Israel that both men and women should cover their bodies and observe the law of chastity at all times.
I am making a plea for modesty and chastity and for all the members of the Church, male and female alike, to be chaste, clean in their lives, and obedient to the covenants and commandments the Lord has given us. …
… The wearing of immodest clothing, which may seem like a small matter, take[s] something away from our young women or young men in the Church. It simply makes it more difficult to keep those eternal principles by which we all have to live if we are to return to the presence of our Father in heaven.
Paul did teach that “modest is hottest” when he wrote in 1 Timothy 2:9-10,
“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
The same idea goes for men as well.
The blessings promised to the faithful are far greater than the temporary pleasures of the world.
[A member of the Church once said that he] could not quite understand when he paid his tithing and kept the Word of Wisdom, was prayerful, and tried to be obedient to all the commandments the Lord had given him, and yet he had to struggle to make a living; while his neighbor violated the Sabbath day, I suppose he smoked and drank; he had what the world would call a good time, he paid no attention to the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and yet he prospered.
You know, we have a great many members of the Church that ponder that over in their hearts and wonder why. Why this man seems to be blessed with all the good things of the earth—incidentally, many of the bad things that he thinks are good—and yet so many members of the Church are struggling, laboring diligently to try to make their way through the world.
The answer is a simple thing. If I sometimes, and once in a while I do, go to a football game or a baseball game or some other place of amusement, invariably I will be surrounded by men and women who are puffing on cigarets or cigars or dirty pipes. It gets very annoying, and I get a little disturbed. I will turn to Sister Smith, and I will say something to her, and she will say, “Well, now, you know what you have taught me. You are in their world. This is their world.” And that sort of brings me back to my senses. Yes, we are in their world, but we do not have to be of it.
So, as this is their world we are living in, they prosper, but, my good brethren and sisters, their world is coming to its end. …
The day will come when we will not have this world. It will be changed. We will get a better world. We will get one that is righteous, because when Christ comes, he will cleanse the earth.
For a Christian, heaven is all about spending eternity with Jesus…forever. As the hymn puts it, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. It’s a place that isn’t deserved, but then again, that’s what grace is all about.
For more reviews on this manual featuring Joseph Fielding Smith quotes, go here.