Man in the Mirror

This is part of the General Conference Odyssey:

Mormons often talk about being in the world, but not of the world. Furthermore, it becomes The World™ in Mormon discourse. In the Gospel of John, there is a cosmic struggle between Jesus and Satan for “the world” (see John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Spiritual warfare is a prominent theme not only in John, but throughout the biblical narrative. The Christian life is to “struggle…not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12, NRSV). But, asks Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve James Cullimore, “[w]hat do we mean by the “world”? President McKay refers to it as those “… alienated from the Saints of God. They are aliens to the Church, and it is the spirit of this alienation that we should keep ourselves free from.” (Conference Report, October 1911, p. 58.) Elder Bruce R. McConkie defines the “world” as “the social conditions created by such of the inhabitants of the earth as live carnal, sensuous, lustful lives, and who have not put off the natural man by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], p. 847.) John, in his epistle, describes the “world” as “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 Jn. 2:16.)” In short, it “does not mean the sphere on which we live, but an environment created by individuals who live contrary to his teachings.” But Cullimore’s counsel is not to detach from the world, to leave it behind. “We would not want to be free of our responsibility of being in the world by being taken out of the world…” We “are to be a leaven wherever you are” according to Cullimore. Our best bet of overcoming evil in the world is–in the words of Elder Theodore Burton–to “seek to change [our] manner of living to conform more closely to the ways of the Lord.” Burton says,

A person’s attitude is perhaps the hardest of all personal attributes to change. If your attitude is right, then your life is made right. If your heart is touched, your mind and way of thinking will change and your life will change for the better accordingly. I believe we must become so immersed in the gospel of Jesus Christ that we become physically as well as mentally more and more like the Lord himself. We must yield our whole hearts to him. What we then do is done not because we are asked to, nor because we are forced to, but because we want to. Neither pressure nor force can be exerted upon us from outside, when what we do is done because it is our own choice and desire. It then makes no difference to us what other men may think, or say, or do. Our hearts being committed wholly to God, what we do is done out of our love for and our trust in him. We then serve God in every way we can because we have been converted, our attitude has been changed and we now desire to become like him both spiritually and physically.

Basically, as the King of Pop sang, start with the man in the mirror.

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