Friday, December 6, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 44: Being Good Citizens

I wonder how many people recognize who this prophet is and even more so, know why he was on the cover of Time magazine back in 1953.

In 1952, Ezra Taft Benson was a serving member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. In America, Dwight D Eisenhower had just been elected President and he approached Elder Benson and asked him to be his Secretary of Agriculture based on the recommendation of the farming business community. After initially rejecting the offer, Elder Benson reconsidered, was given permission of the brethren, including then President of the Church David O. McKay and accepted, serving concurrently both the US government and the LDS church.

He said of this opportunity,
"I have been happy in the privilege to serve, in a small way at least, this great country and the government under which we live. I am grateful to the First Presidency and my brethren that they have been willing, not only to give consent, but also to give me their blessing as I responded to the call of the chief executive"
What obligation do we have to serve our country and our communities while also serving our church?
Elder M Russell Ballard said,
“In the Church, we often state the couplet, ‘Be in the world but not of the world.’ … Perhaps we should state the couplet … as two separate admonitions. First, ‘Be in the world.’ Be involved;… Second, ‘Be not of the world.’ Do not follow wrong paths or bend to accommodate or accept what is not right. …
“Members of the Church need to influence more than we are influenced… We each need to help solve the problem rather than avoid or ignore it” 
What other guidance to the scriptures give us when it comes to being good citizens?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 58:27; Doctrine and Covenants 98:10; Doctrine and Covenants 134

One of the trials of our current times is the pace at which the world would have us live. There seems to be appointments for this and meetings for that. Our kids have this club and that club to attend to after school and it seems you have to be very dedicated just to get the family sitting together around the dinner table each day.

It is no wonder anxiety is at an all-time high in society. So how do we balance the demands of every-day life with the call to be more "anxiously engaged"? And how should we become more anxiously engaged? The Church Handbook of Instructions gives us some help. It states,
"Members should do their civic duty by supporting measures that strengthen society morally, economically, and culturally. Members are urged to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families"
If that still leaves you unsure where to focus, maybe have a read of Elder Uchtdorf's conference address from October 2010 entitled "Of Things That Matter Most". It is a great reminder not only to enjoy life more but also to be more focused on those things that matter most.

For those that are interest more in the political side of serving your country Doctrine and Covenants 134 could be considered 12 articles of political belief. This section was actually drawn up primarily by Oliver Cowdery and ratified by the Church membership in Kirtland in response to those accusing the church of sedition and who were unsure what the church's political beliefs were. Joseph Smith was not present when this was ratified by the Church leadership but later let it stand unopposed. It serves as an interesting guideline along with modern day direction as to how we are to act politically.

D&C 134:9 addresses the age old question of mixing state with religion, the same question that could be brought up when any LDS member has been involved politically from Joseph Smith to Reed Smoot, to Secretary Benson, to Harry Reid and Mitt Romney. Notice it indicates the problem is not with mixing religion with politics but with using religious influence to "foster" one religion over another.
The Church Handbook of Instructions also helps guide us in political decisions:
"the Church is politically neutral. It does not endorse political parties, platforms, or candidates. Candidates should not imply that they are endorsed by the Church or its leaders. Church leaders and members should avoid any statements or conduct that might be interpreted as Church endorsement of political parties or candidates"
Some might see this as merely a way to stay neutral but when you look at in conjunction with Doctrine and Covenants 98:10, how else might this instruction be helpful to Saints when it comes to selecting and electing our representatives nationally and locally?
Notice how D&C 98:10 describes seeking "honest men" and "good men" and a double portion of "wise men". It states nothing about voting for people based on a political or religious affiliation. I think we get carried away too much in voting for the party rather than the person.

Could it be that if we had spent more time in recent decades seeking out and electing honest, good and wise people rather than blindly, doggedly supporting one party, demonizing another party and dismissing those not in a party that our lands would be better governed? Certainly the Lord's comment at the end of this verse suggests so. He says that we should choose honest, good and wise individuals,
"...otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil"
It is my hope, that we will be wiser in our political choices and more anxiously engaged in our own personal service to country and community. We are a good people, with good standards. We are taught honesty from an early age while early church service and leadership teaches many members wisdom. Our communities and countries would be well-served if those among our LDS community that are good, honest and wise would be more anxiously engaged in the world.

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