The resurrected Christ commanded His apostles to “go … into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), a directive that has been reiterated frequently in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times (see, for example, Doctrine and Covenants 39:15).
As Latter-day Saints, we view ourselves as the covenant people of God. But this is not an elitist self-concept; on the contrary, we want as many people as will listen to hear and accept our message, come into the fold of Christ and become one with us as we all strive to be one with the Father and the Son (see John 17).
To this end, we are commanded to continue in the goodness of Christ, thereby to be a light unto the nations and, through the priesthood, “a savior unto [His] people Israel” (see Doctrine and Covenants 86:11).
“Like ten thousand legions marching Moves a mighty band of youth,” proclaims the first stanza of one of our hymns in reference to the great missionary force of today, “Boldly taking to all people Zion’s glorious song of truth” (Hymns, No. 253).
But in addition to that overt effort, we, each of us, proclaim the gospel in less-direct ways.
One way is to do what the scriptures term “manifesting in a godly walk and conversation” what it means to be a Latter-day Saint (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:69).
The word “conversation” as used here and elsewhere in scripture has an older definition, one not very familiar to us today. It means conduct or behavior, not simply dialogue. So “a godly walk and conversation” refers to the way in which we are to conduct ourselves and behave as the covenant people of God.
The Master expressed it another way when, during the Sermon on the Mount, He commanded, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Surely there could be no greater way to glorify the Father than to bring souls unto Christ — by proclaiming the gospel directly and by exemplifying it through the goodness of our lives.
Thus, as we reach out to attract and include others, we must always be certain that the gospel light emanates brightly from our candlestick, never to be dimmed by personal misconduct or by surrendering ourselves or our values and standards to worldliness or social pressure. To do so would compromise our power to lift and save others.
As Brigham Young University professor Daniel C. Peterson wrote recently in an internet blog post: “Kindness, tolerance, and openness are highly desirable qualities, of course, but they can be absolutized into qualities that might, perhaps, be somewhat less desirable. Any movement can become more embracing by becoming less distinctive, by discarding what makes it unique. But then, if this is carried too far, does it retain any reason for its existence?”
Thus, throughout the ages, the covenant people of God have been commanded to eschew worldliness.
Anciently, after He had delivered His people from bondage, He enjoined them: “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (Leviticus 18:3).
We read of the sad consequences when a subsequent generation violated this strict commandment:
“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger” (Judges 2:10-12).
The foregoing illustrates the necessity of bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (see Ephesians 6:4) lest they succumb to the worldly pressures that surround them in a modern-day counterpart to the worship of false gods.
In the period following Christ’s mortal ministry, the apostle Paul urged those who had united themselves with the people of God: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10).
In his epistle, James referred to sexual immorality, a hallmark of worldliness in our day as well, when he warned: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
In latter-day revelation the Lord taught through the Prophet Joseph Smith that some among those who are called fail to be chosen “because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men” (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:35).
And in very recent times, latter-day apostles and prophets have continued to sound the warning against succumbing to worldly trends.
“Sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God,” said President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during general conference of October 2013, before he became president of that quorum.
In a similar vein, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared at April 2014 general conference, “As the world slips away from the law of chastity, we do not.”
He then quoted President Thomas S. Monson as saying: “The Savior of mankind described Himself as being in the world but not of the world. We also can be in the world but not of the world as we reject false concepts and false teachings and remain true to that which God has commanded” (April 2011 general conference).
May those be our watchwords as we reach out to others while holding fast to standards of truth and righteousness.