While Sister Rebecca L. Craven and her husband were eating lunch in Central America this summer, they noticed a small family nearby whom they suspected were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After they had finished lunch, Sister Craven and her husband approached the family and confirmed that they were Latter-day Saints.
“What gave it away? Several things actually,” Sister Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, explained during her address to BYU students on Tuesday, Oct. 19. “It was their outward behavior and mannerisms. The way they were dressed. The Orange Fanta they drank with lunch. The language they used — or maybe it was the lack of coarse language, which is so prevalent in today’s world. It was their countenance. It was the spirit they exuded. It was obvious. And they just couldn’t help spilling their gospel light all over the cafe.”
“What made them stand out? It was the dignity and demeanor of their discipleship.”
Dignity and demeanor in discipleship begins with an understanding of identity: “Literally and specifically, we are sons and daughters of heavenly parents.”
“Knowing our identity fortifies us against our culture of comparing, complaining and criticizing.”
This understanding dictates daily thoughts and actions. “How we label ourselves often dictates how we treat and respond to others,” Sister Craven said.
When she was younger, a person who didn’t go along with the crowd or the ways of the world could be called “square,” which is an appropriate word to describe a true disciple of Jesus Christ, as “one definition of square is to be exact, straight and direct.”
“Whatever the term for standing out and being different you might use, the Lord needs us to be recognizable as His disciples,” she taught.
She then shared examples of what dignity and demeanor look like in a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Language of discipleship
“Does our language reflect His image in our verbal countenance?” she asked the students.
Swearing exhibits an absence of discipline and character, and the Lord is disappointed when those who claim to be His disciples use lewd, vulgar or sexually explicit language.
Sister Craven warned against using the Lord’s name in an irreverent or vain way, or “speaking His name without purpose, which in my mind includes substitute words or acronyms that are ‘like unto it.’”
“Dignity in speech is not just the words we use,” she noted. “It’s also what we talk about.”
As there is an abundance of forces in the world that work to tear people down, she suggested that disciples of Christ act as the “counterforce to this type of marring.”
“We are in the spiritual business of building,” she said. “Building character. Building each other up. Building a Zion society with the desire to love God and our neighbor.”
Sarcastic comments can often inflict unseen wounds. “Perhaps this is because such comments are usually rolled around elements of truth. … What might seem comical to one person might be embarrassing or demeaning to another.”
She also pointed out that an elevated tone can quickly raise tension and drive away the Spirit, and recalled a time when her children broke a favorite snow globe. Though the instance was over 30 years ago, “the looks on their little faces still haunt me as well as the feelings of shame that overtook me due to my impulsive behavior, and the immediate withdrawal of the Spirit. ”
Integrity in discipleship
Disciples of Jesus Christ continually strive to be above reproach. “When we compromise our integrity in any way, the light will dim,” Sister Craven said.
“It is disheartening when covenant-making members of the Church put aside their integrity in an effort to fit into a business or social environment such as in dress, language, the Word of Wisdom or honesty.”
She echoed the words of author Robert Louis Stevenson, who said, “Truth is not just to state the facts, but to convey a true impression.”
In the digital world, it can be especially easy to misrepresent facts or even ourselves, she taught. “Being honest not only in what we say and do, but in the perceptions we convey, increases our sensitivity to the Spirit.”
Sister Craven has heard people say they occasionally lower their standards to be relatable or empathetic to another person.
“Certainly, the Savior reached down to look into the eyes of another person, but He never stayed there. He never changed His standards or principles in an effort to be a relatable friend,” she said. “He always took them by the hand and brought them up to where He was standing. He raised them up and left them better than they previously were.”
Have you ever stepped foot into the “But’rs Club?’′ she asked.
Members of the But’rs Club make exceptions or say “but” to the promise of being “a witness of God, at all times and in all things and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9).
Sister Craven invited listeners to consider habits that can be shed “that will allow your light to shine in a way that you unmistakably stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places.”
“There is always a right way to do the right thing,” she said, and promised that striving for refinement in dignity and demeanor as disciples of Jesus Christ will bring about “an abundance of the Spirit, personal revelation and increased love of God and our neighbors.”