Elder Delbert L. Stapley shared an encounter that he had with a national Scout leader who was not a member of the Church. As he visited Elder Stapley in Salt Lake City, the leader told him that he believed “the church will save the world.” Elder Stapley’s talk from the October 1971 conference focuses on a central paradox inherent in living the Gospel. First of all, our mission, both individually and collectively is global. Second, the most important things that we can do to help fulfill are mission are small and simple things that ensure that we truly live the gospel.
As Elder Stapley notes, “[t]o save the world is a great responsibility. This responsibility rests not only upon the leadership of the Church, but upon the membership of the Church as well.” This is a personal responsibility to preach the gospel to the world, which is empowering in its grandeur and scope.
As we contemplate this purpose, it can transform how we view our church obligations and opportunities. No longer, do the things we are asked to do seem as pointless duties, but instead they are opportunities to reach out and save someone. We are engaged in the vast collective work of building Zion, and of calling people out of destruction in Babylon.
Sometimes, we lose sight of this responsibility. We can become complacent and think that our only goal is to fit in and do the best we can in the world. But our goal is not to assimilate into the world, but to be as the leaven and help to raise the quality of goodness in the world. We know that there are many good and kind people in the world, we must work with them. But we can never forget that our responsibility as members of the Church is not just to be part of the world, but ultimately to save and transform it.
However, paradoxically, the only way to actually do so is to live the gospel in ways large and small. As Elder Stapley notes, “[a]s members of the Church, what are we doing toward saving the world? First of all, we must live the commandments.” In contrast, he laments that “we have not fully kept Satan our of our–or more appropriately, the Lord’s– church,” because we have failed to live up to the commandments and commitments of god. And “The Lord expects us to be different from the people of the world,” because doing so is the only way to truly make people take notice. “Our faithfulness gives meaning to the doctrines we teach.”
In contrast, hypocrisy and not practicing what we preach repulses others. “Each time we let down in living gospel principles, someone is sure to observe our conduct and form an unfavorable opinion about us and the spiritual values of the Church.” It is far more how we live than what we say which influences whether individuals eventually come to learn of the gospel.
Thus, Elder Stapley notes a letter from a recent convert emphasizing the reasons that he joined the church. All of them are practical examples of how we apply the gospel in our lives: 1) Wholesome family life 2) Self-reliance and responsibility 3) Moral and physical discipline 4) Obedience of children to parents 5) Striving for perfection and excellence in all things 6) Chastity and holy observance of the marriage covenant 7) High standards in education and 8) Common Sense.
When I first read this list, I thought it was strange that Elder Stapley didn’t mention any of the distinction doctrines and teachings we hold dear in the Church. Now, I don’t believe that this was a coincidence. For “The gospel only can inspire people to live its standards of moral and spiritual conduct,” and it can only do so when we live according to those principles that we learn. The way, and indeed the only way to successfully save the world is to live according to principles which do not come from the world, but come from above.
Thus, we should not be discourage when we feel that we are not doing enough to save the world. It is our righteousness in Christ which can help do more to sanctify and save the world than anything else we do.
Other posts from this session of conference
- True Motherhood and True Fatherhood (Nathaniel Givens at Difficult Run)
- Love Wants to be Forever (G at Junior Ganymede)
- LDS Conference October 1971- Sometimes You Have to Redo What You Thought Was Done (J. Max Wilson at Sixteen Small Stones)
- Christ, Conversion, Covenants, Commandments, and Common Sense (John Hancock at The Good Report)
- Faith Crises, Table-Pounding and Mechanical Rabbits (Ralph Hancock at The Soul and The City)
- “The prisoners shall go free” (Michelle Linford at Mormon Women)
- “Unto One of the Least of These” (Walker Wright at Difficult Run)
- Motherhood and Mechanical Rabbits (SilverRain at The Rains Came Down)
- I Do Not Have to Be Perfect! (Jan Tolman at LDS Women of God)