Counsel about civic engagement (#ldsconf Odyssey)

Apr 19, 2016 by

I’ve missed a couple of weeks of our LDS General Conference Odyssey series, but I’m back this week with a post about Elder Harold B. Lee’s talk. This week’s series of posts focuses on the 1972 Sunday Morning session.

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I heard somewhere recently that they were interested that essentially nothing was said in General Conference a couple of weeks ago about the crazy, heated election year in the United States. I thought it was refreshing and instructive that we had peace from the contention and time to reflect on the messages of the gospel, rather than the political posturings so prevalent our day.

I imagine if a talk had been given in Conference, though, it might have been something like the talk Harold B. Lee gave in 1972. I was tempted to just link to the talk and call it good, because it’s jam-packed with great thoughts. I encourage you to read it.

Listen to how he begins his talk:

This year is again a most important year of decision for our day. Some have even said that this is the most critical period in the history of this nation and of the world.

I have heard something along those lines, and thought something along those lines. I loved what Elder Lee said in response to that mindset, however.

I believe it is an illusion to say that this is the most critical, decisive time. Write it upon the hearts of all of us that every dispensation has been just as decisive, and likewise that every year has been the most decisive year and time for ourselves, for this nation, and for the world. This is our day and time when honorable men [and women] must be brought forward to meet the tremendous challenges before us.

I think this is a wise perspective. Every age has mattered in God’s big picture, and the present is always the most important time for each of us, for it’s all we have.

So how can we engage our civic responsibilities in a way that can help the world face its challenges, and help God’s work along?

Below I will highlight a few points of counsel Elder Lee offered. I appreciate so much the power of true principles as a guide in all aspects of our lives, including engaging in the political process.

  1. Elder Lee talks of the gift of conscience, encouraging people to follow their consciences. He quotes Henry Ward Beecher: “’Expedients are for an hour,’ someone has said, ‘but principles are for the ages.'” And he encourages those with civic responsibilities to be prayerful and seek for divine guidance in their work.
  2. I’ve been feeling for a while that there is power in standing for something, rather than spending too much time working against something. I was interested to see Elder Lee saying something along these lines:

“If we overemphasize the philosophies of the enemies of righteousness instead of teaching forcefully the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, such overemphasis can only serve to stir up controversy and strife….”

Of course, in politics we don’t preach the gospel, but as covenant keepers, we can always consider how our focus on political issues might hinder the teaching of the gospel. Also, there is a lot of good being done in the civic space as well, good that is consistent with gospel principles. I believe we can strengthen the good in our civic engagement when we find ways to empower the good.

Again, Elder Lee: “It has been well said that one does not teach honesty by telling a man how to burglarize a safe, nor do we teach chastity by telling a youth all about sexual activities.”

3. Value and recognize the voice of the people.

“[T]here is always the imperative necessity of deciding whether or not demands on a controversial issue are being made by a well-organized loud minority or by a greater majority of those who might be less vocal but whose cause is just and in accordance with righteous principles.” (See also (Mosiah 29:26.)

4. “[I]n our civic responsibilities [we should] choose those to govern us as ‘civil officers and magistrates [who will] enforce the laws … and … administer the law in equity and justice’ (D&C 134:3)…. we must seek for statesmenlike men [and women] who will ask, “Is it right and is it good for the country or the community?” instead of those who may merely ask, ‘Is it politically expedient?'”

5. “And now, finally, the supreme of all certainties is God’s eternal plan as given in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here we have given us the never-failing principles that will keep our feet firmly planted on the path of safety. By these eternal principles we can readily detect truth from error.”

I wish I could find a quote by Neal A. Maxwell who talked about how sometimes people will analyze the gospel and the Church based on secular principles, rather than using the gospel to analyze the world around us. We are blessed to have this anchor if we will use it.

I love how Elder Lee closes his talk.

God is in his heaven and all can be right with the world, if we seek for him and find him, “though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; … For we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:27–28.)

I have learned by my own experience that the heavier the responsibilities, the greater is my dependence on the Lord.

This is true for all of us. How we need heavenly help! I’m so grateful to know we can seek it and receive it, no matter what our rank, station, or responsibilities may be.

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Posts in this week’s #ldsconf Odyssey series:

 

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