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Sunday, December 2, 2018

To Conform or Not to Conform

Anyone paying even a little attention to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's members and it's leadership has likely seen the varied reactions to the many changes made to certain church policies, standards and practices. From the lowering of the age of missionaries when they are called, discarding the term "Mormon" to describe the church and it's members and the Ministering initiative to policies surrounding same-gender unions and Boy Scouts of America, most people are either all-in with every change, totally against it or just ignore it completely. And I get it. It takes a lot of faith to abandon old traditions, especially the ones we hold on to for decades.

But when it comes to following the prophet or the traditions of the world, I have always been one to be utterly nonconformist when it comes to what the world thinks is popular or "cool" and I give every effort I possibly can to be an absolute conformist when it comes to counsel and changes made by God's prophets.

Being in the nonconformist minority in temporal matters can be lonely sometimes, but it always gives me more peace than the other way around. I remember a lady I met one day here in Hamilton a number of years ago with whom I talked about a belief in Jesus Christ and with derision she replied something like "You know, know one really believes in that stuff anymore." From other people on social media around the world, I have heard things like, "that world is changing and if you don't change with it, you'll be left behind." Both of these arguments and all others like it are merely people who are afraid of believing in something bigger and more divine and holy than themselves because it means they have to swim against the current of popular opinion. Being a conformist can be a bad or a good thing depending the standard to which you conform.

I am reminded of a quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell that he used to address the ever mocking and demeaning criticism of the humble followers of Christ by those who oppose holiness and godliness. He said, "The laughter of the world is merely loneliness pathetically trying to reassure itself."

For this reason among many others, I choose to conform to the revelations, counsel and encouragement (see what I did there?) of God's prophets. Part of the reason I love that quote from Elder Maxwell is because I know, first hand, what it's like to be wrapped up in sinful habits and addiction that the world celebrates or at least speaks of with an attitude of "live and let live." I know very well how lonely or depressing it feels to be around people who love and care about you and still feel lonely because of the kind of person you have become in your dark habits. It's horrific and leaves you feeling empty, numb, worthless, weak and fake and no amount of kindness will bring you out of it unless you change your behavior and become a better person yourself, which is where the power of Jesus Christ comes into play because of His atoning sacrifice. The laughter of the world really is loneliness pathetically trying to reassure itself.

Refusing to conform to the worlds standards and, instead, rigidly conforming to God's prophets is always the best road to take. I was so excited (and still am) about the Ministering initiative and its purpose to simply love people enough to serve each other out of desire instead of obligation. I have been looking for every opportunity possible to be a light in others lives since that time, whether they are on some kind of list or not. I always loved getting to know new people anyways. I also absolutely loved President Nelson's talk "Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives" where he said, "There is no amorphous entity called “the Atonement” upon which we may call for succor, healing, forgiveness, or power. Jesus Christ is the source. Sacred terms such as Atonement and Resurrection describe what the Savior did, according to the Father’s plan, so that we may live with hope in this life and gain eternal life in the world to come. The Savior’s atoning sacrifice—the central act of all human history—is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him."

Ever since then I try as tactfully and kindly as possible suggest that people replace phrases like "I know the power of atonement is real" and "I found healing from my heartache through the atonement" to "I know that Jesus' power to heal us because of His atoning sacrifice is real" and "I found healing through my Savior."

I have to be honest. I have been really confused as I have observed people who have blatantly ignored or out-rightly refused to follow President Nelson's counsel to refer to ourselves as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instead of "Mormons" simply because of the tradition. I absolutely could not care less how long a tradition was practiced or how much good it did. If the Lord sees fit to elevate our thinking to an even higher plane or correct some thing that may have been good for a time but is stopping us from becoming even better, than we need to, without question, be totally on board with that. Any opportunity to smash through the barriers of our comfort zone and exponentially elevate our habits, thoughts, motives and feelings to a higher plane should be welcomed, embraced, even clung to for dear life (temporally and spiritually). I will absolutely conform to any change God reveals through His prophets, whether it's in the form a policy change, a new revelation or a call to abandon or adopt new habits and reasons for doing things.

I'm not actually even where I want to be in this regard, but I am working as hard as I possibly can to live far, far more than just worthy of a temple recommend, but worthy for Zion and Celestial Glory, which standard of worthiness is going to unfathomably higher than things are right now.

The world is changing and we need to be conforming, but not to the world. Any conforming we do should be to Jesus Christ and the counsel He gives us through His prophets; unapologetically, enthusiastically, unhesitatingly, joyfully, exactly, constantly, humbly and lovingly.