Viewpoint: We Can Overcome the World

Contributed By the Church News

  • 5 February 2017

During the Last Supper, the Savior taught His Apostles the importance of overcoming the world.

Article Highlights

  • Overcoming various aspects of the world is a worthy goal for the disciples of Christ.
  • Beware of distractions and materialism that can take away your spirituality.
  • Jesus Christ overcame the world in all ways and asks His followers to do the same.

“One of the most difficult challenges in our lives is to be in the world but not of the world. Gospel doctrine makes it clear that we must live in this world to achieve our eternal destination. We must be tried and tested and found worthy of a greater kingdom.” —Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

In the 16th chapter of John, the Savior spends time with His Apostles at the Last Supper sharing some of the sweetest moments of His ministry. Some of His teachings discuss the world and how His disciples are not to be of the world.

“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).

He later explains plainly, without using parables, that He is about to go away and that His Apostles will be scattered. However, they should not worry about the problems caused by the world.

“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:32–33).

Overcoming various aspects of the world is a worthy goal for the disciples of Christ. In an article for youth on LDS.org, Elder Quentin L. Cook said, “Separating evil from our lives has become even more essential since our homes are wired to bring much of what the Lord has condemned into our own living rooms if we are not vigilant.

“One of the most difficult challenges in our lives is to be in the world but not of the world. Gospel doctrine makes it clear that we must live in this world to achieve our eternal destination. We must be tried and tested and found worthy of a greater kingdom” (“Being in the World but Not of the World,” LDS.org).

“And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10).

Keeping a spiritual focus can be difficult. The world contains all kinds of distractions that lead to vain and trivial things that at the best waste our time and at the worst take away our spirituality and lead us to destruction.

In a 1996 Ensign article titled “Overcoming the World,” Elder F. Burton Howard, General Authority Seventy, said: “Mortal probation is the ‘timed test’ by which our place and standing in the next life are determined. Everyone must take the test and give an accounting to the Holy One of Israel, not only for what was done but for what was left undone.

“In 1905 Elder George Albert Smith said, ‘We are not here to while away the hours of this life and then pass to a sphere of exaltation; but we are here to qualify ourselves day by day for the positions that our Father expects us to fill hereafter’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1905, 62).”

We must also be cautious with materialism. The love of money and possessions can starve the soul, feed our carnal natures, and misdirect our attention from God to things that perish when we leave this earth. “Behold, [the Lord] saith that ye are cursed because of your riches, and also are your riches cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them, and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you” (Helaman 13:21).

The prophet Moroni shares excellent counsel about the problems of our day by saying, “Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it upon your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God” (Mormon 9:28).

Keeping ourselves in constant remembrance of God and His eternal plan for us is essential for avoiding deception and crucial for spiritual growth. The fires of testimony must be stoked and fed constantly with such things as prayer, scripture study, and church attendance. The Savior said, “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day” (D&C 59:9).

Another challenge for those living in the world is adversity. Failing health, the death of a loved one, a wayward child, financial losses, persecution, and afflictions of various kinds can be the catalyst for tremendous growth or the destruction of belief.

The history of the Church is filled with individuals who lost their testimonies and left the Church because of affliction. It seems that the path of discipleship must include some worldly persecution. It has been throughout history. The Savior said, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22).

President Thomas S. Monson said, “None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges—and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened.”

Jesus Christ overcame the world in all ways and asks His followers to do the same. The more we can connect with spiritual things, the more the influences of the world will lose their power in our lives. We are constantly bombarded with the enticements of this world, but with the fulness of the restored gospel, we have more tools than ever for spirituality. We must choose.

“Our Heavenly Father has given us life and with it the capacity to think, to reason, and to love,” said President Thomas S. Monson in the April 2006 general conference. “We have the power to resist any temptation and the ability to determine the path we will take, the direction we will travel. Our goal is the celestial kingdom of God. Our purpose is to steer an undeviating course in that direction” (“True to the Faith”).