Wendell J. Ashton, managing director, Church Public Communications The Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith that “men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27.) Joseph Smith and other Church leaders have since encouraged our people to work toward improving the moral, cultural, and physical environment—as well as the spiritual—in the areas where they live.
A number of times in recent years the First Presidency has urged Church members as citizens to join with their neighbors in vigorously opposing such evils as pornography, abortion, and the availability of liquor to youth. Latter-day Saints acting as concerned citizens (not as Church representatives) have in many cases responded admirably. In some places Saints have helped achieve tighter laws on abortion, curtailment of obscene motion pictures, and curbs on young people’s access to liquor.
Certainly if we are to have for ourselves and our families a more wholesome environment, we as concerned citizens must ever be vigilant in watching legislation and the enforcement of laws. Moral pollution is too often the price we pay for indifference. We should constantly keep in mind that big money is made in such businesses as pornography and liquor, which means that well-paid professionals are working to increase sales and patronage.
Opposing these things also takes time, hard work, talent, and dedication. For example, I know of a Latter-day Saint woman who for years has toiled hard and effectively in a community organization that is fighting obscenity. Under her dedicated leadership, local ordinances for controlling pornography have been passed. A respected attorney and a successful businessman, both active Church members, have for years been key members of a citizens’ council that “watchdogs” liquor laws in their state.
Latter-day Saints also should be involved in bringing positive benefits to their community. A mother in our ward, a stalwart in the Church with a good family, has found time to lead out in creating and funding a recreational park for the elementary school our daughter attended at the time. Another ward member is a leader in promoting civic drama. Another neighbor helps with the ballet; another, the symphony.
President Spencer W. Kimball has set the example: before he was called to the Council of Twelve, he was a stake president, yet he was also a district governor of Rotary International and an effective community builder in Arizona.
And much good can often result from even a little time invested—a letter to an editor or lawmaker, a turn in picketing an obscene movie.
While Latter-day Saints should engage in community causes, they should maintain a good balance. Their family should come first. Church activity should not be neglected. I knew a man years ago who was so caught up in community causes that his home and yard became a neighborhood eyesore. Another was so busy in politics and civic undertakings that his own children drifted into delinquency.
But for the well-organized Latter-day Saint, there usually is time to be a concerned, involved citizen. It may mean one or two fewer television shows a week, or one less ball game a month—but it is worth it. Even more, it is vital, if we are to have the kind of communities we need for a full flowering of gospel living and the joy that is its reward.