To Be in the World but Not of the World

James A. Cullimore


In one of the most beautiful prayers ever offered, the Savior invoked the blessings of the Father upon his apostles. He sensed his time was near when he must leave them. He prayed:

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

“I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17:11, 14–15.)

The members of the Church are constantly being reminded that even though they are “in the world, they should not be of the world.”

What do we mean by the “world”? President McKay refers to it as those “… alienated from the Saints of God. They are aliens to the Church, and it is the spirit of this alienation that we should keep ourselves free from.” (Conference Report, October 1911, p. 58.) Elder Bruce R. McConkie defines the “world” as “the social conditions created by such of the inhabitants of the earth as live carnal, sensuous, lustful lives, and who have not put off the natural man by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], p. 847.)

John, in his epistle, describes the “world” as “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 Jn. 2:16.) He said:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1 Jn. 2:15–17.)

It is obvious the “world,” as referred to by the Savior, does not mean the sphere on which we live, but an environment created by individuals who live contrary to his teachings.

Just as the Savior prayed that his apostles not be taken out of the world, but kept from the evil of the world, so are members of the Church everywhere praying that by the power of the Holy Ghost and the priesthood they may be strengthened to withstand the “world.”

We would not want to be free of our responsibility of being in the world by being taken out of the world, for this life is a probationary state. The “world” is our opportunity to prove ourselves. This is a part of the great plan of the Lord, to be confronted with the things of the “world,” that we might overcome them and be strengthened.

As the Lord showed Abraham the creation of the earth, he said: “… We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:24–25.)

It is important that each of us overcome the “world.” “That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment,” says the Lord. (D&C 101:78.)

Lehi taught, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. …” (2 Ne. 2:11.)

It matters not what our nationality, our race, our culture, our academic degree, or our political or social standing. We build security and strength in our lives by living the gospel. President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “And there is no cure for the ills of the world except the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope for peace, for temporal and spiritual prosperity, and for an eventual inheritance in the kingdom of God is found only in and through the restored gospel.” (“Counsel to the Saints and to the World,” Joseph Fielding Smith, Ensign, July 1972, p. 27.)

May I say to members of the Church everywhere, this is how we establish Zion where we live, by living the gospel, by being pure in heart, by being worthy.

Zion is defined by the Lord as the “pure in heart.” The Lord said, “… let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn.” (D&C 97:21.)

Since Zion is defined as the “pure in heart,” those who make up Zion must be free from worldly practices and indulgences.

President Lee said to us in last April conference that “The rule by which the people of God must live in order to be worthy of acceptance in the sight of God” is indicated in this scripture: “For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.” (D&C 82:14.) (“Strengthen the Stakes of Zion,” Harold B. Lee, Ensign, July 1973, p. 3.)

President McKay referred to Zion as the pure in heart and said: “… the strength of this Church lies in the purity of the thoughts and lives of its members, then the testimony of Jesus abides in the soul, and strength comes to each individual to withstand the evils of the world.” (Conference Report, October 1911, p. 58.)

The righteous lives of members of the Church throughout the world is a great leaven to the gospel loaf. There are many wonderful, honest men and women in the world whose lives are influenced by the teachings of the gospel, as seen in the virtuous lives of good members of the Church.

Everything in the world is not evil. There are many things of virtue, many great men and women working for the finer things of life, who have high standards and live righteously. ‘Possibly a good definition of the world would be: “Exposure to things about us, whether good or bad—right or wrong.”

President Lee said on one occasion to the youth of the Church: “We don’t pray that you may be withdrawn into a ‘Shangri-la’ away from the evils of the world, because you are to be a leaven wherever you are, to bring about righteousness, but we are pleading with the Lord with all our might that while you are in the world, you may be kept from evil.” (Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973], p. 223.)

There is a great challenge in living in the “world.” The concern is not where we live—but how we live. Obedience to the laws of the Lord will bring happiness and peace. We never need apologize for living the standards of the Church. Listen to two stalwart members of the Church who have proven this in their lives.

John K. Edmunds, now president of the Salt Lake Temple, was an outstanding attorney in Chicago for over a quarter of a century. He said, “During all my years in Chicago, I have never felt the necessity for indulging in alcohol, tobacco, tea, or coffee, nor have I ever served or kept these things in our home. And I have never felt the need to apologize for the observance of our church standards. …

“I have found no magic formula for keeping the standards of the Church. To me the observance of these standards is a matter of the will. … God gives to every man and woman, to every boy and girl who sincerely desire it the power to keep his commandments. …” (“Living in the World without Being a Part of the World,” John K. Edmunds, Improvement Era, November 1965, p. 1053.)

De Witt J. Paul, who is now serving as a mission president in California and who was an executive of one of the nation’s largest financial institutions, states:

“… Adhering to gospel standards has never stood in my way. Quite to the contrary, doing so has been an asset rather than a liability. Moreover, it has not been difficult or embarrassing.

“In a world of rather wishy-washy convictions, one who believes in something and lives in accordance with his beliefs is usually admired and respected. I never appreciated this so much as when the chairman of the board of directors of my company one day said to the board members: ‘I am retiring, and I propose Mr. Paul as my successor. As you know, Mr. Paul is a Mormon. Mormons have rather high standards to live by, and among other things they do not smoke or drink. I have kept an eye on this fellow for many years now, and never once have I seen him make a slip. I recommend him to you as a man of integrity. …’

“It is my experience that there are a lot of very fine people in the world. Just because they do not have my outlook on life has never given me reason to alienate them through prudish self-righteousness. Perhaps herein lies the secret of ‘living in the world without being a part of the world.’” (“Living in the World without Being a Part of the World,” De Witt J. Paul, Improvement Era, September 1965, p. 838.)

We are living in the most glorious time since the creation of the world. Never before has man been able to do so many remarkable things, see and know so much of the world, have so many conveniences, enjoy so many luxuries.

We are living in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, in which the Lord has said: “… in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.” (D&C 27:13.)

He said further, “For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (D&C 124:41.)

The prophet Joel prophesied of the times in which we live when he said, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

“And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth. …” (Joel 2:28–30.)

The Lord has already commenced to pour out his spirit upon all flesh. Since the restoration of the gospel, the Spirit of the Lord has inspired men in the world to accomplish things almost unbelievable to those who behold them. We are able to travel all over the world at incredible speed. Inventions too numerous to mention bless the lives of the inhabitants of the world.

President Wilford Woodruff described this day when he said, “The day has already dawned when the light of heaven is to fill the earth; the day in which the Lord has said that nothing should be kept hidden, … the day in which everything that has been kept from the knowledge of man ever since the foundation of the earth, must be revealed; … It is a day in which the gospel is to be preached to every nation, tongue and people for a witness of what shall follow. …” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 24, p. 51.)

The Prophet Joseph wrote an editorial in the Times and Seasons in May 1842 regarding the purpose of the Church in which he indicated the great joy of living in this day:

“The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests, and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we lived; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations, they have sung, and wrote, and prophesied of this our day;—but they died without the sight. …” (Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 776.)

May we appreciate the privilege that is ours in living in this time, in the beautiful, wonderful world in which we live. May we let the gospel light guide us that we may be in the world and yet not partake of the evil of the world. I so ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.