Lesson 48: Maintaining Righteous Standards

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, (1993), 187–91


Objective

Each young man will understand that he should learn about the world around him and participate in it but not partake of its worldliness, wickedness, and sin.

Preparation

Materials needed:

  1. 1.

    Scriptures for each young man.

  2. 2.

    Pencils for marking scriptures.

Note

One of the great challenges for Latter-day Saints is to hold fast to gospel standards in a world that is becoming more and more wicked. But the answer is not to isolate ourselves from the world. We have been told to be a light unto the world, to be actively engaged in good causes, and to seek to help righteousness prevail in our countries and communities. This lesson is to help the young men see how they can be in the world and still remain free from its wickedness.

Suggested Lesson Development

We Should Be in the World but Not of the World

Chalkboard and discussion

Draw the following chart on the chalkboard:

the church and world
  • What is the message of this chalkboard diagram? (The world’s standards are moving farther away from the standards of the Church. The Church’s standards remain constant while the world becomes more wicked.)

Write on the chalkboard Be in the world but not of the world.

  • What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world?

Scripture and discussion

Let the young men suggest answers, and then ask them to read and mark Matthew 5:14–16.

  • In what ways can we be a light unto the world?

Adviser presentation

Explain that centuries ago in Europe, a group of individuals built their own religious order high in the mountains. There they worked, studied, and, above all, kept themselves isolated from the rest of the world. They had nothing to do with the outside world. They had determined that they could serve God best by isolating themselves from the rest of society and by studying the ancient scriptures they had with them. They built solid shelters to live in, kept orchards and gardens, and spent their days reading and copying ancient texts. Here they lived, worked, and died, seeking to avoid contact with the rest of the world.

Scripture and discussion

  • When Jesus was on the earth, did he isolate himself from the wicked?

  • What did Jesus teach his Apostles about being in the world?

To answer this question, read Jesus’ prayer for the Apostles in John 17:15–18.

Help the young men understand that they need to be careful in their associations. They should not have the attitude that they are better than others, but they should not become involved with evil things. They should set an example for all who see them.

Story and discussion

Read or relate the following story, told by a father about how his son was able to be in the world but not of the world. While the son was in high school, he and his family moved from Salt Lake City, where most of his friends and associates were Latter-day Saints, to Kentucky, where there were few Church members. His father later wrote this about the experience:

“We arrived in Kentucky just in time for him to start his sophomore year in the largest school in the state. His only acquaintances were three or four other Mormon young people whom he had met a week or so earlier in church. As the first few weeks passed by he got right into his studies, and his grades appeared to be excellent. But his social life suffered. He didn’t feel that he belonged there. He had no real friends. … He spent many, many anxious days wishing he was back with his old friends.

“He became depressed. But he had hope, because it would soon be time for the basketball team to be chosen. He was certain that this would be the doorway to happiness. He made the junior varsity team but often found himself seated on the bench. … His sophomore year was not a happy one.

“Then came the beginning of his junior year. He had grown considerably and had practiced basketball all summer. Many at the school had gained respect for him because of his straight ‘A’ grades, an unusual thing on that particular basketball team. He had some satisfaction in that, but he wanted satisfaction along different lines. He wanted social satisfaction and athletic satisfaction. He felt that he had to prove himself. To him, the place to do that was on the basketball court.

“The time came for the varsity team to be chosen. He had played well and was hoping to be on the main five. He enthusiastically entered the gymnasium to look at that all-important list posted by the coach. He stood with others looking at the names. He read from top to bottom. His name was not on the list at all. He had been cut from the team. …

“He returned home that day before school was out, went to his room and stayed there. I knew of the deep grief he was suffering but didn’t know how to help. On the second day of his sorrows, late at night I went downstairs to his room. His light was still on and he was looking up at the ceiling from his position lying on the bed. We talked. We talked for a long time. He told me of his deep sorrow and wondered if he could ever return to school. He told me that he had prayed and asked the Lord to help him make the team. And now he said, ‘I’ve prayed for strength.’ But there seemed to be no help and there seemed to be no hope. …

“After a while he said to me: ‘Dad, I’m just going to have to start over. I’m going to have to build on something else. I know no one else can do it for me. I’ve got to do it for myself.’ … He had named one of the elders who was serving in the mission. He continued: ‘I’m going to be like him. I’m going to learn to smile like him, and to love and care like him. … I’m going back to school and I’m going to start over.’ We knelt in prayer together, and then I told him of my love for him and of the great pride I had in him.

“The next day he went to school. During that season he played basketball for the church team, where he was a star. He started to make many friends at school. He seemed to be relaxed, and he returned to and further developed his keen sense of humor. As time went by I heard him saying such things as: ‘Dad, these guys are great! I love this school. I love this town and I love Kentucky. …’

“The beginning of his senior year arrived. … They had not yet elected the student body president for the year. He decided to run for president. By now he had many friends. He carried on a great campaign based on positive, fun-loving things about how he could help the school to be a better place. He was elected by a landslide. Of course, he was thrilled.

“But there was one last dream. … He wanted to be on the basketball team. The coach had announced that he wouldn’t carry any seniors who hadn’t played as juniors. Instead he wanted juniors on the team who could help him in the future. Thus there seemed to be no hope for Matt, who was a senior. Nevertheless he practiced long and hard, and the guys who were the stars on the team came to love and respect him.

“When the list was posted, once again his name did not appear. As much as he had tried to build himself in other directions, he was again heartbroken. He came home and told me of his problems. At the time I was just departing on a journey and I wouldn’t return for five days. All that I could do while I was gone was pray.

“When I got back I found that Matt was not home. He was at basketball practice. I inquired if he was practicing with the church and I was told that he was practicing with the school. About that time he arrived home. ‘How come you practice with the team?’ I asked. ‘You told me you were cut.’

“‘Well, Dad,’ he replied, ‘the guys on the team all went to the coach and told him they wanted me on the team. The coach did something he’d never done before. He put me on the team because the guys said, “We need Matt.” They convinced the coach, so I’m on the team. …’

“Matt still felt bad about basketball because he was usually on the bench. One night at a team meeting the projector broke down and game films could not be shown as planned. The team and the coach just sat around and talked. Matt sort of entertained the group. For the first time the coach really found out who Matt was. In the next game he played for over half the game. From then on he was a major factor in many games and gained recognition as a superior athlete.

“Finally it was graduation time. He was chosen to give one of the talks. The humor in the talk caused a good deal of laughter. But it was also a serious talk. Toward the conclusion of his remarks, he spoke of the joy he had known there—the warmth of the people, the love he had for the other students. He closed by saying: ‘My dear friends, in a few days my parents and I will be returning to Utah. As you know, I am a Mormon. I conclude my remarks by using the unforgettable words of a great Mormon prophet, Brigham Young. His words describe my feeling. I love all of you because of the way you’ve treated me and the happiness and joy I’ve had here. And so I say to you, as he once said, “This is the place.”’ The students and the public rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation” (George D. Durrant, Someone Special, Starring YOUth [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1976], pp. 49–53).

  • How did this young man live up to the counsel, “Be in the world but not of the world”?

  • What effect do you think he had on the other students of his school?

  • What effect would he have had if he had felt sorry for himself and had become withdrawn and lonely?

  • Did he need to lower his standards to achieve success?

  • How can you become an influence for good in your school and community? List the young men’s responses on the chalkboard.

  • What things of the world should we avoid? List their responses on the chalkboard.

Put On the Whole Armor of God

Scripture, chalkboard, and discussion

  • In ancient times, why did fighting men wear armor?

  • What battle are we engaged in today? (Against evil.)

  • What type of armor should we use?

To help answer this question, have the young men read Doctrine and Covenants 27:15–18.

Discuss the various parts of the armor of God and the benefits we can gain by putting on this armor. As you mention each new part of the armor, allow the young men to give their ideas as to what it means and why it is important. Then share the insights provided in the lesson. As you discuss each part of this scripture, write the appropriate phrase on the chalkboard. When completed, the chalkboard should look like this:

Loins girded (wrapped, protected) with truth

Breastplate of righteousness

Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace

Shield of faith

Helmet of salvation

Sword of the Spirit

Quotation

Use the following ideas to help you explain the armor of God.

“What are the loins? Scripturally, the loins represent the power the Lord has given his children to initiate new life. The loin is that part of the body between the short ribs and the hip bone. The Lord says to gird with truth the use of this power to initiate new life. ‘And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come’ (D&C 93:24).

“Now if you gird something, what do you do? If I were going to gird my wrist, I would wrap something around it to strengthen it. For instance, I gird my wrist with this handkerchief. If I wrap it around my wrist tightly, it will strengthen my wrist. The Lord says to gird your loins with truth. To me that would mean to understand how sacred this power is, and the conditions or guidelines under which it is to be used. …

“The Lord goes on to explain the next piece of armor to put on: ‘Having on the breastplate of righteousness’ (D&C 27:16). Now the breastplate would be the part that covers your chest that protects your heart and your lungs. You couldn’t live very long without a heart. If an arrow went through your heart, you’d have to stop fighting. …

“The Lord has asked us to cover these vital parts so that they will not be injured. How does one put on the breastplate of righteousness? To me this part of the armor comes from keeping the commandments. Obedience to the Lord’s commandments brings forth great blessings. …

“[The Lord] says, ‘Having … your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace’ (D&C 27:16). How do you do that? Our bodies are marvelous things. They have been organized in such a way that, when we do an action a number of times, it becomes a habit, and almost without conscious effort habits will automatically work for us. We set our own habit patterns.

“For instance, if we have established the habit of prayer, it will be easier for us to pray than not to pray. We can have habits automatically work for us instead of against us. And they become a powerful source of protection. If we have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, that would mean that we had been keeping the commandments and the habits are working for us.

“Let’s go on to the next piece of armor: ‘Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked’ (D&C 27:17). A shield is something which usually goes on your left forearm with which you can protect yourself from objects the enemy sends at you. In the days of the knights it could have been a protection against rocks, arrows, swords, or spears.

“This part of the spiritual armor is faith in the Lord. It is an assurance which comes from your knowledge and understanding of the word of the Lord. You can hear the word of the Lord when you read the scriptures. You can hear the word of the Lord when you hear his prophets. You can feel the word of the Lord when you pray. You can build faith. …

“Next the Lord says, ‘And take the helmet of salvation’ (D&C 27:18). The helmet is to protect the head. …

“The helmet of salvation to me is to know who we are and why we are here and where we can go and what we can do and be. …

“And now for the final piece of armor, the Lord says, ‘Take … the sword of my Spirit.’ …

“Can you see what a marvelous thing it is if we are prepared, if we have the Spirit, if we are obedient, if we do our part? We can carry the burden the Lord has asked us to carry. It isn’t easy. If it were easy, he wouldn’t have sent you special young men … here to do it. He has prepared you and held you back, trained you, made it possible for you to come in this day. I hope there won’t be one of you who will fail the Lord. I hope that you will be true to this trust that you will put on this whole armor that you may stand in these challenging days” (Rex C. Reeve, Sr., “The Whole Armor of God,” Brigham Young University 1981–82 Fireside and Devotional Addresses [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983], pp. 189–97).

  • Why would it be important to put on the whole armor of God and not just part of it?

  • How can this armor help us be in the world but not of the world?

Conclusion

Challenge

Suggest that each young man review his own armor and then choose one of the following subjects to learn more about during the next week: truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, the Spirit.

Suggest that each one read the scriptures in the Topical Guide of the Latter-day Saint Edition of the King James Bible and then discuss with you or his parents what he has learned.