I was reading in the Book of Mormon the other day and came across this familiar verse:
But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.
I always interpreted despising the “shame” of the world to mean despising the shameful practices and attitudes of the world. But now that I read it, another meaning comes out that I hadn’t considered before: despising the shame the world heaps on us.
The world wants us to hide our light
Let me put it another way. Think for a moment about how the world wants us to feel about being a member of Christ’s Church? Or any moral stance we take as a Church? The consensus in society seems to be “Sure, you can practice your religion, but don’t you dare talk about it in public. Religion is something that the government allows you do practice in the privacy of your home or your chapel where it can’t influence anyone else, but if you talk about it publicly and you’re a weirdo, a fanatic, a bigot.”
In other words, nowadays “confessing” Christ becomes an actual confession– a public admission of guilt that you are a member of a strange, fringe, a-scientific cult. Like if you were to reveal you were a flat-earther or anti-vaxxer, except worse (actually, in some segments of society, I would guess the anti-vaccine belief would even appear more normal and acceptable than our religion). Many view our beliefs as not just incorrect, but harmful, hateful, and destructive. They are angry that we not only believe this Jesus stuff, but that our version of Jesus teaches only to avoid throwing stones, but also to sin no more. Ad the fact that we bring our kids up in such a belief makes us outright dangerous in their minds.
So yeah, from the world’s perspective, there is a lot of shame in being a Christian nowadays.
The Gospel is not jus part of our lives– it is our lives
Oh, you don’t think so? You think you are perfectly open and comfortable about your beliefs? Try this quick exercise: Try thinking of all the activities we do related to the Gospel and write them all down.
I tried this for about 3 minutes and here’s what I came up with off the top of my head:
- Personal prayers
- Family prayers
- Couple prayers
- Blessing every single meal consumed in the house
- Callings with all their hours of service
- Partaking of the Sacrament in Sacrament meeting
- Priesthood meetings
- Sunday School
- Stake conferences
- General conferences
- Listening to the Tabernacle Choir on Sunday mornings while we get ready for Church
- Ward choir
- Come Follow Me lessons at home
- Personal study
- Couple study
- Family study
- Wearing garments every day
- Fasting monthly
- Paying a big chunk of our income every month to tithes and fast offerings
- Worshiping in the Temple
- Abstaining from coffee at the office
- Abstaining from swearing and vulgar conversations at work
- The pictures we have on our walls
- The modesty with which we dress
The list goes on and on. I’m not pointing this out to complain about the burden and demands too much of our time and focus. Rather to point out that, if we’re doing it right, the Gospel becomes much more than a part of our lives. Our lives revolve around the Gospel. We live the Gospel. When we strive to live the Gospel, it touches (and enhances) literally every aspect of our lives. There is an artificial wall between our social/political/professional lives and our Gospel participation. We are the same disciples of Christ both in and out of the chapel and our homes.
The world: shout “your truth.” But keep quiet about the truth
So if the Gospel really is the all-important center of our lives that it deserves to be, why is it that we don’t share it? Think about your close friends, and family members, and coworkers. Would you feel uncomfortable talking about your favorite technologies, sports, music, movies, or other interests? Of course not. And yet we clam up and get nervous when there is an opportunity to talk about what is the most important and wonderful part of our lives. We spend roughly 0% of our social interactions talking about what makes up (or should make up) roughly 100% of our lives.
Why? Is it because we’re just not converted? No. I think it’s because we have become so acclimated to what the world teaches. We have accepted (or at least adhere to) the world’s teaching that we should be ashamed of our Gospel beliefs, hide it in our private lives, and pretend it doesn’t exist when we’re in public.
Ironic, isn’t it? The most grotesque wickedness today is not just accepted but celebrated. Women who have killed their unborn children are encouraged to #ShoutYourAbortion. Those who engage in sexual activity outside the bounds the Lord has set literally parade in the streets, waving rainbow flags and sharing their “pride” to have violated the commandments of God. Everyone, everywhere are jettisoning moral standards and demand that everyone accept their lifestyle choices because it’s “being true to themselves” and “expressing who they really are.”
So while the world celebrates so many different transgressions coming out of the closet, they are at the same time trying to force religious believers into the closet– shaming them having the audacity to stand up and say no.
And for the most part, to keep the peace, I think we comply. We don’t follow the crowd and pretend we believe what we don’t; we just avoid the subject of our faith altogether. We put up the wall between our private and our public life as if it were something to be ashamed of and embarrassed by– just like the world says it is.
Lessons from the tree of life
Spiritually speaking, that’s a really dangerous attitude to adopt. Remember, there were four distinct groups of people who Lehi describes in his dream. Two of the groups made it to the tree of life, representing participation in the Gospel. In other words, two groups of Church members. When the mockers next door started criticizing those who were partaking of the fruit, some of the members of the Church stayed and paid them no heed– they were too busy feasting from the tree of life to care what the tenants of the condemned building thought about the food.
But the other group of Church members “cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.” I imagine they started keeping their fruit in their pocket and nibbling on it away from public view at first. Maybe they tried to casually relax behind the trunk while they ate. Maybe they tried to stand a ways off so it wouldn’t be obvious that they were associated with the tree. They started accepting the world’s viewpoint that they should not be seen publicly participating in the Gospel. But the Gospel is not something you can forever practice in private. If a testimony is not shared, it dies. “And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.”
Despising the shame in our lives
If we choose to imbibe the feeling of shame that the world would have us feel whenever our beliefs come into conflict with public opinion, then we are giving up. When others ask what we did on the weekend, do we only share what we did on Saturday? When someone asks why we don’t drink alcohol or coffee, do we give a vague response? When someone sees our car keys and asks what the oil vial is, do we change the subject? If we do, we are in essence accepting the shame of the world by hiding our light.
To clarify, I’m not advocating getting in peoples’ faces. As tempting as it was, I’m sure the faithful believers who partook of the fruit did not grab the fruit and start throwing it at their obnoxious neighbors. Let Satan and his followers be the ones who apparently have nothing better to do that shout and jeer and ridicule others to try and justify their own stupid decisions. Living the Gospel out loud doesn’t mean living it loudly.
But I am saying we should try and remember the world is wrong. Society is wrong. Even social norms that say sharing your faith is wrong. There is no shame in living the Gospel of Christ. Whatever artificial shame Satan can manufacture doesn’t need to stick to us; we despise it.