By Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson Young Women general president
Think back to the day you were baptized. It is a significant day in your life because it is the day you set your feet on the pathway of discipleship. It is the day you promised your Heavenly Father that from that day forward you would stand as a witness of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. You have the opportunity each week as you partake of the sacrament to renew those covenants and be reminded of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Elder Robert D. Hales has said, “When we make and keep covenants, we are coming out of the world and into the kingdom of God” (Robert D. Hales, “Modesty: Reverence for the Lord,” Ensign, Aug. 2008, 36).
That means you are not going to look the same as the world, act the same as the world, dress like the world, speak like those in the world, or participate in many of the things that those who are around us are doing. You should be changed and different because you are bound to your Heavenly Father by covenants. If someone were to observe you, without you knowing it, for just an hour or two, would they be able to tell by your actions and words that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once told of attending a basketball game with his wife in a predominantly LDS area where some of the fans engaged in very un-Christlike behavior. They subjected one of the players to what Elder Holland called “vitriolic abuse.”
“The day after the game, when there was some public reckoning and a call to repentance over the incident, one young man said, in effect: ‘Listen. We are talking about basketball here, not Sunday School. ... We can act the way we want. We check our religion at the door.’” Elder Holland asked incredulously, “We check our religion at the door? Lesson number one for the establishment of Zion in the 21st century: You never ‘check your religion at the door.’ Not ever. My young friends, that kind of discipleship cannot be — it is not discipleship at all. ... We are ‘to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in,’ (Mosiah 18:9) not just some of the time, in a few places, or when our team has a big lead” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Israel, Israel, God is Calling,” CES Devotional, 2012).
Are you ever guilty of “checking your religion at the door?” Are you ever guilty of dressing, and speaking, and acting like a faithful Latter-day Saint on Sunday when you are around your bishop and leaders, or at home around your family, but when you are at school or a social event and around your non-LDS friends you act and dress in a completely different way?
The prophet Alma had a son named Corianton who got caught up in the ways of the world and broke the law of chastity. Alma’s reminder to Corianton is as true today as it was more than 2,000 years ago, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). As you watch those around you who disregard the commandments and engage in behavior that is not Christlike, it may seem on the surface to have no ill effects. I testify there is one very significant effect and it is serious.
When you choose to deliberately act in a way you know is not right, you offend the Spirit of the Lord. Can any of us afford to lay ourselves wide open to the world with all of its temptations and misguided philosophies without that sacred gift to protect and guide us? I know I would not want to forfeit that source of divine strength and help for even one minute. When you cross the line into Satan’s territory, it is sometimes hard to find your way back.
A few years ago I received a letter from a young woman named Cheyenne who understands what it means to be a disciple of Christ. She told of attending her first year of college in a school in Southern Utah. She met a young man in her English class her first semester who one day asked her, “Are you a Mormon?” to which she answered “yes.” He then asked her, “How Mormon are you?” She was very taken aback by the question because she wasn’t aware that there were different levels of being Mormon. She asked, “What do you mean?” He then asked, “Do you follow all the rules or do you have fun?” Even with little time to think about her answer, I think the way she responded was brilliant, “I am very Mormon, I follow all the rules and I find it to be very fun!” I wanted to stand up and cheer for Cheyenne as I read her letter.
She is a Latter-day Saint youth who knows who she is, who understands who she represents, and who is proud to boldly proclaim it to the world. This is what a disciple of Jesus Christ looks and sounds like. She wrote, “We as followers of Christ who take His name upon us must always at all times be a good example and keep our standards high, it is sad to me that for some people there are varying levels of being Mormon.”
You and I have covenanted to stand as witnesses of the Savior every day of our lives and in every situation. We have promised to help build the kingdom of God. We renew that covenant each and every time we partake of the sacrament. There is joy, protection and safety in keeping the commandments. As we have the courage to be different from the world through the way we dress, in our actions, our language, and our service, the blessings and strength which the Lord has in store for each of us as covenant children are beyond our comprehension.
This article is adapted from a talk given at the Salt Lake City Multi-Stake Conference Broadcast in September 2016.