Sunday, November 1, 2009

On Popularity

In this past General Conference Ann Dibb, the current second counselor in the Young Women's General Presidency and the daughter of President Monson, related the following story:

"A number of years ago, a one-inch article in my local newspaper caught my attention, and I have remembered it ever since: 'Four people were killed and seven workers were rescued after clinging for more than an hour to the underside of a 125-foot-high [38-m] bridge in St. Catharines, Ontario, [Canada,] after the scaffolding they were working on collapsed' (“News Capsules,” Deseret News, June 9, 1993, A2).

I was, and I continue to be, fascinated by this brief story. Shortly after reading this account, I called a family friend who lived in St. Catharines. She explained that the workers had been painting the Garden City Skyway bridge for about a year and were two weeks short of completing the project when the accident happened. After the accident, officials were asked why these men did not have any safety equipment. The answer was simple: they had the equipment; they just chose not to wear it."

Sister Dibb goes on to suggest that our mortal probation is a high-risk atmosphere in which we would be wise to use the safety eqipment of "personal prayer, the scriptures, living prophets, and the Holy Ghost to guide us. At times, using this equipment may seem cumbersome, awkward, and horribly unfashionable. Its proper use requires our diligence, obedience, and persistence. But I, for one, choose to use it. We must all choose to use it."

As you can see I am not afraid to wear safety equipment at the risk of seeming unfashionable:

But the more important point is one about fashion--popularity--itself. Notwithstanding Mosiah's opinion that "the voice of the people [rarely] desireth anything contrary to that which is right" (Mosiah 29:26), the Book of Mormon is replete with warnings as to the pitfalls of popular opinion. We may occasionally attempt to persuade ourselves that being popular need not conflict with righteous living; but unless we are living in Zion, there is always a conflict. Let's look at the evidence from the book of Mormon:

"...those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world ... belong to the kingdom of the devil" (1 Nephi 22:23).

The chief doctrine of the antichrist Nehor is "that every priest and teacher ought to become popular" (Alma 1:3).

"...after [Amulek finished preaching] the more popular part of the Zoramites had consulted together concerning the words which had been preached unto them, [and] they were angry because of the word" of God (Alma 35:3).

Or consider that when Joseph Smith began to share his experience in the First Vision, it was enough to "attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling" (JSH 1:23).

The righteous are always cast out by the popular; this is the story of the prophets (1 Nephi 1:20, Ether 13:13). If unpopularity--being cast out and being "a lonesome and a solemn people"--seems like a hard fate (Jacob 7:26), consider that you are never in such good company as when you have been "despised and rejected of men" (Isaiah 53:3). And if you continue to struggle with a desire for popularity, remember that "the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world ... therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19). If the world loves us, if we are popular, it is because we belong to the world; we have placed its priorities above the priorities of our Savior. During his mortal ministry Jesus Christ himself said that there is no better sign of moral decay than popularity: "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Luke 6:26). If you are hearing an overabundance of praise, you're probably not listening to the One who matters.

Me personally? I'd rather be lonely than popular because as Wendell Philips once said, "One on God's side is a majority" (Bartlett's Familiar Quotations 16th ed. 462). So ask yourself: "Am I popular? And if so, in what way should I repent?"


Jo Jo said...

Are you kidding? You bespeak fashion. Love the look! Love the thought. It was a great talk. Sometimes we are lonely here in the Appalachians, especially in church.

Aaron H. said...

I am totally POPULAR!

Becky said...

THAT is my favorite picture...LOVE IT! :) Great post Zach. I love the way you see things. I will never look at popularity the same again. Good stuff.

priscilla said...

This is just one of the reasons I love you...BIG GUY
You are too cute.
See you in 4 mom