Popularity and Principle (Maxwell; Brigham Young; Tanner)

There are real dangers—subtle and obvious—when members fall into lockstep with the world’s ways. In so many respects, the world’s ways head in opposite directions from gospel destinations. Moreover, as a covenant people, our behavioral loyalties are to be with the Lord, not with the Caesars of this world. But the tugs of the world are real and persistent. Besides, following the fashions of the world is merely to pursue eventual obsolescence, “for the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Cor. 7:31).
Typically, President Brigham Young spoke sternly concerning popularity and what can be its ruining acclaim:
“I do not want ‘Mormonism’ to become popular. … I would rather pass through all the misery and sorrow, the troubles and trials of the Saints, than to have the religion of Christ become popular with the world” (inJournal of Discourses, 10:297).
President N. Eldon Tanner cautioned, “This craving for praise and popularity too often controls actions, and as [people] succumb they find themselves bending their character when they think they are only taking a bow” (Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 76).
Furthermore, not only must we forgo erosive popularity, but we are to be unsurprised when “at that day shall he [Satan] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good” (2 Ne. 28:20).
Church standards remain constant in a time when some actually call good evil and evil good! (See Isa. 5:20.) No wonder the Latter-day Saints “must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 12:272). Since there is not much chance that the fingers of scorn will be diverted, we should “[heed] them not” (1 Ne. 8:33). Ironically, among those pointing fingers of scorn are a few that once grasped the iron rod. As Lehi envisioned, these defectors become ashamed, fall away, and become aligned with the popular taunting multitude in the great and spacious building (see 1 Ne. 8:27, 33).
Popularity can overwhelm the individual’s inner sentinel or conscience, which stands guard over his soul by sounding inconvenient and uninvited alarms.
Granted, we do not deliberately seek reproach, which has its own ways of coming. Granted, too, pervasive righteousness will later reign triumphant on the earth. There was, also, happy and rare righteousness in the City of Enoch, where the principles of God were rightly popular within that special culture. Such is surely not today’s situation, however, even though there are so many good and honorable individuals in various races and nations.
If we are meek and have the gift of the Holy Ghost, we will not be subject to the manipulation of our appetites by the trendy. Deliberate manipulation—whether of nicotine, alcohol, or pornography—is real because “evils and designs … do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days” (D&C 89:4).

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