Sometimes the Mormon notion of being "not of the world" can rub some people the wrong way, and I can understand that...but only to a point. Because there is so much about "the world" that is awesome -- the natural beauty to be sure, and also just a plethora of wonderful people of myriad belief systems (or even without belief systems) -- it could be interpreted as a rejection of some really great things.
But I think sometimes this notion of being "in the world but not of the world" is misunderstood.
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints both rejoice in the good that is around us and also warn boldly of the dangers that can threaten our personal and societal well-being. In my view, we shouldn't reject the notion of rejecting the bad because there is good out there. I think we can do both.
So what might be some of 'the world' we should shun? Many stories swim in my mind.
-I think about a young man who was chosen for a prestigious national sports academy, and the environment was so toxic, so laced with boys sharing pornographic material with each other. As a "joke" they planted pics on his computer. He simply couldn't stay and not have his spirit affected. (We take for granted what the law of chastity does for our youth, imo).
-I read another story of a group of young men who had created a band that was going big. But the producers wanted to use material that was sexual to sell, and one young man could feel that he was at a crossroads. He had success sitting in the palm of his hand, but he could tell his spirituality would suffer.
-How many stories do we hear in the news about people who have chosen wealth over integrity? Dishonesty and corruption exists in business, government, and more personal relationships as well.
-I have far too many friends whose marriages have ended because of pornography, abuse, infidelity, dishonesty, and other ills of a spouse. It's heartbreaking to watch.
-Think of the number of kids who have tried cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs (which is not only harmful, but illegal) - as though it's no big thing. If anything, it's THE thing to do for many. This puts youth on a path toward possible addiction and many other problems, and can seriously impact their growing brains.
-I think of college students for whom drink and fooling around are just normal behavior, even expected protocol, for college life. To me, the Word of Wisdom and law of chastity are amazing spiritual and physical shields -- for all of us, of course, but I think about that critical stage of young adulthood when life is really just beginning. Alcohol and out-of-control sexual activity not only put them at risk physically, but also end up being such a waste. of. precious. time. And talent. And opportunity.
There is also a connection between the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity. Those who drink and do drugs will sometimes (often?) use these substances as manipulative power tools to facilitate their ability to abuse others sexually and otherwise. As a side note, those who champion the power of women to have control over their bodies should, in my view, also be champions of soberness and chastity. With all the talk of abortion as a way to protect women from sexual abuse, I think we should be talking more of prevention that can be in the control of the women in many circumstances.)
-I think of trends leading away from marriage, family, and God toward a more individualistic and secular society.
-I think of wars and serious tragedy that exist because of evil. We who might be living in places where such tragedy is not a mode of life would do well to remember those who live dominated by tyranny and absolute chaos because of the institutionalization of evil.
These are just a few examples that have come to mind.
Let me say again: I have felt strongly of the good that is out there. I rejoice in that good. Mormon leaders do, too. There are so many people out there who are grounded, principled, hard-working, kind people. I thrill to feel the spirit of service that exists all around the world.
But we can rejoice in the good while being mindful of the problems that exist -- problems that do pull at society as a whole, and that can also affect the lives of individuals who make them and innocents who are affected.