Monday, December 7, 2009

How Do We "Mark" Ourselves?

This was my seminary teacher uniform today. Levi's jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt. I felt comfortable, yet uncomfortable at the same time.  Physically comfortable, spiritually uncomfortable.  What is expected of me as a seminary teacher is that I am to come dressed in "church attire"; basically, wearing a modest dress or a skirt.  Coming to seminary dressed the way I did could be taken as a sign of rebelliousness.  It would be a way of outwardly "marking" myself to separate myself from others who are like me.  It's an outward expression of an inward feeling.  By dressing this way, I am sending a message of being casual about the scriptures and sacred things.

In Alma 3, the Amlicites (who are apostate Nephites) have joined forces with the Lamanites in war against the Nephites.  They have chosen to "separate themselves" from the people of God by marking their foreheads with red.  Because they look just like the Nephites, they must distinguish themselves from them so they are not mistakened for Nephites in battle by the Lamanites. As far as I can tell, this is the first time in the Book of Mormon that there are a wicked group of people who have separated themselves from righteousness.  In the past, the righteous have always separated themselves from wickedness. 

In today's world, modest and immodest dress can be a "mark".  We can also choose to "mark" ourselves by the jewelry we wear, the language we use, our diet, our choice of entertainment, our hairstyle, etc.  Elder M. Russell Ballard warned: “There is an entire subculture that celebrates contemporary gangs and their criminal conduct with music, clothing styles, language, attitudes, and behaviors.... “I do not believe that you can stand for truth and right while wearing anything that is unbecoming one who holds the priesthood of God. To me, it is impossible to maintain the Spirit of the Lord while listening to music or watching movies or videos that celebrate evil thoughts and use vulgar language” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 51–53; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 38–39 ).

How we behave and dress in sacred places is also an indication of our reverence for and understanding of what is about to take place at that location.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught: "How we dress is an important indicator of our attitude and preparation for any activity in which we will engage.....Our manner of dress indicates the degree to which we understand and honor the ordinance in which we will participate." (Gen. Conf. Oct. 2008)   This would apply to us if we were attending the temple or any church meeting, especially sacrament meeting.  Reverence is an inner respect that is reflected in our appearance or behavior.   

When we are out in the world, we can still hold onto this reverence and let it dictate how we present ourselves as Latter-Day Saints.  Our attitude and behavior should still reflect the covenants we've made with the Lord, since we have taken upon us His name.  We represent Him at all times, in all things, and in all places.  Our attitude shouldn't change just because we're not at church.  Perhaps we aren't aware that the way we appear matters to anyone, but it does. Perhaps we don't mean to "mark" ourselves as a sign of rebellion to rules, laws, and restrictions. If we just asked ourselves the question: "How would the Lord want me to represent Him?"  The answer to that question should help us assess ourselves.

In my old age, I've notice that people change as their understanding matures.  It must start with the inside and it begins to show outwardly. It's a countenance.  In the following chapters of Alma, he will address this very topic with the Nephites. Stay tuned....... 

In the mean time, back to my seminary teacher uniform tomorrow. I did miss wearing the nice shoes.

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