August 21st, 2009

Stand Up, Speak Up

photo credit: mypixbox

In a 2004 General Conference address discussing how the Saints of God are to oppose evil, President Hinckley stressed the need for our active involvement in defending truth and righteousness. Noting the influence that a small group of individuals can have, he remarked that “we are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for.”

The question that might follow from such a comment is “what is the right way to speak up”? We all speak, and our political opinions weave themselves into our daily conversation through venting frustration, cursing the name of a disagreeing political commentator, expressing support for an action with which we agree, and a variety of other ways. But speaking to the TV or to each other does not qualify for the “up” that actually influences those around us and those who wield political power to shape the course of our communities and the world at large. To speak up, we must do more than be a sideline commentator; society’s progress should not be a spectator sport left to a few professionals.

While it may make us feel better about ourselves, simply airing our frustrations or shaking our head does little to impact the issues we would like to see improved. Frankly, those in power promoting the status quo (or something worse) prefer a distracted electorate and an apathetic people. In a world where ideas are transmitted in near real time and where new developments occur at breakneck speed, it’s easy to sit and be an observer; our natural reaction when confronted with a rushing river is to steer clear. But this river is drowning innocent people, eroding the land around it, and demolishing once-solid structures in its path. Our common desire to preserve correct traditions, maintain the integrity of our institutions, and ensure liberty remains intact all require that we either get to work by jumping in and rescuing people, or by building a dam to stem the tide.

Problems abound, and each of us has been given specific abilities and talents that uniquely qualify us to effect positive change in one way or another. Some are writers, some are speakers, some are networkers, and others are hard workers. Whatever our gift, we must not shirk from the overwhelming needs that surround us if only we open our eyes and pay attention. Failing to lend our support to good causes colors our complaints with hypocrisy and disingenuity; if we are upset about something, we must do something about it.

That something can, of course, manifest itself in a variety of ways. You can go to city council meetings, write letters to editors of local newspapers, incessantly call the office of your representatives to make your voice heard on key issues, organize a book club to discuss important issues, run for public office, participate in a political party as a delegate or other officer, donate money to campaigns and organizations whose principles you support, or write a book to influence others’ minds. Far from comprehensive, this list could be expanded infinitely to accommodate the variety of options available to those who want to stand up and speak up, customized to their desires and abilities. As President Hinckley has said on another occasion:

You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence. And the good that is in you must be spread to others. (Gordon B. Hinckley, via Quoty; emphasis added)

The average American watches four hours of television per day. In a world that enshrines entertainment as a basic staple of a well-balanced life, we cannot say that we have no time. And from a casual assessment of the condition of peace, liberty, and morality throughout the world, we may also say that we have no excuse. Finally, comparing the long-term importance of our current actions to those that would influence the world around us would likely indicate that we have no valid reason not to get involved.

The world needs your voice and your talents. Stand up and speak up—the battle is far from over.

5 Responses to “Stand Up, Speak Up”

  1. Clumpy
    August 21, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    Amen, my brother! Both on the importance of civic engagement and the uselessness of undirected rage.

  2. Jim
    August 22, 2009 at 2:14 am #

    Failing to lend our support to good causes colors our complaints with hypocrisy and disingenuity; if we are upset about something, we must do something about it.

    Pay attention to those who merely complain about the way things are without putting forth sincere effort to improve their situation. They are negative and unhappy people. On the other hand look at the person who, while recognizing that their situation is less than ideal, put forth an honest effort to overcome its effects. This person is positive and happy. They are not a creature of their circumstances but a creator of change. Whether their single efforts will change the world does not alter their joyful attitude nor does it disrupt their inner peace.

  3. Jim
    August 22, 2009 at 2:24 am #

    There are many liberty-minded people who give the whole a bad name because instead of delivering the truth which they hold in a positive way (which would be effective) they turn people away with their negative energy, anger, and hatred which seems to them to be justified.

    A coworker recently told me about his in-laws who, every time they have dinner with them, try informing him and his wife of how the corrupt the government is. He told me that all of their ranting gives him and his wife a negative feeling whenever they go over. This does not inspire improvement. This instills resentment, ill feelings, fear, and anger. These effects do not enable people but they pull them down. People who are victims of such negativity often attribute their new awareness as light, instead of the darkness it spreads, or liberation, instead of the shackles they bind themselves and everyone around them with.

    While we should each be careful to spread the truth in the most positive way we know how we should also acknowledge all truth despite how painful it may be. While Nephi delivered the same message to each of his brothers, Samuel embraced to truth and Laman and Lemuel rejected the same message because it was too hard to bear.

    I see both extremes of being so upset, angry, afraid, and negative at the way things are to be just as detrimental as those who’s philosophy is ‘all is well in Zion’. On the one hand a person’s negative energy disables themselves and those around them. While on the other hand a person’s apathy or ignorance (blind optimism) doesn’t equip them with sufficient knowledge or courage to be a positive influence. Truth can be received, handled and delivered in various ways. It is up to us to be an influence for the good and the positive by promoting the good and the positive, not by attacking the wrong and the negative.

    Acknowledging the wrong is essential to understanding truth. But how will we convince others to the truth without making them afraid or angry? I have noticed that Ron Paul possesses the ability to balance acknowledging the wrong while still being able to promote the good. When I first heard him speak four years ago the whole tone of his speech was positive. He smiled and laughed while at the same time educated the audience of legislation the Congress was passing that he disapproved of. He even said with a smile, “People ask me: Don’t you ever get upset at the way things are in Washington? And I tell them- I never-never get upset, I just have VERY low expectations!”

    If you pay attention to him when he speaks you’ll notice he promotes freedom, the constitution, sound money, a moral foreign policy etc, etc. I have yet to see him attack anything. Even in the primaries when he was the target of every other candidate and moderator’s ridicule he never attacked any of them. He just humbly promoted the truth that was in his heart.

  4. Neil
    August 22, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    What sad is that we even have to tell elected officials the correct principles of government. You would think the responsibility of representing your fellow man in congress and the oath of office would give you the desire to learn all that you could about correct principles. It seems most are there just for the power and gain they achieve by being in office. They make it about them and not the people in which they represent. Congressman show no regard to the thoughts or writings of our Founding Fathers or the Constitution for that matter. This path will only lead and has led to power being consolidated in a few hands and a tyrannical form of government. Until people are educated in the masses on correct principles, like in schools or churches, it’s going to be a uphill battle. It’s a battle we must fight because everything we hold dear depends on it.

  5. Clumpy
    August 23, 2009 at 8:35 pm #

    Look at the presidents and vice presidents of businesses – uninformed and insulated. They’re good at ego work and talking big but not great at really managing employees in any real sense.

    Politicians are the same (often literally). We value boisterous, assertive (read: selfish and aimlessly principled) leaders because we’ve been conditioned to believe that’s the same thing as competence. I can’t imagine things are going to change until that does.

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