No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. — 3 Nephi 13:24
The warning is about trying to serve God and live as He asks while still trying to fit in with friends who have no interest in the lifestyle, hanging on to favorite habits that are not in keeping with a godly lifestyle, or even simply putting on a show of piety while reserving your “private life” to do with as you please. When I was in psychology class, I learned the phrase “cognitive dissonance.” It’s a problem that can happen in many circumstances, and it is one that we set ourselves up for if we try to live a double life. We find ourselves looking over our shoulders to see if anyone is watching, we have to fake our way through, and we often find ourselves looking in the mirror with disappointment — if not outright disgust. We feel like the hypocrite we are, because we are pretending our way through life. It’s exhausting.
Serving the World
I can see where walking away from a faith as demanding as the doctrines and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can seem like the answer. Suddenly, it’s o.k. to simply be a good person. We don’t have to feel uncomfortable in social situations, because we can participate in and enjoy all of the same activities that our friends do. The sense of being a misfit or a bigot is gone. The problem is that our lives have been touched by the truths of the gospel. We know that we are walking away from the promise of eternal families. We feel, at least in the beginning, the loss of the Spirit as the influences we did have in our lives disappear. We may find happiness in our chosen lifestyle, but we won’t be able to achieve our deepest dreams.
Serving God may be the hardest road to choose. Being a full disciple requires a change of heart and habits. We have to be willing to leave behind favorite vices and habits. We may even lose the company of friends and family. Walking the pathway set by the Savior isn’t easy, either. Self-discipline is tiring. Feeling left out hurts. Not being like the people around us is uncomfortable, at best. The demands on time and focus can feel overwhelming. So why choose to live the life of a committed Latter-day Saint? In the end, I believe committed Latter-day Saints choose to be because they have been touched by the power of the Holy Spirit. In a way that can’t be adequately put into words, we know that there is a life beyond mortality, and that what we choose here will play a major role in what we receive in the next life. We have a witness beyond words that families are intended to be together forever, that God is in the details of our lives, and that even if we don’t understand exactly why bad things have to happen to good people that we will receive the understanding in God’s time. We learn that grace, freely given to us because of the Savior’s Atonement, helps us to see life with new eyes, and that new perspective gives us the strength to carry on through the tough times. We do it because we love God, and we trust Him.