joseph smith and mahatma gandhi on change

Here is an article from January 2008 published on ‘Thoughts of a Seeker‘. It is definitely worth publishing here as well, as it is in harmony with the spirit of this site:


“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

“A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”Joseph Smith

Continuing along the line of “what should we be doing?” I present these two quotes in tandem for reflection, one a call to action and the other offering proper motivation.

So often, whether the topic is politics or organized religion, the sentiment is “me” and “them” (the institution). People expect their interaction with organized religion or government programs to be similar to a movie theatre with an audience sitting passively looking for all their needs to be satisfied by this world “out there.” In reality there is no screen, we are all actors in this great drama of life and the beauty and condemnation is that we all contribute to the script and storyline. Whether one wants to rewrite the script for their own life or the community at large the power is within the individual through conscious choice. For the individual the scriptural language calls it repentance, a turning away from a previous path realigned to goodness, light, and truth. In society it is expressed succinctly in the vision of Bill Drayton: “Everyone a Changemaker” (Bornstein).

I love the second quote because of its test of sincerity but also because of the beauty of the refining nature, a natural consequence of the true love of God being internalized. I observe in our society that the consequence of increased religious devotion does not always lead to the natural consequence Joseph Smith describes. Increased religious devotion can lead to increased isolation, a stronger focus on personal salvation, personal attainment, with feel-good gestures to others up to the point when the benefits to the giver are satiated. While on the other extreme we find a group of people who care deeply for the poor, and sacrifice to make the world a better place yet they scoff the religiosity of believers and deny religion altogether. I believe the truth lies in the realm of Joseph Smith’s quote, that true religiosity, true love of God will naturally result in a sincere desire to uplift the entire human race, and that professions of faith minus that natural drive to uplift others is indeed hollow faith. But at the same time the do-gooders who deny the power behind their drive are at the least ungrateful, still tinged with a sense of pride, and sadly, I believe, missing out on a fuller and richer understanding of the purposes of life and meaning for spirit that drives them to do good.

May we all be filled with that true love of God that drives us to a force for good.

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