There is a popular phrase among the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that goes, "In the world, but not of the world." This short line holds two important ideas. The first being that we live in the world, and the second being that we try to not be of the world. The popular phrase comes from the scripture in the Bible that says, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:16). I want to take this simple line and separate it into its two parts. And after talking about each part I'll talk about why they are important together.
In The World...
To explain why we must be in this world, must be born at all, we would need to explain the very purpose of life on earth. To briefly share it, when we were in heaven, before life on earth, we were only spirits. Our God was the only one with a physical body, all of us only had a spirit. God proposed a way for us to obtain a body as well as a spirit, which plan is called the Plan of Salvation. God's plan was for us to come to this earth and live with a physical body, proving we can overcome the temptation that come with these bodies, and make it back to his presence. If we do so, following His commandments to the best of our abilities, we are then granted Eternal Life, or Salvation. But a body was needed, otherwise we are incomplete, only a spirit. This was taught by Joseph Smith when he said, "No person can have this salvation except through a tabernacle" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 306).
(To read more on the Plan of Salvation, visit OurPurposeInLife.wordpress.com)
...But Not of the World
When Christ or a prophet or an apostle speak of not being of the world they are often referring to moral standards. Gordon B. Hinckley, former prophet of the Church, has shared the following passage on this topic:
"They live at a time when a great tide of evil is washing over the earth. It seems to be everywhere. Old standards are discarded. Principles of virtue and integrity are cast aside. But we find literally hundreds of thousands of our young people holding to the high standards of the gospel" (The Church Grows Stronger, April 2004 General Conference).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published a pamphlet with the name, "For the Strength of Youth." This pamphlet contains 19 sections, each focusing on one standard or area (i.e. Honesty, Music, Language, etc). These are not all the standards that are talked about inside the Church or world, but they are some of them. At the same time that members of the Church hold to these standards, those that are of the world are lowering these standards. Lying, cheating, stealing, promiscuous activity and many other things have been increasing world-wide. While this is going on, the Church teaches being not of the world, meaning we need to stick to the higher standards.
The Importance of the Two Together
I go to the Bible and Book of Mormon to help explain the importance of these two phrases together.
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
"Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16; see also 3 Nephi 12:14-16).
I will explain it a little backwards now. We must not be of the world, not lower ourselves to the standards of the world, so that we may have the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And we must be in the world, with that Holy Ghost, so that we can be a light and example unto those that do not have this Holy Ghost that may want it through us. Earlier I quoted President Hinckley, and now I finish that passage with, "They are improving their minds with education and their skills with discipline, and their influence for good is felt ever more widely" (The Church Grows Stronger, emphasis added). With the light of Christ in our lives we can spread the happiness of the gospel.