“Though frail and weak my frame may be, my strength is in the Lord, for I stand with Him, I stand with you, unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 12 August 2023
I have never been ashamed of my testimony of Christ, nor have I been shy to share my beliefs in the principles upon which our nation was founded. From my grammar school days through high school years, I was often very vocal about my religious and political beliefs, in and out of the classroom, which oft times caused problems with faculty who did not share my convictions. I felt on occasion unfairly judged, and therefore graded by the same.
Taking my schooling very seriously following my missionary service, I made a determination at the university level to provide my instructors with the answers they were seeking rather than the beliefs and thoughts of my own heart. I was not ashamed of who I am. I had simply come to understand that religion and politics were not always welcome subjects in the classroom setting, and I was there to learn, not to teach.
During the years I spent in my political science/public administration major at Fresno State, I was able to attend several classes taught by a professor to whom I will refer as Dr. Umi. Of course, as a follower of Christ, my understandings and communications were always colored by our values, but never pushed in the faces of my fellow students or professors. As such, I found my opinions and answers to questions were received with polite non-judgmental acceptance.
In contrast, those statements made by class members who were more vocal in their personal political and/or religious convictions, almost prideful or with braggadocio if you will, were rejected and often mocked. The very subjective comments of some with similar political persuasions to my own, I found to actually be a little bit embarrassing at times of causes dear to my heart. Nevertheless, with all the objectivity I could muster, I would sit quiet and listen and learn, as I had set out to do.
I was not hiding my values and convictions, it was just that I was not using them to prove points in the educational arena, where I felt it more important to display objectivity.
In my classes with Dr. Umi I would often refer to experiences encountered in political or religious service without stating why I was in those settings, such as participating in local civic matters or living in Paraguay. This broad range of experience was helpful in understanding many of the lessons learned in my classes, and received kindly by my professor. I enjoyed those years and found them productive and enhancing to my life.
Days after graduation I was meeting with my college professor in his office with other students. We were laughing and reflecting upon the years we had spent together, grateful for the experiences, and speaking of days we might get together for a game of racquetball, or just to spend time again. As we enjoyed our conversation, Dr. Umi, who I had long considered my friend and mentor, asked what I believe to be an innocent question, “So why did you spend so much time in Paraguay?”
I answered directly, and without hesitation, “I was a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 1989
I answered directly, and without hesitation, “I was a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Surprising to me, the room became silent. After a little bit of a gasp and delay, Dr. Umi looked at me bewildered and stated directly, “I thought you were broader than that.”
Honestly, I was shocked. But my response came in loving kindness and without hesitation. “For two years I have come to your classes, studied with you, laughed with you, and I have been honest with you in everything that I have ever said. I am the same person standing before you as I have been every day since you have known me, and before. How am I so different to you, what is so changed in me, now that you know that I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ?”
My question was not met with an immediate reply from Dr. Umi, but lowered eyes of inward reflection, a nod, and I believe recognition of misjudgment, he said, “I suppose you’re right. My mistake.” Things were awkward, and the room emptied out with relative haste. We never got together again, and for that I lament, but my love and appreciation for my college professor still ongoing. I stood unashamed of my testimony of Christ, as I do now.
The apostle Paul stated, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). Do we truly believe? Are we indeed not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Those are questions that humble Christians have asked since the beginning of discipleship. Even before the Savior walked the earth a prophet Lehi had a dream in which he watched as people came unto the tree of life, the love of God, and partook of the fruit, some only to turn away from it because they became embarrassed at the mocking of those wicked who occupied a great and spacious building constructed by Satan, those worldly things (1 Nephi 8).
When we elect to become disciples of Jesus Christ, we place our feet on a path to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). What a glorious path of renewal, to become new creatures, in His resurrection sons and daughters of our loving Savior.
But it is not always easy to walk this path. It is difficult when mockers of the world verbally tear down those precepts, the sacred covenants, laws and ordinances that we hold so close to our hearts.
It is natural for us to desire acceptance. Part of this desire leads us to Christ and His saints. We find true love and acceptance in Zion.
But, as we mingle with the world, as is our necessity in life, we also tend to desire the love and acceptance of that world and the worldly. While we may by letting go of some of the sweetest fruits of the gospel find acceptance of the worldly in some measure, only false love, counterfeit love, is available to us in the anti-Zion of the great and spacious building culture. We cannot adopt the practices, nor even walk in the corridors of the great and spacious building, without it drawing us away from the hope-giving tree that is the love of God. We must live in this world, but we can be who we are, standing unscathed in the protective shade of our Lord. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, living in Zion while keeping a summer home in Babylon, will prevent us from being a godly people.
In recent years, I have come to hear a phrase that causes me grave concern, “I am taking a break.” The experiment of putting discipleship on pause while one explores worldly options has always been, but it seems that the lockdowns of COVID-19 has further encouraged the ill-conceived practice. When I was a young man, I heard someone close to me say, “I wish I had not known the gospel so young. It would have been a lot of fun to sow my wild oats in my youth and repent in old age, after experiencing life.” I was horrified at the thought. Why after having tasted the fruit of the gospel of Jesus Christ would one want anything else? There is too much at risk to ever purposefully take a break from discipleship. What if after my family and I have “taken a break” we forget that sweet witness we once knew? What if I repented and returned, but my children did not? I know what I know, and I cannot turn back, nor even tilt my head.
How can we have strength to resist the temptations of the world and continue enjoying the fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Our answer lies in Grace. The Bible Dictionary explains that “It is… through the grace of the Lord that [we], through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of [our] sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that [we] otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to [our] own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after [we] have expended [our] own best efforts.”
By faithfully expending our own best efforts, grace enables us to have the strength to overcome the temptations and lures of the world, even as Jesus Christ overcame the world, and stay on the path of discipleship throughout our lives. We show that we truly believe in the Savior and His atoning power and gift of grace when we stand unashamed of that which the Savior stands for. It is self-supporting. If we walk with Christ we will gain the strength to continue to walk with Him in spite of all of the mocking, ridicule and persecutions of the world.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”Paul the Apostle
Indeed, it will not always be easy to stand with Him, but He will always stand with us and never abandon you and I to the world that He overcame. It is not too late. We can walk the path, for the first time or anew, He will welcome and walk with us. No breaks need be taken. No worldly great and spacious building compares. No narrow opinions can dissuade. In discipleship of Jesus Christ we will always have real acceptance and pure love, the most desirable fruit one could ever enjoy. Together as disciples of our Savior we will establish Zion, even until God’s kingdom and gospel fills the whole earth. I stand with Him, I stand with you, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16), and I believe. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.