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Thinking beyond the world

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There's a religion professor at BYU, I hear, who flips his necktie over his shoulder whenever he lapses into personal opinion. He wants his students to realize he's shooting from the hip, not from the manual.

Just so you know, my tie's on my shoulder for this column.

We're dealing with the Gospel According to Nobody Important.

About once a week I hear someone mutter the old expression: "What were they thinking?"

It's not a meant as a real question. It's rhetorical. The speaker is slapping his forehead and saying, "How could they?"

But it might serve us well when others say "How were they thinking?" to actually ask ourselves, "What, exactly, were they thinking there?"

And in matters of the LDS Church, you can bet the answer will almost always be, "They were thinking about the kingdom."

Take that famous punching bag, Sen. Harry Reid, for example. It troubles some folks that he can push a liberal agenda and play slap and tickle with Nancy Pelosi yet remain in full fellowship with Saints. People look at their LDS leadership and ask, "What in the world are they thinking?"

The answer is, "They are thinking about the kingdom, not about the world."

And those pesky illegal immigrants. How can the church send them on LDS missions, grant them temple privileges and call them to positions in branch presidencies?

"What are they thinking?"

Again, they are thinking about the kingdom, not about the world.

And this business about discouraging concealed weapon permit holders from bringing their pistols into sacrament meeting?

Answer: The kingdom, not the world.

And the list goes on: Why doesn't the church chastise athletes who play on Sunday, singers who play Las Vegas, mayors who choose to leave swimming pools open on the Sabbath?

It's because the world may be somebody's oyster, but it's not the LDS Church's oyster.

The kingdom is its oyster.

"Country thinkers" think about "rights."

"Kingdom thinkers" think about getting themselves right.

"Country thinkers" believe if we could pass enough righteous laws, the nation would become righteous.

"Kingdom thinkers" believe if we could get enough people right with God, they would make the nation righteous.

"Country thinkers" read the words "Promised Land" in the Book of Mormon and imagine a place where people are free to expand and grow and make a mighty nation.

"Kingdom thinkers" read the words "Promised Land" and imagine a place where people are free from persecution, free from the ugly grasping for material gain, free to be good.

After all, Lehi was a wealthy man in Jerusalem. He didn't come to America to become materially blessed. He came to be spiritually blessed — he was getting away from wickedness — like Moses, like Brigham Young, like everyone who abandons Babylon and heads for the Mountains of Ephraim.

And that, as they say, is the name of that tune.

When we grow annoyed and ask of our leaders, "What were you thinking?" we had better be prepared for the answer. It just might entail a bigger change of mind and heart than we bargained for.

Don't ask rhetorical questions. Somebody might shoot you an answer you didn't want to hear.

That said, let me fix my tie here, leave the kingdom and get back to life in the world.

We have a newspaper to put out.

Jerry Johnston is a Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears weekly in Mormon Times.

E-mail: jerjohn@desnews.com