Becoming a good citizen of the community and the kingdom

Lawrence Walters speaks to students and faculty of BYU on the importance of being an active citizen. Photo by Samantha Williams.
Professor Lawrence Walters speaks to the students and faculty of BYU on the importance of being an active citizen. (Photo by Samantha Williams)

A BYU professor of public policy encouraged students to become better citizens in both a democratic society and the kingdom of God at a Devotional on April 1.

Lawrence Walters, public manager of the Romney Institute and a BYU professor of public policy analysis and management, said the time to hasten the work of the Lord is now. He described five “essential attributes of active citizens in the church and in society.”

First, active citizens accept responsibility. Walters said the citizen’s responsibility is to become engaged in the work.

“Active engagement in the functioning of government and in addressing community concerns is an inherent responsibility of our citizenship,” Walters said. “As with citizenship in the kingdom of God, this active engagement is challenging and demands our best efforts.”

Second, active citizens do their homework. Walters said citizens should prepare to help hasten the Lord’s work through preparation and education.

“If we are to fill our role in hastening the Lord’s work, we need to be a people who devote ourselves to the pursuit of knowledge, understanding and wisdom in pretty much all fields,” Walters said.

Walters gave a personal example of how he has prepared in his own field of public policy analysis. Early on in his career, he read an article by a well-known professor who said a competent analyst must master economics, political science, history of all types, science and technology, philosophy, psychology, institutional design and change. Walters was overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of him.

He said after 30 years of doing policy analysis, he realizes the professor’s article was right. He did need to know all those things, but he had to prioritize learning them.

“The lesson I have learned about preparation is that active citizens, both in the kingdom and in society, focus their attention on the most pressing issues,” Walters said. “They seek to learn and understand all they can on any given issue.”

Third, active citizens engage with others. Walters said citizens must strive to resolve conflicting views as they engage with others.

“Because of our shared responsibility, and because we are so much more effective together than we are individually, as active citizens we must actively engage with others,” Walters said.

Fourth, active citizens make decisions and take action.

“Active citizens produce the future; they do not simply wait for it or dream about it,” Walters said.

Fifth, active citizens learn from experience. The earlier steps prepare citizens for this.

“In the kingdom, we learn through this process to become more Christlike,” Walters said. “In society, we learn from our experience to exemplify Christlike attitudes that will strengthen our communities.”

Walters stressed that active citizenship in both the kingdom and society are not separate. He said when an individual is doing all they can to better their community, they are serving God.

Kristin Bowles, a student studying communication disorders, said Walters’ comment strongly impacted her ideas about how serving one’s community and serving one’s God can be the same. Bowles realized when she is being active, she is helping God hasten his work.

Paul Cave, a graduate student at BYU, said Walters’ talk was an empowering realization to remind him of his sense of duty and responsibility for himself and those around him.

“We underestimate the potential that Heavenly Father has given each of us to rise up and be changers in the world we live in,” Cave said. “I love the concept of producing and creating our futures rather than simply waiting for our future to come.”

The Music Assembly Devotional will be on April 8 in the Marriott Center at 11:05 a.m.

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