And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me.
Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.
I tend to cringe a little when I hear the phrase “be in the world, but not of the world”. That’s partly because its a cliché, and clichés tend to hinder rather than help us to think about what we really need to be doing. The other reason is that it is one of those statements that people tend to take as scriptural when it isn’t (much like the whole supposed quote of “I never said it’d be easy, I only said it’d be possible”). In this particular case it is based on a scripture (John 17:14-16). But it’d be a mistake to think that the cliché encompasses every truth about our relationship with the world, and especially that there’s always some imperative to be “in” the world.
The Book of Mormon contains another theme, one we see near the beginning of the book and repeated here, and many times hence. Lehi, after being rejected by the people, was warned by God to flee into the wilderness with his family. In like fashion, Nephi too must flee those seeking his life (his own brothers in this case) with his family and any who believe in the revelations of God. There is this continual pattern of the flight into the wilderness from a wicked society.
A similar theme can be found in the passages of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon:
Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter to the end of the earth; say ye: The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.
And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.
This same idea can be found in the Doctrine and Covenants as a commandment for us, where we are repeatedly told to ‘go ye out of Babylon’, including ‘from the nations’ and ‘from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon’ (D&C 133:5, 7, 14) and instead ‘flee unto Zion’ (D&C 45:68, 133:12). There is no command here to remain in the world, but instead we are commanded to separate from it, both spiritually and at times physically. While there may be occasions in which we have responsibilities “in the world”, there is no imperative to stay there permanently, and certainly not to be complacent in doing so. Ultimately for our own sake we must leave Babylon behind and flee to Zion, for:
For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.