Christian Courage: Responding to Criticism

Reading: “Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, October 2008 General Conference, Sunday Morning Session

When our faith, which we hold so dear, is attacked by others we may feel the need to rise up in defense of our faith.  However, Elder Hales encourages us not to simply respond in kind, but to react to attacks the way the Savior did: with lovingness and with words appropriate to the situation, which is sometimes no words at all.

Elder Hales calls the way we repond to criticism “one of mortalitiy’s great tests.”  He encourages us to seek the guidance of the Spirit in our encounters:

As we respond to others, each circumstance will be different. Fortunately, the Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord.

For the past several days I have been thinking a lot about Proposition 8 in California.  The church has gotten a lot of cricisim, and, to be honest, I can see why people are so upset.  To them, it looks like we are just being bigoted and discriminatory.  I have been thinking and thinking trying to come up with a way to explain our position that shows that we do not hate gay people, but rather we feel that homosexuality should not be accepted as equal to marriage by society.

Ultimately, though, I could not come up with a way to explain it.  It all comes down to having a testimony of the gospel.  The heart of the issue is that we believe that homosexuality is not right, and that is something that we and them could never agree on.  Without a testimony of the gospel, they will never understand our position.

So, what do I do?  I feel the best thing I could do is not to argue with those people.  Rather, I should try ever harder to live the gospel.  If I become more Christlike, and show through my behavior that I do not hate gay people, then they will see the genuineness of our position. If I shun hateful debate, and instead extend loving service at every opportunity I can find, than at the very least they will come to see that we are good people, even if we do have “strange ideas.”

It seems to me that if all the members of the church lived the gospel perfectly (totally impossible, I know, see all my talk on perfectionism) that we would never have a public relations problem.

Today I commit that the next time I have the chance to talk to someone about our position on homosexuality, I will do so with peace and do my best to respond with the Spirit, showing my love for all children of God.

How do you keep your cool when you’re responding to criticism of the church?

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