Archive for the ‘contention’ Tag

Civility

Reading: “The Mormon Ethic of Civility,” from the LDS Newsroom

Tonight my mind is buzzing after reading this post by Monica Bielanko about the recent controversy over a quote from Elder Oak’s recent talk on religious freedoms.  The quote at the center of the controversy is this:

These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest. As such, these incidents of violence and intimidation are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic. In their effect they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South.

Monica Bielanko was the first of many journalists and bloggers who interpreted this quote to say that Elder Oaks was equating the backlash many members felt after the Proposition 8 fight in California with the horrendous atrocities perpetrated against blacks during the civil right movement in the 60s.  If this were the case that would certainly be an inflammatory and incorrect statement.

However, I feel it is pretty clear that Elder Oaks chose to say this because he was trying to illustrate the principle that in a free country people shouldn’t face retaliation for voting a certain way or supporting a cause.  Luckily, there aren’t very many examples of where this has happened because Americans, in general, up to now, have been pretty tolerant of people who disagree with them.  The civil rights movement is one of the few well-known examples where people faced violence and personal retaliation for supporting a political position, and Elder Oaks invoked it as an example for this reason.  I think it is clear that he is not comparing the level of retaliation in the two events. Perhaps, in hindsight, he could have made this more clear, but a careful reading shows that the interpretation some have chosen to give it is not correct.

After this story blew up, however, it is clear from her blog post that some church members chose to attack Monica Bielanko personally for writing this story.  This violates the number one item Elder Oaks asked us to do in order to preserve our religious freedoms: “We must speak with love, always showing patience, understanding and compassion toward our adversaries.”

It is important to remember that in this day and age (and arguably, to some degree, throughout time) part of the job of journalists is to find the controversial quotes and make news stories about them.  This happens ALL THE TIME.  Most political controversies these days focus on single quotes taken out of context.  It is sad every time this happens, as it is sad now, but is pretty much what journalists do.  When we descend to the level of name calling and personal attacks, we are doing nothing to help our own cause, and we are violating our own standards of behavior.

This latest general conference focused a great deal on civility and showing respect to each other.  This latest controversy is an example, on both sides, of how a lack of civility degrades people and defeats peace.  Respect for each other, despite disagreement, is a fundamental building block of society.  I am grateful that we have prophets today who are helping to preserve civility in our society, and I hope we can all strive to live our lives more closely to the ideals that God has given us.

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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?