Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Loving Others and Living with Differences", Elder Oaks, Oct. 2014

Find this talk here.


  • I have always interpreted "As I have loved you, love one another" or its other variants to mean, "I've loved you; you should therefore love others", rather than the slightly different meaning, "Love others in the same way I've loved you." This latter interpretation, though, makes more sense.
  • The reminder not to contend is an awfully important one. It reminds me of a time I listened to a friend talk about the Church in a way I felt was negative and dishonest, and it made me angry. I didn't act on the anger; rather I revisited the experience later on to see why I'd been angry. I reviewed my friend's statements and determined that in fact, they were all true (his tone when making the statements may perhaps have been inappropriate; I don't remember his tone well, and it's not my place to judge anyway). It taught me a great deal about paying attention to the actual wording of scripture, and the fallibility of my first impressions.
  • I'll insert at this point, in case anyone ever reads this, that my current beliefs differ somewhat from those of my childhood, and those of much of my family. I hope I don't resort to contention to promote or defend those beliefs, and would welcome others to point it out if they feel I'm being contentious. I don't intend even to share my more contrary positions beyond those I'm commanded to teach, unless asked about them specifically, and I don't want to contend at all.
    • I will share my beliefs in detail when prompted to do so, or when people ask specific questions.
  • I wish "in dedicated spaces like ... houses of worship" we actually could "teach the truth and the commandments plainly and thoroughly as we understand them". Unfortunately at least in our ward, the instruction is always to keep things positive and simple. In the Church generally, the correlation program has reduced the allowed topics to a list. There are something like 72 specific subjects about which lessons and curricula may be produced, and anything outside those topics is off limits. See Daymon Smith's Ph.D thesis here for specifics. This list doesn't include much of Joseph Smith's most pressing concerns, such as having one's "calling and election" made sure, or receiving the Second Comforter. This strikes me as organizationally enforced rejection of "the greater portion of the word", which Alma 12:10-11 tells us leads to damnation.
  • I appreciate his wording, that "Less grievous behaviors, even though unacceptable to some believers, may simply need to be endured if legalized by what a Book of Mormon prophet called 'the voice of the people'".
  • "Surely we can teach our children values and standards of behavior without having them distance themselves or show disrespect to any who are different." This is important. I've seen a few too many instances where one LDS family refuses to allow their children to become close to non-LDS children, simply because of religious differences. One neighboring LDS family has a daughter who is (or was) close friends with a non-LDS girl across the street. Hearsay (and, to be clear, I have no evidence of this beyond the report of a potentially biased friend) has it that the LDS father felt his own salvation was at risk unless the non-LDS girl was baptized, or the two girls distanced themselves from each other. This is, of course, completely contrary to scripture and to LDS teaching.
  • I may have to keep his comments on maintaining civil political discourse on hand, because municipal elections are coming up and I live in a politically rancorous area.
  • A study I read (and I realize one can find a study to back up whatever position one chooses to take, more or less) said Utahns in general and Utah Mormons in particular tend to avoid confrontation at the expense of their own interests, and at the same time to feel dismissive of the validity of others' interests. I imagine the study's authors had some ideas about what caused this attitude, but I don't remember what they were and don't claim to have any specific idea myself. If there's something to the study's claims, perhaps anymore it's just cultural inertia. In any case, Elder Oaks' advice is important: there are some things we can't compromise, at least when it comes to our own behavior.

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