Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We Can Do Better

We Can Do Better
I am once again deeply concerned about the social media posting that has been so bitter during this current political crisis. I raised this concern over a year ago when we faced a hard-fought election season and challenged ward members not to get caught up in the lack of civility that was so prevalent. I was deeply impressed that ward members heeded this challenge and kept their dialog civil.

I feel it is of no small coincidence that two Apostles (Elder Perry and Elder Anderson) reminded us of the importance of the 12th Article of Faith which reads:

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Focus for a minute in the terms “obeying, honoring, and sustain.” Where, in these admonitions, are we encouraged to be rude, close-minded, or disrespectful?

Now add to this the following words from President Hinckley:

Civility is the root of the word civilization. It carries with it the essence of courtesy, politeness, and consideration of others. How very much of it we have lost in our contemporary society! All of the education and accomplishments in the world will not count for much unless they are accompanied by marks of gentility, of respect for others, of serving as a good Samaritan, of being men and women who look beyond our own selfish interests to the good of others. Our Fading Civility, June 10, 2008.
In light of these two powerful concepts, let me offer some suggestions.

The height of disrespect, which runs counter to President Hinckley’s counsel, comes in name calling of elected officials. I have seen Face Book posts referring to President Obama a liar, slime ball, dictator, and as Satan incarnate. These irresponsible and childish epithets were found on Face Book pages hosted by members of the Church. In my opinion, when we resort to name calling, we dilute our own voices in the conversation and become nothing more than annoying static.

A sure sign of an impotent argument is when the one framing it insists on absolutes. The minute we assume ours is the only true and living opinion, we become close-minded and are no longer contributors to the political arena. There are no absolutes in politics.

When we blur the lines between our religion and our politics we run the risk of assuming that we speak for God or as God as we pontificate our beliefs. God is not American. He is not a member of any party. While our religiosity can shape our politics, it cannot become our politics.

Please remember this; America is a conversation and not a blunt instrument. The Framers of our Constitution clearly understood that this nation would evolve and change in content and complexity. They purposely left us a document and political process that could ebb and flow with those changes. 

The best way to join that conversation is to integrate President Hinckley’s counsel for civility. We all can do better at constantly seeking to obey, honor, and sustain the law.


  1. I'm impressed Bishop. FANTASTIC article, very well said. I completely agree with you. Whether or not we agree with what's happening politically (now or ever) we NEED to be polite and respectful of others. Civil discussion is fine, but as soon as the civility leaves and it turns argumentative, the Spirit is gone and nothing good can come of that. Well said indeed!

  2. I just have to say that I am a die hard USA fan. I agree that namecalling is wrong and that we need to be open minded. I also think if people really hate what's going on they should do something about it - that's the beauty of our democracy. If people still feel like they need to hate on the US government, they are welcome to leave and make room for the millions who would gladly take their place.

  3. I definitely agree, especially with the fact that all matters, especially those of differing opinions, need to be handled with civility. We must remember to be kind to all people, for we do not necessarily understand what there background is or why they think or do the things that they do.

  4. You are right. Name calling is childish. However, truth and freedom does need to be stood up for when trampled upon by others. Take Captain Moroni for example and his Title of Liberty, his letter to Pahoran. Nothing is wrong with boldness as long as it is done with tact, with the intent to unveil the truth not to degrade.

    What people really need to understand is there really is a difference between politics and principle. Politics are man's way of trying to legislate what they want for themselves, good or bad. Principles, however, are unwavering laws of God that when tampered with bring upon us well-known consequences. Some do not fully understand that freedom is really God-given. The truth of the matter is, this land is a blessing to those who are righteous and a curse to those who do not obey the commandments of God. We have seen that countless times in the Book of Mormon.

    As for the Founding Fathers, they were indeed guided to create the foundation of a great nation. But even by them it has been said, this form of government can only be run and upheld by righteous people. I would be careful with the word "open-mindedness" as it leaves room for worldly philosophies to trump the principles God has laid out for us as His children on the ENTIRE PLANET, not just in America. We've seen in other nations what happens when His principles are violated.

    It really is easy to let things sneak in the back-door. We've seen it in our own country already. There was once a time when we stared Communism and tyranny right in the face and we fought with our mights against it. Somehow over time we have allowed ourselves to adapt some of the same philosophies that we once claimed to detest. It is hard to watch and some of us that do see it may or may not know how to handle it the best way possible. Our Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves right now watching our moral base fall apart.

    You are right. Arguing is not the answer. I live 15 minutes away from a Civil War battlefield, a chilling reminder of how fragile things can get when people disagree. But it IS a fight that began in heaven and still continues, the battle for our agency. You should read Ezra Taft Benson's "Title of Liberty" for more context.

    Free speech is one of our God-given agencies that should be used for good. Countless men have already laid down their lives for that cause. Freedom is fragile and can be given up just as easily by doing nothing. So while it is important not to purposely attack people, it is just as important to stand up for violations of principle.

    Believe it or not, I do not believe in politics. Never have. Never will. I put my trust in God and His unfailing principles. God in Heaven DID build this nation for His purposes in raising His Church once more. It would be foolish to let the freedom He has bestowed upon us to slip through our fingers. The real issue is not in politics but the faith and virtue of this people.

  5. ^
    what she said.

  6. I think Laci has some excellent points. The name calling is a sign of immaturity and a lack of intelligent argument. However I believe that there are absolutes. There are things that are absolutely right, just as there are things that are absolutely wrong. There are moral standards that have existed since the beginning. It is not our job to enforce these principles over other people, but to choose them in our own lives, and vote accordingly.

    Again I agree with Laci in that open mindedness can be a dangerous term. I firmly believe we are to be tolerant to the decisions of others, but that does not mean we need to have a serious look at adopting them into our own lives. We need to be educated and understanding, but also understand that right and wrong do exist. All men and women are free to choose, but that freedom does not make their choices right.

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  8. Thanks Laci for the comment I totally agree. To carry the example of Captain Moroni further, no doubt he offended some people when he defended what he knew to be right. I agree with what Bishop said about name calling; when an argument degenerates to this level it signals a lack of education on the topic and extreme frustration, to the point of not knowing what other action to take. Even Captain Moroni, one of my greatest heroes, accused the head of his government of sitting upon his throne "in a state of thoughtless stupor." But he did not tell his people this, he went to the source (via an epistle) and took action. He knew the issues and he had a plan. In our day and age we need righteous men and women more than ever to stand up and state what they believe in.

  9. These are all excellent points and clearly demonstrate that people from different backgrounds can share ideas and learn from each other. The purpose of dialog need not be to convert; rather it can be to expand the body of knowledge so that all may benefit.

    The point was raised that we need to be governed by principles and less by policy. I do agree that principles need to be at the heart of policy. But I fear that even principles can, at times, be murky at best. A good case in point is the US Constitution.

    The preamble, in my mind, represents the core principles that are at the foundation of this document and the heart and soul of American politics. I feel it is the mission statement of our country. But a close look at what it says demonstrates to me the ambiguous (as opposed to absolute) nature of principles.

    It reads:

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    I interpret this to say that the purposes of this Constitution are as follows:

    Forming a more perfect union
    Establish Justice
    Insure domestic tranquility
    Provide for the common defense
    Promote the general welfare
    Insure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity

    The are indeed grand principles. But I feel they provide us merely a framework and not a finished product. There are many valid interpretations of these core principles that will, by their very nature, conflict with each other.

    So, while I am an advocate for principles, being such does not make politics any easier and demands of us all ears that listen and minds that are open to views opposed to ours.

  10. While I do agree that Captain Moroni is a great man, I do not feel the issue raised in this thread where he wrote his inflammatory letter to Pahoran, was Moroni’s finest moment. Let’s look at this story from Pahoran’s stand point to see what we can learn.

    We are aware of the dire circumstances of Moroni and his troops. They were starving, discouraged, and threatened by a powerful enemy on all sides. Indeed, these were times that tried men’s souls. As a result of these desperate circumstances, Moroni wrote his now famous letter.

    However, what were Pahoran’s circumstances at this time? He was in a very similar desperate state. He had been deposed from this Chief Judge seat. He was oppressed with a growing alliance between the Lamanites and the Kingmen that threated the survivability of a free Nephite nation. He, like Moroni, was surrounded by a powerful enemy.

    Now add to this heavy, heavy burden that Pahoran faced comes a letter from his trusted general rebuking him for sitting on his throne is a stupor. Nothing could be further from the truth. The key to this story, in my mind, is the willingness Pahoran showed in not lashing back, as we had the right to do. Rather, Pahoran was humble enough to understand that his friend, Mononi, was simply lacking accurate information.

    I am convinced that once Moroni got the response from Pahoran, he knew he had made a critical error in judgment, an error many of us are prone to make. Moroni based his letter on assumptions not rooted in facts. Maybe that is the important lesson for us. We are too willing to assume and react based on our assumptions when a little patient fact finding can avoid exacerbating an already difficult situation.

  11. Again, I do agree that this nation will only survive when it is based on moral principles. We hear of this in Ether 2 that any nation who denies Christ will be swept from this land. We saw that with the Jaredites as well as with the Nephites. This prophetic statement becomes increasingly murky when you have a culturally diverse nation as we do. This was not the case with the Jaredites or Nephites.

    Does contemporary Christianity, with all of its flavors, satisfy God that we are still devoted to Christ? We all know that Joseph Smith was told that these churches draw near to Him with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. I get the sense that God was not entirely pleased with the direction of Christianity in 1820. He may be less pleased now.

    But Christianity is only one religious idea in this country. We also have Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and many other diverse beliefs including secular humanism. Do their beliefs need to be included with Christianity and do they equally need to promote recognizing Christ as the Savior? I don’t see that happening.

    It is easy to look to scriptural statements and find comforting answers to difficult questions. But I feel the challenge is to see how God, with his infinite love for all His children, can work within difficult situations to help those He loves find joy.

  12. Have to say, Only Cool Heiss, that I loved your post. Amen and amen.