Inspiration – Loving those who believe differently

Dan Cooper,
President,
High Prairie Branch,
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

As human beings, we see and experience life in a myriad of different ways. Our differing circumstances shape our view of the world and the information being presented to us.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vast range of opinions that can be present in even our rural area.

Some believe the pandemic is raging, others consider it vastly overstated.

Some believe in mandated masks, others call for the right to choose.

Some want everything to open, others worry we are moving too quickly towards “normal”.

This range of opinions extends into every aspect of our lives. We differ in our view of parenting, health and wellness, money management, sexual identity, religious beliefs – the list could go on and on. While this makes our society vibrant and interesting, the challenge we face is learning to love those who see differently than we do and live in harmony alongside.

The Saviour taught us to love each other without judgement. He encouraged tolerance when He said, “Love thine enemies,” [Matthew 5:44]; He taught empathy when He called on us to “love thy neighbour as thyself,” [Matthew 22:39]; and He ultimately set the example for us to follow when He commanded us to “love one another, as I have loved you.” [John 15:12]

This kind of tolerant, unconditional love is difficult when we move through a world of differing opinions. How can we express and defend what we believe without offending or causing hurt to others?

Christ gave us the key to handling these tricky situations. He taught, “There shall be no disputations among you…for verily, verily, I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me.” [3 Nephi 11:28-30] and that “wise men turn away wrath.” [Proverbs 29:8]

There is no purpose served in arguing over who is right and who is wrong. When we sink to that level we are only inviting anger and bad relationships. Instead, we should be listening to understanding the other individual. While we may not agree with their viewpoint, we can be respectful enough to try and see where they are coming from.

Dallin H. Oaks gave us wise counsel when he said, “On the subject of public discourse, we should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbour and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs.

“Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence.

“In doing so, we ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. We encourage all of us to practice the Saviour’s Golden Rule: ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.’ [Matthew 7:12)

“When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavourable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries. In any event, we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation.” [Dallin H. Oaks, Loving Others and Living with Differences, October 2014]

We can all take the chance to reach out to others and build bridges of understanding across the divide of our differences. In doing so, we will foster the peace and love we all seek for our world as a whole.

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