Let Love and Civility Prevail…
It seems like these are days to be disagreeable. We see it all around us. It is a time of great fear and lack of trusting. I suppose that one could say, “of course, it is election time.” But I have never seen discord and the breakdown civility as it has among fellow citizens and brothers alike. I know that everyone would like to blame one side or the other, or one man over another, but these are the times in which we live if we choose discord, vengeance and incivility as opposed to peace, forgiveness and brotherly love.
Yes, I offer it as a choice. While it is true we cannot choose for our fellow man, our brothers and sisters in God and Christ, how they will feel or what they will do, we can choose for ourselves how we will feel and what we will do. Will we act with an out-reached hand of love, or will we react with a harsh word or a stick in hand?
We can choose to love and forgive despite the differences we might have in the public square of politics or in matters of faith. President Dallin H. Oaks taught, “We should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor 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 Savior’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 unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries.”
Again, in matters of faith and politics we should speak and act in ways respectful and kind to one another’s beliefs. We must vote how we vote, and at times lift our voices on those matters that we must proclaim or defend, but we should do it in a spirit of love, avoiding all anger and contention.
To political partisans President Abraham Lincoln said, “Let us neither express, nor cherish, any harsh feelings towards any citizens, who by his vote has differed with us. Let us at all times remember that all American citizens are brothers of a common country, and should dwell together in the bonds of fraternal feelings.” If this humble man, who had been vilified by half the nation for seeking to preserve union, could lay down the sword and reach out a charitable hand, then can we not all do the same. “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations” (Second Inaugural Address, 1865). The assassin‘s bullet may have stilled his heart, but his words of peace and charity will never be silenced.
Had the mortal Lincoln known the teachings of the ancient prophet Mormon, he certainly would have been an admirer. Mormon lived among a people who had fallen from the grace and beauty of righteousness to a place of hateful depravity without desire and therefore hope of reconciliation to God. Nevertheless this is what he said of the people he served and loved. “I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them” (Mormon 3:12). Of his lost people he said in sorrowful agony, “And my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people, and I cried: O ye fair ones,…” (Mormon 6:16-17). Mormon loved his people.
This same Prophet Mormon, when he was not bearing his sword in the defense of his own people, made his life work preparing a record that would one day be a source of redemption for the descendants of the those who slew his people. The words of his own son to the descendants of their so-called enemies, “Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him” (Moroni 10:32), were an invitation of love from men without revenge in their hearts. Mormon did not teach his son to have a heart full of contentious vengeance, but to have a forgiving heart full of peace. All fathers and mothers should do likewise, despite the outcome of those things in which we may feel passionate.
Yes, it is a day when the world seems more contentious than ever and civility is strained to its limits, but we can overcome this. We can overcome this time with love. May we stand up for those things that are right with humble and contrite hearts and spirits. It will not always go our way, but we can be accepting and loving toward those who do prevail, as we would desire the same when our voices are heard and we win in the public square, or more importantly succeed in bringing others to Christ. I pray that our words and actions will reflect the example of the Savior in victory and defeat, and that love and civility will ever prevail. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.