Being a “Light for Truth” in the Toxic World of Tolerance

“Tolerance for behavior is like a two-sided coin.

Tolerance or respect is on one side of the coin,

but truth is always on the other.”

~ Elder Dallin H. Oaks

I have had conversations with many of you about where we draw the line in our tolerance and our knowledge of the truth.  I found this article about Balancing Truth and Tolerance by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the  February 2013 Ensign.  It was wonderful and answered many of our uncertainties.

Since the Savior ministered to people as individuals and instructed us to “go and do likewise”, we have an obligation to do so as his disciples.  We cannot minister to people and lift them up and help show them a better way if we are rude, discourteous, mean, harsh, or judgemental.  However, we cannot accept that what they are doing is right either.  Elder Oaks, who is a former Utah Supreme Court judge and scholar of the law, explains in understandable ways how to draw our lines.  He encourages us to be courageous and stand for truth – but also helps us how to understand how to separate the PERSON from the BEHAVIOR – a very distinct and important responsibility, indeed.

He then spoke of how diverse our world has become through the advancement of transportation and technology.  This greater exposure to diversity both enriches our lives and complicates them. We are enriched by associations with different peoples, which remind us of the wonderful diversity of the children of God. But diversity in cultures and values also challenges us to identify what can be embraced as consistent with our gospel culture and values and what cannot be. In this way, diversity increases the potential for conflict and requires us to be more thoughtful about the nature of tolerance. What is tolerance, when does it apply, and when does it not apply?

Tolerance is defined as a friendly and fair attitude toward unfamiliar or different opinions and practices or toward the persons who hold or practice them.

Posing this question: So what does tolerance mean to us and other believers, and what are our special challenges in applying it?

He discusses three absolute truths –

Firstall persons are brothers and sisters under God, taught within their various religions to love and do good to one another. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) expressed this idea for Latter-day Saints: “Each of us [from various religious denominations] believes in the fatherhood of God, although we may differ in our interpretations of Him. Each of us is part of a great family, the human family, sons and daughters of God, and therefore brothers and sisters. We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse.  Note that President Hinckley spoke of mutual respect as well as tolerance.

Second —this living with differences is what the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us we must do. We are called to live with other children of God who do not share our faith or our values and who do not have the covenant obligations we have assumed. We are to be in the world but not of the world.  Because followers of Jesus Christ are commanded to be leaven, we must seek tolerance from those who hate us for not being of the world. As part of this, we will sometimes need to challenge laws that would impair our freedom to practice our faith, doing so in reliance on our constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion. The big concern is “the ability of people of all faiths to work out their relationship with God and one another without the government looking over their shoulder.”4 That is why we need understanding and support when we must contend for religious freedom.

We must also practice tolerance and respect toward others. As the Apostle Paul taught, Christians should “follow after the things which make for peace” (Romans 14:19) and, as much as possible, “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Consequently, we should be alert to honor the good we should see in all people and in many opinions and practices that differ from our own.

Third – Our tolerance and respect for others and their beliefs does not cause us to abandon our commitment to the truths we understand and the covenants we have made. We are cast as combatants in the war between truth and error. There is no middle ground. We must stand up for truth, even while we practice tolerance and respect for beliefs and ideas different from our own and for the people who hold them.

Elder Oaks then built on and expanded on our tolerance for behavior, even giving specific ideas that we can incorporate into our daily lives as disciples of Christ.  Here is a link to the whole article: Balancing Truth and Tolerance.

How do you maintain your balance of truth amid the “tolerance”?

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