One of the blessings of the pandemic is my front row seat to my sons’ YSA ward at my kitchen counter. Each week, my admiration for the young adults in our church increases as I listen to their thoughtful comments and insights on Zoom Sunday School and Elder’s Quorum lessons.
Last Sunday, the young men chose to discuss Love Your Enemies by Dallin H. Oaks from the October 2020 General Conference. Despite a wide difference of opinion over the events in Washington D.C. on January 6th, 2020, the young men, aged 17-25, spoke with kindness, civility, a willingness to listen, a desire to understand, and true Christlike love.
As I listened to the discussion, the boys quoted Elder Oaks extensively and spoke of personal convictions, applicable scriptures and remarks from other prophets and leaders. They emphasized these words from Elder Oaks, “the Lord has taught me that it is possible to obey and seek to improve our nation’s laws and also to love our adversaries and our enemies.”
“We never check our religion at the door.”
One class member brought up the classic Elder Holland story about basketball fans screaming abuse at a struggling player. When asked about their behavior, one young man excused it by saying, “Listen. We are talking about basketball here, not Sunday School. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. We pay good money to see these games. We can act the way we want. We check our religion at the door.”
Pres. Holland gave his firm response, “We never check our religion at the door.”
Every young man in this Elder’s Quorum was familiar with Elder Holland’s story (it’s a favorite) and their comments came in quickly:
“We are representatives of Christ first, in every Facebook discussion, at every dinner table, whenever we get on a plane or step into a room.”
“When we want to debate with people we must recognize our common humanity. We must treat them as children of God.”
“Our decisions should be informed by our religious beliefs. But we can’t make assumptions about others’ beliefs.”
“Maybe we should check our politics at the door? Especially at church, when we are working together to serve the needs of our ward.”
From my perch on a kitchen barstool, I wanted to cheer. These are young men with strong convictions who are not afraid to discuss complex issues. They have not separated into echo chambers to reinforce their own beliefs. Rather, they listened to each other and verbally committed to keep working together on common goals.
It can be tempting, especially when emotions are high, to seek out people and groups who share our opinions. For example, I like to run with my friend who shares my views or drop in on a Facebook group where we all have similar opinions about current events. Still, it’s incredibly valuable to hold thoughtful discussions with people who have different viewpoints. I love the opportunity and the responsibility we have to love our fellow ward members, to seek for points of connection, to serve together.
For most of us, our political opinions are informed by our religious beliefs. Thus, a fellow churchgoer who has a different political opinions doesn’t necessarily have different values; they simply prioritize them differently. And that’s a GOOD thing. We need people to feel passionately about different issues. I’m often amazed at the many charities and good works my friends pursue. I love witnessing the passion people have for school carnivals, teaching kids with disabilities, digging wells in Africa, tutoring struggling math students, etc. No one can do it all.
The weeks and months and years ahead hold challenges for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as we seek to build the kingdom of God while holding different opinions about current events. Still, I have faith in our ability to act as representatives of Christ; to speak with kindness, civility, a willingness to listen, a desire to understand, and true Christlike love.