“Teach Us Tolerance and Love”

Today, I’m studying the talk, “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1994 General Conference.

Crayon Crinkle Project

Well, I guess I’ll start by stating the obvious. This was a really good talk. Tolerance. Love. President Nelson stated:

“I have been impressed to speak on the subject of tolerance—a virtue much needed in our turbulent world.” – Russell M. Nelson

This talk is so relevant today. He gave this talk 24 years ago – before the 24 hour news cycle – which, I believe, has made so many people so angry. Instead of surrounding ourselves with that which promotes tolerance and love, it seems like everyone is getting angrier and even tribal.

Not only has a lack of tolerance and love been problematic for society, at large, I can also see how this lack creeps into my personal life. It causes rifts, judgments, and misunderstandings. Instead of having love, patience, and long-suffering for others, I tend to get annoyed easily. This talk was timely, and I hope you will read it.

President Nelson quotes the following scripture story:

““Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

“This is the first and great commandment.

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Russell M. Nelson

When the Savior was asked about the most important commandment to keep, he didn’t mention keep the Sabbath Day Holy or Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. He didn’t tell this lawyer any commandment that the lawyer may have expected.

During a political climate that exacted an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the Savior proclaimed that the greatest of all commandments were to 1) Love God, and 2) Love Others.

President Nelson explained:

“Hence, our highest priorities in life are to love God and to love our neighbors. That broadly includes neighbors in our own family, our community, our nation, and our world. Obedience to the second commandment facilitates obedience to the first commandment. “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God,” (Mosiah 2:17)” – Russell M. Nelson

Recently in my personal scripture study, I’ve been reading and studying the vision of the tree of life – when Nephi sees the vision and learns what each symbol means. In studying this, I’ve learned a lot about desire, and Nephi, himself, learns that the tree of life represents the Love of God, which is the most desirable above all other things. (You can read more here.)

Isn’t it interesting that most important commandments – to love God and to love others – is the most desirable above all other things? I’m convinced that God’s commandments are never little rules given by a power hungry and arbitrary God. His commandments are the secrets to a happy life.

Anyway, if we want to be commandment keeping people, then we need to love God and love others. One way that we show this love is through our kindness to others.

Love Begins at Home

President Nelson shares a cute experience:

“I was amused recently when one of our grown children confided that she had always thought that she was her daddy’s favorite daughter. She was surprised to discover later that each of her eight sisters harbored that same feeling. Only when they had become mothers themselves did they realize that parents hardly have favorites. (Incidentally, our only son never had to wonder who was our favorite son.)” – Russell M. Nelson

Reading this, I wondered, do my children feel this way? I think that my younger two know that they are the apple of my eye. But my teenagers may not realize how much I love them. So – I’m stopping for a second to write them a note. They need to know it! And if your children don’t think that they are your favorite children, maybe take a second right now to tell them how much you love them. If it means that you stop reading this blog post, then great. You can finish reading it later. (or not).

Just imagine what this world would be like if children were reared in homes where they felt confident of the love that their parents have for them.

Heavenly Father Loves us, Too

Ideally, our examples as parents would help a child understand the great love that Heavenly Father has for each of us. Additionally, our children would learn that – just as contention, selfishness, and general unkindness are not acceptable in the home they are also not acceptable ways to treat our other brothers and sisters on this earth. We are all children of God, and we should treat each other as such.

President Nelson stated:

“Yet His children can be so intolerant with one another. Neighboring factions, whether they be identified as groups or gangs, schools or states, counties or countries, often develop animosity. Such tendencies make me wonder: Cannot boundary lines exist without becoming battle lines? Could not people unite in waging war against the evils that beset mankind instead of waging war on each other? Sadly, answers to these questions are often no. Through the years, discrimination based on ethnic or religious identity has led to senseless slaughter, vicious pogroms, and countless acts of cruelty. The face of history is pocked by the ugly scars of intolerance.

How different our world would be if all parents would apply this inspired instruction from the Book of Mormon: “Ye will not suffer your children … that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another. …

“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.”

If such training occurred, children and parents around this globe would join in singing, “Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving; Teach us tolerance and love.” Men and women would respect their neighbors and the beliefs held sacred by them. No longer would ethnic jokes and cultural slurs be acceptable. The tongue of the tolerant speaks no guile.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is the true pathway to peace. Marches, protests, wars, laws, or legislation – won’t change anything in this turbulent world. Instead, we need to change our hearts. And parents have the power to do this. We can teach our children not to quarrel with each other at home. We can also teach our children that all of God’s children are our brothers and sisters, so the same love and tolerance applies to those outside of our family.

I love this quote! I love it so much.

I would love to live in a world where we can truly feel safe. This doesn’t come through segregation and “safe spaces.” This comes as we stop pointing fingers at one another. All of us need to stop making assumptions about one another. We need to simply love one another, listen to one another, and be kind. We can change the world – starting in our own homes and neighborhoods. We don’t need world leaders to make treaties, laws, and speeches. We can do it ourselves if we choose. The feelings of safety will come when we simply choose to love one another.

The Risk of Tolerance

Even though President Nelson has taught tolerance, He does warn us:

“Now may I offer an important note of caution. An erroneous assumption could be made that if a little of something is good, a lot must be better. Not so! Overdoses of needed medication can be toxic. Boundless mercy could oppose justice. So tolerance, without limit, could lead to spineless permissiveness.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though tolerance is important, we also have to be aware of a bigger picture. Too much tolerance may end up destroying the very thing we are trying to protect with our tolerance!

I’m reminded of an experience in the Book of Mormon. In the Book of Helaman, we read about the Gadianton Robbers – basically a “Mafia” of sorts – organized crime – secret combinations. We read how both the Lamanites and the Nephites reacted to this troubling development.

“And it came to pass that the Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites.

And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations.

And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.” – Helaman 6:37-39

When the Gadianton Robbers started to proliferate in the communities of the Lamanites and the Nephites, the Lamanites show the example of love and tolerance that we need to adopt.

The Lamanites did not tolerate this wickedness. They understood that it would end up destroying their society. So, the Lamanites hunted down this band of robbers, and then notice what they did: they did preach the word of God.

Because of the love that the Lamanites had for their brothers, but their unwillingness to tolerate the cancer that was growing in their society, the Lamanites were able to eliminate the Gadianton Robbers.

Now look at the Nephites. They not only tolerated the people, but they also tolerated the behavior. The Nephites built up and supported the Gadianton Robbers. This eventually destroyed the Nephite civilization.

We can be loving and kind, just as the Lamanites were, while also rooting out the sin and wickedness that will destroy our society and bring misery. This requires that we are obedient to the commandments and worthy of the constant companionship of the Comforter.

President Nelson stated:

“Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Lamanites in the example above are the perfect examples of courageous confrontation. Their love compelled them to preach the pleasing word of God – even to the most wicked among them – and they were able to root out the Gadianton Robbers. The Lamanites had true love – even for those who were destroying the society – they didn’t support the self-destructing behavior of the Gadianton Robbers. Instead, they boldly and patiently preached the word of God.

We can’t make choices for others. We can’t force others to see things the way that we do. It isn’t god-like to do so. But we can be good examples. We can live worthy of the Spirit. The Spirit will then direct us on when to “preach” and when to remain quiet. The Spirit will help us how to show tolerance for others without tolerating behavior that is destructive.

***
There is so much more in this talk, but I need to wrap things up right now.

I’m so grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who is tolerant of others – of their religious views, their ethnic backgrounds, their tastes, etc. I’m grateful to know that not only is he tolerant, but that he preaches tolerance. I have been in the presence of our Prophet during a sacrament meeting once. I remember the overwhelming feeling of love I felt while he spoke to us.

I know that President Nelson isn’t a perfect man. I don’t intend to mythicize or deify him. But I’m grateful to know that we are led by a man who preaches tolerance and peace – especially during a turbulent time when it seems like everyone wants to be “right” at the expense of happiness and peace in our society.

I know that if we follow the advice of President Nelson, we will have more joy and peace in our personal lives and in the world, at large.

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Protecting Religious Liberty Protects All Liberty

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La’ie, Hawai’i Temple

In case you didn’t see the title of this post, you can read it again right now…Protecting and religious liberty will protect all liberty.

Liberty

First and foremost, we need to understand what liberty actually is.

Here is a list of the definitions of liberty.

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Liberty is more than the “freedom to.” It is also the “freedom from.” This is an important distinction to make.

Freedom to

This is what we usually think of when we think of liberty of freedom. We have the freedom to choose, act, etc. In the gospel, the “freedom to” do something is agency. We are all blessed with agency. God loves and is the great protector of our agency. He doesn’t interfere greatly with our lives, but lets us choose as we will, even if it is something that will not please Him.

I also believe in freedom to choose, speak, think, believe, and exercise faith.

“Freedom to” act is not where freedom and liberty end. It is only the beginning.

Freedom From

As I mentioned earlier, God loves and is the great Protector of our agency. This is why He has given us commandments. Commandments and covenants aren’t arbitrary rules of a power hungry God. Instead, they are the “hacks” that enable us to live lives of liberty.

The commandments will keep us free from addiction, pain, strife, captivity and constraint. When we keep the commandment to forgive others, then our hearts are free from the captivity of anger and revenge. We then are better able to think and act.

In other words, “freedom from” helps to keep us “free to.” We become agents to act rather than be acted upon.

Liberty enables us to act rather than react to circumstances or actions of others. Liberty enables us to live abundant rich lives rather than live lives that may be indulgent but are riddled with addiction.

When we start to understand what liberty is, we naturally want to protect it.

The Constitution Protects Religious Liberty

It seems like people love to say that there is a “separation between church and state” as if religion needs to stay out of the government. The irony is that the first amendment of the constitution was written so that the government would stay out of religion.

In the Bill of Rights, we read:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – Amendment I, Bill of Rights, The Constitution of the United States of America

These are the first words of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights. Remember that the Constitution wouldn’t have been ratified without the Bill of Rights.

I mean just think about the  phrase – Bill of Rights… These are our RIGHTS!

And according to this amendment, the separation of church and state is all about congress and the government staying out of the business of any church.

Congress can neither make a law to establish religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. Right now, we are being subjected to a potential loss of this right. Religious rights are being jeopardized.

If our government can create laws that will nullify this first amendment, then what will stop our government from stripping away other rights?

Patterns

Today, I was blessed to hear the words of a living apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. He spoke on protecting religious freedom. He gave an example from The Book of Mormon. About 90 years before the birth of Christ, on the American continent, a democratic republic was organized by a dying king. King Mosiah didn’t have anyone to pass the kingdom on to (all of his sons were serving missions and refused). He decided to create a system of judges that would govern the land. These judges would be elected by the people.

Today, Elder Holland and quoted the following scripture:

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.” – Mosiah 29:26-27

This is an oft-quoted scripture, and most Mormons are relatively familiar with it. I believe that it’s true, too. There is safety in democratic practices because usually the majority of the people desire that which is right. Even if we don’t all believe in the same God or religion, most of us believe in the sanctity of life. Most of us believe we should be kind. Most of us think that lying and stealing is wrong.

Most of us, even if we go by different names and religions, still want that which is right.

But things change. And King Mosiah warned that when the majority of the people choose iniquity, then they will be visited with the judgments of God.

As I said, many are familiar with this scripture. Elder Holland recognized this fact, and then invited us to read a related, though less familiar scripture.

This scripture happens about 120 years after King Mosiah had created a democratic system. The people are still being governed by judges, but some changes have happened.

“And it came to pass that in this same year, behold, Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram.

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.” – Helaman 5:1-2

Notice the last phrase in the second verse, “for the laws had become corrupted.”

As I read this and thought about the warning given by King Mosiah, I wondered – what came first? The wicked majority voice or the corruption of laws???

We are at a crossroads now. Activist judges and loud minorities are influencing laws – even laws that will prohibit religious liberty and limit the personal liberties of all who live here. I believe that the majority of people now desire that which is right, but if our laws begin to change, then how will it impact us?

If we elect those who both influence us negatively and limit our liberties, then we may start to see a change. We might witness a majority who choose evil over good.

Again – remember choosing evil over good doesn’t mean everyone is a Christian. It means that we will see more people who choose to cheat others (eg: Wall Street circa 2007???), we will see more people care little about human life and rights (eg: Any war torn country right now!.) When we have a majority that chooses evil over right, we will self destruct. So we must protect our liberties now – our religious liberties, so we can continue to be an innovative, vibrant, and abundant society.

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I feel like I need to end this with some kind of advice on how to protect religious liberty. Here are a few ideas. They come from a talk given by the Apostle, Robert D. Hales.

  1. Be informed – Get involved with the community to know what issues could have an impact on religious liberty. I must confess that I haven’t always done this in the past, but I will start now. This is such an obvious place to start.If you are reading this post and thinking that what I’m writing is nonsense, then take a few minutes to inform yourself – find out what is happening in regards to religious liberties. There is no need for anxiety, but becoming educated is crucial for any other kind of action.
  2. In your individual capacity, join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. – I like this – in your capacity. Today, I’m using my capacity by writing a blog post. You are using your capacity by reading it, and you could even choose to share it. Perhaps your capacity is greater. You could volunteer for a political figure or cause that will support religious freedom. I don’t have that kind of time right now. If you are a mother of young children, your “capacity” might include teaching your children. There is something that each of us can do. Share an article on facebook. Share a quote on Instagram. Donate time or money to a cause that supports religious freedom. Any bit helps. Just do what you can.
  3. Live your life to be a good example of what you believe As Elder Hales said, “How we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.” Isn’t that the truth?! Becoming informed and getting involved really won’t matter much if you aren’t living right. Does this mean we have to be perfect? No! No one is perfect. But doing our best to live our religion will help to preserve religious liberty because it shows to others precisely why preserving this liberty is so important. We should be the kind of people that others want to live with. 🙂

Thanks for reading this long post. I hope it has been helpful and hopeful to you. I hope that you are inspired to stand fast in the liberties wherewith we have been made free – no matter your religious background. I hope that you will join me in rejoicing in and protecting our precious liberty.

Charity Seeketh not Her Own

So…I feel like today’s subject really relates to what we have been studying the past few days (envieth not and is not puffed up), but it is valuable to study each of them in a different light. Today’s study has been no less valuable.

Charity seeketh not her own. In other words, charity is not selfish. I feel like it is probably more than that, too. Charity seeks for others. When pondering this subject, the first thing I thought of was the following scripture:

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” – Matthew 10:39

Not only does charity not seek her own, but there is a great reward in seeking the Lord’s way – When we seek the Lord, we will find ourselves. It seems counterintuitive, but it is true.

This is especially obvious when you compare the stories of Cain and Nephi.

Cain

  • Cain loved Satan more. (Moses 5:18)
  • Cain was offended when God didn’t respect his offering. (Moses 5:21)
  • Cain is loved enough by God to be warned. (Moses 5:23-25)
  • Cain was angry at his warning, and didn’t listen to the Lord. (Moses 5:26)
  • Cain makes an oath with Satan – secret combination. (Moses 5:29-30)
  • Cain is motivated by power. (Moses 5:31)
  • Cain kills Abel. (Moses 5:32)

    Cain and Abel, by Titian
  • After Cain kills Abel, he thinks that he is free.

    “And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.” – Moses 5:33

    I think that this response is really telling. Cain thinks that he can gain freedom through hurting others. He is seeking his own welfare, power, and glory. He is so overly concerned with himself that he is even willing murder. His selfishness destroys him and any sense of decency that he may have had.

  • Cain lies to God and asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” (Moses 5:34) – This seems to be a peak in his selfishness. I can’t even comment on it – other than Wow…Yet…I can’t act like I’m all that much better. I need to learn what not to do from Cain. In some ways, there are times when I essentially ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” I think that this happens when I’m not looking out for what is good for others. When I’m only looking out for myself, then I’m not being my brother’s keeper. It is tempting to do this.

    As I ponder what this means, I realize that it doesn’t mean that I do every single thing for others. This is impossible and impractical. It is not good for me and it doesn’t really help others. If I’m being my brother’s keeper, then I will be praying often – to the Lord – and looking outward. I would serve. And I would be interested in the lives of my brothers and sisters. We can learn a lot from Cain.

  • Cain is cursed. He doesn’t inherit Abel’s fields. Instead, he becomes a fugitive and a vagabond, unable to yield from the earth. (Moses 5:35-38)
  • In the example of Cain, we see the truth in the Lord’s declaration that “He that findeth his life shall lose it;.” Because Cain went about looking for his life through shortcuts and sin, he eventually lost it. It’s funny that when we are “seeking our own” that is the last thing we’ll ever find.

    Luckily, we have a good example, too. (There are a lot of them, actually).

    Nephi
    (see Helaman 10:4-5)

    • Nephi is blessed.
    • Nephi, with unwearyingness declared the word. (I get tired just by reading the word unwearyingness!)
    • Nephi didn’t fear others.
    • Nephi didn’t seek his own life.
    • Nephi sought the will of God. – This is hard! In the end, we see that it is the best thing to do, but we don’t experience that kind of satisfaction, really, until the end! In the meantime, seeking the will of God is kind of hard. We have to forgo natural desires and the reasoning of the world. We have to exercise faith. Yet, seeking God’s doesn’t seem all that hard when we actually do it. He blesses us all along the way. He comforts us and strengthens us to keep the commandments. We just have to seek Him and not our own.
    • Nephi strove to keep God’s commandments.
    • Nephi will be blessed forever.
    • Nephi is made mighty in word and deed.
    • Nephi is given God’s power – to do anything. God knows that Nephi won’t ask anything contrary to God’s will. God completely trusts Nephi. – I think that this is basically one of the awesomest things ever. God loves us enough to endow us with His power. But he won’t give it to us if we aren’t ready for it. He is a perfect parent. I can understand him, too. I mean, I am a parent, and I would like to see my children be able to do all that I do – if not more. However, I know that I won’t give them many freedoms or blessings until they are ready for them. This isn’t because I’m power-hungry. It is because I don’t want them to hurt themselves.

      Heavenly Father is the same way. When we have been trained correctly, we will be able to have power like His. Just as Nephi did. Elijah also had this power – the sealing power. Nephi gave up his life and will to the Lord, and eventually foudn it.

    Charity seeketh not her own. When we try to do things our own way, we will come up with hardship and failure. However, if we put our trust in the Lord, and seek His will, then He sustains us with His power and we are able to obtain charity. It is powerful to know that Charity never fails. And it is even more remarkable to see that God’s power is completely rooted in Charity: selflessness, and love.

    I want to seek God’s will. I’m trying to be better at this. Currently, I’m actively praying to do His will, even though I don’t always follow through on it. I’m still pretty selfish. I have a lot of room for improvement, but I want to be selfless one day. I look up to examples like President Monson. I know that through prayer and practice, I can one day be a person who isn’t just looking out for myself. I really want that for my life.

    What do you do to seek God’s will and increase in Charity?