Recently, as a member of the Church, I've noticed an increased amount of counsel coming from our leaders on this very topic. In just less than two years, we have been invited and encouraged to publicly stand up and be counted for, on that which is good in the world -- in opposition to those things that would destroy the very fabric of our society. (I refer specifically to the use of the Internet) The use of Social Media has become a strong catalyst for having our voices heard on many controversial issues. In this commentary on the "Ethics of Civility", I felt a strong emphasis on the fact that "individual members think and speak for themselves".
Each person in this country, has an equal right to personal opinions, which ultimately become their voice. My VOTE in this country, is my VOICE. My personal beliefs on those issues that affect my "politics" - are just as valid and important as any other persons -- regardless of its origin. With that understanding, there should also follow a deep respect for that same right of others. Hence, we are counseled to be civil in all our communal exchanges. As Christians, we are expected to practice the simple teachings of "The Golden Rule". Unfortunately, in our dealings with "some" others - our views and positions on moral issues, are being demonized -- as heartless, judgemental and even as not having a place in public discourse, due to a faith-based foundation.
I particularly appreciated Elder Dallin H. Oak's thoughts on this very topic, in a another recent address to the students of BYU on the "Threat of Our "Religious Freedom".
An excerpt from "The Mormon Ethic of Civility":
The political world is astir. Economies are faltering. Public trust is waning. Individuals feel vulnerable. And social cohesion wears thin. Meanwhile, stories of rage and agitation fill our airwaves, streets and town halls. Where are the voices of balance and moderation in these extreme times? During a recent address given in an interfaith setting, Church President Thomas S. Monson declared: "When a spirit of goodwill prompts our thinking and when united effort goes to work on a common problem, the results can be most gratifying." Further, former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley once said that living “together in communities with respect and concern one for another” is “the hallmark of civilization.” That hallmark is under increasing threat.
You can read the entire commentary, here:
The Mormon Ethic of Civility
What I have learned through personal experience, is that we do NOT need to defend the Church. We do however, need to clarify misunderstandings that others might have about our beliefs, history, doctrines, etc... There is a huge difference. In all positive conversations that we have with others, where some amount of understanding is achieved - it only comes through the respectful exchange of education, by both parties.
We should never feel that our moral positions on controversial issues are less valid or credible, because they are faith-based. Our "beliefs" or thoughts have equal strength in a democratic society. I feel that there is no need to ever allow ourselves to become offended or aggressive, because others oppose our ideas. The better we understand those doctrines that support our moral beliefs, the more confident in them, we will STAND.
A word of caution... On issues where the Church takes no "official" position (which are most)members will often have differing interpretations and ideas. We might even believe that we are absolutely right-on! Thus the absolute necessity - that we own our understandings, as our own. I think we all find it offensive, when someone says that they "know" something, that we do not believe, understand - or agree with. Civility amongst the Saints, could very well become even more critical in the days ahead...
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