William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Under Condemnation For Lack Of Unity?

The question was put:

"Does anyone else share my concerns for the manner in which differences of opinions are discussed among those who consider themselves members of the Lord's kingdom? It doesn't seem to matter what the topic, but you can find differences of opinion where people will belittle and judge others harshly for their beliefs.
The Saviour was fairly clear in multiple places in the scriptures.
John 17:21-23
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
1 Cor 1:10
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
4 Ne 1:17
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
Do you suppose that we as LDS or even Christians as a whole are under condemnation for our behavior toward each other?"

To which I responded:

I do not view any of the quoted scriptures as "fairly clear." But my personal beliefs on the subject are:

1. Christ never meant or demanded that people should not disagree with each other. Perhaps in an ideal world where everyone had perfect knowledge, there would be no contentions or differences of opinion.

2. Regardless of whether the Book of Mormon has any historical accuracy or authenticity, I tend to be highly skeptical of any claim that there were no contentions in all the land for decades. I think that is simply implausible and even irreconcilable with both empirical human existence and our theology about our purpose in mortality. Just as a butterfly must get out of the coccoon itself, so we as spiritual children of God must be tried with the inevitable injustice and hardship of life. To live in a contentionless land would severely deprive us of that painful but necessary experience.

3. Any saving value of the alleged injunction that we be "one" must be derived from understanding that term in a rhetorical sense; we must take upon ourselves a duty to scrutinize our own opinions and views and be extremely careful to not advocate positions which benefit only us at the expense of society. We must also view others with respect, bearing in mind their value as human beings and children of God with an equal right to dignity as we have.

4. As I have said before, tolerance is a virtue and a principle of the Gospel. It is an extension of the virtue of humility- it embodies our willingness to accept our own lack of certainty and our own ignorance. It does not mean that we should abandon all conviction, but it does mean that we must be careful not to lightly cast aside the convictions of others, and we must be open to changing our convictions based upon argument and evidence.

If we stand under condemnation, it is not for our lack of unity of belief- it is for our pride in wanting so much to be right that we stop listening and analyzing our own views and the views of others.

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