Tolerance for those with beliefs different from our own and the ability to civilly discuss our differences appear to be vanishing from our public discourse. The lack of tolerance and civility is particularly prevalent on talk radio, in the political arena, and in the social media. Facebook and blogs have too often become vehicles to participate in the spread of falsehoods, innuendo, unfair judgments, and outright vicious attacks. Clever statements are posted and re-posted without checking to see if any of them are factual. This appears to be particularly true with political commentary. It’s easier to label, name call, and shout than to seek understanding and find solutions to real problem. The sinister idea that the end justifies the means seems acceptable.
Do you think Jesus would engage in such intolerant and uncivil behavior? He taught that we must be like Him (3 Nephi 27:27). As I read the gospels, I see Christ as the ultimate example of tolerance and civility. He even forgave those who crucified Him. As His disciples, we must emulate Him. We can’t be the light on the hill, the salt of the earth, or the leaven spoken of by Christ if our words and actions don’t shine a light into the darkness and lift those around us. Catherine McAuley said, “It is not sufficient that Jesus Christ be formed in us – he must be recognized in our conduct.” We must be tolerant and civil.
Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” When we use words whether spoken, posted, blogged, or texted, we should remember the great commandment to love one another. Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,
Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do... Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk. (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Love of God,” Ensign, November 2009)
The Savior said in the Sermon on the Mount:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45)
Civility and respect flow from the love we have for others. Regardless of what they may have said, espoused, or done the Savior said we should bless, do good to, and pray for them. He didn’t say we needed to agree with them or their ideas but we do need to be tolerant, civil, and respectful. Quentin L. Cook said,
We need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. We live in a world where there is much turmoil. Many people are both angry and afraid. The Savior taught us to love even our enemies (see Matthew 5:44). This is especially true when we disagree. The moral basis of civility is the Golden Rule. It is taught in most religions and particularly by the Savior. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). Our faith requires that we treat our neighbors with respect.
In a… [recent] address I pointed out that “there are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. … How we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable. … If we show love and respect even in adverse circumstances, we become more like Christ. (Quentin L. Cook, “Restoring Morality and Religious Freedom”, Ensign, September 2012)
Dallin H. Oakes speaking of tolerance said:
Living together with mutual respect for one another’s differences is a challenge in today’s world. However . . . this living with differences is what the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us we must do.
The kingdom of God is like leaven, Jesus taught (see Matthew 13:33). Leaven—yeast—is hidden away in the larger mass until the whole is leavened, which means raised by its influence. Our Savior also taught that His followers will have tribulation in the world (see John 16:33), that their numbers and dominions will be small (see 1 Nephi 14:12), and that they will be hated because they are not of the world (see John 17:14). But that is our role. We are called to live with other children of God who do not share our faith or our values…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. . .
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. As the Book of Mormon teaches:
'All things which are good cometh of God; …
'… wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
'Wherefore, take heed … that ye do not judge … that which is good and of God to be of the devil' (Moroni 7:12–14).
That approach to differences will yield tolerance. . ." (Dallin H. Oakes, “Truth and Tolerance,” Ensign, February 2012)
Tolerance, civility, and respect may seem like a steep mountain to climb. However, every hike begins with one small step. May we take that step today. Begin right here, right now.