Wednesday, March 13, 2019

President Dallin H. Oaks on communicating with love and understanding

President Dallin H. Oaks (born August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also 1st Counselor in the First Presidency in January 2018.
"The Savior taught that contention is a tool of the devil. That surely teaches against some of the current language and practices of politics. Living with policy differences is essential to politics, but policy differences need not involve personal attacks that poison the process of government and punish participants. All of us should banish hateful communications and practice civility for differences of opinion.
"The most important setting to forgo contention and practice respect for differences is in our homes and family relationships. Differences are inevitable—some minor and some major. As to major differences, suppose a family member is in a cohabitation relationship. That brings two important values into conflict—our love for the family member and our commitment to the commandments. Following the Savior’s example, we can show loving-kindness and still be firm in the truth by forgoing actions that facilitate or seem to condone what we know to be wrong."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Loving Others and Living with Differences," General Conference October 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We live in challenging times. Our communication system is far more extensive than it ever has been; we are able to be informed rapidly of events around the world, through a variety of communication media, both formal and informal. In the midst of this "information onslaught" we sometimes are exposed to very strongly voiced opinions from different points of view, and often those opinions are expressed aggressively, harshly, and critically. That seems almost to be expected in political discussions; President Oaks warns that the "personal attacks" now so common in that arena can "poison the process of government." Truly, we can see that "contention is a tool of the devil" that we must learn to avoid.

While the world of political discussion is one area to be concerned about, President Oaks points out that our family settings are far more critical. Differences of opinion will occur in the home; but how we respond to them can tell a lot about the depth of our discipleship. There are fine lines to be drawn between loving acceptance and commitment to God's standards. We must never forget that both are needful. And some have a tendency to forget that love, mercy, and charity are among the greatest qualities of the Savior and His disciples.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

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