Monday, October 12, 2020

President Dallin H. Oaks on appropriate behavior in disagreements

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.

"We live in a time of anger and hatred in political relationships and policies. We felt it this summer when some went beyond peaceful protests and engaged in destructive behavior. We feel it in some current campaigns for public offices. Unfortunately, some of this has even spilled over into political statements and unkind references in our Church meetings.

"In a democratic government we will always have differences over proposed candidates and policies. However, as followers of Christ we must forgo the anger and hatred with which political choices are debated or denounced in many settings....

"Loving our enemies and our adversaries is not easy.... But it must be essential, for it is part of the Savior’s two great commandments to 'love the Lord thy God' and to 'love thy neighbour as thyself' (Matthew 22:37, 39)....

"The Savior’s teaching not to 'contend with anger' is a good first step. The devil is the father of contention, and it is he who tempts men to contend with anger. He promotes enmity and hateful relationships among individuals and within groups. President Thomas S. Monson taught that anger is 'Satan’s tool,' for 'to be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice.' (Ensign Nov 2009, 68.) Anger is the way to division and enmity. We move toward loving our adversaries when we avoid anger and hostility toward those with whom we disagree. It also helps if we are even willing to learn from them."

- Dallin H. Oaks, "Love Your Enemies," General Conference October 2020, Saturday afternoon session
Click here to read or view the complete talk

In this message, President Oaks addressed one of the very troubling issues of our time. Over many years, I've watched these expressions of angry confrontation and personal disagreement, but never worse than the current year. The complexities of the COVID pandemic and the conflicts resulting from racial tensions have combined with a contentious political situation to perhaps "bring out the worst" in people. On each of these three situations, I have seen such angry attacks by people who ought to know better. I have read and heard things from people on each side of each of these issues questioning the intelligence of their "opponents" and accusing them of lack of basic moral sense, or worse questioning motives and accusing of evil intentions. It's amazing to me how "bi-directional" these accusations are!

President Oaks acknowledged the challenge as well, but reminded us that there is a better way.

We must learn to accept that differing opinions can exist. Instead of attacking in anger, we must learn to listen and try to understand. Never is the Golden Rule more important, and the challenge to love our enemies more directly applicable.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

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