Some of the comments on my last post frustrated me. How can so many people not get it? Despite my efforts to call for love, acceptance, and for people to tear down the culture of judgment that continues to infect our world, especially the Christian world, and more especially the Mormon world, several people used my post as an opportunity to preach their right to judge others, most often veiling it in different terms (disagreeing with someone is not judging them) or extending the definition well beyond its boundaries (the right “to judge” what is best for myself or what is the best way to take care of my family).
On the other hand, I admit that I found some entertainment in watching how many hoops those commenters jumped through, how much they tap-danced around in order to feel justified in their judgments of others. Clearly, many of these people came looking for a fight, baiting me with judgments and misinterpretations awful enough to make me wonder whether those individuals simply sought a knee-jerk reaction. I typically do not react that way. In fact, I try hard to avoid heated confrontations because nothing good comes out of them.
There is a scripture that Mormon’s love to quote from the Book of Mormon: “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29). The problem I find in the Mormon Church, as a life-long attendee, is that few people liken this scripture unto themselves. Few Mormons genuinely practice avoiding contention. Now, I speak strictly from the Mormon point-of-view, but as it is also a Christian point-of-view, I imagine that most Christians would agree with this doctrine of Christ, “that such things should be done away” (3 Nephi 11:30). The problem, then, not just in Mormon culture, but that I find in Christian culture in general is the blatant lack of peacemakers. Christians are some of the most contentious people I know, and I am, at times, no exception.
The Christian world is awash with examples of contention. All one needs to do is read a newspaper, watch the news (especially cable news), or browse news websites on the lookout for religious stories, or skim social media. Christians don’t like people to tell them what to do, and they sure as hell don’t like it when someone tells them they are doing something wrong, especially as it relates to their religious ideology or what Jesus would do.
If you are Mormon, and you have spent any time on social media or the Bloggernacle (Mormon blogosphere) in the past several weeks (even the past several months), you have experienced contention first hand. It has surfaced in varying degrees and covered varying topics, most having to do with the Mormon Church’s excommunication of Ordain Women (OW) founder Kate Kelly and, more recently, Kirk Caudle’s resignation from the Mormon Church. Here’s the problem, in my experience, nothing invites contention more than someone who feels the need to quote that scripture to someone else, especially when the problem is often a simple, fundamental difference of opinion. But how dare I suggest that Mormon’s, members of “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30) can have a difference of opinion regarding Mormon Church doctrine and policy.
There is another scripture that the entire Christian world is more familiar with: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9 KJV). This is a loaded statement for any Christian, but it possibly holds more condemnation for a Mormon failing to practice this important Christ-like attribute.
Salvation comes through Jesus. When we accept Jesus, repent and follow him, the scriptures teach us that we become his sons and daughters (see especially Mosiah 27:25). Therefore, when a man or woman refuses to make peace, can he or she say, truthfully, “I have accepted Jesus into my life”? Not according to this basic principle taught by Jesus, himself.
Now, I realize the extreme nature of that statement. I have, no doubt, overshot the mark, but I do it to get your attention. I am no worse than anyone else in my ability to ignore the scriptures that counsel us to avoid contention and to be peacemakers. Both sides of the most recent issues in Mormonism have shared time contending more than warmly with the other side and blatantly ignoring any opportunity to sue for peace. However, since Kate Kelly’s excommunication, some people on both sides have polarized their positions to an alarming degree. I am still progressive, and I will still fight what I believe is the good fight on behalf of the equality OW fights for, for example, but my hope is that we can all continue on without actually fighting. When has anyone ever accepted an opinion that someone else tried to force on her or him?
Of course, I can “preach” all I want, and hardly anyone will listen. I expect contentious comments to this article. I expect harsh judgments because, as I just said, no Christian likes to be told what to do. No Christian likes to be told that she or he is following Christ incorrectly, and no one likes to have an opinion forced on her or him. While my words might reach someone, I will leave it up to someone else, President Uchtdorf, who said it best:
“It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, ‘Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.’”