What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
A common argument among anti-mormons is that we Latter-day Saints must not know (or fully believe) our doctrine since we cannot defend each facet of it. They claim this fact since most Latter-day Saints will, rather than debate them on each point they wish to raise, abstain from arguing and ignore the would-be rhetorician.
What such persons do not understand is the higher ground one takes when refraining from debate and argument on spiritual topics. Something could be said for the element of contention, or the act of casting one’s pearls before swine, but I think one of the more important factors in this type of interaction (or lack thereof) is expressed in the following quote by Stephen R. Covey:
Empathic listening is also risky. It takes a great deal of security to go into a deep listening experience because you open yourself up to be influenced. You become vulnerable. It’s a paradox, in a sense, because in order to have influence, you have to be influenced. That means you have to really understand.
That’s why Habits 1, 2, and 3 are so foundational. They give you the changeless inner core, the principle center, from which you can handle the more outward vulnerability with peace and strength. (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 243)
Critics might still argue that this methodology is one contrived of cowardice and weakness, thus further disproving our cause. Not so, as Elder Oaks has said:
When attacked by error, truth is better served by silence than by a bad argument.
So-called “apologetics” organizations do exist among the fold, such as FARMS and FAIR, or individuals like Jeff Lindsay or Gramps. These persons seek to stem the tide of ignorance and misinformation regarding the LDS Church’s beliefs, doctrines, and practices. I applaud them for their excellent work.
But on an individual, personal basis one might observe that the most common reaction to anti-mormon sentiment is to ignore and shut out the influence, so as not to be influenced in any way by it, as Covey suggests. Those who have attended General Conference have undoubtedly noticed the coterie of anti-mormon protesters with their large signs, undergarments, and out-of-context scriptural citations. The reaction of nearly all members in attendance (save for the sometimes curious teenage boys) is to pay no attention to them.
However, we can’t ignore people with whom we frequently interact. Should a family member or close friend have different opinions, be they religious, political, or otherwise, we must learn to respect their beliefs and understand them. The chapter from which the above-cited Covey quote was taken is about learning to “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. Rather than giving our opinion and holding such a firm stance, I think we would all be better served by listening and sincerely attempting to understand the other person’s position.
I find that as I’ve practice this method, I have gained more respect for those of differing beliefs. This might be a friend of another faith, a co-worker with different political ideals, or a family member with different interests.
But the line is a fine one to tread, especially when dealing with truth and matters of the spirit. Degrees of evil are still evil, and one should not compromise accordingly.
What are your thoughts on interaction with and influence by those of different beliefs/ideals? Do you feel easily influenced when you open yourself up to their opinions? Do you see this as detrimental or beneficial?