On unkind feelings in an election year

On unkind feelings in an election year July 3, 2024


Newport Beach's first temple
The Newport Beach California Temple, the first temple to be constructed in California’s Orange County, is just a few minutes’ drive from where I’m currently typing. (LDS Media Library)

I’m slowly and carefully reading through the talks that were given in April 2024 at the most recent general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This passage, from the remarks that were delivered at that conference by Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (“Covenant Confidence through Jesus Christ”), stood out to me against the background of the current strikingly toxic and hyper-partisan atmosphere of American political discourse:

The house of the Lord is where we can be transformed in higher and holier ways. So, when we walk out of the temple, transformed by our hope in the promises of the covenants, armed with power from on high, we take the temple with us into our homes and lives. I assure you that having the spirit of the Lord’s house in us changes us, completely.

We also know from the temple that if we want the Spirit of the Lord to be unrestrained in our lives, we simply cannot and must not have unkind feelings toward anyone. Giving place in our hearts or minds for unkind feelings or thoughts will produce unkind words and actions, whether on social media or in our homes, causing the Spirit of the Lord to withdraw from our hearts.

Although I have no reason to believe that this Brazilian apostle, speaking to members of the Church who are scattered around the world, had politics particularly in mind (let alone specifically American electoral politics), I’m absolutely sure that the quality of our politics and political discussions — right now, I’m disinclined to dignify them with the word debates — would be vastly improved, completely changed, were we to follow Elder Soares’s counsel.

One of the recurring themes in the Book of Mormon is its condemnation of “contention.”  The two following passages will serve to represent the spirit of its teaching on this matter:

Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.  (Alma 1:22)

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.  Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.  (3 Nephi 11:29-30)

We should not forget that this dispensation — which is to say, the Restoration as a whole — began with the young Joseph Smith’s rejection of the “stir and division,” the “strife,” the “war of words and tumult of opinions,” the “great confusion and bad feeling” that surrounded him and that had divided his community and even his own family.  (See Joseph Smith –History 1.)

We see in the Book of Mormon what the ultimate societal result of tribalism and the loss of a cohesive sense of community can be.  The account given in 3 Nephi 7 opens as follows:

1 Now behold, I will show unto you that they did not establish a king over the land; but in this same year, yea, the thirtieth year, they did destroy upon the judgment-seat, yea, did murder the chief judge of the land.

2 And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.

3 And every tribe did appoint a chief or a leader over them; and thus they became tribes and leaders of tribes.

4 Now behold, there was no man among them save he had much family and many kindreds and friends; therefore their tribes became exceedingly great.

5 Now all this was done, and there were no wars as yet among them; and all this iniquity had come upon the people because they did yield themselves unto the power of Satan.

6 And the regulations of the government were destroyed, because of the secret combination of the friends and kindreds of those who murdered the prophets.

7 And they did cause a great contention in the land, insomuch that the more righteous part of the people had nearly all become wicked; yea, there were but few righteous men among them.

It is anything but an attractive picture, although it did serve as the overture to a visit of the resurrected Christ to the New World — after cataclysmic natural destruction.

Landscaping near Newport Beach
On the beach near Newport.  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

Here’s something that might be of interest to at least a few of you out there:  Restore 2024.  It’s billed as “A Faith Matters Gathering,” and it will be held in the Mountain America Exposition Center in Salt Lake County from 5 September through 7 September 2024.

And I’m looking forward to this, as well:  “New movie portrays the deep faith of former President Ronald Reagan: Dennis Quaid, who will play Ronald Reagan in an upcoming biopic, has talked about the faith that shaped Reagan’s life”

Trash overflowing
This found-object art installation attempts to represent the overflowing richness of the Hitchens File in symbolic fashion. Art critics have differed as to how successfully it achieves its aim.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

In conclusion, knowing the desperate need that some feel for constant reminders of the evils wrought by theists and theism, I share the following specimens from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™:

“Washington D.C. YSA Stake Plans Charity Event to Help 1,500 Families: More than 300 volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lazera Ministries and Good360 distributed donations to approximately 7,700 people”

“Elder S. Gifford Nielsen Joins Ga King to Celebrate Church Funded Renovation of School in Ghana: The King Tackie Tawiah I Primary School receives refurbished classrooms and new library and sanitation facilities”

“Tents and mud-brick homes allow refugees in Cameroon, West Africa, to rebuild their lives: The Church supports ShelterBox in its efforts to meet immediate and long-term needs of families in Minawao Refugee Camp”

And, yes:  “How Andy Reid’s beliefs in Jesus Christ and a second chance for Michael Vick guide the Kansas City Chiefs: During a New York City event for religious leaders, Andy Reid shared ‘The Formula’ that led to Vick’s ‘tremendous, rejuvenated career’ in the NFL”

And even this:  “The Hollowing Out of an American Church: What the diminishment of Mainline Protestantism means for the nation”

Posted from Newport Beach, California


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