Overcoming intolerance

As the prophet Mormon, in his abridgement of the Nephite record, chronicled the destruction of his people and the defeat of the Lamanites in a tremendous battle, he wrote: "Many thousands are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord. . . . And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.

"And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing — sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life." (Alma 28:11-14.)

The battle between good and evil continues even to this day. The Prophet Joseph Smith and the early followers of the restored gospel were horribly persecuted and pushed from place to place, in part by fear and by misunderstanding. Opposition to the work continues more than 160 years later. For example, almost every time a new temple is announced the opposition begins. Fear and suspicion drive out reason and brotherly kindness.

But our goal should be to meet that fear with courage and resolve. The biblical prophets declared: "See good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken." (Amos 5:14.)

The Savior Himself in His Sermon on the Mount counseled His listeners: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44.)

President Gordon B. Hinckley reminds us, "There is too much of intolerance in the world. There is too much of it in our own society." He then describes how we can be appreciative of those who may differ with our religious beliefs: "I once listened to a beautiful prayer offered by a Greek-American in the manner in which he had been taught to pray. It was an expression of gratitude to the Almighty and a plea for His favor. It was concluded in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. His phrasing was not as my phrasing might have been, but I recognized his sincerity and told him of my appreciation."

President Hinckley then suggests how we can take positive steps to remove our own prejudices from ourselves: " We can be appreciative in a very sincere way. Not only must we be tolerant, but we must cultivate a spirit of affirmative gratitude for those who do not see things quite as we see them. . . . We can offer our own witness of the truth quietly, sincerely, honestly, but never in a manner that will give offense to others." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, pp. 662-3.)

Latter-day Saints are not alone among people striving to live the highest precepts of their religion. President Hinckley said: "Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Greek Orthodox, Muslims and people of various racial backgrounds and ethnic origins: Thank you for the respect you exemplify and cultivate, for the tolerance you nourish, for the spirit of forbearance and civility which you demonstrate. We must continue, even more vigorously, to work unitedly for the common good, teaching our children to do likewise, so that the world, at least in some small measure, may be healed of its wounds and spared the scars of further conflict." (Teachings, pp. 665-6.)

Finally, he reminds us of our duty in doing good to all men: "Ours is the duty to walk by faith. Ours is the duty to walk in faith, rising above the evils of the world. We are sons and daughters of God. Ours is a divine birthright. Ours is a divine destiny. We must not, we cannot sink to the evils of the world — to selfishness and sin, to hate and envy and backbiting, to the 'mean and beggarly' elements of life.

"You and I must walk on a higher plane. It may not be easy, but we can do it. Our great example is the Son of God whom we wish to follow." (Teachings, p. 7.)

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