The Savior’s great commandment to “love one another as He loves us” poses a great challenge, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in his Saturday afternoon conference address.
Differences are common among people who hold to opposing beliefs.
“Where vital, our side of these differences should not be denied or abandoned, but followers of Christ should learn to live peacefully with others who do not share their values or accept the teachings upon which they are based.”
Elder Oaks said the gospel has many teachings about keeping the commandments while living among people with different beliefs and practices. The teachings about contention are central. When Christ found the Nephites disputing the manner of baptism, He gave clear directions on the ordinance and then taught an essential principle:
“There shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
“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 ... my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (3 Nephi 11:28-30).
The Savior did not limit His warning against contention to those who were not keeping the baptismal commandment, taught Elder Oaks. He forbade contention by anyone.
Even as members seek to be meek and avoid contention, they must not compromise or dilute their commitment to truth. “We must not surrender our positions or our values. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made inevitably cast us as combatants in the eternal contest between truth and error. There is no middle ground in that contest.”
Like the Savior, His followers are sometimes confronted by sinful behavior. When they hold out for right as they understand it, they are sometimes called “bigots” or “fanatics.” Many worldly values and practices pose challenges to Latter-day Saints.
“Prominent among these today is the strong tide that is legalizing same-sex marriage in many states in the United States and many countries in the world. We also live among some who don’t believe in marriage at all. Some don’t believe in having children. Some oppose any restrictions on pornography or dangerous drugs.”
The right to teach gospel truths and the commandments in dedicated spaces such as houses of worship, homes and temples is protected by constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and religion.
Followers of Christ should be examples of civility, said Elder Oaks.“We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious.”
Latter-day Saints should, he added, reject persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or non-belief and differences in sexual orientation.
Members should also show kindness to one another and avoid bullying, especially within families.