178–179: Tolerance

June 17, 2013
By

SynergyTolerance is a tricky virtue. In a list of ways one might interact with others, it’s certainly better than active persecution but falls far short as an ideal way to engage people or ideas we don’t fully understand or (yet) trust. How do we draw the line between the need to protect ourselves from potentially harmful influence while still being open to the possible richness that might be added to our lives—and to theirs as they interact with us—should we come to truly engage them? In two recent addresses, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and President Boyd K. Packer, take on the issue of tolerance. Both affirm that we are indeed called to be tolerant and loving toward others, but each warns in a different way about being “too” tolerant, with President Packer even calling an excess of tolerance a potential “trap.” Both leaders’ attempts demonstrate just how difficult it is to suggest proper boundaries for interacting with others while still striving to live gospel ideals.

In this episode, panelists Charles Randall PaulJames McLachlan, and Michael Fife join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a focused look at these two talks and their approaches to the virtue of tolerance while also moving into wider explorations that draw on many different disciplines. What do we find in LDS or wider Christian scripture, history, or teachings that can serve as good guides for how to engage others while still protecting ourselves? What are the most effective ways for teaching or modeling tolerance (or its opposite, such as when Christ overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple)? How should we approach the difficult competing ideals of loving all people, including those we consider sinners, even as we are taught from the scriptures that God “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Alma 45:16; D&C 1:31)? Are there better terms than “tolerance” that suggest the best ways to interact with others with who we are not in full agreement? If the panelists were to take the general conference pulpit, how might they approach teaching the proper balance between being watchpersons on the tower and at the same time embracing the sisterhood and brotherhood of all persons and welcoming their influence on us?

Episode 178 focuses the practical arena, while Episode 179 moves into a broader free-for-all about this fascinating, tricky subject.

Please listen and share your thoughts in the comments section below!

________

Links:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Balancing Truth and Tolerance,” Ensign, February 2013.

President Boyd K. Packer, “These Things I Know,” Ensign, May 2013.

James McLachlan, “Of Time and All Eternity: God and Others in Mormonism and Heterodox Christianity,” Sunstone, July 2008.

Please suggest others!

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21 Responses to 178–179: Tolerance

  1. Todd Decker
    June 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the podcast guys. I enjoyed listening. That Elder Oaks talk is very interesting and one of my favorites. I was thinking about how the interplay between tolerance and truth might be different depending on the definition of truth you use. I think we usually have in mind the correspondence theory when we talk about truth and tolerance. I would like to explore in my own thought how the two sides of the truth/tolerance coin might look with some other definitions of truth.

    How would this look with a pragmatic theory of truth? I understand this theory to mean that something is true if it works, if you can use it to predict results, and it helps you to function effectively in everyday life. So you want the people you care about to know true principles so that they can be effective and live good lives. But sometimes you see people doing things that you know from life experience will lead them to suffer. It is compassionate to affirm true principles to them. But you don’t want to be a jerk about it or be too prideful. You know from experience that arrogance can push people to reject truth even more. But if they reject truth you still should love them. I liked how you talked about the opportunity for dialogue with those who are different. Under the pragmatic theory of truth I could see this happening by people discussing and comparing their experiences like scientists compare data. Tolerance is important here too. You may have reached some incorrect conclusions due to insufficient data or faulty analysis. By having meaningful conversations with people about what works and what is most effective you can learn more truth together. So that’s kind of how I can see this working with the pragmatic theory of truth. I know some of you are really into pragmatism so you probably have some good comments and/or corrections regarding that.

    Another definition of truth I find interesting is in Terry Warner’s article on truth in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: “truth is found in living the type of life exemplified by Jesus Christ.” I’m not sure how this would look in the truth/tolerance relation but I find it intriguing. If truth is found in Christ-like attributes I think that truth would include love, humility, faith, chastity, honesty, patience, and (among other things) tolerance. So I’m thinking under this definition of truth it’s not a “yes but” but a “yes and”. Tolerance is tied up in truth. Rather than being opposed to other Christ-like attributes tolerance works along with them. Going off the idea of dialogue again, truth would be found in your relationship to Jesus Christ. To know what the type of life exemplified by Jesus Christ is you need to know Christ. This brings up a Kierkegaardian idea of being “contemporaneous with Christ”. So in your dialogue with others you get down into the most intimate and personal levels of your soul. You discuss with each other your spiritual experiences and how you experience God and how that effects your life and why you value the things you value. You could have a real I-Thou encounter with another person. And that’s much more than just tolerance.

    I’ve got lots of thought to chew on here.

    http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Truth

    • DW
      June 19, 2013 at 11:14 am

      Thanks, Todd! Great note. Fascinating to read Warner’s EofM entry on Truth. I like your extrapolation on that for this post. Really glad you mentioned it (along with the pragmatism stuff that you know I definitely dig). Many times in the podcast I almost blurted out “I-Thou”!, so with you I think we all on the call recognize that at truly the ideal. Getting there is the journey, and I think Warner’s sensibility definitely is compatible. I’m always a bit wary, however, when we overdo the “only via Jesus Christ” stuff (as Warner does in this entry, and I’m sure it would have been impossible for him not to do that and still have it published in the book). I’m fine with the big emphasis on Christ when it comes to “our” (those of us raised in Christian traditions) using his life as a model for our own accessing of God and embarking on the kind of journey toward intimacy that you and Warner emphasize here (our journey toward becoming “true” ourselves)–emulating, living the type of life as Christ did “works”! But to push that as the exclusive way, I’m still hesitant.

      Thanks, again!

  2. Steve In Millcreek
    June 19, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I’m reflecting on CR Paul’s energetic expression surrounding Premortal Counsel (Part 1, start time 23:30); and his invitation to rethink all people as contestants, not combatants in mortal life. Sadly, our LDS storyline sets the earthly stage as a war between good and evil; and that anyone who disagrees with the LDS idea of good must be evil, ready to bludgeon you, or “smudge you out”, in his words. Too often, the War mindset means that it is acceptable to win at all costs; and that ad hominem attacks against ‘the other’ are acceptable. This summary of Paul’s idea is my way of saying that I like and agree with his words on the topic.

    Tying back to tolerance, the War mindset puts anyone (or idea) that is outside an LDS standard to be at or trending toward evil, and not someone (or idea) to be tolerated. In a word, war does not give space to tolerate combatants; but contestants can shake hands warmly at debate’s end.

  3. Steve In Millcreek
    June 19, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I like that Micheal challenged (part 1, minute 16) the blanket statement that we should “obey the commandments”, a buzz phrase that has come to mean “follow advice of Church leaders”, which is another buzz phrase to follow leader X when he made statement Y.

    I love much about the Temple yet dialogue surrounding unquestioned allegiance to leadership continues to bother me, and weakens my love of the larger experience.

    • Loz
      June 20, 2013 at 2:49 am

      I agree Steve, I find the church too much like a a corporate business where questioning the decisions of managers gets you fired.
      Bishops and Stake Presidents perpetuate allegiance and not intelligent dialogue. I accept that leaders are human and will make mistakes but they refuse to acknowledge that any have been made?

    • McLain
      June 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      There is a differenece between speaking badly of leaders and disagreeing with things they say/ teach. I have no problem disagreeing with a leader but, I am careful of my tone when I speak to or about them or, anyone else for that matter. I believe that is the spirit of what the temple teaches

  4. Trace
    June 20, 2013 at 7:49 am

    I haven’t listened to the podcast, and I can’t speak for Christ, but this notion of the “tolerance trap” is one of nonsense. Ask yourself, was Ammon “trapped” by the “evil” Lamanites when he wholly gave himself up to King Lamoni as a servant? I’d say that was pretty tolerant. Read the account yourself:

    http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/17?lang=eng

    How often do LDS members follow Christ’s teachings when he tells them “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Here is the account:

    http://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/matt/25.40?lang=eng#39

    President Packer reminds me of these men:

    http://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/john/8.7?lang=eng#6

    They would rather follow the teachings of an imperfect Moses than a perfect Christ. So many of my brethren are told to follow the Prophet (and the apostles), but they forget that church leaders are imperfect, carnal, and sinful men. It would seem that President Packer doesn’t want to follow his own counsel:

    ““For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.”

    Each of us must stay in condition to respond to inspiration and the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The Lord has a way of pouring pure intelligence into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, and to warn us. Each son or daughter of God can know the things they need to know instantly. Learn to receive and act on inspiration and revelation.”

    I feel bad for those who put too much into the letter of the law which is always delivered by the imperfect, likely because it’s easier to listen to them than to pray for yourself. Would the sons of Mosiah have ever gone on such missions if they listened to the likes of President Packer, rather than praying to God and following Him? Based on the fear I see being perpetuated by President Packer, I’d have to say no.

    I’m just sure he feels he is doing right by the LDS faithful, which makes it even worse.

    Keep up the good work, everyone. :)

    • June 26, 2013 at 11:31 pm

      It amazes me how many commenters and commentaries in the podcast are essentially belittling the leaders of the church and second guessing everything they say (albeit in a nice, subtle way…with a few exceptions). I’m guessing that at least some of the commenters here are temple recommend holders (maybe I’m wrong). One of the temple recommend questions asks, “Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers and revelators?” There’s not a lot of “sustaining” going on in these comments.

      The leaders of the church are human beings. They make mistakes. They have opinions. However, they are also inspired and receive direct revelation from God (just like Adam, Moses, Noah and every other prophet God has called). If you have a problem with the leaders of the church, you also have a problem with God himself. The leaders of the church are just God’s mouthpiece. If you don’t really believe that that’s a whole separate issue. It’s true that we need to learn how to sift through opinions to find the real commandments and doctrines. But that’s why we pray, fast, read the scriptures and use our brains.

      Instead of listening or reading a conference talk and immediately thinking, “Elder Oaks said blah blah blah. Until I have a chance to pray about what he said, I’m taking it with a grain of salt…he’s just a man,” why not think, “If God called him to be an apostle, there’s a really good chance his message is inspired.” Why not give the church leaders the benefit of the doubt? And then if you still need further confirmation, you can always pray, fast and study the issue. To me that’s what sustaining means.

      If you don’t really believe that the church leaders are called of God, it makes sense that you’re going to second guess everything the prophet, apostles and other church leaders say. Everyone has to gain a testimony. And we’re all at different stages. But all of these second guessing comments (and commentaries in the podcast) make me think of Laman and Lemuel. All they did was complain and second guess everything Nephi and Lehi said. It’s time to man up and exercise a little faith in God’s leaders.

      • McLain
        June 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm

        Not everything a prophet says is inspired. I believe they are called of God but, are men, are fallible, and their bias often creeps into what they say;

      • Guest
        June 29, 2013 at 11:58 pm

        344kellogg said: “If God called him to be an apostle, there’s a really good chance his message is inspired.”

        This statement (I presume it’s yours) is the false foundation on which you have built your house of cards. God did not call Dallin Oaks to be an apostle, rather a man — Gordon Hinckley — did. If you want to can claim ‘divine revelation,’ i.e., that it was God who told Hinckley to choose Oaks as the next apostle then you also have to claim that *everything* — all edicts of policy and doctrine spoken by the president of the LDS church in any era is also what God (who is perfect in all aspects and cannot err) said. If this is true, however, then why have so many past policies and doctrines of the church declared by its past presidents been demonstrated and even declared erroneous by future presidents, e.g., blacks and the priesthood, the Adam-God theory, attempt to sell the copyright of the BofM, and many other items of lesser importance, but nevertheless, were reconsidered?

        You can’t have it both ways, i.e., “Well, the things that work (or worked out), that was of God, but the things that were amiss, well… that wasn’t of God; that was just man’s reasoning or man’s ‘free agency’.”

        Hence, the LDS church, like every other organization on this earth that claims it is ‘God inspired or directed’, is really run by the decisions of men (and women in many non-LDS organizations) leading to their actions and words based upon their individual or collective thinking.

        I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t ever inspire or reveal anything to anyone, but rather the LDS church does not have some kind of exclusive contract with God. God is the god of everyone on this earth whose inspired effects can be found in any ‘godly’ organization, not just the Mormon church (in fact some may argue, even less so in the Mormon church than some other organizations, but that’s another discussion).

      • Guest
        June 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm

        344kellogg said: “If God called him to be an apostle, there’s a really good chance his message is inspired.”

        This statement (I presume it’s yours) is the false foundation on which you have built your house of cards. God did not call Dallin Oaks to be an apostle, rather a man — Gordon Hinckley — did. If you want to claim ‘divine revelation,’ i.e., that it was God who told Hinckley to choose Oaks as the next apostle then you also have to claim that *everything* — all edicts of policy and doctrine spoken by the president of the LDS church in any era is also what God (who is perfect in all aspects and cannot err) said. If this is true, however, then why have so many past policies and doctrines of the church declared by its past presidents been demonstrated and even declared erroneous by future presidents, e.g., blacks and the priesthood, the Adam-God theory, attempt to sell the copyright of the BofM, and many other items of lesser importance, but nevertheless, were reconsidered?

        You can’t have it both ways, i.e., “Well, the things that work (or worked out), that was of God, but the things that were amiss, well… that wasn’t of God; that was just man’s reasoning or man’s ‘free agency’.”

        Hence, the LDS church, like every other organization on this earth that claims it is ‘God inspired or directed’, is really run by the decisions of men (and women in many non-LDS organizations) leading to their actions and words based upon their individual or collective thinking.

        I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t ever inspire or reveal anything to anyone, but rather the LDS church does not have some kind of exclusive contract with God. God is the god of everyone on this earth whose inspired effects can be found in any ‘godly’ organization, not just the Mormon church (in fact some may argue, even less so in the Mormon church than some other organizations, but that’s another discussion).

        You can’t, however, just universally

      • vikingz2000
        June 30, 2013 at 12:02 am

        344kellogg said: “If God called him to be an apostle, there’s a really good chance his message is inspired.”

        This statement (I presume it’s yours) is the false foundation on which you have built your house of cards. God did not call Dallin Oaks to be an apostle, rather a man — Gordon Hinckley — did. If you want to claim ‘divine revelation,’ i.e., that it was God who told Hinckley to choose Oaks as the next apostle then you also have to claim that *everything* — all edicts of policy and doctrine spoken by the president of the LDS church in any era is also what God (who is perfect in all aspects and cannot err) said. If this is true, however, then why have so many past policies and doctrines of the church declared by its past presidents been demonstrated and even declared erroneous by future presidents, e.g., blacks and the priesthood, the Adam-God theory, attempt to sell the copyright of the BofM, and many other items of lesser importance, but nevertheless, were reconsidered?

        You can’t have it both ways, i.e., “Well, the things that work (or worked out), that was of God, but the things that were amiss, well… that wasn’t of God; that was just man’s reasoning or man’s ‘free agency’.”

        However, in reality, the LDS church, like every other organization on this earth that claims it is ‘God inspired or directed’, is really run by the decisions of men (and women in many non-LDS organizations) leading to their actions and words based upon their individual or collective thinking.

        I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t ever inspire or reveal anything to anyone, but rather the LDS church does not have some kind of exclusive contract with God. God is the god of everyone on this earth whose inspired effects can be found in any ‘godly’ organization, not just the Mormon church (in fact some may argue, even less so in the Mormon church than some other organizations, but that’s another discussion).

      • McCams
        July 8, 2013 at 9:03 am

        If these men do have opinions, and make mistakes, are you called to sustain and follow their mistakes and opinions? Or, are you called to exercise your free agency and use the spirit to discern that which is of God and that which is of men? I think it’s the latter. Therefore, I think it’s wisest to hear not criticism of inspired utterances, but rather criticism of what others have perceived as mistakes or opinion.

      • trem
        July 10, 2013 at 2:10 pm

        344kellogg, THANK YOU for your “inspired” response. I agree with you 100%. While searching the internet for LDS parenting, I came across this reference. At first glance, I honestly thought it was an anti-Mormon site. I do believe our leaders are inspired men called of God. Anyone who says otherwise is a dissenter.

      • Embracing Light
        August 11, 2013 at 7:02 am

        “Sustain” isn’t the same as agreeing with everything a leaders says. It also doesn’t mean that we believe they are infallible in what they do and say. We may believe they are prophets, seers and revelators, but that doesn’t mean we can close our eyes to history and logic. It doesn’t mean we are blindly obedient. I don’t believe that was God’s plan, it was Satan’s.

  5. Utahhiker801
    June 21, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Quote at about 54:00: “Intolerance is usually a cover for a fear that we have that people will find too much temptation in another way than what we’re trying to provide, and that very fear itself usually indicates that we don’t have that bona fide experience of the good where we are.”

    I really love this comment.

  6. Jen White
    June 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Loved this! This is such an important topic it. You each did
    a great job on this. One of the best things I have read on tolerance is an
    article from Sunstone. I will try and make a doc of my favorite parts. The name alone is great, “Is the gospel Open to close minds? – How much tolerance can we tolerate?” It is a complex article that hits a lot of important points. More than giving simple answers, it gives you a
    lot to think about. Some of the issues it talks about are xenophobia (a fear or hatred of foreigner or strangers), homogeneity (an unhealthy obsession with the need for conformity), and the richness that can attend pluralism. This has one of the best illustrations that always make me smile. I found out about this article through an open minded and educated institute teacher. (There are some good ones). I also think that tolerance does not go far enough; we could all be a little more understanding,more accepting, less judgmental and open to learning from other. There are also limits to tolerance: when people are not
    treated fairly, I feel the need to say something. I won’t just sit by when I
    hear homophobic, sexist, or racist comments. My masters is in Social work and in the code of ethics clearly state I have a responsibility to do this. I try and do this in a kind way and give people the benefit of the doubt. Here is a great podcast from NPR on this.
    http://www.npr.org/2012/07/19/157052846/what-to-say-in-the-face-of-offensive-remarks

    I would like to think that Elder Packer in his talk, without
    him meaning to, possibly gave me the permission to not be too tolerance of all his ideas. :)

  7. Jen White
    June 23, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Many positive consequences stern from unity. It brings with it a sense of familiarity, of safety and certainty, of belonging, and of personal worth-all of which further contribute to a sense of security and well-being These empower us to persevere and to move comfortably, without fear, over the face of the entire planet, at least among our own. Any of us who have traveled to any extent can testify to the truthfulness of this. We literally are “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints” everywhere in the world (Eph. 2:19).

    That, however, is the gospel, the “good news.” There is also a potentially dark side to the same stance, especially if we are not alert to the destructive potential of this other extreme. Those who have unbalanced preferences for religious monism, like the Pharisees of biblical fame, frequently demonstrate tendencies toward at least two major shortcomings: (1) xenophobia, a fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers, and (2) homogeneity, an unhealthy obsession with the need for conformity (usually to their own way of thinking and performing) on the part of all within the faith.

    Too often we present life as if it were a matter of US against THEM (whomever they might prove to be), and in doing so we come dangerously close to creating a persecution paranoia through our teachings. Unfortunately, it is easier to unite a group against a person or idea than to unite them in favor of a great idea. Sometimes we emphasize what we: are against more than what we are for.

    Sometimes our smugness shuts our minds to the outstanding contributions that others are making to life in this world.

    Only through a consideration of beliefs different from our own can we really come to understand fully and define ourselves- and such questions are most commonly raised as we confront those who disagree with us. Only as such questions are raised do we come to seek answers. “Why is he disagreeing with me? …. Is it possible that she is right?”

    It is in our struggle for answers that insights and understanding occur to us.

    There are many things we glean from the diversity in society, both in and out of the Church. That is why I have come to opt for a good deal of the spice of plurality along with our unity in the Church. I have come to like the idea of including, rather than excluding and I sense that we can all gain by that inclusion.

    Plurality or diversity need not necessarily be destructive or even disruptive to unity. In certain respects they appear to me an indispensable source of growth and development. Accompanied by tolerance, patience, long-suffering, meekness, gentleness, and some of the other major Christian virtues that go into the larger configuration of love, they seem the very key to an abundant life.

    I wish we would be less judgmental in our attitudes toward those in our wards and stakes that are different from us.

    I believe in the pluralism it promotes, and in the richness that can attend that pluralism.

  8. Pablo
    June 25, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Fife is a superstar. That is all.

  9. Embracing Light
    August 11, 2013 at 7:06 am

    I have just been trying to process this idea. Now that I recognize that much of what I believed was “absolutely true” is a little more complicated, I have been trying to figure out what I can stand on as “truth”. Thank you for the excellent discussion. It gives me a lot to think about.

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