Tolerance and Love

You know what I love about God…he’s always ahead of the world. Always. Two of many examples come to mind in the case of the legalization of gay marriages in New York this week.

First, knowing that the climate was going to change the LDS or Mormon Church already plastered the city of NY with signs and billboards inviting all to learn of the wonderful plan of happiness and eternal design for mankind. Such modern messages are absolutely one of God’s ways of communicating with his children on earth today. He hasn’t given up. He hasn’t given up hope, He hasn’t stopped working, and He still desires all of His children to return to Him. He desires all of His children to come unto Him. Talk about a renewed call to missionary work on all levels and in all settings. We weren’t sent down in these latter days to be lazy. This is a time for work!

And second, He provided members of the Church with literature to help illuminate eternal knowledge in plight of such events. One of my favorite articles in the June Ensign (a monthly LDS Church publication) was titled Defending the Family in a Troubled World by Elder Bruce R. Porter of the Seventy. Elder Porter writes,

“God has given His children commandments, laws, and revelations that define the pathway leading back into His presence. His laws and commandments are intended to bless us, to uplift us, and to bring us joy. They mark the path of safety amidst the storms and mists of mortal existence. This means that the strait and narrow path is a path of divine love, a path laid down by a God of perfect charity, whose only desire is to bless. To the degree that any human being strays from that path, he or she inevitably experiences inner conflict, distress, and loneliness. To leave the strait and narrow path is to leave the one path congruent with our own eternal nature. When we invite people to lay aside the things of the world and come unto Christ, we are inviting them to the one sure path that leads to lasting joy and inner peace.

“To some the very idea of a strait and narrow path will seem intolerant of those who choose different paths. By holding up a divine ideal of what family ought to be, they claim we are guilty of intolerance toward those who choose other paths, other standards, other definitions of right and wrong. But is this really true?

“Until recently in our national history, tolerance referred to racial and religious non-discrimination. It meant civility in the political arena; in other words, respecting the right of others to express their views, even if we do not agree with them. It meant treating all people with decency and respect. Such tolerance is an important and vital part of our American heritage.

“Today, however, the world is in danger of abandoning all sense of absolute right or wrong, all morality and virtue, replacing them with an all-encompassing “tolerance” that no longer means what it once meant. An extreme definition of tolerance is now widespread that implicitly or explicitly endorses the right of every person to choose their own morality, even their own “truth,” as though morality and truth were mere matters of personal preference. This extreme tolerance culminates in a refusal to recognize any fixed standards or draw moral distinctions of any kind. Few dare say no to the “almighty self” or suggest that some so-called “lifestyles” may be destructive, contrary to higher law, or simply wrong.

“When tolerance is so inflated out of all proportions, it means the death of virtue, for the essence of morality is to draw clear distinctions between right and wrong. All virtue requires saying no firmly and courageously to all that is morally bankrupt.

“Curiously enough, this new modern tolerance is often a one-way street. Those who practice it expect everyone to tolerate them in anything they say or do, but show no tolerance themselves toward those who express differing viewpoints or defend traditional morality. Indeed, their intolerance is often most barbed toward those of religious conviction. But let there be no misunderstanding or deception: the First Amendment right of free speech applies to religious speech as well as to other kinds of speech. Believers of all faiths have every right to participate in and share their convictions in the public arena.

“Now let us go one step further. Even in its original and correct connotation, tolerance is surely a secondary virtue in comparison with the far higher virtue of love. Certainly it is good to be tolerant of those who are different than we are, treating them with kindness and civility. But love, or charity, is the highest of all, and it is far better to genuinely love those with whom we differ. When we truly love all of God’s children in a Christlike way, we will desire to bring them unto Christ, the fountain of all happiness. This means proclaiming the truth, defending that which is right, and in a mild voice inviting all to walk the path of Christ. By defending the traditional family, Latter-day Saints bless all people whether others recognize it now or not.

“So perfect and exalted was Christ’s love for God’s children that He took upon Himself the penalty for their sins, descending below all things in the Garden of Gethsemane and dying for us on the cross at Golgotha. Yet He never compromised virtue nor tolerated sin in the slightest degree (see D&C 1:31). He treated the woman taken in adultery with love and respect, putting her accusers to shame; nevertheless He said, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). The Master abhorred sin, because sin is the enemy of the human soul.

“God’s love is sometimes described as unconditional. It is true that God loves all of His children on earth no matter how often or how far they may stray. But while God’s love is all-encompassing, His blessings are highly conditional, including the very blessing of being able to feel and experience His love. The further human beings stray from the path of righteousness, the less they will be capable of feeling divine love, because it is conveyed into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that God loves us less when we stray, only that we, by our choices and actions, have distanced ourselves from His love. How wondrous, then, is the gift of repentance, by which we can be brought back into accord with His will and feel again of His love.

“In the family proclamation, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declare, “We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” 7 The Church is a small institution compared with the world at large. Nevertheless, the Latter-day Saints as a people should not underestimate the power of our example, nor our capacity to persuade public opinion, reverse negative trends, or invite seeking souls to enter the gate and walk the Lord’s chosen way. We ought to give our best efforts, in cooperation with like-minded persons and institutions, to defend the family and raise a voice of warning and of invitation to the world. The Lord expects us to do this, and in doing so to ignore the mocking and scorn of those in the great and spacious building, where is housed the pride of the world.

Powerful, no? I highly recommend the article in its entirety, you can read it here. I found this article both thought provoking and insightful. And I love how it addresses tolerance. Understanding tolerance is something I’ve struggled with as I couldn’t understand how love and tolerance could be separated. This article, however, really helped to shed light on a more spiritual definition of tolerance and further guided my own journey for better understanding tolerance in an eternal way. It helped me understand how unconditional love--Christlike unconditional love--should guide tolerance. The real tolerance is love, eternal love. God knows what's to unfold. And He loves us enough to guide us, direct us, and even warn us. That's pretty cool if you ask me. 

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