Ask Mormon Girl: Did LDS Church leaders caution against political rancor?

Even as good Easter feelings flow from Salt Lake City after this weekend’s General Conference, regions of the bloggernacle are steaming with ongoing partisan rancor, the latest being the reported cancellation of a Nevada fireside featuring Democratic Senator Harry Reid (scheduled to relate his conversion story and bear his testimony) due to threats of protests and violence. This week’s Ask Mormon Girl inquiry seeks a little perspective:

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:

I remember hearing a talk by the LDS Presidency in the past 7 years cautioning the members about listening and viewing radio and TV political shows that stir up fear and contention, but I can’t seem to find it.  Do you know of the talk that I refer to?

SD in WA

Thanks for this good and timely query, SD.  Just hours ago during the Sunday morning session of General Conference, Elder Quentin Cook advised Church members  to be “civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions, especially when we disagree.”  But I don’t know offhand of a First Presidency talk that fits your parameters.  If one exists, I’d love to have a copy because even though I don’t watch much TV or listen to talk radio (besides NPR), it’s no secret that Ask Mormon Girl is a big ol’ Mormon feminist liberal college professor, and I admit that I too can probably use a refresher course in chilling out every once in a while.

When I put my sleuthing skills to work, I did locate some other talks and articles that speak to your general question and bear rereading (and recirculating).

Take these words from Gordon B. Hinckley, then Second Counselor in the Church Presidency, speaking at the BYU Hawaii Commencement in 1983:

“I try to read two or three newspapers a day. I sometimes read the columns written by editorial commentators. I occasionally listen to commentators on television and radio. These commentators are brilliant. They are men who use the language well, and who are masters of the written word. But most of the time I find that regardless of whom they write about, they seem to look for failings and weaknesses. They are constantly criticizing, seldom praising.  And this spirit is not limited to the commentators in newspapers or on radio or television. Some of the letters to the newspapers are filled with hostility, written by persons who seem to find no good in the world or in their associates. Criticism, faultfinding, evil speaking—these are the sentiments of our day. We are told that nowhere is there a man of integrity holding political office. Businessmen, many say, are crooks. It is claimed that public companies are intent on robbing us through over-charging. Everywhere is heard the insulting remark, the sarcastic comment, the verbal attack against the reputations of others. Sadly, these are too often the bases of our conversation.” (Full talk here.)

Or this lovely talk entitled “Instruments of the Lord’s Peace,” by Seventy Robert Wood, delivered at the April 2006 General Conference and published in the Ensign:

Have we who have taken upon us the name of Christ slipped unknowingly into patterns of slander, evil speaking, and bitter stereotyping? Have personal or partisan or business or religious differences been translated into a kind of demonizing of those of different views? Do we pause to understand the seemingly different positions of others and seek, where possible, common ground?” (Full talk here.)

Or this important counsel delivered by President Gordon B. Hinckley in his remarks on the Iraq War at General Conference in April 2003:

“Now, there is much that we can and must do in these perilous times. We can give our opinions on the merits of the situation as we see it, but never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side or the other. Political differences never justify hatred or ill will. I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties.” (Full talk here.)

Perhaps, SD, you’ve also seen the timely statement “The Mormon Ethic of Civility” released by the Church just last fall on October 16, 2009, which I excerpt here:

“The need for civility is perhaps most relevant in the realm of partisan politics. As the Church operates in countries around the world, it embraces the richness of pluralism. Thus, the political diversity of Latter-day Saints spans the ideological spectrum. Individual members are free to choose their own political philosophy and affiliation. Moreover, the Church itself is not aligned with any particular political ideology or movement. It defies category. Its moral values may be expressed in a number of parties and ideologies. Furthermore, the Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible. As the Church begins to rise in prominence and its members achieve a higher public profile, a diversity of voices and opinions naturally follows. Some may even mistake these voices as being authoritative or representative of the Church. However, individual members think and speak for themselves. Only the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles speak for the whole Church.” (Full statement here.)

Wow. Just typing all those passages into the blogosphere makes me feel more Zen.  Readers, can you help SD in WA?  Can you recommend another recent LDS First Presidency source that speaks to the problem of partisan rancor?  And what’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding, anyways?  How ‘bout we reclaim this little corner of the great frothing internet for good vibes, if just for today?


Filed under politics

4 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: Did LDS Church leaders caution against political rancor?

  1. Monica

    I actually discovered Joanna and her blog on Huffpo. I’ve spent a lot of time distancing myself from Glenn Beck and his increasingly unhinged rants. He has a radio show, he’s been given a show on Fox News, a network that is NOT fair and balanced and certainly isn’t a news network and Beck is no news anchor. He’s authored books, about his politics and his conversion. I often wonder if he was asked to choose between the two if he’d follow his faith or the more lucrative opinions. I had hoped there would be something said in conference and was disappointed when no mention was made. He’s in direct disagreement with the first Presidency on the issue of the census, which has been a huge tool in the family history research program.
    And I think it’s fair to say that his opinions are contrary to our beliefs. His opinion’s are contrary to anything remotely civilized.

  2. I think it is important to understand both sides of the issue – but when we become entrenched, passionate and blinded by our beliefs – that’s no good to anyone either. coughglennbeckcough.

    I have lost friends in the past year who became loyal tea party members and no longer wanted to talk to me. I was left dumbstruck, whiplashed, wondering what the heck just happened.

  3. Bete

    Harry Reid’s political agenda robs individuals of their agency.

    I seem to recall a story about a fellow in the preexistence who proposed a similar course.

  4. Anns

    I’m deeply bothered by the venom that is unleashed by church acquaintances when it comes to political matters. I’m shocked by such conduct from otherwise good people.

    I believe we can have open and civil discussions with each other when we start with the mindset that it is okay to disagree. When we enter a discussion without the underlying belief that “I’m right, you’re wrong, how could you think that?” but rather seek to understand the other viewpoint. We won’t always (or may never) agree in the end, but think of what compassion and understanding we stand to gain from this approach.

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