Bridges of Tolerance

I have loved watching President Nelson lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the topic of addressing racism and intolerance in the world. His relationship with Rev. Amos C. Brown of the NAACP has been especially inspiring.

I was particularly touched a few years ago by President Nelson’s remarks at the Be One Celebration:

“Ultimately, we realize that only the comprehension of the true Fatherhood of God can bring full appreciation of the true brotherhood of men and the true sisterhood of women. That understanding inspires us with passionate desire to build bridges of cooperation instead of walls of segregation.

It is my prayer and blessing that I leave upon all who are listening that we may overcome any burdens of prejudice and walk uprightly with God—and with one another—in perfect peace and harmony.”

I was therefore really struck by how President Nelson hit on this same theme decades ago using almost identical language.

In April 1994 he gave a talk called “Teach Us Tolerance and Love” where he emphasized the importance of eliminating barriers that divide God’s children based on immutable characteristics. He noted that God is no respecter of persons, but that unfortunately “His children can be so intolerant with one another” and that “Through the years, discrimination based on ethnic or religious identity has led to senseless slaughter, vicious pogroms, and countless acts of cruelty. The face of history is pocked by the ugly scars of intolerance.”

President Nelson urged parents to follow King Benjamin’s “inspired instructions” to teach our children to love one another and to avoid quarrelling with each other. President Nelson promised that if parents passed on those beliefs that we would see a world filled with much more tolerance and love.

President Nelson also emphasized the other side of this coin. Tolerance is a virtue, but in excess it can become a vice. Indeed, “tolerance, without limit, could lead to spineless permissiveness.” Christlike “[t]olerance does not require the surrender of noble purpose or of individual identity.” Our task “requires great fortitude as well as love.”

Unfortunately I find that a lot of the “anti-racism” efforts in society today are rooted in the surrender “of individual identity” and the elevation of group identity. In my opinion these efforts are doomed to failure because they perpetuate racism and division. Efforts that blatantly discriminate on the basis of race cannot be viable a solution to the problem of racism. The key to eliminating racism is teaching mutual love, tolerance, equality, and respect rather putting down others based on their immutable characteristics and perpetuating group stereotypes.

I also find that our society wants to emphasize “tolerance, without limit” in a manner that distorts God’s plan. Immorality and sin is portrayed as good and right even when it involves “the surrender of noble purposes or of individual identity.” President Nelson’s talk hints at the crucial balance that we must strike as disciples of Christ.

President Nelson’s talk impressed on me the duty that I have to ensure that I am teaching my children to be devoted to treating everyone equally and with love and compassion, but also helping them to understand the important of honoring God’s law and not surrendering our values . As a father of three young daughters, I feel this responsibility very acutely. I want to help my children avoid any patterns or practices of prejudice and to be dedicated to the equality of all of God’s children and to standing up for his Gospel.

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