Showing posts with label Christ-like Attributes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christ-like Attributes. Show all posts

Tolerance as a Christ-like Attribute

The Hand of God, YongSung Kim
Because I'm in a new ward and I just met my new bishop on Sunday, I'm anticipating having the opportunity to speak in church soon. I haven't spoken in church since my faith transition. Even introducing myself feels endlessly fraught and complicated now.

I'm realizing though that I've had talk on Tolerance formulating in my head for the past two weeks. So if I get the chance to speak, it will probably be about that. What put me on that path was something I heard the Elder's Quorum President say. He was quoting President Monson out of context to caution about the risks of being too tolerant. It made me realize that a mistrust of tolerance has been going on in LDS discourse for a long time.

It's only in recent years that a false dichotomy has been drawn between being loyal to God/the institutional Church and being tolerant to social change in our discourse. Before that, it was seen as a virtue. An attribute of Christ. A hallmark of discipleship.

Tolerance is not a weakness or a moral failure. That may be how it's presented in the Republican party. But that's an attitude with no place in the Church. 

Tolerance is a skill, a talent, and a spiritual gift given by God to facilitate compassion. Tolerance is how we exercise patience with others. It's how we are challenged to see issues from more than one perspective. It's how we learn to admit that our way of looking at the world is not the only way to see it. Exercising tolerance with people who are different from us gives us opportunities to receive correction and repent. It's a necessary part of being in a Church that believes in continuing revelation.

We live in an environment where it is rare that we are given the full, objective truth about anyone or anything. There are hidden actors behind algorithms trying to further their own agendas by influencing what we think about literally everything. Their goal is to catch us unaware and uninformed because that's when we're most susceptible to being manipulated. Social media platforms operate to prioritize engagement. They figured out years ago that generating conflict and feeding insecurities are the best ways to do that.

Who we trust. Who we mistrust. Who we love. Who we dehumanize. How we see those around us—it's all being fed to us by machines, programmed by people we don't know and will never meet. These same forces are at work within the Church. We are not immune to those influences. The confrontations at play within our society are at play within the Church. Deepening mistrust and the normalization of disrespect based entirely on political ideologies and social issues have taught us to withhold our compassion from each other.

I've seen those campaigns at work. I've watched as members of the Church have done real harm to others because of how they've been radicalized online. I've been on the receiving end of those attacks more than once.

Exercising tolerance is an opportunity for us to develop the gift of discernment—to recognize and reject that manipulation. Committing to exercise tolerance will protect us from the campaigns at work trying to spread racism, sexism, hatred, prejudice, and violence.

In overcoming these influences, we have a perfect example in Jesus Christ—the one who ate with tax collectors and sex workers. The one who saved the adulteress from being stoned in the street because he could see the predatory guilt in her accusers.

Jesus Christ is the perfect example of tolerance. It's the single most important example he ever set. Why do I say that? Because his compassion is what we love most about him. It's what allows him to be our Savior. He saves us from the cruelty of this world.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matt.5:44-48, Jesus gave the commandment for us to be perfect like our Heavenly Parents. He didn't say that the route to that perfection would be obedience to law. When we read those verses in context, Jesus taught it would be in our capacity to love our enemies, to pray for them, and to tolerate the people who are different from us that we become perfect. Tolerance is the pathway to becoming Christ-like.

That is the single most important skill we will ever learn. It's the entire purpose of coming to mortality—to learn to encounter and embrace differences when it's not an easy thing to do. That is the only way we will ever develop the capacity for the universal, unconditional love our Heavenly Parents have for all of their children.
One of my favorite sacrament hymns is "In Humility, Our Savior." It's short. It's a beautiful use of alto voices. It was written by a woman. And it brought us this gem:
"Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving, Teach us tolerance and love."
Tolerance brings the healing and peace of Christ to those who embrace it. I know I need it. My church needs it. My country needs it. This world we share needs it.

President Nelson's Gratitude Challenge

I've been listening to all kinds of perspectives about President Nelson's #GiveThanks challenge. It seems to me like the Church's energy could've been spent much better on a campaign about humility instead of gratitude.

The pandemic is the closest thing to divine retribution, where those who dug a pit for their neighbors have fallen in themselves, as I've ever seen in my lifetime. To focus on positivity in this moment, I feel, misses the point of what God has always communicated through disease. Plagues and diseases in scripture are the great equalizers in society, where those with with, power, and position are finally forced onto equal footing with everyone else, experiencing the same devastation that their money can't protect them from.

Like famines and droughts, they cease only when there is a humbling of spirit, a reckoning with the moral failure within one's own soul. When selfishness and indifference to our neighbor's suffering is confronted, challenged, and finally eliminated.

I find it interesting that what this situation calls for most—submission to the empirical knowledge of secular authorities in the wearing of masks, and the solitude and reflection of social distancing—are acts that require humility particularly from religious individuals. 

Like many of the policies from this administration, how we respond to COVID-19 and the restrictions that attend to it reveal his much we really value ourselves and our neighbor. We're all collectively witnessing this in families, in employments, and in society as a whole.

When we reach the end of this, we will know who the villains are who surround us. We will see the private evils in the businesses we have our money to, the schools that teach our children, the organizations we supports, and the institutions that claim to care for us.

We have a choice. 

We can look the truth in the face, accept the facts as they have always existed around us, and rise to the challenge we've been given.

Or we can look away, hide our faces in shame, and maintain the status quo as it existed before all of this began. 

A necessary component of what will allow us to make the right choice is not gratitude alone. It will be humility that heals us, and ultimately asked us to go forth from this moment changed and bettered by the experience.

Mission Preparation

Sarah was sitting across the table from me at the YSA Christmas party, and she approached me with an honest question that I know a lot of Young Women and female Young Single Adults are asking right now.

"What advice would you give to someone who is preparing to serve a mission?"

I made a mental note to mention Sarah to the Sisters serving in our branch. They'll want to know about her to invite her to go teaching. This is truly one of the most valuable things you can do to prepare--make yourself available to go out teaching regularly with the missionaries in your area. But I remember when I was in her shoes not so long ago, asking the recently returned missionaries in my ward what I should do.

So I told her what I wish someone would have told me to do almost two years ago when I was finally putting in mission papers, because it has been about that long now.

"Sit down with yourself and make a personal inventory of your weaknesses and your strengths. Then make plans on how you will turn your weaknesses into strengths, and how your strengths will help you be an effective missionary."

She has a slightly shocked expression on her face. This isn't what she expected.

"Everyone is going to tell you to study Preach My Gospel, especially chapter 3 with all of the lesson material in it so you can teach effectively," I responded. "And that is important. But that's what you have the MTC for. They are going to be extremely effective on helping you with what to teach and how to teach it.

"If I could go back and do my preparation again, knowing what I know now about being a missionary, I wouldn't focus on how or what to teach. You just do the best you can with that and the Spirit makes up the difference. I botched so many lessons when I first started out, and that's when I could even speak at all in Portuguese! But the thing that made the biggest difference in my service wasn't what I knew. It was how Christ-like I genuinely was at any given moment. It doesn't make a difference what you know until you become the sort of person you should be as a missionary. So if I were you, I would focus primarily, if not completely on the Christ-like attributes for right now."

"Oh," she said. "Where are those?"

"In Preach My Gospel. It's chapter 6."

Every person's journey on the mission is totally personal. The cross to bear is unique to each of us, and is the heaviest thing that each of us will ever know. When I was struggling on my mission, chapter 6 and the Christ-like attributes were the first place of guidance I always sought out. My Portuguese copy looks like an NFL playbook--the page on Patience has absolutely no place left to write anything else in it. Studying them daily helped me to focus on what was really stopping the Book of Mormon and the principles from Preach My Gospel from leaping off the page and into the lives of the people in my area.

"When a man makes war on his own weaknesses he engages in the holiest war that mortals ever wage. The reward that comes from victory in this struggle is the most enduring, most satisfying, and the most exquisite that man ever experiences. … The power to do what we ought to do is the greatest freedom."
Bryant S. Hinckley

When we truly believe that change is possible for ourselves as we apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives, we can't help but believe that the same thing is possible for the entire human race. We are filled with love and desire to go out and find those people, to teach them, and to help them prepare to be baptized into the true Church of Jesus Christ. We are led by the Spirit. Our mouths are filled with the words we need to say. We have greater peace in our lives, an assurance that our service has made a difference, and that we have accomplished our purpose as missionaries.

When in doubt, always remember: Real problem exists between study table and chair. Had I understood that then as well as I do now, I would have prepared for my mission very differently.

But the mission doesn't end--it just changes shape. What we do with our missions afterwards is more important than what we do with it during the 18 months of wearing the badge. How that translates into our day-to-day lives depends entirely on what we do with the Christ-like attributes. My commitment to the person I become each day is the biggest responsibility I have in time, for the sake of eternity.

I know that God lives, and I know that His missionaries are called of Him by divine revelation. I know we are called by a living prophet and real apostles who possess restored priesthood authority from God. I know that my missionary service taught me everything I need to know to receive eternal life--it's up to me now to practice it, apply it, and receive the promised blessings which always come when we are faithful. I leave that testimony in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen

(For more on mission preparation, especially for all of the extraordinary women who have stepped up and answered the call to serve, see this and this from the Church's website)

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