Tolerance 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 Paul, James 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!
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!