Discussing Spiritual Differences- Matthew 7:7-8, John 7:37, John 6:66-67

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

COMMENTARY

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth
If any man thirst, let him come unto me
We must always remember that this is a gospel of invitation, not of force. It is a gospel where the disciple is meant to seek after, not be pushed ahead. It is opt in, not opt out.
When we can share the truth we should do so with passion and commitment, we should leave no question about the importance of what we are saying. But never should we try to make someone accept it and never should we punish them for ignoring us.

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

Jesus boldly renounced sin. Jesus reproved his own disciples. Jesus chased away those who corrupted the place of worship. He was very clear and very firm in his declaration of truth. But the decision to follow him was always left to the disciple. If they wanted to leave then they could, and some of them did. But if they wanted to stay then they knew where to find him and they knew what he expected of them. It was just up to them to choose it.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- 2 Nephi 2:8, 2 Nephi 2:27

Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

COMMENTARY

Wherefore, men are free; and all things are given them which are expedient. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, or to choose captivity and death
Many of us spend a good portion of our lives avoiding any serious considering of what sort of person we’re going to be. As a child I would have phrased it as simply deciding whether to be the “good guy” or the “bad guy.” Today I might describe it as deciding whether to “meet my divine potential” or to “give in to my baser nature.”
Instead of facing this question we tell ourselves “yeah, I’m a pretty good person,” and then never commit to a life of greater purpose. But that is not taking ownership of our souls and we will remain stunted for so long as we won’t face the decision in sincerity. At some point we need to have a deeper, more sincere examination of who we really are now, and who we really want to be moving forward.
And it is not healthy for us to put off this decision. Making this determination must come before our great story can really take off. To just make this choice is the very reason why God put us on this Earth to begin with. Here, left to our own heart and reason, we are meant to decide who we ultimately want to be, and whether we will work to become that person. It is the single, most important decision we can ever make, and we each owe it to ourselves to face it.

Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth
When we do make the choice, though, and when our choice is to truly meet our divine potential, then we realize how important it is for everyone else to do the same. We look around and see people trundling along only half-alive and we want to wake them fully. This is why those that have been “born again” feel such a fire to proselyte to others, to show them the depth and breadth and beauty that is possible in life after one has fully chosen who they are going to be.
Indeed, it is more than a desire to proselyte, it becomes an obligation. One cannot be good to his fellow-man and still leave him to walk around half-dead. Not when one knows that there is a life that is so much better. Though it may be a difficult and touchy subject, though there is a great chance of being misunderstood, though the bold words may cause offense, though one’s very life may be threatened for proselyting, still one must speak forth.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Revelation 3:19-20, Ezekiel 18:32

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

COMMENTARY

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten
The first and most important thing to understand when giving moral reproof is that it should only ever be an act of love. And the first and most important thing to understand when receiving moral reproof is that love can exist in a painful experience.
Everyone who has sought out God will know what it is to be chastened. Everyone who has become a true follower will have felt the reproof of their maker. When someone I know to be a genuine disciple of Christ has called me to repentance I have been greatly helped by the knowledge that they have sat in my seat, too, being called to repentance themselves.
For as the verse above says, there are none whom God loves that He has not chastened. And there are none that God does not love.

I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, wherefore turn yourselves, and live
I believe it is easy to take offense when called to repentance because we confuse the intentions behind it with the world’s use of reproof. The world criticizes those that are wrong in order to condemn them, to justify cutting them off, to argue that they should die socially, perhaps even literally!
But unlike the world, God takes no pleasure in death, or condemnation, or the loss of any child. He does not call us out on our sins to say “so you see, this is why I have no reason to love you.” If God is chastising us it only means that we are still within reach and He is trying to save us. True condemnation from God would not be words of fury, it would be silence.
If you feel moved to call out another on their follies, then you should pause to consider whether your own motivations are similarly pure. Are you driven by the worldly form of reproof or the divine call to repentance? Is your desire to make them feel your displeasure or to awaken them to God’s love? Are you doing this to rid yourself of their sins or to sow a brighter future? Are you trying to damn them or to save them? If it is the latter, then carry on as that same spirit guides you. If it is the former, then they are absolutely right to reject you and take offense.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Mark 6:12, Doctrine and Covenants 6:9

And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.


COMMENTARY

And they went out, and preached that men should repent
Say nothing but repentance unto this generation

I have spoken a bit about how we can conduct ourselves when trying to enlighten the minds of others. If we establish a genuine and loving relationship first, and are motivated by that love for them, and are providing the instruction that will help them at their unique moment of life, then we have the ideal situation for teaching truth.
But sometimes our teaching isn’t directed towards someone who is already trying to become their best self. Sometimes we aren’t just nudging an already mostly-correct direction. Sometimes someone is doing things that are definitively wrong and they fully intend to carry on with that behavior. And in this situation, whether we can succeed in dissuading them from that course or not we have a moral obligation to try. They need to be reproved for their own sake (to caution them from harming themselves), and they need to be reproved for the sake of those around them (to caution them from harming others).
This is obviously a more touchy subject and I’ll dedicate the next several posts to considering it. For now, though, let us at least let acknowledge that while the gospel message does encourage the seeker it also reproves the sinner.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- 2 Timothy 2:14, Matthew 22:38-39, Doctrine and Covenants 121:41

Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

COMMENTARY

Strive not about words to no profit
When you find yourself needing to express a moral conviction to someone else, what is your motivation behind doing that? To get them to change their behavior for your benefit? To get what you want from them? Because if so, then you are not testifying of truth, you are having an argument or a debate. And in some circles argument and debate might be fitting, such as in academia, but as this verse makes clear they are of no use when testifying of the truth. Ultimately, when we are trying to influence the religious perspective of another person it should never be motivated by a desire to receive something from them.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself
The motivation for expressing our moral convictions and exercising an influence over another person should only ever be one of love. Rather than asking them to change for our own benefit, we should be inviting them to change for their own benefit. We should be making our case because we care for them and truly believe that their lives will be happier with this piece of enlightenment.
Recall the example of Daniel that we just examined. He was petitioning the prince of the eunuchs to let him eat a diet that conformed to his religious convictions, but he only made any headway when he illustrated how this approach was also going to help the prince of the eunuchs get what he wanted as well. When those we teach can feel that we sincerely seek their own good, and are not just trying to mold the world to our own preferences, they are far more likely to care about what we say.

Influence ought to be maintained only by love unfeigned
But remember that our display of care and concern for the person we speak with must be “unfeigned.” We must not pretend to care for someone just to coerce them into doing what we want. The account of Daniel also made clear that the compassion between him and the guards was sincere.
So do change those around you, but only do it because you sincerely love them and just want to help them.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Daniel 1:11-16

Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

COMMENTARY

I have previously discussed the impasse between Daniel and the prince of the eunuchs in this story, but also the devoted relationship that existed between them. Today I will consider the test that Daniel proposed to resolve their disagreement.

And as thou seest, deal with thy servants
I want to begin with the very tail end of Daniel’s proposal. This statement, ‘as thou seest, deal with thy servants’ is extremely submissive. If the prince allows for this test to run its course, then Daniel will abide by whatever decision that man makes, even if it is to not honor Daniel’s diet. No more argument from Daniel on the matter, no rebellion, the prince will have whatever he thinks is best.
And this shows that Daniel truly cares for the prince’s priorities, too. His reason for recommending a clean diet is not only because it is Daniel’s own preference, but also because it will fit the prince’s own interests better than the meat and wine. Daniel genuinely believes that the Lord’s law of health is the better solution for both of them.
So yes, Daniel is being submissive, but also extremely confident. The two are not mutually exclusive. Daniel can afford to be submissive because of his enormous confidence that God’s wisdom will be better than any prescription of man.

Prove thy servants, and give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat
Because at the end of the day, Daniel knows that he is in the right. Not just the right for being a good Hebrew, but the right for being the best and healthiest person that he can be, even in the qualities that the prince of the eunuchs is valuing.
It is important for us to recognize that when we are in the moral right it will be self-evident. Truth is self-proving. When we are established on true principles, then we do not have to argue to convince anyone of it. The only argument necessary is to have the other look at us, and it will be written into our faces, written into our demeanor, written into every part of who we are and what we do.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Daniel 1:8-10

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.

COMMENTARY

Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs
Yesterday I spoke of how Daniel’s moral beliefs were at odds with the prince of the eunuchs’ fears. The two men were at an impasse, but notice from this verse that the relationship between them was not hostile. Daniel had already established a positive relationship with those whom he wished to have respect his culture. Read again the prince’s rejection and you will see that it is not motivated by malice, only by a fear of self-destruction.
In fact all of the exchanges in this story seem to be laced with a certain tenderness, both from Daniel and from his caretakers. All that follows in the tale is only able to occur because it is founded on the love between Daniel and these men.
Surely this is a lesson to all of us when discussing differences in our beliefs. These matters will go far more smoothly if we are able to first establish a mutual respect between us. And if we want respect for our different beliefs, first we need to establish a respect for one another’s person. Love for one another is the foundation of equality.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Daniel 1:5, 8-10

And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.

COMMENTARY

I love this story of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who were seeking to maintain their covenants and not consume any unclean meat or drink. It is a small story, one that might seem inconsequential compared to the more epic tales of the Bible, but I believe it provides some wonderful lessons for us all.
There are multiple things I want to point out from this short narrative, so I will be reviewing them one-at-a-time over the next few days.

And the king appointed them a provision of the king’s meat: so nourishing them that they might stand before the king
But Daniel purposed that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine
To begin with, let us consider the setting of it all. At the outset Daniel and his companions are captives in Babylon. They are being integrated with a court system that already exists, and they naturally come to a point of friction between their old culture and this new one. There will be more points of friction at other points in their lives, but this is the first time we see them caught between their new king and God.
And so we must recognize that they are at the mercy of others. From these passages it would seem that they were not even able to obtain their own food, being entirely dependent on what was brought to them instead. Thus Daniel could make a request for a special diet, but if unclean meat was what was given to him then unclean meat was what he would have.


The prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: ye make me endanger my head to the king
And the prince of eunuchs could see no reason to honor Daniel’s request. The man was not himself a Hebrew and was not converted to their customs. His concern had far more to do with losing his head if he presented the Israelite youth as less fit than those who ate meat and drank wine! He thus had the power and the motivation to override Daniel’s religiosity. The two men were at an impasse and Daniel did not have the upper hand.
This very easily could have been the end of the story. Daniel could have taken the eunuch’s rejection and let his morals be crushed. He could have oscillated between anger at having been made a victim and shame at having not stood up more. He could have given up all his principles entirely, he could have made a bitter crusade and decried the prince of the eunuchs as an unfeeling sinner.
Any of these paths would have been easy to resign oneself to, but as we will see, none of them were what Daniel elected.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Missionary Work

Ten years ago I served a mission, seeking to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to any who would hear. Some people were genuinely relieved to have us turn up on their doorstep. Some of them were disinterested, but turned us away kindly. Some of them quickly shut off the television and pretended that no one was home. Some, however, felt deeply offended that we had come calling at their house, and before we could say a thing shouted at us until we left.

And, to be fair, I get why people don’t like to talk to missionaries. First there is the matter of repetition. Many religious sects will frequently change the missionaries that they have in an area. Thus you can tell the first set “no, thank you,” but then a next pair arrives and they don’t know that you’ve already expressed your disinterest. You keep having to say “no, thank you” over and over, and eventually the “thank you” gets replaced with stronger verbiage.

Another reason is that some missionaries are simply insufferable. Obviously every one of them should be driven by a genuine love for those they teach. Their great, motivating desire should be to help all people however they can. But I have been a missionary, and I can attest that this is not true for all of them. Many of them truly do have sincere and good intentions, but there are also those that you can practically feel the holier-than-thou dripping off of.

And the last reason that comes to mind is that each of us have areas of life that we know we can improve on. We feel guilty, but many of us are in denial of that guilt. In this case even a heartfelt, loving invitation to a better life might feel like a judgment of how sinful we are right now. A salesman might come and point out dirt on our house and try to sell us a cleaning solution. We might be disinterested in the product, but not offended. But a missionary reminding us of the dirt in our soul? That is a much more touchy matter.

Thus I see work to be done on both sides so that proselyting efforts can be given with care and can be received with the same spirit by which it was given. In a perfect world missionaries would all establish a caring relationship first, then seek to share their light as a friend instead of a stranger. And in a perfect world each of us would be honest to ourselves about our own guilt and would be open to those who can help us become the sons and daughters we were born to be.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Question

It is said that if you want to maintain a friendship you should never discuss religion. We might be able endure differences of opinion in sports and clothing brands, but we won’t tolerate conversations about the things that really matter.

Obviously this timidity to discuss spiritual matters has to do with their inherently sacred nature. We all feel a heightened sensitivity about things which are sacred. These parts are closer to our heart, and therefore a callous word is much more likely to wound our feelings. There is also the tendency to feel judged whenever someone else believes that what we do is a moral wrong.

But I don’t believe the solution should be to cut off communication there. I believe spiritual feelings can be conveyed in a way that is sensitive and loving. I believe that sometimes we need to testify of what we know is right, even if it will be perceived as offensive by the those that we are speaking to. I also believe that there is room to examine one’s intention in how they speak, and room to examine one’s intention in how they listen. With this study I would like to consider exactly those points. How can we share testimony, champion good, and call to repentance in a way that God approves of? How can we hear the opinions of others and receive or reject it as appropriate?

I have already studied a similar topic before, one where I considered how we can remain respectful in our differences of spiritual opinion. But I want to give special attention in this study for those moments where we need to share a spiritual truth that others may fight difficult to hear. I want to focus on both sides of that moment, the giving and the receiving.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about your own experiences in this matter. Have you ever tried to share something out of love, but had it received as if out of hate? Have you ever felt muzzled when trying to champion that which is good? Have you ever felt that you must say what you had to say, no matter how it would be received?