Discussing Spiritual Differences- John 8:32, 1 John 2:21

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

COMMENTARY

The truth shall make you free
Yesterday I considered how the truth wants to be spoken and urges us to utter it. However it is not the truth that needs us so much as it is we who need the truth.
Truth is not some fragile being that we must protect or else will fade away. It is not Tinkerbell who will die if we stop believing in it. Truth just is. It exists independently of our involvement. Truth does not need to be stated to be true.
So when we speak the truth, it is not for truth’s sake, but for humanity’s. As Jesus attests in this verse, it is the truth that makes us free. Thus to know the truth and to not say it is to leave your brother in chains.

Ye know it, that no lie is of the truth
And this is yet another reason why those that have found moral truth must speak up, even to a world that doesn’t want to hear it. Just as it is wrong to see someone walking into physical danger and not call out a warning, it is also wrong to not call out a warning of moral dangers.
When one has found the truth one knows the truth and one knows what is not of the truth. And when one knows that what they hear is not truth, it would be an act of abuse to leave one’s fellowman so blinded. Even if the other will not hear, the one that knows the truth is still obligated to speak it so that the other can have his chance for freedom.

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.

Influence and Persuasion- Summary

I’ve enjoyed doing this study. It’s a topic that I have already pondered on several times in life, and each time it has had new applications for me. First I wondered how to win the loyalty my younger siblings as a child. Then there was serving a mission, where I tried to proselyte the gospel message to others. Next there is my marriage, where my wife and I continually come to terms with our differences. Now I have children of my own, and the desire to teach them the things that matter most. There are also the daily interactions with friends, and the many different ideas and beliefs that we hold. And on top of all that are my efforts to convince my own self to live a higher life.

In all of these situations I want to be a voice for the things that I believe are important, but I do not want to become a tyrant. And even though this is a question I have considered before, there were absolutely new lessons waiting for me as I performed this study. The gospel is a well that can be drawn from many times over.

I am convinced that this topic is one our society as a whole needs to study, too. We will always have different opinions, and there is a lot of good that comes of this, but we need to know how to communicate and persuade in a way that is constructive, not divisive. Hopefully the principles I’ve learned can be useful to all of us.

You Cannot Convince an Enemy or an Inferior

First and foremost, if our intention is to make someone see what is right, we can never succeed. All we will accomplish is to entrench them more firmly in their original beliefs and make them resent us. Neither can we try to manipulate or coerce them into “seeing the light.” Passive-aggressiveness is just as ineffective as harshness.
Even a more academic debate is largely ineffective. There are very few who are going to separate reason from emotion. Thus, even if they see that you are technically right in your specific argument, they will still be convinced that you are wrong overall.
Appeals to authority fall short as well. If you have to explain to your subordinates why they should listen to you, then your actual authority over them is purely imagined. The more strongly you profess your superiority, the more you actively undermine any actual persuasion, because no one wants a tyrant for their mentor.
In short: brute force, invoked authority, and intellectual prowess are the most common ways we use to try and get people to believe and do what we want them to believe and do. Not only are these methods ineffective, they are each immoral in their own way.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:39- We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Moses 1:19- And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

You Can’t Set Another’s Pace

Perhaps the greatest temptation to force another comes from the immediacy of want. We want someone to be a certain way, and we want them to be that way right now. Many of our wants can be immediately satisfied: when we are hungry we get food to eat and when we are tired we put ourselves to sleep. So when we want someone to do something, there is a strong inclination to just make them do it today. But even when done with good intentions, such as a parent that wants to make their child understand the right way to live, this method is ultimately ineffective.
Any behavior that is outwardly enforced will only continue so long as the force is maintained. If we teach others to be good by threats or bribes, then they will depend on those threats and bribes to maintain their virtues. Obviously this is far from the ideal. The ideal is for people to be motivated internally, by a personal desire that requires no external force to continue.
But how do we make that personal desire come alive in another? Quite simply we can’t. It is internal. It is out of our reach. We can love and we can set an example and we can be ready to receive their conversion, but we cannot make that conversion happen. For their transformation to be lasting, it can only occur when when they are ready for it.
Nehemiah 9:30- For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets.
Hosea 3:4-5- For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim:
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.

A Hope in Human Nature

And this might be a hard reality for us to accept. This seems to be the most unreliable form of influence imaginable. The most hands-off, uncontrollable, indirect way there could be. If we don’t make sure that things work out right, how can we be sure that they ever will? That question, however, only betrays a lack of faith in humanity. We ask it only because we fail to appreciate that if people truly are the children of God, then it is already in their nature to come to Him.
The fundamental desire to be good is already alive in us all. Human beings everywhere naturally seek the light. They do not need to be told that they should go to it, they just need to have it held high and they will make their way over on their own.
So how do we persuade and influence other people? We simply hold aloft our light. We be kind and good. We love them regardless of whether they’re willing to follow our example yet or not. We let them sort things out on their own terms, and know that they will come when they are ready. We prepare ourselves to forgive all their wrongs in the meantime. We keep answers for when they start asking questions. We store up grace and mercy for the day that they are willing to accept it.
And we do this for them because it was what He first did for us.
Matthew 5:16- Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Luke 15:20- And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Nehemiah 9:31- But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

Influence and Persuasion- Moses 1:12-13, 19-20

And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?
And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

COMMENTARY

Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me
Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded
Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell
Satan wants Moses to do something for him. His first approach is to “tempt,” trying to coerce Moses into behaving the way he wants him to. Moses is resistant to that, and Satan responds by getting loud and angry, now trying to frighten Moses into doing what he wants!
Coercion and fear. This one scriptural example gives us a very clear picture of Satan and his methods, and it is a picture that we are all too familiar with. For Satan has taught these tactics to all mankind, and we have been quick students of the form. I am sure we can all recall times that another person has tried to manipulate and frighten us into giving them what they wanted. I am sure we can all recall times we have used these tactics to get what we want, too.
Of course, this method requires a great deal of energy from the forcer, as they must submit the other against their will. And obviously the person being forced will not be converted to the cause, they will only remain subjugated so long as they are under the power of the controlling force. It is only their behaviors that are being influenced, not their inner desire. Thus, even from a pragmatic standpoint it is an unsustainable method, and sure to falter sooner or later. But more importantly, it is unquestionably immoral and abusive.

Faith vs Fear- 1 Samuel 15:24, Jeremiah 17:5

And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.

COMMENTARY

Because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice
Yesterday we noted how fear is used to try and control others. Today we will look at what it is like to be the recipient of fear. In Saul’s case he chose to do something that he felt wrong about, because he feared. Where faith empower us to meaningful action, fear it seems is a principle of inaction.
Consider how the moment of fear is so often often described as being crippling, freezing, or paralyzing. It is a force by which men and the devil seek to prevent the undesired actions of another, or to cause them to perform an action that they feel contrary to. To the person being made afraid, then, their actions are not to achieve some greater good, but simply to avoid or mitigate pain.

Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord
Pilate feared the people, too, when they called for the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter feared the people when the identified him as on of the Lord’s followers during his trial. Each of them had their “heart depart from the Lord” because of their trust (or fear) in the power of the people, and did things they felt wrong about.
Many the vice is entered into by the root of fear. We fear what others will think of us, we fear not receiving approval, we fear being left alone. By those fears we willingly do the very things we know we shouldn’t. Not because we think those things are good, but simply to avoid or mitigate pain.

Faith vs Fear- 2 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Kings 6:15-17

But we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

COMMENTARY

Behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
Fear may be considered as nothing more than the realization that the world possesses more power than us. And that power, if turned against us, we are powerless to resist. Whatever securities we obtain, we know that they are insufficient if enough opposition comes to bear.
When one does not believe in God or His power then fear is the only natural response. Belief in God and His power is, by definition, faith, and so fear is the result of an absence of faith. Elisha’s servant could not see God’s presence in the world, and so he was left to fear. With his limited perspective that was all he could feel.

Without were fightings, within were fears
I find it very illuminating how this scripture casts violence as the outward manifestation of an inward fear. Those that have acknowledged the awful power of the world often then try to use it to gain power over others. They have felt its ability to bend them, and they know that if they can be made afraid others can as well.
And so after being made afraid we perform all manner of violent behaviors in an attempt to promulgate that same fear into others. A vicious cycle begins, one where we try to shore up against that which we cannot control by domineering over all that we can.