We Can’t Talk: Part Two

Yesterday I started talking about the tension I notice whenever “hot topic” issues like transgenderism, abortion, or racial differences come up. I have seen in these instances how I go through mental gymnastics, trying to sanitize everything I say, terrified that I will utter something that other side will demonize me for. I live in fear of coworkers, friends, and even family members, often deferring my opinions because it seems there is so much to lose by expressing my convictions. And while I know that not everyone is the same as me, I’m sure that if I’ve had these feelings, there are probably plenty of others who have as well.

And this is a real problem, because it is imperative that we be able to have these conversations as a society. In fact, even more important than talking about than the important issues of our day is having the ability to talk about them. Being able to have the conversation is obviously the prerequisite to then having it. So let’s talk about what it is that makes this discourse so difficult.

What Are You Scared Of?)

After giving it some thought, I realized that when I think about people debating these important issues, I typically don’t picture two friends talking on a bench in a park. That’s not where these arguments typically occur today, they occur online, where faceless avatars scream at their opposition, assume the absolute worst in each another, and wish literal death upon anybody who dares to have a different opinion. I believe that the online forums have trained us to hold great anxiety when discussing these issues in person, because our experience has been that these subjects bring up the most hostile and abusive vitriol. If you were talking to another person face-to-face and they exhibited the same animalistic rage that you see online, then you might genuinely start to fear for your life!

But it probably isn’t accurate to assume that the friends and family and coworkers that we speak with in person would show the same unbridled rage that we see online. At least I certainly hope not! In person, I believe the majority of people are civil and restrained, even when expressing their deeply-held beliefs. But if we can’t express those deeply-held beliefs in person because we are afraid, then we suppress ourselves, become frustrated, and perhaps take that out on some internet forum, ironically perpetuating the same image of anger that keeps everyone silent in real life. We are caught in a vicious cycle, and the only solution that I see is to start challenging the way that we assume the worst in real-life people.

And if I am wrong, and actually our society is so far gone that calmly and respectfully speaking my mind in public is going to get me injured by one of the people I thought I was close to, then frankly it’s about time we had a few martyrs to bring attention to how bad things have become!

Losing a Friend)

Of course, there is a wide range of possibilities between a conversation being a positive experience and it being mortally dangerous! There are all manner of other negative outcomes that might more realistically come to pass, possibilities that still frighten us into silence. The most obvious of these is the loss of a friendship we valued. It is possible that challenging another’s deeply-held beliefs, even when done with kindness and respect, might cause them to determine that they can no longer associate with you.

That is a genuine fear, and one not to be treated lightly. The people that I am close to are very important to me, as well they should be, and I will truly mourn if I lose any of them because they could not abide my convictions. But it is selfish for me to prioritize my own comfort and happiness over doing my part to help the world sort out truth from error.

Also, even if it ends up being misplaced, I believe that I should have more faith in my friends. I know that I have different beliefs than they do, but I still enjoy their company, value their insights, and want to be their friend. I don’t know if they can reciprocate that, but I should give them the chance to do so. And frankly, I’m not being a very good friend if I am maintaining our relationship on false pretenses. There will always be an element of deceit if I know I am concealing part of myself from them, and that will prevent the friendship from ever reaching its full potential.

We Can’t Talk: Part One

I expressed my intention to resume my verse-by-verse scripture study, but something came up, and I need to go over it this week. The verse-by-verse study will begin next Monday.

What came up was a stressful and anxious conversation at work. It was pronounced enough to make me stop and consider what was going on, and what it all meant. The conversation started innocuous enough, my coworkers and I were discussing the new Hogwarts Legacy game that recently released. Everything was fun and light-hearted until one of my coworkers expressed disappointment that this otherwise appealing game was tied to a “transphobe” like J. K. Rowling. Another coworker challenged that statement, defending Rowling, and the two had an extremely awkward and tense exchange.

Their discussion was by no means insulting or disparaging. In fact, both of the coworkers spoke very deliberately and haltingly, couching their statements in all manner of caveats and disclaimers. I imagine that the two of them were trying to filter anything out of their speech that might escalate the disagreement. I assume so, because I was also doing that very thing. I wanted to express my own strongly-held opinions, but I was also terrified of ruining our work-friend relationships. Combing through every possible statement was mentally exhausting, and I only ended up making one small contribution to the discussion. As you might imagine, such a self-conscious and labored conversation quickly fizzled out. In less than a minute one of the other coworkers threw out a change of topic and we all clung to it like a life preserver. The tense exchange was over.

Or at least, it was over on the surface. My mind was still firmly on the experience we had just had. Why had it gone down that way? Why had it been so hard to speak? Is it really impossible to express our passionate and contrasting opinions in a way that doesn’t ruin relationships?

I know they say that politics and religion are the two things you must never talk about if you want a friendship to last, but something inside of me balks at that notion. Are we really expected to muzzle ourselves around the most important discussions of our day? Would it really be better that we reserve these conversations for flame-wars with complete strangers on the internet that accomplish nothing? No! We need to be able to have these hard discussions face-to-face with the people we have the most influence with.

Because, make no mistake, we do need influence and persuade. “Hot topic” items like transgenderism, racial differences, and abortion are the exact things that our society needs to work out today. Every society throughout all time has had their own controversial issues that they were responsible to give an answer to. Some of them handled it well and history looks at them fondly. Some of them handled it poorly and history looks at them disdainfully. Some of them completely abdicated their responsibility, turning the decision over to a select few who used that power to execute horrifying agendas. This led to the massacre of millions and decades-long regressions until the common people were finally willing to take back their voice and demand something better.

So no, these can’t be conversations that are reserved exclusively for the internet forums, or the debate halls, or the chambers of government. We, the everyday people, need to be able to engage in the conversation face-to-face, or else our chances of making the right decisions drops precipitously. If there is any takeaway from the conversation I had with my coworkers, it is that many of us are not able to talk about these all-important issues, and this is a very disturbing fact. We should all be very concerned for what it portends.

Over the rest of this week, I want to discuss this situation in more depth, and hopefully provide inspiration for us all to do the hard work that is ours to do.

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.


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.

Solemnity and Joy- Luke 10:38-42

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.


But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things
Martha was very dedicated to taking care of the business of her home and serving her guests. Furthermore, she was feeling flustered because her sister was seated at the feet of the Savior instead of being as busy as she was.
I have always felt that Jesus’s response to Marth is very compassionate. I do not know the actual tone of his voice in the moment, but the doubly-repeated name is often used in the scriptures when showing great care and affection to the one being addressed. Beyond that he also shows immediate recognition for the care she has been showing to her duties.

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part
But then Jesus makes a definitive statement that what Mary is choosing to do with her time is greater than what Martha is choosing to do with hers. The fact is Martha is preoccupied with her chores by choice. She could also be choosing to sit with her sister and Jesus.
Sometimes errands are the right thing to prioritize, but sometimes they are a distraction. Sometimes we need to work hard and clear out the clutter that is blocking God’s light from reaching us, but sometimes the light is already there and we need to stop agitating and just bask in it!

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Isaiah 19:21 (ESV), John 10:4, 27

And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them.

And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.


And the Lord will make himself known
Ancient Egypt was not a place known for its strong connection to Yahweh. Yet Isaiah prophesied that its people would come to know their true Creator, and that they would do so because of God’s efforts to make Himself known to them.
As a child, one of my great fears was that God might already be speaking to me, and I just didn’t know it. What if He was trying to tell me very important things, but I wasn’t cluing in? What if I missed out on something forever because I didn’t know his voice?
But now when I read this verse about ‘the Lord making himself known,’ I find a reassuring message that He takes the responsibility for speaking to us in a way that we can understand. We still have our responsibility: to seek, but it is up to God to ensure that we actually find. So I don’t need worry whether I am listening correctly, all I have to do is accomplish my part, and then trust that He will do His.

The sheep follow him: for they know his voice
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them
And I have found that God absolutely does know how to speak to me in ways that I understand. My heart is an instrument, and He is a master at playing its strings. He does answer me, and there is no mistaking His voice when it comes.
As Jesus attests, God knows His sheep. He knows them individually. We do not need to worry about whether we will recognize Him when he speaks, we just will.

The Family of God- Matthew 18:20-22

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.


For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Before today I was already quite familiar with both of these accounts: the one where Jesus promises to be in the midst of a group gathered in his name, and the other where Peter wonders how many times he is expected to forgive another. But until now I had never contemplated that these moments are placed one immediately after the another.
It makes for a fascinating contrast, one where Christ is calling for unity, and then we have Peter trying to find out when he is allowed to create a division. It is as if Peter is asking “at what point can I not be expected to gather with a particular other?”
And Jesus’s answer is, essentially, never. We must not forget that Christ made his own company among sinners. Not only repentant sinners either, remember that he did some of his most beautiful work shoulder-to-shoulder with the man that would ultimately betray him. The world around him was rotten at times, but he still stayed a part of it.
In the end, we are all we have. God isn’t giving you a backup planet with new brothers and sisters if you can’t work things out with the current set. As such, we should stop looking for opportunities to write off a particular brother or sister as a lost cause, and instead start gathering together.