Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 2008 General Conference: Answering our accusers in the Savior’s way

I am somewhat unhappy about Elder Hales conference talk on how to respond to dissidents and those who would make accusations.

Elder Hales speaks against responding in kind. His counsel is:
When we do not retaliate—when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger—we too stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return.

I can tell you, nothing could be more difficult, for me. When I hear attacks against the things I know are true, my first impulse is always to fight back. I will have to change my responses to conform to Elder Hales' counsel. Elder Hales further counsels:
This is especially important in our interactions with members of other Christian denominations. Surely our Heavenly Father is saddened—and the devil laughs—when we contentiously debate doctrinal differences with our Christian neighbors.

I am made especially uncomfortable at this suggestion. Let me not be found guilty of making the devil laugh. The mental image of demonic laughter haunts me. It is very unpleasant to think of myself this way.

He goes on to extend this idea further:

This is not to suggest that we compromise our principles or dilute our beliefs. We cannot change the doctrines of the restored gospel, even if teaching and obeying them makes us unpopular in the eyes of the world. Yet even as we feel to speak the word of God with boldness, we must pray to be filled with the Holy Ghost (see Acts 4:29, 31). We should never confuse boldness with Satan’s counterfeit: overbearance (see Alma 38:12). True disciples speak with quiet confidence, not boastful pride.

This part serves as answer to some of my misgivings about pride. There is a significant distinction between the kind of pride that lends us quiet confidence and the quality that leads to the hubris of boastful bragging. We can be forewarned by the kind of attitude our proud feelings lead us to.

Elder Hales further distinguishes between confident speaking and boastful pride:

As true disciples, our primary concern must be others’ welfare, not personal vindication. Questions and criticisms give us an opportunity to reach out to others and demonstrate that they matter to our Heavenly Father and to us. Our aim should be to help them understand the truth, not defend our egos or score points in a theological debate. Our heartfelt testimonies are the most powerful answer we can give our accusers. And such testimonies can only be born in love and meekness.

Thus our personal motive for acting is a key to knowing if we are moved by charity and genuine concern for others, or if our acts are self-serving and centered upon our own interest.

Elder Hales makes a good recommendation for those who are confused like me, and seek some guideline for personal behavior:
We should be like Edward Partridge, of whom the Lord said, “His heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile” (Doctrine and Covenants 41:11). To be guileless is to have a childlike innocence, to be slow to take offense and quick to forgive.

I will have to consider this idea further. It certainly sheds some light on my questions about pride -- but perhaps not in the way that pleases me. I need to change my thinking somewhat to accommodate. Not easy advice to follow.

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