7 And it came to pass that the voice of the people came against Amlici, that he was not made king over the people.
8 Now this did cause much joy in the hearts of those who were against him; but Amlici did stir up those who were in his favor to anger against those who were not in his favor.
9 And it came to pass that they gathered themselves together, and did consecrate Amlici to be their king.
10 Now when Amlici was made king over them he commanded them that they should take up arms against their brethren; and this he did that he might subject them to him.
An effective government allows a diversity of viewpoints to thrive and to compete fairly in the marketplace of ideas. It avoids creating obstacles to the expression of disparate beliefs. But what happens when a person challenges the very system which permits that freedom?
Only a few years after King Mosiah abolished the monarchy among the Nephites and established a system of judges with checks and balances, a man named Amlici championed a referendum on their new form of government. He wanted to abolish the system of judges and reestablish the monarchy. And as Mormon explains, if Amlici had prevailed, members of the church would have lost their freedom to worship, “for it was his intent to destroy the church of God” (Alma 2:4).
Because their system of government required all such decisions to be made “by the voice of the people,” the referendum was considered, debated, and voted on. As we read in the passage above, Amlici lost. The majority of the people voted against the proposal. But Amlici refused to accept the result and used his powers of persuasion to “stir up those who were in his favor to anger against those who were not in his favor.”
Access to a diversity of opinions enriches a society. But some opinions, particularly those that threaten the very freedom which allows that diversity, must be kept in check. For this reason, church leaders have always encouraged members of the church to obey, honor and sustain the civil law (Articles of Faith 1:12), even if some parts of that law differ from our religious views. President Dallin H. Oaks has taught us how to respond to situations in which our point of view does not prevail in a democratic society:
Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence….
When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries. In any event, we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation (“Loving Others and Living with Differences,” General Conference, October 2014).
Today, I will practice civility. I will speak up in defense of my sincere beliefs, but I will remember that my commitment to freedom and my desire to show respect for others is stronger than my desire for my positions to prevail. Unlike Amlici, I will strive to have a calming influence on those around me and to uphold the freedoms that allow diverse beliefs to thrive without fear of persecution or repression.