Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.Titus 3:9
The sad reality is that most of the things we argue about aren’t that important. They certainly aren’t as important as the relationships we damage in the process. When we argue, we can easily lose perspective. A minor difference of opinion over a trivial point becomes inflated in importance, and we fight unreasonably hard to defend something that really doesn’t matter in the end.
When Jesus visited the American continent following His death and resurrection, He told the people He didn’t want them to argue about His doctrine. “There shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been,” He said (3 Nephi 11:22, 28). Later, He lamented the disagreements among them about what to call His church: “Why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?” He asked (3 Nephi 27:4).
In the summer of 1829, the Lord called Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer to preach the gospel. “I command all men everywhere to repent,” He said (Doctrine and Covenants 18:9). But He added a caution: “Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:20). In their zeal to proclaim the principles they had learned, there was some danger that Oliver and David would get caught up in arguments about religious belief. This would be counterproductive. It would drive away the Spirit of the Lord, and would likely lessen, rather than increase, the love that they felt toward others.
Shortly afterward, the Lord commanded Martin Harris also to preach the gospel as well (Doctrine and Covenants 19:29). But He appended a similar caution: “[Revile] not against revilers,” He said. “And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:30-31). A tenet is a principle or opinion which a person holds to be true. The Savior seems to be encouraging Martin to talk less about the details of his beliefs and more about the process of discipleship: how to change and improve by trusting the Lord and following His guidance.
Elder Neil L. Andersen recently encouraged us to build bridges with people of other faiths:
Some of our fellow Christians are, at times, uncertain about our beliefs and motives. Let us genuinely rejoice with them in our shared faith in Jesus Christ and in the New Testament scriptures we all love. In the days ahead, those who believe in Jesus Christ will need the friendship and support of one another.“We Talk of Christ,” General Conference, October 2020
Today, I will avoid contention by keeping disagreements in perspective. I will remember that most disagreements are less important than they may seem at the time. I will respect the beliefs of other people and will focus less on the areas where we disagree and more on the good things we have in common.