Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9, 3 Nephi 12:9). And the apostle Paul made this plea in his epistle to the Romans: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
The prophet Mormon applied that teaching to a specific group of people telling them that he knew they were disciples of Jesus Christ because of their “peaceable walk with the children of men” (Moroni 7:3-4).
In a speech last week at the University of Virginia, President Dallin H. Oaks explained one of the implications of this principle:
As a practical basis for co-existence, we should accept the reality that we are fellow citizens who need each other. This requires us to accept some laws we dislike, and to live peacefully with some persons whose values differ from our own. Amid such inevitable differences, we should make every effort to understand the experiences and concerns of others, especially when they differ from our own.“Going Forward with Religious Freedom and Nondiscrimination,” 2021 Joseph Smith Lecture, University of Virginia, 12 November 2021
As a corollary, President Oaks advised that it is better to resolve differences through the legislative process, which includes debate, negotiation, and compromise, than through the judicial process, which is characterized by “winner take all” outcomes.
In 1835, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unanimously adopted a declaration of belief regarding the relationship between churches and governments. Included in this declaration is a deep commitment to religious freedom, but also a recognition that religious freedom cannot be unlimited:
We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others.Doctrine and Covenants 134:4
As important as it is for each of us to be true to our convictions, we must also pay attention to the ways in which our expression of those convictions may adversely affect the people around us. Our goal should be to stay true to our beliefs without infringing on the rights of others who may believe differently.
Speaking of the process of negotiating a Utah law which protected religious freedom and the rights of LGBTQ individuals, Troy Williams, Executive Director of Equality Utah, said:
We found solutions together. Neither side compromised our values, but rather, we discovered new ways forward that respected each other and forged areas of common ground. Bringing diverse voices to the table is hard. It requires expanded empathy and patience. But when we ratchet down the vitriol and seek areas of agreement, incredible things can happen.Salt Lake Tribune, July 25, 2021, A7, quoted in Oaks, “Going Forward with Religious Freedom and Nondiscrimination.”
Today, I will strive to be a peacemaker. I will seek to better understand the values and the convictions of the people around me and to find ways that we can accommodate one another. I will remember that a true disciple of Jesus Christ strives to walk peaceably with everyone.