Sometimes, we get caught up in the supremacy of knowledge. We focus on being right rather than our relationship with others. We focus on debating and convincing rather than loving and connecting. This can be especially true in online debates about ideology. But what do we find in the scriptures?
Before Christ performed the Atonement, he taught his disciples:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35)
Loving as he had loved them was the thing that he wanted them to learn more than anything else.
Then, we turn to the lawyer who asked Jesus which was the most important commandment out of them all. Note the focus on knowledge in his question:
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40)
Christ turned it from a focus on superior knowlege into a lesson on connection. First, love the Lord. Second, love our fellow man. And everything else is just an extension of or comes from those two things.
For example, the first four of the ten commandments are focused on our relationship with God:
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.”
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
The last six are focused on our relationship with our fellow man:
“Honour thy father and thy mother.”
“Thou shalt not kill.”
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
“Thou shalt not steal.”
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
“Thou shalt not covet.”
It’s all about our relationships and connection. What a beautiful lesson.
In Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, we read:
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;”
It does not say, “the worth of being right is great in the sight of God” or “proving that you’re right is great in the sight of God.” God greatly values each and every individual soul. That is an invitation to us to do the same.
We should be pursuing peace, and not causing contention. We should be uniting, not dividing.
In our communication, especially with those with whom we may disagree, it is critical that we first seek to understand, and then to be understood. People contribute more to a conversation where they are feeling safe. If they raise their voice or start to shut down, they are feeling threatened in some way. When you notice that participants in the conversation are raising their voice or withdrawing, refocus the dialogue so that that they can return to a feeling of safety. Then proceed with the discussion.
The highest form of the invitation to connect with others can be found in Matthew 5:44, which says:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
Why would the Lord ask us to do this? There are at least two reasons. First, we are here to become the best possible version of ourselves that we can. Loving our enemies is one of the noblest things we can do to develop ourselves. Second, consider why someone might be acting mean or obnoxious. Maybe they just lost their dog, or their house, or they just got divorced, or their mother died. Why would you make their day worse by being nasty back to them? Why would you not reach out with compassion to help heal their wounded heart?
In a Zion society, everyone is fully united, as we see in Moses 7:18:
“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”
Let us contribute to unity in all our interactions with others. Every one of them. The Gospel in one word? Connection.
- The Gospel Topics section of the Church’s website under “Charity“
- “Peacemakers Needed,” a General Conference talk by President Russell M. Nelson
- “The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict“, a book by the Arbinger Institute