It is politically correct to say we are tolerant. Even if it wasn’t “PC” we would look better socially if we claimed to be tolerant. Lately, I have had several instances where differences in thought and behavior have led me to believe that I may not be as tolerant as I once thought I was. In the gospel of Christ it is crucial that we each learn to be patient and tolerant of those who think, feel, and behave in ways that are different from our own habits.
I was traveling across the state of Idaho, USA and was using the map feature in my car to help me navigate the roadways. The map was driving me crazy! The arrow on the map that indicated where I was always pointed up. Mentally, I call this “pointing north.” I realize that up is not always north, but that is how I reference directions.
As I drove the car and went around corners, I noticed the whole map of the state of Idaho rotating around the direction I was facing. I felt like I was spinning out of control. I wanted the map to right itself so that it was like looking at a physical map of the state. Everything “should” be oriented north to south, with me making the turns to navigate the roadways.
When I complained about the map to my wife she just laughed. She prefers the view the GPS gives with the map always turning around her so that she is the focal point of the orientation, not the map. She has a hard time translating left and right turns when the map is not facing the same direction she is. I have no difficulty (normally) translating a right turn as turning left on the map when facing south.
We both prefer the “big picture,” meaning we both like to see the whole map first so we see where we are going, but I like to remain in the big picture and navigate within it, while my wife likes to travel looking at just the streets ahead, facing the direction the GPS gives us.
As I have participated in conversations on Facebook about various doctrinal topics, one thing stands out as the predominant conversation generator. When someone makes a statement of fact about a doctrine, some agree, some disagree, and many will say, “But what about …?.” I have come to the conclusion that it is almost impossible to make a blanket statement about doctrine in the church and have that statement stand in all situations.
I wrote an article about the law of witnesses, and I received a query from a reader asking about the exceptions to that law. What about the solo witnesses in the scriptures, like Abinadi, Moses, Joshua, Elisha, and Elijah?
I had to do some considering about these names and their situations for a while before I could respond. In Doctrine and Covenants 6:28 the Lord repeats the law of witnesses that extends back at least as far as Moses in the Old Testament.
28 And now, behold, I give unto you, and also unto my servant Joseph, the keys of this gift, which shall bring to light this ministry; and in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
The Lord does not bandy words around lightly. If He says that “every word” will be established in His plan of salvation by the mouth of more than one person, then the accounts of these so-called solo witnesses have to be incomplete. There has to be another witness.
I needed another voice on this matter, so I went to my mother, my primary instructor for all things gospel related. (May she outlive me!) She pointed out to me that the Lord provides witnesses to us in many forms. The scriptures teach us that “all things” denote there is a God. When we bear witness by bearing our testimony, who is there to witness to the hearer that what we are saying is the truth? Isn’t the Holy Ghost also a witness? Doesn’t He accompany us and carry our testimonies into the hearts of those who hear us?
Witnesses also come in the form of things we hear, things we see, things that happen, and things we feel. Witnesses come in the form of miracles, healings, prophecies, and many other forms. Just because we don’t have names for witnesses of those who appear in the historical records to be “solo” voices for the Lord, it doesn’t mean the Lord did not provide witnesses for them.
I really believe that if the Lord says that every word will be established through two or more witnesses, then that is exactly what happens. This was my response to my reader. But this, again, pointed out to me that no matter how well I think I have thought through something, there is always someone out there who will see it from a different perspective, or will see something I missed.
In Abraham 3:18 we learn about the differences among us. The Lord told Abraham that if you take any two spirits and put them next to each other, one will always be more intelligent than the other.
18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.
This verse, and others like it, tells me that if you take all the billions plus of God’s children and line them up next to each other, no two of us will have the same level of intelligence. In my book this equates to a vast diversity in capacity and capabilities among the children of God.
When I spouted off to my wife about how frustrating my map was to me, she pointed out that our old GPS machine behaves in the same way. This is the same machine we have been using for the last decade. I hadn’t remembered that. So why did it bother me now, but not for the last decade?
In every Sunday School class, quorum meeting, Primary class or Relief Society class we have a room full of people who are all over the spectrum in terms of capacity, capability, readiness, and level of knowledge. For me to think that anything I say is the definitive word on a subject is just plain silly. For me to think that the “strange” opinions offered by my fellow Saints are any less strange in the grand scheme of things than what I say, is just presumptuous on my part.
When the Brethren speak to us in Conferences and in the magazines of the Church, they teach truth, but never the whole truth. The gospel is too interconnected to fully cover any one subject with just a few words. Even something as simple as the principle of repentance is connected to faith, contrition, love, forgiveness, humility, timing, readiness, and so much more.
We need to learn to recognize that we all speak truth in bits and pieces. We don’t all see truth for what it is at this moment in time. I was ready to condemn our GPS system for its flaws until my wife pointed out to me that I had tolerated it blindly for the last 10 years. I had only now made the connection. I had only now seen what had been right in front of me all this time.
Tolerance is something that is required among a people who want to live in peace with each other. None of us learn at the same pace, accept truth at the same pace or in the same way, or express ourselves with the same ability. But God loves us all equally, despite our differences. We need to love each other in the same way. We need to be patient and tolerant one with another.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.