The Church's Statement on Political Violence and Hatred


The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued a statement today about political violence and hatred; here is the text:

“Principles of government that allow God’s children to maintain human dignity and freedom belong to all mankind (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:5).

“With great concern we observe the political and cultural divisions in the United States and around the world. We condemn violence and lawless behavior, including the recent violence in Washington, D.C., and any suggestion of further violence. While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics, we remind our members — whatever their individual political views — to be united in our commitment to the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His teachings. As His followers, we should treat one another and all of God’s children with respect, dignity and love. No political or other affiliation should supersede that covenant and sacred responsibility.

“We urge all people to remember the precious and fragile nature of freedom and peace. As citizens of the United States look ahead to the inauguration of a new president, we urge our members to honor democratic institutions and processes, and to obey, honor and sustain the law (see Articles of Faith 1:12).”

These are important principles, and the reminder is timely and welcome. Peace is fragile; freedom is fragile. While sometimes war is thrust upon us even when we are unwilling, we must all keep on eye on the ultimate source of war--the human heart. What is in our hearts? Is it respect for others? Or are we willing to cast away that respect for a political cause?

One of the goals of this blog project is to model how we can disagree, even vigorously, without undermining the respect that we owe to others. A recent study has shown that kind of discussion-with-boundaries is powerful in reducing political polarization. Let's get skilled in this art. We not only need it in the world, we also need it in our faith community, for there's tribalism there, too, make no mistake.

Let's also remember, though, that while we are practicing this art by maintaining respect in our hearts, the art also crucially entails practice in standing up for our beliefs and our points of view. I think sometimes folks, perhaps especially in the Church, feel the only way to conduct oneself in public is to say nothing. If you say nothing, you cannot offend or be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Especially in an age of cancelling and deplatforming, that seems to many to be the safest route. But of course, it is not. If we are unable to muster good arguments for the things we value, or good arguments against the things we deplore, this is an abdication of our responsibility towards our fellow man, as well. If we do not speak out when we see others being mistreated, we fail in our covenant obligations as well. Let it not be said of us that we stood idly by while the world went to hell in a handbasket.

So I actually kind of look forward to disagreements in our comments section. I want to hone the almost-lost art of coupling deep respect with robust disagreement. I want to increase the number of people in our faith community who have this skill so that they may have a greater influence in our world. I hope we can help each other become masters of that art.