On Tolerance – Part 4


No one likes to make people uncomfortable. We want to encourage people and tell them positive things, not give them bad news. And, this is especially a risk with people we love and want to be close to: our friends, our fellow Church members, our neighbors, or our family.

Elder Maxwell warned:

Working through our own errors and the errors of others is extremely painful and may require going back to the point of original error. This cannot be accomplished if we minimize the need for the individual involved to confront harsh reality, including the need to go back, spiritually and psychologically, in order to get back on the right road. Letting others simply go erringly on may be easy—but it is not love….Just as we resist the temptation to manipulate others, we must resist the attempts of others to manipulate us. Leaders with the best of motivations can readily be trapped by their pity and compassion for other people. Compassion is important, but it can readily degenerate into the kind of pity which immobilizes us in terms of our ability to really help one another.[1]

We aren’t showing real love or real compassion when we let someone go on in sin and tell them it’s OK.

Imagine there being a bottle we sincerely believed (or even knew) to contain poison. A loved one comes in from a hot day outside, grabs the bottle and puts it to his lips.

“Stop!” you cry, “That’s poison.”

“But there’s no other water in the house,” complains the thirsty person.

“That may be, but you still shouldn’t drink that.”

“Other people get to drink things, why can’t I drink this?”

“It’s poison!”

“Well, you say its poison. I have a different opinion. I say it’s OK. And lots of my friends told me it was fine. Some of them tasted it, and they say it’s fine. You can’t be sure its poison.”

“Even if I wasn’t certain that it was poison, I’m convinced that it is. I strongly advise you not to drink it.”

“You’re so cruel, keeping me from quenching my thirst. Since I believe there’s no poison here, you’ve got no right to go around telling me there is.”

The idea is absurd. But, this is precisely what the “new” tolerance asks us to do. “Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence!” said Elder Russell M. Nelson. “Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.”[2]

So, do not expect tolerance from the world if you express your views about right and wrong. You aren’t going to get it, and the best weapon they have for silencing you is to paint you as intolerant, or to be “offended.” As Elder Maxwell noted:

In Sodom they probably had absolute free speech, but nothing worth saying! On the other hand, an otherwise permissive society, which tolerates almost everything, usually will not tolerate speech that challenges its iniquity. Evil is always intolerantly preoccupied with its own perpetuation.[3]

[To be continued]

[1] Neal A Maxwell, A More Excellent Way: Essays on Leadership for Latter–day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1967), 79–80.

[2] Russell M. Nelson, “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” general conference, April 1994.

[3] Neal A. Maxwell, That Ye May Believe (Bookcraft, 1992), 74–75.