In the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the general authorities of the Church and other officers speak to us about matters of spirituality and morality. These days, when someone takes a stand about morality, it is a risky proposition in terms of a backlash from those who don’t agree about what is moral.
One general authority of the Church probably takes more public relations heat than any other when it comes to moral teachings related to homosexuality. President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is well-known and not always respected for taking a stand on the subject. This last conference was no exception.
His talk, “These Things I Know,” delivered on Saturday, April 6, 2013, was a tribute to his special witness of the reality of the Savior and his recognition of his increasing age. His poem was classic, but not quite as classic as his hardline approach to right and wrong.
The part of his talk that took the heat was:
Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, when exaggerated, it transforms itself into a vice. We need to be careful of the “tolerance trap” so that we are not swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result of the violation of God’s law of chastity.
No doubt, the objection that many people have is to the veiled reference to same-sex marriage contained in this phrase, “legalized acts of immorality.” For me, I’ve never been interested in the debate of same-sex marriage. I haven’t really seen why, on the one hand, people want it, and on the other hand, why they don’t.
As a believing member of the Church and as one who accepts the First Presidency and the apostles and prophets, seers, and revelators, I am willing to believe that they know, for now, the stand the Church should take. I just don’t really know why it is so important, so I fall in line and follow.
Yet, if you take the political question out of his statements, I see the principles he expounded as very important. You often hear the missive, “You can’t legislate morality.” People think of that in terms of, “A law can’t make people behave morally.”
I see another side of that statement. “You can’t make something moral by making it legal.” I think that it is quite true that a virtue, like tolerance, can be given too much weight so that it is no longer a virtue but an excuse for immorality.
Our task, as followers of Christ, is to show love and concern to everyone who falls short of the standard set by Christ, in other words, all of us. I think it is a mistake, however, to say that because we have compassion for someone who sins that we have condoned the sin. To follow Christ, we must have the same attitude as he does, as closely as we are mortally able.
He said, “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance (D&C 1:31)…”
That does not sound to me like he tolerates sin. I know from my own personal experience with him that he does look upon repentance with an infinite degree of allowance. He also said, “”Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven (D&C 1:32)…”
President Packer also talked about the spiritual consequences of sin and that making something legal cannot mitigate those consequences. As the world has come to accept more and more violations of the Lord’s law of chastity and has considered them to be inconsequential, I believe the world itself is suffering spiritually as a whole.
He warned the Nephites, as he also warned his disciple, Peter, and many other sin modern revelation, that Satan desires to have us and “sift us as wheat (3 Nephi 18:18).” When we sift flour in a sieve, the parts that don’t go through the mesh are thrown away. Being cast off is a consequence I don’t want to earn, so I pray always that I enter not into temptation.
I desire not to end on such a dire note. As one who craves the tolerance of others, I want to show love to everyone. I want to tolerate saint and sinner alike. Though I side with the Lord’s servants in questions of morality, I tend to think we need more tolerance than condemnation in this world. Though we need to be careful that we tolerate people without condoning sin, I hope that tolerance and love are still the main virtues I strive to live.