President Oaks delivers the University of Virginia’s 2021 Joseph Smith Lecture and urges a ‘better way’ to resolve our differences ‘without compromising core values’

Although current divisions among the religious and secular in the United States are distressing and complex, President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency is advocating a better approach to current conflicts.

Delivering the University of Virginia’s 2021 Joseph Smith Lecture on religious liberty on Friday night, the Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and First Counselor in the First Presidency said that “we now need a new, workable balance between religious freedom and non-discrimination.” He pointed believers to a “better way” by stressing the Christ-centered virtues of loving, listening, respecting, negotiating, persuading, balancing, tolerating, cooperating, reconciling, accommodating — any peaceful means that focus on the common good and “resolve differences without compromising core values.”

“We should accept the reality that we are fellow citizens who need each other,” President Oaks said.

We can only succeed in this effort to the extent that we acknowledge and respect each other’s highest ideals and human experiences. We must not be part of what Professor Arthur C. Brooks of Harvard’s Kennedy School describes as “a culture of contempt — a habit of seeing people who disagree with us not as merely incorrect or misguided but as worthless.” A basic step is to avoid labeling our adversaries with epithets such as “godless” or “bigots.” As the Deseret News, a paper published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, editorialized:

Conflicts between religious liberty and nondiscrimination principles are  exacerbated when advocates for nondiscrimination paint people of faith as bigots, and when people of faith fail to appreciate the brutal history of the basic human rights of marginalized groups, such as gays and lesbians.

When some advocates voice insults or practice other minor provocations, both sides should ignore them. Our society already has too many ugly confrontations. If we answer back, we tend to mirror the insult. A better response is that of the late Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. When he agreed to meet with a staunch atheist who detested everything he held sacred, the Rabbi was asked whether he would try to convert him. “No,” he answered, “I’m going to do something much better than that. I’m going to listen to him.”

Full Text of the Speech

All Talks by President Dallin H. Oaks

all President Dallin H. Oaks’ talks, not just those that he gave when he was as a General Authority of the Church, but also those given by him before, with the links to the text, video, or audio available.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks at BYU: Racism and Other Challenges

What Will Bring Peace in Our Time of Anxiety, Racism and Other Problems? The Gospel of Jesus Christ, President Oaks Says.


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