For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another (3 Nephi 11:29).
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:46-48)
I am a Christian member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or a Mormon; however you view it. As such I most strongly believe in the scriptures previously quoted. I had a recent episode of what I might call “Christian contention”, where a couple of individuals from a different Christian denomination (and yes, Mormons are Christians in case you didn’t already know it) proceeded to criticize, ridicule, and make mockery of Mormonism after I had attempted to simply clarify to them what Mormons believe, upon their initial invitation. It grieves me to see these kinds of things happen, and I believe that those, from any Christian denomination, who choose to contend one with another don’t understand or are ignorant to the truth of Christ’s doctrine and example. In this particular incident I refused to contend back, wished them well, explaining that I did not in the least bit intend to condemn or contend with anyone or any religion, but that I felt that it was simply my duty to clarify/defend LDS beliefs against their false pretenses / misconceptions. In my own opinion, these individuals might as well have been doing the same to any other Christian denomination, because at the very core of every Christian religion, which includes Morminism, is the belief and faith in Jesus Christ as the only “name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi:31:21). Beyond that, every Christian denomination differs in doctrine, at least to some extent.
In this article I will explain how I believe we should respond to contention, and the principles upon which my belief rests; which also reflects, to the best of my ability, LDS/Mormon beliefs.
People who know Christ and understand the truth refrain from contention, as Christ Himself describes in the first scripture I quoted at the beginning of this article that the spirit or attitude of contention is of the adversary of us all, the devil. In this aspect they are untouchable from both Satan and those who attempt to contend with them, because they know personally, by way of the Spirit, where they stand with God and Christ, and know that judgement rests in Their hands alone. What choice do I have if God has spoken truth to me, and “what can man do if God is my friend?” Are we to fear man more than God? Quite the contrary. Furthermore, who are we, to judge or condemn another, even if we don’t see eye to eye. Instead, true followers of Christ seek all truth and all that is good, and to share it with others with the hope of bringing others to Christ.
In no book of scripture that I am aware of, and that I believe to be the word of God, is it written that only Mormons, or only Catholics, or only Protestants, or only Evangelicals, etc. will be saved. From what I can understand it is that all those who accept, believe in, and have faith in Jesus Christ and live according to His gospel will be saved, and that those who consciously reject Him and His teachings after having gained a personal knowledge of them choose condemnation for and by themselves. With that said and as previously mentioned, the variety of Christian churches we find in the world today all seem to have a different interpretation of what the gospel or doctrine of Christ is, and I think it is safe to say that the believers of each denomination feel and believe that they have it right. About this I echo the words of the Savior: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). Let the Spirit be your guide, and leave the final judgement to Christ. Furthermore, speaking for Mormons and Mormonism, we believe 1 – that the salvation of all of His children is God’s greatest interest and work, 2 – that God still loves us enough today to give us revelation we need personally, and collectively as a people by way of divinely called prophets as to what truth is and where we can find it, just as He has done in the past, and 3 – that every individual will receive the opportunity and be invited to learn of, understand, and accept Jesus Christ and His gospel in its fullness and purity.
And so, it is with this understanding, that all people are children of God (which makes us brothers and sisters), that I only seek to encourage a belief and faith in Jesus and teach what I believe will bring true joy and peace, and never to condemn nor destroy a person in their own faith in that which is good. Indeed I believe that “that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God” (Moroni 7:13). Upon this precept myself and Mormons also “believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (Joseph Smith — Articles of Faith).
So how do we address the perceived “We’re right, you’re wrong” issue between religious sects?
Notice the key word perceived in that question. I don’t necessarily believe that to be a real or existing issue. I view it to be more of a matter of the level of our knowledge of truth, in which we all individually differ. Each of us is at a different level or stage of life and learning, and that is absolutely ok. For example, consider the different levels of knowledge and wisdom between a toddler and an adult human being. Is the child a failure or a lost cause because they don’t know as much about life as an adult? The obvious answer is no. However, we would hope and expect the child to continually be learning and growing in that which is good and true, with the eventual becoming of maturity of adulthood. This is precisely the concept that applies in our spiritual growth and development, and it is ok that we don’t know everything right now. The important thing is that we seek to be continually learning and progressing in truth and righteousness. Rest assured that even Jesus, our perfect exemplar went through this same process, as quoted in Luke 2:40: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”
Furthermore Mormons believe that through the Atonement of Christ and by His grace children under an age of accountability as well as any person who would fully accept, but is non-intentionally ignorant to truth, or the gospel of Christ is saved in God’s kingdom.
For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.
And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins.
And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:11, 16-18)
Is this not the beauty of the Atonement of Jesus Christ?! That it’s reach is personal to each of us, and perfectly fits every circumstance of every individual? Is this not evidence of God’s love and desire to bring as many of His children back to Him that will choose, by their own free will and choice, to do so?! Is this not an affirmation of Christ’s sublime statement that He came to save the world, rather than to condemn it?! I am forever convinced that this is true. And so, I make it my business also, to help save by inviting and encouraging others of all faiths to believe in Christ, to live His gospel, that they might continue to grow in light and truth, rather than contend with or condemn them for things that perhaps they may not yet know of or understand, or even believe in. What I do know is that at some point in our existence we will each be invited, whether it be by Jesus Himself or one of His servants, to accept Him, follow Him, and take upon ourselves His name by way of baptism for the remission of our sins, that we may have the promise of receiving the Holy Ghost unto the sanctification of our heart and soul; that we may be washed clean through His Atonement.
Now, when we are approached by others who have questions, or who may want to contend with us about our beliefs we must be careful, not with just what we respond with, but mostly in the attitude or motive of our response. For what profiteth us that we speak truth with the attitude or motive to condemn or destroy our so-called “enemies”? Of a surety the Spirit nor God will be on our side in that case. Yet, consider how God would respond to the hopes and prayers, and bless the efforts of His children who respond to contention with love, patience, and an eye single to His glory, with the sincere hope and desire to bring others back to Him. We must learn to respond in such an attitude of love and charity; for “charity never faileth” (Moroni 7:47, 1 Cor. 13:8). Only then will the grasp of Satan’s hand on the hearts of those whom he has caught in this aspect begin to be loosed, and their hearts be softened. Only then will the Holy Spirit take truth to their hearts. Only then will our faith and hope in God and Jesus Christ become more firm and unshakable. This is how, at least in a few ways, charity never faileth.
In summary, let us respond to contention with charity, or love towards those who seek to contend with us. If we find disagreements between ourselves on points of doctrine, let us first be sure by way of personal revelation that what we believe is true, and only then attempt to persuade those who disagree or contend with us in a spirit of patience, diligence, long suffering, and love. After all, we are all struggling through the journey of mortality together. Let us lend a helping hand, or a word of encouragement if and when we can; to build up others in Christ, rather than beat each other down in spite of minuscule or eternally insignificant differences. As we do so, our Heavenly Father will bless us, as well as our enemies that they might be no more our enemies, but our brothers and sisters.