Saturday, October 1, 2011

To Persecute Others Less

My New Year's Resolution for this month is to persecute others less - taken from Alma 5:54, which says:

Yea, will ye persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this church . . .

My overall resolution goes beyond the parameters of this verse a bit, since this verse focuses on those who persecute faithful members of a religion or denomination, but for this first post I want to focus more narrowly on the actual message in the verse - and examine if I do, in fact, "persecute" the humble who walk righteously before God.  It's a sobering subject, and it's one that I initially brushed aside without much thought - but as I was thinking of how to begin my contemplation and efforts this month I was struck by the thought that, perhaps, the actual question in the verse itself might apply in some way to me, as well. 

I certainly don't intend to persecute anyone, much less those who are humble and share my general beliefs - who have "been brought into this church".  I generally am quite tolerant and accepting, so it has taken some serious introspection to realize areas where I do, in deed, "persecute" fellow church members. 

In my case, it isn't so much an active, stereotypical persecution that concerns me about myself.  There are two primary definitions of the word "persecute" - and I have little or no inclination to inflict the first one, which is:

to pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, especially because of religion, race, or beliefs; harass persistently.

That simply is not in my nature, but as I read the second definition, I was struck by a thought I'm not sure I had considered in quite that way before beginning to think about this month's resolution.  That second definition is: 
to annoy or trouble persistently.  

As those who regularly read my blog (or my comments around the Bloggernacle) know, I am heterodox in some of my beliefs.  I believe deeply and passionately in the Restored Gospel taught in the LDS Church, but there are many areas and topics about which my personal views are quite different than many other members.  I am a "thinker tinkerer" by nature, so I spend perhaps an inordinate amount of time considering multiple possible interpretations of almost everything I believe.  I also am not exactly shy about sharing those views with others - although I do try to be aware of others' sensibilities and not push any particular interpretation on those inside the Church who see things differently than I do.  

What struck me this week as I thought of the idea of persecuting fellow believers is that sometimes I am prone to phrase things (verbal statements and written comments) in somewhat forceful ways - and I know that sometimes this general tone leads others to feel criticized in some way and, perhaps, even attacked occasionally.  I rarely mean to come across this way, but it struck me that if I am aware of this tendency and fail to be even more careful than I am inclined naturally to be, I am, in a sense, allowing myself to "persecute" those with whom I disagree.  At worst, I am "annoying and troubling persistently" other LDS members (especially when I continue to read and comment at sites where I know my views will be annoying to the author); at best, I still am allowing others to feel persecuted - and, in practical terms, sometimes perception truly is reality.  

So, my first focus this month will be to take even more care in how I write here and how I comment in other arenas - both online and in person - to try even harder to ensure that I do not "annoy or trouble persistently" those within the LDS Church whose views are different than mine.  I can't stop sharing what I believe, but I can strive to word what I share as charitably and non-annoyingly as possible.