We have never had political arguments on Thanksgiving in our household. But on other holidays when there are large gatherings of Geoff B relatives, yes, we have had some arguments. And some of them have been contentious.
I recently had a long discussion with my 23-year-old politically active left-wing daughter that was a huge breakthrough for both of us. We came from opposite perspectives on many issues, but we were able to understand each other. So I wanted to share this conversation with you in the hopes that maybe it could help you if you find yourself chatting about politics during the holidays. (By the way, if you don’t ever discuss politics during the holidays, then good for you. I don’t seek out these discussions, but somehow they still always seem to happen.)
My daughter’s perspective is: she hates President Trump because she feels he is sexist and racist and rude. My daughter favors some kind of improved health care for all and more government welfare for the very poor. She is pro-immigrant. She praises the politics of the Nordic countries like Sweden and Denmark. I would point out that she has changed a bit in the last few years because she is on her own and working, and she doesn’t like all of the taxes that are taken out of her paycheck, so we have a point of agreement there. Also, when it comes to abortion, we both agree that abortion after 20 weeks should be illegal except in the most extreme circumstances, so there is another point of agreement. We are both anti-war, pro civil liberties and against the death penalty, so again we have some broad areas of agreement.
So, here is how we actually reached some agreement on other issues:
Have you heard of Rodney King? He was brutally beaten by the LA Police Department in 1991, and the acquittal of the police officers the next year led to six days of rioting in LA. Sixty-three people were killed and more than 2000 injured because of the riots. Rodney King appeared on TV during the riots and gave an oft-quoted, impassioned speech in which he said,
“I just want to say – you know – can we all get along? Can we, can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?… it’s just not right – it’s not right. And it’s not going to change anything. …And, just, uh, I love – I’m neutral, I love every – I love people of color. I’m not like they’re making me out to be. We’ve got to quit – we’ve got to quit; I mean after-all, I could understand the first – upset for the first two hours after the verdict, but to go on, to keep going on like this and to see the security guard shot on the ground – it’s just not right; it’s just not right, because those people will never go home to their families again. And uh, I mean please, we can, we can get along here. We all can get along – we just gotta, we gotta.”
King’s speech, which you can watch in part here, was very touching for me the first time I watched it. It is — dare I say it — almost Christ-like in its deep desire for people to love rather than hate.
I’ve been thinking about that phrase — “can we all get along” (which popular culture has often expressed as “can’t we all just get along?”) — a lot lately. This is the message that modern-day prophets express in almost every talk they give. This is the message that all Christians should impart, especially in these very tense times of national tumult over politics.
So, in that spirit, I would like to try in this post to help people on both sides understand the position of the other side a bit. Perhaps if we stop seeing one “side” (ie, Democrats/liberals/progressives/democratic socialists vs Republicans/right-leaning libertarians/conservatives) as evil, we can turn down the political temperature just a bit.
A friend of mine pointed out after General Conference that the title of President Oaks’ talk could have been: “No, our position hasn’t changed, why do you ask?”
Left-wing Latter-day Saints, questioning Latter-day Saints and former Latter-day Saints keep on asking, so I guess we will keep on getting the occasional talk at General Conference reaffirming what the vast majority of active Latter-day Saints already know, to wit: “no, the Church’s position on social issues hasn’t changed.”
But President Oaks’ talk is much deeper — and much more important — than I think some people realize. Now that the transcript is up and available, let’s go through the entire talk, which is titled “Truth and the Plan.”
President Oaks starts out by pointing out we should be careful about our sources of information:
We live in a time of greatly expanded and disseminated information. But not all of this information is true. We need to be cautious as we seek truth and choose sources for that search. We should not consider secular prominence or authority as qualified sources of truth. We should be cautious about relying on information or advice offered by entertainment stars, prominent athletes, or anonymous internet sources. Expertise in one field should not be taken as expertise on truth in other subjects…Our personal decisions should be based on information from sources that are qualified on the subject and free from selfish motivations.
President Oaks then discusses the problem of only relying on “scientific or secular” sources for information, and sums it up:
We find true and enduring joy by coming to know and acting upon the truth about who we are, the meaning of mortal life, and where we are going when we die. Those truths cannot be learned by scientific or secular methods.
April 2018 conference was big. Really big. Lots of changes. What are we all expecting for General Conference this weekend?
This is one of my favorite videos from Book of Mormon Central.