Monday, July 11, 2016

D&C 134:4 -- On Rights, Liberties, and Love

"We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul."
Doctrine and Covenants 134:4

What struck me about this verse today was the phrase "unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others."  I think sometimes we get confused about what God wants and expects from us, and we start using our religion to justify discrimination or even hatred.  We get it into our heads somehow that God loves us and hates those other guys.  That God wants us to be above the law, or to show disdain or intolerance as part of our devotion to him.  A couple of basic scriptural references might help us with this:

Article of Faith 12: "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."  This doesn't mean that law = right or that we have to do or approve of everything that the law allows. :)  We don't drink, don't smoke, etc. even though the law allows it.  Nor does it mean that we should disobey laws meant to protect others from hatred and discrimination.  Even if we don't agree with the way others live their lives, the law is there to protect us all from each other, and God expects us to treat others with honor and respect, even if they are doing things that we do not approve of.

Article of Faith 11: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."  Again, this doesn't mean that we have to agree with anyone, but it does mean that we allow other people religious freedom. We get to choose, they get to choose.  It works. :)

God asks us to be a light to the world, and to set an example.  God asks us to love others, even our enemies.  Let's make sure that we are not justifying infringing upon the rights or liberties of others, or using our religion to justify hatred or discrimination.  It's easy to get confused when we're trying to figure out how to combat evil influences in our lives, but hatred and cruelty are not things that God ever approves of.  Let's get to know and learn to love others, and respect their rights, even when they don't choose the same things that we do.  Let's look to God and remember that only his plan of love can change the world.  Hatred just gets us more of the same.

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