We were never meant to sit in silence. We were never meant to just sit in the stands and watch the world fly by. We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, were meant to get involved with the world around us and do our best to make it a better place.
That means that while we need to stand for truth and what we feel is right, we do not need to tear others down while doing so.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed students at the Marriott Center at BYU on Tuesday, Sept. 13, about the need for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to steer clear of the ugly communication taking place during the presidential campaign.
“We should also remember not to be part of the current meanness,” Elder Oaks said. “We should communicate about our differences with a minimum of offense.”
Attacking another person will never prove that your opinion is right.
We are blessed to live in a country that values a free marketplace of ideas. That means that while all ideas may be expressed, not all of them will thrive. Some will die out as people think their way through ideas that do not have a solid foundation, and some will live and grow as people recognize the worth of the argument.
Our duty is to promote the idea we believe provides the best solution. Others can think and judge for themselves if our idea is sound or not.
“Today, I say that if the Church or its doctrines are attacked in blogs and other social media, contentious responses are not helpful,” Elder Oaks said. “They disappoint our friends and provoke our adversaries.”
If an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ feels the need to devote an entire address to this topic, it must mean there is a way in which it applies to us today.
It is well-known that the internet and social media have forever changed the way information is given, received and discussed.
In fact, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that the percentage of all adults involved with social networking sites has increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 65 percent in 2015. Along with that, the number of young adults using social networking websites jumped from 12 percent to 90 percent in that same amount of time.
Sadly, it is through these mediums that a substantial amount of mean rhetoric is used to tear down other people. We’ve seen this in the presidential campaign, and we’ve seen it in our own lives.
How do we break this tide that is sweeping through our communication, specifically through the internet?
First, we can do our best to be objective while taking in new content. Before responding based purely on emotion, we can stop and think about where the author is coming from. What does the world look like through his or her perspective?
If we feel the need to share our opinion online, we can choose to present our idea in a respectful way. We never need to question the author’s intelligence in our comment, nor do we need to attack his or her political, religious or social beliefs. We only need to present our idea in a respectful way and keep our emotions from getting the best of us.
Online dialogues should be discussions, not fights.
What about when we publish our own content and people attack us through the comments?
Again, the trick is to not get caught up in an emotional whirlwind and start defending ourselves by lashing back.
While it might be easier to use impressive language and throw insults than to actually think and present an idea in a respectful way, it is also the lazier thing to do.
As students at BYU-Idaho, there is more expected of us than to take the lazy road.
In relation to the political campaigns taking place, Elder Oaks reminded students of the First Presidency’s counsel that we each have a responsibility to be informed about current issues and exercise our right to vote.
We are here to become disciple leaders. This means we have to get involved in our spheres of influence. We have to learn about what is going on around us and do our best to be an influence for good.
Let us choose to educate ourselves about the happenings around us and stand for what we feel is right. Let us be respectful as we do so.
That is how we will come to learn from each other, and that is how we will make a difference in the world.