I have been contacted now twice by people who are either involved or witnessing a dispute in southern Utah. I do not know the parties, but have had contact with both and know one side’s principal players.
When I first got a call about this about a week and a half ago I declined to be involved. I suggested to the caller that they let the matter die, and if any offense has been given to just let the offense rest there, and return good for evil.
I know very little about the substance of the claims being made. As I consider the problem it appears to me that the whole one side vs. the other approach is doomed to cause nothing but turmoil. Having a “winner” will alienate the “loser’s” supporters.
The approach suggested by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount is to dismiss the whole winner/loser approach and instead admonish both sides to forgive the other and suffer the abuse they’ve received, returning good for evil. I’ve been advocating that approach to anyone and everyone involved in this conflict.
I think more is at stake here than just deciding the winner. The conflict is being used to foster another, much larger and more effective problem. It has been forged by an opponent to the incipient restoration movement designed to frustrate and polarize everyone involved. It is designed to create enduring conflict, serious alienation among believers and thwart the purposes of God.
It is hard for those whose hearts have been broken by abuse from an institution to begin to trust others in fellowship when they encounter yet another round of abuse, accusation, frustration and imposition at the hands of those claiming to be their brothers and sisters.
I try to be a peacemaker. I try to avoid participation in conflict and to do my best to take abuse but never return it. I probably fail in this, but it is my honest objective and deepest intent.
We are facing the same kinds of conflicts that drove the saints to incur God’s condemnation early in the restoration. I now rejoice only in the fact that we have made no effort to gather. The lesson I draw from this conflict is that everyone on both sides, as well as those who choose a side and work to amplify the conflict,–every participant would be a dangerous neighbor to have living alongside others in any New Jerusalem.
If we are not wise enough to avoid conflicts, then we should bear abuses and insults with grace, kindness and charity when they force themselves upon us. I do not know how we can be gathered if we are quarrelsome, accusing and insulting of one another. How can that please God?
Maybe it is impossible to avoid taking sides. Maybe we need to choose, even with a great deal of ignorance of any facts, understanding of the parties, familiarity with the events, or knowledge of these people’s hearts… But to me that seems more a formula for recreating Kirtland, returning to Missouri, repeating Nauvoo or marching into the salty wasteland of the Great Basin than following Enoch to the mountains and meeting with our Father and our God.
If it is possible for you to take the role of the peacemaker, please do. If you can help restore harmony, please make the effort. It will be worth the effort to try, even if you fail.
Thanks to each of you for all you have done and all you do to help bring this work along according to God’s desire for us all. Let us go on to defeat the jarrings, contentions, strifes and envyings among us. We have a perfect opportunity with this challenge to at least make the attempt. Do not let it pass you by without the effort to address it in a godly and meek way.