Just days before Donald Trump is to be sworn in as the president of the United States, LDS Church leader Elder Dallin H. Oaks urged a group of young adults to live out the next presidential term according to the results of democracy.
“I’m not making an argument for the outcome of the election, but I make an argument for the democracy on which our freedoms depend, and we cannot have democracy if we cannot accept outcomes with which we disagree as well as outcomes with which we agree,” said Elder Oaks, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Oaks was joined by fellow apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in addressing students and young adults during a Wednesday devotional at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, adjacent to the University of Utah.
Noting the turmoil surrounding the upcoming transfer of presidential power, Elder Oaks quoted heavily from remarks he gave to students during a September 2016 devotional at Brigham Young University.
“Although the election is over, the conditions that made a painful month in September persist in January, even in the week that the new president will be inaugurated,” Elder Oaks said.
Quoting from his September remarks, he said: “The few months preceding an election have always been times of serious political divisions, but the divisions and meanness we are experiencing in this election, especially at the presidential level, seem to be unusually wide and ugly.”
This is partly a result of modern technology such as TV, the internet and the “emboldened anonymity of the blogosphere” which, Elder Oaks said, “instantly widen and intensify the gaps between different positions.”
He reiterated the directive he gave in September: "We should also remember not to be part of the current meanness. We should communicate about our differences with a minimum of offense.”
Elder Oaks said he wished he could give the same speech to the entire electorate after the election, repeating the admonition to “accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries.”
Another reminder from his September address focused on hope. “When we trust in the Lord that all will work out, this hope keeps us moving. Hope is a characteristic Christian virtue. I am glad to practice it and to recommend it to counter all current despairs.”
These words, he told listeners Tuesday, are just as timely after the election as they were before.
Elder Oaks said he prays daily for this nation and believes, as the late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley used to say, “it will all work out.”
In his remarks, Elder Holland shared a brief summary of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian from Nazi Germany who came to the United States to study at the Union Theological Seminary in New York just before Adolf Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.
Even though he was encouraged to stay in the United States where he would be safe, Bonhoeffer returned to his homeland, joined an underground resistance against the Nazi regime, and was caught and imprisoned.
"He had returned to defend God as he understood God, and thought God needed defending in a war-torn Europe, and he was determined to obey, come what may," Elder Holland said.
This same resolution to follow God is seen in the pioneers who settled in Moapa Valley when called to the Muddy Mission by Brigham Young, as Elder Holland spoke of Elizabeth Claridge McCune, whose father, Samuel Claridge, was called to "the Muddy."
When 15-year-old Elizabeth heard her father's name read to relocate, she immediately began to weep, saying, "I know that my father will go and that nothing could prevent him, and I should not own him as a father if he would not go when he is called."
Asked Elder Holland: "Where does that kind of spunk come from? How does that kind of backbone get built?"
He then quoted Don Schollander, a world-renowned swimmer who set 37 U.S. records, 22 world records and was voted into International Swimming Hall of Fame at age 19.
"In top competition, a whole new ingredient enters swimming — pain," Schollander once told reporters at a press conference. "You learn the pain in practice and you will know it in every race. ... Most swimmers back away. If you push through the pain barrier into real agony, you're a champion."
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Added Elder Holland:: "It is not coincidental that the word that’s used for Christ’s experience Gethsemane is that he was in ‘an agony.’ If we say we’re disciples of Christ ... we will on occasion be in agony. And I bless you that when those moments come, contemporary issues, historical complexities, personal problems at home, challenges in a mission or a marriage, wherever it is, I pray and ask and bless you to the end that you will be strong."
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