Recently, Facebook reminded me of something I shared on the website two years ago. It was a Facebook post from Elder Dale G. Renlund, the then-junior apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
His words are just as applicable today as they were when he first wrote them, for more than just religious reasons.
If you’re about to stop reading because you don’t want to read religious propaganda, just pretend this is a quote from the Dalai Lama. For some reason, nobody ever thinks anything he says is super preachy and religious.
“We can stand firm in our beliefs and have a loving relationship with those who hold differing opinions. For example, I believe drinking alcohol is a violation of God’s law. So what do I do when I am hosting friends who do not believe as I do? My wife and I arrange to go to a restaurant with them where they can order as they choose to. And when they order wine with their meal, I do not get in their faces and call them out as sinners.
“Similarly, can I be friends with individuals who are living together without the benefit of marriage? Absolutely. And when I am with them, do I stand up in great indignation and call them to repentance, even though they are presently engaged in behavior I do not agree with? No, of course not.
“We can stand firm in our beliefs and have a loving relationship with those who hold differing opinions. Let us not forget that the plan of salvation offers the love and mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ to all.”
I’ve known plenty of people who will happily let you know that you’re not living up to their standards religiously speaking, or otherwise. I’ve had church leaders who refused to go to non-temple marriages.
I’ve known politically-minded people who refused to so much as read from any news publications that was left or right of their viewpoint. I’ve even knew a guy who wouldn’t eat at Zupas because he and his friends thought it was “chick food.”
Any one of these people could learn a thing or two from Elder Renlund.
It’s one thing to either follow your morals and principles, stand up for what you believe in or expect people to follow certain rules while under your roof, but it’s another thing entirely to throw fake blood on clothes made of animal products like PETA, or yelling at random parishioners during a religious service.
What exactly is the end game with that strategy?
This isn’t meant to be a plea for greater adherence to respectability politics, rather, it’s asking people to think first and act second.
Going back to the Dalai Renlund quote, what would Elder Renlund stand to gain by chiding his non-LDS friends for drinking wine at a restaurant?
Would he successfully bring awareness to the dangers of alcohol? No. His friends probably know what alcoholism is and they likely know that drinking too much can lead to a host of problems.
Would he be standing up for his own morals? No. Unless his friends are trying to force him to drink, his code of morality is not under attack. There’s no way he loses Heaven Points by sitting with people that drink.
Is he convincing his friends that they need to abandon their pinot noir for Martinelli’s? No. If anything, confronting his friends likely will lead to them feeling attacked and put them on the defense. If Elder Renlund felt the need to confront his friends, it would be at the expense of any possibly effective actions that he could take instead.
Religion and politics share one thing in common, both hope to convince enough people to live their lives in a certain way. One is looking at salvation, the other legislation.
In some ways, both require forms of activism. But not all forms of activism are equal.
Signing a Change.org petition is more effective than an updated Facebook profile picture, but calling your elected officials is probably more effective than signing the petition.
If you’re looking to convince people to join your cause your cause, whether that’s Mormonism, atheism, conservatism or liberalism, ineffective activism will get you nowhere.
It doesn’t help your cause.
When I think of examples of ineffective activism, I think of the woman shouting in general conference. I think of Entrata CEO accusing the Lehi PD of being biased in their investigations of Utah State Sen. Todd Weiler. I also think of the church leader who refused to go to secular weddings.
The alt-right loves to talk about virtue-signaling, the idea that some people purposefully make statements in public to show the world that they’re good people. Normally, I think it’s just a derogatory way to insult those who they disagree with, but in some cases, I think they may be on to something.
What is ineffective activism if not meaningless virtue-signaling? What other purpose does it serve other than to gain praises from those who are already on your side?
You can be a good Christian, Mormon, conservative or liberal without ineffectually shouting at people whenever you get the chance. In reality, if someone’s status as a group member requires any sort of activism or evangelizing of any kind, you can only be a good-standing member if you pick and choose your battles.