Of my forth-grade playground I have one memory. It is an act of unkindness and my response. I had three friends. I don’t remember their names. Two were Mormons and the third was a Catholic. On that day, I found my Catholic friend crying between two buildings, sitting on the gravel with his head buried in his hands. I squatted down beside him and asked what was wrong. He looked at me afraid for a moment and then said, “They told me my church was not true.” Then from behind me I heard a voice say, “Because it’s not. We belong to the one true church. His is of the Devil.” There stood my other two Mormon friends. My friend not of our religion was crying and saying, “It’s not true. My church is not of the Devil.” My Primary friends said, “Your church is a lie. It’s not true.” And they started to walk away. I looked my crying friend and moved to pity I called after the retreating boys, “Maybe his church is true.” And I turned to him and said the same thing. It is strange to say, but I believed I was lying to him, but it felt so joyous to say. It was one of my first experiences with the Holy Ghost. I put my arm around him and said it again, “Maybe your church is true.” Again the warm feeling came. I was crying with him.
I’ve believed since, that kindness is a greater virtue than truth. I think this is because truth, in an epistemological sense, is largely inaccessible to us. What truths can we know? I think only those that are revealed by the Holy Ghost and that during the time we are under its influence. It is always personal, inward, and accessible only to our own subconscious. It comes for moments, teaches us, then it is a memory, left to guide us and subject to all the weaknesses attend such brain function. We then have to live to apply its lessons. We have it as a gift and a constant companion, but that constancy seems to manifest itself as needed and as we set ourselves to receive it. It enters our life, we go on trying to apply what it has taught. There are times when I feel on my own. Other times when I am under its profound effect. So there is one source of truth. But we only really know it as such when it is manifesting directly.
Our beliefs are formed from these truths, but not these alone. Our experiences in life frame and contextualize these truths. They become truths for us. And these truths are a mish-mash of life’s experiences, lessons from on high, and personal inclination. These are beliefs. Beliefs are not truths. Our beliefs may be about truths, but some humility is needed. Beliefs may be dangerous things and believers can be dangerous people. Believers may drive planes into buildings for their beliefs. People may torture others for their beliefs or send them to prison camps or gas chambers. There have been religious believers, believers in political systems and in nationalisms, etc. who have acted in ways that can only be described as evil because they believed God wanted them to. Beliefs must be tempered by something. I think that thing is kindness and love.
When a woman was taken in Adultery and brought to Jesus, true believers wanted her stoned. She deserved it. Caught in the act the scripture says. Jesus wrote on the ground. He told them if they were without sin to throw the stones. They all left. And when they were gone, Jesus asked her where her accusers were. They were gone. I’m going to end the story here. Too often we quickly get to the punch line, which we think that is the message. But it is Christ’s actions that interest me. This was an act of compassion and kindness. It was an act of love. The beliefs of the accusers were lacking something and they missed that there was something more important than being right. And we miss this lesson if we rush to point out that he did not condone her action, or we focus alone on his final injunction to her alone—we miss his actions. Compassion. Love. Kindness.
I hope that as a people we will be known for our kindness. Not our conservatism, our family values, or our righteousness. The Pharisees had the market cornered on these things and it doesn’t appear to have served them well. I hope that people will say, there are no people who show more love than the Mormons. They are the most compassionate. Not just in relief and aid, but in attitude and demeanor. That when people think of the LDS they think there goes a people who love peace, who love their neighbor, and act in all things with kindness.