“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
― Alexander Pope
Often members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) are confronted by the label of intolerance. LDS faithful are often condemned for a perceived lack of compassion toward lifestyles contrary to the LDS belief system. This confrontation is the “compassion deception”.
To be compassionate is to feel for someone, to suffer with them, show sympathy, pity and mercy for another. Cultivating this sense of compassion and kindness for all beings is noble and great. We love the sinner and hate the sin. But showing over-tolerance on social issues can make us devoid of moral convictions.
Society proclaims “all roads lead to heaven.” People say, “Do your best,” “Be honest,” and “Be sincere—and you will make it to heaven.” But Christ told us, “… wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in there at. Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7: 13-14
There are two roads in life. One is broad and lacks faith, convictions and morals. The wide road is the easy, popular, careless way. It is the way of the crowd, the way of the majority, the way of the world. The broadminded and tolerant of this world are held captive by the road of lusts, appetites and sins.
The popular, tolerant attitude toward the gospel of Christ is like a man going to watch a sporting event and cheering for both sides. It is impossible for a person who has no loyalty to a particular team to really get into the game.
According to Jesus Christ, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon … no man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). One of the sins of our world is the sin of broad-mindedness. We need more people who will step out and say unashamedly, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
Loving people is good. Cultivating a sense of compassion and kindness for all beings sounds noble and great. We love the sinner and hate the sin. “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” Genesis 4:7
Often when we affirm our principles, we are intimidated, marginalized, and ridiculed. But when we become spectators and sit on the sidelines of society, what once was bad is now good, and what was once good is now bad.
LDS people have an innate concern for those who suffer, but this compassion can lead to embracing normally objectionable ideas and actions. An overwhelming love for those mired in transgression can become a trap. Tolerance and acceptance help sin creep into society as normal behavior.
Some common traps include overly empathizing with same-sex attracted people, staying with abusive mates, or befriending addicts. Spiritually healthy LDS people with strong belief systems recognize each situation is also a precarious situation—“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” D&C 1:31.
Strong firm convictions mean each of us must take a stand against sin. Christ is not asking us to be politically correct. He is asking us to stand firm for our beliefs.
Knowing the definitions and differences between empathy, compassion, and sympathy help us delineate and avoid these traps.
Empathy is feeling with someone such as, “I feel your disappointment.”
Sympathy is the act of feeling for someone such as, “I am sorry you are hurting.”
Compassion is a caring concern for another’s suffering from a slightly greater distance and often includes a desire to help or fix the problem. The only real solution to sin is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christ was tolerant toward the sinner but intolerant toward the evil which enslaved him. To the adulteress he said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). He forgave her because he loved her; but he condemned her sin.
If Christ walked the earth today, He would not be politically correct. He would call for repentance without acceptance. He would not be all inclusive. Christ would speak hard truths—“But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Mosiah 3:12.
The media would probably label Christ a bigot or self-righteous and un-accepting of others but forgiveness is not acceptance.
And if we don’t take a stand, who will?
Author Liz Merrell is a grant writer in California. She is the mother of four adult children and the grandmother of two perfect and beautiful grandchildren, ages 3 and 7. She graduated from BYU in journalism in 1980. Liz is active in both her LDS Ward and her community. She is currently teaching the 12 and 13-year-old Sunday School class and has served on the Foster Care Citizen’s Review Board, the Community Development Block Grant Funding (CDBG) Board, and on a cultural arts commission. Liz worked part-time in philanthropy while raising her children.