It’s a concept we often relate to the military. As in code of honor or medal of honor.
It’s a concept we might connect to the Ten Commandments. As in “Honor your father and your mother.”
It’s also a concept that could totally change the way we share the gospel with others.
As we enter into conversations about religion, it is imperative that we do so with a mindset of honor towards the person with whom we are talking. Honor allows us to come from a place of love and compassion. When we have a discussion in this type of setting, it is much easier for the Holy Ghost to be present and do the real teaching.
Here are three ways we can honor our friends and family as we share the gospel with them:
1. We can honor their status as a child of God.
After all, we are all brothers and sisters with the seed of divinity within us.
Joseph Smith once said, ““While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the Universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; he views them as his offspring.”
We can do the same.
2. We can honor their agency.
Religious freedom is something we must value, whether it be our own, or that of someone who believes differently than we do.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks agreed, “We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious…We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).”
This especially applies when sharing the gospel doesn’t change someone’s mind about their own convictions. Some investigators claim that, upon deciding not to be baptized, their Mormon friends became distant and lose interest in the friendship. Our actions should never put out the message that our relationship is conditional on the other person accepting the gospel. As we respect our friends’ choices—regardless of what they are—we are truly displaying Christlike behavior.
3. We can honor their perspective.
One of my favorite sayings is, “People tend to behave according to what they believe.” Everyone has a unique set of circumstances that have shaped and molded their lives, personalities and belief systems. If we understand where a person has come from and with what type of lens they see the world, it is much easier to present our beliefs in a way they might understand. Even Ammon knew how to do this when he taught King Lamoni and used the term “Great Spirit” to help the king comprehend who God was.
Honoring someone else’s perspective means loving our neighbors and treating them kindly. Elder M. Russell Ballard instructed, “The Lord expects a great deal from us. Parents, please teach your children and practice yourselves the principle of inclusion of others and not exclusion because of religious, political, or cultural differences.”
Living in the world we do, with contention and intolerance filling social media channels and turning up incessantly in religious and political conversations, honor is a concept that is needed more than ever. Without honor, we turn to fear, coercion, and shame in order to try to convince someone to see things the way we do. Last I checked, the Spirit does not usually show up in an atmosphere of fear, but of faith and love.
Ultimately, when we begin to share our beliefs as admonished in D&C 38, “in mildness and meekness” with each person “esteeming his brother as himself,” we will truly witness the Holy Ghost touch hearts and give others a chance not to just hear about the gospel, but to see it in action as well.
A few conference talks and articles about this subject: