16 Jun Racism and the Curious Case of Enmity
Like so many of you, I’ve been shocked by the developments of recent weeks. The needless death of a defenseless man has led to global demonstrations, including senseless and violent riots, that have rocked society. President Nelson has publicly condemned all acts of prejudice, particularly racism. It has given me great pause as I wonder why such behavior continues to be so prevalent in our so-called “progressive” society.
My social media feeds have been flooded with statements of support for people of color and other disadvantaged groups. It is heartening to see. Yet in the same feed, I continue to see angry posts against various political groups. I see horrible statements targeted at different world leaders. Even today one of my friends posted a mug shot of a person who was convicted of a crime several years ago. The person’s story has long since been buried by other news reports, but my friend who posted the photo wanted to remind everyone that “this scumbag” is still out there. My heart ached. Surely, this person committed a terrible crime, but why do we have to continue to shine a spotlight on people’s flaws? Why do we have to have so much hate and opposition towards others? Where is forgiveness, compassion, and understanding?
When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, the Lord knew they would become fodder for Satan’s deceptions and temptations. Perhaps knowing how subtle Lucifer can be, the Lord created a safeguard for Adam and Eve and their children: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Moses 4:21). Enmity is defined as being hostile or actively opposed to something or someone. From this scripture, it seems clear to me that enmity was designed as a blessing to us. Instead of being deceived and cajoled by Satan, believing he is our friendly brother, we were infused with a natural distrust and hostility towards him and his followers. Perhaps with that gift of enmity toward the enemy of our souls, we’d be less likely to follow him.
But it hasn’t worked out so well. In his clever, virtually inimitable way, Satan has succeeded in using enmity for his own purposes. The very weapon God gave us to fight evil has become a weapon to fight each other. Consider the grand vision of Enoch where he saw the future of the world. Among other things, he saw this: “And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced” (Moses 7:26). Later, Enoch sees the Father weeping. As he questions how someone so magnificent as God can weep, he is told, “And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood” (Moses 7:33, emphasis added). Even back in Enoch’s time, and clearly to today, enmity has been turned around so we hate those we have been commanded to love. Of course God weeps.
Love One Another
In the last supper, Jesus gave some of his final commandments. One has particular relevance for our current situation. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). The commandment to love one another was not new; it had been in place since Old Testament times. The commandment to love each other as Jesus loves us was new, only because He first had to demonstrate how to do it. He essentially said, “don’t just love each other, love each other like I showed you how. Love each other like I loved you each day.” How did Jesus love them? He accepted the outcasts. He forgave the sinners. He sacrificed His own comfort for the benefit of others. He even pled for the redemption of those who literally nailed Him to a wooden beam, as they were doing it. Jesus never identifies people by the worst they have done. He doesn’t reduce their essence to a political party, a skin color, a sexual orientation, a position on a social issue, or anything else so unidimensional. Jesus comes to each of us, with arms outstretched in love, and helps us to become a better version of ourselves. He doesn’t just do this for those who love Him, but for those who reject Him; even for those who have enmity towards Him. He wants nothing more than for us to drop our hate, abandon our sins, and come find the healing and peace that only He can provide.
Loving one another has to begin with ridding ourselves of enmity towards each other. We cannot hold onto hate, in any form, and expect to thrive as a society. Hate is an emotional cancer regardless of how justified we feel it is. If there is place in our hearts for some form of hate, we are contributors to the today’s injustices. If we can say “it’s okay to hate so-and-so because they did such-and such”, then we are part of the problem. Hate has to go away, in all forms. I believe this is why the Savior commanded us to love each other as He loves us, because He has no hate. It doesn’t matter what we do; He doesn’t hate. Surely, justice is critical, and we all need to be accountable for what we do. But it would be wonderful if instead of cheering when we hear of a criminal getting a harsh sentence because he “deserves it”, we felt to say, “I hope he finds a way to repent and come back to God, so he can be happy.” I look forward to that world.
Where Much Is Given, Much Is Required
In recent weeks there has also been much talk of “black lives matter” and “white privilege.” I’ll shamefully admit that prior to recent events, I was less sensitive to these issues. Thankfully, the Spirit has taught me truths that have helped refine my thinking. I used to dismiss such statements by saying that everyone is important, and we shouldn’t elevate one group’s needs over another. I was wrong, and the scriptures prove my mistaken attitude. The Good Shepherd leaves the ninety and nine to seek the one that was lost (see Matthew 18:12). The Father rejoices over the wayward son who returns (see Luke 15:20). While it is true that “all lives matter,” it is insufficient to simply believe it without resorting to action. The Lord has stated, “for of him unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3). This means if you’ve been blessed with more, you have a greater responsibility to act in behalf of others. Covenant members of Christ’s church are obligated to “mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort” (see Mosiah 18:9). Saints in all ages have been counseled to “lift up the hands which hang down” (Hebrews 12:12). Far from being noble platitudes, these are statements of action that require much more than simple endorsement on the part of the privileged.
Every society has a top and a bottom. It is incumbent to those on top to reach down and help those below. Yet again, enmity rears its ugly head and foils our progress. Far too often, those in positions of privilege withhold their assistance because they feel the underprivileged have “made their own beds” and should therefore sleep in them. Such attitudes are spiritually damning. King Benjamin sharply criticized such beliefs, stating, “and if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done. I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world” (Mosiah 4:22-23). Spiritually speaking, we are all incredibly underprivileged. We beg God every day for relief and sustenance. He blesses us abundantly according to our righteous desires. His example is critical to follow. Those who have more must do what they can to bless those who have less.
We can and need to change for the better. With God’s grace, it is within our capacities to do so. It’s in our heritage as well, from our Book of Mormon forebears: “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God” (4 Nephi 15-17). God bless us all to recreate that glorious time.