And we see that these promises have been verified to the people of Nephi; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions.Alma 50:21
This verse lists the causes for wars and destructions among the Lamanites. It begins with quarrelings and contentions. Murder, plunder, idolatry, whoredoms, abominations – all are bad. But the destruction begins with fighting among themselves.
So, don’t fight and all the problems are solved, right?
Well, what if there is a legitimate disagreement? What if we don’t know the best way to fight a new virus? What if we don’t know the best way to educate children? What if we don’t know how to fight crime and preserve human rights? How do we disagree without tearing apart our families, churches, communities, states, and nation?
I think there are clues within the verse.
First, don’t murder. Oh, you’ve never murdered. Ok, easy.
Wait, you want something that’s actually helpful?
Don’t let a disagreement cause you to harm or seek to harm another person. Don’t send death threats. Don’t wish for them, even in joking, to be harmed. Don’t insult them. Respect the person, because every person, no matter how much you disagree, deserves respect. Because they are a fellow human being.
Second, don’t plunder. I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure how to turn this one into a useful lesson. Here are a couple thoughts:
Don’t plunder ideas. Don’t misquote. Give credit to where you got an idea. Give sources, whenever possible. This protects the person who first came up with the idea and it protects you. I have found that when I return and check sources, I have avoided misquoting someone or realized I didn’t understand their point. It is not a point of pride to misquote or not know something exactly.
Also, use economic boycotts sparingly. We all need to work to get by in this life. Depriving someone of their livelihood because they don’t agree with a political position is not going to advance freedom or justice. Boycotts have their place, but they do more harm than good if not used carefully.
Third, avoid idolatry. For Semetic religions, this is about staying loyal to the one true God. But we all have faith in something. Even atheists have a god, some position which, if our backs are to the wall, we will hold to despite the lack of evidence.
If you believe in justice, goodness, mercy, decency, dignity – these are not rational, empirical positions. It is only our collective faith as human beings that keeps them alive in the world. Keep the faith. Continue to fight for the good and don’t let party loyalty or a celebrity or a politician become an idol that distracts you from your faith.
I need to stop here, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. How do we disagree without tearing apart our communities?