How do I respond to others who don’t believe in the Bible literally. Don’t most LDS members take the Bible literally as I do?
In our scripture, modern and ancient, the Lord continues to counsel his children regarding the relationships they have with others. As you are familiar with, the second great commandment is that we love others like ourselves. The golden rule is to treat others as you would like to be treated, and in the Book of Mormon we are explicitly told that contention is not of God, but is of the devil. In light of these commandments/rules how then should we respond to those that don’t believe in the literal translation of the Bible, or a more general question (same scope) those who may not believe as I do?
In a previous talk Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Loving Others and Living with Differences,” mentioned the following concept in responding to others who have a different point of view,
“On the subject of public discourse, we should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. 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 should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence. In doing so, we ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. 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).
“When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries. In any event, we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or non belief, and differences in sexual orientation.”
In light of Elder Oaks statement, Jesus rebuked the Nephites on two separate occasions. They were engaged in heated debates over the name of the church (that does sound a bit silly, maybe on par with how literal should we take each story of the Bible). When Jesus told them what the name of the church should be, he revealed a lot of meaty doctrine that showed it was a pretty big deal. But He didn’t commend them for the question! They were contentious over this matter, and that must stop. Before that, they had disputations over the proper manner of baptism. As Latter-day Saints, we can relate. The mode of baptism cannot be changed lightly, and must be performed with exactness or repeated properly. Yet again Jesus rebuked them for the disputation!
In my experience, I have come to realize that some LDS members do not believe in the Bible literally. I am also not sure “most” members believe in the Bible literally. If people believe differently, we should seek to do our best to respond with the same respect and love toward others and their differing opinions as we would hope they would respond to our differing opinions. That would be the ideal. And if we don’t, well, let us try better the next time.