“And also,” wrote Josette from somewhere in France, “I don’t agree with political mails on this file.” This came in one of a dozen emails about voting and politics from the LDS singles email group I joined a few months earlier. “I thought that this forum my brothers and sisters was totally unbiased,” agreed Nunda from South Africa. “Can I please suggest we drop this whole topic as all it is doing is causing contention amongst us all,” requested Terri.

And no wonder. Messages were flying back and forth faster than ever, most expressing some point from either side of the argument but tainted with subtle or outright slams of anyone who disagreed. Everyone seemed to believe that if they expressed their opinion clearly enough, then everyone else would see the obvious logic and fall into agreement. One significant problem with this approach was that the majority of the messages were chock-full of ambiguous points and glaring logical fallacies.

In a surprise move, Cassandra, who had been expressing some of the more extreme and controversial points, wrote:

“It bothers me that anyone would assume anger in hearts those that are discussing differing points of view regarding an issue. There’s alot wrong with society today and part of it lies in the inability of people to communicate. A plan that says you must always agree with someone or you must not talk is not healthy in the least bit.”

Here, here!

We Mormons are famous for our ability to take any object or event from life and extract a gospel message. We take Nephi’s counsel to liken the words of Isaiah to ourselves and go a step further, likening everything from seasons to traffic tickets to jello salad to gospel principles. And so it was quite simple to notice a parallel between our warm email discussion and the way many of us tend to approach spreading the gospel.

The problem begins with one single fact: we’re right, and we know it.

Some questions are not about personal opinion. You could sail around the world and come home convinced that the world is flat because you never fell off the edge, but that still wouldn’t make you right. You can often feel the Spirit of God in another church, but that same Spirit will also tell you, if you ask sincerely, that our church is the only one that holds the true priesthood power of God on the earth.

Once we gain our unshakable testimony, it’s easy to draw the next logical conclusion: why learn about other religions if they’re not 100% true? Why not focus my efforts on the true church?

An excellent question! Just don’t assume the only answer is found in the intended rhetorical point.

The truth is that many people are ready to hear your testimony. Many people are receptive to the Holy Ghost and will be touched and recognize the hint of divinity carried by your words. Many other people are not yet so prepared. Listening to their views with genuine interest can accomplish two things. First, it opens the doors to an open dialogue where doors and ears and hearts had formerly been closed. It creates and atmosphere where the most precious things to us can be more easily shared, understood and appreciated. Doesn’t it seem appropriate to appreciate the good that others happen to find?

“Yeah, but…” you begin, “there’s more!” So what? Be patient. If it’s not yet the right time to share all that, then wait calmly until that time comes. President Hinckley expressed a sentiment close to this when the 2002 Winter Olympic Games came to Salt Lake City. Many people were afraid they would become the “Mormon Olympics” and that guests would be hounded by missionaries hungry for proselytes. President Hinckley basically said that we have no need to be an in-your-face kind of church, but that we would do better to share the gospel by being good hosts to our guests. In the end, this is exactly what happened. The media was full of praise for the gracious hosts that athletes and observers found in Utah. How much more valuable is this perception than a few hundred placed Books of Mormon?

Ammon understood the concept that differences don’t have to divide us. He began by asking King Lamoni about his own beliefs. In his case, of course, the king was well prepared to be taught. In your case, in the case of your neighbor or coworker or friend, the ‘finding out’ stage might last considerably longer. It might last for years. And you might only recognize that the time for you to preach or bear testimony has come when they turn the tables and begin to ask you questions.

Lest this article seem to suggest that we only listen to others’ opinions for the purpose of getting even later, realize that the golden moment may never arrive. Or rather, the golden moment might be better considered as any moment that you are genuinely interested in your fellow beings, in their thoughts and feelings and in their unfettered friendship.

After all, Truth (with a capital T) is only the second most important principle in the universe. The first? You already know the answer to that – Love. The light of love is brighter in most people’s eyes than the light of truth, so “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

Notice that the Savior said ‘works,’ and not ‘words.’ Go ye, therefore, into all the world, baking casseroles and jello dishes and showing genuine interest and concern unto every creature.