Love is Fruit
by Leland Francisco
For about a year and a half I met endlessly with men who saw themselves as my authorities trying to beat me into submission. Their method ranged from stating their authority to questioning my inner authority. They tried to tack labels on me (apostate, dangerous, fallen), they talked about me behind my back, they grasped for something they could use as leverage against me (my temple recommend, my church calling), and eventually they settled into shunning me and causing others to shun me until I disappeared completely, curing them of their problem.
In this process they actually omitted a few tactics that could have worked toward a more constructive solution. They didn’t listen and they didn’t try to understand. Instead of reasoning with me with compassion and love, they sought for dominion over me. It’s problematic when someone is taught that they have a power and authority by virtue of that power being passed by a simple act of laying on of hands, without having to do the work to really use the power. D&C 121:41 teaches that the power and authority that we call priesthood actually only works through “long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned. By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—“ D&C 121:41-42, emphasis added. Pure knowledge is what enlarges our souls so that we act without hypocrisy.
The scripture goes on to say that it is okay to call someone out with a harsh rebuke as long as you show afterward “an increase of love toward him[her] whom thou hast reproved lest he[she] esteem thee to be his[her] enemy.” D&C 121:42, gender-inclusive language added. I love how this scripture says that priesthood power and influence can only be used with pure knowledge. To me, that means that if you are not 100% sure of another person’s heart, intentions, and life experience, you can have no power or influence in rebuking them with harshness. That isn’t to say that you can’t disagree with them as equals or share how that person’s words feel to you. That is a very different thing than taking the authority on yourself to rebuke someone with harshness. This kind of rebuke requires pure knowledge and compassion to be effective.