Ask no man

No More Contention is the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding. Contention arises from the compulsion to have others agree with us. Seeking understanding in an environment of clarity and charity produces no more contention. As Joseph Smith said, "I will ask no man to believe as I do."

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Three broad categories

In a sense, contention is inevitable and unavoidable because every individual is unique, and no two people agree on everything.  Ideally, we...

Friday, December 8, 2023

Elder Kearon on understanding others

Avoiding the Poles: Lifting Society through Service, Dialogue, and Understanding

By: Elder Patrick Kearon 


If we use politics as an example, one thing you could do if you acknowledge that you're out near one pole or another to move inwards from those poles, is read the point of view of the other people. If you have been, for instance, reading a particular publication or strands of information delivered to you through social media or through other sources, deliberately go and read the point of view that some of your friends are being delivered through their own media channels or publications. The value of doing this is greater now than it ever has been before because as we're learning, one of the ways that our media gets delivered to us is that it constantly hones in on the things that we're already looking at. So, it gives us more and more, an ever-greater diet of the thoughts and ideologies that we already adhere to. When it would do us very well to turn, read, and listen to the ideologies, thoughts, and concepts of those we currently may disagree with. If we do that with an open heart, we'll be blessed to understand the people we disagree with and become a force for peace. And goodness knows, we need greater peace in our public and private life....

Again, we need to listen. We need to watch it. We need to talk to those who don't share our ideas, come to an understanding with them, and recognize step-by-step that above all, they are children of God too. They want happy lives for themselves and happy lives for their children and grandchildren. You must be examples of this. You have the gospel as your foundation and have been taught that we must be peacemakers. This is work for you to do. And to continue on that, perhaps while you're still studying and beyond, I would encourage you to take your place in contributing to society in governments of various different forms....

But as you remember who you are, you will be blessed as you become a depolarizing voice and as you train yourself to become such. If you've got over dug-in in your points of view, and if you can't see it, ask a friend if you've become so, and then go to work and watch your rhetoric, and be calm, considerate, and thoughtful as you consider the ideas of the ideology and positions of others.

Come close and understand them. You may never fully agree, and that's okay. But be a voice for peace and get involved at suitable points in your life in the leadership of schools, universities, cities, counties, states, and nations. We are a people who thrive on opposition. Again, we don't seek it, but we must now be people who thrive in union and unison with others. We must find others with whom we haven't always agreed and get closer to them and find common cause with them, find things that we can unite around and build a better town, better city, better world with them, and build happier families at the heart of all of that.,you%20may%20become%20without%20sin

Thursday, December 7, 2023

The Rational Restoration: Table of Contents

People are asking what's in the book and why I wrote it.

The subtitle explains that the book consists of "reframes in the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding."

In my view, the Restoration is rational. It is simple. It all makes sense. 

But various complications have set in, primarily because of the theories of critics and intellectuals.

In the book, I explain the FAITH model of analysis and propose around 60 reframes of confusing interpretations created by critics and intellectuals. The reframes make sense of the historical, doctrinal, and organizational issues.

For example, in my opinion it is not rational to say that Joseph and Oliver told the truth about their experiences, but to reject what they said about the origin (SITH) and setting (M2C) of the Book of Mormon.

I emphasize in the book (and everywhere else) that I encourage people to make their own informed decisions. That's what clarity is all about. 

Secondly, I'm fine with people believing whatever they want, and I assume people act in good faith. That's the charity element.

Finally, I'm interested in understanding others and feel no need to persuade. The compulsion to seek conformity or conversion is a major, if not the sole, cause of contention. 

The work of so many LDS apologists and critics shows how desperate they are to fortify their own beliefs/conclusions by seeking conformity and approval from others because they are so insecure they can't tolerate clarity, charity or understanding.


But the Rational Restoration is an antidote to contention, misunderstanding, and censorship.


Interested readers can go to Amazon and download a Kindle preview that includes the Table of Contents.

I also posted the Table of Contents to the MOBOM site, here:

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Disagreeing better

Governor Cox of Utah is the Chair of the National Governor's Association. Governor Polis of Colorado is the Vice Chair. Cox is a Republican, and Polis is a Democrat. Together they are promoting an initiative called Disagree Better.

I absolutely love what they're doing in the political realm.

They tweeted about how to have a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner despite political differences.

It is refreshing to see politicians modeling a way to disagree without being disagreeable.


We can apply similar principles to discussions/debates within the context of the Restoration. Critics and believers, as well as believers who have different opinions and interpretations, can all get along by pursuing the objectives of clarity, charity, and understanding.

Here's a comment someone sent me recently that epitomizes the problem of Latter-day Saints criticizing one another on a personal level and insisting on their own beliefs without the spirit of clarity, charity and understanding.

"My wife is not a member and as she has observed the people in the church in my life, she has decided not to explore the church anymore. She has told me on a couple occasions that if my parents had been her first encounter with lds people that she would have stayed away from the church altogether because of their pushiness and being unable to accept other peoples' views. It makes me sad when members of the church get excited to preach missionary work trying to convert instead of living the gospel and letting their lives be the teaching tool instead."

Whenever you watch a video, listen to a podcast, or read an article or book, ask yourself if the content promotes clarity, charity and understanding.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Link arms across the aisle


Church News
Across The Isle During the summer of 2017, Elder Matthew S. Holland, now a General Authority Seventy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, took a sabbatical to Oxford University in England. There he met the Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal — a chaplain and theologian specializing in Christian church history at Oxford’s Pembroke College. “There was something in terms of our just personal friendship that linked us, and it felt like something that was not new,” said Elder Holland. The Rev. Dr. Teal said, “And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” This Church News video, titled “Across the Isle,” features Elder Holland and the Rev. Dr. Teal talking about the friendship and the discussions they shared about their disciplines and perspectives. “We need to link arms across the isle,” said the Rev. Dr. Teal. “We can't be a part of this culture which just writes people off if they're different from us.”

Monday, November 13, 2023

Monday, November 6, 2023

Interpreting the Book of Mormon

In the pursuit of clarity, charity, and understanding, this post reviews some principles of interpretation. 

We seek clarity not because it leads to only one possible interpretation, but instead because it helps us understand the range of possible interpretations and how they are derived.

We embrace charity because we assume everyone acts in good faith.

And we seek understanding, not persuasion, coercion, or conversion, because we trust everyone to make informed decisions once they have all available, relevant information.


My first job out of law school was as a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Mexico. I was responsible to analyze the appellate briefs from both sides, suggest questions for the Justices to ask during oral argument, and then draft the Court's opinions. In some cases, the Justices adopted my drafts with few if any edits; other times they changed them completely.

In most cases, both sides of every controversy made good arguments. They cited prior cases to support their positions. They cited facts and definitions and policies. The Supreme Court had the responsibility to decide between the two parties. Sometimes the Justices disagreed, in which case the majority prevailed.

Appellate cases often involve statutory construction (interpretation), which follows basic principles, including these (although there are many nuances and different philosophies of interpretation):

- interpretations should follow the plain meaning of the law (if it is plain)

- interpretations should be consistent with precedent, common law, and the Constitution 

- interpretations should be harmonious with other laws and the statutory scheme

- interpretations should be consistent with clear legislative intent


Interpreting statutes in an appellate context is obviously different from interpreting the text of the Book of Mormon, but there are similarities.

The question for us is, are there any parameters to guide our interpretation?

I think there are. In my view, the text doesn't, and cannot, speak for itself. That's why we rely on the teachings of the prophets. I think interpretations of the text should be consistent with the teachings of the prophets.

Others disagree. Which is fine, of course, but we should all be crystal clear about our assumptions, inferences, etc.

IOW, we can follow the FAITH model to achieve clarity. We all start with the FACTS we can agree upon. In this case, the FACTS are the words of the text and the teachings of the prophets related to the text.

Next we look at our ASSUMPTIONS, INFERENCES, and THEORIES to reach our overall HYPOTHESIS.


Many people claim they interpret the text as it stands, without reference to externalities. That claim is ignorant, delusional or dishonest because every interpretation involves making assumptions that are not in the text. 

People disagree about even the meaning of words themselves. Some people apply modern definitions of terms, while others refer to the 1828 Webster's dictionary or other contemporary usage of terms, while others look to Early Modern English, all of which lead to a range of rational possibilities for interpretation, depending on what assumptions and inferences we make.

Years ago when I was working in Korea I had access to a translator's edition of the Book of Mormon, which includes a large appendix that defined English terminology to aid the translator. Despite this extensive guidance, I've shown in previous posts how in many cases, translations do not adhere closely to the English text but instead incorporate external ideas and concepts that mislead readers.

Separate from defining terms, people make contextual assumptions. We've seen, for example, how M2Cers simply assume there are no "double definitions" (meaning no two separate locations with the same name). Paradoxically, they also simply assume that different terms refer to identical locations (such as narrow neck, small neck of land, and narrow neck of land all refer to one place).

Those assumptions are not irrational, but they are also not mandatory. Alternative interpretations are also rational. We choose among rational alternatives according to our respective values, preferences, worldviews, etc.


When I read the text of the Book of Mormon, it seems obvious that the text itself asks us to refer to outside sources for understanding. This involves intertextuality.

For example, the text refers to the law of Moses 43 times, but never defines or explains the law of Moses beyond alluding to offering sacrifice and burnt offerings. (The Bible refers to the law of Moses only 22 times but sets it out in detail.) A Book of Mormon reader unfamiliar with the Bible would have no idea what the law of Moses involved.

Another example: the Book of Mormon refers to the children of Israel and some of their experiences without explaining them. Readers must consult the Bible to understand these passages.

It is well known that much of the Book of Mormon incorporates language and concepts from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Cross references in the text help readers compare and understand the meaning of terminology, but you have to actually read the biblical references to appreciate their significance and relevance. 

In my view, most of the non-KJV language in the text was influenced by Joseph Smith's familiarity with the work of Jonathan Edwards. Comparing this language to Edwards' work offers insights comparable to comparisons with the KJV. For examples, see

The variety of rational interpretations leaves the text susceptible to private interpretation, placing us in the same position as those who believe in the Bible. 

Without the assistance of guidance from modern prophets, Christians have devised innumerable variations of interpreting the Bible, leading to mass confusion and even contention.

Beyond intertextuality and ordinary principles of interpretation, the text also leaves us without specific guidance on the basic issues of its origin and setting. The origin and setting of the Book of Mormon are important keys for understanding the text, and modern prophets have given us specific guidance on these issues.

Ignoring the teachings of the prophets about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon has led to similar confusion and contention among Latter-day Saints and other believers in the Book of Mormon.


Here are some examples of how the text is not self-fulfilling. 

Moroni wrote instructions to the future translator of the abridged plates but did not identify the translator:

4 Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time; but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account. (Ether 1:4)

Moroni explained that the text and its interpretation would be sealed but did not explain who would be allowed to use the interpreters.

5 Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord. (Ether 4:5)

Moroni told the unnamed, unidentified future translator not to touch the sealed portion and explained about witnesses:

1 And now I, Moroni, have written the words which were commanded me, according to my memory; and I have told you the things which I have sealed up; therefore touch them not in order that ye may translate; for that thing is forbidden you, except by and by it shall be wisdom in God.
2 And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work;
3 And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true. (Ether 5:1–3)

The text is incomplete without the additional information provided by Joseph Smith (and Oliver Cowdery). Once we learn that Joseph was the one Moroni identified, we come to understand the origin of the Book of Mormon. We see that Moroni explained where the text was written and how it was to be translated and brought forth.

When he first met Joseph Smith, after describing the content of the record, Moroni explained to Joseph that the record had been "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home near Palmyra, New York, and that he, Joseph, had the "privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record."

Moroni told Joseph that "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars <​of cement​>."

Because we have the information from Joseph Smith, we know who found the plates and translated them. Still, questions persisted. Joseph answered these questions about the origin of the Book of Mormon in plain words:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?
Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon. 

Oliver Cowdery corroborated Joseph's account when he explained that 

Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.' (Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

We might think these declarations are clear and unambiguous. And, in my view, they are. 

Nevertheless, many people, including both faithful believers and disbelieving critics, claim Joseph and Oliver misled everyone about the origin of the Book of Mormon. They say that instead of translating the plates by means of the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, he actually just read words that appeared on a stone he placed into a hat. This is the stone-in-the-hat theory, aka SITH.

People can believe whatever they want, but it makes a big difference in interpreting the text if the text came directly from a supernatural stone in a hat, or if Joseph actually translated the engravings on the plates "after the manner of his language." 

Claims of anachronisms and errors are difficult to refute if each word in the text was provided by SITH. But if Joseph actually translated the engravings as he claimed, we would expect to see exactly what we do see in the text, given Joseph's background, environment, and preparation.

Joseph later carefully revised the text, which makes sense if he was the actual translator but doesn't make sense if the original text was provided by SITH.

This is all very simple. 

- If we accept what Joseph and Oliver claimed, the origins of the Book of Mormon are solid, rational, and easily understood. In that context, we can interpret the text with more confidence and clarity.

- If we reject what Joseph and Oliver claimed, then there are all kinds of arguments against the divine authenticity of the text. Even faithful interpretations based on SITH require complicated explanations based on speculation.


The setting of the Book of Mormon implicates similar issues.

In terms of FACTS, everyone can see that Oliver explained it was a fact that the Hill Cumorah/Ramah is the very hill in western New York from which Joseph obtained the plates.

When describing that hill, Oliver wrote,

At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

In 1842, Joseph explicitly invoked his first meeting with Moroni in 1823, four years before the record actually came forth, when he wrote, "And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed." (Doctrine and Covenants 128:20)

The contemporaries and successors to Joseph and Oliver repeatedly and consistently corroborated the New York setting of Cumorah as the one touchstone between the ancient and modern worlds.

Accepting these teachings of the prophets should inform our interpretations of the text, just as accepting their teachings about the origin of the text should. With Cumorah as a pin in the map, its easy to see how the geographical references in the text corroborate the teachings of the prophets--so long as we don't force an interpretation that conforms only to a Mesoamerican setting.

Furthermore, during his lifetime, Joseph explored what are now called Hopewell earthworks in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois (which he called "the plains of the Nephites") and described "roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity." In the area around Nauvoo, he identified as Jaredite a burial site now referred to as an Adena site. 

It's all very simple. 

And, as always, we are fine with other people promoting different hypotheses pursuant to clarity, charity, and understanding.

In any judicial system, arbitrary interpretations of the law that are not bounded by precedent, constitutions, or other constraints always lead to confusion and contention in society. The US Constitution was established to prevent such unjust and unequal application of the law by providing parameters for interpreting the law.

In the context of the Book of Mormon, the teachings of the modern prophets should provide parameters for interpretation. Such parameters avoid confusion and contention.

Those who jettison the teachings of the prophets because they disagree are obviously free to do so, but they owe it to their followers to clearly explain why they do so.

And the rest of us are equally free to embrace the teachings of the prophets and interpret the text accordingly.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Ask no one to believe as we do

Joseph Smith explained his approach to multiple working hypotheses, as reported by Willard Richards:

The enquiry is frequently made of me,​ “Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?” 

In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may. We believe in the great Eloheim, who sits enthroned in yonder heavens: so do the Presbyterians. If as a skilful Mechanic, in taking a welding heat, I use borax, and alum &c, & succeeds in welding together iron or steel more perfectly than any other mechanic, is he not deserving of praise?​> 

and ​if by the principles of truth I​ succeed in welding <​uniting​> you all <​denominations​> together <​into one family of <​in the bonds of love​>​> shall I not have attained a good object?

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? 

No; I will lift them up, and in his <​their​> own way too if I cannot persuade him <​them​> my way is better; and I will <​not seek to compel any​> ask no man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning; for truth will cut its own way.

The original version:

one [of] the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism <​is​> to receivee thruth [truth] letit come from where it may.—

we beli[e]ve in the great Eloheem. who—sits enthrond in yonder heavens.— so do the presbyterian. If as a skillful mechanic In taking a weldi[n]g heat I use a borax & allum. &c—— an[d] succe[e]d in welding you all together shall I not have attaind a good object.

if I esteem mankind to be in error shall I bear them down? no! 

I will will lift them up.— & in his own way if I cannot persuade him my way is better? 

& I will ask no man to believe as I do.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Friendship by Joseph Smith, Jr.

Good reminder:

"Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease, and men to become friends and brothers."

23 July 1843 • Sunday

96<​Sunday 23.—​> Meeting at the stand. I preached. I insert a brief synopsis <​of the discourse.​> reported by Dr. [Willard] Richards:—

“I commence my remarks by reading this text; Luke, 16 chap. 16 v. “The Law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” I do not know that I shall be able to preach much, but with the faith of the Saints may say something instructive. It has gone abroad that I proclaimed myself no longer a prophet; I said it last Sabbath ironically; I supposed you would all understand. It was not that I would renounce the idea of being a prophet, but that I had no Disposition to proclaim myself such; but I do say that I bear the testimony of Jesus, which is the Spirit of prophecy.

There is no greater love than this that a man lay down his life for his friends; I discover hundreds and thousands of my brethren ready to sacrifice their lives for me.

The burdens which roll upon me are very great; my persecutors allow me no rest, and I find that in the midst of business and care the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Although I was called of my Heavenly Father to lay the foundation of this great work and kingdom in this dispensation, and testify of his revealed will to scattered Israel, I am subject to like passions as other men, like the prophets of olden times.

Notwithstanding my weaknesses I am under the necessity of bearing the infirmities of others, who when they get into difficulty hang on to me tenaciously to get them out, and wish me to cover their faults. On the other hand, the same characters, when they discover a weakness in brother Joseph, endeavor to blast his reputation, and publish it to all the world, and thereby aid my enemies in destroying the Saints. Although the law is given through me to the church, I cannot be borne with a moment by such men. They are ready to destroy me for the least foible, and publish my imaginary failings from Dan to Beersheba though they are too ignorant of the things of God which have been revealed to me to judge of my actions, motives or conduct in any correct manner whatever. 

The only principle upon which they judge me is by comparing my [HC 5:516] acts with the foolish traditions of their fathers, and nonsensical teachings of hireling priests, whose object and aim was to keep the people in ignorance for the sake of filthy lucre, or as the prophet says to feed themselves, not the flock. Men often come to me with their troubles, and seek my will, crying, oh, brother Joseph, help me, help me!— but when I am in trouble, few of them sympathize with me or extend to me relief. I believe in a principle of reciprocity, if we do live in a devilish and wicked world, where men busy themselves in watching for iniquity and lay snares for those who reprove in the gate.

I see no faults in the church, and therefore let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven, or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the Devils out of doors and make a heaven of it. Where this people are, there is good society. What do we care where we are if the society be good? I don’t care what a man’s character is, if he’s my friend, a true friend, I will be a friend to him and preach the Gospel of salvation to him, and give him good counsel, helping him out of his difficulties.

Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease, and men to become friends and brothers; even the wolf and the lamb shall dwell together, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf, the young Lion and the fatling, and a little child shall lead them, the bear and the cow shall lie down together, and the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall play on the cockatrice’s den; and they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord of hosts.

It is a time-honored adage that love begets love; let us pour forth love— shew forth our kindness unto all mankind, and the Lord will reward us with everlasting increase— cast our bread upon the waters, and we shall receive it after many days increased to a hundred fold. Friendship is like brother [Theodore] Turley in his blacksmith shop welding iron to iron; it unites the human family with its happy influence.

I do not dwell upon your faults, and you shall not upon mine. Charity, which is love, covereth a multitude of sins, and I have often covered up all the faults among you; but the prettyest thing is to have no faults at all. We should cultivate a meek, quiet and peaceable spirit.

Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists &c. any truth? Yes, they all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up or we shall not come out pure Mormons.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Friends: Scalia and Ginsburg

Most lawyers I know naturally separate personal relationships from the cases they handle. Maybe that's unusual, but there's no reason why non-lawyers can't take the same approach.

Justices Scalia and Ginsburg exemplified the process of clarity, charity, and understanding. 

In this interview, they discuss some of their differences of opinion, but they emphasized that they were good friends. Differences of opinion are not a legitimate basis for disrupting a friendship or working together toward a common purpose. 

1:05:07 I have never gotten angry at Ruth or any of my colleagues because of the way they voted in an opinion. I mean, if you cannot disagree with your colleagues on the law without taking it personally, you ought to get another day job. It's just not the kind of a job that will allow you to behave that way.

So Ruth and I disagree on the law all the time but it's never had anything to do with our with our friendship.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Harmony in diversity

How does any group of people achieve harmony/unity in diversity? 

It's easy to say everyone should agree, but what does that really mean? No two people agree perfectly on everything. People don't even agree with themselves; we all change our minds, our preferences, our priorities, etc.

With the tremendous variation of backgrounds, education, culture, and worldviews among people generally, and Latter-day Saints specifically, what does it mean to have harmony and unity instead of disputations and contention?


Clarity. Whenever there is a disagreement, the first objective must be clarity. Often disagreements arise from misunderstanding, and clarity can resolve misunderstandings. Clarity will reveal whether there really is a disagreement, and whether it is material. If so, is the disagreement about objectives, values, and ideals, or is it about the means to achieve a common objective? Is there a disagreement about underlying facts, assumptions, inferences, etc.?

Charity. After clarifying the issue(s), those involved with the disagreement can invoke harmony by giving one another the benefit of the doubt, including the mutual assumption that everyone is acting in good faith. This means implementing the six principles President Nelson offered while observing that "Charity is the antidote to contention" [see below]:

Express feelings with love.

Don’t think you know best.

Don’t compete.

Don’t rigorously defend your position.

Let the Spirit guide your conversations.

Be filled with charity, the pure love of Christ.

Understanding. The fundamental reason for contention is the impulse to seek conformity to one's own position, beliefs, priorities, etc. People contend because they want someone else to change, without realizing (or accepting the possibility) that maybe they are the ones who should change. 

When parties to a disagreement seek to "understand" instead of  to "convince," they eliminate the utility of contention.  They may come to a meeting of the minds and replace disagreement with agreement. Or they might not.  

And it doesn't matter.

People who fully understand one another can live in harmony and unity despite their differences. They can "agree to disagree" and actually mean it.

One of the classic "7 Habits" is "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

This habit involves listening effectively. But to completely eliminate contention, understanding is not enough. They must be comfortable with different ideas.

Multiple working hypotheses. Even after people achieve clarity, charity, and understanding, they may realize they still disagree for any number of reasons. Often the differences involve gaps in knowledge. While people await more information, they fill in the gaps according to their own assumptions, inferences, etc.

In this situation, people can accept the concept of "multiple working hypotheses," whereby different people are all at peace knowing that other people see things differently. This involves a paradoxical combination of confidence and humility; confidence in one's own views together with a humble recognition that someone else might be correct.

Some people may prefer a variation of multiple working hypotheses which treats much of reality as subjective and thus not subject to unanimity. 


Paul offered a solution when he was told there were quarrels/contentions among the Corinthian saints:

1 Corinthians 1:10 

King James Version
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 
New International Version
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

New Living Translation
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

Depending on the translation, we see "all speak the same thing," "all of you agree with one another in what you say," and "live in harmony with each other."

Obviously Paul did not ask people to say exactly the same words. Nor could people agree with one another in every detail of life. The translation "live in harmony" may not be the most literal translation, but it captures the essence of Paul's message.

How do we implement this aspiration in the real world?

Contention is not the same as disagreement. People can disagree without being disagreeable. In August 2023, President Nelson reminded us in a Facebook post that "Charity is the antidote to contention."

Differences of opinion are part of life. I work daily with people who sometimes see an issue differently. My two noble counselors, Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring, have taught me how to disagree in a Christlike way. Over the last five years of working together, we haven’t always agreed. Still, they know I want to hear their honest feelings about everything we discuss—especially sensitive issues.
From their examples, I have learned six ways to disagree:
Express feelings with love.
Don’t think you know best.
Don’t compete.
Don’t rigorously defend your position.
Let the Spirit guide your conversations.
Be filled with charity, the pure love of Christ.
Charity is the antidote to contention. It is the principal characteristic of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Charity defines a peacemaker..


Some additional ideas are here: "How to Disagree without Being Disagreeable" here:


So, in moments when we disagree with others, we have the choice to either allow our differences to end in contention—pushing us apart and potentially damaging our relationship—or allow the disagreement to help us have a new understanding and appreciation for those we disagree with.

A collection of relevant quotations is found in an article titled "The Blessings of Diversity," here:

A collection titled "Unity in Diversity" is available here:

A Gospel Topics entry on "Diversity and Unity" is here.