I was recently visiting a ward in rural Wyoming. In Sunday School we discussed the first several chapters if 1 Corinthians. One of the issues Paul raises in this epistle is that of contention in the Church. The instructor, a former bishop of the ward, asked if there was contention currently in the Church as a whole or in the ward in particular.

After a few people stated that they didn’t think there was any serious contention in the Church a brother raised his hand and said (roughly), “The elephant in this room is something that nobody wants to talk about, but I’ll talk about it! It’s the illegal immigration! The Church has made a statement on it and a lot of us don’t like it.” He then went on to deliver what I thought was an inaccurate portrayal of the recent activities of the Utah legislature.

I was simultaneously impressed and dismayed. Impressed that this brother was willing to confront the status quo and state what was on his mind. I think that there should be room in the Church to discuss issues that we don’t understand well and don’t necessarily all agree on. But I was dismayed that he clearly didn’t want a discussion and that he approached the issue with such venom.

The instructor simply said, “I agree with you,” before moving on. Had this been my own ward I like to think that I would have spoken up, but as a visitor I didn’t feel comfortable contradicting my hosts.

I’m told that a different brother brought the topic up out of the blue in High Priests Group with a similar tone and lack of resolution.

I probably have more sympathy for these brothers that I’ve indicated. This is because in some ways I’m a mirror image of them. While I applaud the stand the Church has taken on immigration, I do not agree with the stand the Church has taken on gay marriage. I particularly dislike that individual members sometimes seem to feel that they’ve got license to say hateful things about entire groups of people because the Church has a difference of opinion with those groups over a political issue.

I also wonder why it is that people who take a “conservative” view that is opposed to the Church’s public stance on an issue feel at liberty to discuss this openly in meetings. I have not heard anyone with a more liberal view on gay marriage bring it up randomly in Sunday School and state their opposition to the Church. If someone did that it would be a scandal. Is there a double standard at play here?

Interestingly, I think that Paul has a solution to these issues and the broader issue of contention later in his epistle in 1 Corinthians 13. In fact I think the entire epistle builds to this sublime chapter. Were we to approach these contentious issues with charity would we think of them differently? Would we be able to have an actual discussion?

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.