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Lopez-Reyes Family
“Truth is Neither Black nor White…”

The following is an excerpt from a talk given by a General Authority for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April of 1932. It is posted here for its poignancy and its topical value – particularly as it addresses what Richards called “Dictatorial Dogmatism.”   

Elder Stephen L. Richards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

An Olive Leaf: Stephen L. Richards

As published in Sunstone Magazine, Issue 165–December 2011

The following is excerpted from a powerful address given at the April 1932 General Conference address by Elder Stephen L. Richards. In the midst of controversies over evolution, as well as recent changes in the Church to give greater emphasis to the Word of Wisdom, the apostle shared insightful perspectives on the principles behind God’s commandments, the nature of revelation in the Church, the vitality of change, and the importance of rejecting rigidness and dogmatism. The full text of this speech was published in the May-June 1979 Sunstone in honor of the centennial of Elder Richards’ birth.

“I interpret the gospel in terms of life. It was brought to humanity; it is our duty to bring humanity to the Gospel. Election, not compulsion is the genius of Christian philosophy. Ridicule and ostracism often amount to compulsion. I deplore their existence. I fear arrogant dogmatism…

“When the Gospel was restored in this age all the goodness and mercy of Christ was restored… The essence of the…  whole restored gospel was and is election without coercion, persuasion not compulsion, no unrighteous dominion, only patience, long suffering, meekness, kindness, and love unfeigned. With the restored Gospel came also new and enlarged knowledge and conceptions of God and man. A new philosophy of life arose. Man’s place in the universe, the beginning, end, and purpose of his existence, were better understood. Some new laws were given, new ordinances and new commandments—not new in the sense that they had never existed before, but new to the knowledge of the people.

“One man sees the meaning of a scripture so clearly and definitely that he exclaims with contemptible deprecation of a contender’s view, “Why, it’s as plain as the nose on your face,” and the other replies, “It is silly and foolish.” Both are sincere. Who is right? What position does the Church take? Generally, I think, the Church takes no official position and ought not to, in the large majority of mooted questions. Men are permitted to hold individual views and express them with freedom so long as they are not seditious to the basic doctrines, practices, and establishments of the Church. When men lose their regard for the Church, of course, they are no longer entitled to place and influence in it.

“I believe it to be a generally accepted proposition in our church that no man’s standing is affected by the views which he may honestly hold with reference to the beginning of man’s life on the earth and the organization of the universe, or the processes employed in the working of the miracles of the Bible. Personally, I find more peace of mind and comfort in what may seem a rather lazy disposition to attempt no explanation of these seemingly inexplicable matters. But if anyone holds views and gets satisfaction from them, I say let him have them, and for one I won’t abuse him for them…

“I have said these things because I fear dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure and intolerance even more than I fear cigarettes, cards, and other devices the adversary may use to nullify faith and kill religion. Fanaticism and bigotry have been the deadly enemies of true religion in the long past. They have made it forbidding, shut it up in cold grey walls of monastery and nunnery, out of the sunlight and fragrance of the growing world. They have garbed it in black and then in white, when in truth it is neither black nor white, any more than life is black or white, for religion is life abundant, glowing life, with all its shades, colors and hues, as the children of men reflect in the patterns of their lives the radiance of the Holy Spirit in varying degrees.

I pray that men may understand God and the Church, and I pray that the Church may understand men and human nature. With such understandings there must come sympathy and love. Truth and love will save the world. May they ever be our portion, I ask humbly, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

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