If all we have in common is our shared contempt for each other, the fraying fabric of our civil society may soon be rent beyond repair.

Richard Nixon’s administration was fueled by anger, suspicion, hate and contempt. Yet, his parting words to his staff included, “Always remember: Others may hate you. But those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” 

Destruction is the destination for individuals, institutions and nations when hate and contempt are the common driving forces.

Political upheaval and civil unrest have been boiling up in American’s hearts, spilling out onto America’s streets and contemptuously bursting into our nation’s Capitol. 

The principles of freedom require better behavior from every citizen and greater responsibility from those who lead. 

Today the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement:

Principles of government that allow God’s children to maintain human dignity and freedom belong to all mankind (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:5).

With great concern we observe the political and cultural divisions in the United States and around the world. We condemn violence and lawless behavior, including the recent violence in Washington, D.C., and any suggestion of further violence. While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics, we remind our members — whatever their individual political views — to be united in our commitment to the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His teachings. As His followers, we should treat one another and all of God’s children with respect, dignity, and love. No political or other affiliation should supersede that covenant and sacred responsibility.

We urge all people to remember the precious and fragile nature of freedom and peace. As citizens of the United States look ahead to the inauguration of a new president, we urge our members to honor democratic institutions and processes, and to obey, honor, and sustain the law (see Articles of Faith 1:12).

These 15 world religious leaders understand that liberty and peace are indeed fragile for societies. Civility and unity between individuals are likewise delicate. Preserving institutions, protecting First Amendment freedoms and maintaining harmony in communities requires united, concerted effort and mutual understanding.

Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ condemn ‘violence and lawless behavior’

In America, oneness is not sameness, and the ties that bind us in civility and unity are strengthened by our diversity. 

Former first lady Michelle Obama framed our national salad bowl this way: “Here in America, we don’t let our differences tear us apart. Not here. Because we know that our greatness comes from when we appreciate each other’s strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other, because in this country, it’s never been each person for themselves. No, we’re all in this together. We always have been.”

It is time to call out the purveyors of contempt and profiteers of hate from across the political spectrum who regularly shrug their shoulders with a “it’s not my problem” attitude. It is also time to call on citizens to no longer join the slouching shoulder crowd who are increasingly OK with a culture of contempt.

It is time to square shoulders, call out hate, elevate the conversation and change the culture. It begins with valuing our differences, demonstrating civility and celebrating all that unites us.

In his address to the NAACP National Convention in Detroit in 2019, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concluded his remarks by saying, “May we go forward doing our best to exemplify the two great commandments — to love God and love each of His children. Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, may we strive to lift our brothers and sisters everywhere, in every way we can. This world will never be the same.”

The world would never be the same! That is a goal worthy for every citizens of the world to pursue — starting this weekend.

The Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of the Historic 3rd Baptist Church of San Francisco once described the path to civility, diversity and unity this way, “Each of us has something to offer. We used to sing that old song in nursery school, ‘The more we get together the happier we’ll be. For your song will be my song and my song will be your song, the more we get together the happier we’ll be.’ The more we work together, I would add, the happier we’ll be.” 

Acting with civility, valuing diversity and striving for unity will bind up America’s wounds, heal our divisions and foster happiness. Beginning today we must unite to put the nation on a path that will protect the precious and fragile nature of freedom and peace while increasing our collective resolve to be and better become “one nation.”