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Although I hesitate to share such personal feelings and beliefs in such a public forum, I enjoy the peace that comes from taking time out of this busy day to sit in my office and think about and write about my testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Honestly, I don’t think I can be a scholar and not have curiosity about and questions with occasional cultural practices or historical events related to the Church, but my testimony of the doctrine of this Church supersedes any of the times in my life when I feel uncertain about an event or issue. The confirmation that I get from the Holy Ghost of the truthfulness of this gospel always dispels any doubts and reassures me with a calm peace that Heavenly Father has provided us with His Church on the earth today.

I know that there is a Father in heaven. He loves us unconditionally. He forgives completely. Like any loving, caring parent, He has prepared for us a way to return to him. Sometimes I feel the joy of his approval when I am following his lead. Other times I feel his sadness over my mistakes and ill-chosen paths. But he has always been there for me and he will always be there for all of us. I never doubt this.

I also believe in Christ. I feel unworthy to call him my brother, but I am so grateful for the life he lived, the love he gave, and the example and teachings he left for us. His last instructions to his disciples were “a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you. That you also love one another.” It is this commandment that, when I am truly striving to live, brings me closer to my Savior and brings me real happiness.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is about a man from Jerusalem who was on his way to Jericho and fell among thieves and was left half dead. A priest and a Levite both passed by on the other side. Then Jesus taught:

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

“And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”

We are told to “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:25–37).

During this time period, the Jews and the Samaritans were not at all friendly with each other. Generally, these two groups avoided association with each other. It would still be a good parable if the man who fell among thieves had been rescued by another Jew.

But Christ’s use of Jews and Samaritans shows me that we are all meant to be neighbors and that we should love, esteem, respect, and serve one another despite our differences—including religious, political, and cultural differences. Of all of the examples and teachings Christ offered us, his example and teaching to love one another, regardless of differences, is one that has profoundly affected me.

I believe, as instructed in the Articles of Faith, in doing good to ALL men (and women) and that we should allow all men (and women) the same privilege to worship where, how, or what they may.

I think that Gordon B. Hinckley reiterated what Christ taught when he said “… We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Concerning these you and I may disagree. But we can do so with respect and civility” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 661, 665).

Being the linguist that I am, I have thought a lot about the word tolerance not only in President Hinckley’s statement above, but in other respects as well. To me the word tolerate sounds like an attempt to put up with someone who is annoying or different or even viewed as lesser than we are. But it is through becoming tolerant, first, that we begin the journey to Christ-like love. I believe that attaining tolerance should not allow us to become complacent in seeking the ability to truly have Christ-like love for all of our neighbors. This is what I believe Christ wants of us.

How should we feel about those who have chosen paths that differ from our own? How should we respond to those who make wrong choices? How should we feel about those who believe in a different God? I believe that we should feel the same way that God feels about them and about us. We should not be their judge. We should love them. We should forgive them. We should reason together.

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18–19).

I believe in a Heavenly Father and a Savior who is my brother. I know they are perfect and want us to strive for that same perfection. Knowing that we cannot reach that level, they have offered us continual forgiveness, perfectly fair judgment, and a way to return to them. This knowledge allows me to strive to love all people without feeling the weight and necessity of being a judge. I still have lingering questions here and there, but I know that I am loved by my Father in heaven and by Jesus Christ. I know they want us to live happy lives and be good people. I also believe that truth begets happiness. It is because of my beliefs that I am truly happy.

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Julie Damron earned her doctorate in linguistics at Purdue University and teaches Korean at Brigham Young University, where she is associate section head for the Korean program.

Posted May 2010