When God tells us he is no respecter of persons, this means he does not give
anyone an inside advantage over others; he does not choose this one to save,
and that one to condemn. Rather, he lets us choose for ourselves and judges
us according to our choices.
This meaning of "respect" comes from the usage in the era of kings and nobles
and knights, who had a completely separate justice system from that which
ordinary folk were subjected to.
Likewise, clergy had their own courts. So when someone of armiger or clerical
class committed a crime, they were judged according to different rules and
faced different penalties -- if any.
For as the common people well knew, people with power and connections rarely
came to trial at all, unless they had offended someone of even greater power or
But we live in a more egalitarian age, where class differences are not so
And within the Church, we are entirely equal before the Lord. All of us are
expected to live by the same laws regardless of the office we hold and
regardless of our parentage.
My being a great-great grandson of Brigham Young gives me no inside track --
especially considering that, given the number of children he had, most of us
who have pioneer ancestry are related to Brigham Young.
What, though, does "respect" mean to us?
Within the Church, it can mean giving people the deference due their office.
For instance, in a presidency, the counselors are expected to offer their counsel
-- it's in the job description. So a president who simply makes decisions
without seeking the counsel of his counselors is showing disrespect.
But then the president, having heard the counselors' views, might well return
to them and say, "I'm grateful for your clear ideas and I have thought long and
hard about this. I've reached a decision different from the one you advocated.
Here is what I would like us to do."
At that point, the counselors show respect by supporting the decision of the
president, even if it is the opposite of what they advocated for. Our respect is
for the good order of the Church; our respect is for the authority of the office.
And if we disrespect the office merely because the person holding it or the
decisions being made are not to our liking, we damage the Church and, I might
We have almost all been in a position of supporting decisions we did not agree
with originally, because the authority to decide was in other hands.
That is why presidencies do not dictate what teachers teach in particular
lessons, unless the teacher is crossing the boundary into false doctrine or
personal harm to other members.
Likewise, presiding officers rarely interfere with the bearing of testimonies or
sacrament meeting talks, showing respect for the right of other members to
make decisions about what they will say -- unless certain lines are crossed.
In families, the lines of authority are not so clear-cut. We are taught by Latter-day prophets that the presidency of the priesthood in a home is held in
partnership between the husband and the wife.
I well remember -- though the Conference Reports have been amended to leave
out -- what President Faust said when he first spoke after being called as a
counselor to President Hinckley.
In speaking of his own imperfection, he compared his own marriage to the well-known reputation of President David O. McKay and his wife -- that nary a
cross word ever passed between them.
I am not so perfect, he said, and then quoted an old adage that if a husband
and wife never disagree, someone is getting his way way too much.
The statement got quite a laugh, and it came as a relief to many of us. (No
doubt the statement is not included in the Conference Reports because some
might have taken it as a veiled criticism of President McKay, which was clearly
not what President Faust intended.)
When I worked at the Ensign back in the 1970s, I was sent on a tour of six
stakes in the United States, interviewing many people about marriage and
I remember one family in northern Virginia who said, "There is no tie-breaking
vote in our marriage. In an emergency, it's always clear what to do, and we do
it. One gives CPR while the other calls 911.
"But when the matter isn't urgent, then a failure to agree means that the
decision is postponed."
For instance, when they moved into their house they didn't agree about what
the window treatments should be. "We had sheets tacked up at our windows
for a long time," they said, laughing.
The key here is that no one proceeded without respect for the other. No one
ran roughshod over the other's opinions. No one insisted on getting their own
(Next week, I'll go into more detail about respect in marriage.)
Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's
Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and
younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.
Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary
fantasy (Magic Street,Enchantment,Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables,Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker
(beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and
Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and
Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s.
Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs
plays. He also teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.
Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife,
Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.