“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
Does anybody out there remember Herb Jepko?
He was a late night radio show host who hosted The Nightcap Show in the 60s and 70s. Jepko’s groundbreaking syndicated call-in show originated at KSL 1160 in Salt Lake City and is often cited as the pioneering kick-start for nationally broadcast talk-radio.
It aired from midnight until 5 a.m. and consisted entirely of listeners talking about any subject they wished to talk about — with two exceptions: no politics and no denominational religion.
The radio show was the polar opposite of what I listened to last week when I attended a Stansbury Recreation Service District where board members were open targets of political venom from “friends and neighbors.”
Listed on the agenda was a discussion item about Stansbury Lake that drew over 100 interested and impacted citizens. Unfortunately, what could have been a civil discussion about an important topic of public concern immediately evolved into several hours of finger pointing, accusations, audience cat calls, and blame.
The Apostle Paul counseled the Ephesians, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
President Dallin H. Oaks echoed Paul’s teaching two years ago and wisely advised, “We should also remember not to be part of the current meanness. We should communicate about our differences with a minimum of offense.”
As a concerned citizen and an elected official I have been blessed to be on both sides of controversial issues in the arena of public differences. I also spent a decade being paid to sit in the neutral corner as a news reporter.
I enjoy participating in public controversies, and I appreciate discussing viewpoints that differ from my own. However, I struggle when vile is spewed forth.
Every person I know who runs for, is elected, or appointed to a public office, clearly understands that others will have differences of opinion. Issues that stir strong emotions may be relatively small or impact the community for generations.
Is it really too much to ask in any situation to disagree in a civil and respectable manner?
In the spirit of full disclosure, there have been plenty of times when I “lost my cool” in the public debate arena. However, I never felt good inside about my reactions afterward.
American singer, songwriter and musician Emmylou Harris advised, “As citizens we have to be more thoughtful and more educated and more informed. I turn on the TV and I see these grown people screaming at each other, and I think, well, if we don’t get our civility back, we’re in trouble.”
There is a slim chance that any upcoming public meeting will begin with the congregation singing “Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each Other.” However, I hope we can all strive to follow the advice of George Washington who said, “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”
Our elected leaders respond much better to our concerns when we apply the Biblical teachings of Ecclesiastics: “The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.”
Charlie Roberts is a former LDS bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward.