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Christianity and incivility don't mix, Forum speaker tells BYU audience

For rebroadcast and reprint information, visit byub.org/devotionals or speeches.byu.edu.

“It is never an option to claim Jesus Christ as Savior and behave in an uncivil manner with anyone, under any circumstance,” Mark DeMoss said in Tuesday’s forum.

DeMoss, founder and president of The DeMoss Group, a public relations firm serving Christian organizations, decried the incivility that preceded former Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s 2010 shooting. DeMoss is an evangelical Christian and an adviser to presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“The First Amendment may give me the right to demonize you with public speech, but it doesn’t make it right,” he said.

In the wake of particularly uncivil discourse in the political arena in 2008, DeMoss launched the Civility Project, which included a pledge that he, along with Lanny Davis, White House counsel under President Clinton, encouraged 585 congress members and governors to sign. The civility pledge included only three points: one, “I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior;” two, “I will be respectful of others, whether or not I agree with them;” and three, “I will stand against incivility where and when I see it.”

Unfortunately, only three of the 585 signed the pledge, and DeMoss and Davis halted the project after a few years.

He still calls for civility in every arena. Quoting Elder Quentin L. Cook, DeMoss said, “There are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. To recognize how we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable. If we show love and respect, even in adverse circumstances, we become more like Christ.”

DeMoss is also the author of “The Little Red Book of Wisdom.” He acknowledged his lack of years to vouch for his claim on wisdom, but said that it’s available to everyone.

“Most people associate wisdom with age, or people in positions of prominence and power,” he said. “I’m glad wisdom isn’t reserved for certain people, but is available to any of us, to all of us. Wisdom does not favor intelligence or education, affluence or sophistication. Its call is to everyone, everywhere.” 

Three ways, he suggested, for anyone to gain wisdom are first, to spend time around wise people; second, to read the textbook. DeMoss said Pat Williams, senior vice president of the Orlando Magic, has suggested that reading five books on a given subject will make you an expert. DeMoss suggested that reading the best book on a given subject dozens or hundreds of times also works. He said that this is why he reads a chapter of Proverbs each day.

Third, DeMoss said, we can get wisdom simply by asking for it. Quoting Billy Graham, he said, “Knowledge is horizontal, but wisdom is vertical—it comes down from above.” 

“So, if you want wisdom, even as a college student,” DeMoss said, “spend time around wise people, read the textbook, and ask God for it.”

DeMoss closed his address with an explanation of what he said are arguably the two most important questions in life: “Then what?” And “now what?”

“Then what,” to be asked when planning out a life, should be asked after each plan. After college, marriage, kids, then what? “How would you answer that question?” DeMoss asked.

“Once we’ve answered the ‘Then what?’ question,” he said, “I would suggest we must answer the next most important question in life—‘Now what?’ What do we do now, here on earth, to serve Jesus Christ and make a difference for eternity?”

“I cannot begin to imagine life on earth without Jesus Christ at the center of it,” DeMoss said. “He’s not only all I need—He’s all I want. Two questions—Then what? Now what? Just three simple words, yet both our eternity and our life on earth depend fully on our answers.”

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