During 2012, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
As a people we are advised not to be critical, not to be unkind, not to speak harshly of those with whom we associate. We ought to be the greatest exemplars in all the world in that regard. Consider the criticism today. Pick up your newspapers and see the unkind things that are being said by individuals about others, and yet many times the individual who is criticizing has a beam in his own eye and does not see at all clearly, but he does think his brother has a mote in his eye.
It is so easy to criticize someone else, so easy to find fault, and sometimes we speak harshly of our neighbors and friends. Now this is what our Heavenly Father gave us … :
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?” [Matthew 7:1–4.]
Aren’t we rather prone to see the limitations and the weaknesses of our neighbors? Yet that is contrary to the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a class of people who find fault and criticize always in a destructive way. There is a difference in criticism. If we can criticize constructively under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, we may change beneficially and properly some of the things that are being done. But if we have the spirit of fault finding, of pointing out the weaknesses and failings of others in a destructive manner, that never comes as a result of the companionship of the Spirit of our Heavenly Father and is always harmful.
Quoting from the Bible, Smith is exactly right. However, why do so many Latter-day Saints use a criticial attitude to criticize Christians who share their faith? When we are at public outreaches, we have had conversations where the Mormons assume that we somehow have ill feelings toward them. This may even cause them to have a negative attitude toward us, thinking that somehow we must hate them. If this was the case, why would we try to evangelize? Then, after talking to us for a while, they realize that their presuppositions were not correct. They were “prone to see the limitations and the weaknesses of [their] neighbors,” but instead they found out that we really do care, even if they disagree with our philosophy. Perhaps they wouldn’t share their faith in a public manner by passing out tracts or trying to engage others in conversation, but at least they understood that what we were trying to do was no different than what thousands of missionaries attempt to do every day, sincerely trying to share their beliefs with those who they felt desperately needed the truth.
Kindness has the power to lead people from their mistakes.
There are those who will make mistakes. There are those among us today that have gone astray, but they are the children of our Lord and he loves them. He has given to you and to me the right to go to them in kindness and love and with patience and with a desire to bless, seek to win them from the mistakes that they are making. It is not my privilege to judge some of these that have made mistakes and are still making mistakes, unless I am so called by reason of the authority that may be conferred upon me. But it is my privilege, if I see them doing the wrong thing, to in some way, if possible, turn them back into the pathway that leads to eternal life in the Celestial kingdom.
If this paragraph is going to be fully understood, the reader needs to grasp the nuances of Mormonism. When he refers to the “children of God,” Mormonism teaches that all people are spirit brothers and sisters from premortality. Since we are all related, Smith is saying that special allowances need to be given to those who chose Jesus Christ in the first estate. As far as turning people “back into the pathway that leads to eternal life in the Celestial kingdom,” he assumes all of his spirit brothers and sisters even have a desire to go there and become gods and goddesses of their own worls. However, achieving exaltation is really nothing more than an impossible gospel. (See http://www.mrm.org/salvation)
Let us not complain at our friends and our neighbors, because they do not do what we want them to do. Rather let us love them into doing the things that our Heavenly Father would have them do. We can do that, and we cannot win their confidence or their love in any other way.
Just the other day, a young Mormon man in his early 20s who was attending the Mormon temple open house with his family walked toward me on the public sidewalk surrounding the temple. He glared at me, took the information newspaper I offered to him, and proceeded to rip it up, rolling it up into a ball and throwing it into my face. (To see a PDF version of the newspaper that he was given away, go to www.gotforgiveness.com) Yes, it was true that I was doing something that he didn’t like, trying to share my faith with Latter-day Saints like him. His action, however, was not something that would help “win my confidence or my love in any other way.” While Smith might not have liked the idea that I disagreed with Mormonism, I hope my attitude is exactly what he said, that I must love the person even if I might dislike his faith or even the actions of this young man. When that man walked away into the temple, leaving the destroyed newspaper on the ground for me to pick up, my natural reaction was to fight back. Instead, I asked him as he walked away, “Is that the best way to defend your faith?” Before I could say anything more, I realized the higher road was not yelling or arguing with him, just picking up the paper and letting it go.
Love and kindness in our homes can lead our children to listen to our counsel.
It is our duty—I should say it is our privilege as well as our duty to take sufficient time to surround our children with safeguards and to so love them and earn their love that they will be glad to listen to our advice and counsel. Live in such a way, in love and kindness, that peace and prayer and thanksgiving will be in your homes together. Do not let your homes just be a place to hang your hats at night and get your meals and then run off some place else but let your homes be the abiding place of the Spirit of the Lord.
I agree, kindness and love need to fill our homes. On this topic, Smith and I agree.