I Was Raised to be a Cannibal–but I Got Better

As my family and I drove home from our brief vacation in Arches National Park, we heard this strange ad on the radio: “I was raised to be a cannibal. That’s why I am an honest businessman…” It took a few seconds for us to realize that we had misheard. The word wasn’t cannibal but accountable. “I was raised to be accountable.”
Quite an important distinction. That word–accountable–has significant application for me right now.

Our recent Sunday school classes have taught about the Saints’ expulsion from Missouri. It’s a harrowing story, and we’ve seen it depicted in several Mormon films as well. We know the tale of our persecution–and from what we’ve heard, some very bad people were accountable. It was the riff raff of Missouri–and it’s true that there was a lot of riff raff there. Even Wallace Stegner describes the Missouri frontier as a violent, lawless place. Nonetheless, we are getting only one side of the story.

When I taught Institute, I read about Sidney Rigdon’s Salt Sermon in the CES manual–and was impressed with the forthrightness of the book. In the Salt Sermon, Rigdon compared Mormon dissenters to “salt which hath lost its savor” and deserved to be trodden underfoot. Dissenters felt threatened and fled. In another sermon, also alluded to in the CES manual, Rigdon invoked the exact words which Governor Boggs would use shortly thereafter. Rigdon said: “And that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us.”

As I prepared my Institute lesson, I was struck by the thought that the violence of Missouri and later of Nauvoo might have been lessened by what I call GENTLING–finding common ground and showing mutual respect so that agitation is prevented. Of course, this is far too easy an answer–and certainly some Saints’ afflictions came with no provocation. Nonetheless, I find that the older I get, the more inclined I am to seek resolution rather than confrontation; compassion rather than vindication; forgiveness instead of retribution–ultimately, beauty for ashes. I find that I cannot do what I must do as a mother if I have any other attitude.

I’ve been contemplating these issues as I’ve thought of missionaries (who I love) attempting to preach the gospel to people who are are usually unresponsive and sometimes cruel and mocking. These young men, so fresh from high school football games and the spirit of competition–even cheers which berate the other team–must be sorely tempted to do as some scriptures in the New Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Mormon suggest: shake the dust from their feet (or from their garments) as a testimony against those who treated them so badly, who will then have to answer for their behavior at the judgment bar. In fact, I’m sure some missionaries have put all of their angry energy into shaking the dust off their feet in condemnation of mean people.

Let me speak boldly. Such a practice is almost always wrong. The moral imperative I live by at this time of my life–grounded in my Christian faith–is best phrased by Levinas and Dostoevsky. Father Zossima says in The Brothers Karamazov “All are responsible for all–and I more than any.” Levinas tells us that the “other” (the other human with whom we are interacting at any given moment) calls us to responsibility–responsibility for his/her betterment and well being. The face of the other [person] carries within it the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.”

In other words, Zossima accepts the possibility that his actions or inaction may have ultimately resulted in another’s crime; that he, by ignoring a need, had perhaps set a violent act into motion. In fact, he makes himself the MOST responsible. In the same philisophical line, Levinas calls us away from retribution by suggesting that we cannot view others as an extention of ourselves or the fulfillment of our own needs, but that we must recognize the infinite, unknowable, and sacred otherness of each person, and take responsibility for generating what my son would call “positive energy.” If we act in the spirit of Christ, we will likely not be acted upon.

I believe this. I believe that Christianity (and most religions, for that matter) carry the same prime directive: Love one another. I believe I am to be accountable–not a cannibal. (And sadly, some of us have behaved with voracious, blood-thirsty words and deeds. President Kimball used these strong words to describe this tendency in his sermon “The False Gods We Worship”: We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching. )

Revising our manuals to tell fuller stories can clearly be done, since the actual Seminary/Institute manuals already do it to a large extent. But how do we counsel missionaries who have scriptures in hand instructing them to “shake off the dust of thy feet against those who receive thee not…as a testimony against them in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 60)? We know that Christ’s disciples report similar instructions in the New Testament. Yet such an action totalizes the non-listeners and assumes that they have concluded their potential in one rude moment. It goes contrary to one of the most fundamental principles of the restored gospel: the infinite nature of the atonement. It reduces Him who redeemed us to a god of lashes. No. I can’t buy it. My Savior is the redeemer of the world who seeks lost sheep and runs to greet prodigal sons and daughters as they return to Him. Sometimes the return is years beyond the moment of deplorable behavior. Yet the miracle is always possible. I personally believe it remains possible even after death.

Are we doing enough to preach the gospel of peace? As we tell the Mormon story, should we not include more information as a testimony to the possible consequences of provocative words or threats? Can we acknowledge that we Latter-day Saints bear some of the responsibility for the hardships our ancestors suffered? Can we move beyond a discussion of how badly we were treated into the greater commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you”? And would such a discussion perhaps help our missionaries and members become better disciples–even when confronting cruelty?

Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

Comments

  1. Cannibalism…of course only sparingly… or in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. (Donner party anyone?)

    Seriously though, here’s hoping we will all get better. Wonderful post.

  2. It doesn’t have to be the act of “dusting off your feet” that halts the progression of missionary work, either. I remember a time on my mission where I hated the people in my area. They were rude, obnoxious, prideful, and incredibly hostile. Me and my companion decided that we would just forcefully bear our testimony every contact. We were doing the right thing (bearing testimony to everyone we met) but the Spirit certainly wasn’t involved since we had already written the person off and was just hoping to make them accountable enough to get their comeuppance at the judgement bar in the future.

    Needless to say, we never got a lot done. Like Jonah, I was perched on the hill above Ninevah, waiting for God to nuke the place after preaching the word and being frustrated when the nuking wasn’t happening.

    Luckily, like Margaret’s cannibalism, I got better.

  3. I just re-read Elder Hales’ talk on Christian Courage the other day. I think it should be on my re-read list a few times a year. So much there to ponder and to pray for. Charity is a gift. Our natural inclinations for retribution and retaliation and all that other stuff simply can’t be overcome w/o the Savior’s help.

    I think, though, that it’s easier to talk about this doctrine in the present, because it’s so hard to know all that went on in the past. As we had the lesson on Sunday, I was inclined to want to give our forebears charity, too. For every quote that could imply that they goofed somehow, there are others that illustrate such patience and long-suffering, too. I think it’s too easy to be critical of what they didn’t do or did wrong to bring about Zion, but during that lesson, I couldn’t help but feel that Zion is a multi-generational pursuit. That we have to pick up the baton and move the work forward with charity and power that only comes from true Christian living. The doctrine discussed by Elder Hales, for example, can anchor us to know how to respond when we are in the line of fire in some way. And yes, I think that kind of doctrine is so important to teach to missionaries. To all of us. How we respond when being persecuted can teach so much about the gospel to others. And may help them feel the Lord’s love…which could be the very thing they are missing which causes the unkind behavior in the first place.

    Anyway, good post. Thanks for listening to my ramblings…this topic has been on my mind the past few days.

  4. Margaret, I think this is a great point. I remember at least a few missionaries who — while not actually dusting their feet — took great pleasure in informing unreceptive people that they’d had their chance and would now be damned. It was an unlovely practice, which sometimes had unfortunate results. I was once chased by a machete-wielding drunk who had previously been harassed by one such missionary.

    Regarding the larger point about Mormon history, I deeply agree. The Saints could have done better in finding peace and reducing conflict; in most cases, they instead chose to escalate, just like their neighbors. Earlier this week, I offered the suggestion that Joseph Smith’s life might be read as a classical tragedy and this tendency to escalate could be seen as his tragic flaw. Your thoughts, as always, are deeper and more coherent.

  5. I wonder what place revelation-related-assumptions came into play. BY was planning on continuing JS’ plan to go to “Utah”. I wonder if people made assumptions that they were going because they could not stay…going because the people in Missouri were wicked, going because violence would escalate…instead they were going because that was where the Lord wanted them. Does that make sense? I know I sometimes make assumptions surrounding revelation to help it make sense in my mind-rarely am I right.

    As for the missionary thing…I wonder if the whole instant world we live in doesn’t play a part. We have lost the concept that you sow, weed, fertilize, water, wait, weed….then much later you reap. Frequently in missionary work you may have just one little piece of that process-weeding for example…and never realize the joy and hope of sowing or the rewarding reaping.

  6. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’ve done a lot of ruminating on this scripture from 3rd Nep 6

    “Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God. ”

    Being proud and pugilistic are a couple of my defining traits. Truthfully, in meat life, I’ve become a much calmer and more accommodating person.

    It is interesting to me in this verse that some who are reviled don’t turn, as it were, to confront their persecutors, but instead face God to reestablish that relationship. ~

  7. Wonderful article. One of the best I’ve ever read here or anywhere else. Thank you.

    I’m not sure that “dusting off your feet” is as dismissive or damning an action as you seem to think it is. I agree entirely with what you say when you add the cursing-of-the-house that you get in the New Testament now and again–that’s just silly, Paul–but I think we might read “dusting off your feet” a little differently.

    To me it exemplifies exactly what you are talking about elsewhere. We dust off our feet to get rid of the residue of ill feelings and gain a sense of peaceful distance. We shake the dust off our feet and the sense of resentment from our hearts, and we view those with whom we have interacted objectively, as people, and not as enemies. I think of the dusting-off-your-feet as emblematic of that healthy distance you describe when elaborating on Father Zossima–others are not responsible for our personal fulfillment, and we cannot bring them theirs, we can only act as a tool in the hands of the Savior. When we have done all we can done, when we have played our part, we dust off our feet, leave a prayer for them in our hearts, and leave the rest to God. Perhaps our paths will cross again, and perhaps they won’t. This isn’t a display of apathy towards another human being’s eternal salvation, but a very healthy, very Christian way of granting them their agency, respecting the saving grace of our Redeemer, and loving them all the more.

  8. Davey Morrison–I love that take on “shaking the dust off our feet.” Thank you.
    Thomas Parkin–I always enjoy what you say. Wonderful scripture and insights.
    Britt–fully agreed about the real nature of missionary work
    JNS–Somehow, in our preparations for our trip, I missed that blogpost. I have now read it. It’s truly compelling.
    M&M-I love Elder Hales. Thanks for the link.
    Ted–Excellent point. Testimony used as a weapon. Wow.
    And Kent O–AMEN!

  9. I recall on my mission in Bolivia, letting a reformed cannibal sleep on our floor one night, as he needed a place to stay. My companion slept with one eye open all night long….

    If we only regurgitate the vanilla history we get from some, we can never learn from our own mistakes. Sunday after church, I had a couple ask me about polygamy in Nauvoo. They were shocked about finding out that Joseph Smith was sealed to other men’s wives, for example. Fortunately, they trusted me enough to come and speak with me, rather than be shocked and offended and leave the Church.

    It wasn’t easy to explain it. The shock will always be there, as it is shocking to our sensibilities. I explained that God sometimes asks us to do shocking things. It is shocking that Moses and Joshua wiped out entire cities, including women and children. I mentioned that it would have been easier for Joseph Smith, if all he wanted was sex, to sneak off and hire a prostitute in another town, but instead chose to do the thing that would lead to his death. Doesn’t make sense, unless we believe that Joseph was commanded to do difficult and shocking things.

    And if we can teach our kids in seminary and Institute, then perhaps they will be better prepared for the skeletons in our closet. They will be better prepared for missions, where people in Bolivia can now find stuff on the Internet and then ask questions young missionaries might not be able to answer. We need to be accountable for our own history, but how can we do so if we do not know it?

  10. Left Field, vanilla lover says:

    Rameumptom, I love your imagery of “vanilla history,” but perhaps not in the way you intended. I think vanilla history is exactly what we want. I can’t think of a flavoring with more complexity and nuance. The flavor and aroma of vanilla enhances everything that contains it, just as history with complexity and nuance enhances and improves our view of the past and present.

    Just imagine the firestorm that would have ignited if Rigdon had referred to vanilla that has lost its savor. Perhaps he was being gentle with the salt imagery.

  11. Margaret, great post. Your thoughts reminded me of some statistics that I recently read (see BCC side bar “Happy Pioneer Day, Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.) One thing they Pew Center noted: “Mormons are more likely than the general public to favor military strength over diplomacy as the best way to ensure peace. But a plurality of Mormons (49%) still lean toward diplomacy. More than a third (37%) says military strength is the best way. Among the general population, 59% say good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace, while 28% say military strength is the best way.”

    I wondered why that was, but I think your points that uniquely mormon scriptures have a uniquely militaristic view on life is interesting. I think that would affect the world views of mormon adherents, and that attitude is reflected in this survey. I just keep thinking that finding spiritual balance is one of the great lessons we’re supposed to learn in life: justice vs. mercy, stridency vs. love, etc.

  12. Being persected need not be met with tolerance. But if some one is rude to you, not willing to listen to you, or just dislikes you… is not persecution. Being called wrong or not a christian…is not persecution.
    Sometimes walls put up against perceived persecution, are not needed, and can even be harmful.

  13. chelseaw says:

    What Bob said.

    I love this post. Thank you.

  14. 12.
    On what is/not persecution:
    .
    The Church published an Address to the World in the early 20th century to respond to the false stories going around about us. The Ministerial Association of Salt Lake City then published a review of the Address. B.H. Roberts responded to this Review in the MIA Conference of June, 1907. I like this paragraph from his response:
    .
    “These gentlemen reviewers express two fears. One is that they will be charged, because of issuing this review, with misrepresentation. Well, I don’t wonder at that, and I think we have proven that you have misrepresented. But they also fear that we will charge them with persecution. Gentlemen, we acquit you of the intention of persecution. When the Revs. Phineas Ewing, Dixon, Cavanaugh, Hunter, Bogart, Isaac McCoy, Riley, Pixley, Woods and others carried on an agitation in Missouri against “Mormonism” and the “Mormons” that resulted in burning hundreds of our homes and driving our people—including women and children, remember—to bivouac out in the wilderness at an inclement season of the year; when the mob incited by these reverends, your prototypes, gentlemen, laid waste our fields and gardens, stripped our people of their earthly possessions, keeping up that agitation until twelve thousand or fifteen thousand people were driven from the state of Missouri, dispossessed of several hundred thousand acres of land—two hundred and fifty thousand acres, to be exact—which they had entered, and rendered them homeless—we might call, we do call, that persecution. When the Rev. Mr. Levi Williams led the mob that shot to death Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith in Carthage prison, and when the Rev. Mr. Thomas S. Brockman led the forces against Nauvoo, after the great body of the people had withdrawn from that city, and expelled the aged, the widow and the fatherless, and laid waste the property of the people—we think we are justified in calling that persecution, of which right reverend gentlemen were the chief instigators. And when in this territory some years ago one wave of agitation followed another, of which your class, and some of you, were chief movers, until a reign of terror was produced, and a regime was established under which men guilty at most of a misdemeanor, could nevertheless be imprisoned for a term of years covering a lifetime, and fined to the exhaustion of all they possessed, under the beautiful scheme of segregating the offense into numerous counts in each indictment; and when in that reign of terror women were compelled to clasp their little ones to their breasts and go out among strangers, exiled from their homes—we might be inclined to call that persecution. But our experience has been such that we scorn to call such attacks as this review of yours persecution. It does not rise, gentlemen, I assure you, to that bad eminence. So we acquit you of any intent in your review to persecute us. You need not fear that such a charge will be made, we are not so thin-skinned as all that. Besides, gentlemen, your power is no longer equal to your malice, and so we do not believe you will ever be able to persecute us again.” [italics added]

  15. Margaret, this post reminds me of something Eugene England used to teach, based on his study of the works of Rene Girard, and the escalation of violence by imitative desire and scapegoating of others. As you have indicated, turning ourselves to God, and leaning on His mercy, is the proper response to conflict.

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading in US history of the period from the 1820′s up to the civil war. We had presidents who condoned mob violence as “popular sovereignty”, a basic right of the people to express their views, such that persecution of religious and ethnic minorities during that time often took a violent turn, and government generally turned a blind eye. The natural reaction in such a situation is to do exactly what Sidney Rigdon and others did, by threatening violence for violence, and performing some of the same kind of outrages on non-Mormon neighbors as had been done to the Missouri saints. The Lord’s admonition was to “Renounce war and proclaim peace (D&C 98)”. Zion’s camp was not about retribution, but about proving hearts and testimonies in the end.

    One of your best posts ever, Margaret. I really liked Davey Morrison’s take on dusting off our feet. Manaen, I also appreciate hearing BH Roberts take on what persecution really is.

  16. Great post. Though I thought from the title it was going to go along the lines of “I was raised a racist but I got better.”

  17. A few thoughts on turning the other cheek and answering reviling with patience:
    .
    29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
    30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. — 3 Ne 11
    .
    Paid brings you to a humility that allows you to ponder. – Robt D. Hales, GenCon 10/1998, after 18 months’ recuperation from cancer
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    Bitterness is the poison someone drinks intentionally with the hope that someone else will die. — Dr. Laura Schelsinger, 5/2000
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    We cannot have the companionship or the Holy Ghost — the medium of individual revelation — if we are in transgression or if we are angry. — Dallin H. Oaks, “The Lord’s Way”
    .
    Let us not — as some do — make the mistake of thinking the chips we place on our own shoulders are crosses. — Neal A. Maxwell, GenCon 4/2001
    .
    Movements born in hatred very quickly take on the characteristics of the thing they oppose. — J. S. Habgood
    .
    1 But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.
    2 O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever. — Jac 3
    .
    Wise is the man who says all that needs to be said, but not all that could be said. — Marvin J. Ashton, GenCon 10/1976
    .
    If your neighbors talk about you, and you think that they do wrong in speaking evil of you, do not let them know that you ever heard a word, and conduct yourselves as if they always did right, and it will mortify them, and they will say, “We’ll not try this game any longer.” — BY, JD 19:70
    .
    The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? — Ps 27:1
    .
    Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved [e.g. your tormentor]. — Quoted by Pres. Monson in recent GenCon
    .
    No one can be classed as a true follower of the Savior who is not in the process of removing from his heart and mind every feeling of ill will, bitterness, hatred, envy, or jealousy. — H. Burke Peterson, GenCon 10/1983
    .
    Pain is inevitable; misery is optional. — Quoted by Marion D. Hanks
    .
    I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering, and death. I see the world slowly being transformed into a wilderness. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty will end and that peace and tranquility will return. — Anne Frank
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    Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. — James 1:19-20
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    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand. — Patti Smith
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    Happiness comes more from loving than being loved; and often when our affection seems wounded it is only our vanity bleeding. To love, and to be hurt often, and to love again — this is the brave and happy life. — J. E. Buchrose
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    Pride creates a noise within us which makes the quiet voice of the Spirit hard to hear. – Henry B. Eyring, GenCon 10/2001
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    Who ever takes offense when offense is not intended is a fool — and whoever takes offense when offense is intended is a damned fool. — BY
    .
    If you do not forgive, you give away your future. Tomorrow is held hostage to yesterday. — Stephen R. Covey, 5/25/2005 fireside in LA
    .
    Evil multiplies by the response it seeks to provoke, and when I return evil for evil, I engender corruption myself. The chain of evil is broken for good when a pure and loving heart absorbs a hurt and forebears to hurt in return. Deep within every child of God the light of Christ resides, guiding, comforting, purifying the heart that turns to Him. — Dennis Rasmussen, “The Lord’s Question.” pp 63-64
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    Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. … Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
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    While we cannot agree with others on certain matters, we must never be disagreeable. We must be friendly, soft-spoken, neighborly, and understanding. — GBH, GenCon 10/2003
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    What people consider a mysteries are the things that go into how a house is built, but the mystery of a house is how to live in it. — Steven M
    .
    When filled with God’s love, we can do and see and understand things that we could not otherwise do or see or understand. Filled with His love, we can endure pain, quell fear, forgive freely, avoid contention, renew strength, and bless and help others in ways surprising even to us. – John H. Groberg, GenCon 10/2004
    .
    Most of all, you should pray to be filled with the love of Christ. This love is given to those who are true followers of Jesus Christ, who ask for it with all the energy of their heart.8 This love is the fruit of the tree of life,9 and tasting it is a major part of your conversion because once you have felt your Savior’s love for you, even the smallest part, you will feel secure, and a love for Him and for your Heavenly Father will grow within you. In your heart you will want to do what these holy beings ask of you.
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    When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive. – Alan Paton
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    Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate. – Albert Schweitzer
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    We must keep the bridge of mercy in good repair. Each of us will surely need to cross it. – H. Wallace Goddard
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    No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse. – Jeffrey R. Holland, GenCon 3/2007
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    When we freely extend the joy of forgiveness to others, then it fully will be ours. – Dieter F. Uchdorf GenCon 4/2007
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    When you serve others, it is easier to find yourself because then there is more of you to find — manaen
    .
    The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances. – Aristotle
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    If you expect someone else to guide you, you will be lost. – James Earl Jones
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    A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race – JS, TPJS, p. 174
    .
    When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble and you’ll be right more than half the time. – Henry B. Eyring, GenCon 4/2004
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    If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. – Henry Wordsworth Longfellow
    .
    24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
    25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
    26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. – 2 Tim 2
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    God brings men into deep waters not to drown them but to cleanse them.
    .
    I’ve wept in the night
    For the shortness of sight
    That to somebody’s need made me blind
    But I never have yet
    Felt a tinge of regret
    For being a little too kind
    — Quoted by Pres. Monson
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    And seekest great things for thyself? Seek them not. – Jer 45:5
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    What you are thinking about is what you are becoming. – Muhammad Ali
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    My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations. – Michael J. Fox
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    Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
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    So, the great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage. And the tragedy of life is to fail in that test and so fail to qualify to return in glory to our heavenly home. – Henry B. Eyring, GenCon 10/2005
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    12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. – Hel 5
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    I have problems. They are mine because I keep them. James D. McArthur, “Embracing Hope” BYU conference on healing from abuse
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    There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up. – Booker T. Washington
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    You have a choice. You can wring your hands and be consumed with concern for the future or choose to use the counsel the Lord has given to live with peace and happiness in a world awash with evil. If you choose to concentrate on the dark side, this is what you will see. […]We cannot dry up the mounting river of evil influences, for they result from the exercise of moral agency divinely granted by our Father. But we can and must, with clarity, warn of the consequences of getting close to its enticing, destructive current.
    |
    Now the brighter side. Despite pockets of evil, the world overall is majestically beautiful, filled with many good and sincere people. God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures evil agents spread throughout it. You can live a virtuous, productive, righteous life by following the plan of protection created by your Father in Heaven: His plan of happiness. – Richard G. Scott, 4/2004 GenCon
    .
    Are you choosing your weakness or are you choosing your strength? — after David Chang
    .
    He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. – Aeschylus, quoted by Robt F. Kennedy 4 Apr 1968 in announcing Dr. King’s assassination to a crowd.

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    I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who will have the sought and found how to serve. – Albert Schwietzer
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    To work in the world lovingly means that we are defining what we will be for, rather than reacting to what we are against. – Christina Baldwin
    .
    No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God […] and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that will we came here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven. – Orson F. Whitney, quoted in “Faith Precedes the Miracle” p 98
    .
    This is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness. – Alma 27:18
    .
    There is no darkness in Christ and as we love our fellow man, there will be no darkness in us either. – Sarah Watts, 1 Mar 2009
    .
    It is not the natural man who, in times of depression, will think of spiritual things “because God has been good to me.” The natural man won’t go there. – Bishop Kenny Parry, 22 Mar 2009
    .
    But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in his love. – 2 Ne 1:15
    .
    When we fail to champion each other, in a way, we betray each other. – Sherri Dew.
    .
    When we are willing to restore to others that which we have not taken, or heal wounds that we did not inflict, or pay a debt that we did not incur, we are emulating His part in the Atonement. – Boyd K. Packer, GenCon 10/1995

  18. The mention of boldness of certain missionaries reminded me of an experience I had soon after my baptism in the late 70’s. I was asked to go on splits with the Elders who were following up on Visitor’s Center referrals from SLC. We knocked on the door of one of these referrals and as the door opened, the Elder cheerfully introduced us. The resident politely explained that she had no interest in speaking with us and started to close the door. The Elder then put his foot in the door to prevent its closing and began to “preach” to the woman. Before she managed to kick his foot out of the way, the Elder said something like… “One day we will all be standing before the judgment bar of God and he will ask you, “What did you do when I sent my servants to your home?” He added, “We will be there to testify that you rejected his servants”. This was my first experience with missionary work in the church! I stood there the entire time, not knowing quite what to do or say. Since then I have learned to love doing missionary work, albeit a bit more subdued than the experience with my first missionary companion.
    P.S. I later learned that this same Elder was sent home early from his mission.

  19. Thank you, Margaret.

  20. Kinda O says:

    I recommend a careful reading of the parable of the wheat and the tares. I bring it up whenever someone talks about God weeding people out, or people weeding themselves out. Jesus counsels the servants against pulling tares (rendering judgment) prematurely. Leave the plants in the soil and let them grow.

  21. Before I left on my mission, I was asked to go tracting with one of the missionaries serving in my ward. I only remember what happened at one door that day, some 35 years ago, and it involved my full-time missionary companion, at some point in the conversation, telling the woman she was being a sign-seeker, and, well, we all know what the scriptures have to say about wicked and adulterous sign-seekers.

    At the time, I thought, “Wow, what a brave thing to say”.

    Now I look back and think, “What a stupid and arrogant thing for a 20-year-old to say to someone”.

    This Elder had been schooled in the “try to attract flies with vinegar” philosophy. I doubt he was all that successful.

  22. Thomas Parkin says:

    Mark N,

    _Probably_ not the best approach! :)

    But one never knows. It’s good to have as full as possible a repertoire of behaviors to make sure we have what is called for at any given time. Jesus did. ~

  23. AspieMom says:

    Excellent post.

  24. Steve G. says:

    This post reminded me of the one time on my mission, that I broke from my normal submissive approach. It was towards the end and I had spent many months talking to people in the pedestrian zone. Street contacting there usually consisted of at least a few angry people screaming at us to the absurd preacher with a microphone who preached with a monotone voice all day long. As soon as he saw us his pitch always changed to beware the evil mormons at least until we were out of sight, when he’d go back to whatever he was droning on about before.

    The ironic thing, was it wasn’t a slight against my religion, that set me off, but a closely grouped salvo of lies about my country. I fired back with my own negative impressions of his country of which I was a guest, and immediately knew I should have held my tounge. A crowd formed and I decided flight was the better option. We escaped the crowd to heckles and jeers and I felt like such an idiot. I knew I screwed up and just hoped I didn’t do too much damage to the church.

    Mine was a pretty mellow encounter compared to some other stories I heard in my mission. Still that was one of the times I felt the stupidest in my life.

  25. I’m so curious about where you served, Steve G. I don’t think you did permanent damage.

  26. Steve G. says:

    It was Germany. I had a lot of built up frustration for the german people towards the end of my mission. It was a bit hard to come home and listen to other return Missionaries express their love for the people they served. I felt that way for many individuals, but not for the people as a whole. I keep in contact with a number of friends who served with me. Invariably that frustration was a constant companion for all of us, and not one easily let go of, even 10+ years later.

    If only we could have had a dusting off of the feet ceremony in the spirit of Davey Morrison’s comment above, perhaps it would have helped.

  27. Great post. It’s related to a question I’ve long wanted answered. Why, in the list of commandments recited during temple recommend interviews, is there no mention of the greatest commandment? Why does my bishop not ask me if I love others as myself?

    Seems more important than all the other bits.

    Oh, and The Brothers Karamazov is an amazing book.

  28. Thomas Parkin says:

    “Why does my bishop not ask me if I love others as myself? ”

    Do you? ~

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