What will we be known for?

Of my forth-grade playground I have one memory. It is an act of unkindness and my response. I had three friends. I don’t remember their names. Two were Mormons and the third was a Catholic. On that day, I found my Catholic friend crying between two buildings, sitting on the gravel with his head buried in his hands. I squatted down beside him and asked what was wrong. He looked at me afraid for a moment and then said, “They told me my church was not true.” Then from behind me I heard a voice say, “Because it’s not. We belong to the one true church. His is of the Devil.” There stood my other two Mormon friends. My friend not of our religion was crying and saying, “It’s not true. My church is not of the Devil.” My Primary friends said, “Your church is a lie. It’s not true.” And they started to walk away. I looked my crying friend and moved to pity I called after the retreating boys, “Maybe his church is true.” And I turned to him and said the same thing. It is strange to say, but I believed I was lying to him, but it felt so joyous to say. It was one of my first experiences with the Holy Ghost. I put my arm around him and said it again, “Maybe your church is true.” Again the warm feeling came. I was crying with him.

I’ve believed since, that kindness is a greater virtue than truth. I think this is because truth, in an epistemological sense, is largely inaccessible to us. What truths can we know? I think only those that are revealed by the Holy Ghost and that during the time we are under its influence. It is always personal, inward, and accessible only to our own subconscious. It comes for moments, teaches us, then it is a memory, left to guide us and subject to all the weaknesses attend such brain function. We then have to live to apply its lessons. We have it as a gift and a constant companion, but that constancy seems to manifest itself as needed and as we set ourselves to receive it. It enters our life, we go on trying to apply what it has taught. There are times when I feel on my own. Other times when I am under its profound effect. So there is one source of truth. But we only really know it as such when it is manifesting directly.

Our beliefs are formed from these truths, but not these alone. Our experiences in life frame and contextualize these truths. They become truths for us. And these truths are a mish-mash of life’s experiences, lessons from on high, and personal inclination. These are beliefs. Beliefs are not truths. Our beliefs may be about truths, but some humility is needed. Beliefs may be dangerous things and believers can be dangerous people. Believers may drive planes into buildings for their beliefs. People may torture others for their beliefs or send them to prison camps or gas chambers. There have been religious believers, believers in political systems and in nationalisms, etc. who have acted in ways that can only be described as evil because they believed God wanted them to. Beliefs must be tempered by something. I think that thing is kindness and love.

When a woman was taken in Adultery and brought to Jesus, true believers wanted her stoned. She deserved it. Caught in the act the scripture says. Jesus wrote on the ground. He told them if they were without sin to throw the stones. They all left. And when they were gone, Jesus asked her where her accusers were. They were gone. I’m going to end the story here. Too often we quickly get to the punch line, which we think that is the message. But it is Christ’s actions that interest me. This was an act of compassion and kindness. It was an act of love. The beliefs of the accusers were lacking something and they missed that there was something more important than being right. And we miss this lesson if we rush to point out that he did not condone her action, or we focus alone on his final injunction to her alone—we miss his actions. Compassion. Love. Kindness.

I hope that as a people we will be known for our kindness. Not our conservatism, our family values, or our righteousness. The Pharisees had the market cornered on these things and it doesn’t appear to have served them well. I hope that people will say, there are no people who show more love than the Mormons. They are the most compassionate. Not just in relief and aid, but in attitude and demeanor. That when people think of the LDS they think there goes a people who love peace, who love their neighbor, and act in all things with kindness.

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27 comments to What will we be known for?

  • SteveP

    Just a reminder I’m in Vienna and may appear slow to approve your comments, because I’m eight hours ahead of you and am going to bed. But please comment! I love them and they will appear soon!!!

  • This is a beautifully written post. Thank you for sharing.

  • Ray

    This is wonderful. I’m glad I found your blog. I will add it to the individual blog links on my blog.

  • Love is the power of God after all. I’m glad you shared it with your friend.

  • andrew

    Thank you for this post. How true.

    As I get older, I find that claims of truth (particularly claims of exclusive truth) have much less of an impact on my desire to be a disciple of Christ than messages of kindness and love.

    thank you!

  • I hope that as a people we will be known for our kindness.

    Me too. This is what I would like to be known for, in the end. I love the sentiments in this post.

  • Phil

    I know spelling and proof reading aren’t your strong points, but you really have to distinguish between “REVILED by the Holy Ghost” and “REVEALED by the Holy Ghost”!

  • The good news, in relation to your post, is that Mormons are known for the most part for their kindness. I don’t know how many times I have heard awful, terrible, mocking comments about the Mormon faith. Yet, almost always (except the most hateful of critics) it ends with the comment that Mormons are nice. Sometimes, however, that is considered a negative instead of positive attribute because it comes off as “creepy” to the cynical.

  • SteveP

    Whoops. Thanks for the correction Phil! It’s like when I applied for graduate school and had “hope to be excepted” instead of “hope to be accepted” Not only wrong but way wrong.

  • Cap

    What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing those thoughts. This post has touched me deeply, and I appreciate the thought, and power put into this.

  • Fern RL

    I believe that what you have written in this blog is true. Not the only true blog, but true nonetheless.

    For people, like myself, who tend to be sticklers about the scriptures, may I also add that D&C 1:30 does NOT say “this is the only true church. Period.” There are qualifiers with it, like: “and living church” and “with which I, the Lord, am well pleased.” Further: “speaking unto the church collectively and not individually–” showing that we all need to keep our own noses clean without condemning others.

    I would almost rather testify that this church is not false, than to say it is “The only true church,” [without adding in the qualifiers.]

  • SteveP

    Fern I like that. I wonder how it would be received during testimony meeting to stand up and say, ‘I know this church is not false.’ It would sure get everyone’s attention!

  • I agree as a people we need to be known more for our kindness and neighborly love and less of on social issues.

    http://www.ldsartcollector.com/

  • daveescaped

    I liked the post. Can I respecfully disagree?

    You said, “I hope that people will say, there are no people who show more love than the Mormons.” I think Mormons DO show a great deal of love. Biut that is often the problem. We SHOW love. Shwoing love and actually LOVING are different. I think we need to LOVE. In other words we need to have a genuine love for others rather than simply make an effort to seem kind. I would rather someone scold me (if I deserve it) than treat me kindly. My eife and I discuss this often. I point out that neighbors often say of serial killers how kind they were. I think the display of affection is one of the most overrated behaviors. I would rather that others (my boss for example) treat me with integrity than kindly. I think if I may, that the problem with your story and its application is that children, by their nature, are sensitive and often unable to endure truth. Some adults are also this way. But if we are to grow we need to treat others the truly kind way; offering honesty and expecting it in return.

  • SteveP

    daveescaped I agree. I in no way wanted to imply that this kindness is anything less than genuine love. The ‘showing’ I’m talking about is that which bubbles to the surface because it’s what’s there. Showing without it being there would be meaningless. The kindness of serial killers is not really what I was going for ;) .

  • Cap

    I think the hardest part for me is accepting that people are different. I am far from perfect and will admit that some personalities i have a hard time with, thus I have a hard time loving them. Being kind isn’t hard for me. Even if I can’t stand the person, but loving people is a little harder, going out of my way for some people is a little harder. I should work on that…

  • Steve, you’ve expressed something with this entry that I’ve been trying to verbalize for a long time. I couldn’t agree more.

  • I believe that “kindness” is an absolute “truth”… one of the few that we know:-)

    tDMg
    LdsNana-AskMormon

  • Off the bat, let me say I mean this as “kindly” as possible. Of course, the Catholic Church IS the one true church, so part of the reason it felt so good was because you unwittingly shared the truth.

    Truth is inestimably more important than falsity coupled with “niceness”, which is what you meant to share with your friend on that day. For it was Christ Himself who said that “the truth will set you free”. If you truly believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet, then you oughtn’t lie to your friend and say “maybe your church is true”.

    Authentic kindness wills the good of the individual, and sometimes the good is not comfortable. You sought to comfort your friend and in many ways – especially for a 4th grader – that is laudable. But it is not the highest good.

    Though it is true “love is the greatest”, love wills the best for another and the best is not simply consolation but emancipation from sin and death and the freedom that comes from living a life in accord with God, who himself became incarnate, one of us, so as to raise us up to his level.

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was WITH God, and the Word WAS God…and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling amongst us.”

    Peace of Christ,

    -J.M.J. West

    http://www.catholic.com

  • SteveP

    Wise thoughts jmc. I don’t disagree that kindness isn’t always niceness and may require discomfort, but I do disagree that we always know the truth, or the best, and any assumption we make that we do know must be tempered with love and kindness. I think this is true regardless of our religion be it Mormon, Catholic, or Muslim or anything else. If we act in love we will never drive a plane into buildings or disparage another’s belief even though we may believe they are wrong. I appreciate your thoughts.

  • Cap

    I think that the story of Steve comforting his friend, who was a Catholic is a great example of compassion. Granite, I would, now, most likely take a different approach discussing truth, or the true church with a Catholic. But in fourth grade I can honestly say I would support my friend in his religion.

    When I was in 7th grade I had a very close friend confide in me that he had heard Gods voice, and was told to grow up to be a preacher. Did I believe him. At the time, maybe a little. But I supported him 100%. I listen intently. I even told him about my church. But I did not tell him or even hint that he was wrong.

    More then educating someone on the correctness of our church, and letting them know that it is the only true church, I feel that being an example and being kind to others will help people be attracted to our church much more than telling them that they are wrong. They will have an opportunity to hear our doctrine and I think they would be much more prone to listen with memories of us being a compassionate, kind, loving, and understanding people. I never think it is a good idea to fall into the realm of telling everyone they are wrong, even if it is being told in a kind way.

  • daveescaped

    I’m enjoying this discussion. Good points all around. But let me clarify my point further:

    I’ll take integriy over kindness anyday.

    For example, I think my boss truly likes me. He treats me kindly. He has promised me a promotion next time around and says I deserve it. I’d rather, come my next review, that he treat me with integrity than kindess. I don’t need his sympathy. I need his word to be worth something. I don’t need a shoulder to cry on when I don’t get the promotion. I DO need him to give me value for value. For my hard work I should receive the promised promotion. Same with my neighbor. Same with my friends.

    My best friend last week nearly failed me in this regard. I asked for help moving. He alomst ditched me for a sporting event after promising to help. I didn’t want his kindness, I wanted his word to be worth something. I have another friend who I have nothing in common with. But he is the most honest, loyal person I know. That’s why I like him.

    The friends who show me true integrity are the ones I “love” at the end of the day. I haven’t needed a shoulder to cry on since I was a kid. But I have needed promises to be kept.

    And as a former camp counselor who spent hours codeling homesick campers I often wonder if that was “kind”. Or at least importantly kind. Comforting others can take many forms. I don’t know that showing kindness is nearly as important as we make it out to be. The drunk who ran over my cousin (sorry to be graphic) was described as very kind by his family. I’d rather that he had integrity. No one with integrity would put others lives in danger by driving drunk.

    Defending a friend on the playground is certainly a brave act. But I think it is more the integrity of standing of for the weak because of principle than the kind words and comfort that is greatness. That (IMHO) is love.

  • Cap

    I would have to agree with the importance of integrity to a certain point. I definitely think that standing up for the weak shows great integrity, or being a man of your word, or being responsible, and it shows that you have a caring heart, and love them. I believe that being kind is also a valuable trait. But one cannot be with out the other to show love.

    Being kind needs action. If you like or love an individual there needs to be action backing up that belief. You can easily stand up for a picked on friend on the play ground by confronting the bullies and never go near the hurt friend. (And that takes guts). But the fact in trying to make him feel better, and uplift his spirits, and show compassion towards him I feel is just as honorable.

    So I would have to agree that integrity plays an important part, I also feel that the kindness needs to be there. They both go hand in hand. A husband can defend his wifes honor all day long, but I think the true test of his love is how she is treated once he goes home. (And of course that works vis-versa).

    Maybe this is an obvious statement, but I still feel like I needed to get it out there. (Sorry if this is veering a little off topic, but if goes into kindness for others also).

  • SteveP

    daveescaped, I side with CAP on this one. It seems to me that we don’t need to choose between integrity and kindness and love. I work with students a lot, I must deal with in a position of power and judgement in regards to their work. Evaluation is a big part of being a teacher. When I truly love my students in Christ-like ways, it does not imply that I put on a facade of kindness or of niceness. Or that integrity in some way demands that I act in ways that ways that put them where they deserve to be and that I make sure they know how bad they’ve done something. A student may turn in a very bad paper. My place as teacher demands that I criticize it. But when I love and show kindness to the student. Point out ways that it could be improved, offer suggestions to make him or her a better writer. If you mean ‘by’ integrity’ that I point out the full horror and hack job that I feel their paper really is, I disagree. I can communicate their weaknesses and mistakes in ways that better them. When I am interested in their growth and betterment because my relationship is based on one of love, the kindness may take the form of criticism and correction but it can be done in ways that treat that person with dignity, kindness, and help. I’ve had evaluators do both and criticism that is designed to expose me to what the person feels are the full extent of my ‘offense’ to them never changed me for the better. And in every time that happened I knew I was not loved or valued by that person. To me it sets a false dichotomy to suppose that ‘truth’ or ‘integrity’ are mutually exclusive with kindness. When kindness is born of love we can correct, lift and help others and still and in every case act with kindness.

    Just because there is false kindness in the world and there are those who feign it and then act in ways that belie that kindness, it does not negate real kindness.

    And there is something to be said about trying to be kind even when you don’t feel it. I think of reputation of Utah drivers. Everywhere I go I find people, (yes even in Austria!) who having driven in the Utah Valleys, comment on how rude and unkind the drivers of the state are. I’ve experienced that myself–often. Love your neighbor until he turns in front of you. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to remember that those are my brothers and sisters driving and as I change my relationship to those strangers and try to act with kindness by letting people in, waiting a little before I pull out in front of on coming cars. Basically make an effort to be a kinder driver. I find my own relationship with traffic changing. So I do think acting kindly can be a virtue. So even though integrity may demand that I flip someone off. By restraining and acting kindly I think the world gets better.

    Who do you think moved my fourth grade friend into a better relationship with our church? Ultimately was my Mormon friends pointing out their truths helpful to my friend? Did their brand of integrity do any good? As I said. Kindness is more important than truth–as long as that kindness is rooted in Christ-like love.

  • b

    I agree with your thoughts Steve. You made me think about the following…

    Do you think one could say that truth is a process (rather than a state, substance, or otherwise)? (The question could apply to both ‘truth’ and ‘Truth’).

    How do you disentangle spiritual impressions from confounded actions; e.g., if you’re doing three things at once and only one is “impression-worthy”, can/will the Spirit impress upon you the value of the one act, or will He be constrained because of the other two? If He can/does witness of the one under those circumstances, how do you know which of the three was the winner? Hopefully the relation of this question to your 4th grade story is evident… J.M.J. might have an interesting take on this issue as well.

    Interested about what you and others think.

  • daveescaped

    OK, I know this topic is long since forgotten but let me take one more stab at it. SteveP seems to see my point but thinks this issue is more nuanced than I make it out to be. To paraphrase him he is saying that intergrity is certainly important if we want our love to be sincere and not manufactured or false. But he still feels truth can be delivered kindly. I would agree but I think that misses my point. Let me go back to the example of my boss.

    Let’s say review time comes around and he is told by his superiors that for whatever reason he can not offer me the promised promotion. Now, if he is someone who regards kindness as the highest virtue he will (perhaps after some disagreement with his superiors) acquiesce and deliver the bad news to me. But because kindness is held so highly by him he will endeavour to give me the news with an offer of a shoulder to cry on and all the sympathy he can muster. He will go home saddened and genuinely feeling guilt for his failure to deliver the promised promotion. But he will also continue to regard himself as a person of kindness and he will feel he stayed true ot his principle of kindness. Thing is I still will not have the promised promotion or the financial rewards that I worked for and deserved. And all because my boss was true to HIS highest virtue; kindness.

    However, if his highest virtue was integrity, I can rest assured he would rather die than not deliver on his promise. He will insist with his superiors that I deserve the promotion. He will fight them because it his integrity is on the line. He holds it as the highest virtue and won’t settle for kindly telling me he was unable to deliver.

    So I would rather I was treated with integrity than with kindness.

    Your examples of kids in school are poignant but I do not believe they are instructive of human nature or truth. Children are not fully developed. They are not completely capable of handling truth. We don’t baptise them because they can not be held accountable. Are there some parallels to be found? Certainly, but in general I believe they make for bad analogies.

    The boss in my example could be many other things. He could be a friend who promises to help us with somethhing such as a move but would rather be at a football game. They could be someone in church who signs up to help clear hurricane damage because of the goodness in their hearts but then allows the appointment to escape their memory.

    Intergity demands something higher and is I believe the highest form of love or kindness. It is the kind of love God offers. It is a love of promises made and promises kept. It is love like a rock and can always be counted on.

  • Delirious

    I love this post. And I’m so happy to find another blog to read that actually has some substance. :)

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