Two weeks ago, on September 29, 2013, I posted “I am Mormon, and I Have Questions” on this blog. I thought it was a very simple premise: I have a testimony of the Gospel, there are some things I don’t understand, but I will move forward in faith until I find/figure out the answers. No big deal, right? I underestimated the response. Within a few days, the article was picked up by Deseret News, LDS Living, and a few other sites. The traffic was amazing – tens of thousands of people were reading my little post every day. Most of the comments, emails and were kind and supportive. But not all.
Many of the comments on all of the different sites were very negative, antagonistic, down-right anti-Mormon, and anti-MMM. It turns out that my article was even making the rounds on ex-Mormon bulletin boards, and they were having great fun mocking me and my words. I received a lot of comments that I deleted, because they were either wrong, antagonistic, or just plain mean. Yes, I was taking it personally. Jerks.
I know that I shouldn’t read the comments, but I do. This time it started to get to me. I wanted to “bite back” and get in the mud with them. I resisted this desire (for the most part) and tried my best to let it go.
Then we arrived at General Conference for the Saturday afternoon session, anxious for a respite and some peace. Who was waiting there? Protesters. Shouting, holding up derogatory signs, mocking, etc. We would walk past them and those feelings of irritation that I had been fighting to suppress the whole week before would start to bubble up. Jerks.
We made our way down to our seats. We sat on the far left side, just a few rows up from the TV screens that had closed captioning and ASL translation. As a family, we happily participated with President Eyring in the sustaining of our leaders. The first speaker was President Boyd K. Packer.
I love President Packer. I love him as much as Satan hates him.President Packer is getting old and frail enough that he gives his talks from where he is seated, while wearing a microphone. But his voice was not very strong, and even with the mic, I had to strain to hear him. Because of this, and the availability of the closed captioning screen right in front of us, I worked to capture every word, while verifying it with the streaming text.
I was focused.
He spoke about the scriptures, and how they can protect us from what the world has become. He then spoke briefly about children who wander, and mentioned the sons of Mosiah as an example. He said:
“The sons of Mosiah fought against the Church for a time but later repented and underwent a dramatic change. In Alma we read, “These sons of Mosiah … had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.” (Link)
It was at this point in President Packer’s talk that things took a dramatic, personal detour. My mind was flooded with a series of thoughts that I know were from the Spirit, and had nothing to do with the talk being given.
As soon as he began to talk about the sons of Mosiah – Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni – my mind quickly added Alma the Younger, and Saul/Paul to the group. Some of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known. True heroes.
And then these thoughts came to me:
If this were another place, and another time, Ammon would be that very guy standing outside with the sign and the megaphone.
Saul would be that man writing scathing comments and mocking my testimony online.
Alma the Younger would be running that ex-Mormon website with his buddies, anxiously waiting to do damage to people’s faith.
And I love all of those men.
My heart was filled with an unexpected compassion for my “opponents.”
For my brothers.
So how can I hate those who are doing the same thing in my day? But for a single change of heart, any of them could be the next Aaron, or Omner or Himni. That possibility always exists. Who am I to deny it?
My negative feelings and my desire to “bite back” were replaced by a sense of charity and patience that overwhelmed me. I sat in the conference center as President Packer finished his talk, with tears in my eyes – not because of what was said over the pulpit, but because of what was taught to my heart.
I remembered that Alma the Younger was brought to repentance as an answer to the prayers of the people and his father. (Mosiah 27:14)
And I remembered that the Savior taught, “But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (3 Nephi 12:44)
Pray for the protesters? Love those running the anti-Mormon websites? Bless the commenters that hate me.
Seriously? It is not in my nature.
Looks like it is time to change my nature.
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing: knowing that ye are there unto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile;