Benevolent Ignorance

Perched on top of a six-foot grape stake fence, in the thick of a shrub, leaning against the side of the neighbor’s house, I could see better than I could be seen. I was, for the most part, invisible. If someone spotted me, I could hop down the opposite side and make my play. You see, to an eight-year-old boy, kick-the-can was serious business in my neighborhood. Believe me, the entire neighborhood was our playground. We didn’t respect property lines or fences. We played to win.

The moment came: a neighborhood girl – the enemy – came around the backside of the yard and got close enough to spot me atop the fence. She turned and ran, but I knew that she needed to run all the way around the house, while all I needed to do was hop off the fence, and run to the street and kick the can.

It sounded good in theory, but execution was lacking. Somehow, I managed to land on the ground with my left arm under my knee. I wasn’t sure what happened, but it hurt. The tears came and the game came to a halt, but only after Kris tagged me out. Un-cool.

A bunch of kids were gathered around me, trying to figure out what they could do, when the crowd parted, and Kent, one of the older boys in the neighborhood, approached. He was wearing his Scout shirt, and immediately took charge.

He gently asked me questions, looked at my arm and hand, and asked me if I could move my fingers. I could.

“It’s not broken,” he pronounced.

“How do you know it’s not broken?”

He said, “If you can move your fingers, it isn’t broken. Just go home and put some ice on it.”

“Okay, I guess.” I replied.

To give credence to his diagnosis, Kent assured me by saying, “Besides, I am an Eagle Scout, and have my first aid merit badge. You’ll be fine.” He was very kind, very caring, and I was appreciative of him taking charge and helping me.

I thanked him and headed home, fighting back the tears in a failed effort to not look like an even bigger baby. When I walked in the door, I went and found my mom and told her what happened, and asked for an ice pack. She asked me if I thought it was broken. I explained that Kent, who is an Eagle Scout, told me that it wasn’t broken – precisely because I could move my fingers, and that all I needed was some ice.

Mom wanted to take me to the doctor, but I assured her I was going to be fine. She was skeptical.

The next morning, my arm was the size of my thigh. My mom took me to the doctor, who took some x-rays and told me it was definitely broken.

Having a cast was not all bad, because it enhanced my four-square game, and it was fun having people sign my cast. The downside was that I realized that while Kent, the Orthopaedic Eagle Scout was a very kind, helpful guy, he was also something else:


Whenever the Church has a change in presidency, I like to make a point out of going back and reading talks by the new presidency. There are several reason that I do this: Reading their words helps further my conviction that they are chosen servants of the Lord. It also helps me remember the concepts that they have focused on previously, and it gives me a baseline to see if there is any kind of change or differing nuance in their teaching and styles as they labor in their new callings.

One of the talks I re-discovered was by President Oaks, entitled “Alternate Voices.” The key point of his talk was that, “From among the chorus of voices we hear in mortality, we must recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd, who calls us to follow him toward our heavenly home.” (I recommend you read it.)

There are surely a lot of voices out there clamoring for our attention, many are quick to recommend to us how we should think, act, and feel about a zillion different things. The problem is, they are often wrong – even the kind voices.

For the sake of discussion, I am omitting the voices that have blatantly evil intent, we know what the Korihors of the world are up to as they “seek to devour the flock.” I am focusing more on the Eagle Scout Kent voices in the world: Kind, loving (benevolent) and wrong.

President Oaks referred to those voices this way:  “Some alternate voices are those of well-motivated men and women who are merely trying to serve their brothers and sisters and further the cause of Zion. Their efforts fit within the Lord’s teaching that his servants should not have to be commanded in all things, but “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27.)”

What makes it more difficult is that just because someone is trying to further the cause of Zion, doesn’t make what they are saying and doing right. To help explain it, let’s play with the term “Benevolent Ignorance.”

I can see looking at “Benevolent Ignorance” in two ways:

1- Benevolent ignorance, like Kent the Eagle Scout. His heart was absolutely in the right place, and he had the best of intentions – however, what he said was incorrect, and we soon learned that it was problematic.

I saw much of that type of benevolent ignorance in the humanitarian efforts around the world. Good people, trying their best to make a difference, would unintentionally make situations worse by creating dependency or promoting ideas that exacerbate problems they are meant to solve.

Even if our hearts are in the right place, it does not grant us expertise or even credibility in certain fields – especially in religion. Which brings us to…

2- Benevolent Ignore-ance. This is different from not knowing. This is a case of where love and kindness overrides truth. A tinderbox example is the support of gay marriage. The Lord and His servants have made it crystal clear where He stands on the issue. He is opposed. Yet you will see many people supporting it, claiming to be coming from a higher place of benevolence, knowing full well that their “loving” stance is in direct conflict with God. It is a chosen ignoring, rather than a lack of knowledge.

Benevolence does not overpower truth and right.

It is at this moment where some will think of the sweet meme, “I’d rather be kind than right.” It is a nice thought, but wholly unrealistic. Especially in choosing a cardiologist or neurosurgeon. The problem with the concept is that it paints it as an either/or scenario, rather than addressing the real solution: Be kind AND right.

President Oaks said, “Those who teach the gospel are instructed not to preach with “wrath” or “strife” (D&C 60:14), but in “mildness and in meekness” (D&C 38:41), “reviling not against revilers.” (D&C 19:30).

But how do we be right? How do we discern the “alternate voices” that are so prevalent nowadays. They come at us from all sides: Politicians, celebrities, social engineers, news media, social media, education, friends and family. Again, I am speaking to those who are not “evil” by any stretch of the word, but to those who are kind, loving and…wrong.

Here are a few ways we can cut through the noise and find truth, allowing us to be both benevolent and knowledgable:

1- Foster the Spiritual Gift of discernment. President Nelson explains, “Personal revelation can be honed to become spiritual discernment. To discern means to sift, to separate, or to distinguish. The gift of spiritual discernment is a supernal gift. It allows members of the Church to see things not visible and to feel things not tangible.” (link)

It is a learned skill, and can be developed. Some people have a natural ability to “smell a rat,” others are innately trusting. Either way, the Holy Ghost can help us see through the misinformation – wherever the source.

2- Quit debating and learn from the right sources.Techniques devised for adversary debate or to search out differences and work out compromises are not effective in acquiring gospel knowledge. Gospel truths and testimony are received from the Holy Ghost through reverent personal study and quiet contemplation.” (President Oaks.)

3- Hold our beliefs up to the word of the Lord as given us by through the prophets and compare them. If I hold strongly to a belief, and compare it to what is being taught by the brethren, and notice that they do not match up, I have a problem. The problem is not how to find a compromise or to convince God to change. The problem is that I have to try and understand how I can make the shift, and align my beliefs with God’s truth. It isn’t enough to “agree to disagree” with God. We need to move beyond “Benevolent Ignore-ance,” and work our tails off to humble ourselves and conform to God’s will.

4- Return to the classics: Study, pray, ponder, repent etc. “In the scriptures, the Lord has specified how we learn by faith. We must be humble, cultivate faith, repent of our sins, serve our fellowmen, and keep the commandments of God.” (Oaks)

The key point in learning this way is that when we are worthy and humble, “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5)

“Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God.” (Alma 26:22.)

Rather than sharing “Benevolent Ignorance” with the world, we have a responsibility to share “Benevolent Knowledge” with the world, which is precisely our mission as members of Christ’s restored church.

In a personal note, those who have read me know that I am a very opinionated man. I readily accept that. However, in my defense, when I write things of a spiritual nature, I always make a point to back up what I am saying with the words of the scriptures and, preferably, the living prophets. There have been times I have written what I consider to be an awesome post, but then deleted it – precisely because I could not find literal support for the point I was trying to make. I like to be right, but that isn’t something that I can define for myself. It has been defined for me.

It makes me uncomfortable to read an article by someone expounding on spiritual matters when they never refer to the prophets or the scriptures. At that point, I lose trust in what is being said. Be careful out there…

Simply put, love is not enough. The Beatles had it wrong: “All you need is love” is not a mantra that will lead to salvation. It has to be love that is based on truth and right, otherwise it can have damaging effects on both the giver and recipient.

May we learn and have the Holy Ghost guide us so we can find that sweet spot of “being kind AND right.”

About the author


  1. “The Lord and His servants have made it crystal clear where He stands on the issue. He is opposed. Yet you will see many people supporting it, claiming to be coming from a higher place of benevolence, knowing full well that their “loving” stance is in direct conflict with God. It is a chosen ignoring, rather than a lack of knowledge.”

    Great, great quote. Wait- we were talking about legalizing coffee-drinking, right?

  2. Thanks for this. I’ve been pondering another blog post I read last week that left me feeling sad for the authors in a way. I just keep thinking that I have never heard any of the First Presidency or Apostles telling me that I need to “find my truth.” I will continue to seek God’s truth through the Spirit, by study of the scriptures and following the Prophet. I want to be right the right way.

      1. On January 26, 2017, Elder Christofferson gave a wonderful talk to the CES employees about the nature of truth. I highly recommend this excellent talk, which can be found on the website. At one point he essentially says that when we depart from God’s truth in any degree, we depart from reality. Fascinating to think about.

  3. Another one to add to the “Favorite MMM Blogs” folder. I enjoyed this message, and I have always appreciated how you use scriptures and words of living prophets. That’s what makes your blog viable to me.

  4. Great post. Very topical. And interestingly I heard a very similar secular discussion on the radio this morning. News programmes always have people sharing opinions- but a lot of the time they are just that. Opinions. They are what people think, not what they know (unless discussing the area of their expertise.. anyway a great quote: “ you are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts” Patrick Moynihan

  5. Thank You for articulating your thoughts and witnessing with conviction, referencing the prophets. I can “see” what you are saying.

  6. Great post! Lately I’ve heard/read the interviews and writings of some fairly well-known members of our church (not leaders in the church, but well-known family members of some leaders, and a few other well-known members) who espouse the view that “we are a church of continuing revelation, so when it comes to gay marriage, the Lord ‘Will yet reveal many great and marvelous things’ to us.” In other words, they’re willing to stay in the church and *support* LDS church leadership, with the hope/expectation that once the membership is “ready for more revealed truth” on this particular issue, the Lord will give our leaders a new revelation making gay marriage ok. They usually add that “asking questions is how Joseph received revelation—and that if we just prove to the Lord that we’re ready for more “light and knowledge” on this topic, He’ll change the official stand of the church as regards gay marriage. I’ve been hearing this view from a lot of people whose opinion and insights I greatly respect on other matters, so it’s concerning that they’ve taken this view on this topic. It seems to me the Lord has been definitive in His stand on this issue. I don’t see it changing. I truly believe this issue is going to be the “high noon” issue for many members in determining their choice to stay in the church or not. I also believe this particular issue will be the primary source of continued and escalated opposition to our leadership.

    1. As I was reading your comment, I was reminded of what happened when Martin Harris repeatedly had Jospeh Smith ask the Lord for permission to take the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon to show his family. We are warned not to ask for things we know are wrong. There is a scripture, I can’t remember where, that asking for the wrong things can lead to our condemnation. Just a couple thoughts that popped into my head.

    2. Chilanga, your post got me thinking as well. I was reading the Family Proclamation recently and noticed that the brethren used the word essential twice.

      1. “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

      2. “Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”

      It’s interesting to ponder and pray about why Prophets and Apostles would use the word essential in those two instances.

  7. First, true story. My middle son came home after a skateboarding fall and told me his arm was broken. I didn’t believe it was so I had him put ice on it and take some ibuprofen. When he came to me the next morning telling me that he had been in major pain all night, I relented and took him in. Yes, a broken arm. Mom the Year Award for me.
    Second, I love this post. It’s sometimes a hard line to walk between being kind and being right. Love the thought that if my thoughts don’t line up with what the brethren are teaching, then I need to think harder about the issue until I can see the truth.
    Good on ya mate

  8. WOW!!! Great post. I loved it. So well said. One of your best. Forwarding to many friends.

  9. Great post! So much great insight. Had to laugh at your story though. What I was 11 I broke my arm while skating. My mom refused to believe it was broken and basically told me to buck it up. After a week she finally took me in to prove it wasn’t-but it was and was healing crooked. Had to be rebroken and set. Then she really has to put up with whining!! Sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere

  10. Wow! You’ve done it again, MMM. I don’t know how you do it, but you just helped me out a lot. The kindness of others trying do good things and loving everyone seems to “blur” the clear truth sometimes. It seems to confuse. You have explained this in excellent terms. I now get it.

    I think I was struggling with this and didn’t even know it.

    We just were privileged to participate in an Area Conference here in Oregon, which I’m thinking you in AZ saw the same broadcast with Elder Christofferson presiding. The spirit that emanated from these wonderful men and women who serve tirelessly was so right. I enjoyed every word.

    Now your post about “right” clarifies! I hope you understand what I’m saying….”love” really isn’t all you need. Thank you.

  11. Wow. Just wow. Thank you.

    I know what talks I will be reading this week.

    Can you give us the reference for President Nelson”s talk? I am going to feel like an idiot if it was from last General Conference.

  12. This was a great post, MMM. I especially appreciated this:

    “If I hold strongly to a belief, and compare it to what is being taught by the brethren, and notice that they do not match up, I have a problem. The problem is not how to find a compromise or to convince God to change. The problem is that I have to try and understand how I can make the shift, and align my beliefs with God’s truth. It isn’t enough to “agree to disagree” with God. We need to move beyond “Benevolent Ignore-ance,” and work our tails off to humble ourselves and conform to God’s will.”

    And also your comments about gay marriage. If God is against it (and always will be), so will our prophets and apostles. And so should we be. It’s difficult to hear LDS young people say they support gay marriage but when probed, they don’t actually take time to unpack what it really is/means. It is an act of apostasy AND repeated egregious breaches of the law of chastity. It’s that serious. Which is what the Brethren have been ever so patiently trying to teach us for decades. I think President Oaks’ most recent talk in General Conference on the Family Proclamation was watertight in this, and I so appreciated his additional witness and testimony.

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