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.”