Recently on facebook only a few posts apart I found one post with a picture of a child and a puppy and text stating “Choose being kind over being right, and you’ll find that you were right every time.”
Not far below that on my facebook page was an account of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith walked into a Nauvoo store and said, “Brother Wooley, we want all of your goods for the building up of the Kingdom of God. ” Brother Wooley (with what inner turbulence we can only guess) set about loading his merchandise into boxes, excepting only some goods on consignment from St. Louis. Calling the Prophet, he offered to pack them also. The Prophet asked searchingly, “Are you really willing, Brother Wooley, to give us all your store goods?” “Yes.” Joseph , with deep feeling, embraced his shoulder and said, “Then replace them on your shelves.”
I can’t help but be struck at the difference between these two facebook posts. One is cute, and says we have no obligation to truth or right, only an obligation to be kind. The other is about Joseph Smith and hits at real core issues of eternal life. It would be hard to argue that Joseph Smith is more concerned about being kind than standing by what is right in this story. I think the difference is worth pondering.
Given how Laman and Lemuel felt about getting the brass plates from Laban, I wonder how that story would have turned out if Nephi’s understanding of the gospel was based on a belief that the way to be right every time was to choose being kind over being right. Would he have sworn an oath that they would not go back when his brothers wanted to give up? Would he have slain Laban? What would have happened to his posterity?
How would the fate of the Nephite’s have been different if Captain Moroni’s motto was “Choose being kind over being right, and you’ll find you were right every time”? How does that fit in with the title of liberty story? Or just any of the stories about Captain Moroni, of whom the scriptures state:
Alma 48: 17 Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
How does Christ’s command to his disciples fit with the claim that choosing being kind over being right will ensure we are right every time? (note the significant JST changes):
JST Matt 7:6 And Jesus said unto his disciples, Beholdest thou the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the priests, and the Levites? They teach in their synagogues, but do not observe the law, nor the commandments; and all have gone out of the way, and are under sin.
7 Go thou and say unto them, Why teach ye men the law and the commandments, when ye yourselves are the children of corruption?
8 Say unto them, Ye hypocrites, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
How would the story of Elijah, who slew all 400 priests of Baal by the sword have been different if he was more concerned with being kind than right?
I suppose Peter wouldn’t have said “thy money perish with thee Simon”.
We probably wouldn’t read this about Christ:
Mathhew 16:23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Actually, the idea that Christ stated that a person is offensive to him who savors not the things of God, but of men, is an interesting discussion of being kind vs being right all on its own.
What of King Saul who spared the king he was commanded by the Lord to slay? Clearly in that incident Saul chose to be kind instead of right. Did he find he was right?
Why did Christ ask his devoted disciples why they had so little faith, a rebuke which must have hurt, if he was mostly concerned with being kind?
If this is the way of Christ, why did an angel of the Lord appear to Alma the younger and speak the terribly unkind words “If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God!” Are angels no longer obligated to follow Christ, or was this, instead, Christlike behavior?
Certainly Nephi didn’t object that what he was being taught sounded like it was more concerned with being right than with being kind when he was told:
1 Nephi 14:10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
I suppose Eli is probably the poster boy for being kind instead of being right. When his sons were stealing from people who brought offerings to the temple as well as committing adultery with some of the women, he was unwilling to correct them. Eli would apparently rather be kind than right. Given God’s response, slaying Eli’s sons and giving his role over to Samuel to inherit, apparently Eli didn’t find he was right every time.
The world is full of good and evil, and they are in conflict. The scriptures are full to the brim with men who stuck to principle even if it upset those around them, even if it meant sharply disagreeing with those around them, and at times even if it cost those around them their lives. The kindness the world most wants from us, namely that we will shut up about right and wrong, is the one we must be most unwilling to grant.
2 Nephi 5:3 Yea, they did murmur against me, saying: Our younger brother thinks to rule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words…
The point isn’t that we have no obligation to be kind. Charity is an essential principle of the gospel. But there are many illustrations in the scriptures that choosing being kind over being right will absolutely Not make us find we were right every time.
The point is that following the living Christ has far more depth and breadth than popularized Christianity either knows or desires. But as members of the church, we should be asking, seeking and knocking enough to be able to easily recognize the difference.