Church News and Events

Viewpoint: Enter without Knocking

Contributed By From the Church News

  • 23 May 2014

If you cannot go for 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton had a small sign made and placed on an office door: “Come in without knocking and leave the same way.”

“It was interesting to observe people’s facial expressions as they pondered this play on words,” Elder Ashton, who served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1971 to 1994, said in an April 1973 general conference address. “According to the dictionary, ‘knock’ has two definitions: ‘to strike something with a sharp blow,’ and ‘to find fault with, a harsh and often petty criticism.’ Perhaps in human relationships both of these meanings could apply. This sign served as a reminder to me to come into the office without finding fault and to leave at the close of the day the same way. I also hoped it might help others who entered and left.”

Finding fault and criticizing others takes little effort. However, in the long view of life, there is much more that is worth praising than knocking. We just need to train ourselves to find the positive aspects of life.

President Thomas S. Monson has counseled us to look on the bright side of life, to find that which is good.

In one of his conference addresses, he told of Jesus healing ten men who were lepers. Only one returned to express gratitude (see Luke 17:11–19).

President Monson said: “Like leprosy of yesteryear are the plagues of today. They linger; they debilitate; they destroy. They are to be found everywhere. Their pervasiveness knows no boundaries. We know them as selfishness, greed, indulgence, cruelty, and crime, to identify but a few. Surfeited with their poison, we tend to criticize, to complain, to blame, and, slowly but surely, to abandon the positives and adopt the negatives of life.

“A popular refrain from the 1940s captured the thought:

“Accentuate the positive;

Eliminate the negative.

Latch on to the affirmative;

Don’t mess with Mr. In-between.”

“Good advice then. Good advice now” (lyrics by Johnny Mercer, ASCAP, 1945, quoted by President Thomas S. Monson, April 1992 general conference).

We accentuate the positive each time we look for the good in others.

Elder Ashton, in the conference address cited above, said: “It is hard for any one of us to find heroes among our neighbors when our pleasures seem wrapped up in fault-finding. Probably the greatest discovery for mankind can be found in ordinary neighbors. We generally find that for which we are looking. We need to speak the good word, build our associates, and cease finding fault. We need to thank God for life, opportunities, and His love.”

In an article in the February 1987 Ensign, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provided this insight:

“Faultfinding, evil speaking, and backbiting are obviously unchristian. The Bible commands us to avoid ‘evil speakings.’ (See 1 Peter 2:1.) It tells us to ‘Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you’ (Ephesians 4:31). Modern revelations direct us to avoid ‘backbiting,’ ‘evil speaking,’ and ‘find[ing] fault one with another.’ (See D&C 20:53–54; 42:27; 88:124; 136:23.)

“We are given these commandments for a reason. The Apostle Paul advised the Saints to ‘grieve not the holy Spirit of God’ (Ephesians 4:30) by evil speaking. Of faultfinders, President Brigham Young said, ‘The Spirit of God has no place in [such] persons’ (Journal of Discourses, 8:13). The primary reason we are commanded to avoid criticism is to preserve our own spiritual well-being, not to protect the person whom we would criticize.

“Elder George Albert Smith said this about criticism: ‘Aren’t we rather prone to see the limitations and the weaknesses of our neighbors? Yet that is contrary to the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a class of people who find fault and criticize always in a destructive way. There is a difference in criticism. If we can criticize constructively under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, we may change beneficially and properly some of the things that are being done. But if we have the spirit of faultfinding, of pointing out the weaknesses and failings of others in a destructive manner, that never comes as the result of the companionship of the Spirit of our Heavenly Father and is always harmful.’ (In Conference Report, Oct. 1934, p. 50.)

“More recently, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: …

“‘What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults.’ (Ensign, Apr. 1986, pp. 3–4.)” (“Criticism,” Ensign, Feb. 1987, 68).

A national lecturer frequently asked his audiences if they could go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about or to anybody. Usually, a few raised their hands and said yes. However, most in the audiences admitted that they could not go 24 hours without making a negative comment.

“Those who can’t answer ‘yes’ must recognize that you have a serious problem,” he said. “If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go for 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go for 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue” (Joseph Telushkin, Imprimis, Jan. 1996, quoted in Church News, Feb. 10, 1996, 16).

In the early days of this dispensation, the Lord spoke through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm” (D&C 42:27).

Let us, wherever we go, “Come in without knocking and leave the same way.”