25904_000_005After I was wrongfully accused, I struggled to let go of my desire for immediate justice and retribution. What could I learn from the Savior’s example?
One autumn I volunteered my services as committee chairperson for an activity related to our town’s annual celebration. The committee faced the usual problems and disagreements, but we all pulled together and worked hard. Unfortunately, instead of receiving gratitude and appreciation for my efforts, I was unkindly criticized and wrongfully accused.
At first I was stunned. Then I felt hurt and unappreciated. Soon anger and bitterness set in. Such a reaction seemed so unfair and uncalled-for! Feeling despondent, I went to my bedroom in tears, sat down in a chair, and picked up my Bible. I was too upset to read it; I just wanted to hold it for a minute. But the book fell open in my hands, and my eyes were drawn to one particular word: thankworthy. In 1 Peter 2:19–20 [1 Pet. 2:19–20] I read:
“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
“For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”
That was exactly the counsel I needed. What I had experienced was not unknown or even unusual in mortality, and my natural response was not in harmony with being a disciple of the Savior. In the footnote for 1 Peter 2:19 [1 Pet. 2:19], the alternative Greek translation for thankworthy is “pleasing, gracious.” In order to be pleasing and gracious to Heavenly Father, I needed to respond to unjust buffeting with patience, not anger and bitterness.
Examples of Patience
Desiring to review how others responded in similar situations, I turned to the scriptures. I found my first example in the Book of Mormon. Moroni had been appointed chief captain of the Nephite defense, and his army had suffered great losses in battling the Lamanites. To continue withstanding the Lamanites, the Nephite army needed more warriors, more weapons, and more provisions. Moroni wrote a letter requesting assistance from Pahoran, the chief judge and governor over the land. But he received no reply.
So Moroni, in a state of aggravation and frustration because of his army’s severe hunger and casualties, wrote another letter to Pahoran “by the way of condemnation” (Alma 60:2). Using words such as “neglect” (Alma 60:6), “thoughtless stupor” (Alma 60:7), “slothfulness” (Alma 60:14), “traitors” (Alma 60:18), and “idleness” (Alma 60:22), Moroni questioned whether Pahoran was a traitor, and he threatened to abandon the war against the Lamanites and “stir up insurrections among you” (Alma 60:27).
If ever one had cause to feel defensive for being falsely accused, it was Pahoran. But Pahoran’s reply was a masterpiece of self-restraint and patience. Rather than returning complaint for complaint, he calmly and kindly explained how insurrection and rebellion against the government had made it impossible to send help. Then he stated, “And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:9). At the letter’s conclusion, he wrote, “And now I close mine epistle to my beloved brother, Moroni” (Alma 61:21). Surely Pahoran’s patient response was pleasing to Heavenly Father.
In modern times, the Prophet Joseph Smith patiently suffered many trials and afflictions due to unsubstantiated and wrongful charges against him. After being incarcerated in Liberty Jail for months and having had his appeals and petitions denied, he was overwhelmed at one point with feelings of discouragement and anger. But he was comforted by the Lord’s counsel:
“If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; …
“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:6–8).
The supreme example of patience, of course, was the Savior Himself, who humbly bore unthinkable suffering ?at the hands of false accusers. He suffered as they beat Him, spat upon Him, mocked Him as the King of the Jews, and delivered Him up to be crucified for crimes He did not commit. Isaiah wrote, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa. 53:3). Isaiah continued, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
With divine dignity and self-assurance, the Savior endured it all patiently. In comparison, my own trial of unfair abuse seemed small and inconsequential. I wondered, how could I better emulate the Savior and His worthy servants?
Changing through Christ
I began to pray that I might develop the qualities of patience and long-suffering those great men had in such abundance. But it seemed that the more I prayed for patience, the more impatient I became; the more I yearned to be calm and long-suffering, the more troubled I felt. I concluded that my prayers were not answered because I was praying for the impossible. It was simply not in my nature and basic personality to be patient and calm and to endure all things with equanimity and composure, including unjust criticism and accusations. I could not seem to let go of my desire for immediate justice and retribution.
Though my rationalization sounded reasonable and gave me a measure of comfort, it did not ring true. I couldn’t forget that the Savior had said, “Nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matt. 17:20). As I continued to study the scriptures, I was touched anew by a well-known passage from the Book of Mormon: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
I realized that it was not an irreversible character trait that was causing my unhappiness but simply a weakness. It was not so much a lack of humility I suffered as a lack of faith. I resolved to accept the Savior’s invitation:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30).
As I have learned of Jesus Christ, I have come to better understand that perfection is ultimately possible through Him if I continue earnestly striving for it. The Savior is the supreme example of righteousness and perfection in all things. As my faith in Him has increased, my burden of bitterness has lightened and I have found rest unto my soul. Because I have tasted His mercy, I no longer feel a strong desire for mortal justice. I am still learning to become “thankworthy”—pleasing and gracious—to Heavenly Father through demonstrating patience in adversity, and I have faith that in time the Savior will transform my weaknesses into strengths.