While looking for a new home, a young Latter-day Saint couple talked to potential neighbors about the neighborhood and the schools in the area.
One woman they spoke to said of the school her children were attending: “This is the most incredible place! The principal is a wonderful and good man; the teachers are well qualified, kind, and friendly. I am so pleased that our children can attend this wonderful school. You’ll love it here!”
A different woman said of her children’s school: “It’s a terrible place. The principal is self-absorbed; the teachers are unqualified, rude, and unfriendly. If I could afford to move out of this area, I’d do it in a heartbeat!”
The interesting thing was that both women were speaking about the same principal, the same teachers, and the same school.
Have you ever noticed that people can usually find whatever they are looking for? Look hard enough, and you can discover both good and bad in almost anyone and anything. People have done the same with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since its beginning. Those who look for the good will find a kind and compassionate people—a people who love the Lord and desire to serve Him and bless the lives of their fellowman. But it is also true that those who look for the bad will certainly find things that are not so ideal.
Unfortunately, at times this happens even within the Church. There is no end to the creativity, ingenuity, and tenacity of those who look for reasons to criticize. They cannot seem to release their grip on grudges. They gossip and find fault with others. They nurse wounds for decades, taking every opportunity to tear down and demean others. This is not pleasing to the Lord, “for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16).
President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901) knew President Brigham Young (1801–77) well, working closely with him for many years, both as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and as his counselor in the First Presidency. After the death of President Young, President Cannon wrote in his journal: “I never criticized or found fault with [Brigham Young’s] conduct, his counsel or his teachings at any time in my heart, much less in my words or actions. This is a pleasure to me now. The thought that ever was with me was: If I criticize or find fault with, or judge Brother Brigham, how far shall I go; if I commence, where shall I stop? I dared not to trust myself in such a course. I knew that apostasy frequently resulted from the indulgence of the spirit of criticizing and faultfinding. Others, of greater strength, wisdom and experience than myself, might do many things and escape evil consequences which I dare not do.”1
President Cannon’s powerful counsel is something we members of the Church should consider with great care. The word of God admonishes the followers of Christ to be “pure, … peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” For those who make peace, “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace” (James 3:17, 18).
We have a choice. We can seek for the bad in others. Or we can make peace and work to extend to others the understanding, fairness, and forgiveness we so desperately desire for ourselves. It is our choice; for whatever we seek, that we will certainly find.