I recently published an article on Meridian Magazine regarding concerns I have about the book Visions of Glory. I have received numerous positive comments about the points I raised in the article. I am saddened, however, by a few people’s accusatory, even vicious, comments about other people’s comments. In a few cases, responses contained strong words and harsh views about the character of the authors of Visions of Glory and about their motives in writing and selling the visions. Some rather unsavory aspersions and epithets were used to label these men.
This gives me an opportunity to write to members of the Church about another beautiful lesson in gospel living.
I made it clear from the first lines of my article that I was not in “attack mode.” I was not personally criticizing the brother who had unique out-of-body experiences and visions of the future, nor was I condemning the writer of those experiences and the publisher of them.
My approach was to emphasize our prophets’ clear and unequivocal counsel to avoid broadcasting the personal and sacred manifestations that a member of the Church may have received. “Keep it to yourself,” we have been instructed. It is not the prerogative of a regular member of the Church to publish new doctrine or elaborate and expand on prophetic views of the future. That is the role of the Lord’s authorized prophets. The last line of my article-the bottom line-was that, especially regarding these matters, there is safety for the Saints in staying with the scriptures and the modern prophets.
We should all be concerned about keeping the doctrine pure. But, at the same time, as far as people are concerned-who are all children of God-we are not against anyone, and we are anxious to serve and save everyone possible. The key word is charity-love.
Over the years I have read many evaluations that university students have written about their classes and their professors. I have read, under their cloak of secrecy and anonymity, some very mean, and personally caustic comments about teachers and their teaching. Some teachers, I am sure, have been devastated by some of the hurtful comments.
President Spencer W. Kimball once coined an interesting new term: “anonymosity”-a combination of “anonymity” and “animosity.” Some people, while no one really knows who they are, may write some mean-spirited and cruel things. Because of experience over the decades of my teaching career, I have come to encourage students to be honest and sincere in their evaluations, but not to write anything that they wouldn’t be willing to talk about with the person face to face.
Some time ago, while examining the student evaluations of one of the most applauded and highly complimented professors in Religious Education at Brigham Young University, I read at least fifty pages of comments from students. To describe this excellent teacher, they used words like: great, excellent, solid, awesome, phenomenal, fantastic, outstanding, incredible, brilliant, amazing, powerful, wonderful, spectacular, engaging, energetic, exceptional, fabulous, stimulating, and inspiring.
I thought the next word I was going to read was “transfigured” or “translated”! More than one did designate this professor as an “angel.”
But even such an acclaimed teacher received a periodic negative comment. One student even said that he would never recommend this professor to anyone. Oh, my.
As in all areas of our society, we need to exercise more civility. I believe that there will only be kind people in heaven. One day a friend said to me, “There’s no such thing as a harmless snark [a snide remark].” Our recent prophets have continually taught us that we need to be a little kinder.
The following heart-warming experience from some years ago happily illustrates the need for greater civility and kindness in our relationships. It was told by my friend and neighbor, David Sorenson, in our home ward in Provo, Utah. I include it here with his permission:
When I was Dean of Students at BYU I had major responsibility for educating students about the dress and grooming standards. I also had enforcement responsibility. One day President Oaks asked me to accompany him to Salt Lake for a Board meeting where dress and grooming was to be discussed. I was not invited to the meeting but he wanted me close by in case they asked questions he couldn’t answer or they wanted my perspective. I was placed in a waiting room near the room where the board met. I had brought work to do so I could keep busy for the 2-3 hours I would be there. After an hour I got up, found a water fountain and then returned to work. Many general authorities passed my room, which was divided from the hall by a large glass window and door. All went about their business. Elder Ezra Taft Benson passed and then shortly returned, opened the door and came in. “Can I get you some refreshments?” he asked. “I can get you some juice or pop. I’ll bet I can find some cake or cookies too.” I thanked him but declined. I could not think of asking a member of the Twelve to go looking for food for me. “I would really like to get you something,” he said. But again I declined. We then talked for a few moments about what I did. He thanked me for my service at BYU. Then he offered refreshments one more time and said goodbye. But in a minute he was back. I rose to meet him as he came back through the door thinking he had probably brought me a cookie. But he had come with something of infinite worth. He came up to me, put his arms around me and hugged me, saying, “I just came back to tell you I love you, brother.” Then he left, leaving me speechless and crying.
I was a changed person. From that moment on I would have walked through fire for him. My testimony of his call from God and of this work increased. I was determined to be more faithful in my Church responsibilities. I was happier and felt more blessed. Kindness truly changes us.