A guide to edifying Others

Stephen MarshMormon 12 Comments

It is easy to realize that you are right and everyone else is wrong.  A number of people have asked just what they should do about that once they realize the gross errors the rest of the world has fallen into and the way the world is sinning against them.  The following is a guide.

This is a guide to edifying Others (that is, helping *others* to be edified rather than ourselves)


D&C 84: 106 "And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also."

This essay is on how to edify others in all meekness.

This essay assumes two things.

First, you feel oppressed by someone in the LDS hierarchy as the result of doctrinal or role conflicts.

Second, you believe in the LDS gospel and scriptures. [If you don’t, you are taking your conflict much too seriously and may find that you believe more than you think or think more than you believe.]

The Process

There are numerous stories of people who have prevailed over members of the hierarchy, whether or not any oppression was going on. Whether it is a primary children’s group that wants a general authority to take time out and shake all of their hands or Mary Fielding Smith determined to cross the plains, the methods are fairly straightforward and clear and revolve around prayer.

Unceasing, united, singleminded, enduring and patient prayer is what it takes.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as Christ made a point that unceasing activity can prevail even on God — God not only rewards unceasing prayer, He recommends it. Never give up. Take a good look at Luke 18:1-8 (note Luke 18:9-14 also). If you want to prevail in a religious or spiritual confrontation, the first step is to commit yourself and your allies to unceasing prayer.

Next, from the life of Alma, united action and prayer should be the response to affliction and oppression. When Alma listened to Abinadi, went to the Waters of Mormon, and began to preach and baptize, and then fled into the wilderness, I doubt that he expected oppressors to come on him. When they did, and Alma turned to God, His response was for the people to be unified in their unceasing prayer.

The same response is what Alma relied upon when his son, Alma the Younger, began to abuse position and influence. The people united in unceasing prayer and God responded.

In order to be unceasing and united, you and those who support you need to know what you want and be singleminded about it. James 1:4 promises results, but James 1:5 warns what happens if you are not singleminded. A single focus aids unity and can preserve your ability to be unceasing.

Finally, be enduring (Hebrews 11) and patient (in your patience you keep your souls). That gives you a simple five points to work with.

Using those five points fast, pray individually morning, noon and night, and in groups on a regular basis.

  1. Endure
  2. Patiently
  3. Singlemindedly
  4. United
  5. In unceasing prayer.


Of course there are some risks.

1. You could be wrong, be under no illusions, decide not to change, and destroy yourself by calling down the power of God. That is the story of Korihor.

2. You could be wrong, refuse to admit you are wrong, decide not to change, and be caught by the father (not the mother) of lies. Many people chose to suffer from self delusion rather than repent. That is the story of Corianton.

3. You could be wrong, refuse to admit you were wrong, and just give way to ennui. That is the lukewarm water approach most commonly seen (cf Rev. 3:16).

4. You could be both a little wrong and a little right (most people are) and find that the results are not what you expected or wanted. Joseph Smith had that happen when he finally took up the temperance issue with God. The brethren were not expecting the word of wisdom (in fact, they all anticipated the opposite, a revelation that would put “those people” in their place).

5. You could be right and still not get what you expected. That is the end of Jonah’s story when God did not destroy Nineveh after all. (note also D&C 1:14).

In all Meekness

The biggest problem is that we are counseled to act in meekness, by persuasive and loving means (D&C 121:43ff), leaving sharpness to the direction and hand of God and the Spirit.

Of course that does not lend itself well to pride or self aggrandizement in prevailing against those we feel oppress us (note D&C 121: 35ff in that regard), but if you just want to assuage your pride, there are better venues.

D&C 64:8 "My disciples, in days of old, 
sought occasion against one an- 
other and forgave not one another 
in their hearts; and for this evil 
they were afflicted and sorely 
chastened ..."

Expect the same if you do not act in love and forgiveness. But if your motives are pure, and you endure in prayer with God, expect results.

Comments 12

  1. You will never know how much I needed this, Stephen. I’m sort of blown away by your insight. Your post resonates with spiritual intelligence.

    On your caveat #1, I learned this lesson the hard way, way back in 1975. I’d lost my first husband and I was so lonely I would have married anybody. I actually thought that I could love anybody who was half decent. I didn’t realize how unique my love for him was, how rare it is to find that. I begged God for a husband. Then I begged him for my second husband. It seemed so right. Even when I had reservations, grave doubts, I told God, “I don’t
    care. I just want to be married.” When we knelt at the temple, I felt an undeniable message “this is wrong, don’t do this.” And I was too chicken to interrupt the service. So we married and it was seven of the most miserable months of my life. Somewhere I read a scripture that if you ask God enough, He’ll give you your wish, even if it’s bad for you, but you have to endure the consequences. I’ve never done that again. I’ve begged God, but I always tell Him that if it’s not right, I will live with His denial.

    But, back to your main point. I’ve struggled against hierarchy, in the church and out, all my life. It’s part of my nature. Time has proven me right in some cases, wrong in others. I wholeheartedly agree with your second point
    “Second, you believe in the LDS gospel and scriptures. [If you don’t, you are taking your conflict much too seriously and may find that you believe more than you think or think more than you believe.]”

    It’s so easy to confuse a conflict with a leader for lack of testimony, it’s so easy to make the church the scapegoat in problems of personalities.

    I’m currently struggling, not against hierarchy, but against a woman who has chosen the adversarial relationship with most of our ward. I bitterly regret my own animosity toward her and wish I’d behaved better, but there is no way to approach her now—she won’t accept it. My concern is that when she moves (and she’s moving), she will continue to blame the ward, and me specifically, for her problems and they will continue. I feel I perhaps had a sacred responsibility toward her that I failed in. I’m going to attempt to use your suggestions as a way of resolving this problem. At least mitigating it. Not for my sake, for hers. And especially her children.

    You are a wise, wise man.

  2. Stephen,

    This post came at the right time for me to learn to deal with an interpersonal conflict at church which I have been trying to avoid. Why do you think God wants us to pray so much?

    The challenge is to see prayer as an active pursuit, not as the opposite of doing something. So many times we would rather roll up our sleeves to tackle a problem (at least I do) and prayer is an afterthought.

    I am intrigued by your comment that the Word of Wisdom was expected by some in the Church to put (I’m not sure who you mean, Emma and other Methodist-background temperance folks?) “those people in their place”. I’ve never heard of this expectation. Where can I read more about it?

  3. Thank you for this post. I, too, am probably more often in the role of oppressor than that of oppressed, yet I also feel that I am a man more sinned against than sinning. There are those in the ward who seem to constantly undermine me in my calling. Perhaps I need to focus on points 4 and 5 a bit more. I am also reminded of President Monson’s talk about hidden wedges. Love and forgiveness are key.

  4. John, I’ve got the problem that when I studied the Word of Wisdom background it was 1977 or 78, but here is what I remember.

    Nauvoo had a temperance society. They did the usual, burned a brewery, etc. They condemned hot drinks, alcohol and tobacco. We all know that Joseph Smith liked cigars and wine, the brethren in the school of the prophets, like George Washington, liked snuff and chew. Emma and the temperance league types got pushy with them about it all.

    There was some pressure from the men in the school for Joseph to tell the rest of them to knock it off. He did counsel moderation, which got ignored, and then he was pushed to give them a “thus sayeth the Lord” sort of proclamation. Only barrier to that was that he told them the Lord had to say it. So he was pushed to pray on the topic.

    We know where that led.

    A bit of the “knock it off” (i.e. no forcing the word of wisdom on people at the edge of an axe a la Carrie Nation), but also confirmation that they needed to change.

    We now tend to hear the story from Emma’s perspective, guys in the upstairs room filling it with tobacco smoke and the floor with chew and Joseph telling them to clean up their acts. The story is more complex than that.

    The word of wisdom gets a second wind right about the time tobacco curing and cigarettes start to take off. Interesting timing, that.

    Hope that helps.

    Annegb, I really wish I knew how to solve that poor sister’s problems. She needs to read an Arbringer book about resenting people whom one has wronged (or whom one’s son has wronged), but I don’t know any way to bring her to that.

    mormonmagmeister, if you get a chance, pick up (through interlibrary loan) Leadership and Self Deception. That might help bring things together for you.

  5. Steve,


    I’m pretty sure the Word of Wisdom was received in Kirtland, around 1833?

    The story is a good one to illustrate your point.

  6. Stephan,

    Just a nice excellent formula with great examples. Just a bit more Christlike is something we can all aspire to.

  7. If you’ve ever been in the room where the Kirtland School of the Prophets met (in the Whitney Store), you know that it’s not much bigger than a modern home’s walk-in closet. Really. It’s no wonder the room could get overwhelmed with smoke.

  8. Stephen….excellent post my friend. I really liked the part about watching out that we do not oppress others. You have written such an insightful post that if I try to add to it I would not be doing it justice. Well done mate and thank you for this.

  9. Way to hit it out of the ballpark with this post, Stephen.

    For too many of us, all too often when we feel wronged our idea of justice is to punish the wrongdoer(s) and everyone and everything around them.

    We seldom take Jesus’ example of denying the instinct for retribution, and instead absorbing the hurt and returning love.

    Punishment will avenge. Love will reform.

  10. Excellent post.

    It mirrors what I’ve learned to do in my marriage. Sometimes one is very much inclined to take a small thing and let it fester or sit for a while–it’s a mistake. Let it go.

    As a psychologist, (though not a clinician, thank goodness), I am always battling a desire to look for the causes of behavior. To figure out why people are doing things. When you are talking with your spouse, this isn’t usually the most edifying approach. A note I would add about edifying others is this: if you don’t want to be wrong, say nothing. You will say fewer things that are incorrect if you say less. Statistically, this is absolutely true. Of course, you will also say fewer things that are edifying, but by saying less you might have a chance to tip the odds towards edifying more often. My advice is to genuinely listen to what others say when you are tempted to correct them–sometimes they are expressing a correct principle but doing so awkwardly.

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