Strong. Tall. Fit. Young. Looks good in a uniform. Probably has a lot of battle scars. Ambitious. Disciplined. Protective. Selfless. Intelligent. Articulate. An inspiring public speaker. Absolutely no fear. Never hesitant to stand up for what’s right. A man of God, who wouldn’t touch evil with a ten-foot pole. Actually, he would just go smite evil with a ten-foot pole, because he’s Satan’s worst nightmare. In fact, he’s so righteous that if every guy were like him, “the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:11-18).
He also has a weakness for making pretty ruthless accusations in writing:
“You are completely wrong, let me set you straight.”
“That is so irresponsible and neglectful.”
“How can you be so thoughtless? Seems like you really enjoy sitting around doing NOTHING.”
“You’re supposed to be an example. Congratulations on letting everyone down.”
“I try to be friends with everyone and not judge, but sometimes I just have to speak up.”
“You think you can keep doing what you’re doing and there won’t be any consequences? Ha! Good luck with that.”
“Ugh, you think you are so much better than everyone else.”
“You’re assuming that bad things happen to people because of their own choices. There’s no way that you could know that, how dare you judge?”
“Selfish people like YOU ruin it for everyone else.”
Would it surprise you to know that the quotes above come from Captain Moroni? Ok, yes, I took some artistic license here, but I think my translation of Moroni’s letter to Chief Judge Pahoran into current “social media speak” is pretty accurate. Does any of it sound familiar? You could log on to Facebook right now and see thousands of people saying things like this to each other in real time. You may have even let some similar phrases escape from your own impassioned typing at one time or another.
As it becomes the norm for our lives to be played out on the screens of social media, and as it becomes quicker and easier to share our instinctive feelings with others, it also becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a filter and think through our responses before we post them. Have you ever thought someone was being rude and responded in kind, only to discover later that you misinterpreted the situation? If it makes you feel any better, even everyone’s favorite Nephite fell for it.
Now, before Captain Moroni’s fan-girls start calling me out, let me reassure you that I love his letter. It’s a popcorn-worthy takedown the likes of which could never be matched by any Twitter rant. I mean, when was the last time you saw a dude promise to bring about someone’s extinction? Not to mention that Moroni’s words are motivated by a deep and righteous sense of duty toward God and his people.
Like Moroni, most of us also fall into the category of wielding our figurative swords in defense of that which is good. Even if our views are wrong, our hearts are usually in the right place. Sometimes, we simply make Moroni’s mistake and start smiting people before we have all the information. Sometimes we don’t lack information, but we allow our differences to become a chasm between us, over which we hurl exaggerated accusations at one another. If we really want to increase good in the world, we would do well not to alienate others in the process.
If you need an example of how to do this, look no further than Pahoran’s response to the captain’s tirade:
Behold, now it came to pass that soon after Moroni had sent his epistle unto the chief governor, he received an epistle from aPahoran, the chief governor. And these are the words which he received:
I, Pahoran, who am the chief governor of this land, do send these words unto Moroni, the chief captain over the army. Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great aafflictions, yea, it grieves my soul.
Do you see what he did there? Pahoran could have easily been offended and put Moroni in his place. You guys—Moroni essentially CALLED HIS BOSS a power-hungry narcissist. But instead of responding scathingly, Pahoran empathized with Moroni. Only after offering the reassurance that the captain needed did Pahoran correct Moroni and share the information he lacked. Even then, his explanation doesn’t come across as defensive.
Impressed yet? Just wait until you see what Pahoran said next:
And now, in your epistle you have acensured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart.
On top of choosing to ignore the fact that Moroni censured him, Pahoran also chose to focus on Moroni’s strengths. How many of us have the humility to respond in this way toward those who censure us? How many of us have the charity and patience to see through what we may perceive to be “wrong” about others and recognize the good that underlies their words? Helping others to see truth and right doesn’t come from beating them over the head with our views, but from demonstrating correct principles in the way that we treat everyone—especially those with whom we disagree.
I think the Savior said it best:
For if ye alove them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
So, the next time you log on to Facebook and feel like typing someone into oblivion, don’t be a publican. Don’t even be like Captain Moroni. Be a Pahoran.