As I read chapter 12 of Ether this week – the part where Moroni speaks about his and his ancestors’ weakness in writing – I felt like he was talking to me and you about the weakness of past Church leaders, particularly prophets. Most pointedly, there’s always been a lot of harsh judgement of Joseph Smith and, slightly differently, Brigham Young. The rest seem to get gentler treatment – which increases (in gentleness of judgement) as people get closer to their own time period. Funny, that.
Moroni, as you know, was quite concerned about the reception of his and his ancestors’ record, due to the difficulty of the language they used on the plates. Because of space constraints, they adapted the Hebrew which they spoke, transliterating it (I hope that’s the right word) into Egyptian, which they also modified, I assume to express the particular concepts they needed according to their own language. So, although he felt they were persuasive and impressive in speaking, their writing was really affected by all the translating and modifying. I think it’s pretty good! (And that might be because the blessing the Lord promised Moroni about this is in force when I read it.) But he saw the difference, and you can empathise with his awareness of it – just as we feel about our own gaps, which are so evident to our eyes.
When Moroni expressed his concerns to the Lord, he got this among the answer – try to see this in light of what is said about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and what you might have thought yourself:
He said His grace is sufficient for the meek – it works for those who open themselves to truth and light by being meek about their own and others’ weakness. Those who see through weak moments, lack of skill in some area, possible poor choices; who don’t look for stumbling that they can jump on to condemn the person. Who, because of this, see what’s really there to see – the saving power of Christ’s gospel. That’s why His grace is sufficient – enough to cover weaknesses and save – for them.
Then comes the famous teaching: God gives us weakness – I read this as placing us in genetic lines and life circumstances that give us weaknesses, as well as sending us to a fallen world in mortal bodies where our will for good can be weak and we must learn to overcome that. He aims for it to exist. Therefore, condemning a past figure for their weakness is both uncharitable and blasphemous against God.
We are all weak. We all make mistakes, trying to find our way through life. Imagine, on top of that, having a responsibility such as leading a new, restored church at a time when almost everyone is against you, with all your human weakness, when hardly anyone else understands what you know, and no one has had your experiences with the divine. When you are trying to lead people who bring all their weakness with them. Moroni and Mormon tell us that we should learn from their own civilisation’s mistakes – they don’t try to cover up their people’s weakness. But they do ask that we have charity towards them. It’s not only right in the sense of loving our neighbour, but in allowing us to learn, to receive grace for our weakness, and to grow into that which our Father would have us be.
Moroni came to understand this:
You (speaking generally here, not directly to you, the reader) can find fault with historical figures, with Joseph and Brigham, and others, if you want. But in doing it, you’ll lose the faith and understanding you have. I think this is because, in condemning and having negative perspectives about such people – people you can’t ask for clarification or observe yourself (and even then, it’s an arrogant thing to think that would make you a fair judge) – that’s where your energy will go. It will sour the good things you know and colour everything in tainted hues. That’s how the gifts of the Spirit will leave you, and what you had will be given to those who want it. Who understand that it’s a fallen world, and its very purpose is to refine us out of our impurities, through all our weaknesses.
Moroni’s charity was so real and great that he prayed for people in our day, who would read the record, to have charity so we could receive all the benefits of faith and hope in Christ, and all the other lessons from their record. I’m so impressed by that! The Lord tells him that’s not for him to worry about – it’s our choice whether to have charity towards the weakness of others, and to thereby choose the lessons we learn.