The complainer

An old Southern grandfather told a group of youngsters clustered about his rocking chair a story about some men who, during hard times many years ago, worked and lived in a lumber camp. The camp did not have a hired cook so the lumberjacks took turns preparing meals. The first who complained about the food would be the next cook.

Most cooked poorly, but one presented fare that not only was edible but also bordered on being delicious. No one complained. But no one bothered to compliment or thank him, either. The unappreciated cook, in an effort to get himself out of preparing meals, dumped a cup of salt in the stew and, with anticipation, watched as his fellow lumberjacks began eating their supper. Soon, one exclaimed, "This is the saltiest stew I've ever tasted!" Then, realizing the consequences of his complaint, he quickly added, "And that's just the way I like it!"At this point, the old grandfather drove home the moral of his story: Many of us are like the lumberjack at the supper table - we are quick to complain, but slow to contribute.

And what a sad commentary that is.

Some of us express displeasure, find fault or vocally make known our annoyances with such frequency that others might suspect that complaining is our avocation. We often complain about individuals who have important roles in our lives, including spouses, family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and fellow Church members and leaders.

Complaining directed against others can, as water on a candle, extinguish their desire to serve, help or contribute.

Perhaps we ought to listen to what we're saying and evaluate whether the consequences of our grumbling are worth the damage our utterances might cause. Rather than complaining, we should be willing to put forth the effort necessary to help rectify the situations about which we are voicing our displeasure. We sometimes complain about the work or programs initiated by city, state and national leaders or about the plans of local school boards, or about numerous others who have some impact or influence on our daily lives. There are times when it is appropriate for us to voice our concerns, but should we complain if we aren't contributing, or didn't bother to study the issues before we voted, or if we didn't vote at all?

Complainers have existed throughout history. The Old Testament records how the children of Israel complained even as they were being delivered from bondage in Egypt. While encamped in the safety of the wilderness, they expressed their discontent, reaping serious consequences:

"And when the people complained it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp." (Num. 11:1.)

Perhaps two of the most prolific complainers recorded in the scriptures were Laman and Lemuel. According to the Book of Mormon, they constantly complained but apparently did little to contribute to the well-being of their family or to improve their circumstances. Nephi, their noble and righteous younger brother recorded:

" . . . for behold they [Laman and LemuelT did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart." (1 Ne. 2:11.)

In the next verse, Nephi gave some insight to why his brothers complained:

"And thus Laman and Lemuel, . . . did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them." (1 Ne. 2:12.)

While complaining about fellow mortals is not good, murmuring against the things of the Lord is a more serious offense. If we are attuned to the Spirit and seek direction and confirmation on our own, we will sustain rather than criticize counsel given by leaders the Lord has chosen to preside over us.

We might look disparagingly upon Laman and Lemuel, who left a legacy of discord among their posterity. But we should learn from them, and thereby, if necessary, change our behavior and quit sowing the seeds of discontent that come from complaining.

John the Revelator recorded:

"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Rev. 20:12.)

How much greater it is that our works be works of righteousness, rather than works of discord and discontent.

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