Say 'nay' to naysaying

There is a growing problem of naysaying in today's world. Naysayers, according to Webster, are those who "deny, refuse, or oppose."

While there have always been those who find fault or seem to delight in criticism, their ranks seem to be growing rapidly. Wherever you turn these days there are individuals or groups who are opposed to anything or everything and don't mind saying so. Indicative of this proliferation of negativism are the so-called talk shows and call-in programs that crowd the airways. These seem more and more to be forums for picking apart other people's ideas or beliefs.Honest dissent is a basic freedom, but when criticism becomes spiteful or is expressed in oppressive or perverse ways, it goes far beyond the mark of propriety.

When God gave us our moral agency He provided for choice by allowing opposition, for only in being able to choose between good and evil can we truly be free. It was Father Lehi in the Book of Mormon who affirmed this when he said:

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. . . ." (2 Ne. 2:11.)

Each of us has the right to choose between good and evil. But this is a personal choice, and when others try to impose their opposition through mockery, maliciousness, or even hatred, the principle has been abused.

Shortly before the mortal advent of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, Satan fostered great disputations among the Nephites on this continent. Helaman described it thusly:

"And many more things did the people imagine up in their hearts, which were foolish and vain; and they were much disturbed for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come." (Hel. 16:22.)

It appears that Satan is still at it, and is finding a growing cadre of evil speakers, backbiters, and rumor mongers.

It is important that as Latter-day Saints we do not let ourselves get swept up in the all-too-easy practice of naysaying. There is room in this world for individual opinions and differences, but no one has a right by any kind of attack or with a contentious spirit to crush the feelings of another.

Through Brigham Young the Lord said:

"Cease to contend one with another; cease to speak evil of another . . . and let your words tend to edifying one another." (D&C 136:23-24.)

The Lord also gave us a pattern through which such edification can take place as we deal with those whose opinions differ from ours. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith He said:

". . . Only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

"By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile-

"Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;" (D&C 121:42-43.)

In an even more simple way, the Lord also said:

"Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm." (D&C 42:27.) Oh, that we could always live by this correct principle.

Perhaps we could if we would try more diligently to internalize the message of this sweet hymn that we sing:

Nay, speak no ill; a kindly word

Can never leave a sting behind;

And, oh, to breathe each tale we've heard

Is far beneath a noble mind.

Full oft a better seed is sown

By choosing thus the kinder plan,

For, if but little good is known,

Still let us speak the best we can.

Then speak no ill, but lenient be

To other's failings as your own.

If you're the first a fault to see,

Be not the first to make it known,

For life is but a passing day;

No lip may tell how brief its span.

Then, oh, the little time we stay,

Let's speak of all the best we can."

Hymns, No. 233, 1st and 3rd verses

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