One of the greatest indicators of spiritual maturity is revealed in how "we respond to the weaknesses, inexperience and potentially offensive actions of others," Elder David A. Bednar declared Sunday afternoon.
"A thing, an event or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended," said Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve.
The newest apostle related that when he was a stake president he would visit less-active members with their bishops. During hundreds of such visits, he detected a common theme — "I was offended by ...."
"The bishop and I would listen intently and sincerely. One of us might next ask about their conversion to and testimony of the restored gospel. As we talked, eyes often were moist with tears as these good people recalled the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost and their prior spiritual experiences."
Elder Bednar said he would then gently point out that because someone at Church offended them, they were denying themselves the sacrament, the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, the priesthood ordinances and the Holy Temple, "and you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children's children and the generations that will follow."
Many times, the members would respond, "I have never thought about it that way."
The stake president and bishop would then extend an invitation to stop being offended and come back into Church activity. "Not only do we need you, but you need the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Please come back — now."
Continuing, Elder Bednar explained that clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled and mean-spirited things do occur. "However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else."
Referring to 2 Nephi 2:13-14, Elder Bednar said: "To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon."
After explaining that the Church is a "learning laboratory" for "perfecting the saints," Elder Bednar issued two invitations:
"I invite you to learn about and apply the Savior's teachings about interactions and episodes that can be construed as offensive.
"Will you please prayerfully identify a person with whom you will visit and extend the invitation to once again worship with us?"
However, he emphasized, such a request should be conveyed in love and meekness — "and not in a spirit of self-righteous superiority and pride."