A written record tells of a man whom his brothers hated. They tied him up, beat him, nearly killed him and spoke so vehemently against him that many members of his family turned their backs on him.
Certainly, he had many reasons to complain, become bitter and filled with resentment and hatred. Feeling threatened by his brothers, he was troubled and discouraged. Yet, he wrote:
“Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard” (2 Nephi 4:16).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1917-2008) spoke of this man, Nephi: “Yes, his path had been difficult. Yes, his heart groaned because of mistakes he had made, but he did not allow himself to linger in negativity. Instead, he told himself:
“?‘Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
“?‘Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.
“?‘Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: ‘O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee’?” (2 Nephi 4:28-30).
Elder Wirthlin said: “We must let go of the negative emotions that bind our hearts and instead fill our souls with love, faith and thanksgiving.
“Anger, resentment and bitterness stunt our spiritual growth. Would you bathe in impure water? Then why do we bathe our spirits with negative and bitter thoughts and feelings?
“You can cleanse your heart. You don’t have to harbor thoughts and feelings that drag you down and destroy your spirit” (address at Brigham Young University, Oct. 31, 2000, “Live in Thanksgiving Daily,” Ensign, September 2001).
President Gordon B. Hinckley, then second counselor in the First Presidency, gave this counsel at BYU-Hawaii in 1983:
“As you leave this institution and go forward with your lives, constantly look for good, beautiful, positive truth.”
He spoke of columnists in newspapers and commentators on television and radio whose works he had read and heard. He described them as brilliant, “of incise language, scintillating in expression ... masters of the written word.” But, he said, for the most part their attitude was negative. “Regardless of whom they write about, they seem to look for his failings and weaknesses: They are constantly criticizing, seldom praising.”
He observed that many letters to the editors of newspapers were filled with venom and “written by people who seem to find no good in the world or in their associates. Criticism, faultfinding, evil-speaking — these are of the spirit of the day. ...”
President Hinckley spoke of the sarcastic, snide and critical remarks found in other places, including some homes and added, “In the Church, it sows the seed of inactivity and finally apostasy.”
Then, President Hinckley made a plea “that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we ‘accentuate the positive.’ I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course.
“What I am suggesting to each of you is that you turn from negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom you will associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically, my father would say, ‘Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve.’ ”
Further, President Hinckley said, “Do not partake of the spirit so rife in our times. Look for good and build on it. There is so much of the strong and the decent and the beautiful to build upon. You are partakers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel means ‘good news.’ The message of the Lord is one of hope and salvation. The voice of the Lord is a voice of glad tidings. The work of the Lord is a work of glorious accomplishment.”
“I am not suggesting that you simply put on rose-colored glasses to make the world about you look rosy. I ask rather, that you look above and beyond the negative, the critical, the cynical, the doubtful, to the positive and affirmative” (Address at BYU-Hawaii commencement, June 18, 1983; Church News, July 3, 1983, pp. 10-11).
President Thomas S. Monson wrote: “Like the leprosy of yesteryear are the plagues of today. They linger; they debilitate; they destroy. They are to be found everywhere. Their pervasiveness knows no boundaries. We know them as selfishness, greed, indulgence, cruelty and crime, to identify a few. Surfeited with their poison, we tend to criticize, to complain, to blame and, slowly but surely, to abandon the positives and adopt the negatives of life.
“A popular refrain from the 1940s captured the thought:
Accentuate the positive;
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative;
Don’t mess with mister In-between.
“Good advice then. Good advice now.
“This is a wonderful time to be living here on earth. Our opportunities are limitless. While there are some things wrong in the world today, there are many things right, such as teachers who teach, ministers who minister, marriages that make it, partners who sacrifice, and friends who help” (First Presidency Message, Ensign, May 2000, p. 2).