A pint of cream. A misspelled name. No available seating at the Kirtland Temple dedication.
They seem like simple, trivial things. Yet, early Church members let them impact their testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thomas B. Marsh, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, Elizabeth, left the Church over a quarrel about a little cream.
Symonds Ryder questioned his calling in the Church because Joseph Smith misspelled his name in a letter asking him to preach the gospel.
And Frazier Eaton, a man who had donated $700 to the building of the Kirtland Temple, apostatized because seats were not available at the dedication of the temple. (Lesson 24, Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, p. 134.)
It is hard to believe the stories — petty at best — could be true. But they are.
And, sadly enough, they have modern-day application. Many of us today allow ourselves to be offended over equally trivial things. A slip of the tongue by a priesthood leader who meant no offense. A Church calling that seems more convenient than inspired. A neighborhood bridal shower that inadvertently excludes one person.
By virtue of our membership in the Church and the interactions that our membership requires, we all can find numerous reasons to take offense. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve said Church members should be prepared for that inevitability.
“In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive,” he said. “Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us — and it certainly will occur more than once. Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless.
“You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended.”
Elder Bednar said understanding that the Church is a learning laboratory helps us shun offense.
“When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed or disrespected,” he said. “And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. 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.” (David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them,” Liahona, November 2006, 89-92.)
The scriptures teach us to triumph over offense. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).
A wise Church member who recently could have been offended — but chose not to be — put it another way. Sometimes it is best, he said, to “let it go.”
“All of us carry baggage around from time to time, but the wisest ones among us don’t carry it for very long,” said President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve. “Some things that ought to be put in order are not put in order because you can’t control them.
“Often, however, the things we carry are petty, even stupid. If you are still upset after all these years because Aunt Clara didn’t come to your wedding reception, why don’t you grow up? Forget it.
“If you brood constantly over some past mistake, settle it — look ahead.
“If the bishop didn’t call you right — or release you right — forget it.
“If you resent someone for something he has done — or failed to do — forget it.
“We call that forgiveness. It is powerful, spiritual medicine” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Balm of Gilead,” New Era, August 1979, 36).
After the quarrel over cream, Brother Marsh turned against the Church and went before a government official to declare that the Latter-day Saints were hostile toward the state of Missouri. That testimony was a factor in the governor’s exterminating order which drove the Saints from Missouri. After 19 years, Brother Marsh returned to the Church, asked forgiveness and realized the high cost of his offense.
Simonds Ryder, unable to accept Joseph Smith’s spelling imperfections, later apostatized from the Church.
And Frazier Eaton, once faithful enough to donate a large sum of money to the Church’s temple fund, could have attended a repeated dedication of the Kirtland Temple for those who could not be accommodated in the first dedication. But instead, he walked away from all the blessings the gospel could have afforded him.
Each would have avoided suffering and lost blessings if they simply could have “let it go.”
As petty, trivial things impact us today, let’s not follow their lead.