“We All Have Chapters We Would Rather Keep Unpublished”


“We all have chapters we would rather keep unpublished”- Downton Abby

A number of years ago a great message was delivered by Dieter F. Uchtdorf on being merciful and withholding judgmental gossip about others. (“The Merciful Obtain Mercy”, GC, April, 2012) He made a great point when he asked, “Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?” He was repeating the sentiment from the above statement that comes from the popular TV series Downton Abby. Haven’t we all been guilty of doing something in our lives that we are not proud of? Haven’t all of us been found, at some time or other in our lives, “wanting” when it comes to virtuous behavior? Would we like others to “publish” that part of our lives or wouldn’t we be better served if certain parts of our lives were left undisturbed? The answer is obvious.

Several years ago, Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk entitled “Criticism.” In it, he said, “Does… counsel to avoid fault-finding and personal criticism apply only to statements that are false? Doesn’t it also apply to statements that are true? In a talk I recently gave… I urged that “the fact that something is true is not always a justification for communicating it.” A letter published in the New York Times Magazine described my counsel as “contempt for the truth.” (Feb. 9, 1986, p. 86.) I disagree. I rely on the teaching in Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1) Specifically, there is “a time to speak,” and there is also “a time to keep silence.” (Eccl. 3:7)

The temptation for us all is to be anxious messengers of “new information.” Somehow delivering a message that bears news of the wrongdoings of others seems even more exciting. A look at the six o’clock news bears witness to that. Seldom is “good” news reported on. Often, only the vilest acts of man make their way across the wire!

Let us not be the publishers of other people’s unsavory chapters. Let us refrain from the worldly ways of rejoicing in the misery of others. Let us be kind and forgiving! Let us not be perpetrators of gossip, even if the gossip is true. It doesn’t uplift others, and when we do so, we are only publishing something about the nature of our own souls.

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