What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: torontofotob
And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them. (1 Ne. 2:12)
The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defines the verb ‘murmur’ as “To grumble; to complain; to utter complaints in a low, half articulated voice; to utter sullen discontent;”
Nephi instructs us in the above passage that murmuring stems as a result of ignorance. Not knowing the divine dealings of their Creator, his brothers found it easy to express discontent with the actions of their father based on instructions he had received from the Lord.
Ignorance can—and often does—lead to murmuring. Commenting on this passage, Elder Maxwell said:
Failing to understand the “dealings” of the Lord with His children—meaning His relations with and treatment of His children—is very fundamental. Murmuring is but one of the symptoms, and not the only consequence either; in fact, brothers and sisters, this failure affects everything else!
To misread something so crucial constitutes a failure to know God, who then ends up being wrongly seen as unreachable, uninvolved, uncaring, and unable—a disabled and diminished Deity, really—about whose seeming limitations, ironically, some then quickly complain. (Neal A. Maxwell, “Lessons from Laman and Lemuel,” Ensign, Nov 1999, 6)
Indeed, those who murmur suffer from a much deeper spiritual malady that, were it resolved, would cure the outward expression of inward doubt and ignorance. Jesus spoke of the relationship between a servant and a master as being a relationship of privileged knowledge. The servant does not know his master’s will. Often he is asked to serve out of obedience, trusting that the master knows what is best.
We are not left, however, to merely be servants. We can and should seek to obtain the title of “friend”, as others have done. A friend, Jesus said, is trusted with all information and knows what the other is doing and the reasons for doing so.
On our path to attaining such a glorious status, we must be obedient servants that do as the Master asks. Murmuring shows distrust in His counsel and doubt regarding our own spiritual standing. Because there are so many who lack truth and hence are ignorant as to the Lord’s dealings, many murmur.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell listed four characteristics of those who murmur:
First, the murmurer often lacks the courage to express openly his concerns. If the complaint concerns a peer, the murmurer seldom follows Jesus’ counsel, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Matt. 18:15.)
Second, murmurers make good conversational cloak holders. Though picking up no stones themselves, they provoke others to do so.
Third, while a murmurer insists on venting his own feelings, he regards any response thereto as hostile. (See 2 Ne. 1:26.) Furthermore, murmurers seldom take into account the bearing capacity of their audiences.
Fourth, murmurers have short memories. Israel arrived in Sinai, then journeyed on to the Holy Land though they were sometimes hungry and thirsty. But the Lord rescued them, whether by the miraculous appearance by quail or by water struck from a rock. (See Num. 11:31; Ex. 17:6.) Strange, isn’t it, brothers and sisters, how those with the shortest memories have the longest lists of demands! However, with no remembrance of past blessings, there is no perspective about what is really going on. (Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Murmur Not’,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 82)
Additionally, Elder H. Ross Workman suggested three steps taken on the path to murmuring:
First, the servants began to question. They felt to exercise their own judgment upon the instruction given by their master. “What need hath my lord of this tower, seeing this is a time of peace?” they said (D&C 101:48). They questioned first in their own minds and then planted questions in the minds of others. Questioning came first.
Second, they began to rationalize and excuse themselves from doing what they had been instructed to do. They said: “Might not this money be given to the exchangers? For there is no need of these things” (D&C 101:49). Thus, they made an excuse for disobedience.
The third step inevitably follows: slothfulness in following the commandment of the Master. The parable says, “They became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord” (D&C 101:50). Thus, the stage was set for disaster. (H. Ross Workman, “Beware of Murmuring,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 85)
I believe Elder Marvin J. Ashton summed it up best:
A quality person will murmur not. He will not find fault or criticize, belittle, or nag. When I think of those who are examples of proficient murmuring on a continuing basis, I think of Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon. By contrast I admire Nephi, who never murmured. Instead he was positive and had no time for contention, discouragement, or apathy.
Someone has wisely stated that hate is not the opposite of love. Apathy is. We will not have time for apathy in life’s journey if we speak and think positively. Seek, search, and work for worthy eternal qualities and friends. (Marvin J. Ashton, “Be a Quality Person,” Ensign, Feb 1993, 64)
May we not murmur, but have faith. May we seek to understand things “as they really are”, seek to understand the mysteries of the kingdom, and seek to become the Lord’s friends who know His dealings.