The church leaders know what they are doing. They are working feverishly to keep people in the church. They don’t want members to be bothered by the bad things the church has done and is doing. They embed lines in their talks and devotionals encouraging members to only think positively of the leaders, and ignore the complicated messy facts.
Jeffrey R. Holland gives a devotional talk to BYU students and gives relationship advice which also doubles as religious advice. He references multiple stories from William Shakespeare and even Abraham Lincoln. The main point Holland advises is to “think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love. Assume the good and doubt the bad.” He wants this to apply not only to personal relationships but also to himself and all the church leaders as well. His plea to think the best of others, is couched in the “especially of those you say you love” phrase, as all members should love their beloved apostles, right? This fits the church mindset of only talking about the faith-promoting parts of church history, and never rehearsing your doubts with others. Assume the good things the church does and says about itself are true, and doubt the bad things that others are saying and the bad things evidence shows you are happening. Doubt your doubts and doubt anything that sounds or feels bad about the church, this feels very close to self-brainwashing. He is teaching members to install blind spots for the church and the church leadership. He is teaching them that this is the way to be more virtuous and more like Christ. Assume the good and doubt the bad.
I mentioned Shakespeare earlier. In a talk on love and romance you might well expect a reference to Romeo and Juliet. But let me refer to a much less virtuous story. With Romeo and Juliet the outcome was a result of innocence gone awry, a kind of sad, heartbreaking mistake between two families that should have known better. But in the tale of Othello and Desdemona the sorrow and destruction is calculated—it is maliciously driven from the beginning. Of all the villains in Shakespeare’s writing, and perhaps in all of literature, there is no one I loathe so much as I loathe Iago. Even his name sounds evil to me, or at least it has become so. And what is his evil, and Othello’s tragic, near-inexcusable susceptibility to it? It is the violation of Moroni 7 and 1 Corinthians 13. Among other things, they sought for evil where none existed, they embraced imaginary iniquity. The villains here rejoiced not “in the truth.” Of the innocent Desdemona, Iago said, “I turn her virtue into pitch; / And out of her own goodness make the net / That shall enmesh them all” (William Shakespeare, Othello, act 2, scene 3, lines 366–68). Sowing doubt and devilish innuendo, playing on jealousy and deceit and finally murderous rage, Iago provokes Othello into taking Desdemona’s life—virtue turned into pitch, goodness twisted into a fatal net.
Now, thank heavens, here in Happy Valley this morning we are not talking of infidelity, real or imagined, or of murder; but in the spirit of a university education, let’s learn the lessons being taught. Think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love. Assume the good and doubt the bad. Encourage in yourself what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” (First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1861). Othello could have been saved even in the last moment when he kissed Desdemona and her purity was so evident. “That [kiss] dost almost persuade / Justice to break her sword!” he said (act 5, scene 2, lines 16–17). Well, he would have been spared her death and then his own suicide if he had broken what he considered justice’s sword right then and there rather than, figuratively speaking, using it on her. This tragically sad Elizabethan tale could have had a beautiful, happy ending if just one man, who then influenced another, had thought no evil, had rejoiced not in iniquity, but had rejoiced in the truth.
Thirdly and lastly, the prophets tell us that true love “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Once again that is ultimately a description of Christ’s love—He is the great example of one who bore and believed and hoped and endured. We are invited to do the same in our courtship and in our marriage to the best of our ability. Bear up and be strong. Be hopeful and believing. Some things in life we have little or no control over. These have to be endured. Some disappointments have to be lived with in love and in marriage. These are not things anyone wants in life, but sometimes they come. And when they come, we have to bear them; we have to believe; we have to hope for an end to such sorrows and difficulty; we have to endure until things come right in the end.Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU Devotional, February 15, 2000 – How Do I Love Thee?
This is advice from a cult leader. It is framed in relationship advice, but we’re also told to be yoked to the church, as much as, if not more so than to our spouse. He gives very damaging advice here along with his “assume the good and doubt the bad,” he states that “some things in life we have little or no control over. These have to be endured. Some disappointments have to be lived with in love and in marriage.” Holland is encouraging us to endure the disappointments and sorrows and difficulties, he would have us bear all things in a relationship – Be meek and submissive – or in other words, suffer any abuse as long as you stay.
This is his relationship advice, but also his hopes for the relationship members have with the church and thus with the leaders of the church. You love the leaders, right? “Think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love.” Don’t think ill of them, don’t criticize them, don’t expect apologies, don’t question them. Just stay in the boat, otherwise they will be furious. Stay in the church and doubt the bad, doubt the doubts, ignore the naysayers, pay your tithing, go to the temple, and above all else, be meek. Stay humble and submissive to God, or at least under the control of the church leaders (since they would have us assume that this is the same thing). Assume the good, doubt the bad.
Did you hear this advice? Did this advice and mindset affect you and your own faith transition? Please consider sharing your own faith transition story at wasmormon.org!
- Examine What You Know – Dismiss What Insults Your Soul
- On Choosing to Believe
- Dealing with Doubts and Controversial Opinions
- Demonizing Doubt: Nelson’s Talk on Lazy Learners and Lax Disciples