Bishop Robert L. Simpson said: “The world today tells you to leave your friend alone. He has the right to come and go as he pleases. The world tells you that persuasion to attend church or priesthood meeting or to discard a bad habit might lead to frustration and undue pressures; but again I repeat the word of the Lord: You are your brother’s keeper, and when you are converted, you have an obligation to strengthen your brother” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1971, 114; or Ensign, Dec. 1971, 103). (See https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-03-016-are-we-our-brothers-keeper?category=old-testament/introduction-deuteronomy&&lang=eng&order=chronological)
This is a quote that I have pondered off and on for years. On one hand, I want to extend the respect that I desire of not having someone up in my business telling me that I’m doing things all wrong, calling me a hypocrite, and insinuating that they, somehow, know how to live my life better than I do. On the other hand, I know that living the commandments given by Christ and keeping the covenants I have made with God have brought me more personal growth, joy, and contentment than I could have ever found on my own. The question for me becomes “How can I be a ‘keeper’ and still demonstrate the love of God in my efforts?”
I have to wonder if the question is actually the solution. I once had to share knowledge with a bishop that brought another ward member before a church disciplinary council. It was crushing and heart-rending for me, because I knew that this person would know where the information had come from and would not be pleased. I lost the friendship, and to this day I have no idea how this person is doing spiritually.
The one thing that helped me recover from something that felt so horrible was knowing that I did it out of love. I had received many messages through the Holy Spirit that let me know it was time and that the particular time that I was prompted to move would be the most likely time for there to be a positive outcome. There was also a love for my other brothers and sisters in that ward – because the good name of the church had to be protected for our witness in the community to be strong.
That’s an extreme example, where removing the burden of full fellowship in the church was necessary in order to give the opportunity to repent.
I truly do think love and friendship are key. After all, in the Doctrine and Covenants we are taught to “reprove betimes [quickly, in the proper time] with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost [emphasis added].” There are times when we need to speak up, and the Holy Spirit will let us know when those times are. When prompted, we need to have the courage to say what needs to be said, always with the focus of being as loving as possible.
Of course, that verse continues, “and afterward showing forth an increase of love” to the one who has been subject to your rebuke. We need to never leave someone in doubt as to where our real motives and feelings lie.
In all my thinking and pondering, I’m not sure there’s a good set of rules on when to speak up and when to walk away. Even with all the best intentions, I’ve spoken up and felt that things have gone very poorly. These are the things that I have found over the years that seem to work the best:
- Follow the promptings of the Spirit.
- Focus on expressing the love of God at all times.
- Ask questions or share similar experiences where you chose a different direction rather than telling someone what they “need to do.”
- Continue to be a friend and show your love and concern just as you would have before.
- However the other person reacts, don’t let it become personal to you. Lean on Christ to help you continue to love appropriately even if the other person does not act accordingly.