Mourning With Those Who Mourn, Not Murmur

murmuring-2Every six months a General Conference comes and goes, and along with it the usual gripes from those who are not satisfied. That isn’t only non-Mormons who don’t believe in Prophets and Apostles, but some members of the Church. They will claim that the right words weren’t said, too much was asked of them, or the leadership just doesn’t understand. Whenever it is pointed out that the Lord is in charge and not them or their desires, they make accusations of heartlessness or lack of caring. Invariably they will insist that doing what they ask is a way to, “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” (Mosiah 18:9) whether the requests are deserving or not. It becomes a spiritual extortion by pointing fingers at those who don’t agree with their concerns. Too often they confuse the emotional turmoil of mourning with the selfish sin of murmuring.

As was said on another mourning related discussion, “Mourning with those who mourn is an important Gospel principle, but like any Gospel principle, it can be distorted and used to serve incorrect (should I say “problematic” instead?) ends.” The mixing up of mourning for murmuring is more than a social misplacement of scriptural injunctions. In the past the Lord has become displeased enough that he condemned the whole of Israel for what amounts to ungrateful insolence.

Despite the traditional understanding of Israel’s 40 year wanderings, they were not without food and luxuries. They took with them, according to Exodus 12:38 , “flocks, and herds, even very much cattle,” with the large group of people. That wasn’t all that went with them as they took the spoils of Egypt, using the animals and supplies as in Exodus 29 to preform the rights and sacrifices of the Tabernacle. Worship consisted of sacrificing a young bullock and two rams, including a lamb in the morning and one in the evening every day. That didn’t count the private purifications using lambs or two young pigeons after childbirth. During the 40 years of wandering, as pointed out in Deuteronomy 2, they were never alone and at times allowed to do trade and commerce with other people. Yet, they still complained they didn’t have enough food.

The Lord heard Israel murmur and answered in Exodus 16:3-4 with a miracle:

3 And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

4 Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.

That was still not enough, because they wanted more meat. In verses 11-13 another miracle:

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.

13 And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.

With all that Israel had brought with them or was provided by the Lord, they were still unsatisfied. After so much long suffering the Lord in Numbers 21:6 had enough and sent fiery serpents to inflict them. Many died, although he provided a way to deliver them (vs. 8-9), “And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” Even before this in Numbers 14:3-4 Israel feared the inhabitants of the land they were promised and murmured there was no way to defeat them. They were ready to return as slaves to Egypt, although realistically be slain there. The Lord in his wrath declares:

22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;

23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:

24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.

Israel had murmured too much. No amount of blessings would satisfy them. Years of the Lord “mourning” with them by doing miracles was enough. They would not be allowed to enter into the land they were originally promised. Another generation had to wait for it to be fulfilled.

Elder H. Ross Workman, former member of the Quorum of the Seventy, said in his Doctrine and Covenants 101:43-62 referenced talk Beware of Murmuring:

Why did the servants fail to build the tower? The seeds of the disaster were planted by murmuring.

According to the Lord’s parable, murmuring consists of three steps, each leading to the next in a descending path to disobedience.

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.

God has blessed His children with prophets to instruct them in His ways and prepare them for eternal life. The ways of God are not easily understood by man. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). Obedience is essential to realize the blessings of the Lord, even if the purpose of the commandment is not understood.

Mourning is a serious emotional response that must be responded to with care and attention. Sometimes those who have a complaint are correct in calling out necessary improvements. Grecian converts in Acts 6:1-6 expressed concern that the Hebrews neglected the daily needs of their widows. The leadership of the Church who had other responsibilities sympathised and asked the membership to find people who could preform the requested duties. This was a great example of finding a way to help those in need.

Those who might have legitimate worries must be careful not to cross into murmuring territory. There are right times and reasons to express concerns. Likewise, inappropriate or disproportionate grumblings will result in lost testimonies and eventual cursing instead of blessing. This is expressed in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” In Mormon 2:12-15, the prophet saw this firsthand when his people become blood thirsty warriors:

12 And it came to pass that when I, Mormon, saw their lamentation and their mourning and their sorrow before the Lord, my heart did begin to rejoice within me, knowing the mercies and the long-suffering of the Lord, therefore supposing that he would be merciful unto them that they would again become a righteous people.

13 But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.

14 And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives.

15 And it came to pass that my sorrow did return unto me again, and I saw that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually; for I saw thousands of them hewn down in open rebellion against their God, and heaped up as dung upon the face of the land. And thus three hundred and forty and four years had passed away.

Most important is in what spirit does mourning and the need for comfort come from within our hearts. Does it exist because of a real loss of a loved one, loneliness, physical and mental distress? Is it an egotistical need or selfish desire to please the world or coveting what others have? The Lord will punish the wrong kind of mourning that turns into murmuring with the same intensity as committing other sins. He is not pleased with those, “who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21). True answers to prayer and gaining of comfort comes by aligning our will to God’s and recognizing the blessings that do exist before seeking more.

25 thoughts on “Mourning With Those Who Mourn, Not Murmur

  1. This is a great post. I think the Lord strikes the difficult balance between being long suffering and empathetic, and not giving comfort to those who murmor or make excuses. It is a very difficult balance for us to strike, but we can follow the perfect example of Christ.

  2. Another point: when murmuring, people will rarely quote modern-day prophets or the scriptures. They are usually caught up in the philosophies of men. Our goal should be to help those who are mourning turn, with a broken heart and contrite spirit, to the scriptures and the prophets as sources of truth.

  3. Another point: when murmuring, people will rarely quote modern-day prophets or the scriptures.
    Like fmh. They never show the teachings of the prophets or apostles gasp a man! But they only highlight womens teachings.

  4. I think I have noticed what might be termed a ‘passive aggressive’ use of mourning-related vocabulary from thwarted Progressives. When they do not get their way- especially if they expected to; their actual, underlying *real* response appears to be some mixture of anger and frustration – but they describe themselves in terms appropriate to mourning; as if thwarting the Progressive agenda is akin to a murder which has left them bereaved.

    Conversely when Progressives win (as they usually do, these days) their triumphalism and glee is unrestrained, and they delight in rubbing their defeated opponents faces into the dust: no concerns, then, about anybody else’s mourning…

  5. Bruce, when progressives win these days they immediately move to shut down contrary views from other people. I can take the glee; I can’t take the fascism.

  6. Nicely put. Mourning is something to be done in an intimate, private setting. Mourning to a public audience on your blog is no different than praying to be heard by others.

  7. “Invariably they will insist that doing what they ask is a way to, “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” (Mosiah 18:9)”

    Really?! This “invariably” happens? Never in my 40 years have I ever heard someone “insist” on such a thing. Never. Ever. Ever.

    And you say that “invariably” this happens?

    Sounds to me like what you did was concoct a scenario so that you could play up the alliteration between “mourn” and “murmur” to craft a catchy blog post.

    Nice try, but you still have to be honest. Have you ever heard anyone who was dissatisfied with General Conference insist that you need to “mourn” with them? Tell me the truth.

  8. I attended a memorial service yesterday for a young man who was killed while biking to his university classes. He was brilliant, majoring in aerospace engineering, and witty. I believe the ranks of those who mourned his untimely death numbered in the thousands. The chorus of his high school colleagues alone consisted of over a hundred voices.

    That was what I consider mourning with those who mourn.

  9. “Nice try, but you still have to be honest. Have you ever heard anyone who was dissatisfied with General Conference insist that you need to “mourn” with them? Tell me the truth.”

    Yes, almost every time. This is especially the case online as discussed above. I believe it is you who are not telling the truth if we want to play that game.

  10. jayman asks: ” Have you ever heard anyone who was dissatisfied with General Conference insist that you need to “mourn” with them? ”

    jayman, you need to get out more, I guess. There’s a post at Times and Seasons that explicitly says this (here is an exact quote): “I understand the visceral response that can come when you hear someone criticizing the church and its leadership, but I’m asking you to try to get behind that and hear that root issue and the pain it can cause and then mourn with those who mourn.”
    (there are others I could link to that are more antagonistic, this one at least makes an attempt to move beyond the hurt).

    Why are you so insistent this doesn’t happen when it clearly does? Be honest.

  11. Because never in my life, to the best of my memory, have I ever heard anyone ask for a mourning companion when they don’t like what they hear at church. Wishing someone could show enough independent thought to at least try to see things from a different perspective is neither asking that person to mourn, nor is it murmuring.

    Let me give you a little exercise. Imagine what it probably sounds like to the 7,285,000,000 inhabitants of this planet who are NOT Mormon when Elder Ballard says, “Let us be grateful for the beautiful Old Ship Zion [the LDS Church], for without it we are cast adrift, alone and powerless, swept along without rudder or oar, swirling with the strong currents of the adversary’s wind and waves.”

    See, I am not asking you to mourn with me. Because I am not mourning. I am only hoping you can see things from a different point of view. It can be very beneficial. It will help you not to say sincere, but stupid, things.

    (I wonder if the Church representatives currently attending the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions are going to greet everyone else with this Ballard quote?)

  12. I actually wouldn’t mind the representatives of the Church greeting everyone with that quote. Never mind your argument is a red herring based on lack of context. Ivan gives you a quote and you don’t even acknowledge it or the many times that exists. Seems more like you are angry that those you support are getting called out by this post.

  13. No, I am not angry. That’s just silly.

    Ivan gives me anecdotal information. That is as much as I have provided, too. I believe all of you when you claim to say you’ve heard murmurers seeking mourning companions. I have no reason to suspect that you are lying about it. I just have never heard such a thing myself. And I run in crowds where a lot of people murmur.

  14. I think it’s OK to mourn with those who murmur, as long as you don’t murmur along with them. Sort of like Lehi did when Sariah was murmuring. He seemed sympathetic to her murmuring, but still defended his spiritual decisions.

    Murmuring is a very human condition, one which seems almost built into the Plan of Salvation. God regularly uses such divine techniques as sore afflictions, Zion’s camp scenarios, polygamy-style sacrifices, rocks of offence, rejecting the wisdom of men for His foolishness, deliberately giving us weaknesses to encourage humility, and sending Satan to tempt and torment man. God would not at all be surprised that many of His children say, along with Job’s wife “curse God and die.” We are being set up for it.

    The blessed souls whose humility and righteousness overpower their inclinations towards murmuring, should still look with compassion upon those who do. Ultimately, God has not abandoned Job’s wife, and neither should any of us.

  15. Jayman, I too never heard murmuring following Gen Conference and I probably never, or very rarely ever, would, but for the Internet. In pre-Internet days, I suppose that when church rolled around the next weekend, the murmuring, if there was any, fell by the wayside or murmuring members simply ceased attending. Nowadays the Internet, or blogging, is an instant forum to air griefs and disagreements on a scale that reaches thousands. Exposure to the Bloggernacle has certainly opened my eyes to myriad perspectives raised by the membership. I believe the Internet murmuring is primarily what the OP refers to. And some of that murmuring probably spills over into our chapels and lessons, (and even the Conference Center) though hardly any members of my branch ever venture into blogs.

  16. Jayman,

    I honestly envy you if you’ve never heard it. There is one major LDS blog that I have in mind where I can’t remember the last conference that they didn’t murmur about something. Of course they always try to disguise this murmuring in terms of mourning which slides into righteous indignation. But this is exactly Jettboy’s point.


    I like you example of Lehi and Sariah. I think that it could be argued that the difference between murmuring and mourning might not be as crucial as the difference between intimately confiding in another person (perfectly okay) and politicizing one’s feelings with an aim toward collective action from a larger audience (not okay). I’m guessing murmuring and mourning could each go both ways such that private murmuring might sometimes be much more righteous than public mourning.

  17. I like the point Nate makes and Jeff G. expands upon concerning Lehi and Sariah. There have been a number of times when I have privately expressed feelings about one point or another or one person or another in a way that could be seen as murmuring to my wife. She invariably helps me see things differently and gently guides my thoughts in a better direction. I am glad I have her and that I can trust her to listen to my murmuring and turn it away from a potentially bad course.

  18. Again, I never said I’ve never heard murmuring. I said I’ve never heard murmurers say they want someone to “mourn” with them. I’ve heard plenty of murmuring. No doubt about that. But I’ve never heard a murmurer say that the faithful are duty-bound to “mourn” with them. This was my original contention with this post. The author said that “invariably” (which basically means “every single time”) the murmurers insist that “doing what they ask” is a way of mourning with the mourners.

    Considering I have never heard this, I still don’t believe the author when he says that murmurers “invariably” do this. If he is using hyperbole for an effect, fine. But I seriously doubt he really means what he wrote.

  19. I mean what I wrote, and Jeff G. and others above pointed out exactly why I said that. Maybe not during Church, but online for sure. M* and my own reluctance to link what might as well be considered anti-Mormonism will keep me from posting a whole long line of “if you don’t do or think this or that, then you are anti-Christian because you won’t mourn with those who mourn,” stupidity. Its all over the bloggernacle if you care to actually look.

  20. Jayman,

    That’s a lot easier for me to believe. The appeal to ‘mourn with those that mourn’ is a pretty recent trend that’s only picked up steam in the ‘nacle over the last year or so. I’m pretty sure Jettboy was talking about those who try to dress up their political activism in this gospel language as if they were one and the same when they clearly are not. Such people really do *invariably* accuse you of lacking Christ-like love when you push back against them. Such moves, however, are no different from appeals to identity politics in that they are aimed at shutting down conversation on the topic. They want obedience from their audience, not engagement.

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