1 And now it came to pass that when Nephi had said these words, behold, there were men who were judges, who also belonged to the secret band of Gadianton, and they were angry, and they cried out against him, saying unto the people: Why do ye not seize upon this man and bring him forth, that he may be condemned according to the crime which he has done?
2 Why seest thou this man, and hearest him revile against this people and against our law?
3 For behold, Nephi had spoken unto them concerning the corruptness of their law; yea, many things did Nephi speak which cannot be written; and nothing did he speak which was contrary to the commandments of God.
Sometimes people reject messages they don’t want to hear by attacking the messenger rather than by dealing with the message on its own merits. One form this can take is to accuse the messenger of being antagonistic toward the established order, and by extension toward the people. For example:
- When King Noah was about to release the prophet Abinadi after condemning him to death, his priests protested, “He has reviled the king” (Mosiah 17:12). This statement aroused the king’s anger, and he let the execution move forward.
- When Amulek called the people of Ammonihah to repentance, the lawyers protested, “This man doth revile against our laws which are just, and our wise lawyers whom we have selected” (Alma 10:24). Amulek replied, “Ye say that I have spoken against your law; but I have not, but I have spoken in favor of your law, to your condemnation” (Alma 10:26).
- In the passage above, a group of judges who, according to Mormon, were also Gadianton robbers, make a public display of fidelity to their laws and of outrage at Nephi’s words, even though they were privately willing to break those laws and protect one another in doing so. “Why seest thou this man, and hearest him revile against this people and against our law?”
One lesson from these examples is to beware of arguments that become personal. When you hear someone attacking the motives of another person, or when you are tempted to question their motives, you might ask yourself whether that is a distraction from the main issue: the message itself.
Today, when I disagree with others, I will avoid making it personal. I will respond to the content of their messages and will refrain from criticizing or questioning the motives of the messenger. I will avoid animosity, which would blind me and prevent me from reasoning effectively.