And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.
(Title Page of the Book of Mormon)
It’s easy to criticize. Our brains seem to be wired to focus on things that aren’t quite right and to ignore things that are just fine. That makes sense. We have limited time and resources, and we want to use those to solve real problems, not to “fix” things that aren’t broken.
But this human tendency can get us into trouble. We can become hypercritical, obsessing over small imperfections, and missing really important messages that we need to pay attention to. As the Savior warned, we can “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24).
On the title page of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni warns us not to fall into that trap. He acknowledges that there may be errors in the book, but he testifies that those errors don’t matter. The book comes from God, and we must not reject a perfect message just because it is delivered by an imperfect messenger.
This theme appears several times in the book. Nephi urges us in his final chapter to overlook his deficiencies and to recognize that God commanded him to write these words “notwithstanding my weakness” (2 Nephi 33:11). Moroni later pleads with us not to condemn him or his father because of their imperfections. “Rather,” he says, “give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been” (Mormon 9:31). And in the book of Ether, Moroni worries that his readers will ridicule his words. The Lord responds, “Fools mock, but they shall mourn” (Ether 12:26).
When Heber J. Grant was a young student, he was assigned to find examples of incorrect grammar in his daily life and to write them down, together with his corrections. During a church meeting he attended, the very first sentence of a talk had a grammatical error. He wrote it down, and eagerly listened for more examples for his homework. Then, something happened. He began to listen to the message instead of criticizing the messenger. He put his pen down, and let the simple testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ fill his soul. He later said, “I would no more have thought of using those sentences [with] grammatical mistakes [for my homework] than I would think of standing up in a class and profaning the name of God. That testimony made the first profound impression that was ever made upon my heart and soul…. This was the first testimony that had melted me to tears under the inspiration of the Spirit of God” (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 294–96, quoted in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, “Chapter 1: Gospel Teaching and Learning.”)
Today, I will strive to recognize goodness when I see it and not to be distracted by trivial imperfections. I will strive to hear what people are trying to say and not worry about how they are saying it. I will also strive to hear the messages the Lord is trying to send me, and not to be concerned about the manner in which they are delivered.