Mosiah 20 can be read as a series of case studies about the importance of trust in relationships. Multiple times, key characters have to make decisions based on limited information. The stories illustrate the danger of jumping to conclusions and the value of giving other people the benefit of the doubt.
- When a group of young Lamanite women were kidnapped, their people immediately assumed that the people of Limhi were to blame. Without waiting for further evidence, they attacked: “They were angry with the people of Limhi, for they thought it was the people of Limhi. Therefore they sent their armies forth” (Mosiah 20:6-7).
- After the battle, the people of Limhi captured the king of the Lamanites. They took him back to their city and told King Limhi they wanted to kill him. Limhi definitively rejected their request: “Ye shall not slay him, but bring him hither” (Mosiah 20:14). By talking with the king, Limhi learned why the Lamanites had attacked. With this knowledge, he was better positioned to help resolve the situation.
- When the king of the Lamanites told King Limhi that he believed his people had abducted the Lamanite women, Limhi was furious. He said, “I will search among my people and whosoever has done this thing shall perish” (Mosiah 20:16). However, one of his advisors pleaded with him to give his people the benefit of the doubt: “Lay not this thing to their charge,” he said (Mosiah 20:17). Then, he suggested another explanation: the priests of Limhi’s father, who had abandoned their wives and children and gone into hiding were likely the culprits. Limhi listened to his advisor and called off the search.
- Meanwhile, the Lamanites had assembled a much larger army and were returning to attack the people of Limhi a second time. The king of the Lamanites instructed Limhi and his people to approach his armies with no weapons. “I swear unto you with an oath that my people shall not slay thy people” (Mosiah 20:24). This required extraordinary trust. It could have been a trap. The king had already broken a prior oath to them (Mosiah 20:14-15). Nevertheless, they followed the king’s advice and approached his armies with no weapons. He was able to pacify his armies and call off the battle (Mosiah 20:25-26).
Here’s what I see in these stories: all relationships are based on trust, and trusting another human being is taking a risk. Sometimes people are dishonest, careless, or even malicious. These are real dangers that we need to be aware of. But if we are going to have relationships with other people, we have to be willing to take risks. We often have to be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt and to assume that they have good reasons for their actions.
A senior executive at the company I work for often reminds us to “assume positive intent.” When you see something that looks wrong, instead of jumping to conclusions about other people’s motives, dig a little deeper, place yourself in their shoes, and find out if there is some reasonable explanation for their actions. Often, you will discover, as the characters in Mosiah 20 did, that there is more to the story than you previously knew.
Today, I will assume positive intent and give others the benefit of the doubt wherever possible. I will invest in relationships with others by trusting them and seeking more information when I don’t understand their decisions.