This may not be a popular sentiment, but here goes.
To all of my dear LDS friends who are highly incensed and worked up over the recent NY Times obituary of President Thomas S. Monson, may I offer a word of advice?
Take a deep breath…exhale…and then, just let it go.
I mean, c’mon. It’s a newspaper article.
For some context, I would refer to one of my absolute favorite conference talks ever given. President Gordon B. Hinckley in his General Conference address from April 1994, quoted from a book entitled History of Illinois, by former Illinois Governor, Thomas Ford. Thomas Ford was governor at the time of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom and was largely insensitive to the needs of the Mormons who lived and eventually evacuated his state at the time.
In his talk, President Hinckley noted how Governor Ford held little respect for Joseph in his writings. He even quoted the following line directly from Ford’s account: “Thus fell Joe Smith, the most successful impostor in modern times; a man who, though ignorant and coarse, had some great natural parts which fitted him for temporary success, but which were so obscured and counteracted by the inherent corruption and vices of his nature that he never could succeed in establishing a system of policy which looked to permanent success in the future.”
Huh. Seems the esteemed former governor kind of missed the mark on that one. And that was exactly President Hinckley’s point. Who cares what Thomas Ford thought? So he thought Joseph Smith was an impostor whose legacy wouldn’t last out the year. He was wrong. Big deal! Should we go demand a retraction from Lakeside Press?
Of course not. Because that would be stupid and completely unproductive.
With regard to the NY Times, I believe people have a right to be incensed. It does not, in my view, provide a very accurate description of the man we as members of the LDS church have loved and revered for almost half a century.
But starting a petition demanding a rewrite? Spouting angry diatribes across social media calling the obit lies and fake news? That’s a worldly response. That’s a political, social media, 2017 natural man response. And I seriously doubt it would be the response of the man whose life we’re debating.
Furthermore, how many of us actually read the NY Times on a daily basis? I would be willing to bet that 99.5% of LDS church members who are signing this petition did not learn of this obituary by reading about it either in the paper itself or through casual perusal of the paper’s online site. So what’s the plan here? Demand a retraction and a rewrite or we will all cancel our…oh wait, none of us actually have a subscription to cancel.
Lastly, we need to be looking at two aspects of the bigger picture here. One, we get one week to remember, honor and reflect on the life of one of our greatest heroes. Is this really how we want to spend it? Arguing with people we don’t know who work for a publication we don’t care about on behalf of a man who spent his entire life avoiding these exact types of confrontations so that he could quietly go about serving those in need?
I don’t know, it just strikes me as..off.
But secondly, there is this to consider. I don’t know anything about Robert D. McFadden, the man who wrote the NY Times obituary. I don’t know anything about his family, his friends, his life experiences that have shaped him-nothing. In fact, the only thing I truly know about this man is this: He is a Child of our Heavenly Father. Just like me. And if the tenets of my faith are true, then God cares just as much about Mr. McFadden as he does about me, about you, and about Thomas S. Monson. According to LDS doctrine, God would ultimately like for Mr. McFadden to come home.
And again, if I understand everything correctly, it is incumbent upon those of us who know better to act in a way that displays God’s love for each of his children…including Robert D. McFadden.
So I would ask, is anger and hatred spewing freely over social media from a large contingent supposedly representing God’s church an effective way to portray that love?
When the Jews railed against the Savior with lies and untruths, what was the Savior’s response?
Nothing. He said absolutely nothing. He just took it. I’m fairly confident the President Monson I loved would do the same here. He would be more concerned about showing love to Mr. McFadden and helping him return home to our Heavenly Father than whether or not he was accurately portrayed in a newspaper.
Thomas S. Monson spent his life going about doing good. Quietly serving while expecting no praise in return. I think I will try to honor him this week by looking for opportunities to do, in some small way, the same thing. And not worry one minute more about an article that is of no eternal consequence.