One of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ comes from the latter part of the book of Alma. Captain Moroni had led the armies in a war that lasted for many years. He had seen the destruction that came from war first hand; he had lost close friends to death. He was a great leader and had many good characteristics. In fact, it was said of Captain Moroni “if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17).
Helaman, the captain over the stripling warriors, sent an epistle to Captain Moroni explaining what had happened in battle and expressing the need for more men, food, and supplies. Captain Moroni immediately wrote to Pahoran, the chief governor of the land, asking for men and supplies. A reply did not come from Pahoran, and the Lamanites were taking cities. Moroni was angry at the government because he thought the governor was being indifferent to plight of those in the army (Alma 59).
Captain Moroni wrote another letter to Pahoran “by way of condemnation” and complained again about the government’s neglect of the armies. His letter was strongly written and carried a threat that Captain Moroni would lead the armies against the government unless help was supplied to the armies (Alma 60).
Pahoran wrote back to Captain Moroni with an explanation that he had to flee from the government seat. He told Captain Moroni that he did not take joy in the afflictions faced by the armies. He had been wondering what to do and the Captain’s epistle had shown him the way. Pahoran’s character is shown in how he handled the rebuke from Captain Moroni. Instead of taking offense, he wrote, “And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free” (Alma 61:9).
If anyone had a right to be upset, Pahoran did – but he did not take offense. Captain Moroni could not offend him because he refused to take offense. That is the key.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave counsel in a general conference talk entitled “And Nothing Shall Offend them.” “Understanding that the Church is a learning laboratory helps us to prepare for an inevitable reality. In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive. Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us—and it certainly will occur more than once. Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless.
“You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended.”
Elder Bednar shared the story of Pahoran and Captain Moroni and then said, “One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended – and to say with Pahoran, `it mattereth not.’”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell also spoke about the experiences of Captain Moroni and Pahoran. “In a perfect church filled with imperfect people there are bound to be some miscommunications at times. A noteworthy example occurred in ancient American Israel. Moroni wrote two times to Pahoran complaining of neglect because much-needed reinforcements did not arrive. Moroni used harsh language, accusing the governor of the land, Pahoran, of sitting on his throne in a state of `thoughtless stupor.’ (Alma 60:7.) Pahoran soon made a very patriotic reply, explaining why he could not do what Moroni wanted. Though censured, Pahoran was not angry; he even praised Moroni for `the greatness of your heart.’ (Alma 61:9.) Given the intense, mutual devotion of disciples, discussions as to how best to move the Lord’s work along are bound to produce tactical differences on occasion. Just as in this episode, sometimes scolding occurs that is later shown to be unjustified.” (See All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience . 119; as quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121-122, p. 260.)
It seems that some individual, group or organization is always taking offense in our nation. I am sure that offense is not intended most of the time. What I cannot figure out is why people think they have the right to take offense in the first place. Are they perfect? Have they never done anything wrong or said the wrong word? I think we all need to chill out and practice more tolerance. Please say after me: It mattereth not!