Iago. One of the great Disney villains from Aladdin. He would sit on Jafar's shoulder and feed him evil ideas. A few of you might not know that this Iago was not the first. He was the namesake of one of Shakepeare's villains. Arguably one of The Bard's most evil, conniving villains. If you don't know him, you can read about him in the tragedy Othello. He was a stinker.
Iago had attained a position of trust, and used that position of trust to manipulate and control the people around him. His goal? Destroy Othello. His reasons? Revenge and jealousy. His methods? Plant subtle suggestions and questions in the minds of those around him. He would prey on people's insecurities and their weaknesses, and then step back and enjoy the show as things fell apart. He was evil.
Why am I talking about Iago? Because he is the man who came to mind when I was preparing this post. He is the poster-boy for Famacide. What? You don't know the word? It is pronounced "fame-aside", and it means to defamation, slander, or calumny.
Calumny? That one sounds familiar. It is included in what is one of the best paragraphs ever written, from none other than Joseph Smith. We are all familiar with the Wentworth Letters, because that is where the Articles of Faith came from, but so did the following passage - referred to now as "The Standard of Truth". It deserves to be memorized.
"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." (History of the Church 4:540)
Isn't that amazing? The Kingdom is going to move forward - come what may - until God wraps things up. Nobody can stop it.
That doesn't mean they won't try. There are plenty of Iagos out there in the world - inside and outside of the Church - whose goal is famacide. To defame the Church, its doctrines, its leaders and its members. And the adversary is directly involved, whether the various "Iago's" know it or not. That is just the reality of opposition. (I did make mention of this struggle before in another post here.)
It is all around us. Every week there is a new criticism, quote, discovery or angle to play on the public's fears and prejudices against the church. Last week it was racism in the church, the week before it was baptisms for the dead, last month it was polygamist that aren't even Mormon, before that, it was something else. This week there will be something different. Who knows? But stay tuned - it should be interesting. That is just how it is, and how it will continue to be, until the end. As the prophet said: Calumny will defame.
So, given the reality that opposition is here to stay, and that calumny will continue to defame, ask yourselves a few simple questions:
How does it affect me?
Does it make me mad? Does my blood pressure go up when media pundits hype an anti-mormon story? Or misrepresent the Church's teachings or policies? Do I feel irritated when a church member says or does something stupid? Do I get indignant where people professing to be members of faith get up on their soapboxes and push an anti-doctrinal agenda? Do I want to retaliate with scathing comments on blog posts, or mockery? What am I to do? How can I fight back?
Step back, take a breath, remember that the Church will move forward, and ask yourself this question:
Is calumny destroying MY soul? Is famacide causing spiritual suicide? Am I completely forgetting the Savior's counsel to "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
When was the last time I prayed for "Iago"? Has it even crossed my mind? Or was I too busy being offended, or indignant? Do I remember that the people prayed that Alma's rebel son's heart would be softened?
Does it even really affect me at all? Does the guy on TV influence my life? How about that irritating blogger? Does their famacide change the way I worship? Does it change my relationship with Christ? Do the things I read and hear supercede a lifetime of testimony, miracles and blessings?
Calumny doesn't really alter my life at all - unless I let it alter my life for the worse. As the famacide rages around me, it doesn't really need to affect me - and it surely won't stop the Lord's work, or its inevitable conclusion. Yes, their efforts will cause casualties -and that is tragic - but I won't be one of them.
What about when the lies that are told aren't actually lies? What do we call calumny, that is in fact, factual?
History. We call it history. Sometimes the history is so fresh we call it reality.
It can be good, bad, or ugly. Ah, now that's different. History is supposed to reenforce our faith, it is supposed to build, and uplift. But once in a while we find things from long ago, or last month, that do not fit into our desire for a clean historical context.
Yes, some members DID baptize Holocost survivors after being told not to. Repeatedly. Yes, it is true that blacks DID NOT receive the priesthood until 1978. Yes, some brethren DID NOT handle abuse cases correctly. Yes, Brigham Young DID have oodles of wives. Yes, it is true that LDS people with big media platforms DO kick against the pricks. Yes, there will always be "new" old things that come to light. So I ask you again..
How does it affect me?
Does it make me mad when someone brings it up? Am I embarrassed? Do I do my best to deny it, or to stretch a bit to justify it? Do I cling to explanations that have no merit, or basis in fact? Do I fight back? Do I hurriedly write argumentative and accusatory comments on the offending website? Am I willing or eager to shoot the deserving messenger?
Does my response have to be about self-image and pride? Or can I respond with humility, and with love? Can I bless them that curse me?
Stranger still, do I feel compelled to pick up the burden of something someone said, or did, 100 years ago? Or a week ago? Someone that I have never met? Someone from a different time, or culture? Did that burden somehow magically become mine to bear because we belong to the same faith? Do I really believe that I am punished for my own sins?
Is history destroying MY soul? Does it interfere with my road to salvation? Does it make the Church less true to me? Does it make the Atonement less miraculous, and powerful? Does some obscure quote from 100 years ago offset a lifetime of testimony and miracles? What about an article from last week? Or next week?
No. History does not touch me negatively -unless I let it. Unless I let it canker my soul. To let it do that, I would have to let go of my faith, and embrace doubt. I would have to let the adversary exploit those worries, and push and push until he opens a crack - where he can infect. I refuse to let the past - anyone's past - destroy my present, and my future. And to those who would like to see that happen, all I can say is "I love you. It ain't gonna happen. Deal with it. I have."
Nor do I need to walk around in denial. I can be well-informed, and understand how occasionally history and reality can reflect poorly on the Church - but I honestly don't have to care. You're telling me that some church member said some thing in 1920? So what? He did what in 2010? Big deal! As long as that person wasn't me, and the heavens are still open to the prophet, and to me, it's not my problem - and I surely don't feel compelled to justify my life or my faith to a bunch of eager Iagos.
My testimony is not based on history. It is based on revelation.
Right now I could leave this page and go to Google News and type in "Mormon" and find scads of things written with the intention of hurting the Church. Some lies...some truths.
...How will I choose to respond? Isn't that the real challenge?
"The truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent..till the purposes of God shall be accomplished."
That's how it's going to wind up. Sorry Iago - you've got nothing for me.