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Finding Fault

I agree with the idea that a Christian should give other people the benefit of the doubt--that one should be quite lenient with other people and their (real or perceived) failings.  I do not believe it is Christlike to look for faults in other people.  I do not believe that it is a good idea, once found, to publish faults about people either--that's called gossip or slander and when someone gossips to me about someone else they lose some respect in my estimation.

There is one thing that I'd like to discuss; however, which is that I feel this particular concept of general Christianity seems to be carried a bit too far sometimes with leaders of the LDS Church.  There is a difference between not finding fault in a person and believing a person to be wholly infallible.  Many times, from the things I hear from faithful latter-day saints, I feel that it is the latter that is happening rather than the former.  According to Mormon doctrine, all humans are fallible.  The only perfect beings in existence are God--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  All mortals are prone to error.  We all make mistakes and fall short of perfection, which is why we need the Atonement of Christ in order to become more like God.  This includes all of the leaders of the Church--even the President of the Church.

There is one quote originally, I believe, by Wilford Woodruff, the 4th president of the Church, to the effect that God will not allow His prophet to lead the Church astray.  I'm willing to believe that this is true.  It seems reasonable that God would not want a false prophet presiding over His church.  However, I feel that this quote is too often used to deify the prophet.  I have heard it used in many arguments to make it seem as though the prophet himself were infallible, which is contrary to the doctrine of the Church.  There is a difference between intentionally leading the Church astray to follow some vain or self-serving pursuit and making an honest mistake while trying to sincerely deliver the Lord's will to the people.

Let's return to the phraseology "finding fault."  Here I'm going to draw an analogy to geology.  What is a geological fault?  It is a crack in the Earth.  Why do we care about them?  Because that is where earthquakes are most likely to occur.  What is the purpose of geologists trying to find fault lines in the Earth's tectonic plates?  Is it to point the finger of blame on the Earth?  To call it names, to discredit it as a suitable planet on which we can live?  Of course not.  The main reason they do so is so that we can try to protect ourselves from the damage that can be caused by such faults.  We recognize, quite objectively, that the Earth has fault lines in it and they can be very dangerous, so we study them and try to learn more about them in order to protect people from the damage that they can cause.  I haven't studied the matter out very well, but I would like to think that lives have been saved through the study of faults in the Earth.

So, is it possible that being aware of the faults in other people can similarly protect us from being harmed by them?  I believe that not only is it possible, but also that it is wise for a person to protect himself in such a manner.  As the old saying goes "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me."  In fact, in politics pretty much anyone does anymore is find fault in other people.  I suppose on diametrically opposite ends of the spectrum are the virtual infallibility which Mormons tend to impose on their leaders and the constant fault-finding of politicians in our nation--particularly at the federal level.

So, let me ask now "What purpose does fault-finding serve?"  It seems that many people feel like there is a positive benefit from it in the political sphere.  I would tend to agree.  But, I feel like it is carried to the extreme and then becomes unhealthy.  I feel that an accurate portrayal of a person's character can help us to better protect ourselves from what harm they might cause us--whether that harm be intentional or otherwise.  At the very least, I do not feel that it is wise to unquestioningly believe everything that a person says.  While there are several people that I trust, there aren't any people that I trust that completely.  I believe that each one of us is given the ability to think and to reason so that we can decide for ourselves what we feel is right and what is wrong.

There certainly are people who look for faults in others so that they can discredit them or the organization which they represent.  This scenario is not unfamiliar to the LDS Church.  Many people find fault in the church leaders and use those faults to fuel a hatred or disrespect for the Church itself.  I would not advocate that, just like I do not advocate mudslinging in the political sphere.  I believe that is an unwise and myopic application of fault-finding, just as unwise as the unquestioning attitude mentioned in the previous paragraph.

What do I want people to take away from all of my ramblings here?  I will say only how I will act in regards to this matter and leave the reader to his own devices.  I will not seek for faults in other people, but I will acknowledge them as often as they come to my attention.  I will use that knowledge to protect myself and my loved ones from harm.  I do not see a particular need, in general, to disclose the faults of another person to a third party.  If I were to feel obligated to disclose the faults of a person it would be only because I felt that someone else would be in danger were I not to do so.  I will not gossip about people for the sake of gossip, nor will I hold grudges against people.  But my conscience would not be clean if I watched a loved one be harmed by someone I knew might cause them harm and yet I did nothing to warn my friend.  

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