"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
August 20, 2014
Accuser or Advocate?
by Kathryn Grant

In my imagination, I can hear the quiet morning peace of the temple displaced by a growing commotion as a group of men drag a terrified woman before the Savior.

Bent on pursuing their own agenda (which, as it turns out, had more to do with trapping Jesus than the woman’s behavior), they confront the Savior: “This woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”

The Savior, of course, gave the perfect response: First, He effectively disarmed the woman’s accusers by saying, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

But that wasn’t all: He then ministered tenderly to the woman. He didn’t condone her sin, but neither did He condemn her. Instead, He strengthened her with admonition to “Go, and sin no more.” (See John 8.)

I love this story because it illustrates clearly two opposite roles we can take in our relationships with each other: the role of accuser, or the role of advocate.

Have you ever felt accused by someone, even someone who had taken a “moral” stand? You can feel it, can’t you: the hardness of heart, the contempt, the judgment? Subtly or openly, the accuser lets you know that you have been weighed you in the balance and have been found wanting.

On the other hand, have you ever been the accuser? Probably most of us have. When we accuse people, we become focused, even obsessed, with their faults. We churn their supposed deficiencies over and over in our own minds, and perhaps delight in pointing them out to others.

But accusation virtually always drives a wedge between ourselves and the person we accuse. In fact, it may make it harder for them to change the very behavior we want them to change as they feel judged and backed into a corner.

Appropriately enough, Satan is known as the accuser of his brethren (Revelation 12:10). When we accuse others openly or even in our hearts, we are adopting the adversary’s way of doing things.

On the other hand, consider how Jesus describes His role in our lives:

Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him — Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;

Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life. (D&C 46:3–5, emphasis added; see also D&C 38:4.)

When we become an advocate, we follow in the footsteps of the Savior. We are on people’s side rather than against them. We cheer them on. We speak respectfully to and of them — no sarcasm, no gossip. We rejoice in their success.

It doesn’t mean we are blind to their faults or that we excuse them; rather, it means we act from a loving heart, as the Savior did, to help them find the greatest growth and benefit in their lives.

And could there be any approach so likely to help people change, if change is needed? In the words of the prophet Joseph Smith, “When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 37.)

It’s a choice we make every day: will we build walls of enmity between ourselves and others by adopting the role of the accuser, or will we follow the Savior and be an advocate for others?

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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