The Book of Mormon, A Latter-day Corrective – #9
Learning and Unlearning Hatred

By H. Wallace Goddard

Editor’s Note:  This is one of a series of articles that will focus on the Book of Mormon in response to President Hinckley’s challenge for church members to read that holy book before the end of the year. Click here to read the introductory article.

Bertrand Russell made the terse observation that “few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, nation, or creed.” We may vary in what we hate, but most of us have an enemy. It may be the government, a certain political party, a narrow-minded neighbor, an annoyingly successful football team in another city, or an arch-nemesis on the high council. We humans seem to be energized by our adversarial thinking. 

Even research by psychologists shows that humans have a tendency to vilify enemies while whitewashing their own behavior (See Baumeister’s insightful book, Evil). This bias does not bode well for peace in the world.

Teaching Hatred to Children

The Book of Mormon records the same tendency in that ancient people:

And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi (Mosiah 10:17).

And it was because of the wickedness and abomination of their fathers, even as it was in the beginning. And they were taught to hate the children of God, even as the Lamanites were taught to hate the children of Nephi from the beginning (4 Nephi 1:39).

Teaching hatred has always been the work of the wicked. Notice the irony shown in the Book of Mormon: No matter how wicked the enemy is, the righteous do not teach hatred.

The Better Impulse

The Book of Mormon records that one of the first impulses of the redeemed is to work for the redemption of others. It does not matter whether the recipients of this good will are mild or hardened impenitents, the holy impulse is the same: to redeem.

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit (1 Nephi 8:12).

Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them (Enos 1:9).

Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble (Mosiah 28:3).

As we are filled with holiness, we look on others ? even the wicked ? with compassion.

A Permissible Hatred

As far as I can tell, there is only one hatred that is endorsed in the Book of Mormon:

And now, my son, remember the words which I have spoken unto you; trust not those secret plans unto this people, but teach them an everlasting hatred against sin and iniquity (Alma 37:32).

It is wickedness itself that we hate. We even hate it in those who are guilty of it. But we do not hate those who have fallen under its spell. Rather, we seek to redeem them.

In a time of unprecedented polarization, this Book of Mormon message is sorely needed. We should be latter-day peacemakers. We should “love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them who despitefully use [us] and persecute [us]” (3 Ne. 12:44).

Jesus teaches us that “blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (3 Ne. 12: 9).

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