There is a famous saying: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
This sentiment has been echoed from pulpits to billboards across the country. As political, social, and cultural passions have strained the bonds between neighbors and countrymen, it is not surprising to see a legitimate desire among people of good faith to restore kindness and good will among all men.
Unfortunately, there are as many (if not more) voices whose cries for “niceness” are only directed at their political opponents and cultural rivals: You are supposed to be nicer to me! or The way you’re treating me isn’t very Christlike!
Of course, Christ did preach mercy and forgiveness. Who can forget the parable of the prodigal son or the good Samaritan? Obviously, a teacher who would extend kindness to the adulteress, the publican, or the sinner would agree with the sentiment “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice,” right?
This week, our Come, Follow Me curriculum introduces us to the Doctrine and Covenants with the words of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ:
“Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear:
Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;
And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.
And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;
For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.”Doctrine and Covenants 1:11-16
This harsh tone may come as a surprise to those who are not familiar with all the scriptures. While Jesus was incredibly loving and merciful, His was not a gospel of “do whatever.” He challenged people to increase their faith, He invited everyone to repent, and He counseled men to forsake the world in favor of His unfailing Kingdom. It was not His “kindness” or “niceness” that provoked the chief priests to cry “Crucify him!” before Pilate.
For those who understand that Jesus Christ is the same I AM in the Old Testament who unleashed ten terrible plagues on the Egyptians, or allowed His covenant people to fall into bondage and destruction, the words of section one will carry a strong familiarity.
Jesus is the opposite of cruel, and when “his sword is bathed in heaven” prepared to fall on the inhabitants of the earth, the honest disciple does not lash out at his prophets and apostles demanding changes, answers, or signs… the honest disciple looks inward in humility and asks, “Lord, is it I?“
If Jesus declares that his anger is kindled, the honest disciple does not immediately point the finger of blame at his political opponents or cultural rivals… the honest disciple falls to his knees and begs for mercy, knowing he has played a part in kindling his Lord’s anger.
If Jesus declares that His people have strayed from His ordinances and broken His everlasting covenant, the honest disciple does not seek to excuse himself on some technicality of what he thinks he has covenanted… the honest disciple seeks, as Abraham did, to be a “greater follower of righteousness.“
While it is true that some people absolutely need to show more kindness, the ultimate goal is not “niceness.” It is JESUS CHRIST. And if He finds occasion to bathe His sword of the heavens over the people He loves, then perhaps there is something more important than niceness… Based on how He introduces the Doctrine and Covenants, this more important thing would include His doctrine of faith, penitence, and following his prophets and apostles.
I would suggest this:
It’s important to be nice, but it’s nicer to do what’s more important.
- Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021, December 28 – January 3.
- “Lord, Is It I?” -President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2014
- “Seeking Eternal Riches” -President Spencer W. Kimball, April 1976
- “Taking upon Ourselves the Name of Jesus Christ” -Elder Robert C. Gay, October 2018