My husband and I are reading old conference talks as part of our scripture study at the end of the year.
We ran across this gem of a talk from Elder Neal A. Maxwell in the October 1989 conference entitled “Murmur Not.” It is as applicable today as it ever was when it was given.
A basic cause of murmuring is that too many of us seem to expect that life will flow ever smoothly, featuring an unbroken chain of green lights with empty parking places just in front of our destinations!
In its extremity, murmuring reflects not only the feelings of the discontented, but also the feelings of the very conflicted:
“Their sorrowing was … the sorrowing of the damned, because [they could not] take happiness in sin.
“And [yet] they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives.” (Morm. 2:13–14.) . . . .
First, the murmurer often lacks the courage to express openly his concerns. If the complaint concerns a peer, the murmurer seldom follows Jesus’ counsel, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Matt. 18:15.)
Second, murmurers make good conversational cloak holders. Though picking up no stones themselves, they provoke others to do so.
Third, while a murmurer insists on venting his own feelings, he regards any response thereto as hostile. (See 2 Ne. 1:26.) Furthermore, murmurers seldom take into account the bearing capacity of their audiences.
Fourth, murmurers have short memories. Israel arrived in Sinai, then journeyed on to the Holy Land though they were sometimes hungry and thirsty. But the Lord rescued them, whether by the miraculous appearance by quail or by water struck from a rock. (See Num. 11:31; Ex. 17:6.) Strange, isn’t it, brothers and sisters, how those with the shortest memories have the longest lists of demands! However, with no remembrance of past blessings, there is no perspective about what is really going on. . . .
Perhaps when we murmur we are unconsciously complaining over not being able to cut a special deal with the Lord. We want full blessings but without full obedience to the laws upon which those blessings are predicated. For instance, some murmurers seem to hope to reshape the Church to their liking by virtue of their murmuring. But why would one want to belong to a church that he could remake in his own image, when it is the Lord’s image that we should come to have in our countenances? (See Alma 5:19.)
The doctrines are His, brothers and sisters, not ours. The power is His to delegate, not ours to manipulate!
One especially fundamental fact about murmuring is contained in this verse: “And thus Laman and Lemuel … did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” (1 Ne. 2:12.)
There are some extreme forms of murmuring that are skewed in this quote, but there are also some less-extreme forms to watch out for, if you read the rest of the talk.
A couple questions I have found I can ask myself to diagnose whether I am murmuring or not is to ask, “Am I talking to someone who can actually do something about this? What do I want to have happen as a result of expressing this?” If I’m not talking to someone who can actually help, or if I don’t expect any change, then it is not productive and I should stop murmuring/complaining/venting/whining.
I hope you will take the time to read the whole talk. It’s so good.