It's election time, and with it generally comes the circulation of a quote that Mormons love to use: "If you vote for the lesser of two evils you are still voting for evil and you will be judged for it. You should always vote for the best possible candidate, whether they have a chance of winning or not, and then, even if the worst possible candidate wins, the Lord will bless our country more because more people were willing to stand up for what is right."
Often attributing it to President Ezra Taft Benson, people love to use this quote to justify themselves or even bash other people for their political preferences.
But, regardless of how we use it, here's one important thing about this quote: there are no official documents, talks, speeches, or text to show that President Ezra Taft Benson actually said it, something Mormon Hub made us aware of earlier this year.
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That's not to say that President Benson might not have said it at some point in his life—as the Secretary of Agriculture under Dwight D. Eisenhower, he was known for speaking about the nation, the constitution, patriotism, and other related topics.
But I'll bet the kind of behavior this phantom quote is being used to defend is something Ezra Taft Benson, along with current prophets and apostles, did not intend or encourage.
In fact, Elder Dallin H. Oaks recently said, "the divisions and meanness we are experiencing in this election, especially at the presidential level, seem to be unusually wide and ugly. . . We should also remember not to be part of the current meanness."
He continued, "Today, I say that if the Church or its doctrines are attacked in blogs and other social media, contentious responses are not helpful. They disappoint our friends and provoke our adversaries."
This mystery quote teaches us a few very important lessons about prophets and apostles: unless they are speaking in an official setting as the President of the Church or an Apostle of the Lord, we should not take every word they say as scripture. In addition, we should take care with the words of the prophets and never put any words or ideas in their mouths. This includes when we take things out of context, use a partial quote, or use their words in any way they did not specifically intend.
In this election and in future Facebook debates, let us remember Elder Oaks's words and avoid contention. Let us keep the words of prophets and apostles sacred. And let us remember that not every quote we find on Facebook is the gospel truth.
While researching the source of this quote, I stumbled on another quote that I think sums up this situation perfectly:
Don't believe everything you read on the internet just because there's a picture with a quote next to it. –Abraham Lincoln