Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Judgment of God

It's a very popular section: section 6 of the Doctrine and Covenants, in which the Lord talks (through Joseph Smith) to Oliver Cowdery. It's most "famous," if you will, for verse 23, but the whole of the section is a wealth of information regarding how our Father in Heaven deals with us, and speaks to us the things that we need to hear.

In among the verses is this one:

"16 Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart."

Of course, in this instance, God was speaking directly to Oliver about his testimony, and was in effect giving Oliver proofs that He knew Oliver inside and out, preparatory to his explaining (after establishing that he knew Oliver's thoughts) that certain of those thoughts were indeed a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. So verse 16 has a specific purpose, and a specific meaning within the context of this section.

Still, I can't help but look at other meanings; other applications of scripture. And it occurred to me that, if only God can know the thoughts and intents of Oliver's heart, then the same probably holds true to me, and to you, and to every other person on the planet.

Actions are visible, and something that we can judge for effect - e.g., you punch me in the nose, I am aware and positive of the blood streaming from my nose. But motivations and intents - i.e., the reason you punched me in the nose - are forever closed to us in our role as mere humans.

The only exception to this, of course, is if the Lord directly reveals to us what someone's motivations or intents are, through the spirit of revelation and prophecy. This is generally confined to the bishops, who are called to be the "judge in Israel" (see, e.g., D&C 58:17; 64:40). And rightfully so, it would seem, especially since even when functioning under the spirit of the Lord, we also continue on with our human limitations and inabilities. So rendering judgment of any kind is a dangerous proposition, especially since we have been told that we will be judged as we judge others (see, e.g., JST Matt. 7:1).

Does this - our inherent ignorance, coupled with the threat of reciprocal action by the Lord - not then counsel strongly in favor of our being lenient with others, with refraining from judging their motives and thoughts, and if we do find ourselves judging, taking every effort to be as lenient and forgiving as possible?

I don't know about everyone else, but it seems to me, reading these scriptures, that refraining from judging others is not only proper - for this is the province of God alone as the only one who can make perfect judgment - but essential to our salvation. A "Get out of Jail Free" card of sorts. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to face the Lord at the judgment bar, confident that he is going to "go easy" on us, because we have "gone easy" on others?

Now, I also note that, again, though only the Lord can know our thoughts, nowhere does he say we must seek out or even accept physical or mental abuse. But it is more than possible in most cases to remove ourselves from the sphere of influence of someone who is harming us, and simply say that judgment is God's. In other words, someone punches me in the nose, I have a right and duty to protect myself... but I have never heard of a situation where someone protected themselves simply by judging the internal thoughts and desires of another.

Of course, this is the reason we have jails and courts, and as a lawyer I can say that the system is designed to rely as little as possible on what someone may or may not have been feeling or thinking, and instead on what they actually did or did not do. And this is right, for we simply do not have the capability to fully understand the infinite vagaries and idiosyncracies of human thought and motivation.

Only the Lord can do that.
And what a relief. Because now I don't have to worry about why I am being bothered or annoyed. Once I can expunge from myself the need to judge my fellow brothers and sisters, I am free to simply live my life, instead of being burdened with living theirs'. Only one person in all of recorded history successfully managed to do that, and it caused him to sweat great drops of blood.

Judgment is the Lord's. This is a blessing, not a reservation. And thanks be to God for it.


monika said...

Michaelbrent, you said it. I always find life more enjoyable when I can remember that there are some things that I DON'T have to even think about. When I try to take care of the judging I am never happier, but usually bitter and focused on negative things. Thanks for reminding me of a lesson I constantly try and teach my 7 yo daughter: It is OKAY to be the child and leave some things up to the Father.

Anonymous said...

I once heard someone define forgiveness as "giving up your right to punish those who offended you" I don't think it was someone very religious but it touched me in a religious way because I knew we never had the "right to punish" in the first place as you point out in your blog. That isn't my job.