Friday, December 19, 2014
What kind of judging are we talking about?
There are three ways in which we have gospel obligations which use the word "judging" or "judgement".
1) We have a critical obligation to correctly judge good from evil. We came to earth partly that we could "know good and evil". Calling evil good or good evil is dangerous.
2) We also have an important obligation to pass over the petty faults of others. Joseph Smith asked how we would feel if God and his angels were to reject us over trivial matters. Zion cannot be built amidst petty bickering.
3) We have an obligation to warn and teach those who are acting in a way that endangers their exaltation. This is all through the scriptures. We are to warn, teach truth and save souls. "It becometh every man that hath been warned to warn his neighbor" (D&C 88:81)
Unfortunately the phrase "judging" gets applied to all three and makes the matter confusing even though the scriptures and prophets are perfectly clear on the matter. So when someone says "Don't judge!" the question is, which of the three things are we talking about.
One critical purpose of mortality is to "know good from evil". This even comes up in the temple. Moroni 7 covers this in great detail. Moroni 7:15 states "it is given unto you to judge". And why? The answer: "that ye may know good from evil". Not only is it given to us, but the same verse teaches that "the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night".
It then provides two descriptions of this plain way to judge that is so clear we can know perfectly as day from night.
One is to "search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil" (Moroni 7:18-19).
The other description of this plain way to judge is that anything that brings us closer to Christ is of God and anything that takes us further is not. Moroni 7 is written to faithful members of the true church in Mormon's day (Moroni 7:3). Without the knowledge of the true church, it is impossible to apply this criteria correctly. Joseph Smith proved this because, while he wanted to follow Christ, without the true gospel he stated: "how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible." Without the knowledge of the true church we cannot apply this means of judging good from evil correctly, just as Joseph Smith could not. It is only in the context of membership in the true church that we can apply this method of judging good from evil. Anything that is bringing us to Christ, i.e. anything that brings us more deeply into Christ's true church, is of God. Anything that is taking us away from that is of the devil.
Moroni 7 warns that if we judge good to be evil or evil to be good then we are in danger of being judged. We don't know good from evil if we just call everything and everyone good. Calling good evil, or calling evil good is referred to as "unrighteous judgement" in the scriptures. Joseph Smith was inspired to correct the famous phrase "Judge not that ye be not judged" in Matt 7. In its corrected form it reads "Judge not unrighteously that ye be not judged, but judge righteous judgement." This has a radically different meaning and agrees very well with what is taught in Moroni 7. It is not judging the brings us in danger of being judged. If that was the case, the Lord wouldn't give us a way to judge good from evil "as the daylight is from the dark night". Instead, it is judging good to be evil, or evil to be good, that puts in danger of being judged. That agrees exactly with Moroni 7:14; "take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil." It also agrees exactly with Moroni 7:18; "seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged."
The warning to not call good evil or evil good is not a light matter. It goes hand in hand with choosing life or death. In Helaman 14:31 we read "He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you." We cannot do good if we are mixing up what is good with what is evil.
The obligation to look over each others petty faults is often inflated in days of wickedness into an obligation to not say anything or anyone is bad. That is because the wicked take the truth to be hard (1 Nephi 16:2, John 3:20). Laman and Lemuel speaking of Lehi and those in Jerusalem state "our father hath judged them" (1 Nephi 17:22). Calling everything good is not righteous judgement, it is calling evil good. Interestingly, that quickly leads to also calling good evil, using words like "judgemental" for someone simply refusing to call evil good.
The inflated, destructive version of the obligation to pass over others faults is hammered into us so constantly that it becomes difficult for us to read a text as plain as Moroni 7 and understand it. But if we give way to the constant pressure to call good evil, or evil good, then we are judging unrighteous judgement, and are in danger of being judged.