Judge not unrighteously

Some years ago, the Church News published an article featuring an active elderly member of the Church. This individual faithfully fulfilled duties required of members and had been active in ward and stake missionary work to the point that many converts had come into the Church. The individual's priesthood leaders indicated that this member was an example of one who tried to live the Savior's teachings.

After the article was published, the reporter received a letter from a member of the Church who had known this individual when they were young. The letter writer had the opinion that the individual's story should not have appeared in the Church News because this person, as a young adult, had not been active in the Church and had violated some of its standards.

At times, one might get the impression that ours is a society quick to judge and slow to forget other's failings. How sad if that is so. Those who judge others in a spirit of unrighteousness exhibit behavior opposite of what Jesus taught, as demonstrated in the New Testament account of the scribes and Pharisees bringing before Him an adulterous woman, saying the Law of Moses commanded that she be punished by stoning. The scribes and Pharisees saw only the outward act and, apparently, wanted to mete out justice's extreme demand. But Jesus withheld condemnation. Demonstrating mercy and compassion He admonished repentance, saying, "Go, and sin no more." (See John 8:3-11.)

The scribes and Pharisees, He said, judged "after the flesh." But His judgment, He said — if He judged — is true. (See John 8:15-16.) Judging others in a mean-spirited manner, demanding justice without employing mercy or refusing to acknowledge that another has turned away from past transgressions are forms of judging "after the flesh."

From pre-mortal time, repentance has been part of the Lord's plan. It is an essential part. Few, if any, would attain the highest realm in the celestial kingdom without the Lord's merciful provision of repentance that allows individuals to erase mistakes they make in mortality's probationary state.

To the same extent that repentance is an essential element, so is forgiveness. The Lord said, "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10.) Compassion, mercy and forgiveness must govern our thoughts and tongues when it comes to the failings of others.

One of human nature's ironies is that many want forgiveness for their own failings, sins or weaknesses, but seem to expect others to be held to a higher standard, to suffer long, to carry forever the weight of their sins.

Some hold in their memories the transgressions of others but fail to remember the cleansing power of repentance, that great gift proffered at the precious cost of the divine Atonement. At what point along life's time line does one "remember no more" sins repented of by another? And who are we to presume that more time must pass or more anguish must be endured before sin's stain fades into oblivion?

Once an individual has taken all the proper steps through repentance and is deemed worthy to partake of the sacrament and enjoy all gospel blessings, that chapter of his or her life is closed. No one — certainly no fellow Church member — should attempt to reopen it to append some footnote to the pages of that sad saga.

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