The Lord pronounced judgment on the Pharisees and their works, condemning them for their hypocrisy. (For examples, see Matt. 23; Mark 7; Luke 11:37-54.)
President N. Eldon Tanner, in a general conference address in October 1970, cautioned against members following the example of the Pharisees. President Tanner said:"Not long ago I was talking to a father and mother and their little boy who were converts of not many months. During our conversation the father said they had become inactive and were not attending Church, and I asked them why. He explained that the missionaries were such fine examples of good and clean-living, righteous people; but when they came to the ward they found so many people who were not living what the Church teaches, or what they professed to be, and as a result they became discouraged and lost faith in the Church. I think this gives us two very important lessons: First, it is our responsibility to live so that we will influence the lives of people for good and that we will never cause doubt in their minds because of hypocrisy in our own lives.
"The other lesson is that we should always guard against letting hypocrisy in the lives of others influence our lives or cause us to doubt and fail to live according to the teachings of the gospel.
"It is most important that we as members of the Church stand firmly and unitedly in the cause of truth and righteousness. We have declared to the world that we have the gospel of Christ, that we are going to stand against vice. Shall we stand firm, or shall we waver and be driven by the wind and tossed? Shall we forsake the cause of righteousness in order to please men, because we desire to give lip service rather than heart service, or because of some political power that is brought to bear upon us?
"We must not be like those to whom John referred when he said: `Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, . . .
" `For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.' (John 12:42-43.)
"Imagine the great influence the Church . . . could have upon the world if each of us would be what we profess to be; if everyone were a real, truly dedicated Christian, living every day and not pretending; if we were honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, doing good to all men, and always seeking for things virtuous, lovely, or of good report and praiseworthy.
"Let us listen to the prophets and live by their words. Let us not be guilty, as were the scribes and Pharisees of old, of increasing the agony of our Savior by rejecting Him and His teachings, which He gave to us, together with His life, that we might have happiness here and eternal life hereafter. Let us not find ourselves in the condition which He describes as He concludes His chastisement of the hypocrites:
" `Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
" `For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.' " (Matt. 23:38-39.)
Pharisees: strict observers of law
One of the Jewish sects that emerged during the time between the Old and the New Testaments was that of the Pharisees.
As a religious society, the Pharisees grew out of a movement toward religious purity contained in the priestly code that was developed during the Babylonian exile and stimulated by the religious reformation of Ezra and Nehemiah. The Pharisees rose to influential power prior to the time of the Maccabees, a family of Jewish patriots who headed a successful revolt against the Syrians, about 175-164 B.C.
The dictionary in the 1979 LDS edition of the King James Bible states:
"The name of Pharisees denotes separatists. They prided themselves on their strict observance of the law, and on the care with which they avoided contact with things gentile. Their belief included the doctrine of immortality and resurrection of the body and the existence of angels and spirits. They upheld the authority of oral tradition as of equal value with the written law. The tendency of their teaching was to reduce religion to the observance of a multiplicity of ceremonial rules, and to encourage self-sufficiency and spiritual pride. They were a major obstacle to the reception of Christ and the gospel by the Jewish people."