August 31-September 6
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So in this week’s chapters, we see Samuel teaching the Nephites. He preaches that his intent is to warn them of God’s judgements that are coming, teach them the conditions of repentance, and enlighten them regarding the birth and death of Jesus Christ. Here is on of the things that Samuel chooses to talk about.
Helaman 14:29 And this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them; and also if they are condemned they bring upon themselves their own condemnation.
A righteous judgement. Have you ever stopped to consider just how beautiful it is that the Lord can give us a righteous judgement at the end of our lives? Have you ever considered how wise He must be in order to take the sum total of circumstances and weaknesses and strengths and opportunities and be able to know where we will be most comfortable? In order to better understand just how awesome His righteous judgement is, I want to talk about the judgement we, as humans, sometimes pass.
Our Obscured Judgement
The Nephites. At this point in time, many Nephites lived in iniquity and were continuously hardening their hearts. Not all of them were like this, but a good portion were.
One of the things that I find really interesting about these Nephites was their mention of prophets.
Helaman 13:25 And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
Then they proceed to throw stuff at Samuel to knock him off the wall. Why would they do this? There are probably plenty of reasons; they didn’t like hearing what Samuel had been saying, they had listened to “foolish and blind guides” for too long, etc., etc. One of the reasons that I came up with (mind you, this is a theory, we don’t KNOW for sure), is that Samuel looked different than what they might have perceived as righteousness.
Perhaps they no longer traditionally looked down on Lamanites. They knew the Lamanites had converted, but perhaps they set themselves up as these “good” examples who were so “righteous” to condescend and be friendly to the Lamanites. Perhaps they thought they were pretty awesome.
Which makes this next verse even more fantastic. Samuel throws down some more hard truth. Samuel warns Nephites of their utter destruction, and then he goes on to tell them that the Lord isn’t going to destroy the Lamanites.
Helaman 15:10 And now, because of their steadfastness when they do believe in that thing which they do believe, for because of their firmness when they are once enlightened, behold, the Lord shall bless them and prolong their days, notwithstanding their iniquity –
When they believe, once they are enlightened. Humans can not often read the thoughts of another person. We sure like to think we’re pretty good at knowing the intentions (either from others or ourselves), but I wouldn’t be surprised if we were dead wrong a lot of the time. We often judge each other off of actions or words. Now, these standards of judgement have merit. For example, you don’t want someone who’s bragging about their violent past to babysit your kids no matter how tough their childhood years were. There’s a lot you can learn about someone from actions and words. However, there are still some aspects of these standards that are inherently flawed.
You do not have to abandon your standards of judgement in some circumstances like who you’re letting watch your kids. BUT. I do recommend suspending judgement if it makes you feel superior. No matter how flawed, how dangerous, how awful someone has been, you cannot guarantee that you would have been better if placed in their shoes. You don’t know what you would have done with their mental capacities, trauma, any of it. For all we know, you would have handled it far worse. If you had been born into a Lamanite home, you probably would have killed Nephites.
So one of my favorite questions: what does this look like in our day?
I’ve been talking about some pretty dramatic examples. Let’s tone it down a little bit for our everyday circumstances.
So you’re scrolling through instagram and here are some of your thought patterns. “Hmmm they took off their garments.” “Hmmm they got a new tattoo.” “Hmmm why do parents let their kids wear that stuff?” “Hmmm why are they hanging out with that crowd?”
The real truth of it is you don’t know. You think you know, but you don’t know. The person who took off their garments, they might have a more sacred respect of their garments than you do. Maybe not. We don’t know. What we DO know is that we don’t know.
A couple more examples of being judgemental on the other end of the spectrum.
“Geez why does she think she’s so perfect?” “Why is he always posting scriptures like he’s better than us?”
There are a million ways that we all judge each other by, but when we pull away our pride and pre-conceived notions, we learn that we don’t know their hearts at all. We have to make intermediate decisions to protect our families and our testimonies, but these intermediate decisions are often based on fragile and incorrect standards. Follow the Spirit. Only the Spirit can really tell you about someone’s heart. Someone who may seem dangerous for our children may have the heart of a Lamanite who is steadfast once they are enlightened.
One last example. I’ve given a similar, personal example before, but I want to put it into the words of my brother in law, Caden because I like how he said it.
“You have two missionaries. Missionary A is a wonderful missionary. They speak well, teach well, looks like they’re working hard, but deep down, this missionary is only giving an 8. Missionary B is the missionary that no one really approves of. They don’t teach well, and they don’t look like they’re trying at all but in reality, deep down, they are giving their all. They’re giving a 10.”
We know this parable. The widow gave a mite. She gave her all even though it looked small. There are many around us who only have a mite to give. Are we giving our all or are we too busy scoffing at the mite?
His Righteous Judgement
There’s a lot we can learn about the Lord’s righteous judgement when we inspect our own flawed, naive judgements. There is another comforting aspect of the Lord’s judgement that should bring hope to every last one of us.
I have multiple family members who foster children. As you can imagine, there have been children who have passed through their homes that come from traumatic backgrounds. It makes me ill to think about what some of them have gone through. Some of these children act out in irrational ways because their development has been so dismantled by those who should have protected them. It’s been hard to watch some of these children go back to their previous homes where they would never have the therapy they need and especially where they wouldn’t have the principles of the gospel to cling to.
It wasn’t until this past April 2020 conference that I more fully came to appreciate that Christ offers a “righteous judgement.” One of my favorite quotes out of the conference came from Elder James R. Rasband in his talk, “Ensuring a Righteous Judgement.” Here’s what he says.
“Although we do not fully understand the sacred mechanics by which the Savior’s atoning sacrifice heals and restores, we do know that to ensure a righteous judgment, the Savior will clear away the underbrush of ignorance and the painful thorns of hurt caused by others. By this He ensures that all God’s children will be given the opportunity, with unobscured vision, to choose to follow Him and accept the great plan of happiness.”
Only Jesus Christ can fully heal trauma, and it will be Jesus Christ who clears away misguided and oppressive paradigms that have skewed our vision of what will make us happy. Perhaps you have a child who was forced into circumstances beyond your or their control. Perhaps you have a grandchild whose parents have turned away from the church. Perhaps you have any kind of loved one who hasn’t been given the opportunity of the gospel in the ways that you so desperately wish they did. Take comfort. Jesus Christ knows this. Heavenly Father knows it better than you do and He loves them more than you do, and He will ensure a righteous judgement for them. He will clear away the hurt and ignorance, He will turn those bitter memories into building blocks, and He will judge them more righteously and more wisely than we ever could.
It seems unfair that we started on different levels until we realize that the Lord judges us individually. We ALL have to be baptized and receive the essential ordinances, and He has provided the way for all of us to receive that. But after that, it’s completely dependent on us as individuals. What did we do with what we were given? We will all receive a righteous judgement, and then Heavenly Father will give us the most blessings that our choices will allow.