Do you ever read the General Conference talks in the Ensign after Conference and think, “I don’t remember this talk at all when I was listening back in October (or April)! How did I miss this one? I swear I watched all of Conference.”
I feel like this happens more now that I have kids who don’t nap during the day.
Anyway, that’s what happened to me when I was reading Elder Lynn G. Robbins talk, “The Righteous Judge” from the October 2016 General Conference. Short summary/plug: It’s a really good talk! You should go and read all of it now and then come back and analyze part of it with me 🙂
Back? Or never left because you totally remember his talk because it was so good? Either way, let’s get into it.
How do we do it?!
I really appreciate Elder Robbins’ talk because it addresses the issue I think about sometimes of how we are told to judge righteously while at the same time being counseled not to judge and let Christ and Heavenly Father make the judgement calls. What are we supposed to do? How do we judge righteously? Well, read the talk!
The quotation from Elder Robbins I’d love to look at more in depth is this one:
“In the world, it is an earthly judge who condemns a man and locks him in prison. In contrast, the Book of Mormon teaches us that when we willfully sin, we become our “own judges” (Alma 41:7) and consign ourselves to spiritual prison. Ironically, the common judge in this case holds the keys that unlock the prison gates; “for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation” (D&C 95:1; emphasis added). The proceedings of a righteous judge are merciful, loving, and redemptive, not condemning.”
Earlier in the talk Elder Robbins says,
“A righteous judge would respond to confessions with compassion and understanding. An erring youth, for example, should leave the bishop’s office feeling the love of the Savior through the bishop and enveloped in the joy and healing power of the Atonement—never shamed or held in contempt.”
I think it is so hard for us to separate ourselves from the way of the “natural man” or “earthly judge” (as Elder Robbins terms it) in favor of acting as Christ would have us. We sometimes feel a need to condemn others (or ourselves) when wrong is done. We feel like we have to inflict punishment or look down upon someone to show them how wrong they have been. Christ’s way, though, is love.
The nitty gritty
Elder Robbins goes on in the talk to discuss this “chastisement” mentioned in the above quotation from Doctrine and Covenants 95:1. He compares this to how the Lord disciplines and talks about how chastening means purification. Sure, love is Christ’s way, but it is love accompanied with purification.
For instance, we do wrong. We begin the repentance process and feel sorrow for our sins. We decide that we need to change. So we confess—and according to Elder Robbins—this confession doesn’t bring outward shame and contempt from our leaders or the Lord but instead it brings love and understanding. Instead of arms folded in harsh rebuke, we get the open arms of a hug. And then we receive instructions and comfort in the form of the Atonement, which purifies (or chastens) us.
Are you your own judge?
I also think this idea of us being our “own judges” is fascinating because it is so true. Christ doesn’t need to be a rebuking, harsh, critical judge for the repentant because we can do that pretty well on our own. Most of the time, we know what we should be doing, and when we do wrong and feel badly about it to the point of being ready and willing to repent, we are acting as our own judges. We feel that separation from God, and that feeling of loss is usually what leads us to true repentance. We want to feel the love of the Atonement again, so we come to Him to ask for forgiveness and remission of our sins.
It is a beautiful process, don’t you think? Not always easy, but really beautiful.