I recently wrote on judging righteous judgement, knowing good and evil, or put differently, judging correctly between good and evil.
Our society has a frenzied passion for “not judging”. Any opposition is immediately turned into a straw man and burned at the stake. I have no difficulty imagining that someone reading my previous post would respond by saying “Well, what would it be like if everyone was always telling everyone else everything they thought they did wrong?”
But this is just making the scriptural teachings on the matter into a straw man. The scriptures don’t say you need to go and inform everyone of all of their flaws, real or imagined. It is one thing to learn to judge rightly between good and evil. It is another thing to directly inform your neighbor of all of their personal flaws.
When it comes to our neighbors and judgement:
1. We have an obligation to pass over one another’s petty faults. No, that was Not what Christ was talking about when he said “Judge not lest ye be judged” and where the JST clarifies his meaning we can see that quite clearly. But we still do have a real obligation to pass over each other’s petty faults. Even though it wasn’t how Christ used the phrase “judge not”, that phrase does get used from time for our obligation to pass over one another’s faults. It is a real obligation that is critical for building the kingdom of God in a world of imperfect people. We all have flaws. To build a Zion society in the church we must pass over all those petty flaws as we hope they will pass over ours. But, once again, while there is a real obligation to pass over each others petty flaws, that was not what Christ was talking about when he said “Judge not lest ye be judged”. He was teaching that we need to call good good and to call evil evil. He was teaching that in order to do that we need to surrender our world’s notions of good and evil in favor of his by seeking them out in the scriptures and the light of inspiration.
2. We have an obligation to teach the truth and save souls. That includes an obligation to warn against evil actions, as well as to warn against evil influences and the consequences of sin. We cannot stand idly by and let someone lose their exaltation. We mustn’t become like the many Christian churches President Kimball referred to when he referred to “…many steepled edifices in which the word sin has not been mentioned for a long time, and a preachment against it cannot be remembered.” We must not hesitate to preach against evil so that our youth can guard against it. They need those who can discern better than themselves to teach them what to avoid in no uncertain terms. Our adult members need this just as much. After all, it wasn’t just the youth that fell away from the path in Lehi’s dream if they failed to hold to the iron rod. Nonmembers also need a knowledge of right from wrong. Basic right and wrong are the basis for a society, and hence society as a whole needs those things taught. We must teach truth, and to do so, we must not hesitate to call good good, and to call evil evil.
Someone might feel like I was being dishonest when I said that the phrase “Judge not” is sometimes used to preach our genuine obligation to pass over one another’s petty flaws. After all, they might say, it isn’t used that way just “sometimes”, that is how it is almost always used.
But that isn’t the case.
Far, far more commonly, the phrase “judge not” is used to directly contradict Christ’s teachings on judgement. Christ teaches that we judge righteous judgement, that we surrender our notions of good and evil in favor of his. To do so we must search the scriptures, seeking diligently in the light of Christ for what is good and what is evil.
The phrase “judge not” is used most commonly to directly contradict the teachings of the Savior and the scriptures on judgement. It is used to mean that instead of calling good good and calling evil evil, we should never call anything evil. It effectively teaches us to call evil good, since it paralyzes our ability to preach against anything evil.
The phrase “judge not” is also used very frequently to call good evil. It is used to condemn anyone discerning between good and evil and stating the difference as “judgemental”. It is similarly used to condemn anyone teaching the commandments, particularly those involving morality.
In our society the phrase “judge not” is most commonly used to preach directly against Christ’s own teachings on judgement.