“Don’t be hasty.” For fellow Lord of the Rings fans, this is a beloved phrase spoken often by the character Treebeard. Treebeard was an Ent. An Ent, in the world of Middle Earth, is a being that looks much like a tree, and yet it isn’t. It’s a tree shepherd. It’s takes care of the trees. Ents live a long, long time. And in the books they are very slow to make decisions and to cast judgments. To Meriodoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took Treebeard says many times, “Don’t be hasty.”

It is not in the nature of the Ents to make hasty judgments. If it was, Treebeard would have squashed Merry and Pippin because by their physical size he thought they were orcs. But, he didn’t. He was curious. He wasn’t hasty to judge. He sincerely wanted the truth. So, he took time to figure out what they were, and when he wasn’t sure, he went to a wise source (Gandalf).

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I don’t know why it is human nature to cast hasty judgment on all aspects of life with so little fact. Perhaps it’s a subconscious defense mechanism. If we see an orc, or what we think is an orc, we want to squash it to protect ourselves (and others) without taking the time to really find out if it’s an orc.

We judge hastily the worst with our fellow human beings.

Yet, on the other hand, if we bump into an electrical circuit that isn’t working or if we come upon a new animal, more often than not, we take the time to study the circuit or make long-term observations about the new animal before making a final judgment as to the problem with the circuit or the nature of the animal. We enact curiosity instead of moral judgment.

If only we were so kind to each other. And, we can be.

What is Judgment

The definition of Judgment is:

An opinion or decision that is based on careful thought. The act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought. The ability to make good decisions about what should be done.

I find it interesting that the dictionary definition of judgment presupposes careful thought. What then do we call an opinion or a decision that is based on hasty, careless, and foolish thought? Well, the antonyms for judgment are ignorance and stupidity. I find those accurate.

So judgment is good. Ignorance is not. If we form an opinion or make a decision hastily, it’s chances of being good are low. And it can be destructive to us and others. Few lasting opinions can be formed successfully, if they are hasty. And few decisions made hastily are successful. Without taking sufficient time to educate ourselves, we will increase our chances of acting in ignorance and stupidity.

So, how do we quit being hasty?

Well, the tendency we have as humans to judge based on first impressions is a subconscious act of our reflexive brain functions. We cannot turn it off. But, we can control it.

I consider this subconscious judgment function a coping mechanism. From our earliest years we learn to make judgments based upon what we see and that defines how we build coping frameworks. We learn to read social signals, facial expressions, and to manipulate our environment based upon what we see. To suggest that we turn it off altogether is not only impossible, but unwise. We need it. But we need to control it.

The dilemma then is not judging, but learning to judge with careful thought. And, in our fast paced, entitled society, careful thought is defined as a few minutes spent Google-ing. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t sufficient (see previous blog post The Lost Art of Pondering).

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Judge Righteous Judgment

Christ commands us to judge. But, He commands us to do it righteously, as He does (3 Nephi 27:27).

It’s difficult to judge as Christ does. We simply can’t do it as well because we don’t have His omniscience, perfection, or love. But, we can learn to do it far better than we do.

Some great scriptures about how to judge righteously are:

Alma 41:14

Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.

Matthew 7:2

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again.

Romans 12:19

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Whether you’re driving in the car behind a precarious driver or standing in line at the store behind a woman who is screaming at her kids, righteous judgment can be applied. Sincere curiosity can be applied. I find it interesting that in our rough moments we can completely understand why we’re driving precariously or screaming at our kids. And yet, when others do it, we make hasty, uneducated judgments.

I find it interesting that when we see others who look different than we do or who have chosen to live their life differently that we do, we automatically assume that they aren’t good people. And yet, when we react in un-Christlike ways to their lifestyle differences based on hasty judgments (i.e. ignorance and stupidity) we are actually the ones who in that present moment aren’t “good.” Did not Christ say to the Pharisees regarding justice, mercy, judgment, and love that they were the weightier matters of the law (Luke 11:42)?

We have been commanded to merciful unto others (Alma 41:14). What does that mean to me? It means giving them the benefit of the doubt. It means developing an appropriate and merciful curiosity about who they are and what their life is like.

A car pulls out in front of me, forcing me to slam on my brakes. My immediate conclusion could be: they are a maniac driver that cares nothing for the safety of others and should get their license taken away since they nearly injured me and my family. OR, instead of honking like a mad woman and becoming a precarious driver myself (all in an attempt to bring this maniac driver to justice and teach them a lesson), I could muse about why they might drive like that.

A devil’s advocate might suggest that coming up with suppositions to show mercy to the maniac driver is useless since they are guesses and I have no way of knowing that they are true. They very well could be a careless, maniac driver. And yet, I don’t know if that’s true either. Since I don’t know which is true, the merciful thing to do is to form a merciful guess. To be mercifully curious.

We have also been commanded to deal justly and to do good continually. So, whether or not the driver really is a maniac, for me to drive similarly in an attempt to punish him/her, is not just nor is it an act of goodness.

The same can be said for people we see every day who live life differently and believe differently than we do. No matter how they act or what they look like, we can focus on the merciful and good things we recognize about them: they are children of God, they are trying to live day-to-day just like we are, they have families, they work, they want to be happy, they have struggles and sadness (perhaps self-inflicted, perhaps not, we don’t know) and they are trying to find that happiness in the best ways they can. They are learning at their own pace, just like we are.

We are so quick to judge people by what’s different about them instead of by what we have in common. Interestingly enough, our commonalities nearly always outnumber our differences. Finding the commonalities is merciful and curious.

We’ve been commanded to leave final judgment and ultimate Justice to God (Romans 12:19).

No matter how terribly we have been wronged, we simply don’t know how people will act in the future. We don’t know if they will repent. We don’t know if they will change. We don’t know what current issues and struggles they have experienced which have influenced their sinful actions toward us. To attempt to refuse to forgive them for their wrongs against us and to attempt to seek vengeance is an act of usurping God’s authority to cast final judgment.

We have been commanded to love our enemies, to do good to those who purposefully wrong us, and to forgive all men (Luke 6:27, 35; Doctrine & Covenants 64:9-11). This seems so ridiculous. How is it possible that not forgiving someone’s sin against us is a greater sin than the horrific offenses which have been committed against us?

When we take final judgment upon ourselves, which we have no authority to do because it belongs to God, we are “playing God.” It’s a greater sin to try to cast final judgment on others when we can’t see all that they are and who they may eventually become. Look at the woman taken in adultery. Christ asked, “Hath no man condemned thee?” (Or, has no man cast final judgment on thee? Remember, they were going to stone her to death.). “No man, Lord,” she replied. “Neither do I condemn thee,” He said (meaning, I’m not casting final judgment on you either), “Go and sin no more,” giving her time to repent and change because He knew she had more time. (John 8:10-11) He who had the authority to cast final judgment did not. Did not Christ also say while hanging on the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He understood that those soldiers were minions and urged on by the judgments of others. He knew that despite their treatments of Him, they didn’t comprehend fully what they were doing. That’s mercy. That’s righteous judgment.

Now, by advocating curiosity and mercy in light of making judgments, I know that many feel (and I have felt myself) concern. Does that mean we simply let people mistreat us and never react, never hastily judge?

My opinion is that the answer is, “Yes.” I have learned that it’s much easier to act, than to be acted upon and always react to external influences (see previous blog The Power to Become).  God is not a reactor. If we would be like Him and judge like Him, we must also not judge by reaction. We must choose the type of person we want to be and act, consciously, even in light of offenses, and bumping into people each and every day that we know nothing about. God is not hasty. Neither should we be hasty.

Does that mean when we see people day-to-day that we can’t make accurate judgment calls? No, we should make accurate, kind, curious, and merciful judgment calls. And, we can teach our children about the different lifestyles of others in a kind way while also reinforcing our own beliefs. It simply takes a loving viewpoint. Casting judgments out of fear will never save our kids. It will only teach them some people are to be feared, shunned, and possibly reinforce the idea of treating them unkindly. If we would have them be confident in their assessments of life and the Christian beliefs we have, we must be honest.

Example:

“I don’t know why they dress like that, or look like that,” we say to our kids. “We all have to decide how to live our own lives. You know we’ve taught you to _(insert commandment)_ because we believe that _(insert clear gospel doctrine that explains the WHY behind the commandment)_. But, they are children of God just like we are and He loves them. We should be kind to them and love them too, right where they are.”

It’s hard to leave final judgment and justice to God. It’s hard not to cope with our environment by casting hasty judgments based on shallow cues. It’s hard to forgive when others have offended us deeply and continue to do so. It’s hard not to consider them lost forever. We want to condemn them and write them off so we can move on. It’s very hard to leave the judgment and Justice to God…at first.

Personal Peace is the Result of Righteous Judgment

Casting hasty moral judgment about who people are, what they’ve done, and their moral path is not only impossible to do accurately, it’s simply fruitless. And considering people condemned and lost forever never results in peace. We think we are being righteous judges, but we are miserable souls determined to control our environments by carrying loads of hasty opinions around on our backs. Such burdens make us impatient, self-righteous, prideful, angry, and rigid.

On the other hand, learning to leave judgment and Justice in God’s hands always results in peace. We let go of control on everything but our own lives. We carry no burdens of hasty opinions, no bonds of physical reactions to others’ lifestyles, and we quit all quests for vengeance and Justice. Our need to verbally or physically show our outward judgment dies. Our desire to micromanage how everyone around us lives becomes a silly endeavor. We simply learn to teach, instruct, and correct lovingly when opportunities arise. We become more patient, humble, happy, and accepting. It doesn’t mean we stop having beliefs, strict morals, and standards. But it means that we don’t measure others by our spiritual, social, and psychological rulers. We have peace because we only worry about that which we can control: ourselves. It takes an incredible load off to give the rest to God.

Just like the malfunction in our electrical circuit or the new animal we’ve never before seen, we need to adopt an attitude of merciful curiosity. We need to seek to understand what it is our mind tries to make sense of the moment we see it. We need to practice and take control of our natural judgment center and strengthen our ability to “not be hasty.” We need to educate ourselves. We need turn our brain to more merciful conclusions. We need refuse to retaliate and condemn when offended. We need to simply let go and leave judgment and justice in the perfect hands of God. God is just. Justice will always be served, but not necessarily in our limited, flawed, and weak mortal time frame.

And thank goodness we all have more time to learn, grow, and become.

Some Judgments Must Be Made

Without fail, some judgments must be made. Some judgments we don’t get a lot of time to ponder. In such cases, when time makes it difficult to be careful, then nothing can better avail us than a quick prayer. God knows our circumstances. He will guide us if we ask.

BT

 

Doctrine: Perfectionism is prideful, self-focused,  and judgmental; it amplifies fear, creates failure, feeds despair, and ultimately discourages righteous intent and action. Sanctification is humble, Christ-focused,  and judges righteously;  it increases peace, creates hope, and faith, and ultimately encourages righteous intent and increases the power and frequency of righteous action.

I spent a good portion of my life suffering from aspects of perfectionism. This perfectionism was a manifestation of my belief in doing good, keeping God’s commandments, and trying to become like Him. Only, it took me a long time to realize that my mindset was flawed about how to go about achieving all that goodness.

How did I know my mindset was flawed? Because I kept mentally beating myself up when I fell short using self-deprecation to make myself suffer extra-sufficiently for my wrongs. Because I lived in fear of messing up thinking that I would lose out on hopes, dreams, and blessings if I forgot even one prayer. Because I kept thinking that I was going to be tricked by Satan in some sneaky way despite my best efforts—that he would take me down with one little mistake.

I remember the day I finally realized that I was so afraid of messing up or being taken in by Satan, that I HAD BEEN TAKEN IN. If you are living in fear, you have been “taken in” by Lucifer.

Now, when I use the word fear, I’m not referring to godly awe and respect. I’m also not referring to the love I have for God that makes me not want to offend Him. I’m talking about crippling fear; the kind that inhibits progress. And, many, many Christians (and most certainly a large portion of Latter-day Saints) live by this kind of fear, and it manifests itself in perfectionism.

It is important to note that perfectionism is a chronic mindset. It is preoccupied with self and comparison to others. Perfectionism is prideful in the worst sense because it is blind to its own pride.  Perfectionism is not healthy, nor is it ultimately, eternally productive. Perfectionism is an aspect of self-imposed environmental, and personal control that has exceeded rational limits. It is NEVER okay to devalue yourself, mentally berate and abuse yourself, and the like imitations. It is okay to feel guilt and remorse, but those feelings alone are sufficient. When we have those feelings, they are not license for us to begin hacking away mentally at our self-worth and eternal potential.

“But, doesn’t God command us to be perfect?” you ask?

Well, let’s take a look at some scriptures and study this whole perfection thing a little closer.

Matthew 5:48 says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

From this scripture we receive the command to be perfect even as God, the Father. We could replace the words “even as” with the word “like.” But, either way, this command requires several readings and a lot of pondering. Does God really expect us to attain His level of godly perfection in this life? Why would He command such an impossible thing?

We could also consider the fact that God became who He is, perfect, by first going through the Plan of Salvation as we are. Lorenzo Snow taught this in his famous couplet: As man now is God once was, as God now is man may be. So, we could interpret Matthew 5:48 as becoming perfect in the “same way” God became perfect (which is certainly not immediate or possible in mortality).

But, let’s assume for a moment that the scripture is literal, and God is commanding us to become as He is, perfect, now, while we are mortal. Then, why do we also read the following (from God) in Moroni 10:32-33 which says:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

This scripture in the Book of Mormon about perfection is directly related to the atonement of Jesus Christ and the grace of God which it facilitates. In fact, it asks us to become perfected through grace, and perfected in Christ and to deny not the power of that grace and of God. And, when we’ve attained this kind of earthly perfection, then we are sanctified; or in other words we have been made holy—like God.

If you take the time to study all the scriptures about perfection, I think you will find, as I have, that God is not as concerned about perfection in action (during mortality) as He is about perfection in our desires and the intent/sincerity behind our actions—even, and especially, the flawed actions. Note that in Doctrine and Covenants 137:9 it says, “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” We tend to understand this scripture as a dual thing: according to our works AND the desires of our hearts. But, that is NOT what it says. It says, “…according to [our] works, according to the desire of [our] hearts.”

Do you see what this is saying? God is clearly letting us know that it is not the perfection of our works, or actions, that we are judged by. In fact, He is stating quite clearly that it is the intent and true desires behind our works (whether offered perfectly or flawed) that we are ultimately judged by. This is huge!

Can you do a work perfectly and still have desires and intent that are contrary to the action/work performed? Absolutely. Can you do a work imperfectly and still have desires and intent that are pure, sincere, and true? Absolutely. Why do we always assume that if a work is performed sub-par that the intent or desire is sub-par? Why do we always assume that if a work is performed perfectly that the intent or desire is perfect? This is simply not the case.

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This brings us back to the idea of sanctification over perfectionism. Both are states of being. However, a sanctified person is focused more on perfecting their intent and purifying their desires rather than simply performing an externally perfect work. A sanctified person recognizes that it is perfection in intent that will perfect their outward works, and not the other way around. A sanctified person is trying to become like God and accepts that as they work toward learning and becoming that the works themselves will fall short, but takes confidence in the fact that grace accepts the perfect intent behind such imperfect works.

This, may still be confusing, so let me clarify.

I was sitting in the Gospel Doctrine class in my ward a few weeks past, and a pretty wise man and well-respected in the ward said something akin to the following: “There are two types of perfection. There is ultimate perfection—God’s perfection. And, then there is sanctification, which is the only type of perfection we can attain to on this earth. Sanctification is a state of being which while we are not yet perfect as God is perfect, we are in a state of sanctification, or earthly perfection—which is as much as we are able to attain to in this life.”

Sanctification is, again, a state of being. You don’t ever exit it by being imperfect in action/works. You can only exit sanctification (once you are in it) by being in open rebellion against God, which pertains to your desires and intent (and by extension to your works). And, I would like to point out that I have not found many perfectionists that would ever consider openly rebelling against God UNLESS they allow their perfectionism to destroy their understanding of His nature and their faith in Him.

Sanctification is a state of grace. It doesn’t mean that we actually do everything perfectly. It means that as long as we are sincerely trying to become godly, we are in a constant state of grace—or mortal perfection.

Intent is like a validating watermark on a check or the security features of paper money. Anyone can print a check or money that “looks good”, but it is not real unless it has a validating feature recognized by the institutions its presented to. Actions without sincere, genuine, pure, godly intent are just actions—no matter how good they look on the outside.

Romans 8:3-4 says, “For what the law [i.e. works] could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

What Paul seems to be talking about here is the fact that commandments and covenants and ordinances, which are all part of the law (and necessary in helping us learn to become godly), are weak by themselves. In other words, they are great things, but without the grace of Christ provided through His atonement, those aspects of the law can’t bend us into what we need to become. Just spitting out perfectly performed actions and works (checking commandments off a list) CANNOT and WILL NOT make us like God. Works alone are insufficiently powerful to sanctify us. But, actions and works performed (whether perfectly or imperfectly) with righteous desires and sincere intent DO HAVE POWER because it is our intent which validates our efforts and triggers the power of God’s grace.

When we embrace the life and atonement and grace God offers us, we are presently saved in a graceful, sanctified state. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus (or who are sanctified), who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made [them] free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

On the other hand, if we rebel against and refuse to enter into God’s laws (receive covenants, receive ordinances, and try to keep commandments), then we cannot receive His grace (or sanctification). This is because we are not fulfilling the conditions for sanctification. Nor are we even perfectionists. We are in a state of rebellion, which is yet another state of being.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law [or grace] of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:5-8).

Perfectionists are obsessed with self. They judge themselves and others by the quality of their commandment keeping. If they keep a commandment poorly, they are less likely to judge others who struggle with it. Yet, if they keep a commandment perfectly (in their own eyes), then they are more likely to judge others who struggle with it. Indeed, perfectionists cannot see anyone as perfect, sanctified, or even saved unless they have not yet been witness to these individuals weaknesses.

Have you ever entered the home or hung out with someone you religiously idolized, only to find that they keep a commandment different than you? What was your reaction? Were you shocked? Did your faith waiver in their ability to be deified? Did you suddenly feel a sense of your own righteousness in contrast to them, and perhaps a sense of disappointment and pity for this “lost soul?” Then, you are a perfectionist.

Perfectionists are selfish (though they don’t recognize it). Perfectionists judge themselves and others by their own standards of outward righteousness. They have a terrible incapability to see beyond the outward actions of themselves and others, and to consider a person’s heart. This is NOT how God judges. God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7); the intent and the desires behind all that we do.

“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we [or they] Christ’s” (2 Corinthians 10:7).

People who have entered into God’s covenants and who are trying ARE CHRIST’S and are perfected in Christ. This means, that if their intent and desires are godly, they are in a state of sanctification, or mortal perfection despite imperfect action. Wow!

And, that means that since we can’t see into everyone’s hearts that we must see and judge others always as if they are in a sanctified state, unless they are clearly in a state of open rebellion. The only deviations from this rare those given the keys to sit as judges in Israel (bishops, stake presidents, presiding authorities, high council, apostles, prophets). They alone are given the inspiration to make other judgment calls. We, however, must see others who are trying as currently sanctified and treat them as such.

“And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you… For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons [and daughters] of God… For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (excerpts from Romans 8:10-17, brackets added)

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

One of the things that I love about this chapter in the New Testament, is that it is one of the few places that acknowledges the Holy Spirit’s role in grace and sanctification. I would venture that most Latter-day Saints when asked what the difference between “the light of Christ” and “the Gift of the Holy Ghost” would struggle to come up with an answer. But, this chapter makes it clear. The light of Christ is the basic conscience of right and wrong that we all receive upon entering this world. The “power of the Holy Ghost” refers to validations and witnesses of truth, and are given to those both inside and outside the covenant of baptism. The “Gift of the Holy Ghost,” however, is a gift of sanctification given to, and retained, only by those who receive the law and act upon it with sincere, righteous, and pure intent—NOT perfection actions.

Luke 11:34: “The light of the body is the eye; wherefore when thine eye be single, thy whole body is also full of light…”

In this verse, which we also see in Matthew, where the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) adds, “single to the glory of god,” it is possible that a correct interpretation may be that the eye represents intent. Which, if the intent of a person is godly, then their whole body becomes godly. Just food for thought. This makes the possibility of many “perfected” individuals walking the earth extremely likely. This is also where the confidence of prophets in the scriptures comes from; how they know that they are saved and will meet us at the judgment bar of Christ (2 Nephi 33:11). They understood sanctification. They had transcended the weak understanding and satanic bonds of perfectionism.

Those who are in a state of sanctification are humble in their judgments of others. They do not take themselves too seriously. They are not quick to judge others, and are, in fact, charitable, hopeful, and faithful in every way. Because they can see themselves as presently perfected and saved, they can see others presently perfected and saved. This perspective changes the way they treat themselves and others at a deeply mental level. Fear and panic are replaced with peace and long-suffering (with self and others). Arrogance and excessive, rigid self-control is replaced with empathy, sympathy, and compassion which doesn’t beget laziness; it begets a hope that increases the energy one has to keep trying to do right.

Perfectionists are always afraid of the doctrine of grace and sanctification. They always fear that if people believe it too deeply they will stop doing and keeping commandments. But their fear lies deeper. They are afraid others will get exaltation and salvation by doing less while they themselves have worked so hard and beat themselves up to achieve it. They throw in God’s face all that they’ve done and resent when others get blessed who have visibly done less. What a terrible way to live!

The truth is that true, righteous intent (despite imperfect action) breeds more hope and confidence in God and His plan, which translates to better, more sincere efforts, and in time, better overall execution of His commandments.  This is because those who are in a state of sanctification recognize all effort as positive because any effort, with the right intent, is a perfect effort—in God’s eyes—and leads them further along in His plan.

Perfectionism does the exact opposite. Perfectionism breeds despair and uncertainty in one’s own standing before God and one’s own place in God’s plan; which translates to worse overall execution of God’s commandments. Perfectionists tend to be all or nothing—if they can’t do it perfectly they don’t do it at all. Perfectionists can also be lazy—if they can’t do it perfectly they procrastinate. A perfectionist cannot see value in any effort but a perfect effort. What a sad and depressing way to live.

If you’re afraid that if you don’t live in crippling, perfectionist fear that you will fall away from God and become evil, then you are openly admitting that you are not confident in the true desires and intent of your heart. So, it’s time to figure out what those are and take confidence in what you love, who you love, what you want eternally, and the intent behind your righteous actions.

So, if you are, as I once was, living in a state of perfectionism. Stop. Pray to have your eyes opened to the godly, and correct, path of sanctification. It will take time. You will have lapses. But, all the efforts you make—with pure intent—to live in a state of sanctification will, to your utter surprise, bring you closer to mortal perfection than you ever had the chance of attaining before in your perfectionist state. Most importantly, you will be able to cast off the bonds Satan has wound about you. You will feel relief. You will feel peace. You will feel a hope you have never before understood or comprehended. Your faith will become increasingly powerful and unshakeable. And, you will receive personal revelation and power never before comprehended. Your eyes will be opened to God and His mysteries in a way they never have been before.

You will gain confidence before God and your fellow men with an accompanying and equal charity and humility that will fill your soul with joy. So, LET GO.

BT

Doctrine: The problem with every utopia ever theorized was that it presumed the existence of a certain, fixed kind of human being, which doesn’t currently exist. Utopia ideals always fail because they can create a society, but they can’t control human nature. The only way to create a successful utopia is to first create/form a certain type of individual who will be happy to live there, bound by specific laws and conditions, forever. This is God’s plan—to help us become like Him so that we can live like Him and dwell with Him.

A few years back I read a book I never would have read without a little encouragement. It was Louis Mumford’s Story of Utopia.

What’s this book about? It’s Louis Mumford summarizing all the different utopias that have been thought up, suggested, and some even poorly attempted. Louis talks about the ideals of each utopia, what ideals they are based on, and the flaws in their creation—in other words, why they didn’t work, couldn’t have worked, and/or were never actually attempted.

They all ultimately had many flaws that made them impossible to implement. However, the one unique flaw they all shared: they didn’t factor in human nature.

Each utopia—or perfect world—ever theorized has presumed the existence of a certain kind of human being which doesn’t currently exist. These dreamers drew up the framework of their “perfect worlds” and based them on types of “perfect individuals.” They presumed that these worlds would work but could never bridge the gap on how to arrive at the type of human being that would adhere to the utopia’s belief system—forever.TheStoryofUtopias

Even if a utopic society could be created and people induced, convinced, or converted to live there, eventually they would have offspring. And, if the offspring didn’t adhere to the utopic laws they would either be “cast out” or would leave of their own accord. Then, even if the original mortal utopians remained, they would either eventually leave themselves (based on the changeability of human nature) or eventually die off and the society would end. Utopia experiment—fail.

So, is the idea of a utopia completely ridiculous? No.

Is the idea of a utopia possible? Absolutely.

The way to achieve any kind of utopia is to first create/form the people you intend to live there.

Every individual brought into a utopia must first become the type of person who will be perfect, or best suited for the utopia created. Then, they must be totally converted (heart, mind, might, and spirit) to the utopia. Each individual must believe wholeheartedly in the laws of the utopia, have become—through trial, error, and learning—the kind of person who will like and be comfortable in the utopia, and be content to remain in that utopia within the bounds it has been given. In other words, based on their exposure to (and perhaps even attempts at) other utopia options, every time these individuals will choose the same utopia.

A person destined for any kind of utopia must know, inside and out and in every fiber of their being, what their type of utopia is and thus be content, happy, and joyful to live in it. That means that knowing other options exist (options that may or may not have different, lesser, or greater opportunities and responsibilities) does nothing to change their final desires and designs. They know what they want and that is what they have and where they are.

I suppose it is possible that an individual, once in a certain utopia, may realize that they might have, or could have, chosen a different utopia; but it’s the kind of momentary and shallow longing we all display when we see something another has and see real benefits in it. Yet, when presented with the work and effort designed to have those benefits, we count what we have sufficient (even preferable, smarter, or better) in comparison to the work and responsibility required to achieve what others have.

Once you have a certain type of fixed person you can place them in a utopia designed to meet the type of person they are, and whala! You have a utopia that will work, that will be peaceful, that will last—forever.

And, this process is exactly the process we are all in. We are, because of God’s plan, in the process of becoming what we will be forever, and which will determine our eternal utopia.

Fantasy world.

In Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-47 (excerpts, brackets, italics, and parenthesis added by me to make a point) we read:

And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.

And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.

And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things…

Therefore, it [the soul] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory (Utopia #1);

For after it [the soul] hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father (Utopia #1);

That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it [the soul] made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.

And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom (or utopia), even that of a terrestrial kingdom (Utopia #2), or that of a telestial kingdom (Utopia #3).

For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory (Utopia #1).

And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory (Utopia #2).

And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory (Utopia #3); therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory (or utopia). Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.

…For notwithstanding they [our bodies] die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual body.

They who are of a celestial spirit (who have become a celestial type of person) shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.

Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness (or a body that is suited to Utopia #1).

And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness (or a body that is suited to Utopia #2).

And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness (or a body that is suited to Utopia #3).

And they who remain (who don’t get a utopia) shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift. (Or, in other words, they wouldn’t have wanted to other utopias because they were not the type of person suited for any of them and they wouldn’t have had joy in the laws that governed those utopias.)

And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law (e.g. a utopia, or a utopic person) is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.

All kingdoms (utopias) have a law given;

And there are many kingdoms (utopias); for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

And unto every kingdom (utopia) is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified (and so they don’t get one of those utopias).

For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

Here we see, quite clearly what God’s plan is for His children. His goal is for all of us to have the kingdom of glory (utopia), the powers, the privileges, the binding covenants, the traits, and the eternal responsibilities that He has and that He enjoys. He enjoys the celestial kingdom (or Utopia #1).

utopia, 3D rendering, blue street sign

However, if after making a go (in this life) at the laws, ordinances, responsibilities, etc. that turn us into a Utopia #1 person, we decide that while it sounds nice, we are far more comfortable with something less and that we have become something less, then He grants unto us as much as we will receive.

(You can get more information on the different types of people who live in these different utopias by reading, and studying, Doctrine and Covenants section 76, as well as other scriptural resources…if you’re up for the study challenge).

We also read in Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4:

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

What does this mean? It means that even within Utopia #1 there are different levels of law, obedience, responsibility, and power. And, that once we’ve become a certain type of person and chosen/discovered where we are comfortable, that not only will we likely not want an increase, but God’s laws forbid it.

How can God be so sure where we belong? How can He consign us to a place for…eternity? Well, He knows everything perfectly and knew it long before we were ever born into His plan; but when the day of our resurrection comes, we will know what we want and what utopia will be ours without God telling us. We will have already been pitted against the requirements for each and our own lives, choices, and experiences will reveal to us exactly what we want and where we would like to spend our eternity. We are not going to be surprised.

In Alma 34:32-34 (and I suggest reading also some of the accompanying verses) we read:

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

What does this mean?

It means that when the time comes and our resurrection and judgment comes about, we will be who we have chosen (and made a sincere effort) to become. Standing before God isn’t going to suddenly change what we have become or what we want. As I mentioned near the beginning, we will have already been pitted against the requirements and laws for all the possible utopias (whether in mortality or the spirit world, if we didn’t get the opportunity in mortality, prior to our resurrection). We will have become certain type of person. Just dying or standing before God isn’t going to change that.

Whether in this life (mortality) or the spirit world (for those who didn’t get a chance to be taught regarding all their eternal utopia options in mortality) we will ALL have had more than ample opportunity to figure out for ourselves what we want. God is long-suffering and patient and He will ensure we have had the chance to come to know ourselves. We will have no excuse or complaint when we approach the throne of God. And, if we aren’t celestial beings we will not be comfortable in His presence, even for that short time while we reckon with Him prior to being given our chosen glory.

Either our works, thoughts, and words will save and exalt us (to Utopia #1) or they:

“will condemn us…and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from [God’s] presence” (Alma 12:14). But, “we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge…that all his judgments [and plans] are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men… (Alma 12:15). For, “he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction” (Alma 29:4).

So, is any utopia possible? Sure, and God has a perfect and sure plan to ensure we all receive the most wonderful, peaceful, and perfect place that we are willing to receive. Our only goal then is to decide what utopia we want and become that kind of person by keeping the laws set for that place.

And so on and so forth.

So, what utopia do you want? Who will you become and where will you dwell—for eternity?

BT

Doctrine: God has a plan for His children. In this plan we have to have the freedom to choose for ourselves and make mistakes because this is how we learn. As we choose good and bad the consequences are what make our choices matter; and without the ability to impact ourselves or others in our choices, such choices would have no meaning. These consequences allow God to enact justice upon the wicked, because He can’t justly punish them if He does now allow them to actually do anything worth punishment. As well, when the innocent and righteous are persecuted and mistreated it sets an example for others and gives them the chance to step out of neutrality. The righteous also can’t be blessed unless they are allowed to exact those blessing through enduring faithfully through trials and persecution. And, most importantly, the Atonement has taken care of every injustice, problem, death, and so on. It has all been paid for, so it can all be restored by God whether in this life or the next.

Calamities strike. Innocent people die. Good people are persecuted for wanting to be good or for doing good. Someone becomes terribly ill. An innocent person suffers the unfair consequences of someone else’s actions. Someone dies too young. A wicked ruler comes into power. A corrupt person gets away with criminal acts. A parent abuses their child. A child gets bullied at school. A newborn child gets left in a dumpster to die. A country turns against a certain religious population. War comes and goes killing too many of the innocent, and too many of the brave.

I could go on and on and on. But I don’t need to. Every single god-fearing person, and even those who aren’t god-fearing but are generally good, have wondered “why bad things happen to good people.” And “good people” can mean a nation, a religion, a group of people, a family, a person, a child, or some other innocent being.

If you are especially religious and have a witness or belief in the goodness of God, often unfairness can shake your faith or cause you to experience a crisis of faith. You simply can’t understand how an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving, all-merciful, and just God could stand by and watch as so much injustice and unfairness takes place. It simply is difficult to make sense of or take on faith.Business Financial Disaster Headlines

So, this question is tough. But the answers to it are very simple.

Whether you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or another Christian religion, you likely believe that God has a plan for each of us, even if we don’t always understand it.

So, answer number one for, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is:

God has a plan for all of His children

So, what is this plan? Well, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that God’s plan is in place so that we can learn to become like Him. For us, the whole purpose of this life is about gaining godly attributes and becoming godly—not just going through righteous actions/commandments to get blessings, though that’s often how we all begin. Those commandments have a purpose—they teach us godliness.

But, the crux of this plan God has for us is agency, or free will. We don’t have to become like Him. But, His plan is set up in such a way that we can become like Him IF we choose to do so (Romans 8:14-18). If we don’t choose to become like Him, then He has provided kingdoms of glory equal to the amount of righteousness and goodness we are willing to live and accept (Doctrine and Covenants 88:17-24, 32-39; 1 Corinthians 15:40).

So, in order for us to figure out what amount of goodness (or godliness) we are willing to live and accept, we have to be presented with all of our options. We must gain experience in what our options are like. We must then choose our desired option and then learn and grow—through grace—to live like and become like the kind of person who can go where we want, and choose, to go. But, this means that we will make mistakes while we are figuring this all out.

So, answer number two to “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is:

We have to experience the full range of good and evil so that we can decide what level of good we want for eternity (2 Nephi 2:11). To do so, we have to be able to try things out for ourselves (Moses 7:32; Doctrine and Covenants 101:78; Alma 32:26-43; 2 Nephi 2:14-16). We have to be able to make mistakes so that we can learn. Others have to have the same chance, as well.

It is inevitable as we all bumble around this life trying to learn and refine ourselves that we will, without a doubt, hurt and injure others. It is the ability to hurt and be hurt that makes our choices matter. This life is NOT a simulator. What responsibility could we claim for our own actions if they had no effect? What accountability could God assign to us if our choices had no effect upon us or others? What judgment could be passed? None.

So, simply because God allows human suffering to take place as a consequence of agency doesn’t mean that He purposefully causes it to happen—which we sometimes accuse Him of. To allow the consequences of agency is a necessary—albeit, uncomfortable—part of being God; so that we can all learn, grow, and choose our eternal path without interference. And, there are very clear purposes in God’s plan to allowing the consequences of both good and bad choices to have their effect, even upon the innocent.

In the Book of Mormon, in Alma 14, two men named Alma and Amulek are being force to watch women and children thrown into a fiery pit and burned to death for believing on their words and preaching about Christ. Amulek wants to do something about it; to call down the powers of heaven to save the women and children. But, Alma replies to him: “The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them at the last day.”

Some other righteous men, the sons of King Mosiah, a few chapters further on are being persecuted and treated terribly for their preaching of Christ. In Alma 17:11 God says to them, “…ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.”

Later on in the same book, we again see righteous people being killed in a time of war. One of the righteous generals, Chief Captain Moroni chastises the government for not sending more aid or support, in effect putting the blame for innocent deaths upon them. And, in his scathing letter to the Chief Judge he reiterates an important doctrine: “For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God.”

Back toward the beginning of the Book of Mormon, the first author, Nephi, who is righteous and faithful, has been bound and tied up by his brothers who are threatening to kill him. He says regarding his unjust treatment, “And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.”

In Helaman 14:29 we learn that both miracles come as well as bad happenings “to the intent that whosever 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. And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosever doeth inquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.”

So, answer number three to, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is:

So God’s judgment on the wicked is just. He can’t take away the consequences of their choices. The consequences must remain so that He can exact a righteous judgment against them and bring them to justice.

Answer number four to, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is:

So that the example of the righteous will catch other people’s attention and bring them to Christ. Seeing the righteous persecuted aggravates the sense of justice and truth in others and helps them to step out of neutrality and choose a side. It causes them to act on behalf of the righteous or to join in with the wicked…thus, in effect, separating the wheat from the tares. (Which, I might point out that God says will happen in the last days, so we are likely to see a lot of bad things happening in order that people will get off their rear ends and choose God or Satan…God doesn’t like the lukewarm who are afraid to declare themselves… Rev. 3:16)

Answer number five to, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is:

Because the righteous are never permanently killed, ruined, hurt, maimed, etc. God receiveth them unto himself and just as the wicked are condemned for their deaths, the righteous are saved because of their willingness to stand for Christ, or goodness, even when their lives are threatened or taken.

Finally, it is because of the mistakes we (and others) make in the learning process, and the natural opposition of life that comes because of our learning environment, that the Atonement of Christ was needed. To inherit glory of any kind we have to be cleansed from our learning struggles, sins, and weaknesses, and made physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally whole for the kingdom we choose to accept. So, Christ paid for our sins, suffered for our infirmities and weaknesses, and overcame death (Alma 7:11-13) so that we could be restored to the amount of glory we choose to receive (Doctrine and Covenants 76:70, 78; 88:17-24, 32-39).

So, answer number six to “Why do bad things a happen to good people?” is:

The Atonement of Christ has taken care of every single bit of badness that has or that will ever take place. It’s all been paid for. Everything will be made right, at some point. It’s not a question of IF it will be made right, it’s only a question of WHEN. The Atonement guarantees that death has no sting. It also guarantees that no injustice or problem or issue whether emotional, spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical will last past this mortal life.

So, it’s not fun to see good people of any kind or group suffer. And, if we see it happening, it should awake us to a sense of justice. We should feel upset. We should be sad or sorrowful. But, those reactions are there to lead us to righteous action (not hateful action). Those feelings should lead us to seek out Christ and to become like Him. They should lead us to: “…deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored to you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again” (Alma 41:14).

In the end, everything that happens to us, as a consequence of our own choices or that happens to us because of the choices of others, is to lead us individually to choose a side, a path, a way to God. He wants us to become like Him, but He will lead us up as high as we are willing to go. Life and it’s blessings and injustices all serve to give us experience and the power to choose for ourselves what we want. Then, we are to go after it.

BT