Often times we talk about the judgment mentality within the church. As it turns out, it’s not necessarily an LDS or religious thing but rather a human fallacy that everyone falls into (you see a lot of the same pressures whenever you get a large group of individuals who meet on a regular basis with a similar set of beliefs). We overuse simple mental shortcuts such as stereotyping that lead us to make unfair and frankly incorrect decisions with the various individuals we meet or interact with on a regular basis.
We as humans have this incessant need to frame everything on a moral basis i.e. good vs. evil or right vs. wrong. This culture is magnified in a church setting where the references to good vs. evil and right vs. wrong are so prevalent. So naturally we run the risk of making judgments of other people’s action as being “wrong” because their action/way of thinking is different than ours (because obviously the way we do things are right). This is not to say that “right vs. wrong” issues don’t have a place within the church because obviously they do. However, we need to avoid having that mentality from those issues spill over to issues that are not of eternal importance but rather are merely differences in opinions or lifestyles. Parenting is just one such example where there are clearly right vs. wrong ways of dealing with children. However, there are countless situations where there is not a right or a wrong way of dealing with a particular parenting issue yet we still observe from a distance and end up at least privately, questioning their particular methodology used.
As President Uchtdorf said last year in general conference:
This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!
It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.
As members of the church, we should not be adding to the challenges and struggles of other individuals by our snide comments or judgments whether they be through external actions/words or thoughts privately held in our minds. We would be much better off as a church and as a society if we stopped framing so many of the situations or experiences we run into as members as being right or wrong and more in the light of just being different.
One of my biggest regrets I have looking back when I was younger was the multitude of opportunities that I had missed to get to know great individuals because of the way I judged them before I even got to know them. Whether it was dealing with their looks, slight differences in personality or other general stereotypes that I had formed about them, there’s no doubt that my life would have been blessed in greater quantity had I just taken the time to get to know them on an individual level.
There are terrific individuals who did not serve a mission, magnificent personalities who may be dealing with problems at home, or people who may not seem like they “fit” in the LDS culture yet are amazing and talented individuals that we could get to know if we would just give them a chance. Both their lives and ours would be blessed and greater opportunities to move forward the Kingdom of God would abound if we would but just suspend our initial judgments and stereotypes as we meet new individuals
“If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance and care.” – Elder Marvin J. Ashton
Now having said all this, we need to learn not to take offense where none was intended. As Brigham Young stated “He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool.” It’s inevitable that we will be offended by somebody around us. Bishops don’t wake up in the morning thinking to themselves, “ok so how am I going to offend Brother Huntinghouse today?”
We need to realize that we are all human and have massive shortcomings at times. Just as others may have offended us for not stretching the hand of fellowship out to us, how often have we in turn not done likewise to someone in need? Yes, the members of the church need to work on fellowshipping and being less judgmental but so does everyone. As Elder Holland spoke in April’s Conference in 2013
“Except in the case of his only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with,” he said. “That must be terribly frustrating to Him but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.”
If I expect to be forgiven and given the benefit of the doubt with those around me, should I not in turn provide that same opportunity to others? If I know that I’ve had situations where others have misunderstood where I was coming from and I was not allowed to give my side of the story, should I not strive to give someone else that opportunity to me?
When it comes down to it we are a large human family. We are a family that fights, a family that has misunderstanding from time to time and a family where we don’t necessarily get along with each other all the time. However, just as our families at home, we can overcome these issues by extending the hand of forgiveness to others and ourselves. We can come together to make this world a better place not only for ourselves but our posterity. We would be much more forgiving of others and ourselves if we realized how forgiving our Heavenly Father is with us. Let us rise above these trivial differences and see the bigger picture so that we can truly make our lives a little bit more like heaven here on Earth.