This week we discuss what Jesus taught about our relationships with our fellow man – how to deal with enemies, how to deal with disputes, and how to deal with sinners.
Matthew 5:25, 40-50
1 John 4:20
1 Samuel 16:7
3 Nephi 17:5-8
Your assessment of genesis the fever pitch status of the phrase appears to be correct. 4 days after the death of President Monson, the newly reconstituted First Presidency addressed the Church and President Nelson used the phrase multiple times in a short address, saying:
“Now, to each member of the Church I say: Keep on the covenant path. Your
commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those
covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere. As a new presidency, we want to begin with the end in mind. For this reason, we’re speaking to you today from a temple. The end for which each of us strives is to be endowed with power in a house of the Lord, sealed as
families, faithful to covenants made in a temple that qualify us for the greatest gift of
God, that of eternal life. The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make
there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to
resist the attacks of the adversary. Your worship in the temple and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path.
Now, if you have stepped off the path, may I invite you with all the hope in my heart to
please come back. Whatever your concerns, whatever your challenges, there is a place
for you in this, the Lord’s Church. You and generations yet unborn will be blessed by
your actions now to return to the covenant path. Our Father in heaven cherishes his children, and He wants each of us to return home to Him. This is a grand goal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – to help each of us to come back home.”
The rest is history…
Watcher found this blog post that gave some more background to the “covenant path”
For your next podcast you could talk about the October 1984 Conference talk of Elder Poelman (I mean the original one 😉 ) The Gospel and the Church.
Your wish is granted. Even before you posted this we recorded next weeks episode on this very topic! You must have been inspired.
I agree with much of this episode: The teachings and the lessons offered by Christ during his earthly ministry are truly revolutionary and are in stark contrast with the ‘carnal man’. Discussing these principles is always rewarding and will lead any humble christian to a greater appreciation of the redeeming love, mercy and grace of God. It also leads to personal change by viewing ourselves as ‘less than the dust of the earth’; completely reliant upon God for ALL that we have (Mosiah 2-5).
The simple/quick conclusion in this episode that we should NOT stand and defend ourselves or our rights is a conclusion that I feel conflicted with and I feel conflicts with scripture if certain layers are not discussed or understood. I offer (hopefully simply and not ignorantly) what I feel are scripturally supported thoughts regarding that relatively simple/quick conclusion.
First of all, I believe Christ makes critical distinctions between personal condemnations and institutional condemnations. As you referenced in the episode, Christ rebukes the Pharisee’s very harshly and aggressively. He also rebukes the collective church many times in the D&C. In fact, throughout scripture he rebukes any collection of people or any institution that espouses doctrines of devils that turn the hearts of individuals away from him. It was Christ who cleansed the temple and the collective apostasy that was being perpetuated there. In speaking of the Pharisee’s, Christ also taught that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him but what comes out which defiles him. In explaining this he taught, “Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the drought? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man” (Matt 15:17-18). Christ’s ministry is full of instances where he did not ‘turn the other cheek’ when it came to doctrines or teachings that turned hearts away from God. As we identify institutions that espouse those doctrines and turn hearts away from God (whether openly or subtly) I believe the scriptures teach that we are to fight against it. Should this be done offensively and aggressively? The scriptures teach NO. Should we personally attack the individuals who make up that group? Christ teaches NO. Should we ‘turn the other cheek’ regarding an institution and avoid contention by enduring a collective evil? I believe the scriptures teach NO.
Nephi was commanded by God to kill Laban because Laban “would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord” and then the Spirit told him, “Behold, the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” (1 Nephi 4:13). Nephi goes on to explain that his seed could not keep the commandments of the Lord unless they had the truth that was engraved on the plates of brass. The truth would be kept from them, so Nephi fought to give them the truth by following Gods command. This slaying of Laban seems in direct conflict with the teachings of Christ.
Captain Moroni was commanded by God to repel and tear down the secret combination that Mormon later declared “did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi” (Hel 2:13). He did not endure the wickedness that was threatening to overrun the people. He, with Helaman and many others, fought with the sword to resist that evil, according to Gods command. Mormon describes Captain Moroni as a man of God firm in the faith of Christ and who’s heart did glory in preserving his people, keeping the commandments and resisting iniquity (Alma 48:11-18). Mormon also declares, “if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17). These men of God (Moroni, Helaman, and others) seem to be in conflict with the teachings of Christ.
These are only a few examples (I believe there are other scriptures to teach this principle as well, not simply examples of people) and I could go on but I’m worried this comment is already too long.
I do not believe that when the Lord declared ‘resist not evil’ that he meant we should stand idly by while wicked institutions destroy the liberty of his people. Given, there are times that this has occurred in scripture but it was largely by constraint of the Spirit so that righteous judgement should come upon the wicked, or in consequence of the peoples own iniquity. I DO believe that the Lord is able to and absolutely will fight his own battles and does not need us to fight them. We do not currently operate under the law of Zion, however, and (like Nephi or Moroni) we can simply strive to live the law offered by Christ. I believe we are obliged to fight against institutional wickedness while at the same time striving to live Christ’s invitations that were covered in this episode. We can resist iniquity while also offering consolation, forgiveness and LOVE to individuals who may (like us) be in the bonds of iniquity. We must not attack individuals; we must not belittle, denigrate or offend. We MUST love our enemies, do good to them, bless them, pray for them. Throughout Christ’s ministry he focused almost exclusively on ‘the one’. His invitation is and always has been ‘come unto me’. Christ also decried the institution that turned hearts away from him. I believe our approach should be the same in both respects.
Q – all good points. I had been reflecting yesterday on what we said in the podcast and thinking of other aspects that we hadn’t mentioned. Hindsight after a recording is always so clear!
For example, “resist not evil” does not mean that when a group of KKK ride into town seeking to lynch some minorities, we let them. Nor does “go the second mile” mean we draw them a map to all the houses of interest, saying, “Sorry, I’m a Christian, I have to let them do whatever they want.”
Let’s use some analogies we can more easily relate to. If someone cuts me off in traffic and is threatening me, do I let him “get away with” his bad driving, or confront him there in traffic on principle? I think most of us would say it’s best to just turn the other cheek. Now if the guy that cut me off in traffic happens to match an Amber Alert and I see the kidnapped child in the car, do I turn the other cheek? No. In fact, I might even be justified ramming his car in that case. If a police officer pulls me over for a broken taillight and then illegally begins searching the contents of my trunk, should I lecture him on illegal search and seizure and physically resist him? Not wise. It’s best to let him violate my rights, rather than resist in a situation that can only escalate badly for me. Later, am I still free to file a complaint and demand an investigation and punishment? Yes, and I should.
I try to focus on our motivation. In the first instance with the bad driver, I’m focused on me and any confrontation is focused on gratifying my pride. In the second instance, I’m focused on the well-being of the child, and am willing to suffer harm to myself to defend someone else. That second case is very Christ-like. The first case, not at all.
Nephi and Captain Moroni are unique examples. As you pointed out, they were commanded directly by God to take that specific action. Just as when God told Abraham to sacrifice Jacob, when God is telling you what to do in that specific instance, preexisting general rules aren’t really on the table anymore. But when God hasn’t commanded me to Labanize someone, I don’t have the authority to unilaterally make that decision based on my own assessment of the situation. This gets back to rendering righteous judgement. Jesus was able to render righteous judgement. Interestingly though, sometimes he called them hypocrites, other times he simply paid their tribute money and sidestepped the confrontation. Until we can comprehend the hearts of others as Jesus did, we should consider carefully who we think “deserves” justice and who “deserves” mercy.
Again, in most of our lives, we won’t have a life or death situation like these. But we do have lesser situations every day. I suspect that the overwhelming majority of our interpersonal relations during the day fall into the “turn the other cheek category”.
As we move into relationships with institutions, some aspects remain the same. Even in politics, we can attack ideas without attacking individuals. We can and should use our peaceful voice to resist corrupt institutions. Keep in mind that during Jesus’ time, some of the Jews were fomenting rebellion against Rome and carrying out guerilla attacks against Roman soldiers. Jews effectively had no ability to protest the Roman institution, so Christ’s message of not resisting makes contextual sense. Today we have peaceful means to oppose institutions, and we aren’t violating Christian principles when we exercise those rights. But unless God commands us, firebombing the offices of those corrupt institutions isn’t what we’re supposed to be doing.
Your assessment about our conclusion being “simple/quick” is painfully true. So many of these topics are incredibly complex, and sometimes we fall into the trap of summarizing them as if it’s black and white. It’s a good reminder to choose our words carefully so it doesn’t come across that way.
Thank you for your reply MD. I hope my comment did not communicate that I was displeased with the episode. The work you and Searcher are doing is very appreciated and I acknowledge it puts you in a difficult position of trying to communicate a simple yet complex gospel succinctly. I also acknowledge I may have passion on topics that others may not. 🙂
It is relatively easy for people (myself included) to speak about applying the teachings of Christ in generalities. Like you (and hopefully all listeners), I believe that we must ‘treasure up the words of life’ continually, for where our treasure is, there will our heart be also (D/C 84:85, Matt 6:21). Like you said in the episode and in the comment above, we must focus on our heart and our true motivation.
Regarding resisting evil, I love what is found in Ether 8. After recounting the secret oaths and combination that led to the Jaredites destruction Moroni states:
“Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be. Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you;
We are commanded (just like Nephi and Moroni were) to ‘suffer not’ evil to get above us; the Lord commands us to awake to a sense of our awful situation of secret combinations (and whatever form they may take).
This didn’t sit well with me either. The example that Christ used was a personal one to us. If someone asks us for our cloak to given them our coat also. These seem to toe the line, but when we are slapped to offer the other cheek as well?? To give a more extreme example, if someone is violating your wife, you go and get your daughter as well. Seems like the last thing you would do in a situation like that. So I think there has to be a deeper or hidden meaning than what is in the surface. Just my two cents.
I agree that Christ’s teachings are personal; meant to save ‘the one’ and thereby save all.
As I have thought more about the scriptures referenced in this episode I have found myself reflecting on the laws of justice, mercy and grace (perhaps a future podcast episode topic?). What law will we strive to judge our righteous judgement by? God’s warning is “with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged”. We may be ‘justified’ in certain actions but that likely puts us under the law of justice. If we choose not to exact justice but to show mercy then we would be putting ourselves under the law of mercy. If we choose to offer something that is in no way deserved by another then we could be putting ourselves under the law of grace.
Remember the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18:21-35). The master showed mercy to his servant by forgiving a massive debt completely. The master was ‘justified’ in demanding the servant and his household to be sold and all that they had to pay the debt, but he chose to show mercy. That servant, however, went and demanded justice for a small debt owed him by another. He was ‘justified’ and chose not to show mercy. Because of the justice he demanded he was now under the law of justice himself. The master then rescinded the mercy he showed and justice was demanded of him.
We can choose the ‘better part’ and receive all that our master offers us. When teaching about the things that the law justified, Christ said that “it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things” (Matt 5:31 JST).
I currently believe that what I shared in my prior comments is true on an INSTITUTIONAL level, and defending others does seem to be a different situation for turning the other cheek. I also believe Christ’s teachings are, indeed, revolutionary and will conflict with the ‘natural man’. Is this perhaps why, at least in part, I felt conflicted when reflecting on the episode? There is perhaps more of the natural man in my thinking than I would like to admit…