I knew I could count on you people. My insanely wise friend Collette even resurrected her blog in order to respond to my questions, so you should probably go read what she said.
The talk from Elder Oaks that Bryce referred me to was very enlightening as well, so if you're interested in this subject, it's definitely worth a read.
And lastly, if you're interested but shorter on time, here are some snippets from the talk that I found most helpful.
"I have been puzzled that some scriptures command us not to
judge and others instruct us that we should judge and even tell us how to do
it. But as I have studied these passages I have become convinced that these
seemingly contradictory directions are consistent when we view them with the
perspective of eternity. The key is to understand that there are two kinds of
judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make, and intermediate
judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles.
Since mortals cannot suppose that they will be acting as
final judges at that future, sacred time, why did the Savior command that we
not judge final judgments? I believe this commandment was given because we
presume to make final judgments whenever we proclaim that any particular person
is going to hell (or to heaven) for a particular act or as of a particular
time. When we do this—and there is great temptation to do so—we hurt ourselves
and the person we pretend to judge.
The Prophet Joseph
Smith said: “While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning
the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole
of the human family
with a fatherly care and paternal regard; … He holds the reins of judgment in
His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, … ‘not according to
what they have not, but according to what they have,’ those who have lived
without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be
judged by that law”.
Even the Savior, during His mortal
ministry, refrained from making final judgments. We see this in the account of
the woman taken in adultery. After the crowd who intended to stone her had
departed, Jesus asked her about her accusers. “Hath no man condemned thee?” (John 8:10).
When she answered no, Jesus declared, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin
no more” (John
8:11). In this context the word condemn apparently refers to the final
judgment (see John
The Lord obviously did not justify
the woman’s sin. He simply told her that He did not condemn her—that is, He
would not pass final judgment on her at that time.
We must, of course, make judgments every day in the exercise
of our moral agency, but we must be careful that our judgments of people are
intermediate and not final. Thus, our Savior’s teachings contain many
commandments we cannot keep without making intermediate judgments of people:
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before
7:6); “Beware of false prophets. … Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15–16);
and “Go ye out from among the wicked” (D&C
First, a righteous judgment must, by
definition, be intermediate. It will refrain from declaring that a person has
been assured of exaltation or from dismissing a person as being irrevocably bound
for hellfire. It will refrain from declaring that a person has forfeited all
opportunity for exaltation or even all opportunity for a useful role in the
work of the Lord. The gospel is a gospel of hope, and none of us is authorized
to deny the power of the Atonement to bring about a cleansing of individual
and a reformation of life on appropriate conditions.
Second, a righteous judgment will be
guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or
Third, to be righteous, an
intermediate judgment must be within our stewardship. We should not presume to
exercise and act upon judgments that are outside our personal responsibilities.
Some time ago I attended an adult Sunday School class in
a small town in Utah. The subject was the sacrament, and the class was being
taught by the bishop. During class discussion a member asked, “What if you see
an unworthy person partaking of the sacrament? What do you do?” The bishop
answered, “You do nothing. I may need to do something.” That wise answer
illustrates my point about stewardship in judging.
Fourth, we should, if possible, refrain
from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts. In an essay titled
“Sitting in the Seat of Judgment,” the great essayist William George Jordan
reminded us that character cannot be judged as dress goods—by viewing a sample
yard to represent a whole bolt of cloth (see The Crown of Individuality ,
In another essay he wrote: “There is
but one quality necessary for the perfect understanding of character, one
quality that, if man have it, he may dare to judge—that is, omniscience. Most
people study character as a proofreader pores over a great poem: his ears are
dulled to the majesty and music of the lines, his eyes are darkened to the
magic imagination of the genius of the author; that proofreader is busy
watching for an inverted comma, a misspacing, or a wrong font letter. He has an
eye trained for the imperfections, the weaknesses. …
“We do not need to judge nearly so
much as we think we do. This is the age of snap judgments. … [We need] the
courage to say, ‘I don’t know. I am waiting further evidence. I must hear both
sides of the question.’ It is this suspended judgment that is the supreme form
A fifth principle of a righteous
intermediate judgment is that whenever possible we will refrain from judging
people and only judge situations. This is essential whenever we attempt to act
upon different standards than others with whom we must associate—at home, at
work, or in the community. We can set and act upon high standards for ourselves
or our homes without condemning those who do otherwise.
In a BYU devotional address,
Professor Catherine Corman Parry gave a memorable scriptural illustration of
the consequences of judging by the wrong standards. The scripture is familiar.
Martha received Jesus into her house and worked to provide for Him while her
sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His words.
“But Martha was cumbered about much
serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister
hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
“And Jesus answered and said unto
her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
“But one thing is needful: and Mary
hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40–42).
Professor Parry said: “The Lord
acknowledges Martha’s care: ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled
about many things’ (Luke 10:41).
Then he delivers the gentle but clear rebuke. But the rebuke would not have
come had Martha not prompted it. The Lord did not go into the kitchen and tell
Martha to stop cooking and come listen. Apparently he was content to let her
serve him however she cared to, until she judged another person’s service:
‘Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her
therefore that she help me’ (Luke 10:40).
Martha’s self-importance, expressed through her judgment of her sister,
occasioned the Lord’s rebuke, not her busyness with the meal”.
“… While there are many things we must make judgments about,
the sins of another or the state of our own souls in comparison to others seems
not to be among them. … Our own sins, no matter how few or seemingly
insignificant, disqualify us as judges of other people’s sins”
What does it mean to judge, or refrain from judging, others? When you make a deliberate effort "not to judge", what does that look like?
This is something that I realized I've always been kind of confused about, and I think that confusion needs to be resolved before I can make any progress in overcoming this fault.
For instance, if I'm trying not to judge others, does that mean I don't have any opinion on the actions of others?
Does it mean that while I may have an initial reaction to the actions of others, I must always be sure to remind myself that I don't know the whole story, and therefore have no right to make any real judgments?
Am I allowed to judge when the actions of others affect me?
If someone breaks into my house, kills my dog and eats all my otter pops, I'm pretty sure I'm not only going to have an opinion about these events, but I'm going to have an opinion about the person who did it. Should I wait to hear about this person's life history and the circumstances surrounding the event before I make that judgment? Or is it understood that I'm inevitably going to make a biased judgment at first, which will have to be corrected later?
What if a member of my ward gets up during testimony meeting one Sunday and bears what I believe to be a very irreverent, fairly offensive testimony (this may or may not have happened last Fast Sunday). Is it wrong for me to feel this way? I thought feelings were never wrong? How would a non-judgmental person handle this situation?
Insights are appreciated.
Also, good news:
See this impossibly adorable kid in the Hawaiian floral combo?
Well, he's all grown up now, and I get to marry him in TWELVE days.