My dear brothers and sisters, students, faculty and others who are assembled here, it is a wonderful privilege to come and meet with you. As I look, President Richards, over the group that is assembled, I am sure that we can all say that we look forward to the time when we have an appropriate assembly hall or auditorium to accommodate these wonderful students.
Brothers and sisters, I appreciate President Richards’ introduction, and more specifically the fact that you have pens to write down what you may be impressed to write down. The topic that I shall treat today is not one of my choosing. It’s one that I was given. And I was not given it as an assignment; rather, I was given it the way you will be given things during the course of our time together. Please take note of whatever impressions or whisperings of the Holy Spirit that come to you.
As I look over this student body, I ask myself, “Why was I given this subject?” But I know that I was, and I pray to God that His Holy Spirit will help us all share in that which He would have us receive.
Some eleven years ago, I spoke to a graduating class of this great institution and shared some thoughts which I would like to share with you today. In the process of obtaining your education at LDS Business College, I hope you have not overlooked the unique character of the school itself. There would be a gaping hole if your graduation represented only classrooms, lectures, tests, studies, grades and diplomas. Hopefully, each of you has a treasured appreciation for this institution, and the imprimatur it places upon you.
Officially established on November 15, 1886, LDS Business College has spanned 123 years from the western frontier to contemporary frontiers. Twelve men at the helm as principals or presidents have shaped a course of study that began with grades 7 and 8, moved to a high school curricula, and culminated in the fully accredited, two-year college that we enjoy today. But the curriculum of the LDS Business College has not focused on training and “book learning” alone. From the beginning, the aim has been to school the entire person, the spirit as well as the mind. I quote now from an article in the Deseret News reporting that Dr. Karl G. Maeser told the 84 newly-enrolled students in the class of 1886 that—
“In order to insure success in their studies, the pupils would require, every day, two kinds of preparation. The first was familiarity with the lessons assigned for the day. This kind of preparation was required and was observable in the schools of the world; but the other was not. It consisted in possession of the Holy Spirit, obtained by prayer. Unless a pupil should have both of these preparations, his or her labors for the day will be a failure in this school.”
This approach to learning was underscored in the commencement exercises of 1900 when then-president Joshua Paul presented the school’s first motto: The Lord Is My Light.
President David O. McKay, the ninth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was instrumental in establishing this school on the firm footing it enjoys today. In 1961, LDS Business College was in financial distress. For years it had failed to meet expenses. Thought was being given to closing the school. But President McKay determined that this College should continue. As a renowned educator, he observed: “I look upon all recipients of true education as individuals and groups radiating an influence that makes less dense and ineffective the darkness of ignorance, of suspicion, of hatred, of bigotry, avarice and greed that continue to envelop in darkness the lives of men.”
As Prophet, President McKay also taught an educational concept pertinent to my message for you today. Said he: “‘Words do not convey meanings; they call them forth.’ I speak out of the context of my experience, and you listen out of the context of yours, and that is why communication is difficult.”
I learned the truthfulness of this statement as a young father of eight children. There were times in the rearing of our children when my wife or I would need to decide or judge if a son or daughter could attend an event, wear a certain style of clothing, “hang out” with a group of friends, or stay out beyond a certain time at night. As parents, we tried to do what was best for our children. Our children, on the other hand, did not always see it that way.
Exasperated by a decision, it was not uncommon to hear a son or daughter exclaim, “But why? You’re just being judgmental!” From our child’s point of view, we were being unduly restrictive and unfair. As an aside, our children are now grown and have families of their own. I must confess feeling a certain sense of justice when I observe similar exchanges between these grown children and their offspring, our grandchildren.
These experiences, however, caused me to wonder: What does it mean to judge righteously, kindly, appropriately, in a world that is relentlessly judgmental? I desire to explore this question and its answer with you today. At the outset, however, it will be helpful to keep a few definitions in mind. Hopefully, these will establish a common context for us in which “we . . . reason together.”
When I use the word judge, I mean to form a belief or a view or an opinion; to come to a conclusion or to decide about something.
When I speak of judgment, I am referring to a decision or opinion that is objective, wise, in harmony with the Spirit of Truth, and embodies good sense, discretion and prudence.
When I use the word judgmental, I mean the transforming of an opinion, belief or view into a decisive, irrevocable, moral declaration about a person, place or thing.
Okay, the context is set—now we’ll proceed. Making sound judgments in a world like ours is not for the faint hearted. But you can do it. You were prepared for it before the foundations of this world. Your preparation has gone on for a very long time—much longer than you appreciate. Your experiences at LDS Business College are furthering this preparation. Just remember, as my father would say, “This world is in a bad way.” It needs your help.
A secular milieu is engulfing peoples and nations. This is a time of intense focus on worldly things, [on] things that are not regarded as religious [or] sacred. All things are viewed in the context of the natural world.
Nurtured by such an environment, men and women become “proud, obsessed with self, overly competitive, reactionary, fiercely independent, driven by desires, appetites, [and] worldly acclaim. . . . In general, the natural man [of today acts as] an unredeemed creature, a being who walks . . . in the light of his own fire . . . acclimated to the nature of things about him, taking his cues and [his] bearings from a fallen world.”
In the meridian of time, the disciples asked Jesus about “the sign of [His second] coming, and of the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked.” Jesus answered: “Take heed that no man deceive you; for many shall come in my name, saying—I am Christ—and shall deceive many . . . ; And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many.”
In our secular world, false Christs often take the form of things being worshipped. While it is true that “untold millions have worshiped before the thrones of false Christs, . . . still others have made money, power, worldly learning, political preferment, or the gratification of sensual lusts their God.”
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “Carnal man has tended to transfer his trust in God to material things. Therefore, in all ages when men have fallen under the power of Satan and lost the faith, they have put in its place a hope in the ‘arm of flesh’ and in ‘gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know’—that is, in idols. . . . Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t …happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry.”
Hence, modern scripture says that many in the world “seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol.”
We also have an abundance of false prophets vying for our support. They include chief spokespersons for various ideas or causes. Some even predict or foretell what is going to happen. Their divergent opinions clamor for dominance; their issues are hotly contested among peoples and pundits. You need only turn on the television, or listen to the radio, or pick up a newspaper, and you see what is happening. It is against this backdrop that you are expected, even charged with the duty to render sound judgments.
The Lord speaks in scripture of two different types of judging. One we are commanded not to do—the other we are expected to do. Knowing and abiding by these differences help free us from bigotry, hypocrisy, indifference and indecision.
Judging That We Should Not Do
Judging that is final, fixed or immutable and focused on a person or persons is what we are commanded not to do. God reserves this right unto Himself. We read: “. . . man shall not . . .judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay.” The most familiar words given in this regard are: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall also be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Whenever a person judges another finally and immutably, he presumes to be as God with all the divine characteristics, perspectives, powers and truths that this implies. Such a person is wrongfully judgmental.
Furthermore, the world’s way is to judge competitively, that is winners over losers, wealthy over poor, the strong over the weak, and the beautiful over the ordinary. Such judgmental behavior among God’s people is also forbidden. Even our Lord, during His earthly ministry, avoided judging people in final, immutable ways. “I judge him not” said He, “for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” In your preparations here and hereafter, learn how not to judge or condemn or immutably characterize other people.
There was a woman taken in adultery who was brought before Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees bade the Christ to render a final judgment. But He would not condemn her. Such an act by Him, the Eternal Judge of us all, would have everlastingly removed from her the opportunity to repent, to be forgiven, and to receive the hope of once more being pure and “white as snow.” Such was not the purpose of His earthly ministry.
Confronted by their own guilt, her accusers faded away. Jesus asked, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.” Thereafter, to the Pharisees He added: “Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. Yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith observed: “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 views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes ‘His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’ He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, ‘according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil.’ . . . He will judge them, ‘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. . . And when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.” Therefore, let us not be a judgmental people.
Judging That We Should Do
We turn now to the kind of judging we are expected to do, the type that you are charged to do. Of this, Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught: “The scriptures require mortals to make . . .intermediate judgments. These . . . are essential to the exercise of personal moral agency. . . . During His mortal ministry the Savior made and acted upon many intermediate judgments, such as when He told the Samaritan woman of her sinful life, when He rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, and when He commented on the comparative merit of the offerings of the rich men and of the widow’s mite. . . . We must [also judge] every day in the exercise of our moral agency, but we must be careful that our judgments of people are intermediate and not final. . . .”
The commission to judge on this wise is given of the Lord. Said He: “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment.”
In our world, we must judge all of the time. We do so as we choose friends, select careers, work in our jobs, keep the commandments, cultivate our characters and find our eternal companions. Such judgments, and the actions that follow, determine in large measure what we become. But for judgments affecting people to be righteous, they must be intermediate, allowing for mid-course corrections, changes of behavior and enlargements of character. They are neither fixed nor immutable. They do not belittle nor condemn. Each righteous judgment adds to the nobility of its maker and to the hope of those affected by it.
An important key in fulfilling this charge is found in Alma’s words: “See that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things . . . 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. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored.”
Principles For Judging Righteously
You may know you are judging in the correct manner when the following principles are evident. First, righteous judgment is intermediate. It is focused on a situation rather than a person, is circumscribed by forgiveness and love. Remember the woman “taken in the very act” of adultery. Christ refused to condemn her. He focused on ridding her of sin, not ridding the kingdom of her. He taught, “Be ye . . . merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”
Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who worked among the poor in India, spoke this truth: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” People can and do change. This is one of the grand, sacred purposes available to mankind through the holy Atonement of Jesus the Christ.
Furthermore, one cannot love God “with . . . heart, . . . soul, and . . .mind” and condemn His spirit offspring. It is impossible. And we are not His disciples unless we “have love one to another.”
President Monson reminds us of “famed prison warden Clinton T. Duffy, who became the warden at California’s San Quentin Prison in 1940. When he was appointed, he began one of the most dramatic housecleaning jobs in penal history. He fired the brutish captain of guards and six of his lieutenants. He closed up a dungeon of airless, lightless, unfurnished, iron-door [clad] stone cells into which convicts were thrown as punishment for even the most trivial offenses. At the time he became warden, men were being fed from buckets. He installed a cafeteria and hired a dietitian. To the horror of his staff, he strolled, unarmed, into the prison yard and chatted with convicts. To their infinite surprise, he strolled out again. He established a broad program of vocational training. He was the first warden to let prisoners listen to radios in their cells. He encouraged athletics, inaugurated a prison newspaper to which he contributed a regular column and established the first prison chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous. In cleaning up San Quentin, he became one of the best-known, most admired prison administrators in U.S. penal history. But the most eloquent acclaim came from inside the walls, from the prisoners themselves, who truly respected him.
“A critic who knew of Warden Duffy’s efforts to rehabilitate the men said to him, ‘Don’t you know that leopards can’t change their spots?’ Responded Warden Duffy, ‘You should know that I don’t work with leopards. I work with men, and men change every day.’”
Second, righteous judgment is guided by the Spirit of the Lord, builds faith in Christ, and is not prompted by anger, revenge, jealousy or self-interest. Against the backdrop of our day, we read: “I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; . . . that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world. . . .
The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ has taken place, and because it has, you can judge righteously. You needn’t be confused by the “strife of words and. . . contest [of] opinions,” for “the Spirit of Christ is given unto every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. . . . But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; . . . . And now . . . seeing ye know the light by which ye may judge . . . see that ye do not judge wrongfully.”
Third, righteous judgment only occurs in the context of one’s appointed stewardship. Daily, we are presented with opportunities to judge. These range from the types of clothes a person should wear to the destiny of a nation according to particular politics or points of view. Many of these lie beyond our stewardship. To judge righteously, always know where your judging prerogatives begin and end and honor them.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks speaks of a time when he “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 [wise] bishop answered, ‘You do nothing. I may need to do something.’ That wise answer illustrates [the] point about stewardship in judging.”
In a recent address to the young women of the Church, President Monson reminded us of this principle. I quote from that address: “A friend told me of an experience she had many years ago when she was a teenager. In her ward was a young woman named Sandra who suffered an injury at birth, resulting in her being somewhat mentally handicapped. Sandra longed to be included with the other girls, but she looked handicapped. She acted handicapped. Her clothing was always ill fitting. She sometimes made inappropriate comments. Although Sandra attended their Mutual activities, it was always the responsibility of the teacher to keep her company and to try to make her feel welcome and valued, since the girls did not.
“Then something happened: a new girl of the same age moved into the ward. Nancy was a cute, redheaded, self-confident, popular girl who fit in easily. All the girls wanted to be her friend, but Nancy didn’t limit her friendships. In fact, she went out of her way to befriend Sandra and to make certain she always felt included in everything. Nancy seemed to genuinely like Sandra.
“Of course the other girls took note and began wondering why they hadn’t ever befriended Sandra. It now seemed not only acceptable but desirable. Eventually they began to realize what Nancy, by her example, was teaching them: that Sandra was a valuable daughter of our Heavenly Father, that she had a contribution to make, and that she deserved to be treated with love and kindness and positive attention.
“By the time Nancy and her family moved from the neighborhood a year or so later, Sandra was a permanent part of the group of young women. My friend said that from then on she and the other girls made certain no one was ever left out, regardless of what might make her different. A valuable, eternal lesson had been learned.” In this account, President Monson makes clear that there are boundaries to judging. Said he in summary: “My precious young sisters, I plead with you to have the courage to refrain from judging and criticizing those around you.”
Fourth, righteous judgment is founded upon fact, not conjecture, and is based on righteous standards rather than first impressions or mistaken ideas. It has been said, “It is a mighty thin pancake that does not have two sides.”
My mother was one of the finest women I have ever known. In 1922, as a seventeen-year-old young lady, she enrolled in the LDS High School, the predecessor of LDS Business College. She was a farm girl from a small town in southwestern Utah, the eldest of seven children. Her mother, my grandmother, suffered from ill health. In my early years, grandfather died and grandmother came to stay with us. Diabetes had robbed her of her short-term memory, but her long-term recall was as clear as could be. Not being able to remember what she had just said, grandmother would repeat, over-and-over again with great clarity, events of the past.
Because of this condition, she could become irritated about things of the moment, things being done for her. She would occasionally lash out verbally in criticism of my mother, her loving care giver. I could have become irritated or incensed. Others could have easily misjudged the character of my angel mother or my wonderful grandmother. Even though mother understood what was happening, those outbursts often stung and drew tears.
Through this, I learned a valuable lesson about not making snap judgments and I am grateful to my father for teaching me. He adored mother, his eternal companion, and was kind and attentive to grandmother. But when grandmother would launch into one of her diatribes about mother, I watched as father heartily agreed. Hearing this, grandmother would come instantly to the defense of her daughter, re-directing her displeasure at my father for being so ungrateful and unappreciative. “Why,” she would exclaim, “Margaret is one of the most wonderful, considerate daughters in the entire world!” Learn to suspend judging until all the facts are known.
To this point, the essayist William George Jordan reminds us: “There is but one quality necessary for the perfect understanding of character, one quality that, if man [has] it, he may dare to judge—that is omniscience. . . . 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 of charity.”
In conclusion, my dear brothers and sisters, judge righteously by bearing in mind these four things:
- Righteous judgment is intermediate, is focused on a situation rather than a person, is circumscribed by forgiveness and love;
- Righteous judgment is guided by the Spirit of the Lord, builds faith in Christ, and is not prompted by anger, revenge, jealousy or self-interest;
- Righteous judgment only occurs in the context of one’s appointed stewardship; and
- Righteous judgment is founded upon fact, not conjecture, and is based on righteous standards rather than first impressions or mistaken ideas.
As part of LDS Business College, study hard, learn well, and hearken to this counsel from our beloved Prophet: “There have been continuing signs that circumstances in the world aren’t necessarily as we would wish [them to be]. . . . It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future—or even fearful of what might come—if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives. . . . I’d like us to turn our thoughts and our attitudes away from the troubles around us and to focus instead on our blessings as members of the Church. . . .
“We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. However, we are told, ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.’
“How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we may face? Again from the scriptures: ‘Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.’
“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”
Make this world a better place as you become better yourselves. Study hard, learn all you can during your time here, and judge righteous judgments. Move forward with confidence in the future, in the great contributions you will make. Make this your personal motto: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Heavenly Father and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, are in charge of the affairs of this world. As a Latter-day Saint, you are in charge of your own destiny. There is no power on earth or in hell that can divert you from your divinely-decreed course if you decide you are going to pursue it. All you have to do is judge righteously and pursue it, and it will be real.
I bear you my witness that God lives in his heaven. I know that He is our Father, and that we are His offspring. He loves us, has been attentive to us for so very, very long. In those grand councils before the earth was even fashioned, you and I were assembled. We heard His words, we felt His love, and we rejoiced in the prospects of becoming like Him, of embracing that wonderful plan of exaltation that He outlined for us.
We reverenced His Holy Son, of whom I bear witness. He stood as the first of the Father’s spirit children. Jesus Christ became the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. He walked the dusty roads of Palestine. He taught the gospel of salvation and exaltation to His disciples. As malefactors strove to take away His life, He voluntarily gave it up and His body was laid in a tomb
It was He who rose in the glorious Resurrection. He appeared to the Eleven, and bade them to touch the wounds in His hands and in His feet, that they might know that it was not a spirit who stood before them, but it was the resurrected Christ. He appeared in the western hemisphere, spoke to those who dwelt here, and taught them of the things that he had declared in the areas surrounding Jerusalem.
In that sacred grove in 1820, it was He who appeared to the Prophet Joseph. It was He who said that men “draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” It was He who told Joseph that he would become a prophet to bring about the restoration of God’s kingdom here upon the earth. This same Christ who stood in that sacred grove and spoke to the Prophet Joseph was the Christ who knelt in Jerusalem and pled with Heavenly Father, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.,” When He entrusted Joseph Smith with the responsibility for the Restoration of the gospel, it was in literal fulfillment of that pleading that He had sent heavenward when He was among men as the mortal Messiah.
You and I have the duty to fulfill that supplication as He has outlined. This is not simply a church to which you belong. This institution is not simply an appendage to some wonderful and eleemosynary organization. This is the kingdom of God, established on the earth, and you are its citizens. We, as citizens of the kingdom of the living Christ, are expected to extend the kingdom of God until it reaches all corners of the earth.
Your preparation, here at this wonderful institution, is laying the foundation by which you can help in this grand undertaking—for you will grow older, believe it or not, and you will fall in love, and you will be married, and you will cradle little ones in your own arms, and you will tell them what they should or should not do. They will say to you, “But why? You’re just being judgmental,” and you will come to know what I came to know, that you need to reach out and shape the hearts and souls of those entrusted to your care. You should nurture them up in the admonition of God, that they might have witnesses of the truth so that when they arrive at that particular age, you might send them forth to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, that all might know that the kingdom of God is here and that the opportunity is before us to prepare this earth and all of its inhabitants for the Second Coming of Him who is our Lord, our great eternal Lawgiver, our Judge.
I bear you my witness of these eternal verities, and pray to God that He will watch over and protect you in this most sacred of endeavors in which you are engaged, in the holy name of Jesus the Christ, amen.