From Doctrine and Covenants 86:5-6
5 Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields;
6 But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
It seems easy to know what is the right thing to do. It seems easy to know who should be judged.
It is not.
It has always given me hope and reflection that the angels cry to God night and day to do what seems obvious to them, and God instead says to wait and to do something else.
From this I conclude that knowing what the right thing to do is is not always easy–especially when “the right thing” someone wants to do is to criticize or condemn or attack someone.
In that regards I recall that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, before his death in a concentration camp in WWII, wrote to other Christians:
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.””
That is a completely different way to look at others.
Looking at scripture and at Bonhoeffer also reminds me that waiting and patience are not always easy, but are so often right.
And that even the angels get it wrong.
What do you take away from the scripture?
It’s a nice insight. Q. Is God telling his angles that their faith is weak? Is God saying that if the angles had strong faith, then they could pluck up the tares without destroying the wheat?
Just as in Jesus’ parable of wheat and tares, it’s apparent that neither mortals nor angels are to judge, but that responsibility rests with God alone.
While we humans, including (especially?) those of us in religious institutions often have a default setting of coercion, criticism, and blaming, Jesus is pretty clear about loving both neighbor and enemy.
I like your take on the parable—refrain from judgment, only God knows who’s wheat and who’s a tare. But the parable is still based on this idea that some people are good and others bad. Some people are bound for heaven, others for hell. The angels are sadistically chomping at the bit to go gather up those sinners and send them off to damnation. It’s indicative of the kind of exclusivity and tribalism that, while definitely not unique to Christianity, has always plagued it.
And in congregations like Joseph Smith’s, it seems like this thinking created a bit of paranoia among the members, like the person next to you in the pews could be a tare in disguise. That seems to be the theme of the surrounding D&C section: if the church was enduring hardship, better to blame it on the existence of secret traitors among us, rather than poor decisions of the leadership (the section in question is effusive about how awesome the Priesthood lineage(?!) is).
So if the point of the parable is to help people be less judgmental, I don’t know that it’s entirely effective. That Boenhoffer quote, though, is breathtaking.
I disagree that truth is relative, and right and wrong is decided according to personal preference.
In essence, Marsh attempts to force the rest of society to choose the lesser of the two evils of narrative and neoconceptual Relativism. This has implied, paradoxically, that the presence of rules has no value. Nonsense.
Likewise, the neodialectic claims have implied that consciousness may be used to reinforce a false hierarchy, but only if reality is distinct from consciousness. That is clearly not the case.
In short, the attempt is nothing short of an effort to sublimate the sacred to the profane, typical of neodialectical conspiracists.
The JCS persona, often amusing, has altered his language today. Why aren’t the neodialectical conspiracists described as wearing sweat pants and crocs?
John Charitys don’t do dialects. They issue edicts and retreat, unable to endure the fray. Here he has spiced his usual flatulence w/ neodialectic etc but it’s still just fart gas. Plz ban this fool, he/she contributes nothing.
To quote Dr. Chris Oakley, “John Charity Spring is my favourite villain in fiction.” (http://www.cgoakley.org/jcspring.html)
Gilgamesh, I wasn’t endorsing relativism at all, which makes your link suddenly make a lot more sense.
Otherwise, why would reality be separate from consciousness rather than a product of it?
I’m sorry that is what was the take on the scripture.
Thank you everyone for the comments.
I recall reading a talk some time ago, given by Dallin H. Oaks in March 1998 on judging righteously.
First he distinguishes between final and intermediate judgments.
“ Thus, we must refrain from making final judgments on people because we lack the knowledge and the wisdom to do so. We would even apply the wrong standards. The world’s way is to judge competitively between winners and losers. The Lord’s way of final judgment will be to apply His perfect knowledge of the law a person has received and to judge on the basis of that person’s circumstances, motives, and actions throughout his or her entire life……. Even the Savior, during His mortal ministry, refrained from making final judgments.”
“ We all make judgments in choosing our friends, in choosing how we will spend our time and our money, and, of course, in choosing an eternal companion. Some of these intermediate judgments are surely among those the Savior referenced when He taught that “the weightier matters of the law” include judgment (Matt. 23:23).”
Other points he makes:
“ 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.”
“ Second, a righteous judgment will be guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest. “
“ 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.”
“ Fourth, we should, if possible, refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts.”
“ A fifth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment is that whenever possible we will refrain from judging people and only judge situations. “
“ Sixth, forgiveness is a companion principle to the commandment that in final judgments we judge not and in intermediate judgments we judge righteously. The Savior taught, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). In modern revelation the Lord has declared, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men”
“ Seventh, a final ingredient or principle of a righteous judgment is that it will apply righteous standards. If we apply unrighteous standards, our judgment will be unrighteous. By falling short of righteous standards, we place ourselves in jeopardy of being judged by incorrect or unrighteous standards ourselves. The fundamental scripture on the whole subject of not judging contains this warning: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”
Thanks, Lois, for including the full Oaks address. There’s a reason why I used to idolize him— his brainiac analysis of stuff (like issues involving the application of law and judgement) always appealed to me. Also his logic can be so pristine. In 1998, this could have been my favorite talk.
But I always revert to my own thinking eventually. and I have long believed that one of our primary objectives in this life is learning to judge— how to judge well. It’s inescapable, and certainly designed into the system so thoroughly that no one can avoid the pressure to make a ton of judgements, like all the time, daily. And combined with the randomness of luck/blessings or the lack thereof, and the randomness of tragedy, we live in a rich environment that offers plenty of opportunities to hone this skill.
I’m not Oaks with the sharp legal brain, also he and I are aging for better or worse, plus duty calls, so I’m not going to write up a very thorough analysis of what church culture does to discourage and derail our ability to develop wisdom in pursuing this skill. But I would start with the popular misinterpretation of scripture to mean we should refrain from all judgement, leaving it all up to the designated judges in Israel. And I would illuminate the terrible error of thinking we could actually do such a thing, and the compounding of that error to call that righteousness. Yeah, that’s where I’d go with my comment.
Thanks, Stephen, good OP.
Good post and comments. I’ve never understood why it’s necessary to judge another person at all unless in an interpersonal context. I think we can make judgements about who we’d like to hang out with (or not), who we do business with, etc., and I do think if we witness a crime, we should certainly report it, but I don’t understand why we would otherwise engage at all in the moral judgement of another person unless we are in a position of church authority over them, and even then we’ve got to be really careful. I’ve often wondered why we’re supposed to care at all about others’ supposed moral failings. If my neighbor smokes, so what? If a guy I knew robbed a bank and is now in jail, so what? What is that to me and why would I waste the energy it apparently takes to judge people? From the comments of some of the more self-righteous folks in my ward, it sounds like a full time job and I have about three minutes a day of free time and in those three minutes, I’d much prefer watching a snippet of Miami Vice or True Blood rather than obsessing over my neighbor’s behavior or moral standing. I think that’s really Oaks’s point in number 5. I can get behind that concept, but this notion of judging other people with “righteous judgement” just totally eludes me, particularly because, as the OP and many commenters have pointed out, that’s not really our job.
But what is one to do when a majority of Church members supported and voted for a presidential candidate who espoused values that I not only disagree with, but find unacceptable? How can my Church’s members be so out of line with my personal values. Am I being judgmental? Of course. But I suspect, I’m not alone. And I have to reassess my membership in the Church.
Some interaction with Buddhism years ago introduced me to the idea of not having an opinion on things, i.e., not judging at all. I mostly don’t succeed in doing this, but if I’m more aware of simply withholding an opinion about things in which I have no involvement, it’s quite liberating. Lugging all those irrelevant judgements around is simply exhausting.
I’m with Brother Sky. Of course I make all sorts of judgments every day, but mostly about how to spend my time and money. Judging other people is not only inappropriate, but apparently wastes a lot of time if you do it a la Elder Oaks methodology. And as noted by Brother Sky, most of that judging serves no purpose whatsoever.
Not that I haven’t been guilty of judging other people. But I’m more of a rookie than a pro.
MDearest I just downvoted you because apparently my thumb is too big. Wish there was a way to fix mistakes on voting mechanism. Makes me nuts when I screw this up, esp on a great comment!
I’ve gone through a change in which I’ve had to relearn how to judge. I was raised in a family that gave people the benefit of the doubt to a fault. We always assumed the best, made excuses for bad behavior, discounted our own feelings, smothered conflict, and otherwise enabled some really dysfunctional and cruel relationships to flourish and endure.
The foundation of righteous judgment is a healthy/normal view of your own worth. People who are self-righteous have an inflated view of their own worth for following rules, and so judge others as lesser. People whose self-worth has been crushed judge themselves to be unworthy of respect and so tolerate all sorts of bad treatment. Achieving self-worth rooted in equality (meaning my feelings/experiences/selfhood are as valid as anyone else’s) changed the way I interacted with people and led to me end some relationships. I suppose that the “intermediate judgment” that Pres Oaks talks about. I judged them enough to leave. And at the time, I assumed their damnation was sure. Now that I’ve processed the anger and pain, I shrug off the eternal destiny question and leave final judgment to the Lord.
The ‘wheat and tares’ scripture does encourage us to see the person we’re sitting next to at church as a threat. When talking about punishing sinners, religion-critical discourse seems to assume that the sinners are otherwise good people who just didn’t follow all the obsessive rules, and so punishment is unfair. But what about real sinners? Those who commit violent sexual offenses, who harm children, who mistreat workers to the point of causing death in order to maximize profit, who create and spread lies in order to destroy society. I’ve gotten to be much less of a bleeding heart about (people I’ve judged to be) serious criminals/sinners as I’ve gotten older. Some people cause harm and mayhem because they want to, not because they’re suffering and just waiting for a chance to repent. I’ve quit giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.
Well said Melinda.
p, when I do that, I just keep tapping the other thumb, the one I wanted, until it switches it. But it’s nice to know! Thank you.
Of course idly passing moral judgment on the neighbors is irrelevant, and a bad idea, a misuse of your moral agency, and, it appears, against Buddhism. When I claim that the imperative to make moral judgements is so common it’s practically the Prime Directive, as it were, the first thing that comes to mind is myself and then my family; the people I am close to, and the people I interact with. I don’t think the scripture is cautioning us to not be snobby about our neighbors. But I think I’d never make a good Buddhist because I embrace the examination and weighing and the need to think through all the moral stuff. I like judging. I know I’m not expressing this in dry scholarly terms, partly because that would be kind of a dodge for me. I’m pretty sure all of us, at any given time and place, have quite a shizshow of moral dilemmas and screw-ups on our hands, usually back-burnered so that we can do some performative something-or-other and procrastinate facing up to it.
I actually think that Buddhism, from what I understand, is very useful in navigating moral quandaries. I shouldn’t give in to my impulse to judge the whole of Buddhism to be a dodge based on my limited investigation. Should I? But I still think that if a Prime Directive exists, it’s the one Christ gave us, that appears to be two directives but really are so beautifully and appropriately enmeshed that it’s the same to me: Love the Lord and your Neighbor as Yourself. Executing all judgement (of yourself and your near ones) with a heart of love simply works. But when the heart is lacking is when we create a real mess. But not to worry! All the more opportunity to practice the skill!
Melinda, I upvoted your comment. It’s well said, and want you to know.
I’ve done that before too—accidentally selected the wrong vote.
You can correct an errant vote by repeatedly tapping on the correct vote—the one you want.
Did not know that; thx!
Melinda: I disagree with the usual Mormon interpretation that the Wheat and Tares parable invites judgment. If you actually read it, it does the exact opposite. Because wheat and tares are indistinguishable as plants, you cannot root up the tares without destroying the wheat crop. Only at the last day (final judgment) can the Lord gather both up at the same time and judge which is which. The only reason Mormons don’t get this is because Mormons LOVE to judge other Mormons and imagine they are great at it, even nominating themselves as judges in Israel. Also I’ve met very few Mormons who have read actual scriptures without just reading what GAs have told them, often erroneously, they mean.
I was just in a Catholic Church in Santorini where a poster on the wall proclaimed: “Do not define people as good or bad. We are all at once Wheat and Tares.”
@Angela I agree. In general I think it’s much more useful to look inward when applying parables. Since there’s only one me, applying this parable to myself as a call to a better way of living (as opposed to applying it to the world as a call to judge) tells me that I’m both wheat and tare and that a lot of my strengths are the opposite side of the same coin as my weaknesses. Kind of Jungian shadow-type stuff.
I’m late to the party on this post but enjoyed it & comments. The Bonhoeffer quote reminds me of a similar quote from Greg Boyle – that we need to stand in wonder, not judgment, of other people. Judgment kills wonder, curiosity, and love. Wonder fosters understanding and charity. (He’s specifically talking about gang members he works with and how they might seem like they’ve made some very bad choices and don’t have a lot going on … but when you learn more about the backgrounds they came from it’s amazing they are even alive.). I can’t remember if it’s from Tattoos on the Heart or Barking to the Choir but both are incredible books that underscore the importance of loving and accepting over judging.
@Angela – as with all parables, there are multiple layers of meaning. The wheat and tares can be read as a caution not to judge — after all, if wheat and tares look the same then we have no way to tell them apart. As Elisa pointed out, the charitable interpretation is to apply it to ourselves and acknowledge the connection between our strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve always come at the parable from a place of judgment, i.e., be careful about trusting someone who looks like ‘wheat’ because they might try to lead you astray. The idea that we can’t tell wheat and tares apart sounds a lot like being cautious of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Whom can we trust? There’s no way to know from appearances. The person you sit next to in Church might secretly be a ‘tare’ and if you try to listen to their doubts with compassion, then you might end up leaving the Church too. You see this play out with the way few people at Church want to engage with a person who has serious doubts and painful experiences that aren’t Church-sanctioned (like not enjoying temple attendance). If you’re a tare, you might contaminate the wheat.
Jesus tells the parable to caution against judging by appearances – someone who looks like ‘wheat’ might actually be a ‘tare’ and vice versa. Since we can’t see someone’s heart the way the Lord can, we aren’t qualified to judge. The moral of the story is that judgment belongs solely to the Lord, so we shouldn’t try to separate people out.
I guess I’m running up against my recently-developed judgmental nature here. I don’t want to be non-judgmental because that caused me a lot of damage. Christ warns against letting the wolves in with the sheep too, and throwing out the wolves is a judgment call. Perhaps I need to ponder on the difference between tares and wolves, and figure out why we tolerate tares and ban wolves. Is it that wolves cause actual harm and tares are just existing alongside wheat without damaging it? How does that work with the Lord’s caution just a few verses earlier (Matthew 13:22) that thorns and weeds can choke the good seed? Do tares cause damage or not?
@Stephen R. Marsh and @MDearest – thank you for your kind words.
Can I agree with Melinda about the toxicity of ‘being non-judgemental’ as a form of virtue signaling? Because I’ve been there too, and I’m relearning how to honestly judge (my own life mostly)
But my favorite takeaway is the inscription in the church in Santorini. We are both wheat and tares at the same time. (Thx Angela. That’s where honestly judging yourself will get you. )