The unclean thing?

I understand that people want to stick to their morals, but perhaps there is more to consider than the black and white of morality, or, perhaps, more accurately stated, perhaps morality embraces more than the black and the white.  To most people, morality is appropriately described as discernment between right and wrong, black and white.  If the world were so easily separated into two spheres, one white, and one black, and everyone agreed to choose their place and just stay there, how much easier morality would be.

But in the real world, there is no such clear separation of the world into a white and black sphere.  Many people remain undecided about what is right and wrong.  And even some who think they know what is right and what is wrong, will not commit themselves to do what is right.  And there are some few people who think they know right from wrong, and feel this justifies them in compelling that view on others.  But most people, I would think, would readily admit that they do not know unequivocally the precise line between black and white in all instances.  Some react to this by removing themselves as far as possible from even a remotely questionable wrong.  Others charge toward the grey area in hope that by closer inspection they will discern through the obscurity a distinct line nonetheless.  What is the proper way to deal with immorality in an imperfect world?

Let us consider Christ in this context.  He ate with sinners, he rendered to Ceasar what was Ceasar’s; the Pharisees who sought to discredit him always pointed to evidence of his association with these less pure things as evidence of his corruption.  His response to the Pharisees: “The whole need no physician.”  Ironically, as we know by Christ’s condemnation of what he saw as Pharisitic hypocrisy, Christ knew the Pharisees were not “whole”, but he also knew that they considered themselves “whole”, despite those flaws which were obvious to Christ.  Yes, the pharisees were among those men who hypocritically considered themselves “whole,” who would not touch or associate with any unclean thing.  Ironically, just as they were unwilling to reach out to the sinner, so, likewise, could Christ not reach out to them, because of their blind rejection of his humble righteousness.  These were beyond his help, their hypocrisy blinding them and causing them to revile against even the Son of God, the only one who could save them from their filthiness.  All because, in their minds, he was “filthy by association.”  Some might argue that Christ could associate with unclean things, because he was, after all perfect.  But do you really believe that men ought not to act where doubt remains?  If so, how could man do any good thing, or help anyone?  Isn’t this the same premise of the Pharisees, who shunned the sinner along with the sin, and forsook helping them to supposedly save their own soul?

So should we so fear a little smudge of soot while following the Master in a labor of love?  How else are we to make better things of those that are worse, or clean things out of that which is dirty?  Does not an attempt at these ends require some little bit of sacrifice and tolerance on our part in order to achieve them?

We should take care not to find ourselves so pure as to not touch the unclean thing.  Christ, the purest of all, no doubt could have remained in the white and lofty spheres of heaven and never associated himself with this dirty fallen world, but he chose instead to try to salvage what he could and redeem it into white cleanliness.  We know the filth he had to endure before he fulfilled his mission.  Are we greater than he?

Regulation: The Greatest of all Temptations

The greatest of all temptations is to eliminate evil by resistance, regulation, and compulsion, rather than by virtue; this is to become that which we seek to destroy.  To undertake the regulation of another is to engage in a form of slavery; it is to say that our brother lacks reason enough to be taught and persuaded, it is to lower him to the level of the irrational being and subject him to our “superior” judgment.  Is this not that very crime which we originally set out to destroy?  Do we not violate the dignity of our brother by such behavior?  Rather, we should place the dignity of our brother on level with our own, by trusting that he can be brought to choose good for himself, if given the opportunity, and by restraining ourselves from selfishly preempting his virtue.

But some think appealing to virtue is irrational.  But why would we say so?  Is it because we really believe our neighbor is incapable of virtue?  Or is it really because we find it too inconvenient and too demanding for us to commit ourselves to the greater cause?  It is so much easier to hire “peace” officers and create new rules and regulations.  Where is our patience, diligence, long-suffering, self-sacrifice, and love? Which approach will work best in the long run?  Which approach will require the least work in the long run?

Consider the following words of John Milton –famous poet and writer, and a strong advocate of Christian Virtue:

We ourselves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or gift, which is of Force: God therefore left him [Adam] free, set before him a provoking object, ever almost in his eyes herein consisted his merit, herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence.  They are not skillful considerers of human things, who imagine to remove sin by removing the matter of sin; for…though some part of it may for a time be withdrawn from some persons…yet the sin remains entire. Though ye take from a covetous man all his treasure, he has yet one jewel left, ye cannot bereave him of his covetousness. Banish all objects of lust, shut up all youth into the severest discipline that can be exercised in any hermitage, ye cannot make them chaste…Suppose we could expel sin by this means; look how much we thus expel of sin, so much we expel of virtue: for the matter of them both is the same; remove that, and ye remove them both alike. This justifies the high providence of God, who though he command us temperance, justice, continence, yet powers out before us even to a profuseness all desirable things, and gives us minds that can wander beyond all limit and satiety.


…God uses not to captivate under a perpetual childhood of prescription, but trusts him with the gift of reason to be his own chooser; there were but little work left for preaching, if law and compulsion should grow so fast upon those things which heretofore were governed only by exhortation.


Yet if these things [Regulations] be not resented seriously and timely by them who have the remedy in their power… such iron molds as these shall have authority to gnaw out the choicest [spirits] …the more sorrow will belong to that hapless race of men, whose misfortune it is to have understanding. Henceforth let no man care to learn, or care to be more then worldly wise; for certainly in higher matters to be ignorant and slothful, to be a common steadfast dunce will be the only pleasant life, and only in request….this obstructing violence [Regulation] meets for the most part with an event utterly opposite to the end which it drives at: instead of suppressing sects and schisms, it raises them and invests them with a reputation: The punishing of wits enhances their authority.


Were I the chooser, a dram of well-doing should be preferred before many times as much the forcible hindrance of evil-doing. For God sure esteems the growth and completing of one virtuous person, more then the restraint of ten vicious.


(Speaking on the Regulation of Books)

If it be true, that a wise man like a good refiner can gather gold out of the drossiest volume, and that a fool will be a fool with the best book (or without book), there is no reason that we should deprive a wise man of any advantage to his wisdom, while we seek to restrain from a fool, that which being restrained will be no hindrance to his folly.

What do the below words of Christ have to do with what John Milton is trying to explain?

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Give ve to him that asketh thee, and from him that would bborrow of thee turn not thou away.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt alove thy bneighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, aLove your benemies, cbless them that dcurse you, do egood to them that fhate you, and gpray for them which despitefully use you, and hpersecute you.

How wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

– Jesus Christ

The true pursuit of justice and righteousness will begin when come to understand why Christ counsels as he does in the above scriptures.  Then we will no longer say “let me pull out the mote that is in [your] eye, [while we ourselves see not] the beam that is in [our] own eye.”  If we truly have virtue, we will exercise patience, diligence, long-suffering, love unfeigned (and so forth), long before we resort to the Vice of Regulation.

Love and Law

The finest of friends must sometimes be stern sentinels, who will insist that we become what we have the power to become.  The “no” of such stern sentinels is more to be prized than a “yes” of others.

Spoken by Neal A. Maxwell, an leader in the LDS church.  Another LDS church leader (and former Utah Supreme Court Justice), Dallin H. Oaks, speaks on the relationship between God’s love and law:

The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love.

Some seem to value God’s love because of their hope that His love is so great and so unconditional that it will mercifully excuse them from obeying His laws.

Joseph Smith taught that God “institute[d] laws whereby [the spirits that He would send into the world] could have a privilege to advance like himself.” God’s love is so perfect that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is. For this reason, God’s anger and His wrath are not a contradiction of His love but an evidence of His love. Every parent knows that you can love a child totally and completely while still being creatively angry and disappointed at that child’s self-defeating behavior.

If a person understands the teachings of Jesus, he or she cannot reasonably conclude that our loving Heavenly Father or His divine Son believes that Their love supersedes Their commandments. Consider these examples.

When Jesus began His ministry, His first message was repentance.

When He exercised loving mercy by not condemning the woman taken in adultery, He nevertheless told her, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Jesus taught, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

“That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still” (D&C 88:35).

The above is from a talk Love and Law by Dallin H. Oaks, former Utah Supreme Court Justice, and leader in the LDS church.

See also this article, Is Love a Spectator or a Mover? and this article, Parenting, by Keri Tibbets.

Full text of Dallin H. Oaks Love and Law may be found here.  Also, see a related talk by Dallin H. Oaks, “Judge Not” and Judging.

Hypocrisy of Irreligion

Those who try hardest to fight philosophies that seek truth (truth-seeking philosophies) adopt philosophies such as “nothing matters” or “everything is relative” or “everything is good” or “we are environmentally controlled” philosophies.  But these run into the embarrassment of trying to explain why, if any of those things are true, they care so much about convincing everyone else to believe as they do (i.e. to believe their truth).  If nothing matters, or if everything is relative, or if everything is good, or if we are all merely products of uncontrollable environmental variables, then why try to persuade anybody else of anything?  Why not just accept that people arbitrarily believe other things?  If they try to persuade someone to believe as they do, doesn’t that suggest that something matters, that something is absolutely true, that their idea is better and others are worse, or that they think they can influence “environmentally controlled” individuals?   In other words, by the very act of opening their mouths to support their position they become something of the hypocrite.

Unfortunately, these supposedly “neutral” notions are really scapegoats from responsibility that, unfortunately, also result in a certain blindness that makes believers in these neutral philosophies hypocritically intolerant of the points of view of others.  Truth-seeking philosophies, on the other hand, while still critical of other points of view (particularly neutral ones), do not make themselves hypocrites thereby; Truth impels them to an opinion, and if they are humble, onward to greater understanding of that Truth, and if they are proud, to the same intolerance as “neutralists.”  But Neutralists must be proud, by definition, because they are blind to their own hypocrisy (judging right and wrong without realizing it and condemning others for doing the same), while Truth-seekers only may be proud, but will certainly progress much further in truth, knowledge and wisdom if they choose humility.  Yet Neutralists accuse Truth-seekers of pride, because Truth-seekers “actually believe they can know right from wrong” — but this is motivated I think more from their fear that if they fail in their argument, it will become apparent that they can no longer avoid responsibility for judging between right and wrong, better or worse, and this makes Neutralists very uncomfortable.


Please see this interesting video on “The Secular Church” by Neal A. Maxwell.

“Why, really why, do the disbelievers watch so intently what the believers are doing?  Surely there must be other things for the scorners to do, unless deep within their seething disinterest (i.e neutrality) there is interest (i.e. hypocritical judging of others).”

Download video here: The Secular Church – Neal A. Maxwell

Read full text here.  From A More Determined Discipleship, Elder Neal A. Maxwell,Of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, an address delivered at Brigham Young University, 10 October 1978.

True Pursuit versus False Pursuit

A careful analysis needs to be made in order to determine whether one’s pursuits are of a nature that lifts and builds a person and his surroundings toward becoming something greater (true pursuit), and that which merely seeks to regulate and manipulate people and their surroundings to become what we think it ought to be (false pursuit).

There are some telltale signs to discern whether someone is engaging in “true” pursuits or in “false” pursuits:

TRUE PURSUIT (Ideal Government):
1-The “pursuer” is himself reaching towards something greater, and INVITING others to participate WITH him or her.
2-This person preaches more of a procedural doctrine.
3-The fruits are a gradual increase in unity and prosperity.

FALSE PURSUIT (Bad Government; not really pursuit at all, just establishment):
1-The “establisher” has ceased seeking for greater ideas, believing that their understanding is complete enough to compel others who are of a lesser understanding…
2-The establisher preaches a doctrine of substantive law and enforcement.
3-The fruits are animosity, offense, pride, and division.

Transcendent Pursuit

If we do not look up to something greater than ourselves, then we will be confined to regulating and manipulating that which is beneath us.

What do you think?


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    Jared Clark      I will refer you to my post True Pursuit versus False Pursuit, also included below: It is a careful analysis that ...

Time Enough To Care

We have a responsibility to others in how we use our time.

Have we spent the time to know who we are, to discern the truth from a lie, the better from the worse, true love from easy-out acceptance? If we have not spent our time thus wisely, to form this foundational standard, how can we expect to truly judge how best to help our brother or sister – to truly govern our lives productively?

What do you think? 

How should we use our time in order to best serve our brothers and sisters?

Truly Progressive Society

What is important in individual life as well as in government is an attitude of ‘pursuit.’ We must value more seeking that which is above than regulating all that is beneath. Then we will be truly progressive as a society.

What do you think of the above?

What are examples of “regulating all that is beneath”?

What are examples of “seeking that which is above”?

Can or ought we to do both?  In what proportions and by what reasoning?

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    Transcendent Pursuit      [...] It is a careful analysis that needs to be made in order to determine whether one’s pursuits are of ...

Is Love a Spectator or a Mover?

Is Love a Spectator or a Mover?

Is Love an unconditional acceptance of all that is, or is it a hope and striving for all that could be?

Does Love acknowledge right and wrong, better and worse; does it judge?; and, if so, what role does judgment play?

If one feels compelled to expect more of themselves and others, are they acting out of love or pride?  How can you tell?


What do you think?

  • Do some believe Love is unconditional acceptance of everything?
  • How do such people behave in the world?  What is the result?
  • Will they accept someone who believes Love is NOT acceptance of everything?
  • Do some believe Love is the opposite of judgment, or that Love is non-judgment? 
  • How would they behave in the world?  Can they really avoid passing judgment? 
  • Do they judge as wrong those who think “Love requires me to judge between good and evil, and to promote the better course, for my own and others’ sakes”?
  • Do some believe Love can be both an unconditional love of a person, while also asking that person to be better than they are?  Is it possible for one to feel unconditional love from someone who is asking them to be better?

What do you think of the following quote?

“The finest of friends must sometimes be stern sentinels, who will insist that we become what we have the power to become.  The “no” of such stern sentinels is more to be prized than a “yes” of others.”

-Neal A. Maxwell

For some very interesting insights into these questions, please read the following articles:

Parenting, by Keri Tibbets

“Judge Not” or “Judge”

Love and Law






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    Time Enough To Care      [...] spent the time to know who we are, to discern the truth from a lie, the better from the ...

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