In 3 Nephi 5–7, Christ elevates the Law of Moses by raising the expectation for human conduct. He moves from mere outward conduct into the inner soul of the man. One is not doing as he should if all he does is refrain from killing. Instead, he needs to remove anger. The prior obligation (“said by them of old”) focused only on one’s conduct; now the focus is one’s motivation. One can judge another based on conduct. They either do or do not do something. The conduct is observable and, therefore, capable of being judged. Now, however, Christ moves the battleground inside a person. It is now in the heart. On such terrain as that, man is incapable of knowing and, therefore, of judging.
With anything involving truth and rules of conduct, there are always some reasons to depart from the rule. Christ departed from this rule. First, however, it is necessary to know and understand the rule. The “judgment” which one is “in danger of” by being angry with one’s brother is not the brother’s anger, but God’s. The judgment of God is provoked by those who are angry with their brother. One is not to be angry with his brother because that is the beginning of a whole sequence of events, the culmination of which may be killing. Anger leads to abuse. It leads to discourtesy, dishonesty, and cheating. It justifies miserable conduct because man thinks it right to give offense to another. It corrodes relationships and makes society sick. If this can be prevented in the heart, it can heal society. All must refrain from letting offenses turn into anger, dealing with them inside the heart, showing forgiveness and compassion.1 The purpose of the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at Bountiful is not to equip man to judge others. It has no use for that. It is designed to change a person. “You need to become something different, something higher, something more holy. That will require you to reexamine your heart, your motivations, and your thoughts. It will require you to take offenses and deliberately lay them down without retaliation. When you do, you become someone who can live in peace with others. Living in peace with others is the rudimentary beginning of Zion. It will not culminate in a City set on the hilltop until there is a population worthy of dwelling in the high places, in peace, without poor among them. Christ’s sermon is not merely a description of what kind of person He is. It is a description of what kind of person will qualify to live with Him.”2
The context of judge not, that ye be not judged is framed by the statement that with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (3 Nephi 6:2). We do “judge” one another, because we must. But the judgment should err on the side of forgiving. It should err in favor of trusting motives to be pure and intent to be good. All should be generous with their gratitude, evaluations, and suppositions. When they know someone is misbehaving, they should make allowances for those shortcomings, forgive them before they ask, and impute no retribution because of the offensive conduct. “This does not make us better than another, it makes us whole. It allows the Lord to forgive us for our own, much greater offenses against Him. For when we are generous, we merit His Divine generosity. It is how we are healed. It is the means for our own salvation. Instead of thinking ourselves better than an offender, we should look upon them with gratitude, for they provide the means to obtain salvation — provided we give them forgiveness from all their offenses. This is why we should rejoice and be exceedingly glad. They enable us to obtain salvation by despitefully using us, as long as we measure them by the same standard that allows God to forgive us. What perfect symmetry: You measure to others using an instrument that will be used by God to measure back to you. So your ready forgiveness is how God will treat you. All those grudges can be replaced with petitions to God to forgive those who abused you. As you lay aside all those sins against you, committed by others, it will purge from you all your own sins. Straight and narrow indeed. But oddly appropriate and altogether within your control.”3
The defect in judging is the position from which one proceeds. Man is blind. He has too many subjective problems in his background — training, education, culture, presumptions, prejudices, “things we just know to be true,” ignorance, preoccupations, and impatience, all which interfere with perceptions. He acts on errors and reaches wrong conclusions. He measures with defective tools, then decides the matter from the wrong measure. Christ is reminding mankind that whenever he is inclined to correct another person, more often than not, he suffers from whatever defect he sees in others. That is why he noticed it. He sees it because it is really him. He is sensitive to the problem because he owns the problem. “First, whenever we see something amiss in another, start with the realization that we are seeing ourselves. Start inside. Ask, ‘Why does this bother me? Am I really seeing myself in a mirror?’ Then be grateful you saw another person display your problem. You now know what is wrong with you. Forgive them, fix you. The tendency to withhold patience is more often than not because their mote excites your notice through your own beam. A mote is a speck, a bit of sawdust. A beam is a board. Yours is the greater defect. For in you is not only the defect, but the tendency to judge others harshly. Both are wrong. When you have at last purged the defect, struggled to overcome and conquer the temptation or tendency, perhaps the price you pay to do so will make you humble enough to assist another. Not from the position as judge and condemner, but from the position of one who can help. When you ‘see clearly,’ then you may be able to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye. For now you see him as your brother. And in a kindly and affectionate manner you may act to reclaim him. Not as a judge, but as a brother. This is a continuing petition to make things better. But the only way you make them better is by starting inside. It is not for you to work on others, nor move outside your own range of defects, until you have first fixed what you lack. When you can proceed with charity to assist others to overcome what you have overcome yourself, then it is appropriate to approach your brother in kindness to help. Until then, stop judging and start removing beams from yourself.”4
1 “3 Nephi 12:21–22,” Oct. 11, 2010, blog post.
2 “3 Nephi 12:25–26,” Oct. 12, 2010, blog post.
3 “3 Nephi 14:1–2,” Oct. 26, 2010, blog post.
4 “3 Nephi 14:3–5,” Oct. 27, 2010, blog post.