Gospel Principles #46: Final Judgement
Guest Post by ZD Eve
I might begin this lesson by making the point that judgment is a part of a life. We’re judged by the teachers who grade us, by the employers who hire and evaluate us, by the prospective spouses we date and the spouses we marry, by our parents and children and friends and neighbors—and our bishops and stake presidents. All of us pass judgment, and all of us undergo judgment.
I’d then ask the class to think of some of the ways we evaluate and judge each other, and list their answers on the board. Some possibilities:
Level of education
Country or region of origin
Number of children
Appearance of children
Public or private behavior of children
Cleanliness of house
Employment outside the home
Level of activity in the church
Word of Wisdom observance
Status of church calling
Mormon pedigree (pioneer ancestors? GA relations?)
I’d then contrast the way we judge and are judged in this life with the ways God judges us. All that finally matters to God is who we are. Of course, it’s necessary to have an appropriate concern for some of these externals—but it’s far more necessary to consider who we really are, in our heart of hearts.
1 Samuel 16:7: But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
I would emphasize that understanding what really matters about our lives—our character, our relationships with others—can be tremendously liberating, allowing us to the shed the burdens of harsh and unfair judgments of externals, both against ourselves and against others, and place the weightier matters (Matthew 23:23) of the gospel at the center of our being.
Possible Points of Discussion
We are accountable before God for our manner of life. Why is this so important? How does the knowledge that we are accountable for what we do, say, think, desire change the way we live? How can we recall that accountability in practical, daily ways that help us orient our lives toward God? How can we make recollection of that accountability and repentance a part of our daily lives?
(2) Doing and being.
There’s a Mormon tendency to focus on doing, sometimes doing more than we can really manage, and a tendency to feel that we are saved by our own sometimes frantic efforts. While what we do in this life is crucial, what are the limitations of this approach? Sometimes we see salvation as a checklist of tasks we must perform and traits we must systematically acquire through our own hard work. What’s wrong with thinking of salvation in this way? How can we move away from a checklist mentality and toward one of remembering, loving, and following Christ as the source of our salvation?
(If you decide to focus on this issue, you might consult Lynn G. Robbins’ talk, “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?” from April 2011 General Conference.)
(3) Perfection and perfectionism.
In the Sermon on the Mount, we are commanded to be perfect (Matt. 5:48, 3 Nephi 13:48). As Mormons we have an extremely lofty long-range vision of human potential, which can cause us either hope or despair. What does it mean to be perfect as God is perfect? What’s the difference between godly perfection and human perfectionism? (See 2 Cor. 12:9, Moroni 10:32). In what ways do we sometimes get stuck in perfectionism? How can we focus on possessing our souls in patience (Luke 21:19) and on working out our salvation with faith and trust in Christ?
(4) The desires of our hearts.
We learn from the scriptures that we are judged not only on our deeds, words, and thoughts (see the manual and Alma 12:14) but also “according to the desires of our hearts” (D&C 137:9; the entire chapter is relevant). Why is what we desire so important? Why isn’t it enough that we are judged on what we do? How can we come to desire goodness and righteousness?
One of the promises of the final judgment is that it will be a time when God’s perfect justice and perfect mercy will be manifest in a way that we cannot experience or understand in this life. How might the promise of perfect justice and perfect mercy help us to forgive those who hurt us? (See D&C 64:9–11).
(6) Judging others.
The Final Judgment is reserved to God alone; we can never fully know the circumstances of someone else’s life, her motives, or the state of her heart. What are the dangers of judging others? (Matt. 7:2, 3 Nephi 14:2). How can we resist the human tendency to apply a strict standard to others and a more lenient one to ourselves? How can we avoid making inappropriate judgments of others, especially judgments based on external factors like those listed above? (as in John 7:24). When we do need to make judgments of circumstances, how can we do so carefully and charitably?
(If you decide to focus on this issue, you might consult Dallin H. Oaks’ talk, “ ‘Judge Not’ and Judging,” from the August 1999 Ensign.)
This is one of those topics that can cause people to despair, so tread carefully. I would end the lesson by emphasizing that we cannot save ourselves, that all of us sin and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but that salvation is available to each of us through the grace and atonement of Christ, and that we can have immense hope in Christ’s merits and mercy (Ephesians 2:8, 2 Nephi 25:23, 2 Nephi 31:19) even as we recognize and struggle against the many moral failings we all have.
Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.