Moroni was the man. You want to know if something is good or bad? He gave it to us straight–undiluted. He said, “Dude, knowing right from wrong is stinkin’ simple. Plain as day” (paraphrasing).
Okay, so he really said,
It is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
Meh, basically the same thing.
But is it really that simple? Plain as day? What about when your friends at school take the Lord’s name in vain? Is that right?
“Well,” you might respond, “it’s not right for me to take His name in vain, but it’s my friends. I can’t control what they say. ‘Judge not,’ remember? That’s what Jesus said!”
Touché. Jesus did say that. And you’re right. You don’t need to treat your friends like scum, or heathens, or kickable garden gnomes… That would go against the Lord’s teaching to love one another. But if you’re going to quote Jesus, at least quote Him all the way. If you look at the inspired translation of that verse, we see that what He really said was, “Judge not unrighteously, but judge righteous judgement.”
But what about saying it yourself, just a little, to show your friends that you really are sincerely not judging them?
“It’s not like I say it at home!” you might say. “I don’t even really like saying it–it’s just for the benefit of my friends!”
“Hey! You agreed that judging isn’t good. Don’t judge me either!”
Okay, wait. First off, you’re just a vague hypothetical person, not the real thing…
Keep in mind, when I say “you” I really mean my evil twin.
Okay, more like, devils advocate alternate ego. And second, remember that it’s right and wrong that we’re talking about. If I neglect to teach the principle, for fear of offending you, I may be held accountable for keeping my trap shut. Jacob in the Book of Mormon talked about “answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence.”
Now admittedly, I’m not your leader. I’m just some awesome dude on the Internet…
“Pride goeth before the fall, brother.”
Okay, just some dude (just saying…)
But still, if you’re ever tempted to get after your leaders for being “judgmental” towards your choices, remember that your leaders and parents are called as judges.
Anyway, we’re getting totally off topic.
The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing 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 may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:16-17)
So if something invites you to do good, it’s good, and invites you to do evil, it’s evil? That’s it?
Not exactly. Read the whole verse. (err… the whole verses… uh, both verses, wholly).
Everything that invites you to do good, and persuades to believe in Christ, is sent from God. Everything that persuades you to do evil, to believe not in Christ, and to deny him, and serve not God, is evil.
So if it invites you to do good and persuades you to believe in Christ, it’s good. If it invites you to do evil and deny God, it’s evil. It’s that simple.
“But wait…” you might say, “What about Batman? He doesn’t tell me to believe in God, but He’s not evil!”
Ah, and this is the acid test. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where I stop reciting useless cliches and get back to the lesson. Obviously batman (correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t seen the new movies. I remember him in the grey and purple suit punching the bad guys with a flashing “POW” across the screen) doesn’t persuade us to do evil, and deny God. Batman doesn’t try to get us to stop serving God. So he’s not evil.
But don’t stop there. Does batman persuade to believe in Christ?
Does he invite and entice us to do good, and to serve God?
“Maybe not, but he still, well… fights bad guys…”
But he doesn’t entice us to serve God. So the consensus? Is Batman good or bad? And the correct answer is: I don’t know. Like, maybe, neither?
“BUT HE FIGHTS BAD GUYS!”
Look, first off, batman isn’t real. Second, a lot of things can’t be blanketed as all right or all evil.
“Right, don’t judge.”
No… remember? Judge righteous judgement. So if I should be reading my scriptures, but I’m watching Batman instead…
“Wait, but what if you’re tempted to go to, I don’t know, an alcohol party, and instead of giving in to the temptation, you decide to watch Batman instead? Eh? Eh?”
“Okay, beer party, whatever. Batman is obviously good now, right?”
He could be.
“Could be? He’s keeping you from a beer party! And that’s good!”
True. It is.
“Right. So Batman is good.”
He could be.
“Why must you be so wishy washy about this? You acknowledge that it’s good that he’s keeping you from a beer party, right?”
“So what ‘could’ be bad about that?”
I didn’t say that was bad. I’m just avoiding making the blanket statement that Batman is all good.
“We’re not talking about blankets! We’re talking about good guys and bad guys. Batman is a good guy!”
But if you spent every day watching Batman, instead of doing your duties as a husband, father, and priesthood holder, that would be bad. So going back to the language thing, if I start taking the Lord’s name in vain because I want to convince my friends that I don’t judge them, that’s bad.
“So judging people is good now?”
Oh, bother. Here we go again. All I’m saying is that if a choice leads us to do good, and believe in God, and follow Him, it’s a good choice. If a choice leads us to deny God, or to not serve Him, then it’s evil.
“But didn’t Moroni say that first?”
Yes. Yes he did. And he was right. And it really is that simple. Read the rest of Moroni 7. If we’re basing all our decisions on the fact that they’re not evil, we may neglect making some good choices that would help us follow the Savior.
“So what about Spider Man?”
Ugh… I think we’re done.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Chas Hathaway is the author of the books Scripture Study Made Awesome, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with Dating? and Giraffe Tracks. Learn more at chashathaway.com. Please participate in the conversation by adding comments and sharing with friends on the web!
Gospel Living Made Awesome is not an official work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If Chas says something stupid, it's his own fault.