Since I have already disclosed my willingness to wear a triathlon singlet on this blog, and since I apparently see the world through a triathlon lens at the moment, it won’t surprise you if I share a few more thoughts that I’ve had recently. The good news is that what I want to talk about is not skin tight clothing, but the finish line – because it’s awesome (and the best part of any race).
For my first Ironman 70.3 that took place in May of this year, I trained using a 20-week program. For the 5 months leading up to the race I worked hard, and I visualized myself crossing the finish line. In looking back, I see that I had limited that visualization to maybe the last 2 or 3 steps and the actual crossing of the finish line. I did not once ever visualize the last quarter mile, or the entire ‘finish line chute’, and didn’t really have a plan for what to do when I encountered that amazing scene. So, naturally, I just ran past it all (missing most of it). Then, at the beginning of my full Ironman I had mentally planned on slowing down and enjoying my finish line (this last week), but since I am a very slow learner, I had a problem with actually doing it. I stopped for a second or two, but then took off again in order to finish.
This is important now, because it was only later (after I had finished both races), that I fully realized that my wife, my kids, and other family members who had travelled quite some way to come watch me finish (not to mention the hours that they waited there patiently in the heat) were all stationed about 50 feet from the finish line and only saw me for 5 or 6 seconds. As I approached the finish line, even though I knew that they would be there, and was happy to see them, I gave them a quick high 5 while I passed right on by so that I could finish the race. Later on, I wished I had spent a bit more time to ‘take in’ the scene, thank the crowd, and to really enjoy the moment – at least the last few hundred feet where the crowd is intense and the families are cheering on their athletes. But, my time was 10 or 15 seconds faster than it would have been had I done that right?
Often, and by often I mean pretty much every time, when I get to the book of Moroni I tend to speed up in order to cross the finish line in a flurry and check off another completed reading and tend to not notice the crowds of amazing doctrine and commentary lining the finish chute. In doing so, I fail to really enjoy the moment, which might somehow be better if instead of speeding up, I slowed down, I walked, I take a drink, I thank my family for coming, I hug them, I enjoy the crowd that only lines the finish line chute, and I really soak in the experience.
Recently, when I reached Moroni in the Book of Mormon and suddenly knew that I was so close to being done again that I (too) quickly read the entire book while sprinting to the finish line. Even while I was reading chapters 7-10, I knew that I was missing way too much good stuff. So, after I finished I went back to chapter 7 and crawled through the last few chapters over the next several days (a luxury you don’t get at an Ironman event).
The best part about that process, is what I learned. I gained a few particular insights which I had missed before, one in particular which led me to some additional material, which led me to even more learning. So, by slowing down and enjoying Moroni’s final contributions, I appreciated the finish line chute much more than in the past.
With that background, and the state of the world today with it’s social media, political commentary, news stories, and the immediacy of information, opinions, and demands for judgment, this is what I learned from Moroni – as directed to the “peaceable followers of Christ”1 (that’s us) as it relates to judging between good and evil; because we all know that there is good and there is evil and more importantly “it is given unto us to judge, that [we] may know good from evil.”2
I think we all realize that there are judgments (a.k.a. choices) that we need to make every day3, some big and some little, all of which are important, which means we should exercise great caution and always “take heed… that [we] do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.”4
Luckily, Moroni is not stingy on the details for how we are to judge righteously. The first two clues are that “the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” and that “every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ”.5 So, to recap what he teaches us:
- The spirit of Christ is given, or in other words – it is a gift. And;
- Everything that is good, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ
Naturally then, Moroni would like us to understand that the gift of the spirit will accompany every thing that is good (and by necessity will accompany nothing [literally no thing] that is bad).
In case we missed the first 2 clues on how we are to judge, he gives us another (keep in mind that they are a requirement to judging between good and evil (which is important);
- Ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ.6
- See that ye search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil.7
Moroni tells us that if we are to judge righteously or between good and evil we need to judge by the light of Christ after having searched diligently in that same light (which is a gift and which accompanies good things). I don’t think searching diligently in the light means anything less than strenuous effort and constant striving to have the spirit at all times.
All of our knowledge, our reason, or our perceptions or limited understanding are not even close to the criteria for proper judgment. If we elect (as we so often do) to judge ‘outside’ of The light based on our own views or opinions (or even what we assume or think are facts as we perceive them), we are prone to mistakes, assumptions and gross error. That is the warning that Moroni gives us, because if we opt to pass that type of judgment on others, that same judgment made ‘outside’ the light will be used on us. Scary right?
I for one do not want that type of limited judgment in the end. So, perhaps by giving everyone else the maximum benefit of doubt, and not passing limited judgment, or comparisons, I do myself a great service.
There is a parable that we are familiar with, but read with new light during this slow crawl through Moroni 7-10 (and it’s related ideas/talks); it’s about Martha and Mary, and it’s about every single one of us.
Luke, chapter 10, verses 38–42:
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Those of us with more of Martha than of Mary in us (as we suppose) have maybe once or twice felt that this rebuke from the Lord is a bit harsh. While we do not doubt the overriding importance of listening to the Lord, does the listening have to be done while we are making dinner preparations? Would it have hurt Mary to have joined us in serving, then we all could have sat down to hear the Lord together? Why, didn’t the Lord say something like: “You’re absolutely right, Martha. What are we thinking of to let you do all this work alone? We’ll all help, and by the way, that centerpiece looks lovely”?
What he did say is difficult to bear, but perhaps somewhat less difficult if we examine its context. First and foremost, the Lord (as he likes to do) acknowledges Martha’s care: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things” (v. 41). Then he delivers the gentle but clear rebuke. But the rebuke would not have come had Martha not prompted it. The Lord did not go into the kitchen and tell Martha to stop cooking and come listen. Apparently he was content to let her serve him however she cared to, until she judged another person’s service: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” (v. 40).
Martha’s self-importance, expressed through her judgment of her sister, occasioned the Lord’s rebuke, not her busyness with the meal.8
As we are cumbered about with our daily lives and our own sacrifices and sufferings for the Lord, we can take satisfaction in knowing that we are doing the best that we can, and that is absolutely all that matters. Nobody else’s contribution or sacrifices can or should be compared to ours, and if/when we start to observe their sacrifices or their efforts say (or think) “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister/brother hath left me to serve alone?” we can imagine the Lord saying to us “Mary, thou art careful and troubled about many things”, but you don’t need to be burdened with the judgment of anyone else’s offering to me.
We don’t need to appoint ourselves to be the judge, and we don’t need to demand that justice be administered for mistakes – even when they appear to be intentional or grievous. As we try to let those things go and worry about ourselves, we can hear the Lords voice say to us “by the way, you are welcome for that gift.”
1 Moroni 7:3
2 Moroni 7:15
3 I know what it says in Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, but that can’t logically or spiritually mean don’t ever judge anything ever, because in the very next verse it says “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again”. That sounds remarkably similar to Moroni 7:18 – which I will get to shortly (above).
4 Moroni 7:14
5 Moroni 7:16
6 Moroni 7:18
7 Moroni 7:19
8 This parable, and the commentary comes from “Simon, I Have Somewhat to Say unto Thee”: Judgment and Condemnation in the parables of Jesus” by Catherine Corman Parry. It was a BYU devotional speech from May 7, 1991. (https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/catherine-corman-parry_simon-somewhat-say-unto-thee-judgment-condemnation-parables-jesus/). I had never once realized or thought about that parable in the context of ‘judgment’. Her speech outlines not only this parable, but many others which are similarly fantastic. I recommend you read this speech. It is fantastic.