Of Justice, Mercy, Equality, and Peace

IMG_1169_OriginalOur news is full of voices demanding equality and “justice for all.” With a deep love for my country, and with empathy for those who also declare injustices, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Which of all these parties is right?’

This morning during my personal study I came across the words of Elder James R. Rasband who spoke on the Doctrine of Christ during the April 2020 General Conference:

“One thought has come again and again—without the Book of Mormon and its clarity about the Doctrine of Christ and His atoning sacrifice, where would I turn for peace?”

Peace is what I long for right now. Peace from riotous voices. Peace from the demands to erase history. Peace from the clarion that we live in an oppressive nation. Peace from raging pandemics and contradicting solutions. Peace from oppressive dictators around the globe.

And at the same time I truly desire justice for all. In this tumultuous world, can I find both?

Justice through Christ

Elder J. Rasband explained that we feel true peace when we fully understand that “Christ’s merciful sacrifice fulfills all the demands of justice.” In other words, believing in Christ provides the assurance that all will eventually receive justice.

When seemingly finite efforts to ensure that “all men are created equal” fail, we can trust that justice will be served through Christ. This understanding brings peace to my soul.

President Boyd K. Packer taught, “restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ” (November 1995 Ensign). Yes, true justice comes through Christ.

But there’s more. This same Savior also provides mercy and equality.

Mercy and Equality through Christ

Twenty-five years ago, as a full-time missionary in Japan, I often shared the “Plan of Salvation” or “Plan of Happiness” with friends and investigators. But I didn’t realize until recently that this plan is also called the “Plan of Mercy” (Alma 42:15).

The message that missionaries share with the earth is truly a message of mercy—the exact tidings the world is clamoring for.

As Alma the Younger learned during the time when his soul was “wracked with torment,” the Atonement of Christ not only provided him a personal path of mercy (through repentance), it also provided that same mercy to those he had wronged.

Wait, what? Yes… the Lord’s mercy was offered to Alma–the perpetrator, and to his victims: those who didn’t readily have justice or mercy in their earthly plight, thus equalizing the playing field.

Decades before Alma, King Benjamin also testified of this same principle: that the Plan guarantees mercy to those who repent and those born without opportunity, or freedom, or liberty, or light (Mosiah 3).

In other words, Christ’s gift of mercy naturally ensures equality. The two are intertwined.

And there’s more. This mercy/equality combo allows us to freely exercise the Father’s gift of agency. The opportunity to choose is the highest form of freedom. The founding father’s understood this principle: freedom comes from God.

Yes, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, through its guarantee of mercy and equality, effectually gives all mankind a chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

One Nation Under God

Two hundred years ago the United States of America was founded upon the teachings of Jesus Christ, with a recognition that God—rather than a mortal monarch—is the King of the land. This declaration makes America a unique nation. First, because this divine acknowledgment effectually offers justice and mercy and equality to its citizens. And second, because no other country in the history of the world was founded upon these divine acknowledgements. Instead, dynasties and kingdoms have been established upon the whims and rule of mortal men—who make the laws and declare themselves king by birthright or by force.

But recognizing Christ as our Lord actually makes America the most just—and most merciful and most equal—land on earth. While these blessings are certainly tied to the righteousness of the judges, congressmen, and presidents elected by the people; their appointment to serve in a Nation under God still places them eons ahead of other governments. This type of rule has kept America thriving for over 200 years, longer than any other country.

What is our role?

But now, internal strife and external dictators threaten our nation. What is the answer? To return to our foundations of God and Christ as King.

As Church members, we cannot make everyone equal and we cannot right every injustice of our society; however, we can do our best to teach those in our sphere of influence the Doctrine of Christ, which is full of liberty-strewn pathways and freedom for all.

Elder Rasband clarified that “To ensure a righteous judgment, the Savior will clear away the underbrush of ignorance and the painful thorns of hurt caused by others.”

If this is true, then sharing the message and Doctrine of Christ must be the highest priority of disciples and patriots today. In fact, sharing His Gospel can have a greater effect upon the injustices of our nation and of the world than any rally, op-ed, or argument.

Again, sharing this message of hope through the gospel—missionary work—is our most effective tool to fight injustice and make the world—and our nation—right.

And, those who receive this message of hope don’t necessarily need to be American citizens to enjoy the light and liberty the gospel provides. This principle became clear to me when a young Japanese investigator started studying the Doctrine of Christ with us. During the weeks and months of our friendship, I observed her otherwise meaningless life take on new meaning. It was thrilling to watch her find liberating vistas of hope, light, and freedom as she accepted the Gospel.

In a sense, the Gospel of Jesus Christ effectually bestows the blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness upon individuals around the world.

Law and Lawlessness

Additionally, truly understanding the Doctrine of Christ provides a natural caution to those of us who take up the cause of justice for others.

While the Gospel does provide light and liberty to all who accept these gifts, it does not validate a lawless world. Indeed, the Lord’s Kingdom—and the Doctrine of Christ—is centered and built upon the Law of God—a foundation necessary for any freedom-seeking people.

Calling for freedom and justice through Christ is also declaring a commitment to live by His Law; and, in the admonition of the 11th Article of Faith, a commitment to live by the laws of the land. True freedom is not a free for all, and raising our voices in a clarion call for equality is inextricably tied to righteousness—both our individual righteousness and that of those we seek to justify.

Additionally, in our meaningful interactions and conversations and advocacy for change we should ask, “What would Jesus Christ do?”

He would obey the laws of the land. He would listen to all who feel oppressed. He would not respond with violence or damage. He would never look at past mistakes to define a person. He is always and forever looking at how we move forward better than we were.

The Great Mediator

Yes, equality comes through Jesus Christ, the great Mediator, who provides a path of mercy so all are “free to choose liberty and eternal life…” (2 Nephi 2:27). And when those freedoms are limited through imperfect circumstances, we can rest assured that justice will be served through that same Savior.

As Joseph Smith taught, “While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with fatherly care and paternal regard. He will judge them, ‘not according to what they have not, but according to what they have’; those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, those who have a law, will be judged by that law…and…we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 404).

Learn, Live, Declare

Where in this world of turmoil do justice, mercy, equality and peace meet? In Jesus Christ.

I love the words of Rudyard Kipling:

The tumult and the shouting dies; The Captains and the Kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice, An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget!

And in an eerie echo of our time Kipling continues,

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Gentiles use, Or lesser breeds without the Law—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget!

In a day when many (perhaps our own, included) “wild tongues” are loosed “without Thee in awe,” we can quiet the shouting and tumult around us through learning, living and declaring the Doctrine of Christ.

The Lord’s plan of happiness, of justice, and of mercy, is the true anecdote to the turmoil around us. There is, indeed, Peace in Christ.

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