Justice and mercy are not independent principles. Justice is merciful when you think about it. It would not be just to be tested on a subject you never learned or to be tried for a crime you did not commit. In God’s infinite wisdom and justice, He prepared a perfect plan for our progression and happiness. As part of that plan we experience tests and trials within the sphere of our capabilities that are designed to stretch us and refine us, and prepare us for celestial glory in the mansions of our loving Heavenly Father.
Alma was a prophet in the Book of Mormon who understood justice and mercy very well. He felt the saving grace of the great Mediator of all mankind when he was “snatched” from sin (Mosiah 27). But, he also stood by and witnessed the martyrdom at Ammonihah (Alma 14), and declared, “therefore this life became a probationary state, a time to prepare to meet God” (Alma 12:24).
I love in Alma 29 when he is contemplating the justice of God and says, “Oh that I were an angel…that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Book of Mormon, Alma, Chapter 29). Wouldn’t it be great if we could all know and understand the gospel perfectly and be able to always act according to that knowledge?! Wouldn’t life be so much easier?
But Alma continues: “But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.
I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire…For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true” (Book of Mormon, Alma, Chapter 29).
Heavenly Father has in His infinite justice and mercy granted that we be free agents in directing the course of our lives and have the freedom to act rather than be acted upon.
I have been thinking about this principle a lot lately. I’ve been noticing a trend and a temptation to place some people above others and ourselves and attribute some hierarchy of righteousness or worthiness. Like a popularity thing where some are inferior to others based on their maturity and knowledge. I find that almost laughable if only I weren’t prone to do it myself. I’ve only recently been learning how to not compare my weaknesses to someone else’s strengths. I still need more practice.
The point is we are all on the same journey here in mortality. We are all treading the same course here together. We are not ahead of nor behind one another, we’re just experiencing different things at different times. That is why no calling in the church is more important than the others and why a Bishop can later be called into the primary. I was once in Relief Society presidencies and chairman of committees. Now I teach the Young Women and it is a great calling! None of us are ever going to be perfect in this life. We all have something to learn from each other. In the end I think we will all need each other to really be saved.
When Alma says we will learn the gospel in our own language, I wonder if it would also include learning it in our own spiritual language as well. Bear with me here. What one person considers a laborious trial, someone else might chuckle at their naïveté. I suggest we are all naive in one way or another. Some people can at least acknowledge it. That’s what humility is, and what becoming like a child means: to acknowledge God’s hand in everything and to never counsel Him but to take counsel from Him. We each receive that counsel differently. Some people need to hear a voice of thunder. Others need only listen to that Still, Small Voice. All of us are one or the other at different times and situations in life. Perhaps we’ll hear it in the temple, or during scripture study, or while listening to a talk, or a favorite uplifting song. Or maybe we’ll hear His voice through the voices of our children telling us what they need, or teaching us by their example. Whatever it is, it will come in a way we will individually understand because the Lord knows us each so well, He will deliver it to us that way.
That’s why the gospel is so perfect. The Atonement is both universal and individual. While the Savior died and lives again for all mankind to be saved, He also did it so that you and I might experience His redeeming love on a personal level. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you…I will…receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, also Doctrine and Covenants 98:18). I believe our Savior has prepared a place for everyone who heeds God’s counsel one way or another. You and I cannot judge what place that is or at what point in this eternal progression another is on.
It blows my mind when people label others or place other people into neat little categories like that is even possible. I learned in my personality class that we have a tendency to judge other people by attributing a personality characteristic to them rather than judge the situation they are in. For example, you see someone driving recklessly, cutting people off and speeding. What do you think of that person? Most people would have special names to call them, or they would say he is a careless driver. How many of you stop to think that person maybe had a rough day, or maybe they are in a hurry because of an emergency? Why do our behaviors in different situations mean we are always that way? Do you always trust your first impression of someone?
I have been experiencing deep depression for the last couple of years. For a while I thought I was over it but my situation hasn’t changed and I feel it creeping back in on me. I cannot seem to convince the people around me who didn’t know me before my depression that I am not this person. I want to be who I know I am but I cannot rise above the mire. I usually feel like I am wading through it all on my own and no one believes in me.
I don’t know why I have to experience this. I don’t know what the Lord has planned for me. Again, I know we all experience different trials at different times and situations. I don’t consider myself better than anyone if I experience different trials. I recently learned of a friend of mine whose baby perished after she was born. Another friend is suffering from a temporary infection that has her in constant pain. Others suffer with cancer, or the inability to bear children. Are their trials better or worse than mine? I don’t know. I just know that a loving Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us. He knows each of us. He is teaching us and preparing us to meet Him in a way that each of us is sensitive to and will understand in the language that has the greatest impact on us. The answer won’t always be in this lifetime. All we can do is pray for the enabling power of the Atonement to carry us and lift us above our own capacity to manage.
Related posts and websites:
“My New Mantra” http://wp.me/p1zyo4-q
“The Merciful Obtain Mercy” http://wp.me/p1zyo4-6l
“Overcoming Adversity – What is the purpose of trials?” http://wp.me/p1zyo4-3w