Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Judge Not

We were out of town visiting extended family for Christmas. We attended sacrament meeting in a ward where we knew a few people from having lived there over a decade ago. As you can guess, there was a mixture of a few people that we knew well, a few people we recognized but couldn't remember their names, some we weren't sure if they remembered us, and then plenty of new people.

While my wife was talking to one couple sitting right inside the chapel door, I was trying to get her to follow and get one of the few remaining soft benches before being relegated to the hard seats in the gym. I was holding the baby so I couldn't take off while she was still talking, since they were talking about the baby. We ended up sitting in the gym.

The part that was strange, however, wasn't the conversation with that couple. It also wasn't that we had to sit on hard chairs. I'm okay with the hard chairs, but it's simply easier to deal with kids in the confined space of a bench than in an open gym.

So where it got weird was the random people sitting next to the couple we were talking to. She's someone who we probably know but were having trouble placing. As we were showing off the baby to the couple we did know, the other lady out of nowhere starts commenting on the outfit the baby was dressed in. She was wearing a little Santa-esque outfit: satin red pants and matching flare waist top with a silver bow in the middle and silver shoes. She had a huge red bow on her head. To be fair, her car seat buckles probably covered up most of the bow on her top, the car seat head support may have partially blocked the huge bow (but no way it could have blocked all of it), she was wearing pants (at church, I know), and she has really short hair. To counter-counter-balance that, however, her carseat cover is very pink. So the lady we don't really remember and aren't talking to says something about "the things we do to our children" and then something about taking a picture of him and showing it to his fiance when he has one.

Of course we ignored and walked away and then stewed about it later. Him? How could she not see the huge bow (it has its own weather system) or the pink carseat cover? How dare she call our baby girl a boy? Even if we did dress our man-child in red satin and silver shoes, what business is it of yours?

Fast forward to after the sacrament. Several times during the talks and musical numbers, a teenage girl sitting in front of us, probably about 14 years old, leaves and comes back about 3 times. But it's not the fact that she can't sit in her seat for an hour that has me wondering; it was the length, or lack thereof, of her skirt. Her parents were turned around and looking at our new little one and commenting on how cute she was when she woke up and I picked her up during the sacrament, so obviously they have some sense of what's cute even if they don't have sense enough to comment on the cuteness until after the sacrament is over (or preferably the entire meeting). It all starts to come together as I begin judging them: talking during the sacrament, the father not wearing a white shirt, kids coming and going freely during the talks and music, daughter wearing inappropriate clothing...

Then it hit me. Judge not that ye be not judged. Just as I hadn't liked having a random sister judge what my daughter was wearing, I shouldn't be judging what that family was wearing or what their actions were during the meeting. I can think of all kinds of reasons that someone might wear slightly inappropriate clothing to church or have to get up and go several times during the meeting, and whether or not any of those applied was none of my business.

Of course, then I remembered Joseph Smith's correction. Judge not unrighteously. Maybe it is okay for me to judge; it was a very short skirt after all. But how do you know if you're judging righteously? As luck would have it, Elder Oaks gave a talk on this topic several years ago. He points out that there are two types of judgment: final judgment (which is reserved for God to make) and intermediate judgment (which we are commanded to make according to righteous principles). Of course he then gives us the righteous principles by which we may know if we are righteously judging:
  • Refrain from declaring that a person has been assured of exaltation or from dismissing a person as being irrevocably bound for hellfire, since that is a final judgment.
  • Judgment should be guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest (it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as the daylight is from the dark night...for behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil).
  • Judgment must be within our stewardship.
  • Refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts (perhaps thou shalt say: the man has brought upon himself his misery...whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent).
  • Whenever possible we will refrain from judging people and only judge situations.
  • Forgiveness is a companion principle to the commandment that in final judgments we judge not and in intermediate judgments we judge righteously (forgive, and ye shall be forgiven).
  • A final ingredient or principle of a righteous judgment is that it will apply righteous standards (with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again).
The easy part is I'm not the girl's father or YW leader, nor am I the family's Bishop or even home teacher. So, simply put, without going through all the other principles, it's not my stewardship, so it's none of my business.