“Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged”

D. Kelly Ogden, Andrew C. Skinner

The Lord’s people are commanded not to judge others. The danger in judging others is that we are never in possession of all the facts. We can never really know what is happening in others’ lives, in their homes, with their families or friends. Tragic, stressful, or anxiety-producing events may bring out negative, evil, or hateful reactions and words. If we knew and understood the background causes of such undesirable behavior or unkind words, we might feel more compassion towards a person who perpetrated or spoke such things.

What blessings, joy, and peace come as we avoid unrighteously judging others. If we do misjudge others, we can repent. If others misjudge us, we can forgive.

A danger in judging others is that our inclination is to judge them by their actions, whereas we would like to be judged by our intentions. It is wise to leave judgment to the great Judge of us all. He is in possession of all the facts and the intentions, and he is just and merciful.

In one sense we should be constantly judging what is good for us and what is not. We must be careful to judge what to read and what not to read, what to watch on TV and in movie theaters and what not to watch, what music we should listen to and what would be damaging to our spiritual sensitivities, what we should wear and what we should not wear, what we should eat or drink and what we should not eat or drink, and what we should say and what we should avoid saying.

Knowing that we should and must judge in some ways, the Lord has clarified the command: “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment” (Matthew 7:1, footnote a, from JST, Matthew 7:1–2; emphasis added). He has given us definitive guidelines on how to judge righteously. We may know with a perfect knowledge whether something is good for us or bad for us, as Moroni 7:15–17 teaches us (see commentary at Moroni 7:15–17).

An incentive to our judging righteously and compassionately is the warning that whatever measure of judgment we use on someone else, that same measure of judgment will be used on us (see also Alma 41:14–15; Mormon 8:19–20; Moroni 7:18; D&C 1:10).

A “mote” is a tiny splinter; a “beam” is a large board used in construction. We are quick to notice the tiny weaknesses and flaws in others and yet slow to recognize large debilities in ourselves.

This message is vividly rendered in the hymn “Let Each Man Learn to Know Himself”:

Let each man learn to know himself;
To gain that knowledge let him labor,
Improve those failings in himself
Which he condemns so in his neighbor.
How lenient our own faults we view,
And conscience’ voice adeptly smother,
Yet, oh, how harshly we review
The self-same failings in another!
And if you meet an erring one
Whose deeds are blamable and thoughtless,
Consider, ere you cast the stone,
If you yourself are pure and faultless.
Oh, list to that small voice within,
Whose whisperings oft make men confounded,
And trumpet not another’s sin;
You’d blush deep if your own were sounded.
And in self-judgment if you find
Your deeds to others’ are superior,
To you has Providence been kind,
As you should be to those inferior.
Example sheds a genial ray
Of light which men are apt to borrow,
So first improve yourself today
And then improve your friends tomorrow.51

Verse by Verse: The Book of Mormon: Vol. 2