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{LDSL Blog} Exercising Judgment in Righteousness . . . and Love

A while back, when we ran our article about Jon Huntsman and the obsession with his level of faithfulness, one of our readers left a comment mentioning “intermediate judgment,” as discussed by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his talk “'Judge Not’ and Judging.” “We must, of course, make judgments every day in the exercise of our moral agency, but we must be careful that our judgments of people are intermediate and not final,” Elder Oaks says of these kinds of judgments. “We all make judgments in choosing our friends, in choosing how we will spend our time and our money, and, of course, in choosing an eternal companion.”

I remember hearing about the concept as a teenager from a leader and friend. He reminded me that the scriptures actually tell us to make righteous judgments—they are critical to our spiritual strength and well being. But I remember wondering how to carry out these judgments. The way in which we exercise these judgments must be carefully handled—or else it can come across the wrong way.

The issue of how to carefully execute judgmentcame up again when we found this recent article about one young woman’s negative interactions with the Mormon community in which she grew up. In her experience, the people around her didn’t seem “Christian,” and it left her with a negative view of Mormons and Mormonism—at least for a while.

These two things—Elder Oaks’s talk and the young woman’s personal essay—get to the heart of something I have long struggled to understand. I've always wondered where the line is for making these judgments (especially for our children) and loving one another regardless of personal choice. It seems this is precisely the problem of the people this woman came into contact with—they were too harsh in their judgments. Jesus himself was noted for the time he spent with sinners, so his example shows we shouldn’t ostracize people because of their choices.

But some amount of judging is necessary—I get that. We need to teach our children to choose good friends, date people with good standards, and we want to encourage them to date someone who they can marry in the temple. How do we teach them to make righteous judgments—sometimes about avoiding certain people—and still exhibit the Christlike love for which we want to be known?

Elder Oaks’s talk itself offers some great advice on how to make these sort of judgments, but he also includes some important caveats in deciding intermediate judgment that make it more difficult (for me, at least) to understand how it works on a day-to-day level.

What are your thoughts on how best to strike the balance between making good, “intermediate” judgments and still communicating love and respect to those who don’t keep your standards?

And how do you teach the concept to your children?
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