Friday, September 19, 2014

Joseph F. Smith on Forgiveness and the Limits of Tolerance

In the 1907 October Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Joseph F. Smith gave the following counsel in connection with the principle of forgiveness:

Let your light so shine that honest men will see your good works and will be led to glorify your Father who is in heaven. Keep away from the haunts of sin. While you may entertain in your hearts a feeling of love, of charity; a merciful feeling toward sinners, those that transgress the laws of God you do not have to take them into your bosom, nor condescend to their conduct and habits.

I feel in my heart to forgive all men in the broad sense that God requires of me to forgive all men, and I desire to love my neighbor as myself; and to this extent I bear no malice toward any of the children of my Father. But there are enemies of the work of the Lord, as there were enemies to the Son of God. There are those who speak only evil of the Latter-day Saints. There are those--and they abound largely in our midst, who will shut their eyes to every virtue and to every good thing connected with this latter-day work, and will pour out floods of falsehood and misrepresentation against the people of God. I forgive them for this. I leave them in the hands of the just judge. Let him deal with them as seemeth him good, but they are not and cannot become my bosom companions. I cannot condescend to that. While I would not harm a hair of their head, while I would not throw a straw in their path, to hinder them from turning from the error of their way to the light of truth; I would as soon think of taking a centipede or a scorpion or any poisonous reptile and putting it into my bosom, as I would think of becoming a companion or an associate of such a man. These are my sentiments, and I believe that they are correct.

If you can throw yourself in the way of the sinner to stop him in his downward course, and become an instrument in the hand of the Lord of turning him from the way of vice, iniquity, or crime, into the way of righteousness and uprightness, you are justified and that is demanded of you. If you can save a sinner from his wickedness, turn the wicked from the course of death that he is pursuing, to the way of life and salvation, you will save a soul from death, and you will have been an instrument in the hand of the Lord of turning the sinner unto righteousness, for which you will receive your reward.

Some of our good Latter-day Saints have become so exceedingly good (?) That they cannot tell the difference between a Saint of God, an honest man, and a son of Beelzebub, who has yielded himself absolutely to sin and wickedness. And they call that liberality, broadness of mind, exceeding love. I do not want to become so blinded with love for my enemies that I cannot discern between light and darkness, between truth and error, between good and evil; but I hope to live so that I shall have sufficient light in me to discern between error and truth, and to cast my lot on the side of truth and not on the side of error and darkness (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October 1907, 5-6. My emphasis added).

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