Occasionally the Church publishes commentaries on writings not regarded as canonical that are produced by other churches which are deemed of spiritual interest. Although the New Covenant Church does not accept the LDS Doctrine & Covenants as scripture, it does recognise some portions of it to be inspired. The following article, which was produced in the old Independent Church, has been included in the LDS page as an illustration of how New Covenant Christians look upon the works of other churches. We believe in truth wherever it may be found. The following article is included in the LDS Page for our LDS, RLDS and other Restorationist readers.
In this passage, which is an extract from a letter written from Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith gives sound counsel in the matter of the conduct of the Priesthood. But the ethical principles he enumerates are applicable to all human relationships and are therefore worth considering in a wider context.
"Reprove betimes (immediately) with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death" (LDS D&C 121:43-44)
The human soul is incredibly fragile and sensitive. When happy, it desires only to lavish praise and affection on fellow souls. When hurt, it instinctively wants to withdraw from that pain, and may even lash out in self-defence.
Like begets like. Atmospheres are contagious. Put a human being in a loving environment and he will become loving. Put him in a hostile one and he will become hostile. People will be naturally attracted to loving environments but repelled by hostile ones.
As a child I remember a deep inner conflict of both wanting to be at home as well as wanting to run away from it. When there was peace and harmony there was no other place I wanted to be. But when there was contention and bitterness, I desired only to get far away. That was true at school also where I was a boarder, living most of my life there. These two places shaped my life and when I dream deep dreams, their symbols are usually of home or school.
In our social life we can usually choose our friends but at home we cannot choose our parents. Therefore at home we are often forced to live with atmospheres that we might otherwise wish to flee were we free to do so. Blessed is the home, through, to which the children, even after they are grown up, continually want to return! And blessed are the parents who made that home a place of refuge, peace and happiness.
Every parent knows that they must discipline their children, just as every Priesthood leader in the Church knows that he must occasionally discipline errant saints. No parent wants to alienate his children, no Priesthood holder his brother or sister. So how is one to discipline in such a way as to preserve trust and fellowship?
Joseph Smith gives two keys which are really restatements of what Jesus taught. The first is to discipline immediately -- without delay. The second is like the first: to show forth an increase of love immediately afterwards.
A harsh word, especially coming from someone you love, wounds terribly, even if it is deserved. It is like a sword to the heart. That sword is often necessary to bring us to a consciousness of sin, but it is not to be left in the heart where it may permanently wound. It must be removed, the heart bandaged, and then immediately healed with love.
How does this work in principle? Let us say that a child has been deliberately disobedient and is not listening. Such would likely be the occasion for a sharp word of warning and possibly the denial of a privilege or some other punishment like being sent to their room. Discipline must be intelligent -- it must teach. A child often needs to be sent away to think about a matter and to reach an independent conclusion as to his fault. Once that has been done he may be allowed to emerge from his room and resume his normal play. But is that the end?
For most parents it is. Once the child has understood its transgression and confessed it, the matter is often left at that. But that is not the end by any means. Understanding has been reached but there is still a sword in the heart -- the sword of the parent's rebuke, the sharp word, the apparent cold lack of love. And unless that sword is removed quickly, the child will likely repeat the same transgression again.
Our Father in Heaven, when He has chastised and punished us for wrong-doing, always shows forth an increase of love afterwards. The Holy Spirit descends on us and fills with joy following a genuine repentance. We are grateful to Him for His mercy and loving kindness. But is that the reaction of our children after we have disciplined them?
Not usually. They are, more often or not, glad to have got away with it having gone through a ritual of confession and showing understanding. The problem is that the understanding has not filtered down to the heart. And the reason it has not entered the heart is because the disciplining parent has left that heart closed.
A child must not only understand in his mind what is right and wrong but must be able to feel joy at being forgiven. It is here that an increase of love must be shown. A parent, having heard the child's confession, must immediately radiate joy -- smile, give him a hug, kiss him, show forth a happy voice. And such must be spontaneous, born out of a love of Christ. And that love of Christ can only manifest itself if the parent himself has experienced the miracle of God's forgiveness for sin in his own life.
It may well be that the parent is himself crippled and doesn't know how to give love to a repentant child because his own parents never showed forth that love to him. Such is indeed a terrible handicap. My own father never showed any emotion towards me except, on rare occasion, anger at wrong doing and I never knew what the love of a man was until I was born again in Christ and experienced that miracle of divine forgiveness.
Learning to discipline my children and, as a Priesthood leader, members in the Church, was not something therefore that came naturally to me. And for most of us coming out of the world, learning the formula Joseph Smith enunciated is not easy.
Therefore I want to convey this simple request: be strict in your discipline but remember, show forth an increase of love afterwards. If you don't, you will not only be damaging others but also yourself. Such, then, is a great responsibility. If you can't show an increase of love afterwards it would probably be better not to discipline at all for you will be perceived as cold, hard, and cruel even if you are right. And you will neither be loved nor respected for it.
"Love covers a multitude of sins", Paul said, and he knew what he was talking about. We are surrounded by sin all the time and it may well be tempting to try to take short cuts to root it out, whether in the home or in Church. Unfortunately, there are no short-cuts in the Gospel, save the love of Christ. To root sin out we must make sure that our judgment is always good and just, and to be good it must (1) be right, and (2) be accompanied by pure love. Too many people still live in the harshness of the old Law of Moses and have not discovered the mercy of the Law of Christ. At the same time, many wrongly suppose that the harshness of the old Law of Moses is done away with altogether and there is only mercy now. That is another error. Jesus came to complete the Law of Moses, not to destroy it. He came to bring the missing dimension, and that dimension was Love. Thus we complete judgment by disciplining with love. If we don't, then we are not in the Law of Christ at all, but under that terrible schoolmaster law that God imposed on Israel for disobedience and rebellion. And that is a step back indeed.
Once a parent or a Priesthood leader makes the decision to love, even if he can't always necessarily feel it and is convinced that he does not have it, God will supply it. Love, after all, is God's, not ours, for on our own we cannot love. As the scripture says, we love, only because Christ loved us first. God supplies, and He supplies abundantly. That is my testimony. It is the testimony of one who once felt unloved and did not know how to love others, even though he felt that deep love in his heart. God released that love in me, through Jesus Christ, and has never failed to multiply it when I have sought to be obedient to Gospel principle.
I pray that today, and from now on, you will always remember to "show forth an increase of love" when you have had to discipline. But not only after discipline, but always in all things. And as your love grows, you will not need to discipline so often, for love covers the urge of the lower man to rebell and sin. Once our lower, fallen self sees that there is something greater than his own hurt and loneliness, he will cease to fight and, like the lion, lie down peacefully with the lamb.