aAnd why beholdest thou the bmote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the cbeam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou ahypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
I return, today, to one of my most beloved idols. Beloved in the fact that it has been a part of every waking moment since I was born. Beloved in the fact that it was the same for my parents, and my parents parents. We’re going on several generations now, and we all know that false traditions never happen within my family (or yours) – it’s always in someone elses family that those false traditions manifest themselves. Remember, the application isn’t about how it effects me, but rather how it effects and manifests itself in your life.
I jest, but certainly there’s some truth in those statements. It’s much easier to acknowledge and witness faults in others – be it your spouse, friend, relative, church, business, etc. – than it is to witness in ourselves. Frequently, we’re impervious to just how deep the rabbit holes go in our own lives, and there may be a valuable lesson therein. Such was the experience I had today.
Christ, in giving one of his many great lessons (aren’t they all great, though?), discussed this in a well known scripture:
aAnd why beholdest thou the bmote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the cbeam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou ahypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Though this is well known, and even more ritualized than most scriptures, I thought I’d at least raise the Greek interpretations of two of the most important words in these verses. These words, mote and beam, aren’t terribly accurate descriptors in our modern day lexicon, or at least my lexicon. In truth, these words probably couldn’t be more different. Mote, for example, comes from the Greek word karphos, which means a “dry stalk” or “twig” and comes from the original Greek word karpho which means “to wither.” Little more than an inconsequential twig one could find in any field, growing nearly everywhere. Growing up in rural America, it wouldn’t be hard to walk into any random field and find a mote. Beam, by contrast, comes from the greek dokos, which literally means, “a beam” and originates from the idea of “holding up” (i.e. a beam of support, etc).
The visual you should be picturing is one of another person with a tiny, inconsequential twig poking out of his/eye, while you’re parading around with a beam whacking everyone upside the head as you walk around.
But, that’s not all, when you think of “eye” in this scripture, don’t think of your physical eyeball, but rather your “faculty of knowing,” or your “eyes of the mind.” It seems, therefore, that the message of this parable is one where we’re judging the beliefs, actions or personal quirks of another, when in reality our own quirks are much more important because Christ would change us (if we let Him), but doesn’t want to change another through us. The great lesson of religion is that God wants us to have a personal interaction with Him, not some other. When Adam was praying, after having been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, along pranced Satan and replied, “so, you want religion, do you?” It would seem, therefore, that religion is the bastardization of our personal relationship with God and Christ and, pray tell, who brought along that “religion”? Religion and creeds, therefore, as Joseph Smith stated, are those things which have prevented man from approaching Christ and the Father individually, instead forcing man to jump through hoops, observances, rituals, classes, advancements, seasoning, etc. Joseph stated it this way:
“I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further”; which I cannot subscribe to.”It makes me wonder if Joseph, or anyone in his situation of searching for the unadulterated truth, would receive the same answer today that he received in 1820, namely that all churches (yes, ALL of them) and creeds “[are] an abomination in his sight; that those professors [are] all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”
Jesus’ words on this subject ring loud and clear in the scriptures, if only we paid more attention to them. The Book of Luke contains one such instance of his words on this subject and teaches us a great lesson (that we haven’t yet come to grips with): “Woe unto you, alawyers! for ye have taken away the bkey of cknowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye dhindered.” Frequently we think this applies to others, that the “law-yers” or “pharisee” title couldn’t apply to us. Or, could it?
If we really want to come up “into the presence of God, and learn all things,” then we’d be wise to note and avoid those creeds which “set up stakes” and say (or infer, the result is the same), “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further.” The question arises…do we have any examples of this “no further” indoctrination today? In a discourse given by Joseph Smith on 13 August 1843, Smith discussed the importance of knowing what happened in the Grand Council prior to our coming to earth to gain a physical body. During that sermon, he stated that “it is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes & set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty.” Not only do we, within organizational religious structures, set up limits for others and what they can do, but in our personal lives we also limit ourselves in what we think God can do, or what God has already done or is doing for us. We limit what we believe because either we’re too scared, too jealous or too ignorant.
Hugh Nibley discussed this in one of his articles and stated:
“…the Latter-day Saints, who lean too far in the other direction, giving their young and old awards for zeal alone, zeal without knowledge-for sitting in endless meetings, for dedicated conformity and unlimited capacity for suffering boredom. We think it more commendable to get up at five a.m. to write a bad book than to get up at nine o’clock to write a good one; that is pure zeal that tends to breed a race of insufferable, self-righteous prigs, and barren minds. One has only to consider the present outpouring of “inspirational” books in the Church that bring little new in the way of knowledge: truisms and platitudes, kitsch and clichés have become our everyday diet. The Prophet would never settle for that.”The lawyers spoken of in Luke 11:52 are not the lawyers we’re accustomed to today. These lawyers weren’t the ambulance chasers we know, weren’t the injury or corporate lawyers who run much of our society and government. Now, these were men (and possibly women) who taught the Mosaic law, those who clung to the law as their savior, those who felt the law could perfect them. These were men and women who clung to “anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law…” and, this usage of the word “lawyer” comes from the Greek word, Nomos, meaning to divide, or parcel out. Law-yers, it would seem, were those focused on established traditions, customs, laws and found satisfaction in “parceling out” or “dividing” the gospel into checklists and programs we need to complete. The completion of which, naturally, produces the “self righteous prigs” Nibley referred to. Everything is eventually sequestered into nice, neat boxes and checklists. The “righteous” can check of their respective lists, while the “apostates” walk out the back door and burn their list in the nearest garbage can, or forget about it altogether.
We like to think that, today, we’re different than those law-yers or Pharisees, but, are we? Do we focus on the “law” as a way to perfect and save ourselves? Do we focus on religion – the method whereby we think we can prove our worthiness above others – to seek exaltation? In my last post, on “Finding Grace,” I shared a link on 2 Nephi 25 and the now infamous “after all we can do” statement Nephi made. Mormonism teaches that this scripture implies that there is much work for us to do before we can ever hope to receive grace and that is the most unfortunate of interpretations as it forces us into ever more ritualized “works” as we try to perfect ourselves, never fully realizing that the more we try to perfect ourselves through our works, the further we fall. As a result, we cling to rituals and obligations as a way to prove our worth.
Christ taught us that “this is life eternal, that they might cknow [personally] thee the only true dGod, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast esent.” It’s not enough to simply “know” of them, but we must get to know them, be taught by them, to gain an understanding and “feel” them. Indeed, the word “know” in this instance can also be used as a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, meaning that we must come to know who God and Christ are at an intimate level and not just the “brotherly kindness” way that Peter admitted to when Christ inquired, “Peter … lovest thou me?” (See John 21:15). In the original Greek, Peter answered Christ using a different form of love. Christ used the word “love” which meant to “love dearly,” whereas Peter responded using a different form of the word love, meaning as a friend. Finally, on the third try, Christ switches to the same form of the word Peter used. In spite of Peter’s reluctance to accept and love Christ, Christ still loved Peter. In spite of Peter’s failings, Christ was still there and worked with Peter in the only way Peter knew how.
Instead of this coming to know Christ in the way mentioned in John 17:3, we’ve seemingly replaced this personal knowledge with organizations, structures and programs. Instead of a relationship driven experience, the same experience both Adam and Christ exemplified (among some others), we’ve introduced religious based systems (the same systems which Satan suggested Adam was really looking for, “religion”) which tell us that we have to go through something in order to access God and Christ. Richard Scott once stated that too many within the LDS church seemingly instruct people to “Come unto Church” at the expense of “Com[ing] unto Christ.”
To the astute observer, it appears as though we’ve regressed to a point where we could aptly fit the description Joseph Smith gave when he stated, “I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further”; which I cannot subscribe to.”
I find it interesting how often the terms “priests” and “lawyers” are used together throughout scripture, especially in conjunction with apostasy and oppressive religion. Priests being the recognized leaders of the oppressive religion and lawyers, presumably, being their sidekicks who enforce the law, the tradition, the rituals and the ultimate oppressors. Our God, then, is the law, for that is what we preach. Perfecting ourselves by the law is what we set our hearts upon and what we think is going to earn eternal life for us, and make us a “god”.
Because we’re so addicted to being “law-yers,” we forbid people from gaining intelligence and understanding through our law based performance religions. Because we’re so addicted to being “law-yers” we prevent others from passing us up on their trip to God. We do this through age-based classes for our youth, “worthiness” interviews for anyone and everyone and programs of all shapes and sizes. We do this through our correlated curriculum, correlated manuals and correlated beliefs. Instead of stretching “as high as the heavens” and searching “into and contemplate[ing] the darkest abyss,” we turn to the correlated doctrine of the church contained in manuals which are written at a 3rd or 4th grade level, at best, and tell each other we have to study it over and over every 4 years because we need “refresher” courses. We never advance beyond the things we learn in primary. The result, seemingly, is little more than a “hitherto shalt thou come, and no further” mindset.
Returning, in conclusion, to the “mote” and “beam” discussion, it’s our choice to either listen and obey these governors, or it’s our choice to recognize teaching for what it is – a false and terribly troubling one that we must go beyond in our search to “come up into the presence of God, and learn all things.” The “mote,” the problem, we cannot fix. The “beam,” the application of how we personally fix the problems in our own lives, we can and must fix.
That, I think, is where we are today.
“Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.”
- Winston Churchill
 See Matthew 7:3-5
 The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 327.
 See Luke 11:52j
 Hugh Nibley, Zeal Without Knowledge. http://rsc.byu.edu/pubNibleyZeal.php
 See John 17:3
 See Jeremiah 34:31-34
 The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 327.