Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Elder Mark E. Petersen on remembering the weightier matters of the law

Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900-1984) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve from 1944 until his death in 1984.
"Anciently Jesus asked the Pharisees this question: 'What think ye of Christ?' (Matt. 22:42.) ...
"What think ye of Christ? To bring it down to our own day, let us ask ourselves, What do we, personally, think of him?
"Latter-day Saints are able to identify him very quickly. Christ is Jesus of Nazareth, who was born of Mary in Bethlehem. He also is our Redeemer and our Creator, the divine Son of God.
"But knowing who he is, what shall we do about him? Shall we fully accept him, or brush him aside, or take some middle-of-the-road attitude and compromise our beliefs according to existing pressures?
"The misdirected Pharisees with whom he spoke took pride in rites and rituals, but were nevertheless condemned by the Lord because they neglected the weightier matters of the law: fair judgment, mercy, and the exercise of true faith which produces righteous works.
"When the Savior spoke of those weightier matters he referred to personal relationships between people.... It is significant that he made those relationships a vital part of his gospel. It is indeed remarkable that the nature of our dealings with our fellowmen will determine, in large measure, our status in the kingdom of heaven.
"In other words, we ourselves may be like the ancient Pharisees. We may attend to rites and rituals and yet overlook the weightier matters such as brotherly kindness, honesty, mercy, virtue, and integrity. Let us never forget that if we omit them from our lives we may be found unworthy to come into His presence."
- Mark E. Petersen, "Do Unto Others," General Conference, April 1977
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is such a profound and important question: "What think ye of Christ?" Sometimes we get so busy we don't think of Him at all; sometimes our thoughts are superficial and casual. But the Lord's later rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees truly weighs heavily on all our souls: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:23)

Elder Petersen applies that rebuke and caution to us, in modern times:

Are we going through the motions of discipleship? Are we performing outward actions, "rites and rituals," but neglecting the values and emotions of kindness, virtue, mercy, and integrity? Elder Petersen wisely points out: "The nature of our dealings with our fellowmen will determine, in large measure, our status in the kingdom of heaven."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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