In the sixth chapter of Luke, instructions are given pertaining to how one should act in the face of enemies, how to forgive others, and essentially the Golden Rule. Most of the instruction is the opposite of what is done in many modern societies. Jesus exhorts his disciples to take the higher road, and to act with empathy and a dash of grace, as opposed to bitterness and judgment. In verse 37, Jesus says, “, and ye shall not be judged: not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be :”
On 7 November 1841, Joseph Smith, Jr. gave his interpretation of these things. Rather than focus on the power Jesus has to ‘forgive‘ he made a virtue out of turning a blind eye, and ‘dismissing‘ sin instead, making a mockery of the gravity of evil, and leaving the entire element of ‘justice‘ alone. The arrogance of his words could lead some to think he was changing the rules to benefit himself, by blessing the people for their actions of looking the other way:
“If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down.”
Joseph Smith, Jr., History of Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Volume 4 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Smith-Pettit Foundation – Vogel Edition), 442.
Willard Richards had additional insight into Joseph’s speech, referencing John 8:7-11, and adding the following:
“No man will be condemned before God who has no accuser.” Like the woman who was taken in the very act and they came accusing &c. “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” “Where are thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? No man Lord. Neither do I.” Where two or three are agreed— suppose it to be to take a glass of wine in the secret chamber and enjoy themselves for an hour and harm no one. They are agreed; who shall condemn them? No one; but one of the company i[s] not agreed; he turns accuser. Condemnation follows. Drunkenness is not good; but in such a case God might take no notice of it, if no one entered a complaint or accused the parties. Spirit of accusing is a spirit of evil and many may be condemned by it which otherwise might go clear. Our actions are between us and God if we infringe not on the rights of others. If the brethren would not acuse him he would not acuse them, but would take them all on his back and bear them safe through the gates into the kingdom.”
Joseph Smith, Jr., Discourse, 7 November 1841, as reported by Willard Richards (Salt Lake City, UT: The Joseph Smith Papers), 3.
The photograph is from Wilford Woodruff’s journal of the event.