Reflections: Don't Judge This Book by its Cover

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Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("Mormon") and serves as the Ward Mission Leader in the Annapolis, Maryland Ward.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. - Matthew 8:1, 2
Mormon education

One of my favorite pastimes is spending time browsing through the different books in a bookstore. Even as a young boy there was always something about a good book that fascinated me. To this day, for me to spend time in a bookstore is like a little child spending time in a candy store. Like the little child knows that he cannot have all of his favorite candy and has to choose which candy he really wants, I too find myself having to make the choice of which book or books I really want to purchase at that time.

Making the choice of which books to buy and which ones to leave behind until another time is not always an easy one. I may look at several books, and even put them in my shopping basket, but when it is time to check out, I look at each of the books that I have selected and make my final decision of which to purchase. Usually that decision is based on the information that I can glean about the book from its front, inside, and back covers. Sometimes it is the title of the book that will spark my interest as to what the book is about. Sometimes it is the short synopsis of the book that can be found on the inside or back cover of the book that interest me enough to want to know more about the book. Whatever the case, I find that my judgment as to which book or books to purchase is based solely on the covers of the particular book.

Just as the cover of a book does not tell us everything there is to know about the book, neither can the outward appearance of a person tell us everything there is to know about that person. Just as we must open the cover of a book and read its contents to learn more of what the book is about, we must take the time to get to know a person to learn more about him. The cover of a book can give us some insight as to what the book might be about, but it is the actual contents of the book that tell the true story. In the same way, our "covers" or outward appearances may reveal somewhat of who we are, but it is the content of our character that reveals who we truly are.

We live in a world where people find it easy to judge others for one reason or another. Oftentimes those judgments are based on what they see on the surface and not on actual facts. Some people find it easier to criticize and condemn another than to understand and help lift another. They are quick to point out the faults in others, but are blinded to the fact that they have faults of their own.

In Matthew 7:1-5 we are taught, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam 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 hypocrite, 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." Luke 6:37 teaches us, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven". And in John 7:24 we are reminded to "judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

In a talk given on 1 March 1998 at Brigham Young University titled ""Judge Not" and Judging", Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that "there are two kinds of judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make, and intermediate judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles."

Concerning intermediate judgments, Elder Oaks taught that, "these judgments are essential to the exercise of personal moral agency. Our scriptural accounts of the Savior’s mortal life provide the pattern. He declared, “I have many things to say and to judge of you” (John 8:26) and “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see” (John 9:39)."

Elder Oaks further taught that "the Savior also commanded individuals to be judges, both of circumstances and of other people. Through the prophet Moses, the Lord commanded Israel, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour” (Lev. 19:15)."