Prayers, Priesthood and the Demands of Justice


To begin, let’s define justice in the eternal sense. Justice is inviolate, which means that even God cannot circumvent justice – or He would actually cease to be God. (Jacob 6:10; Mosiah 2:38)

Justice demands that:

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  • Every soul will be judged by the same law. (D&C 88:34-39; 130:20; 132:5, 8-12)
  • For every sin, or violation of divine law, there must be payment. (Alma 42; D&C 88:40)
  • Every person will be judged and treated with perfect justice. (2 Nephi 9:46)
  • Every blessing must be dispensed according to divine law. Justice will not allow unearned blessings. (D&C 132:5)
  • Every soul will be treated the same. God is no respecter of persons, does not have favorites, and is not partial, which means He doesn’t give unfair preference to one person over another. (Matthew 5:48; Mormon 8:12; James 3:17) 
  • God does not bless us out of sympathy or because He just wants to. Everything occurs as justice demands, which is according to divine law.
  • The mercy of Christ and the Atonement are the only things that stand between ourselves and the “demands of justice”. (Mosiah 15:9)

When it comes to receiving answers to prayers, and claiming the promises given in priesthood blessings, justice plays a governing role. To understand why, we look at the fact that no mortal is worthy in and of ourselves, to claim, by right of payment made, any blessing from the heavens, and justice will not dispense unearned blessings.

Since the fall of man we have been excluded from the presence of God and given a mediator, Jesus Christ, to intercede on our behalf with the Father. Without this intervention and intercession from our Savior, we could not receive any blessing from Father. Without worthiness to “earn” the blessings, it would not be just of Father to give us the blessing.

This is the reason that we are laboring so hard to develop and deploy faith in Jesus Christ. We covenant every Sunday to obey Jesus Christ’s commandments and always remember Him, and take upon ourselves His name so that we can “always have His spirit to be with [us].” When we obey Jesus Christ, subjugating our will to His, then Christ pleads with the Father in our behalf to dispense the blessing we seek and need. This is how we call “Upon the name of Jesus Christ”. We are calling upon our access to His atonement by virtue of our obedience to His will.

The Father then dispenses blessings to us “In the name of Jesus Christ”, because the Savior’s atonement has met the demands of justice. The price is paid. It is Christ’s merit which dispenses the blessing in our behalf. Blessings come from the Father, through and in the name of Jesus Christ.

It is just of the Father to bless one child when Jesus Christ asks it of the Father (due to the merits of our faith and His atonement) and withhold the same blessing from another child in the exact circumstance.

Consider these scenarios:

1) Ten different children run in front of a car in ten different places. Each circumstance is identical. The laws of justice demand that God not act to save any of them unless He saves them all. He cannot save them all because this would frustrate the cause of mortality and take away opposition in all things. (2 Nephi 2) He cannot act out of mercy for just one child, because that would frustrate the demands of justice for the other nine. Now, consider that one particular child knelt with his mother before leaving for school, and his mother righteously pled for the safety of her child. The mother’s faith triggers mercy through the atonement, and the child is saved without upsetting the demands of justice for the other nine.

2) Four young teenage girls are driving home from college in the same car. Before leaving they knelt down and prayed with faith to be preserved on the way home. Before one of the young girls left her heavenly home, we’ll call her Julie, she covenanted to perform an act of sacrifice for her family that would ensure their eternal survival as a family. She agreed to do this out of love, and because it would be the greatest act of her mortal life, for which she would be granted exaltation.

The teenager driving falls asleep at the wheel and all four are involved in a nasty accident. Everyone is miraculously spared, except for Julie, who is critically injured. Julie is given many priesthood blessings by faith-filled family. She is prayed for with faith and urgency while her name is placed every day in numerous temples. God does not intervene because her sacrifice, being her own choice, is just. Mercy stays the course because it would not be merciful to take away her reward to heal the hearts of her family.

Her family mourns and suffers her loss, but miracles happen, the Spirit testifies of her sacrifice, and doubting family members are healed and restored to greater faith not possible without her sacrifice. Julie’s life is complete and it was perfect. Her family is saved and Julie is exalted. Justice and mercy have been served.

3) Two faithful High Priests each perform their duties with equal diligence. Each has a wayward son who has rebelled, and is going about destroy his life and the lives of his associates with as much vigor and conviction as he can muster.

The first High Priest has sacrificed his will to the Lord’s through his lifetime and has evolved spiritually until he has heard the voice of God proclaiming exaltation for himself, and for his posterity. (Calling and Election) The second High Priest has served with equal energy, but has not yet grown into these greater promises from the Lord.

Each faithful man kneels down to petition the Lord for the salvation of his son. The second one pleads and begs, weeps and mourns, and calls down a blessing upon his son such as his faith allows. His son feels the pull of love and his parent’s faith, but resists. Justice is served, and mercy has been extended according to law.

The first righteous father goes to the Lord without pleading, but in deep humility recounts the promise, knowing that God cannot withhold His blessing, and places his son in Christ’s care – knowing with a perfect knowledge that God will do something to save his son. The second son is visited by an angel, and his course is altered forever. The son chooses to alter the course of his life and is saved.

Justice is served because each father altered the course of their son according to the degree of their faith, and the agency of their sons. Mercy is extended commensurate with the faith of the fathers.

We could cite a billion more examples. Here is the key: Everything that happens is keeping justice and mercy in perfect harmony. We cannot see these powerful forces with mortal eyes, and sometimes things appear unfair, unjust, and certainly lacking in mercy as we would dispense it if we had a magic wand. But, the divine geometry of justice and mercy is never violated.

With this powerful truth in our hearts, we may learn how to tip the scales of justice all the way in favor of mercy. It is by our obedience to the will of Christ, which enables the bloom of faith, which triggers the Atonement of Christ, which advocates before the father and answers the demands of Justice, which fills rivers of grace to overflowing.

Brother John

© February 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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10 Responses to Prayers, Priesthood and the Demands of Justice

  1. Jennifer says:

    May,

    Thank you for your lovely post. I love the way you have explained your experience to “Be Still” with Samuel . . . you have brought much peace to my soul this morning. Thank you. I can report my son who struggled with addiction will be receiving his endowments on the 20th of April in preparation for his eternal marriage on the 4th of May. I know–intimately–I am one of few who can give this report . . . so many too many are lost to addiction powerful grasp. I will pray for your continued strength to accept Heavenly Father’s schooling for your child.

    Forever in the Gospel,

    Jennifer

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  2. May says:

    I am just coming across this post almost a year later but I wanted to share with Jennifer that I am in the midst of experiencing the same thing as she did with her child in regards to my own who is struggling with addictions. I have sought with every fiber of my being to hear the voice of The Lord in regards to my choices in response to the choices he makes. I have received very specific guidance and direction, on many occasions, and as a result progress has been made on his part…. However leaps and bounds of progression have been MY blessing in this process.
    There have been times in the past when I have been instructed to “Be Still” and there are times when I have been instructed to “Speak” or act in faith as a witness of God’s warning and love! Now it seems that I have reached a point in my progression where I have shown The Lord that I will consistently choose obedience over fear and I have humbled my heart to the extent of truly giving my Son into his Heavenly Father’s care, no matter what! Now the voice of the Spirit whispers that I am to “Be Still” in faith and love retaining the lessons of obedience that I have learned and with a willingness to daily find out God’s will for me and my life and pray only for the strength to carry that out!
    I was led to the story of Samuel the Lamanite (Helaman 13-16) and as I read I was struck with the beginning of Chapter 16 where it is explained that there were those who heard Samuel’s warnings and repented as they heard the message. There were others who were not able to hear or head the warnings until Samuel had delivered his message and had remained safe and unharmed by the stones and arrows that were sent to destroy him. I have felt that in my case the progression for me has been much as with Samuel. I needed to follow a similar pattern of progression for myself as did Samuel. First lay down my own weapons of war, then learn to listen and heed the voice of the Spirit and go and say and do the things He would have me do in obedience. I then felt the sting of the rejection of the message I was asked to give and felt to leave “flee” the city.” Whereupon I was asked to return and given the opportunity to get upon the wall and try again in obedience and love to deliver the message according to the workings of The Spirit.
    Now I have felt strongly that the message and warnings I have delivered in love are enough and now I am to continue to stand in faith and truth on the wall (which for me is congruent with The Mountain of The Lord… Temples). I am to do this with the full and complete knowledge that the stones and arrows aimed at me will do me no harm as I stand with The Lord. When it is time for me to get off the wall and “return” to my own people I will know! Until then I can know that I have “Cheerfully done all things that lie in my power.” and now it is time to “Stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” (D&C 123:17) It is a powerful image that has helped me to understand the “Be Still” part of the equation in regards to the great desire I have to be in Zion with all of those I love. Versus my very human desire to somehow “get them all there” I am learning a different way. D&C 101: 16 “Let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in my hands, be still and know that I am God.” I am incredibly grateful for God’s tender mercies poured out upon me and mine in this regard and hope that my witness of these things may help strengthen someone else!

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    • ajcorbe says:

      May,
      It’s now another year beyond your wonderfully personal & inspired response & I must thank you. I so love how yours (& others’) personal stories/lessons make the scriptures come alive. You truly help “liken the scriptures unto me”.
      Readers, please continue to post. I’ve been edified, lifted, & inspired from every single question, personal experience/revelation & response. I feel to say as Terri did that it’s a shame that you’re responses could not be included in Journey to the Veil.
      Thanks to you, the UnBlog Family & John. Thanks also to the Pontius Family for continuing to make all of the UnBlog & followingthelight.org available. What a Gift!
      Thanks to you All & to our Lord & Savior. May He bless & sustain us through the incredible times which are upon us. Aj

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  3. Jennifer Greenlese says:

    Brother John,

    I came back to reread your message –not that I do not understand or believe what you are sharing but to ask: Are there other scenarios in regard to a parent and a child? Are there any examples of a parent who is stopped from calling upon the powers of their faith on behalf of their child? Not because they do not want to or do not have faith in order to call upon the powers of Heaven but that they cannot. I have experienced this scenario and for over a year wondered if there is something wrong with my understanding –but recently I came to the conclusion (not saying inspiration) that the changes if they were going to happen for my child, had to come from within themselves this time. The feeling that as I became a crutch to the Savior’s atonement it was holding my child back from experiencing the full benefits of asking for themselves. I am not sure to this day whether my inability to plead and pray earnestly for my child came from my own head or from Father’s greater understanding for this particular child which He knows so much better than I. I can report though this child is now on their way back home. They are in full fellowship in the gospel and carry a valid temple recommend and is working towards receiving their own endowment soon.

    Jennifer

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    • Dear Jennifer,

      You know, I have never heard that particular scenario described before, but the Lord does work in mysterious ways. The important thing is that we remain in tune with His will and His plan for us. I did experience one time having the Spirit instruct me to quit asking for a particular blessing for a significant person in my life because that person had exercised their agency otherwise, and God could not grant my prayer by forcing someone against their will. Maybe that is a similar thing to what you described. The important thing is that we remain in tune with His will and His plan for us.

      During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was asked if he thought God was on his side in the war. Abraham Lincoln replied something like, “I’m not at all concerned if God is on my side. I only care that I am on God’s side.”

      JMP

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      • Jennifer Greenlese says:

        Brother John,

        Therein lies my problem determining if “I am on God’s side.” I completely understand that my child will not be held accountable for my actions –that is not saying, they will not be effected or altered by them but that they will not be held accountable because of them. I also know that . . . it is easier to give an example than come up with words. Traveling to the temple one evening a sister shared a concern, which was hindering one of her children’s progression. I shared for sometime what to me was knowledge and was able clarify the misunderstanding. I thought nothing of what I was sharing (I have experienced the times, when as you speak you yourself are learning too–you ponder and express gratitude after those experiences) to me it was a simple exchange of knowledge. However, she expressed how the spirit testified to her of the truth shared. I came to understand that once faith has become knowledge you do not need to have a conformation. Okay, I just reread my first line and Yes, I am on God’s side but determining whether or not I am doing the right things on His side especially when it seems contrary to what we hear and read in regard to the pleadings of a parent for their child. I tried several times to do the expected role of a parent like I had so many times before, but could not. I have not found an example of this scenario either; nevertheless, my child has not been hindered by my actions; in fact after five years fighting addiction’s grasp he is now 16 months clean. Even more he has come to intimately know the power of our Savior’s abilities to both heal what we are powerless to fix and experience the peace of forgiveness wrought by true repentance.

        Thank you,
        Jennifer

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        • I don’t have an answer for you, Jennifer. It sounds to me that you did the right thing. We can only use the inspiration of the moment to guide us. Parenting is very challenging when you have wayward children. None of the normal rules of parenting seem to apply any more. You are clearly on God’s side.

          God bless,

          John Pontius

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  4. kenh says:

    Truly we “see through a glass, darkly.” Life is so unfair but it is such a reassuring blessing to know that God is eternally just and eternally fair. Many times when a love one passes on, as an example, we don’t know how much of their life mission can only be accomplished on the other side of the veil. ”The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man or woman availeth much.” (James 5:16) My life has been richly blessed by the prayers of others. Thank you John for your insightful post.

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    • Ken, I have to agree so much. During much of my struggles with health I could literally feel the effect of other people’s prayers. It may be the reason I survived.

      I had surgery in a Catholic funded hospital, and afterward was deathly ill for a month. Each night a little old nun came into my room and asked me if she could pray for me. She must have been 80 years old. Every night I gratefully accepted. Her prayers were very powerful and empowering to me. She just poured out her heart to God. I found her prayers inspired and inspiring. Terri said she even came during the days I was in a coma. She said things I know she didn’t understand, things regarding my life’s mission and my faith in Jesus Christ. Every night when she left I felt greater peace and a little more hope I could endure one more day. I will never forget her kindness and her words of faith in my behalf.

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  5. rjinfo says:

    Thanks for an inspiring explanation of justice and mercy. Since we never know all the “facts” of a particular situation, it will always be necessary to trust in God, knowing that His divine laws will never be violated.
    I have often wondered why Paul seems to be so preoccupied with the concept of mercy, and not justice. Like the way so many “Christians” interpret Paul’s writings, many of us cannot understand how justice has been applied in our lives because we being so unworthy receive so many blessings that it seems mercy has overpowered justice.
    The world needs some reminders that God really is just, and not just a doting father who can be persuaded by the tears of his children to violate the law of justice.

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