3 Nephi 12:21-24 & 2 Nephi 9:41-42
21 Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, and it is also written before you, that thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment of God;
22 But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
23 Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—
24 Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.
At least three times, perhaps more, I have heard Hugh Nibley say that the Law of the Gospel is “to forgive and repent.” But I never heard him gave a source for that definition. Then one day when I read these verses spoken by the Savior, I understood. I cannot be sure that these verses where what Nibley was referring to, but I believe Nibley’s words are an adequate summation of what the Savior said.
The rules of behavior with which Moses governed the Israelites whom he led out of Egypt were just that—rules about how one should act. Neither his government nor ours has the power to legislate goodness. But inappropriate behavior is only half the sin, and not always the worst half. There is no sin committed by our hands that is not first committed by our minds. If I hurt you accidently it may be the result of something very foolish, but that is very different from a hurt that I first contrived in my mind then executed with my hand, or by my unbridled tongue. Premeditated bad behavior—no matter how vile—is a secondary sin. The primary sin happened in the mind.
Hamlet’s words (though quoted out of context) make the point very nicely: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2) .
Anger, hatred, the need for revenge, and the inability to forgive are corrosive forces that eat at the soul and form a callous that first rejects then excludes real love. As charity is the healing, sealing, and purifying power that prepares us to be with God, so anger and its attendant feelings disables us from being persons who can enjoy the eternal togetherness which is eternal life. Hatred precludes charity. Hatred destroys.
On the surface it looks to be very ironic. People who hate or feel contempt for others consider that attitude to be their strength. They are like a black hole that seeks to satisfy itself by sucking everything to itself, while in fact it lets nothing out, including its own light. Such a person is his own prison. He cannot reach out to love others because the only “love” he can experience is self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement.
In contrast, one who loves is like the sun who exudes light and warms those around him. When we love as the Savior loves, we become vulnerable. For such a one hides behind no masks, no facades, and has no hidden agenda.
After the Nephites built a temple like the one Solomon had built in Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5:16), Nephi’s brother Jacob delivered his sermon there. He reminded his hearers about who and what they must be as they were to approach the great veil of the temple that led to the Holy of Holies. He said:
41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
42 And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them (2 Nephi 9:41-42).
It seems to me that what the Savior said to the Nephites is that if they wish to “come unto him” then they must approach other people in the same way they approach him.