John 3:18-20 — He that believeth not is condemned already (Nicodemus part 9) — LeGrand Baker

Jesus speaks as though their condemnation is a given, as though no further judgement is necessary. How can that be?

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name [covenant] of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

As far as I can tell, there are two kinds of sins: bad thoughts and bad actions. A bad action that is not initiated by a bad thought but has unintended consequences may not be sin (stupid, perhaps, but not a sin), just as an accident is different from a premeditated crime in our courts of law. But a bad thought, even though it may not be followed through by an action, still has a cankering effect upon one’s soul and, therefore, may be a very serious sin. That principle is the focus of part of the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount. For example, the Savior said,

27 Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;
28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart (3 Nephi 12:27-28, Matthew 5:27-28).

Adultery is a sin that only married people can do because it is primarily about breaking a covenant and secondarily about sex. The covenant may be broken without sex being involved. But when sex is involved, the covenant is shattered.

I have wondered about the origin of evil, and this is my opinion: When we were intelligences, as soon as we began to be cognizant, we were confronted with the most important question of our existence: What is in my best interest? The answer fits on a huge spectrum with good on one end and evil on the other. However, the possibilities are all shades of only two answers. The object of our existence is to seek what is pleasurable to our Selves, and only we have the power to define what makes us happy. Lehi said our object is to have joy, but joy is a very refined kind of pleasure that fits high on one end of that spectrum. At the other end of that spectrum is a total contempt for the needs or worth of other people.

Ultimately, the answers to the great question are these: It is in my best interest to use others to my advantage. Or, Is it in my best interest to bless others and accept blessings from them that we may be exalted together. We are confronted with some form of those options every moment of our lives, and the way we respond to them defines who and what we are.

It is for that reason that Alma could say with confidence,

13 Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned.
14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence (Alma 12:13-14).

It grinds upon our egalitarian principles, and on our sense of democracy (and sometimes on our understanding of agency) to suppose that some people are evil, and are not capable of repentance or salvation. Yet the Savior was surrounded by such people, and he knew who they were. John tells us,

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man (John 2:23-25).

Jesus taught ordinary sinners that they must repent, but he issued no such invitation to those whom he called children of the devil. He challenged them,

43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
46 Which of you convinceth [convict] me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
47 He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God (John 8:43-47).

Jesus knew what was in men. They could not hide the intent of their hearts, and John’s gospel exposes them for what they were.

The aftermath of Jesus’s raising Lazarus from the dead is a prime example of their hatred and even fear.

43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done
47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
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53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death (John 11:43-53).

Judas conspired with the chief priests to trade Jesus for money, and probably thought that his betrayal must remain undetected or it would not succeed. But Jesus knew.

21 When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
22 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.
23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.
25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night (John 13:21-30).

Jesus knew who would be responsible for his mock trial and execution, but he also knew who would not be responsible. Consequently, he showed empathy rather than judgment toward the soldiers who were simply obeying orders.

33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God (Luke 23:33-35).

The story of the Savior’s murder by people who should have supported him is not unique because evil men and women have always sought to eliminate the prophets. The Savior explained,

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved (John 3:18-20).

Bad people who are uncomfortable in the presence of good people try to justify themselves in the same way the chief priests did when they mocked Jesus on the cross. “And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.”

With that same rational King Noah and many others in the Book of Mormon sought to destroy the prophets. Similarly, there were men who tried to murder Joseph Smith: William and Wilson Law; Joseph Jackson; John C. Bennett; Thomas Sharp; Governors Ford, Reynolds, and Boggs; and many others. Some of these men were the leaders of the church and had claimed to be Joseph’s friends. Others were leaders in government and were legally bound to protect him. They all acted in lurid self defense because they hated the light that exposed the darkness of their own souls.

Like Abinadi, the Lord’s anointed cannot be stopped before they have completed their mission. But, like Noah, the eternal fate of those who would kill them is not imposed upon them by some external judge. Their damnation is simply a product of who they are. As the Lord explained in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph,

19 For after it [the earth] hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.
21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory
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33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.
34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.
35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.
……………….
40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things (D&C 88:19-40).

The principle is very simple. God never prevents anyone from repenting, neither does he punish those who refuse to repent. Each person is simply defined by who he is, so even though a formal final judgement is requisite for the sake propriety and order, in fact, everyone judges himself by simply having acted upon to his own desires. Thus, the Savior explained,

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name [covenant] of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

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