Friday, January 7, 2011

Admonition and Condemnation

Emotionally, these two nouns often seem to fit in the same category. Someone tells you that you're doing something wrong, and that can hurt a bit. But, on closer study, these two words (and the actions they represent) are very different.
Admonish: 1 to caution, advise, or counsel against something. 2 to reprove or scold, esp. in a mild or good-willed manner. 3 to urge to duty; remind. (courtesy of
Condemn: 1 to express an unfavorable or adverse judgement on; indicate strong disapproval of; censure. 2 to pronounce to be guilty; sentence to punishment. 3 to give grounds or reason for convicting or censuring. 4 to judge or pronounce to be unfit for service. 5 (some law definition). 6 to force into a specific state or activity. 7 to declare uncurable. (courtesy of
Thus, to admonish is to encourage improvement, and to condemn is to consign to a state of dissatisfaction or worthlessness. In the Book of Mormon, admonishing is ALWAYS used in context of teaching and urging to repentance (which is urging a change). The promise is always extended that if you repent, have a change of heart, and forsake your sins, the Lord will forget your mistakes and offer you a new chance to do it right. That admonition, which leads to repentance, is in no way condemning the sinner, in the sense we just established. In fact, we read in Doctrine and Covenants section 6, verse 35:
Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more.
 The same promise is extended to the woman taken in adultery, found in St John 8:11, conditional on her repentance (also see D&C 42:25 for the same direction given to church leaders).

Condemnation, on the other hand, is a different matter. We can read in Alma 3:19 (in the Book of Mormon) that:
...they [the Amlicites] brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation.
 Another example is of the curse and blessing that God leaves on the promised land in the Book of Mormon (the present-day Americas). Over and over again, different Nephite prophets through the centuries wrote
"inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God, ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence." 
The people in the land were free to choose which path to take; if they chose not to keep the commandments of God, then they brought upon themselves their own curse and were in fact "cut off from his presence." In each of these instances, the Lord brought forth prophets to first admonish the people and exhort them to repentance, or they would face the consequences of their actions and condemn themselves to physical and spiritual destruction. Sometimes the people repented, and they were delivered from bondage (physical and spiritual) after the trial of their faith; a few times, whole cities, parts of the civilization, and ultimately the whole nation were wiped out because they hardened their hearts and refused to repent.

The point I'd like to make is this: we need to be careful to identify and distinguish between the two, because the meaning is quite different. Admonition can come from many sources, but ultimately, it comes from a loving Heavenly Father who wants to help you make course corrections. Admonition will always lead you to do better, even if it hurts at first to receive the criticism that you're doing something wrong. Oliver Cowdery was instructed in Doctrine and Covenants 6:19 to "admonish [Joseph Smith] in his faults, and also receive admonition of him." Admonition is meant to "build each other up." Condemnation is an end result, comes because of our choices, and is our own responsibility. God has established laws and punishments (read Alma 32 for a more detailed explanation), and we are the governors of our own actions and thus, our ultimate destiny. Heavenly Father always wants us to return to Him, no matter where we are or how far we've wandered. He loves us, and will therefore chasten us until we remember to repent and turn to Him (D&C 95:1-2, Helaman 15:3, D&C 101:5).

It is my prayer that I can be more humble and recognize when I am being admonished so that I can mend my ways and return to Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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