The following post was authored by Marshall McConkie, the grandson of the late apostle Bruce R. McConkie. He shares a beautiful message about a principle the world especially needs at this time. This was originally posted on Facebook and is published with permission.
A lot of people know that I used to be an attorney. (I don’t practice law at all anymore.) I had plenty of time in the criminal side of things as a prosecutor, and I also spent too much time doing regular civil work. (I sued people.) Well, it’s been seven years since I practiced law full time, and still one of the most common questions I get is, “Why did you change careers?” There are a lot of reasons, but today I want to focus on one. I hate justice.
I’m a horrible person. I know. I appreciate justice. Justice is essential to a civil society, and it is essential to law. And I hate it. Justice alone is violence. It is vengeance, and it can be ugly. I’ll never forget crying in my office after drafting a settlement agreement for a lawsuit between siblings. They found justice—and one of the terms of justice was that no party should initiate or attempt to initiate contact in the future. Debts were paid, accounts were settled, and justice destroyed a relationship forever.
As a prosecutor, I would know what justice and sentencing demanded and then I would read the background of the defendant, and I would get sick. I couldn’t bear the thought of doing justice, when justice would bring further harm.
Justice in and of itself is straightforward—make right what you made wrong. Receive the punishment that you deserve. You know, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Let’s balance the scales and move forward. But Tevye wasn’t kidding that the end result of that type of justice is a bunch of blind and toothless people.
I hate justice.
I hate justice because balanced scales don’t always result in fixed situations—very often justice makes two sides broken instead of one. The scales are balanced, but they aren’t balanced in peace, they are balanced in pain. Blood cries out for blood, and justice without mercy, without forgiveness results in a world soaked in blood and drowning in “justice”.
Maybe Dostoyevsky said it best in a simple statement from his novel “The Idiot” “You have no gentleness—only justice; therefore you are not just.” For scales to be balanced in healing we need what I wish we had more of. Gentleness. Kindness. Love. Mercy.
I’ve seen justice without love—it balances scales and it equalizes pain.
I’ve seen justice with mercy, and it ennobles, lifts, and balances justice’s scales with a healing balm in the flow of its gentleness.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, mercy blesses both the extender and the receiver of it. Mercy is godly, and it allows us to function more like Him. In a world where true justice is impossible—can you be truly just without omniscience?—mercy allows for others that which we would beg for ourselves. Mercy allows for mistakes, for growth, and for progress. It does not demand suffering, but it does make room for healing.
I don’t think it’s a mistake that when Jesus is pronouncing his complaints against the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Hypocrites, that he calls them out for their keen sense of justice “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Matthew 23:23) To seek a life that is perfectly just, while neglecting, among other things, mercy, results in an unjust life. Often our quest for justice—our quest to make things right—results in solutions that are neither right nor just because they neglect the weightier matters. We are so worried about the number of teeth to knock out, that we ignore the thought that there might be a higher, holier way.
Justice is essential to make society work, to ensure equal treatment, to give us all a steady footing and starting point. A society without justice is horrifying, a nightmare.
But to have justice with no mercy, whether for those whom you love, those whom you hate, for those who live or those who are dead, is to unleash a sword that can only be matched with another sword. Blind and toothless.
I have worked and will continue to work for justice, but I pray for mercy. For me. For those that have gone before. For all of us. Justice balances scales, but it is blind, and it is does not care at what level the scales balance. Let us seek to balance the scales by lifting them higher, by showing mercy, gentleness, judgment, and forgiveness. Let us take off the blindfold and truly see—in that moment we see, we will see that we all want—that we all desperately need–mercy.
I have worked and will continue to work for justice, but I pray for mercy.