The Spiritual Prime Directive and the Duality of Justice

Mark White
4 min readDec 13, 2020

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, admittedly a middling one, I wrestle with faithfully obeying the two great commandments. Too often I keep God at a distance and I certainly do not love some of my neighbors. It becomes more obvious each day how these two commandments are inseparable — if I am not striving to keep both, it is impossible for me to keep either.

Concurrently, my heart has been heavy the last four years as I have watched the hate and divisiveness ripple through the U.S., in part due to the hateful, racist, and toxic rhetoric of the current occupant of the White House and those who have been empowered as a result. Our country is in turmoil and it feels like the social fabric is tearing at the seams.

As I have reflected on the protests by athletes during the national anthem, and the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, one phrase haunts me, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. As a people and a country, we have not yet met that aspiration. In particular, I have focused on the last three words in that phrase — justice for all. I have pondered for a long time ways I can contribute to justice for all.

As a Christian and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have thought about the role of justice in keeping the two great commandments. I have come to refer to this as the duality of justice.

A fascinating scripture in the Book of Mormon is instructive in this regard. The scripture speaks of an unrighteous king, Morianton, who sought to gain favor in the eyes of his people by easing their burdens:

Ether 10:11

11 And he did do justice unto the people, but not unto himself because of his many whoredoms; wherefore he was cut off from the presence of the Lord.

As illustrated in this scripture, I propose there are two facets to this duality. The first concerns my relationship with the Lord. If I am not obedient to His commandments, then I am not doing justice to Him, nor to myself — regardless of how I treat others. This activates the second facet. If I do not love my neighbor as myself (do justice unto them), then I am also not keeping the first great commandment. Therefore, in the duality of justice, there is a prime directive — spiritual justice. My…

Mark White

Aspiring LDS Christian, antiracist, and LBGTQ+ ally. Husband, father, Grampy. Professor. Hiker. Reader.