The goal of punishment is to inflict something unpleasant on a person – whether physical [e.g., corporal striking, physical confinement, monetary penalties] or emotional [e.g., shaming, time-outs, or making a public example] – for the purpose of discouraging the repeat of a certain behavior.
As with all things satanic, the focus is on the external – i.e., how to control behavior – rather than on the internal – i.e., how to affect the right-brain-heart. Heart-level change does not result from punishment. Worthiness will not result from the struggle to conform one’s behavior to this or that standard.
Any church that bases itself on the works of men will place its focus on the outside being “good” – assuming that a “good” inside will, of necessity, follow. However, God says that it is our hearts that matter most, and it is often the sins that we can’t see that are the most dangerous.
The external metrics of “worthiness” are never an issue with the Lord for there is no one worthy. It is those with hard-hearts who are obsessed with worthiness. You can do all the church service and works of man until you have wasted your strength and you will still be unworthy to receive anything from God – an unprofitable servant. Nothing in the gospel is based upon our merits. We are to rely solely on the merits of Christ. He is the only worthy one among us.
Further, it is only by entering into a covenant relationship with Him that the nature [or heart] of a person can be sanctified. It will not come after a life-long process of struggling to sanctify our behavior.
Punishment belongs to God:
The word of God, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword – is the only thing that may execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people. Truly we say that to the Lord alone belongeth judgment: “For it is mine and I will repay.”
The inflicting of punishment is reserved by God the Father. The only punishment which can be justly inflicted is the removal of a soul to hell [rather hell on this earth for a time or to outer darkness for eternity]. This punishment belongs to the Father alone because it is based on the hardness/softness of the right-brain-heart, which no man can ascertain.
But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. [1 Samuel 16:7]
Humans are not to judge:
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: [Luke 6:37]
This is the principle on which the atonement of Jesus Christ forgives sin. Sin is not forgiven and punishment withheld because God effectively beat it out of Jesus. Justice is not satisfied by the punishment of an innocent.
The gospel teaches us that Christ can satisfy the demands of justice on the behalf of those who repent and believe in Him. In other words, Jesus satisfies those seeking justice [judging/condemning] thereby putting an end to their demands. He can remove all accusers as demonstrated in John 8: 10-11.
The visual imagery of Jesus being:
filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; [Mosiah 15:9]
is that for a person to obtain or “get to” justice — they would first have to go through Jesus. And He is there to present His atonement as evidence in your behalf so that justice will pause from making its demands long enough for Christ to make his own demands of mercy.
Where there is no condemnation [meaning we do not accuse or judge], there can be no punishment:
where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; [2 Nephi 9:25]
Thus, saints who have been commanded not to judge, accuse, or condemn are thereby prohibited from punishing other people.
Further, even assuming that a temporal punishment [rather inflicted by circumstance or by the State] is just and comes from God, gives a person,
a great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. [Mosiah 4:17-18]
Problems with human punishment, in general:
When humans inflict punishment on others, it encourages them to hide their feelings rather than express them honestly and truthfully. This can begin in childhood and can have a myriad of negative consequences well into adulthood — negatively affecting a person’s relationship with spouses, children, and friends.
When parents punish, children are not taught appropriate ways to deal with anger, instead they learn that expressions of anger will result in a spanking or time-out. They are taught that crying will result in being given “something to cry about”. They are taught that happy is the only acceptable emotion.
Punishment increases deceitful behavior in children. Afraid to own up to mistakes — children learn to become secretive, lie, and hide their errors. In addition, no motive to obey [other than by threat of punishment] has been generated — when the threat of punishment is removed, true desires and character will be manifest.
In criminal punishment, offenders are judged as the ultimate source of their socially deviant behavior — and then they are deemed deserving of punishment on the grounds that they could have overcome their environmental and biological circumstances, but simply chose not to do so. Thus, incarcerations and executions are valued over rehabilitation, retribution to victims, and deterrence.
Those in favor of punishment [rather a parent-to-child or the State-to-criminal] will refer especially to the “rod” verses in the Old Testament:
He that spareth his rod hateth his son [Proverbs 13:24]
As though this evidences that physical punishment is mandated by scripture, if not at least permitted.
Many may even feel that a child’s salvation depends on a parent punishing them. Punishment is considered the method of paying for their sin and removing their guilt.
However, the message of the gospel is that all sins, including those of children, have already been suffered for by Christ. If the message that Christ has taken the burden of sin for us all [especially little children] tells us anything at all, it tells us that as saints — we are:
to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; [Isaiah 61:1-2]
Spanking, in particular:
Spanking is a bit of a controversial topic among parents. Like the decision to homeschool, I have found that most will retort with: “Well, I was spanked and I turned out fine.” Not only does that assume that a person is capable of diagnosing their self as “fine” — but it ignores the very real fact many people who were spanked did not turn out “fine”. Many of them are still, as adults, dealing with the results of their well-intentioned parents’ choice to punish. Being “fine” in spite of something is not evidence that the thing is proper or necessary.
Further, the practice of spanking on the buttocks comes from the Victorian era — not from biblical times as is often assumed. Spanking began under domestic discipline [a husband spanking his wife for not properly obeying him] and the history of the practice is sexual — both of which were enough reason for my family to refrain from spanking our children.
Besides, the physical punishment today rarely looks like the literal interpretation of the “rod” verses in the Old Testament. The rod or shebet [which Proverbs tells us we are not to spare] was an implement that could kill a grown adult when being used to punish. To be biblically-spanking [using the "rod" according to the original meaning] I would have to strike my children on the back with a shepherd’s staff large enough that I could conceivably kill them with it.
However, there is also another way to read the shebet that we are not to withhold. As the staff of a shepherd, it would be used to guide [rather than strike]. As the scepter of a king, it would be
an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
As a measuring rod, it would be the standard works [or the word of God] by which all human behavior ought to be governed by.
Further, the Lord — in addition to proclaiming liberty to captives and opening prisons to those bound:
hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, [Isaiah 9:4]
Moved with compassion:
Because human punishment only teaches a person to obey — rather than why to obey or how to think for themselves — people have become more vulnerable to peer-pressure. Already geared to be a people-pleaser, a child who is raised through fear of punishments will not have developed the necessary skills to be self-governing and say “no” — and will likely act out of fear of the negative consequences the group can inflict, as they learned in the home.
The punishments that humans inflict will not save a child, nor will it save a criminal. That work is only wrought by Jesus Christ. You cannot beat a person into salvation. A child is not saved by a parent [nor a criminal by the State] who punishes him/her in order to “atone for his sin” or that he may learn how to “be good”.
No one is even saved by “being good” anyway. A person is saved through a covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ – nothing more, nothing less.
Instead of helping people, punishment presents a distorted view of God. God raises His children with compassion and mercy, not with punishment. We cannot constantly beg at His throne for mercy and patience — while accusing and condemning our fellow-humans here on earth.
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying: “Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying: “Pay me that thou owest.”
And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, “O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?“ And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
By this you may know my disciples:
The unsanctified believer in Christ will always focus on verses intended for others. In this case, many may refer to Ephesians 6:1
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
and yet ignore the following verse directed towards the parents:
ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
It is not the place of a steward to make the concerns of their stewardship obey them [rather we are talking about husband-wife, parent-child, or State-citizen]. Rather, it is only the steward’s duty to govern:
by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile — Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
One is only brought up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” by discipline [meaning the way of disciple-making] — not punishment.
The root of our word for both disciple [and therefore "discipline"] is that of a student or follower. It is a relational word — just as the Savior spent His time with His disciples, teaching them by word and by deeds. Discipleship is what we do with others when we
sittest in [our] house, and when [we] walkest by the way, and when [we] liest down, and when [we] risest up. [Deuteronomy 6:7]
Discipleship is how humans learn by sight. In our pre-mortal life, we walked by sight — meaning we were discipled. As we saw, so we did — imitating the beings around us, learning by copying what we saw them do.
Upon entering mortality as children, we bring this capacity to imitate others with us. We imitate or emulate our parents, our brothers and sisters, our friends and associates, the celebrities of the day, etc. Eventually we assimilate into whatever society we are born into.
Disciplining [in the sense of how to make a disciple] comes as a steward acts as the servant that he or she is. A servant is one who goes “through the dust” with another. Only example and repetition will effectively:
Train up a child in the way he should go [Proverbs 22:6]
Using punishment does not discipline [or teach] a person. When we punish, we act as if human society has no other means of bringing weaker members up to a standard of conduct — except for waiting until a person does something non-sanctioned, and then punishing them [legally or morally] for it.
The family has complete jurisdiction over a person during the entire childhood period. The whole period up to maturity can be used to it teach a person to be capable of rational conduct in life.
Parents who disciple in the home will teach their children diligently and freely to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands – before the age of eight. Then shall their children be baptized for the remission of sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands. They will also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord. They will teach their children to read and write, having a language which is pure and undefiled. They will engage in continual tribal rituals to strengthen the common morphic field that exists among disciples of Jesus Christ.
If you love God sincerely, then you will naturally gravitate to becoming as He is and gathering with others who do too. You cannot not, by adhering outwardly according to a law or standard, come to love God. Thinking that our behavior can affect our standing with God is what leads people to falsely conclude that we should punish — because “it’s worth it”.
When we pass from mortal life and realize that all the laws and traditions of human convention no longer exist — then the true nature [state of the right-brain-heart] will manifest and those who have not learned to be as God [even though they still managed obedience] will find themselves removed from God because of their new-found freedom.
Our Father’s kingdom is tribal anarchy because it is for people who already know how to be. He wants to know what people want to be — not what they can be punished into acting like.
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