As I have witnessed arguments regarding the potential excommunication of Kate Kelly as well as the general debate over the whether women, gays, and others are treated equally in the church.
Last week, we had a stake priesthood meeting in which the speaker discussed Alma 13 and Alma’s discourse on the origins of the priesthood. I was struck by a phrase that Alma uses regarding the savior “who is full of grace, equity, and truth.” I was intrigued by the combination of equity, or treating others with fairness, and truth. I searched the scriptures to see other instances of the term equity to see what other words it is associated with
Alma is the only prophet in the scriptures to use the phrase “grace, equity and truth.” He uses it both in Alma 13 and Alama 9 to describe the savior. I love how this phrase links equity and the savior’s grace. I am also reminded of the Savior’s description of himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without faith in Christ and his grace, true equality is not possible.
The phrase equity is also frequently used elsewhere in the scriptures and these uses are also revealing.
Far and away the most common word linked to equity is the Justice.
This term is often used regarding the savior. Isaiah explains that the savior “with righteousness shall . . . judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth) (and Nephi repeats this phrase in 2 Ne 30). The Psalsm likewise speak of the savior coming “to judge the earth with righteousness . . . and the people with equity) (Psalm 98). Equity or equality is expressly linked with righteousness judgment.
In some instances, the term “justice and equity” is used to refer to righteous earthly rules such as Helaman (Helaman 3), or the people at the time of the coming of the savior (3 Ne 6).
Proverbs also urges individuals to aspire towards “wisdom, justice, and judgement, and equity” as well as “righteousness, and judgment, and equity”
Given the news this week, it’s interesting that the same phrases are used in the Doctrine and Covenants in regard to disciplinary councils: In D&C 102 the lord urges those who speak as part of the council “to speak according to equity and justice.”
Thus, in almost every instance equity is based on the act of judging between good and evil and between competing claims. Equity comes as a result of deciding fairly and justly between competing claims. True equality comes from discernment and is based on God’s standards.
It is important to keep this in mind when voices in the world clamor for equality and are offended when Christ’s church is judgmental and rejects claims of equality. Without a knowledge of right and wrong, and without judgment based on God’s paradigm there is no meaningful equality. We are all equal in God’s eyes precisely because we are given agency and held accountable for our choices. Equality is always linked to judgment because Christ’s perfectly just judgment is ultimately what makes us equal. For all will stand as equal before God to be judged.
As Christ’s representatives on the earth, Bishops and Stake Presidents sitting in council must also judge based on equity and justice. Those that commit sin, or rebel must be judged, not because of a desire to treat unequally, but because the very principle of equity requires such judgments. I am grateful to belong to a church that is willing to make hard choices and take unpopular steps in order to truly act consistent with principles of “equity and justice.”