Receiving Correction: A Javelin to the Heart or Purification?

The scriptures teach us how to receive correction and the consequences of ignoring the calls of repentance.

One of the challenges of mortality is to ignore the tendencies of the natural man and to accept fault, repent, and receive correcting guidance. All too often we have seen someone doubling down on their errors, lying and swearing, and projecting their faults on others despite the objective error in their ways. When Nephi writes, “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center,” he writes not just about the errors of his brothers, but of a pattern that can be seen through all time.

But what if we aren’t in such a wicked and fallen state as Laman and Lemuel? What if we are like the man who said to Jesus Christ, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” How do we react when we are given correction?

As we are here on earth to become like our Heavenly Parents, both in physical nature and in our character as well, learning how to receive correction can make all the difference. This is a process of obtaining divine nature, as the apostle Peter explains to the faithful saints in his second epistle:

…that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nephi gives us the words of Jesus Christ to explain part of this process:

“I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”

The Lord also teaches in this revelation received by Joseph Smith:

“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you”

Chastise is a very interesting word. The definition and etymology path reveals a great deal to us:

chastise (v.)
“to inflict pain upon to punish and recall to duty, to punish for the purpose of correcting or reclaiming,” c. 1300, chastisen, from Old French chastiier “to warn, advise, instruct; chastise, admonish; punish; dominate, tame” (12c., Modern French ch√Ętier), from Latin castigare “to set or keep right, to reprove, chasten, to punish,” literally “to make pure” (see castigate).

castigate (v.)
“to chastise, punish,” c. 1600, from Latin castigatus, past participle of castigare “to correct, set right; purify; chastise, punish,” from castus “pure” (see caste) + agere “to do” (from PIE root *ag- “to drive, draw out or forth, move”). The notion behind the word is “make someone pure by correction or reproof.”

The ways by which a man can receive correction are many, as revealed in the scriptures: Revelation from the Holy Ghost, visitation of angels (like Joseph Smith or Alma the younger), hearing the voice of the Lord (as Laman and Lemuel) or visitation or vision from the Him (Saul). However, the most often recorded is that of a righteous man given the assignment from heaven (directly or by delegation) to give correction.

Often bishops, stake presidents, apostles, and other church leaders preach repentance generally, but they also do this as they minister on an individual basis. What is our reaction? Does the truth cut us to the core? Do we go away sorrowful? Is it a deadly javelin to our hearts?

We should embrace correction from the Lord gladly. When one of our brothers or sisters has been given the assignment to give correction to us, we should see it as an opportunity to become more pure. Take their counsel humbly and with grace, knowing they are also mortal and trying the best they can. Repent and seek greater understanding through the scriptures. Then ask in prayer to be given revelation in the matter, and then go forth as directed with faith.

As we prepare for the April General Conference of 2020, we should pray for our hearts to be softened such that we can believe all the words that are spoken; that we may be able to receive correction with gladness and become more pure; that we might hear the voice of the Lord, and then go forward with faith in preparing ourselves and the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

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