We learn in Mosiah 9:1 that Zeniff (the father of King Noah) was originally a Nephite spy.
I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi [the Lamanite equivalent of Zarahemla] . . . and having been sent as a spy among the Lamanites that I might spy out their forces, that our army might come upon them and destroy them?¢‚Ç¨‚Äùbut when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed.
I was particularly struck by this verse last night; particularly all that followed the em dash. It made me ponder how society often leads to a group of people being labelled a bad or evil or less righteous than everyone else. When this does happen, it seems to get to the point where it is inconceivable that anyone from this group could be capable of anything redemptive. One only has to go so far as colonialism or slavery to see this.
That being said, I wonder though if society does the same things to criminals. Not long ago, for example, two individuals were charged with fraud here in Lethbridge. The local daily newspaper wrote an editorial on how these guys were inherently bad. One of them I knew personally, and this sort of statement was incorrect. Did this person do something bad? Certainly? Was he absolutely bad? No. I don’t think (especially in this case) that anyone who commits a crime is automatically bad.
A couple of years ago, the Baron of Deseret posted about the definition of evil and its relationship to Hitler. One of the readers left a comment saying that Hitler was less than human. I responded as follows:
I am not so quick to say he absolutely acted in a way that made him less than human.
Was he less than human when he created beautiful drawings? Was he less than human when he managed to win two Iron Cross medals? Was he less than human when he kissed Eva?
I acknowledge that Hitler did many atrocious things, but I am very wary of labelling him as being inherently evil or even less than a human. Such a sentiment was the foundation of slavery and colonialism three hundred years ago.
I am glad the saviour is at the head of the judgement seat and not me.
Do others agree? Can we become so indoctrinated that we forget or are blind to the fact that those we commonly label as evil or subhuman are capable of good? On the flip-side, is it possible that someone can ever get to the point where they are incapable of doing any good?