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The Liberal Mormon: The Doctrine of Non-Resistance

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 27, 2012

An adult Sunday School lesson from our grandparents’ era:

November 25, 1928

The Doctrine of Non-Resistance

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” – Matt. 5:38-42

Basal Readings

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:14-21

See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. – 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:8-9


1. In our personal relations with our associates, what are the consequences of returning evil for evil?

2. What are the consequences of returning good for evil?

3. What bearing have your answers to (1) and (2) upon, (a) The increase of good or of evil in the world? (b) The increase of happiness or of misery?

4. Is ability to practice the doctrine of non-resistance an indication of a high or of a low degree of moral development? Explain.

Supplementary Readings

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. for even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. – 1 Peter 2:18-24

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? if then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, not abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:1-10

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. – Matthew 5:7

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:1-5

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. – John 8:3-11

Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? – James 4:11-12

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him: But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well; but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. – James 2:1-13

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. – Romans 15:1-3


It seems natural for a child, as it is for primitive man, to desire to retaliate when injured. This disposition is even manifest toward inanimate things and not infrequently toward dumb animals. A story is told of a brilliant lawyer of primitive disposition who when spattered with mud from a passing wagon kicked the wagon wheel and thereby broke his leg. How many boys brought up on a farm have not at some time kicked back at the kicking cow? If the city boy has no cow with which to exchange kicks is he not likely on occasion to exchange blows with an unfriendly rival or with a member of another gang? Girls may not so frequently exchange blows, but are they not sometimes given to exchanging unpleasant remarks either face to face, or in the absence of the rival face? What are the consequences of all this indulgence of the primitive “get even” disposition?

In contrast with these types of primitive conduct consider the consequence of a disposition to forgive trespasses and, in the spirit of kindness and good will, to bestow blessings in return for cursings. Does the world grow better or worse because of such actions on the part of high minded, self-disciplined individuals? Only individuals of this type can so behave; this is, however, no reason for discrediting such behavior, but quite the contrary. All worth while ideals are realized only through years of persistent effort. The ideal of returning good for evil as a mode of conduct is one of the most difficult, but also one of the most beneficial to mankind.


1. In your relations with members of your own family, try the experiment of always returning good for evil, and note the results. Do not boast about it, or even call attention to what you are doing. If anyone marvels at your conduct, let them marvel.

2. The success of your experiment at home may well lead you to try it on a larger scale.



  1. Really interesting framing of this teaching as the Doctrine of Non-Resistance.

    Comment by Paul — January 27, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

  2. I need to do some hunting for the origin of that term. It’s so tied in my mind to Martin Luther King, and maybe Gandhi, that it surprised me to see it used in 1928.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 27, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  3. I am pretty sure it was fairly widely used in the women’s suffrage movement. It might be worth looking there. :-)


    Comment by Julia — August 29, 2012 @ 11:02 am

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