You remember Javert and Valjean from the famous musical Les Miserables? Javert is the policeman who spends the entire movie searching for Jean Valjean, who has spent twenty years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, then is helped by a priest who gives him the silver he tried to steal, along with more, and changes his life? Valjean learns about mercy and love. But Javert is unchanged throughout the movie and continues to value only the law and strict observance of it? I don’t think it’s impossible to see these two characters as archetypes of two kinds of Mormons, those who are strict observers who focus on justice and God’s law, and those who believe God’s love is unconditional, that resurrection is universal, that heaven is for everyone, and that even those who uphold the laws are flawed and need mercy.
Which kind of Mormon are you? Answer the following questions to find out:
1. You find out a young woman in your ward is pregnant. What is your first response?
a. To shake your head and think about how she needs to repent?
b. To think about how you can help her and her baby when it is born?
2. Your child comes to you to confess they have stolen money from their workplace. What is our first response?
a. Tell them they must confess first to the bishop and then to the police?
b. Call their employer and ask what you can do to rectify the mistake?
3. A felon applies for a position at your company. What do you do?
a. Start looking for a new position.
b. Offer help to the felon to find an apartment and help them make friends who will help them improve their life.
4. A young man wants to serve a mission, but struggles to kick a drinking habit. What do you do?
a. Tell him to call you anytime, day or night, and attend meetings with him.
b. Tell him to pray about it and read the scriptures if he struggles.
5. Someone in your ward is suffering with depression. What do you think?
a. They must be sinning if they feel bad about themselves.
b. They probably need medication and therapy.
6. You see someone who is overweight. What do you immediately think?
a. This person needs to follow the Word of Wisdom more carefully.
b. This person may be struggling financially or emotionally in ways that need support, not condemnation, from others.
7. You are asked to head a service project for a group home of addicts. What do you say?
a. It’s fine to have adults work on this project, but it’s not for teens or younger kids.
b. No one is to be separated from the love of God or His church.
8. A man saves an injured woman by a massive feat of superhuman strength. What do you think?
a. He might be a felon and I should report him to the police.
b. God has sent him to this place in this woman’s time of need. Praise God and praise him.
9. A family in the ward has asked for assistance. They have never attended meetings and do not intend to do so now. Do you think they deserve help?
a. No, if they wanted help, they’d follow the rules.
b. Of course, they asked for help. The Book of Mormon makes it very clear that someone who asks for help should be given help and there is no way to self-justify not giving it.
10. You see a beggar on the street asking for money. What do you do?
a. Give them money. It’s the easiest thing to do to move on with your own life and priorities.
b. Stop and ask what’s going on and what you might be able to do to really help them.
I know that we Mormons talk a lot about Christ’s Atonement satisfying the demands of both mercy and justice. We seem to want to reassure ourselves that we don’t have to choose between them. I’m not sure it’s true in the real world, as Javert and Valjean seem to indicate. I’m also not sure that anyone is really always Javert or always Valjean, but at the end of my life, I hope that I hear the song that Valjean hears when he dies and not the one that Javert hears.