A question came up in Sunday School when we were studying the Book of James. He exorts us to “be slow to wrath.” A great deal of contention arose between those in attendance in the ensuing discussion. One said that Brigham Young had stated that we should never show our wrath toward another. Was James, then, indicating that it is okay to be angered to the point of showing one’s wrath, or that we should be SO slow at getting to wrath that we never actually get there (thus, fulfilling Brother Brigham’s counsel.) Also, did not the Savior exhibit his wrath against the money changers in the temple? I would appreciate any comments you might have.
Dear Robert J.
It’s curious how far afield we can get, when people contend with one another over the scriptures.
The Nephites on one occasion were contending with one another in the land of Bountiful with respect to the appropriate manner of baptism.. The Savior, announced by the Father, appeared to them and taught them the true doctrine of baptism. He commanded that there should be no disputations among them on the points of his doctrine, and then He said–
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another (3 Nephi 11:29.)
The scriptures are understood by the administrations of the Holy Spirit, and when contentions arise the Holy Spirit retires, and men are left to their own devices. I feel sure that you can answer your own questions about what degree of wrath would be acceptable in the Lord’s eyes. However, let’s examine in detail the points that you bring up. What do you think was the intention of James when he counseled that we should be slow to wrath? As we read on from that verse he tells us that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Do you think that James would suggest that a little wrath is all right when he tells us that wrath does not work righteousness? I think that James 1:20 would clarify the contention that arose over verse 1:19.
Although we are commanded to abide by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, it is realized that none of us is perfect. Brother Brigham did not state that we should never feel wrath (The fact that he didn’t state it does not mean that he condoned it.) What he stated was that we should never give expression to our wrath. So indeed, if we cannot control our feelings and feel angry toward another, we should nevertheless control our words and never give vent to our unkind feelings.
Now concerning the Savior showing wrath against the money changers in the temple, I believe that if you read that scripture you will find nothing there indicating that the Savior was wrathful or angry. You may make that interpretation if you wish from the fact that He drove out the money changers and others who were polluting the temple. The Lord is unboubtedly capable of feeling all of the emotions characterized by the children of men. We read that
the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague (Numbers 11:33.)
And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp (Numbers 11:1.)
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me (Exodus 20:4-5.)
There can be no question that God is a perfect God, having all his emotions and feelings in perfect control. If He expresses any of the emotions that we are counseled not to express, we must know that those emotions are expressed in perfect righteousness and for holy purposes, that the unrepenant wicked may be punished according to the justice of God, for indeed He is a just God, and He is the judge.