I will defer to another day the discussion I had planned to present today because this week my friend, David Corbett, asked, "What is worse, to be unjust or unmerciful?" Eloquently, he concluded it is worse to be unmerciful.
Since I read his comments, I have thought much about that question. And I feel both are equally devastating.
Justice is a two-edged sword, cutting for and against us. When we obey the law, justice ensures we receive every privilege and blessing we are entitled to under the law: liberty, life, joy, and ultimately salvation. But when we violate the law, justice demands punishment for our actions: captivity, death, misery, and ultimately damnation. And while we receive blessings for obedience, we do not receive any additional merit to satisfy the demands that justice rightly has against us.
By its nature, justice considers all circumstances surrounding our actions. Taking into account all aggravating and mitigating factors, it renders judgement. And if we are honest, the demands of justice are perfectly, well, just.
Without justice, all things would be compound in one. The dichotomy of blessing and punishment creates opposition in all things. We could not know joy if we did not know sorrow. We could not choose good if we could not contrast it with evil. And we could not receive the blessings of obedience without justice. When justice confronts us with our punishment, we will plead for mercy, promising we "will never do it again."
And if there were no justice to demand punishment for our evil deeds, there would be no need for mercy.
Mercy is available only through the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is His desire to save all mankind. To that end, He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin to answer the demands of justice. He has extended mercy to all of us and will save us if we let Him.
Christ's mercy is the perfect and highest manifestation of pure love the universe has ever known. Thus, the failure to extend mercy is the failure to love. When we are merciful, we are filled with the pure love of Christ, or charity. And as the prophet Mormon taught, if we have not charity, we are nothing.
Therefore, if we fail to be just, we fail to take the time to analyze the individual circumstances of each person. We won't give praise where it is due. We won't correct the mistakes of others. And if we fail to be merciful, we lack charity, the perfect love of Jesus Christ, and we are nothing.