To be happy we first need to understand what it means to be just and where justice comes from. 

To be just

To be just isn’t something that is forced or put upon us as a requirement when we enter mortality. To be just is to be in agreement with, to be one with, or to live within the boundaries of law. Here is part of the definition of just from the 1828 Webster’s dictionary.

5. In a moral sense, upright; honest; having principles of rectitude [the disposition to conform to a standard of conduct or a law]; or conforming exactly to the laws, and to principles of rectitude in social conduct; equitable [fairness] in the distribution of justice; as a just judge.

6. In an evangelical sense, righteous; religious; influenced by a regard to the laws of God; or living in exact conformity to the divine will. [clarification added]

Someone who is just is inclined to act, feel, and think within the boundaries of the law. This inclination is part of our eternal make up. When God creates anything He first creates the laws by which His creation will exist. God determines if the creation is something that will be acted upon or if it will be able to act for itself. His laws lay out the boundaries for that creation’s ability to choose and act. Nothing in creation that we know of has been created to be free of an eternal law to govern that creation. All things are governed by the laws God laid down for that creation before it came into being.

Our desire to act in a just manner, to conform to the laws God has given us, is a natural and eternal part of ourselves. There is nothing in our experience that lies outside of our understanding that all things have limits, boundaries, rules, and needs to conform to be within the laws God has decreed for us. I believe that this is partly why we experience guilt when we knowingly break a commandment. We know better. Guilt is the little red flashing light of the soul warning us that something just went wrong in our life and needs to be addressed.


Did you notice that the word rectitude is all about our disposition to conform to a standard or law? In the scriptures this word is replaced with the word “list.” Let’s look at Alma 3:26-27. This defines what it means to list.

26 And in one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one.

27 For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth. And thus endeth the fifth year of the reign of the judges.

If a ship lists to one side it leans to that side. To list is to tend to lean one direction or another. The verses above are telling us that our eternal reward is based on which set of rules we tend to obey the most. If we have obeyed God’s laws then we receive our eternal wages based on our having listened to or tended to obey Him. If we spend our days in life listening to or listing to obey the voice of Satan and the philosophies of the world then we will be rewarded with the misery that can only come from denying the happiness that could have been ours if we had chosen to follow God. As the scripture states, “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).

If you look up the definition of rectitude in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, you will see that the entire definition is based on God’s commandments from the Bible. So truly, without God’s word we have no way to even describe justice and being just, for those qualities were given to us by God, Himself. If you compare the 1828 version of the dictionary with the modern Webster’s Dictionary, all that was based on the scriptures has been removed. Now, justice, just, and rectitude are simply defined as “fairness” and “rightness” (whatever “rightness” means).

What this means

All of this that I have talked about so far only addresses our individual inclination to obey or act within the laws of God or not. It is our tendency to live rightly, honestly, morally, obediently, or not. Our rectitude is our inclination to live within the rules by which God governs our lives. Our lack of rectitude (our inclination to conform to a standard) also describes our inclination to ignore the laws of God and live according to our own desires. Lack of moral rectitude always brings eternal misery. The closer we draw to perfect rectitude (inclination to obey God), the more happiness we will experience, since the wages of obedience is eternal life, the kind of life God lives.

One who is just has learned the laws of God and lives within those laws. Because no part of the laws are violated we say that that person is justified before the law. In other words, that person lives in agreement with the laws. The person who lives within the boundaries of a law cannot be punished by the law. They have all the freedom of choice and movement that is afforded by that law.

Only truly just people are free, because the law cannot restrict them in any way. Remember that all laws have two parts, a rule or instruction, and a blessing or punishment for either living or not living according to that law.


When we take the definition of being just and apply its usefulness to others we arrive at justice. Here is part of Webster’s dictionary (1828) definition.

1. The virtue which consists in giving to every one what is his due; practical conformity to the laws and to principles of rectitude in the dealings of men with each other; honesty; integrity in commerce or mutual intercourse.

As you read that definition did you notice that without God and His laws there is no justice? It is God and His laws, along with our desire or tendency to obey those laws, that give us justice. We cannot be just, we cannot have justice without fairness, honesty, and integrity, (all defined by God in the scriptures) for justice is that act of “giving to every one what is his due.” This is why when people turn away from God the result is the loss of justice in society, for the people are no longer just.

The problem

Our problem as humans is that we all seek justice at the hands of others and from the laws of the land, yet we too often don’t want to have to be just people in our personal conduct. We can’t have it both ways. Here is a quote from Mormon 2. Mormon has been leading the armies of the Nephites. Their society has become so wicked that they have lost all sense of civility and civilization. They delight in wickedness and evil all the day long. At this point they had become so miserable that Mormon thought for a short time that perhaps they were going to repent and turn to God and keep the commandments so they could be happy again.

13 But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.

14 And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives.

These verses demonstrate to us the direction the world is headed currently. Too many of us are seeking our own pleasure, which too often ignores the commandments of God. This breaking of the law brings misery. We want our cake and to eat it too, so to speak. If we want to avoid misery we must obey the laws God has given us that bring happiness. We simply cannot break His laws and still expect to be happy. It goes against the very laws of nature. It has never been that way in time or in eternity, and it never will be that way. The very nature of the universe is that peace, contentment, love, honesty, kindness, and all other good virtues that bring happiness, only come at the cost of obedience to the laws of God.

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Just vs. Justice