“He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
We’re all familiar with the words spoken in John 8:7 by Christ to those who found a woman in adultery and should therefore be stoned according to the Law of Moses. With this statement, Christ clearly demonstrated the difference between the Law of Moses and the higher law He wants us to live.
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Many people find it difficult to reconcile the angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament with the kind, loving example shown by the Savior during His short time on earth. The Law of Moses and the new, higher law that Christ taught seem to be at odds with one another.
However, the Law of Moses was meant to be a simplified, more specific version than the higher law because the people rejected living it. They weren’t ready.
For centuries, they lived the Law of Moses, distorting it with each generation until it became cruel and punishing. They threw stones at people they deemed wicked until they died.
That is not our God.
Our God is one of love. And the way the Pharisees interpreted the Law of Moses is very different than how God originally wanted us to live.
Let’s start at the beginning – when you think of the word “cast,” what do you think of?
For me, I think of fishing. (Hey y’all, it’s Tiffany here.) I grew up hiking, camping, and fishing with my father from a fairly young age. I love the feeling of gently casting my fishing pole and relaxing while I hear the water of the lake lap at the shore.
Because of this, when I first heard the phrase “cast a stone at her” as a teenager, I envisioned a stone being tossed to someone else in a gentle, controlled manner. Not the frenzied stoning that the Pharisees seemed to delight in.
So instead of throwing punishing stones of judgment meant to wound or destroy, I want to talk about different stones that the Lord has used in the past, and how we can cast them as a lifeline to those who are in need and struggling.
Stones of Help – 1 Samuel 7:12
One of the verses in the popular hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessings reads,
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy help I come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we’re supposed to lift up a stuffy old man who doesn’t like Christmas. In addition to breaking my back, it would have no relevance at all!
in 1 Samuel 7, the Lord helps His people defeat the Philistines. After this, the prophet Samuel praised the Lord:
Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.
The footnote for Eben-ezer says that the meaning of the word is “stone of help.”
When we see someone struggling, we should be casting them stones of help. Lifelines that they can hang onto. When the world seems to be battling against them like the Philistines, we offer them a strengthening hand so their enemy, whom they cannot defeat alone, can be conquered.
Sometimes this isn’t spiritual, it’s temporal! This is the purpose of having home and visiting teaching (or ministering, as it’s now referred to).
When you see a new mother who is overwhelmed by her new responsibilities, offer her a stone of help! When you see an elderly neighbor no longer able to care for his yard, offer him a stone help!
After all, didn’t we covenant at baptism to bear one another’s burdens?
Stone of Missionary Work – Daniel 2:34
Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
In the Old Testament, Daniel interprets a dream where a stone goes forth and fills the whole earth. This is symbolic for the gospel of Jesus Christ being preached in all corners of the world.
While none of us has the capabilities to preach the gospel to the entire earth, we do have stones that fit neatly into our corner of this planet. We can use our small stones of testimony and cast them out to others, filling our part of the world with these stones.
However, these stones will only be effective if we actually cast them out! If we keep them to ourselves, then they won’t be able to move forward and grow to fill the hearts of those around us.
Stone of Empathy – Revelation 2:17
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
The footnote for white stone tells us that this is a Urim and Thummim. The Bible Dictionary defines the Urim and Thummim, “An instrument prepared of God to assist man in obtaining revelation from the Lord and in translating languages.”
Basically, this white stone represents revelation from our Father, We read in Alma 7:13 that “the Spirit knoweth all things” and goes on to explain the Spirit could have told the Savior how we felt instead of Him feeling it Himself.
Well, if the Spirit could do that for the Savior, then couldn’t He do that for us?
Couldn’t we receive revelation for those around us that teaches us how that person is feeling or what their circumstances are?
Even though we may not fully understand another’s situation, the Spirit can give us revelation and insight into their feelings and emotions, even to the extent that we can feel a part of them as well.
Isn’t that the definition of empathy? Merriam Webster states that empathy is –
the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
As we come in contact with those around us who we may feel are in sin, we should take the time to receive revelation through the Spirit and cast stones of empathy to them, not stones of condemnation.
Stones of Covenants and Prayer – 1 Nephi 2:7
And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.
Since the beginning with Adam and Eve, the altars of the temple were built with stone. They were used to pray to the Father and covenant with Him and our Savior.
Today in our temples, we have altars where we make those same covenants and offer those same prayers.
When we come in contact with sinners around us (and since we are all sinners, you’re bound to run into a few in your lifetime!), we need to look to the covenants we’ve made at baptism and in the temple to tell us how we can offer strength and support to them.
By casting the stones of our covenants, we encourage them to eventually make covenants of their own.
Stones of Testimony – Matthew 16:17-18
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Similar to stones of covenants and missionary work, we also have stones of testimony.
The Spirit gave Peter his testimony that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He would not have gotten it in any other way.
When the Savior pardoned the woman taken in adultery, she too had the opportunity to gain the exact same witness and testimony that Peter, the chief of all of the apostles, did.
Similarly, our responsibility is to take the stones of our testimonies of Christ and toss them to others and allow them the opportunity to know Him for themselves.
This is almost never done directly – no one would take it very well if we just walked up and started preaching of Christ to them! Instead, we cast our stones of the Savior’s divinity by “receiving His image in our countenances” (Alma 5:14). As we work to become more like Christ, the more others will come to know Him because they know us.
Stones of Strength – Helaman 5:12
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
Probably the most obvious stone we should cast at those who are struggling (whether temporally or spiritually) is a stone of strength.
We all have incredibly difficult trials where we just feel like we’re hanging by a thread. It’s as if the waves are pounding on us from all directions. One wrong step, one more hard thing, and we’re going to slip and fall into that gulf of misery and endless wo.
This is when a person needs a stone of help cast to them the most. A life preserver that they can cling onto until the waves subside and the waters are still and calm again.
When you have strength, share that strength with those who don’t.
Stones of Light – Ether 6:3
And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.
Many people in the midst of sin (whether great or small) are caught in the mists of darkness in Lehi’s dream. Those mists of darkness can cause people to become confused and lose their way in their search for the Tree of Life.
Just as the Savior caused the 16 stones that allowed the Jaredites to cross the sea with light instead of pitch darkness in their barges, we can cast out stones of light to others and guide them out of the darkness.
Like our stones of testimony, this is best done through our example. We can provide light to others as we share what makes us happy and allow others to feel the peace and comfort the gospel brings into our own lives.
Stones of Triumph – 1 Samuel 17:50
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.
All of these lead up to the ultimate stone – the stone of triumph.
Those in sin (aka, all of us!) face Goliaths in our lives. These may be temptations or trials that seem to be insurmountable. They are giants, and we are all so small.
But just as David was able to cast a stone and slay his Goliath, we can cast stones towards others (and sometimes, even in behalf of others!) to help them knock down what stands in their way of gaining eternal life.
It may be the large pile of laundry that keeps growing.
It could be overcoming an addiction or leaving an abusive relationship.
Or perhaps they don’t feel welcome at church and are considering not coming anymore.
Everyone has Goliaths. Everyone is in need of a stone of help, an Ebenezer from the Lord when the Philistines are attacking.
We, as disciples of Christ and followers of His higher law, can cast stones to others that will allow them to overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their lives.