The Rights of Mercy

Moroni 7:27. Moroni is asking a rhetorical question about whether miracles have ceased since Christ isn’t on earth anymore. But instead of just saying, “Have miracles ceased Because Christ hath ascended into heaven,” He adds this interesting statement: “And hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?”

“His rights of mercy.” That’s a unique phrase; not found anywhere else. Questions:

  • What are the rights of Mercy?
  • Why are the rights of mercy important?
  • How did Christ otain those rights?
  • How were they the Fathers to give?
  • How is this “right” different from rights discussed so often in our society today?

Insight followed as I pondered those questions. I am a sinner, but Christ can show me mercy. He earned the right to show me mercy because he atoned for my sins. While human rights are considered “inalienable” (Which I am not denying, but the way. I believe there are certain rights everyone deserves). But while much time and effort is spent demanding those inalienable rights, I was impressed that we have a Christ who, if you study his life, never really claimed any of the rights that should’ve been automatic, and paid the ultimate price for the rights that he does claim. 

This is to me an example of what Elder Neal A. Maxwell meant when he talked about the irony that Christ endured:

Dramatic irony assuaged Jesus’ divinity almost constantly. For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father “in all things from the beginning.” This whole earth became Jesus’ footstool, but at Bethlehem there was “no room … in the inn” and “no crib for his bed.” At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him “as they listed.” Christ’s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.
— Elder Neal A. Maxwell

(See this talk for a long list of impressively endured ironies in the life of the Savior.)

I’m struck that while I’m so often thinking about getting what I deserve, Christ never took any rights without paying a terrible price, and when he does claim his rights, it’s only to bless us. As far as I can tell, there is only one other instance in the scriptures about Christ claiming a right: "Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.” (D&C 58:22. See also Ezekiel 21:27). Again, this is a right fully earned, never demanded. 

My thoughts naturally turned to the spiritual rights we may claim. Like Christ, are there spiritual rights within our reach? “Rights” in this sense, as a noun, appears rarely in the scriptures until you reach the Doctrine and Covenants, where it appears multiple times. In almost all cases, its used in relation to priesthood authority. (See “Right” in the topical guide). 

For example, see D&C 121:36-37, part of what David O. McKay called “the greatest revelation ever given on the priesthood.” 

36 The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. 

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. 

In other words, priesthood power to serve and bless others is earned through righteous action, and is given by our Heavenly Father, just like Christ earned the right to show mercy. I’m going to strive to be more worthy of the things that I may tend to see as my right. Maybe the most powerful of rights are earned, not inalienable.