Let’s play a name and scripture verse association game. I’ll say a name and you associate a scripture with it.

The name is “Hitler.”

From what I’ve seen and heard in life and the bloggernacle, there’s a sizeable group of Mormons out there who will immediately come up with the following:

Doctrine and Covenants 64:10

I the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

Now why is that? How is it that this verse became associated (in some minds) with the leader of the Third Reich? Maybe this is some kind of LDS cultural phenomenon.  Maybe we all had seminary or institute teachers who somehow linked this name to Hitler (though I don’t recall that particular seminary lesson).  But I am wondering if this is correct.  Should we read this scripture and instinctively grasp for the cruelest, most evil name we can think of and then magnanimously decide he should be forgiven? Is that really the mental exercise Jesus wants from us?

I’ll be bold and crazy and say no. I really don’t believe that is the Lord’s intention in giving this verse – to forgive Hitler or to tell us that we should forgive Hitler. Jesus was perfectly capable of using hyperbole to make a point, and I don’t think he truly expected us to arrest all judgment, reason and common sense in pondering the just fate of such an extremely cruel mass-murdering tyrant.

There is a danger, in taking any single verse, and focusing so much on that verse that it becomes the entire gospel. That kind of extreme scriptural interpretation is enough to make sanity, reason and common sense flee away. It’s that kind of scriptural approach that turns the human brain to sludge.

In my opinion, if we really want to take the scriptures and apply them to the case of Hitler, there are many other scriptural passages (not associated with the principle of mercy) that should come into consideration. This simply isn’t a personality or situation in which a single verse (particularly D&C 64:10) of scripture is going to resolve the question at hand. Even if this verse does come into play, it should not be the first passage of scripture that comes to mind.