"And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death."
The Lord reveals to Moses his laws in various matters. In these verses I am reminded of the commandment given in Exodus 20:12 "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
The penalty of striking or cursing your parent is death. That does sound rather extreme. Why is that? Then I read in Mosiah 13:29-30
"And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;
Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him."
I thought about how easily the children of Israel forgot God's power, the miracles performed, and all the signs given them. They were constantly complaining or doubting. They would not live a higher law. They did not love Him or trust him. They needed to be in constant remembrance and fear of the Lord. It was stiffneckedness that did this. With Christ's atonement and resurrection the law of Moses was fulfilled. Yet, I still have the ten commandments to live by, but it sure is gentler to think of honoring my parent and not striking or cursing them. What a promised blessing is mine if I keep this commandment. What a contrast it is to sit in fear of the Lord.
For all this I can see that when I stray from the commandments there are still repercussions for my actions. A hard hearted and stiffnecked person would only be capable of striking or cursing their parents. The act tells you they are incapable at that point of living a higher law. This would lead to death, a spiritual death. I would imagine it would be better to fear physical death for such an act, and have it prevent you from breaking that law. For God was ultimately trying to stop you from committing spiritual death. To not be able to live a higher law, and having a stricter lower law, it was in its way more merciful to them.