faith in Jesus Christ how to gain faith and a definithion of what faith is
what is faith and how to gain faith


   

 

Chapter 1: Why a need for Zion?
Chapter 2: How do we Qualify
Chapter 3: The Obstacle to building Zion
Chapter 4: The Refiners Fire- The Trial of our Faith
Chapter 5: Be not deceived
Chapter 6: Destiny of America
Chapter 7: Adam-ondi-Ahman
Chapter 8: Building Zion




 

How do we Qualify?

What is faith and how is it obtained?

 

“Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write

 these things that evil may be done away, and that

 the time may come that Satan may have no power

 upon the hearts of the children of men, but that

they may be persuaded to do good continually,

                                    that they may come unto the fountain of all

righteousness and be saved.” (Ether 8:26)

 

 

Trust that the Lord will bless us as we keep His commandments

            Paul defines faith in two parts, first he says: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for”.  (Heb. 11:1) We might ask ourselves, what is it that we are hoping for?  Moroni answered this question when he wrote: “...How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope? And what is it that ye shall hope for?  Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.” (Moroni 7:41,42)

This eternal life that we should be hoping for is the greatest of all the blessings or gifts that the Lord has promised to us. (D&C 14:7) The Lord has many blessings available to us as we keep his commandments, and informs us that every blessing that He has for us to obtain is tied to a commandment, and that “...when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20,21) He actually challenges us to test or “prove me.”  “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, If I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10) What the Lord is challenging is, “prove me”, you keep the commandment, and I will pour out the blessing, trust me!  “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10)

            The Lord promises if we live the Word of Wisdom we “…shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:19-20.) We see these promises fulfilled in the first chapter of Daniel. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were taken to Babylon where they were to be taught for three years along with princes from other nations that King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered.  “And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.” (Daniel 1:5.)

The Word of Wisdom teaches that wine and strong drinks are not good for the belly, and that meat should be used sparingly. (vs. 5-12) It is evident that they had the Word of Wisdom given to them for we read: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” (vs. 8) At first this prince that was over them was reluctant because he feared his life if the King discovered the change. Daniel asked for a trial to demonstrate the benefit of changing their diet, he requested: “Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse [pulse refers to grains and vegetables] to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.” (vs. 12-15.)

            At the end of the three years we see the greater promise of the Word of Wisdom fulfilled, that they would “find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures,” for when they were tested before the king  “ … among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” (Daniel 1:19-20.)

            So how do we learn to trust someone?  It is by experience. Can you think of someone that you trust, or do not trust?  Why is it that you trust one person and not another?  It is because of the experiences you have had with that individual. Can you trust someone that you do not know? Can we trust the Lord if we do not have any experiences with him?  Do we trust the Lord enough that we believe He will keep His word in fulfilling His promises?  I might word Paul's definition this way: Faith is blessings that are hoped for.

The difference between a simple belief and faith may best be illustrated in a story I heard once about a man who stretched a wire over the Niagara Falls. He crossed several times with a balance bar and then took a load of bricks weighing about two hundred pounds across in a wheelbarrow. Upon completing his feat he asked those observing if they thought he could carry a human being in the wheelbarrow. Many responded that they believed that he would have no problem at all to carry a person safely to the other side, at which the tightrope walker responded, “then get in.” While there were some who believed that the tightrope walker could carry a person safely across the Falls, there were none who had the faith to get into the wheelbarrow.

It is one thing to believe that the principles of the Gospel are true, yet faith in the principles of Christ involves searching them out and living them. Faith requires action or application of the principles of the Kingdom of God and unless we earnestly seek out and put them into practice, we really only believe that the Gospel is true. Even knowledge that God lives can be inactive, not trusting the principles that make up the Lord’s Kingdom. There were one third of the hosts of heaven who knew that God lived but did not have faith in His plan of salvation.

There are some looking for an instant testimony, they want a sign or miracle so they do not have to put forth the effort necessary, they are looking for a shortcut to faith in place of living the teachings of the Lord. To them the Lord has said; “I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing. Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh from beneath and not from above.” (D&C 58:32,33)

Seeing God face-to-face, or seeing an angel will not give us the confidence to live correct principles. The lives of Laman and Lemuel have demonstrated that fact: “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard His voice from time to time; and He hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel His words; wherefore, He has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.” (1 Nephi 17:45.) The problem was they had no faith to put into practice correct principles and as a substitute they were “swift to do iniquity.” The only way we can know that a principle of the Gospel brings blessings is to live that principle. (John 7:17)

            I was in conversation with a minister of another faith and he asked what Mormons felt they had to do to get to heaven.  When I told him we had to keep the commandments, he responded: “that’s all you Mormons talk about, works, works, works, the Bible tells us that ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:9)

            As I thought about that verse my conclusion was, that it is by faith that we receive grace, but our definition of faith was unlike the rest of Christianity. Many define faith as a mere belief, yet it must be much more than that, for how can a man have faith or trust without keeping the commandments and isn’t faith also works? “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13) That is what James meant when he said; “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and [James replies] I have works: [then James challenges] shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." So James concludes that without obedience to the commandments we cannot prove that faith even exists, for faith without works, or without obedience to the commandments, “...is dead, being alone” or cannot even exist. (James 2:17,18)

            Remember the rich young man that approached the Savior and asked, “…What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” And the Lord replied: “…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19: 16,17)

 

 

How to use faith to gain knowledge

            One important application of faith is to use faith to gain knowledge. The Lord commands; “...seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118; 109:7,14) First we must obtain the principles of the Gospel through diligent study, then gain knowledge of those principles through faith. The question then is how do we use faith to gain knowledge? 

           There are two ways that we can use faith to gain knowledge, and both are needed, one is to fast and pray for testimony, Alma recorded his struggle to gain knowledge:

           "Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God. I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name." (Alma 5:46-48)

 

           Another important process is to live the principles to gain knowledge of them. Alma explains the steps in the thirty-second chapter: “Now, as I said concerning faith-that it was not a perfect knowledge-even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” 

            Alma compares the words of Christ, or the principles of the Gospel, to a seed that we, in faith, or trust, plant in our hearts and nourish, by putting into practice those principles. Then just as a seed, the words of Christ “sprouteth and beginneth to grow; then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? [or principle] I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness...And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, [or in that principle] and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.” (Alma 32:26-34)

Giving diligence to this experiment of principles you can “…add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (2 Peter 1:5-10.)

We must gain knowledge of the principles one at a time, and if we do, is “given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (v. 4.)

            A diligent study of the scriptures is an important part of gaining knowledge. We must seek out and discover the principles that make up the character of God.  Indeed we must feast on and observe the life of the Savior, Jesus said: “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.”  Philip wanted to see the Father with his natural eyes, but the Lord knew it was far more important to see our Father in Heaven with the eyes of our understanding, perceiving the attributes that make up his being, that make him God.  “Jesus saith unto him, have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:7-9)  

            Every day we see with our natural eyes people that we do not know.   After seeing them, how well do we know and understand them?  If we were to see the Lord with our natural eyes only, how much better would we understand him?  When Jesus was on earth in mortality there were many thousands that beheld Jesus with their eyes, even listened to his sermons, but never really knew him

It is by far, much more important to see the Lord with our heart and understand with an eye of faith, then to see with our natural eyes-only. Before those of old beheld the Lord with their natural eye they had to see with an eye of faith:  “And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.” (Ether 12:19)

So how do we see the Lord with an eye of faith?  By studying His life, praying for understanding and testimony, and putting into practice the principles that Jesus lived by, thus knowing for certain that they are true.  If we only have a testimony that Christ lives, and do not have knowledge of, and live by the principles of the gospel, how are we any different than Satan and his angels? For they know that Jesus is the Christ, and tremble. (James 2:19)

There are those who desire a sign or miracle in order to gain knowledge, but are really only looking for a shortcut to a testimony, they don’t want to put forth the effort to study and live the principles to know they are true; thereby they would avoid using faith to gain knowledge.

The Lord is not asking for blind obedience to principle, but rather living to gain knowledge and confidence, until we can testify of their truth, and are firm rooted in the principles of the Gospel.

            Nephi taught “...Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do...and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” (2 Ne. 32:3,7)

            Jesus came to do the will of His Father, but in order to do the will of the Father it required knowing the will of the Father.  In order to know the will of the Father it required a time of study, pondering, and prayer.  And so Jesus grew in knowledge “And He received not of the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until He received a fullness; and thus He was called the Son of God, because He received not of the fullness at the first.” (D&C 93:13,14)

            When did the Lord do his study and prayer? “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out and departed into a solitary place and there prayed.” (Mk. 1:35) Jesus must have made a habit of arising early for we read that when He taught in the temple: “And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them.”  (John 8:2) How would the people know to come early to listen to Jesus, if He did not regularly come early to teach? Jesus must have made a routine of this throughout His life for even in the resurrection Jesus continued this habit: “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from that sepulcher.” (Jn. 20:1) Even so are we instructed: “...arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” (D&C 88:124)

            Mormon bore testimony of the importance of scripture study: “Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked-And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit sown with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.” (Helaman 3:29,30)

And thus we gain “knowledge and intelligence” through “diligence and obedience.” (D&C 130:19)  Even as the Lord has said: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17) We must first trust in the Lord to put His principles to the test, and then we will gain a knowledge that they are true, “...for ye receive no witness [or knowledge] until after the trial [or exercise] of your faith.” (Ether 12:6)

If we as members of Christ’s Church feel that all we have to do is have a testimony that Jesus lives and that the Gospel is true, and do not strive to learn and live the principles that Jesus taught and exemplified, how are we any different than the Christian world who say that all we have to do is confess His name to be saved?

           

Trust that the Lord will deliver us

            Another aspect of faith is that we trust that the Lord will deliver us out of all our difficult circumstances.   Mormon instructed in his record: “...Whosoever putteth his trust in Him the same shall be lifted up at the last day...” (Mosiah 23:22)

            It is of interest that the word faith appears only twice in the Old Testament. (Duet. 32:20; Hab.2:4) while it appears numerous times in the New Testament, so we might ask, what word did they use in place of the word faith in the Old Testament?  In Proverbs chapter three verses five and six it is recorded: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6) It appears that the words trust and faith have been used interchangeably in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, for Alma bore testimony: “And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.” (Alma 36:27)

            Now this brings us to the other part of faith as Paul defines it, “evidences [or experiences] of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) As we have these experiences, our faith, or trust in the Lord increases.  Put yourself in the place of Daniel in the Lions den; Daniel was cast into the den of lions and prayed through the night to be delivered, and the Lord saved him from their mouths. Would your faith be stronger before you went in or after you came out? (Daniel 6) Ponder the words of three other Israelites in the same kind of situation as they were about to be thrown into a furnace of fire: “...we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:16,17)  They did not know what would happen to them before they went into the furnace but after this experience they could say as Enos, “my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord.” (Enos 1:11.)

How did David gain the confidence to say to Goliath, “This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand…” David told Saul how he increased his faith in the Lord. “And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth; and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, the Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine…” (1 Samuel 17:46,34-37)

            To every obstacle we face in life there are choices we have to make, either for good or evil.  It is interesting to learn that this life was delicately planned out so that we would have many trials, and problems, so that to each of those situations we would have opportunity to make choices.  Every difficult circumstance we are put in, we can choose a righteous action, or an unrighteous reaction.  We can choose how we want to act, or we can let the “natural man” react, for man has his agency “...to act for themselves and not to be acted upon...” in other words “...it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so...righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad....” Without these trials or tests of our faith the world would have “...been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation.  Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and His eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy and the justice of God.” Without laws there can be no judgment; “And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery, and if these things are not there is no God....” For God himself had to be faced with and make correct choices in order for Him to become God, and so Lehi concludes if there was no opposition there would be no God; “...And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” (2Ne. 2:26,11,12,13)

            To illustrate, suppose someone were to hit you, the natural reaction would be to hit him or her back. In that response we would be “acted upon,” this is the natural man that is an enemy to God. (Mosiah 3:19) But the Lord taught that the righteous choice, or the choice of a true saint, would be to control our temper, to choose our action or “act” and not be “acted upon” and turn the other cheek. (Matt. 5:39)

It is interesting that someone has added a phrase in verse 22 of Matthew chapter 5, it reads: “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22.) The phrase “without a cause” was not spoken by the Savior, it is out of principle with His teachings, and has been added to the text. This fact is born out if we look at 3 Nephi 12:22, it reads: “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” The Lord is teaching that we never have a cause to be angry. How then should we act toward those that hurt us?  “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:43-44.)

            Jesus’ wrongful persecution, His underserved suffering and death, has brought so great a blessing. Through His willing yet unmerited sacrifice He brought about the atonement of mankind. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously:” (1 Peter 2:21-23.)

            Shall not our undeserved trials and persecutions be a blessing upon our heads, if we endure them well? As the Lord has said: “For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (1 Ne. 20:10) For this reason we should “rejoice and be exceeding glad” when we are falsely accused, persecuted, or reviled, “for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:11,12)

The experiences of Job may reveal the source of difficulties and problems in our own life. Satan is permitted to afflict and trouble us here and try to discourage us. His goal is to weaken and destroy our faith in the Lord.

The trials we endure may be put into a few categories. One would be related to our families, disagreements, illness, or even the loss of a loved one. Another would be related to material things, our possessions and our livelihood. Another might be our health and well-being. Another might be our self-esteem, and our acceptance by others.

Job was one who lived the principles of the gospel, for it was spoken of him; “Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.” (Job 4:3,4) Even the Lord testified of him: “…there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man one that feareth God, and escheweth evil.” (Job 1:8) Satan accused that the only reason Job worshiped and followed the Lord was because He put a “hedge” around Job and his possessions, and “blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.” (Vr 10) Satan, thinking to turn Job against the Lord, as he also does with us, obtained permission to take away all his possessions, and livelihood. First the Sabeans and Chaldeans stole all his oxen, asses, and camels, and slew his servants, and a storm destroyed his sheep. Then perhaps the most devastating trial of all he lost all his children. Their came a messenger and reported: “…Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” (Vs. 13-19)  To Lucifer’s frustration these trials only increased the righteousness and faith of Job, for he “…rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Vs. 20,21)

            For next trial Satan again approached the Lord, this time saying; “…all that a man hath will he give for his life.” (Job 2:4) Job was then smitten “with boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.” (Vr 7) Evan Job’s wife spoke; “…Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die.” (Vr 9) At this point we see three friends, possibly church members for they are having a doctrinal religious discussion, come and denounce him. They said he must have done something wrong, for “…whoever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness reap the same.” (Job 4:7,8)  Job was faced with the loss of respect from not only his wife, but also his friends who may have been members of the Church.

This might be a great example about judging others, as King Benjamin spoke about those in difficult circumstances: “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery…But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 4:17,18)

Imagine the aggravation that Satan must have felt when Job declared to all; “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him…For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 13:15; 19:25-27) Then we read of Job; “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning:” (Job 42:12)

We see the Lord consoling the Prophet Joseph Smith in his time of adversity while being held captive in the Liberty jail: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.” (D&C 121:7-10.) “…Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7)

             The great comfort and promise is that the Lord will bless us and even deliver us as we put our trust in Him and make correct choices.  Alma's advice to his son Shiblon applies to us also: “And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Alma 38:5)

            “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” (Ether 12:4)

            The unfortunate circumstance is that many go through this life without trusting that the Lord can and will deliver us out of all our trials, and because of this lack of faith there can be no hope, instead there can only be despair. (Moroni 10:20-22) We have all been through a lions den or through a fiery furnace, as the adversary has attempted to destroy our faith, were we devoured and burned, or did we exercise faith in the Lord and trust that He would deliver us.

              Remember we have this promise from the Lord: “When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which He sware unto them.” (Deuteronomy 4:30-31.)

Helaman taught these words to his sons: “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.” (Helaman 5:12) If the foundation of a building is unstable, the building cannot long stand, for it will fall apart, and so it is with our lives, without a “sure foundation” our lives will be in disarray.

 

“Faith unto repentance”

Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of Him who created you? (Alma 5:15)

         Through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ we experience important principles such as meekness and lowliness of heart, which humility brings “…the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love.” (Moroni 8:26) We incorporate into our lives the principles of forgiveness, compassion and empathy for the mistakes and struggles of others around us, and gratitude for the blessings the Lord has given us. Indeed we might say that this faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ is the “Schoolmaster” for the Celestial Kingdom. Because of applying this faith in the redemption, the effect will be, according to King Benjamin, that we "... will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due." (Mosiah 4:13)                                    

                                    Nephi saw in vision that many plain and precious parts of the gospel were taken from the Bible as we have it today, and that because of those plain and precious parts being removed, it would cause “...an exceedingly great many to stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” Nephi than observed that the record of his seed “...shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them.” (1Ne 13:26-29,39-41) Moroni made the same declaration when he wrote: “Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.” (Ether 8:26)

            What are these plain and precious parts that have been removed from the Bible that are so clearly taught in the Book of Mormon?  This brings us to another aspect of faith, which I will refer to in a phrase that Amulek uses, “faith unto repentance”. (Alma 34:16)

            This principle is best defined as trusting, or having faith, in the Atonement of the Savior, by coming unto him and seeing our weakness, then humbling ourselves in prayer, pleading for mercy, and forgiveness.  King Benjamin describes this aspect of faith this way: “...believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.” (Mosiah 4:10) The important thing to remember is that King Benjamin is speaking to members of the Church in his day, Priesthood holders, and those who are already baptized. 

             It is apparent that first in this path, is to come unto Christ; “come unto me” the Savior declares, or in Nephi's words; “...press forward feasting upon the word of Christ...” (2Ne.31:20)  “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness...” Who gave us this weakness? The Lord says, “I gave unto men weakness” and why would the Lord want us to have weakness? “That they may be humble; and My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before Me; for if they humble themselves before Me, and have faith in Me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27) 

So how do we become humble? By seeing our weakness. If we do not see our flaws, it is not because we are without fault, it can only be because we have not looked; “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23.)

 

Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit

            This humility has been expressed in many different words in the scriptures, such as; broken heart and contrite spirit, poor in spirit, lowly in heart, less than the dust, penitent, Godly sorrow, or unworthy servant.  Moses expressed it this way: “...Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1:10) We must view ourselves in our “...own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth...” (Mosiah 4:2)  

            The definition of humility given by the Lord in the scriptures is that it means to sorrow for our weakness, our faults, and our sins, Godly sorrow that brings faith and repentance.  As the Lord said, that He has given us our weakness that we may be humble.  We must see our weakness or we cannot be humble, and it must be joined with faith for this is where the true blessings come from.

If we truly study the goodness of God and come unto Him, we will be shown our weakness even as King Benjamin taught:  “…if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state.  I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body- I say, that this is the man who

receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world. And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.” (Mosiah 4:5-8.)

            Ancient Israel, before the time of Christ, did not offer sacrifice that was acceptable to the Lord because it was not accompanied with a broken heart and contrite spirit, (Psalms 51:16,17) for when they had the gospel preached to them they did not exercise faith in the atonement of Christ, even as Paul wrote: “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Heb. 4:2)

            Even so today our worship must contain this element for the Lord commands: “Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” (D&C 59:8)  We also learn through the scriptures; “...the Comforter...manifesteth that Jesus was crucified by sinful men for the sins of the world, yea, for the remission of sins unto the contrite heart.” (D&C 21:9)    

As Moroni abridged the record of the Jaredites, he summarized the religious teachings to them in these words: “And they were taught to walk humbly before the Lord; and they were also taught from on high.” (Ether 6:17.) Their humility brought the Spirit of the Lord, to instruct them “from on high”.

            At the time of Christ, it was pride that hindered the Jews, even though the scribes and lawyers had a knowledge of the scriptures they were lacking in humility, while those who were not learned, yet were humble, did recognize the truth, fulfilling the words of the Savior: “...that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” (John 9:39)  Pride can blind us that we do not see our weakness and come down in the depths of humility.

            In the book of Joel it is foretold of the condition of our hearts in order for the Lord will appear: “...turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning; (sorrow for our weakness) And rend your heart, (a broken heart and contrite spirit) and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful...” Will this not be from seeing our weakness and having a broken heart and contrite spirit, and pleading for mercy?  Joel then discloses: “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.” (Joel 2:12,13,16) Then will be fulfilled the Marriage supper of the Lamb. (D&C 65:3-6; Rev 19:9,17)

            As I have read the words written by Omni, I have wondered if his words are expressions of his humility rather than his disobedience: “...But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done.” (Omni vr.2)  Perhaps it was Peter’s humility that qualified him for his great mission: “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Lk.5:8)

            We might ask, what was the desired effect of King Benjamin’s address?  We are told the Saints “… viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified...And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ...” (Mosiah 4:2,3)  King Benjamin continued to teach: “...I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.  And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” (vs. 11, 12) 

            So we must view ourselves in our weakness as even the great King Benjamin expressed: “And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust.” (Mosiah 2:26)  Then King Benjamin bears testimony: “And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.” (Mosiah 4:8)

Our future, until the Lord comes, may be very well compared to the events in 3 Nephi chapters 6 through 9 where the voice of the Lord spoke to them after the much destruction. The prophets had warned of the destruction if they did not humble themselves and repent, yet they did not heed the warnings. After the destructions the Lord, by voice from heaven, called them to repentance: “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto Me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto Me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost…” (3 Ne. 9:20)

President Ezra Taft Benson stated:

 “God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Alma said, ‘Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.” (Conf. Report, Saturday Morning, April 1, 1989)

 

Less than the dust

            Why are we less than the dust? Mormon observes that mankind does not always follow the Lord nor “...give ear unto his counsels, yea how slow to walk in wisdom's path!” Yet “...the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.” (Helaman 12:1-8)  It is plain and simple, the dust of the earth is obedient to the command of our God, and we are not.

            The Lord instructed Moroni: “...And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” (Ether 12:37)

            Nephi gives us a glimpse into his heart so we can observe the feelings that a servant of the Lord should have: “Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.  Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.... And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.” (2 Ne. 4:16-18) 

            Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:

While so striving daily, we will fall short. Hence the avoidance of discouragement is so vital. So where is the oft and much needed resilience to be found? Once again, in the glorious Atonement! Thereby we can know the lifting tide flowing from forgiveness.” (Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ Ensign, Nov. 1997)

 As Nephi we can have assurance knowing in whom we trust.

We are informed by Nephi, that Christ, our standard, also had similar feelings: “Know ye not that He was holy?  But notwithstanding He being holy, He showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh He humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that He would be obedient unto Him in keeping His commandments.” (2 Ne. 31:7)

            Instead of being born in royal courts the Lord was born in a stable. In the place of being heralded by Kings and Princes, the Savior was greeted into the world by lowly shepherds. Instead of being raised in a royal palace, the Lord declared, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20)

            Even as Nephi, we are given a glimpse into the heart of the Savior: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” (Psalms 22:6) Why a worm? Because it is lower than the dust of the earth.

            Isaiah also wrote of our Master: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.  Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” (Isa. 53:3,4) 

            The Lord invited: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29,30)  We can also observe the humility of Jesus when “...a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master… And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? None is good save one, that is God.” (Luke 18:18,19) 

            I have wondered how it could be that Jesus, being perfect, could be humble? Jesus had a will of his own, just as we have a will or desire of our own, but He always submitted Himself to the will of the Father. Jesus said: “I can of mine own self do nothing...because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.” (Jn. 5:30)  Evan as He prayed when He suffered for the sins of the world: “...O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou will.”  (Matt. 26:39)

We might reason as Nephi;  “If the Lamb of God, He being holy, should have need to” humble Himself before the Father, “how much more need have we, being unholy,” to humble ourselves before the Father. (2 Ne. 31:5) So we ought to humble ourselves as Christ did, and seek not our own will, but to do the will of the Father, we must be “...willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)

            Why would we want to avoid seeing our weakness?  Because it is painful, as Alma described: “...There could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains.” (Alma 36:21) Yet if it is not mixed with faith in the atonement, it is what Paul calls “sorrow of the world” which “worketh death.”  With the “sorrow of the world” there is misunderstanding of the Lords atonement, hopelessness, and despair.  But when sorrow is accompanied with faith in the Savior, as Paul refers to it; “godly sorrow” that “worketh repentance to salvation,” (2 Cor. 7:9,10) it inspires joy, hope, peace, and love.

             Mormon wrote of this worldly and godly sorrow as he observed his people mourning over their afflictions: “And it came to pass that when I, Mormon, saw their lamentation and their mourning and their sorrow before the Lord, my heart did begin to rejoice within me, knowing the mercies and the long-suffering of the Lord, therefore supposing that He would be merciful unto them that they would again become a righteous people. 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. 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.” (Mormon 2:12-14.)

            There is no salvation or exaltation, no forgiveness of sin, without a broken heart and a contrite spirit even as Lehi spoke these words to his son Jacob: “...redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for He is full of grace and truth. Behold He offereth Himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth...” (2 Ne. 2:6-8) Unless we are meek and lowly in heart our faith and hope is vain and not acceptable to God. (Moroni 7:43,44)

            We must wrestle with our sins as Enos did, (Enos 1:2) or Alma, as he was racked with torment, and then had it turn to joy. There must be a struggle with our sins and weaknesses before we experience forgiveness. We must feel some pain before we can feel the joy, knowing that our sins are swept away.  There must be remorse, for no growth can take place where children are totally protected from the consequences of their actions.  Only then can there be resolve to change, only through guilt mingled with faith in the atonement can there be love, and change of heart.  Oh how willing the Savior is to forgive!  Oh what hope and love can come when we exercise “faith unto repentance!”

 

Reconciled to God

            “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God...” (2 Ne. 25:23)      

            The word reconcile means to bring back to friendship after estrangement, or to bring back into harmony.  When we humble ourselves before the Lord, there is one more step that we must take to bring us back into harmony with God, we must go to Him in prayer and plead for mercy.  Even as Alma was “racked with torment” for three days, it was not until he “cried within [his] heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.  And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.  And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:17-20)

            After the people of King Benjamin “...viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth...they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God...And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come...” (Mosiah 4:2,3)

            This experience, for many of the prophets, must have been a very sacred, for we do not see many give an account of their struggle and receiving a remission of their sins, yet they must have often encouraged the saints, for Enos recorded that he pondered on “...the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.  And my soul hungered...” He then prayed, “all the day long” and into the night until he was assured that his sins were forgiven. (Enos 1:3-6) 

            Would not this reconcile us to God?  As Nephi wrote: “I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell. I have charity for my people and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat...I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ...” (2 Ne. 33:9)

 

Change of heart or Born of the Spirit

            In the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite, to the Nephites, he gave us this information about the teachings of the scriptures as they had them: “...the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them-Therefore, as many as have come to this, ye know of yourselves are firm and steadfast in the faith, and in the thing wherewith they have been made free.” (Helaman 15:7,8)

            Alma revealed his own conversion: “...I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit. And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off. Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.” (Mosiah 27:24-28)  Alma later asked the members of the Church: “And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?" (Alma 5:14,15)

            As these holy men received forgiveness of sin, they would continue to examine themselves, “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence...” (Alma 13:13) Because of this, they viewed themselves as Nephi did as “wretched men” not worthy to be in the Lords presence.  That is how “...the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart...” (Moroni 8:26)  Perhaps this is what James was trying to explain when he said, we must be doers of the word and not forget the natural man that we have beheld in the glass or mirror, thus “deceiving ourselves.”  “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving our own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:22-25)

            This change of heart that takes place, is a change of desire from doing our own will to doing the will of the Father.  We must follow the example of the Savior, even as He sought to know and follow the will of the Father, we must have as our objective, to learn and do the will of the Father: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of the will of God.” (Jn. 1:12,13)

 

Eye single to the glory of God

            The Lord taught: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Mat. 6:22,23)  Perhaps the opposite of an eye single to the glory of God, would be an eye single to our own glory, or as Satan expressed it: “...Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.”  But Christ said: “...Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:1,2)

            One of the greatest examples of and eye single to the glory of God was the life of John the Baptist. We can observe his humility when he taught; “…There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.” (Mark 1:7.) He was the leader of the Church until Jesus started his ministry, but when Christ called His apostles, if He had chosen the most worthy and qualified, the first would have been John the Baptist, yet He did not.  After Christ came on the scene there were some who continued to follow John and would come to him to receive instruction.  Even before John was cast into prison some of his disciples came to him and said; “...Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to Him.  John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.  Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.  He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:26-30) 

            Because John had an eye single to the glory of God, Jesus testified of him: “For I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but He that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Lk. 7:28)  “He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” (John 5:35)

            In contrast we read the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who “...rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:” They did not think that there was enough honor given to them, so they accused Moses and Aaron, “...Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?”  Moses being very meek (Num.12: 3) “...fell upon his face.”  Then he pleaded with them: “...Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?”  They still stood defiant to Moses, when the Lord warned Israel to separate themselves from these men.  And while these men with their families stood in the door of their tents, “...The earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation...And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense” (Num. 16:1-35)

And so we must be mindful that “...God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6)

 

Holy Ghost    

            What element brings the spirit into our hearts?  Mormon, in a letter to his son Moroni explained; “...the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.” (Moroni 8:26) 

             The main purpose of the Holy Ghost is to lead us step by step back to the presence of the Father:  “...it (the Holy Ghost) showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter...” (2 Ne. 31:9)  It is the Spirit that “...leadeth to do good-yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously...” It is the Spirit “...which shall enlighten your mind which shall fill your soul with joy.”(D&C 11:12,13)

            And how can we tell if we have the Holy Ghost?  When I was on my mission, Pres. Kimball visited us. A missionary asked him; “Why do we have so many rules?”  And President Kimball replied;  “Because you don't have the Spirit-if you had the Spirit we would have to come to you, and tell you, slow down you are working to hard.”  

            Evan as Mormon recorded of the sons of Mosiah: “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble. And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them...” (Mosiah 28:3,4)

 

Joy, or Happiness

            Enos writes of “...the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.”  And as he prayed all day long and into the night in  “mighty prayer and supplication...there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.  And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. And I said: Lord, how is it done?  And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen...”  (vs.2-8) What was Enos seeking?  “Eternal life, and the joy of the saints.” (vr. 3)

            Alma gave an account of his wrestle he had before he received a remission of his sins, after the angel appeared to him: “...I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell...And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.  Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.  And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.”  This forgiveness that comes from “faith unto repentance” brings the joy and happiness that we are seeking, for Alma expressed: “And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!... there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy...and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God. Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Alma 36:12-24)

            We are told that: “...men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25)  And where does that joy come from?  It comes from receiving the Holy Ghost and knowing that our sins are forgiven; “...the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience...” (Mosiah 4:3)

            We might ask as Lamoni's father did: “What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

            “But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.” (Alma 22:15,16) 

            “...Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.” (Alma 27:18).

 

Charity, the pure love of Christ

            It is this “faith unto repentance” that brings charity; In Ether chapter 12, Moroni gave an account of a conversation that he had with our Lord: “...I have seen Jesus, and that He hath talked with me face to face, and that He told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;”  (vr.39) In the previous verses the Lord gave us much instruction pertaining to eternal life, He speaks of charity, and, “...except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.” (Vr. 34) And how do we gain that pure love of Christ, or charity?

            In the New Testament is given an account of Jesus in the home of a Pharisee named Simon, who desired Jesus to eat with him.  There came in “...a woman in the city, which was a sinner...and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden Him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.  And he saith, Master, say on.  There was a certain creditor, which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And H e turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet: but she hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest Me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven."  (Lk.. 7:36-48)

The question then, can we love God with all our heart, might, mind, strength, and our whole soul, and can we have that charity or pure love of Christ without exercising faith in the atonement of the Savior, without seeing our weakness, without humbling ourselves before him and pleading for mercy?  “To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little,” or to transpose, he to whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much. Who in that room, with the Savior, was most humble and penitent? Or had forgiveness of sin? Or had the most love for Jesus? Or experienced the most joy?  How did the prophets of old gain their great love for the Master? “...It was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God...” (Alma 13:10)   

            How can we tell if we have that pure love of Christ? How did Enos feel after receiving a remission of his sins? “...I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.” (Enos 1:9) When we have the pure love of Christ we will have a desire for the welfare of those around us.

            What was the feeling of the sons of Mosiah?  “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thought that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.” (Mosiah 28:3) Or what of Alma?  We read: “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth...yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. And behold, when I see many of my brethren [members of the Church? holders of the priesthood?] truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy...” (Alma 29:1,2,9,10)    

Enoch observed the feelings of the Lord concerning those who do not repent and are destined to suffer: “And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and He wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: how is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?” The Lord responded: “But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Moses 7:28,29,37)

It will be no wonder to us why Moses felt the way he did when he prayed for Israel: “Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” (Ex.32: 32)      

King Benjamin’s words give much insight: “And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.  And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” (Mosiah 4:11,12)

            We, at times may become discouraged and overwhelmed at the untold number of things that are asked of us. Yet there is an easier way, learn to love! Elder James Talmage recorded this in his book, Articles of Faith: “...Christ said, I will show you a more simple way.  If you do one thing, you will do these hundred and ten things without ever thinking about them. If you love, you will unconsciously fulfill the whole law.”  (Articles of Faith, James E. Talmage p.526 from The Greatest Thing in the World) Paul wrote: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Gal. 5:14)

            Through the principle of love we have a great ability to reach others, President Kimball taught:

“There may be someone who will say, 'Well, we know a man or a woman who can never be touched.'  Of course he or she can be touched. He or she can always be blessed and helped! There is the promise of scripture. It reads, 'Charity never faileth.' (1Cor. 13:8) Never! Charity, applied long enough, never fails to work its miracle either in the individual, in us, in both of us, or in others around the individual.

                “Like President John Taylor, I believe there is none who cannot be converted-or I might say reactivated- if the right person makes the right approach at the right time in the right way with the right spirit. I know that the blessings of our Father in Heaven will attend our efforts if we prepare ourselves, and if we happily live gospel principles, and if we will seek our Heavenly Father's assistance.” (Ensign, June, 1983 p.5)

 

            A great example of charity being able to reach even the bitterest enemies is recorded in the twenty-forth chapter of Alma. Because of the repentance of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, it was made known unto them of their forgiveness: “And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children; therefore, in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations.”  We learn that so great was their faith and love for God that they; “...were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin.”  When the Lamanites were stirred up to anger against them by the seed of Amulon; “...they went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves before them to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord; and thus they were in this attitude when the Lamanites began to fall upon them, and began to slay them with the sword.  And thus without meeting any resistance, they did slay a thousand and five of them; and we know that they are blessed, for they have gone to dwell with their God.

            “Now when the Lamanites saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but that they would lie down and perish, and praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword- Now when the Lamanites saw this they did forbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done. And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed; and they came down even as their brethren, relying upon the mercies of those whose arms were lifted to slay them.

            “And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved.  And there was not a wicked man slain among them; but there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people.” (Alma 24:14,19,21-27)

            Whosoever will humble themselves before their enemies, to bless, to do good to them, and pray for them, (Matt. 5:44) to show an “increase of love,” will let their enemies know that their “faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.” (D&C 121:43,44)      

When we truly love someone, our desire will be to please that person. Jesus displayed that love and devotion for the Father by totally submitting to His will. If we truly love God with all our heart might mind and strength, we will follow the example of the Lord, we will seek to know and do the will of the Father.

Joseph said:

“Until we have perfect love we are liable to fall and when we have a testimony that our names are sealed in the Lamb's book of life we have perfect love and then it is impossible for false Christs to deceive us” (Teachings p. 9)

           

            Is it any wonder that those possessed of this pure love of Christ are they “…who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ…” (Moroni 7:48) We are to understand that these are they who receive “the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love Him, and purify themselves before Him; To whom He grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves;” (D&C 76:116 - 117)

 

 

How our prayers are heard

            We can learn much of the attitude we should have in our prayers from the declaration of the angel to Daniel recorded in chapter ten verse twelve: “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.” (Dan. 10:12) 

The Lord points out in parable that there are really only two kinds of people, the righteous, who see their weakness, humble and chasten themselves before God- and the proud who think they are righteous, who do not see their faults. The Lord in explaining this principle said: “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

In the next chapter of Luke we meet a publican that perhaps Jesus was speaking about. As the Lord passed through Jericho one Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree, so that he could see Jesus as He passed. Jesus knew the good heart of this man and called him down and announced, “make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”

Zacchaeus revealed to Jesus, “Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold,” all of which the Lord must have already known and declared: “This day is salvation come to this house…” and declared that he was a true son of Abraham. (Luke 19:5-9) Only when we see our weakness and have a humble attitude is our prayer heard. (D&C 112:10) As the Lord spake unto Nephi, He revealed to him the qualifications that were required for answers to prayers: “…Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.” (1 Ne. 2:19)

            One of the most wicked Kings that Israel had ever seen, King Ahab, when he was told of his eminent destruction, and that of his family, humbled himself before the Lord, and the Lord heard his prayer:  “And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.  And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house.” (1 Kings 21:27-29)

            What element of the prayer of the brother of Jared brought the visit of our Lord that he would not be kept within the veil?  “...Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.” (Ether 3:2)

            Joseph felt similar feelings as he sought to know which church he should join:

I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind the contentions and divisions the wickedness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind my mind become exceedingly distressed for I became convicted of my Sins…”(Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith's First Vision: Confirming Evidences and Contemporary Accounts, 2d ed. rev. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980], 155.)

 

We observe the same feelings displayed by Joseph at the appearance of Moroni:

 “…I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.” (Joseph Smith-History 1:29.)

            Alma, in his final words to his son Shiblon, instructed pertaining to his prayers:  “Do not say: O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren; but rather say: O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy-yea, acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times.  And may the Lord bless your soul, and receive you at the last day into his kingdom, to sit down in peace.  Now go, my son, and teach the word unto this people.  Be sober.  My son, farewell.” (Alma 38:14,15)

            We must learn to understand the will of the Lord and bring our desires into harmony with His.  When we ask for that which is our own will and contrary to His, the Lord will not answer, even as James wrote: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3)  But when we ask for that which is the Lord’s desire, we then will receive answers if we humble ourselves before the Lord;  “Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness...” (2 Ne. 4:35)

 

Fasting

            What is the purpose of fasting?  Mormon observed of the saints around 40 B.C.: “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” (Hel. 5:12) It was fasting and prayer that made them “stronger and stronger in their humility” and that humility made them “firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ.’  It is humility that brought joy and consolation to their souls, and brought purity and sanctification to their hearts.

 

Great Priesthood Leaders of old

            Alma informs us of how the great priesthood leaders of old became great: “...it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish...and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.”   I have wondered at this statement that the great Priesthood leaders of old had not casual faith and repentance, but an “exceeding faith and repentance?” Prophets such as Adam, Enoch, Noah, Melchezedec, Abraham, the brother of Jared, Lehi, Nephi, and a great many others, if they had need of exceeding repentance, how much more do I!  “And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.”(Alma 13:10-13)  What is that rest that they interred into?  That “...rest is the fullness of his glory” (D&C 84:24)  

            We are aware of two great cities that obtained that goal one was the city of Enoch, and the other was the city of Salem.  We received this glorious revelation through the prophet Joseph Smith pertaining to the city of Salem:  “And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;” (Joseph Smith Translation Gen. 14:34) How did these two powerful prophets accomplish this eminent task?  As did Enoch so did Melchizedek: “But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people, And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days...”(Alma 13:18)

            Observe the prayers of other noted prophets; from our patriarch Abraham we read his prayer: “...I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes;” (Gen. 18:27) Also our forefather Jacob: “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant...” (Gen. 32:10) 

            We learn of the humility of Job when he was in the presence of the Lord: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5,6)

            We read of Isaiah’s humility: “...Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isa. 6:5) Or Jeremiah's response to his call: “...behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.” (Jer. 1:6)

            We begin to see the course that the ancient scriptures and prophets taught. As Moroni was closing the book of his father he gave this admonition: “...Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” (Mormon 9:27)

 

Work Righteousness

            What definition does the Lord give to “work righteousness”? or “bring forth fruit meet for repentance”?  Perhaps the best definition is found in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. The Lord refers to those on his right hand as “righteous,” and says to them: “...Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:34-40)  Even as king Benjamin taught: “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17) 

After explaining faith unto repentance, Amulek added one more element necessary to our salvation: “And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith”. (Alma 34:28.)

The teachings of King Benjamin concur with that of Amulek, for he taught: “And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on His name, and begging for a remission of your sins.  And has He suffered that ye have begged in vain?  Nay; He has poured out His Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy….And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” (Mosiah 4:20,26)

            What is it that validates our righteousness?  Miracles cannot, for the Lord said: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:22,23)

            What could be wrong with a man who could “speak with the tongues of men and angels”? And add to that gift the gift of prophecy, and understanding of all mysteries, and all knowledge.  And add to that all faith, so that he “could remove mountains.”  And if he also bestowed all his “goods to feed the poor,” and finally if he even gave up his life, and his “body to be burned,” what could he possibly lack? The principle of charity! (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

            The Lord said to the Jews:

“...If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” (Jn. 8:39)  And what are the works of Abraham? These works were attributed to our great forefather at his death:

 “And all the inhabitants of Canaan, and all those who had known Abraham, wept for Abraham a whole year, and men and women mourned over him. And all the little children, and all the inhabitants of the land wept on account of Abraham, for Abraham had been good to them all, and because he had been upright with God and men. And there arose not a man who feared God like unto Abraham, for he had feared his God from his youth, and had served the Lord, and had gone in all his ways during his life, from his childhood to the day of his death.... And he brought all the children of the earth to the service of God, and he taught them the ways of the Lord, and caused them to know the Lord. And he formed a grove and he planted a vineyard therein, and he had always prepared in his tent meat and drink to those that passed through the land, that they might satisfy themselves in his house.” (The Book of Jasher, Chapter XXVI vs. 32-37)

 

            Sometimes we as members of the Church get things turned around a bit, we think that position is important, and we give a great deal of attention to being in position of authority. So thought the mother of James and John: “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, what wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.”  This request upset the other Apostles, but the Lord saw a great opportunity to teach: “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:20-28) We must not forget “… that which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God.”(Luke 16: 15)

            To work righteousness, is to use our time and talent, our resources, and our ability to relieve adversity in the lives of others, whether physical or spiritual. 

           

Justice and Mercy

            There are two principles on which we will be judged, one is justice and the other is mercy.  We know that all have sinned and are all guilty of breaking the law and deserve punishment, yet the Lord has prepared a payment of that debt through his sacrifice,”...this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.  And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption. Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;” (Alma 34:15,16)

            The Lord declared:  “Therefore I command you to repent-repent, lest I smite you by the rod of My mouth, and by My wrath, and by My anger, and your sufferings be sore-how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I.” (D&C 19:15-17)

            Alma, in his last words to his son Corianton, stated: “But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God. But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.  For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.” (Alma 42:22-24)

            Another important aspect of mercy is that we must forgive those who have offended us, or the Lord will not forgive us. (Matt. 6:12-15) Do we not place ourselves above the Lord when we refuse to forgive others, and burn the bridge over which we must pass ourselves. The Lord warned: “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds. And him that repenteth not of his sins, and confesseth them not, ye shall bring before the church, and do with him as the scripture saith unto you, either by commandment or by revelation.” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-12.)

We may be concerned that justice is not being done to those we see not doing what is right, but we might best follow advice of the Prophet Joseph who taught: “...To the iniquitous show yourselves merciful... I want the innocent to go free—rather spare ten iniquitous among you, than condemn one innocent one. ‘Fret not thyself because of evildoers.’ God will see to it.” (Teachings p. 239)

            If it were not for the atonement, and if the demands of justice were fully carried out, if our Redeemer had not made His “infinite atonement”, then “…this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.  O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil to rise no more.  And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents...O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.” (2 Ne. 9:7-10)

The Lord expressed His displeasure with the children of men because we will not attempt to understand the mercy and forgiveness that is available if we will but repent, as Zenos wrote: “… Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son.” (Alma 33:16.)

 

Hope  

            It is this “faith unto repentance” that brings hope; “And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise. Wherefore, if a man have faith [in the atonement] he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope. And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.” (Moroni 7:41-43)

            Knowing the attributes of God will help us have faith in Him and hope of Eternal life:

“Unless He was merciful and gracious, slow to anger, long-suffering and full of goodness, such is the weakness of human nature, and so great the frailties and imperfections of men, that unless they believed that these excellencies existed in the divine character, the faith necessary to salvation could not exist; for doubt would take the place of faith, and those who know their weakness and liability to sin would be in constant doubt of salvation if it were not for the idea which they have of the excellency of the character of God, that he is slow to anger and long-suffering, and of a forgiving disposition, and does forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin. An idea of these facts does away doubt, and makes faith exceedingly strong.” (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 3, pg. 20)

 

            Oh how great are the mercies of our God! For without this knowledge, faith and hope could not exist.  Where there is hope, we are willing to endure all things; whether it be pain, or trials, or even humiliation, for the sake of the gospel, for we are not ashamed of the gospel and its principles, for it is the power of God unto salvation. (Rom. 1:16)

            We can read of such a people about 30A.D:  “Some were lifted up in pride and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.

            “And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.” (3 Ne. 6:13,14)

            Mormon wrote these words of encouragement to his son Moroni:  “My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.” (Moroni 9:25)

            Where faith in the Lord exists, or a profound trust that He will deliver us out of all our trials and our difficulties, and from our troubles, then with that faith there must be hope in place of despair, and with that faith and hope there will be profound love and respect for God, for “…if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity…” (Moroni 7: 44)

 

Peace

            It is faith and repentance that bring peace, for King Benjamin taught that when a remission of sin is received “...ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.” (Mosiah 4:13)

            Notice how Mormon could tell who had exercised faith in Christ's redemption, sufficient to obtain hope: “Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven. And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.”  (Moroni 7:3,4)

            The Gospel of Jesus Christ is more than a moral code by which we would live; it also contains a code of conduct toward others that would bring peace into the world. We are to bless those that curse us, do good to those who hate us and pray for those who use and persecute us. (Matt. 5:44) When we obtain that faith and hope in these principles of Christ, we become peacemakers, we will have empathy for those around us, we will then desire to go out of our way to obtain peace:  In the teachings of the Lord, He covers both sides of any conflict.

            President David O. McKay said:

“If we would have peace as individuals, we must supplant enmity with forbearance, which means to refrain or abstain from finding fault or from condemning others...We shall have power to do this if we really cherish in our hearts the ideals of Christ, who said: ‘Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’ (Matt 5:23-24, 3 Ne. 12:9) Note the Savior did not say if you have ought against him, but if you find that another has ought against you” (Con. Report, Oct. 1938)

 

             If we know that someone is upset with us we should go to him or her, and try to correct the offense.  “And blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (3 Ne. 12:9, Matt. 5:9)  The Lord then tells the offender: “... then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.” (3 Ne. 12:24)

            President Kimball said:

“Sometimes the spirit of forgiveness is carried to the loftiest height-to rendering assistance to the offender.  Not to be revengeful, not to seek what outraged justice might demand, to leave the offender in God’s hands-this is admirable.  But to return good for evil, this is the sublime expression of Christian love.  In this regard we have the stimulating example of President George Albert Smith.  It was reported to him that someone had stolen from his buggy the buggy robe.  Instead of being angry, he responded: ‘I wish we knew who it was, so that we could give him the blanket also, for he must have been cold, and some food also, for he must have been hungry.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 284)

 

            To forgive in our heart is a personal effort between our Heavenly Father, and us but to gain the trust and respect of the person we have offended is an effort between those two, the offender and the offended.  President Joseph F. Smith said:

             “Be reconciled to each other.  Do not go to the courts of the Church nor to the courts of the land for litigation.  Settle your own troubles and difficulties; and, as Bishop Hunter used to say, which is an axiom that cannot be disputed, there is only one way in which a difficulty existing between man and man can be truly settled, and that is when they get together and settle it between them.  The courts cannot settle troubles between me and my brother.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 257)

 

            After we have forgiven in our heart, then we should go to the person who offended and “...thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled.” (D&C 42:88)  If we do not go in the proper spirit it may lead to further conflict.

            If you have forgiven in your own heart, why approach the person who offended you?  Because that person also needs to repent of offenses that bring contention, for, “The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;” (Matt. 13:41) Those that rebel against the Lord, and refuse to put into practice the principles of the Celestial kingdom, the only principles that can bring peace, “...shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land,”  (D&C 64:34-42) for it can only lead to conflict, and the downfall of Zion.

            What if someone approaches you that is upset, or has been offended? The Lord instructed: “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him...” (Matt. 5:25)   “...When we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, [cannot admit when we are in the wrong]...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.” (D&C 121: 37) 

            When someone is offended, or reproved, even if it is by the spirit, the Lord warned that they may “esteem thee to be his enemy.” To this the Lord advises that we should show “...afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved.” (D&C 121:37,43) 

            How do we win their confidence of even our enemies?  “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” First “bless them,” second “do good to them,” and after all that is in our power has been done, “pray for them," then you will be “... perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:44,48)

                

                        Testimonies of faith unto repentance

                             Lehi:

                        “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.”  (2 Ne. 2:7,8)

 

                             Nephi:

            “Know ye not that He was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, He showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh He humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that He would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments… And He said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?…And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.  And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” (2 Ne. 31:7,10,21)

 

                             King Benjamin:

                “And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you. Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend. And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.” (Mosiah 4:8-10)

 

Jesus Christ:

            “And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled.  Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (3 Ne. 12:19,20)        

 

Latter-day Prophets        

            In latter-day revelation the Lord said: “And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations- Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.  He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances. And again, he that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you. And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me. Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens.”(D&C 52:14-19)

            We see the humility of the prophet Joseph Smith by this letter written June 6, 1832:

“while staying in Greenville, Joseph writes a very personal letter to Emma, stating that he has visited a grove just out of the town almost daily to ‘give vent to all the feelings of my heart in meditation and prayer I have called to mind all the past moments of my life and am left to mourn {and} Shed tears of sorrow for my folly in suffering the adversary of my soul to have so much power over me as he has had in times past but God is merciful and has forgiven my Sins and I rejoice that he sendeth forth the Comforter unto as many as believe and humbleth themselves before him....God is my friend in him I shall find comfort I have given my life into his hands I am prepared to go at his call I desire to be with Christ I count not my life dear to me only to do his will...”  (A Joseph Smith Chronology,  J. Christopher Conkling, Deseret Book Co. 1979 p. 35)

 

            We also have a humble Prophet of God leading the Church today, for the biographer of President Hinckley recorded in her preface, of the experience she had when she brought the manuscript for President Hinckley to read.  Her observations are recorded:

“You can't get a dollar bill out of fifteen cents,’ he has said to me more than once. I'll never forget meeting with him after he had read the first third of the manuscript. After an uncomfortable pause, during which it seemed he was searching for the words to let me down easily, he began: ‘I am sick, sick, sick of reading about Gordon Hinckley. There is just too much about Gordon Hinckley in this manuscript.’ I groped for a response. ‘Whom did you want me to write about in your biography?’ came to mind, but I couldn't think of a respectful way to phrase the question so I remained silent.

                “Then I had my first exposure to a mini-sermon he would repeat at least a dozen times during succeeding months. ‘Adulation is poison,’ he said, emphasizing each word. ‘Adulation has ruined many a good man and woman, and I don't want this book to portray me as something I'm not.’ I finally replied: ‘President, I can see that we have just one small problem here.  You want me to write a book that says you are just a common, ordinary man.’  ‘Well, I am,’ he interrupted. ‘I was just a normal little boy who played marbles and got in fistfights and dipped the pigtails of the girl who sat in front of me in the inkwell on my desk. I have done nothing more than try to do what has been asked of me, and I've tried to do it the best I could. I don't want you to make more out of my life than is there.”  (Go Forward With Faith, The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley: Sheri L. Dew; Deseret Book Co. p.ix,x)

 

            In a meeting in Japan, President Hinckley gave this advice:

 “People ask me frequently what is my favorite verse of scripture. I have many and this is one of them, ‘Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers’ (D&C 112:10). What a promise to those who walk without arrogance, to those who walk without conceit, to those who walk without egotism, to those who walk humbly. ‘Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.’  What a solid and wonderful promise that is.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret Book Co. 1997 p. 265)

 

            We will have many trials in our lives to test and try our faith. Then we stand before God “…receiving the end of [our] faith, even the salvation of [our] souls…” We can be assured that this salvation is that “… of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:”  (1 Pet. 1:7-10)     

            Unless we truly come unto Christ with all our hearts, He will not show us our weakness, and if we do not see our weakness, there will be no humility.  Without humility, without that broken heart and a contrite spirit, without faith unto repentance, there can be no mercy, no forgiveness of sin.  Without faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ, without forgiveness of sin, there can be no hope, there can be no love for our Redeemer. Without meekness and lowliness of heart there can be no faith hope and charity “…for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart…”(Moroni 7:43, 44) And without faith, hope, and charity, there can be no eternal life. (Moroni 10:20-22)

 

The prophet Joseph Smith declared:

“…and could we all come together with one heart and one mind in perfect faith the veil might as well be rent today as next week, or any other time, and if we will but cleanse ourselves and covenant before God, to serve Him, it is our privilege to have an assurance that God will protect us at all times.” (Teachings p.8)

Chapter 3: The Obstacle to building Zion


 

 

 



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