faith in Christ
Week 50 is scheduled for study Dec. 7-13, 2020. Christ wants to lift us up. This happens by learning to judge between good and evil, learning how to lay hold on every good thing, and having faith in Christ.

Day 1

Moroni 7:12–20 – The light of Christ helps me judge between good and evil.

As you study Moroni 7-9, listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and record His messages to you. He can teach you both what you need to know and what you need to do.

In order to better understand today’s topic, let’s talk about the nature of sin and the nature of happiness. This should make it easier to decide what is truly evil and what is truly good and from God.

The nature of evil

The laws of God are difficult to fully and clearly describe, in part because we don’t really fully know what constitutes laws and how they are laid down in the eternities. But I do know that we are taught to honor and live these laws through the commandments we have been given through the prophets.

I don’t believe that God has instituted a law anywhere that says that in order to be happy you have to perform such and such an action. Nor has He said that in order to be happy you have to learn such and such an attitude or belief structure, for the nature of happiness is an eternal truth that just is. Happiness cannot be legislated into existence. God knows that to be happy we must have certain beliefs and behave in certain ways, and do so for the right reasons, otherwise happiness will elude us and we will not find happiness. To this end we are given commandments that teach us how to live after the manner of happiness. Only by learning how to live by these commandments can the nature of happiness be found and enjoyed.

An example of a commandment that brings us into alignment with the nature of happiness is Christ’s teachings of the first and second greatest commandments, to love God, and to love our fellow men as we love our self. These are principle-based commandments that are achieved by keeping the other commandments that support this principle of happiness. This is partly why I often refer to the commandments as the laws of happiness. It is through learning how to keep these various commandments that we come to find true and lasting happiness.

There is more than one kind of happiness, and therein lies the nature of sin. It is possible for people to find joy in doing that which leads to eternal happiness, as well as finding joy in that which is temporary and destructive to the eternal happiness of our soul. Jesus teaches us the first kind of happiness, and Satan teaches us the latter type of happiness.

We are only temporarily on this earth, and because of our short-sightedness while in mortality, Satan has the perfect opportunity to blind us to the eternal kind of happiness by preaching the temporary and immediate pleasures of the flesh. These immediate pleasures include procrastination, laziness in any of its forms, and a focus on today or on this life, and this life only. Christ’s happiness is focused on eternity. Satan’s happiness, which rarely lasts more than temporarily, is focused on the short time we are in mortality. He doesn’t want us to think about eternity, because then we might want to start planning on how we will live for the rest of forever, and that would mean the fare he is peddling is meaningless and counter productive to our lasting happiness.

Sin is an enticement to either do something that goes against one of God’s commandments of happiness or an enticement to not do something God wants us to do. Either way – doing what we shouldn’t, or not doing what we should – a sin is committed. It is a sin because God has only given us commandments that lead to our happiness, and by doing what we shouldn’t or not doing what He says we should, we break His commandments in favor of temporary pursuits. All that is from the devil is temporary, for he can offer us nothing past the end of our own mortality. All of God’s commandments are eternal in nature.

The problem with sin is that it is like a numbing medicine to our soul. Breaking the commandments (sin) drives the light of Christ out of our heart and in the resulting darkness Satan is given more control over our actions. It is through resisting or rebelling against the commandments of God that we give away our moral agency and gradually put Satan in command of our actions. We become more and more short sighted, and less and less able to see where the consequences of our behavior will take us. Once the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost is no longer able to influence people, because they always choose evil over good, He stops trying to speak to them, and at that point Satan has complete control over their lives. This inevitably leads to destructive behavior that leads to perpetual perversions of righteous behavior, and usually leads to war and death. This is what happened to the Jaredites and the Nephites. They gave Satan full sway in their lives, and in the end he took their lives from them, sending them out of this world in a damned state. This is the revenge he hungers for for all of God’s children.

The nature of good

As mentioned in the beginning of the previous section, the laws of God are designed and implemented to ensure our lasting happiness. The nature of the celestial kingdom is that of the highest forms of happiness available to God and His family. Only those who truly desire this kind of happiness can live there. Those who choose to follow, to one extent or another, their own type of happiness will live in another kingdom where they will be as happy as they have chosen to be. The covenants we make in the church are designed to teach us the highest forms of happiness.

When we look at the scriptures at how the Lord speaks to us we see that He always speaks in eternal time frames. For example, when God promised king David that his descendants would rule Israel forever, it was with the caveat that they must each and everyone of them keep the commandments. If they did this then God would guarantee that they would always sit on the throne of David as long as the earth should stand. But if any one of them broke the commandments then they would also break the line of succession, and the family of David would lose the throne. This kind of promise is given by God over and over again throughout the scriptures. Look at all the times we are told that if the Nephites keep the commandments that the promised land would be the land of their inheritance forever. All it took was them breaking that commandment and pursuing another course and they lost their promised land, as promised.

The Lord sees things as they are. If you keep doing this particular behavior, where is it going to lead in the future? We need to learn to think this same way. Moroni 7 is talking about this kind of thinking. When we look at a behavior, does it entice us to continue to do good? Will we become better people because we adopted this behavior? Or is a behavior a pleasant mask that will eventually lead us to accept a level of evil we currently wouldn’t choose. If we fall for this deception then eventually Satan can lead us on to accepting more and more evil, with us giving up control of our moral agency along the way, until he has secured full control over our behavior and he can merrily lead our souls down to hell.

When we consider doing good, we must also think about why we do it. I believe this is what the scriptures refer to as “real intent.” Do we do good because we will get social praise for doing it, or are we doing it because it brings joy to our soul and the Lord is pleased with us? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell. It requires that we look at the behavior or activity and search our feelings to see if it is something we feel will lead to our betterment or might be “fun” but put us into questionable standing with God, either now or in the future.

The point here is that we need to be actively seeking to do all forms of good in our life. Those who learn to experience the kind of happiness God lives with all the time, do so because they deliberately sought that kind of happiness. Mormon gives us clear directions on how to discern good from evil, but remember that he is looking at life from an eternal point of view. He doesn’t look at just today or this year, or for a decade, he is looking at how we live here and now in terms of how it will affect our happiness in the eternities. So when we try to decide if something will lead to more and greater good or to less and less good, and eventual evil, our criteria should be looking at the long-term outcome or result of our choice. The Lord has given us the light of Christ, our conscience, to help us feel what is right and what is wrong. The more wisely we use our conscience the more clearly we will be able to see the separation between good and bad choices.

Day 2

Moroni 7:20–48 – Through faith in Christ, I can “lay hold upon every good thing.”

As you study Moroni 7-9, listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and record His messages to you. He can teach you both what you need to know and what you need to do.

For today’s lesson I will just address a couple of key points. As pointed out yesterday, God is the source of all good things, for all things that come from God lead to our greater eternal happiness. It is important to know and to remember that it is God the Father of us all who designed the plan for our salvation and exaltation. It is our Father who set the plan up in such a way that there is only one way in which we can return to Him, and that is to go through He whom our Father designated as our Savior and Redeemer, even Jesus Christ.

Christ and our Father work as one in the effort to entice all of God’s children to choose good over evil. They work so closely with each other, that to come to Christ is the same as coming to the Father. To choose Christ over Satan is the same as choosing the Father over Satan. Christ represents the Father in all things here on earth. He points us to the Father, and the Father, in turn, points us to Christ. It is often difficult to tell the difference in the scriptures who is speaking to us. Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter, for what the Father would say to us, so would His Son. This is why the Savior tells us that whether by his own voice or by the voice of his servants, it is the same. The prophets are united with the Savior in furthering the work for all of our salvation.

What good things are we supposed to lay hold upon? The short answer is anything having to do with Christ. That means we need to seek our God in prayer, look for covenants to make and to keep, search the scriptures for truths and guiding principles for our lives, and practice seeking out good in any form so the Spirit can teach us how to live like God and Christ live. This whole process is to get us to think about our living in mortality as just being a small, but crucial, part of living in eternity. Christ is continually pointing us to live worthily so we can live with him and God in the next life. We simply can’t afford to be sidetracked into living only for the 80 or so years we are here, when we need to be worrying about how we will be living for the rest of eternity.

This article will help you in your efforts to lay hold upon all that is good.

Day 3

Moroni 7:44–48 – “Charity is the pure love of Christ.”

As you study Moroni 7-9, listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and record His messages to you. He can teach you both what you need to know and what you need to do.

This is a difficult topic for me to discuss, for I don’t feel that I have a comfortable handle on precisely what charity is. All my comments are based on my current understanding of it and how it works. If you have a better grasp of the subject, thank you for being patient with my attempts to talk about it intelligently.

I stewed over the title of this lesson for two days. Finally, a thought came into my head that said we all have charity. My first reaction was to object to that notion, but then I began to try to think of charity in a different way. I had been thinking of charity as an all or nothing attribute, more like love/hate. I hadn’t considered that charity may be a mix of many attributes that all of us have in varying degrees.

Here are just a few of the attributes of someone who has charity (Moroni 7:44).

Has faith

Is meek and lowly in heart

Understands what it means to be long suffering

Kind

Forgiving

Does not envy

Humble (not puffed up)

Patient

Thinks no evil, but rejoices in anything that is good

“Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things”

All of these things are just from one verse. Wow! As I pondered over the passage for today’s lesson, it seems to me that charity is a description of the celestial character. We all have bits and pieces of these attributes, and some have more of individual attributes than others. But we all have SOME charity already. The question is, we have been given this “talent,” so what are we doing with it? Are we enlarging it like the talents in the parable from the New Testament, or are we burying it because it scares us to tackle something that seems so grand?

Think about just one of the attributes of godliness, let’s pick patience. I can improve my ability to be patient through practice, prayer, scripture study, pondering, and recording my thoughts so I have something to refer back to when I am not sure if I have made any improvement. Using this same method isn’t it possible for us to choose any part of charity and get better and better at it over time?

It is true that the Lord says that “whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him,” but the Lord never says how much of it we need to be comfortable in his presence. For this reason alone, I believe we need to be working on the various aspects of charity all of our lives, deliberately, consistently, and purposefully. We just never know if what we have accomplished is enough. But the funny thing about learning to be better than we were yesterday, is that no matter how much progress we make, we are always happier than we were yesterday, for advancement in any godly pursuit brings into our life joy and perspective.

To sum up my feelings on today’s lesson let me say this – I believe we all have charity to some degree already. Some come to earth with a natural ability in certain areas of charity that are enhanced, just like some can paint beautifully, and some struggle making a straight line with a ruler. But Joseph Smith insisted that every person who enters mortality can be enlarged, so all of us can improve and be better if we set out to become better. The pure love of Christ is something that can and needs to be learned. That is our task, our challenge, and as we achieve more and more of it, our great blessing.

Day 4

Moroni 9:9 – Can my chastity and virtue be taken from me?

As you study Moroni 7-9, listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and record His messages to you. He can teach you both what you need to know and what you need to do.

Having read the manual, you already know that your chastity and virtue cannot be taken from you. Anyone can be violated. There is nothing to stop such crimes, but chastity and virtue are individual choices we make about our own soul and our own body. It is in how we see ourselves and our relationship to God. No one can take that from us. That loss must be through a choice we make on our own.

It is important to remember that guilt is something that only applies to each of us over things we personally chose to do. If someone belts me in the face, without provocation, I have no reason to feel guilty. There are always those who will try to make the victim feel at fault, but these are voices of the damned, for this is a lie from Satan himself. The victim of an unprovocted and uninvited crime is innocent before the Lord.

Day 5

Moroni 9:25–26 – I can have hope in Christ regardless of my circumstances.

As you study Moroni 7-9, listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and record His messages to you. He can teach you both what you need to know and what you need to do.

I have a challenge for you today. Reread these two verses then identify how many elements of these verses are confined specifically to mortality and how many elements of these verses are focused on the eternities. Your challenge is to think about where Mormon’s attention is. Is it on what happens in mortality or is it on what his expectations are in the eternities. A focus on the eternities is what I refer to as the long view of life, a focus on where we are going rather than on just where we are at at this moment.

Do we encourage this long view in our children, our friends, and with our self? Mormon could have been worried about his son’s physical safety, his social standing, or whether he was making money during a time of social turmoil. Does Mormon give any indication that any of those things are important to him or to Moroni? What is more important to Mormon than anything else? These are some of his final words to his son, and some of his final words of counsel. If we can get a clear picture of where his priorities are, perhaps we can see where our own priorities should be.

It is also important to remember that our virtue isn’t just in our virginity. Our virtue is displayed in how we dress, what we do for entertainment, and how we behave one to another. Our lack of virtue is displayed in the same way. No one can rob us of our personal decisions to live a Christlike life, no matter what someone else may do to us, we always have a choice in how we behave, and it is in those choices we gain or lose our virtue. The power of Christ’s atoning sacrifice can give us strength during difficult times to persevere in remaining virtuous, and gaining greater virtue in our lives.

FHE/Personal Scripture Study

Moroni 7:5–11 – Intentions

Unfortunately, this is one of those subjects over which people will endlessly quibble over details and intentions. My intent here is not to try to over simplify or over complicate this basic doctrine. So before people start to argue over shades of gray, let’s set some boundaries for this brief discussion about doing good or doing evil.

First of all, we need to remember that God cannot be fooled by our displays of good if our heart is not in the act. Sometimes we even fool our self into thinking we are doing something for “a good cause,” but if the truth were truly laid out on the table, we would prefer not to have to do it at all. Sometimes we try to do something good, but we question our own motives, because we are not sure they are pure. Does that make what we do more or less acceptable in the eyes of God? The answer is, I don’t know. That is something only God knows.

What I do know is that God is loving and patient. He is forgiving of our efforts so long as we are trying to do what is right, even if we are stumbling and making a mess of things at the present moment. I believe we will be judged on the desire behind our efforts. If we are trying to do good, even though we are not 100% pure in our motives yet, I think He will still accept what we do as a good thing.

I believe what Mormon is referring to in these verses are those people who, like the Pharisees, try to skate by on good works, but do it only for the public display of goodness, not because their heart is really behind their actions. They do it to “appear” righteous. I think this is why the Savior referred to them as “whited sepulchers.” They looked good on the outside, but were filled with rottenness within. These people can’t really do anything good, because they don’t really know how to do good in a genuine way. They pray, but they pray to be seen of men. They give generously to the temple, but do it with a show that demonstrates their generosity – again, to be seen of men. There is no true love or goodness in their souls. Instead of having their goodness be about the person they are helping, their actions are all self promoting, and self centered in nature.

We should always remember that the Lord is anxious and willing to help us refine our corrupt intentions. Why? Because if we are seeking to purify our intentions so we only do good for the sake of goodness, that is what He is hoping for. He, of all people understands that it takes time and practice to purify our intentions and drive out our selfish motives and behaviors. The Lord will gladly help us along our path towards better intentions when we are supplicating Him on a regular basis to learn to be more like Christ.

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BoM Week 50

(Moroni 7-9)