I was asked what the “things pertaining to righteousness” are. That got me thinking. This is a brief overview of what I found.
My first reaction to the question was, “You know, those things that have to do with righteousness.” Well that was hardly helpful. I had to put on my thinking cap and go searching to see if those generic “things” have been defined anywhere by a reputable source.
What is righteousness?
2 Nephi 2:13 gives us a good general definition of what righteousness is.
13 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. 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.
Here is some of what we learn from this scripture:
- Righteousness cannot exist without coexisting with sin.
- Sin is the breaking of a law established by God, so there must be a definition of what is expected from God first.
- If sin is the breaking of the law then righteousness is the honoring and keeping of the law established by God.
- As part of the laws God has given us, He has stated that the purpose of His laws is to bring us happiness, so we cannot experience happiness unless we live God’s laws. That means that sin must cause unhappiness, if keeping the law (i.e. righteousness) causes happiness.
- Finally, logic is used to tell us that without laws God cannot exist, hence neither can we. God is a man of order. All things are created in the first place with laws already made for their use and function.
Definition of evil
A few verses further down the text of 2 Nephi 2 we learn the definition of evil.
17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an of God, according to that which is written, had from heaven; wherefore, he became a , having sought that which was evil before God.
18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all , wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, good and evil.
Did you notice in verse 13 that righteousness and happiness are paired together. We can’t experience one without the other. In verses 17-18 Lehi teaches us that sin and evil bring misery. We can’t experience one and not the other. Hence, Alma says to his son Corianton in Alma 41:10-11 these important thoughts.
10 Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, never was .
11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of , or I would say, in a state, are in the and in the of iniquity; they are God in the world, and they have gone to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.
So wickedness never brings happiness, and those who live in a carnal state, or a state of nature, meaning the passions of the body rule us, that they are in the bonds of iniquity, without God, and are living contrary to the nature of God. “They are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.”
If living contrary to the commandments of God (not honoring His laws of happiness) is considered evil and only brings us misery and unhappiness then keeping God’s commandments (honoring His laws of happiness) creates a state of happiness.
What are the things pertaining to righteousness/happiness? Anything that is associated with keeping God’s commandments. That includes such activities as praying, covenant making, serving others, demonstrating gratitude, seeking the Holy Spirit, and much more. Consider this a generic definition of what the things pertaining to righteousness are – 13th Article of Faith.
13 believe in being , true, , , virtuous, and in doing to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to all things. If there is anything , , or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
When the scriptures talk in general about the things that pertain to righteousness, the list is too great to specify. It is like Mosiah 4:29 where King Benjamin tells his people that there are too many ways for man to commit sin to list them all.
29 And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.
What the scriptures don’t tell us is that the opposite is also true. There are so many ways for us to do good things and find happiness through doing them that we cannot list them all. I think this is why the scriptures only talk in the generic sense of “the things pertaining to righteousness.” There are just too many to count. But all of them come from keeping God’s laws. We need to remember that anything that pertains to righteousness is designed by divine decree to bring happiness in its wake. Even God lives by the laws that bring happiness. This is why He has given these laws to His children.
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