Sunday, December 09, 2012

Lesson 48: “Come unto Christ” Moroni 7–8; Moroni 10

Lesson 48: “Come unto Christ”
 Moroni 7–8; Moroni 10

With this final lesson on the Book of Mormon, we read the final thoughts of Moroni.  This is his final farewell to us.  Perhaps in these final chapters of the Book of Mormon, we read the key concepts to lead us to Christ and exaltation in God’s kingdom. 

Real Intent, Faith, Hope and Charity
Ch 7

What we get first are more of the words of Mormon, who sent letters, teaching and advice to his son in the last few years before the final destruction.  Moroni is quoting his father decades after the final destruction. Perhaps these are Mormon’s final words to his son, and Moroni wishes to share them with us.

At some point in Mormon’s life, there were synagogues and true believers in Christ for him to address.  It may be that these few believers were among the few true believers that would later be hunted down by the Lamanites for not denying the Christ.

“…by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.  For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing” (vv 5-6)).
There are two key points to being a good person.  First, being involved in good works or behavior. Second, that there is real intent, or pure intentions behind the works.  When watching bad or evil behavior, it is easy to determine a person is bad.  We see someone kill or steal, and we think it is a bad person, because the works are evil.  But real intent is also important, and Moroni will note this again in what is perhaps the most well known LDS missionary scripture in the Book of Mormon: Moroni 10:3-5. Without real intent, we are giving lip service at best, and are hypocrites at worst.  How often do we praise a famous wealthy person for doing what appears on the outside as a great act, such as donate money or time to a worthy cause, only to find they have done it for their own benefit to pursue their own wealth and fame.

To only be doing good on the outside for one’s own glory, and not for the glory of God, means our hearts are not in the right place.  We must, therefore be careful in how we consider others.  Just doing or saying something that seems good, does not mean the person is seeking God’s path.

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God” (v 13).

Fortunately, Mormon tells us there is a way to see what is good and what is evil.  The things which are truly good, do not just seem good on the outside.  They will also encourage and invite us to “do good continually” and to “love God.”   So, if a person does something that seems good, but they do it to receive glory and praise from the world, then it is not of God. It is an act of man that may do good things on the surface, such as feed little children or provide a benefit to the poor, but it does not touch the soul of man. 

And that is the problem with much of the effort in the world today: they focus on the flesh, but not on the eternal welfare of others.  They feed the body, but the spirit dies of starvation.  So it is with some of the government programs we have.  We feel we benefit people by giving them food stamps and welfare assistance, and in some sense we do.  But do we satisfy their bodies, while allowing the spirit of man to wither and die?  The prophets have encouraged us to be self reliant, and that work is good for man, for instance.  Do we help or hurt people by giving a partial solution that looks great on the outside, but still leaves them starving for God on the inside?

Is the solution that Babylon, or the world, offers one that feeds the natural man, but not the eternal nature of man?  Perhaps a study in the differences between the welfare programs of the Church and that of the world’s governments may be insightful on how we are doing true good that leads people to love God, and an evil that leads people to worship the governments and celebrities of Babylon.

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.  But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.   And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.  Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ” (vv 16-19)
What encourages us to believe in Christ and do good works is of God.  All else is not celestial.

And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing?  And now I come to that faith, of which I said I would speak; and I will tell you the way whereby ye may lay hold on every good thing” (vv 20-21).
There is no way to lay hold upon good things or to do good things without faith, hope and charity.  What kind of faith? Only that faith which leads us to believe in Christ.  Again, there is one way to do truly good works, and that is with real intent.  Real intent comes from the person or persons who seek Christ and to live a Christ-like life.  Feeding hungry people is not in and of itself a good or eternal work.  Feeding both their bodies and spirits is a good work.  Leading them to Christ is a good work, which all Christians may do.  And as others do good works and seek to lead people to God, they also may perform good works to the level of understanding of God they have.

As we develop faith, hope becomes the anchor to our faith (Ether 12:4), which helps carry us through trying times.  As we grow in faith and hope, we desire to be more Christ-like, and so learn to develop the love of Christ, which is charity.

One thing we sometimes do not understand is that faith, hope and charity are gifts.  We cannot develop them on our own, no matter what works we do.  Instead, they are given to us, as we grow closer to God. Mormon encourages us to pray with all the energy of heart to have charity (Moroni 7:48) and God will pour out the gift of love upon us.  If we knock, if we ask, if we seek it, God will give it to us as a free gift.  But we must have real intent.  We must truly desire it, and not just give lip service.  To the level we are ready to receive it, God will bestow it upon us, as he will provide all other gifts we seek.

Little children are saved in Christ
Chapter 8

Moroni provides to us a letter from his father, which Mormon sent him soon after he was ordained an elder, possibly over his own synagogue, and regarding baptism of children.  It may seem an anachronistic 19th century attack aimed on some Christian faiths, but there are elements that go beyond the modern Protestant view.  Mormon and Moroni’s world is falling into an apostate state, and Moroni has asked his father about the practice of some to baptize their little children.  It is not a modern problem, but a sign of apostasy that occurs when people do not understand the atonement of Christ.

Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me” (v 8).

Note that there IS a curse of Adam.  There is a falling of man from God’s presence. Mankind cannot return back to God because of his fallen nature.  All are dead physically and spiritually. They need a physician to heal them.  They need to follow the prescription given by the physician: faith, repentance, covenants, ordinances, and receiving the Holy Ghost.

However, through Christ, little children are automatically saved in Christ.  There is no need for circumcision or baptism for little children, because Christ’s gift resurrects all of them.  Because of Christ’s gift, temporal and spiritual death have no power over little children, as they are incapable of sinning.  Only when they reach the age to understand right from wrong, and are able to sin, will they also need to repent and receive the covenants and ordinances of God. Only then will they need the physician to heal them, so they can live forever with their little children.

So, what does this have to do with Moroni’s emphasis on faith, hope and charity in these last chapters?  We must learn to have the faith, hope and charity of a little child, in order to be saved with them through Christ.

Gifts of the Spirit
Chapter 10

In verses 3-5, we learn that faith in Christ and his gospel begins with real intent.  We cannot discover God and his eternal truths without real intent and desire not only to know, but to do whatever it is that God reveals to us.

Again, Moroni speaks on faith, hope and charity. As we seek with real intent, we receive these and other gifts of God through the Holy Spirit.  “And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things” (v 5).  We learn these things through the gifts we are given.

If we are not receiving some of the gifts of the Spirit in our lives, we should ask ourselves: why not?  Are we not spiritually preparing ourselves?  Are we not seeking the gifts of the Spirit?

President George Q. Cannon noted:

How many of you are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places, contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father in the name of Jesus to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling upon the subject, without exercising any faith whatever, content to be baptized and be members of the Church and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this?
“I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference and of your carelessness. There is not that diligence, there is not that faith, there is not that seeking for the power of God that there should be among a people who have received the precious promises we have….
“If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections…. They are intended for this purpose. No man ought to say, "Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature." He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things and to give gifts that will eradicate them…. That is the design of God concerning His children. He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth.
“The Lord has said in a revelation to the Church that the Saints should "seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; for verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments…
"How many Latter-day Saints are there who supplicate the Lord for the gifts which they need? …Every defect in the human character can be corrected through the exercise of faith and pleading with the Lord for the gifts that He has said He will give unto those who believe and obey His commandments.” (Millennial Star, 23 Apr. 1894, 260). 

Come Unto Christ

Finally, Moroni encourages and invites us to “come unto Christ and be perfected in him” (v 32).  Of all the gifts of God, the gift of Christ’s atonement is the greatest.  As we have studied the Book of Mormon over the past year, we have found the Nephite prophets bringing us back to this concept time and again.  From Lehi first seeing the Messiah descend from God’s throne to bring him his prophetic calling in 1 Nephi 1, to the resurrected Jesus inviting the Nephites to come to him and touch the wounds in his hands and feet and be healed by him in 3 Nephi, to Moroni’s final words to us in this last chapter, we are invited to believe in Christ and his atonement. 

It is a free gift to any who will humbly ask for it, repent, and allow the Lord to give them a mighty change of heart: from a heart of stone to a heart of pure gold.  Christ can heal us, if we will let him.  He has suffered through all the pains and infirmities in the world, so he can succor us (Alma 7).  He is the only path back to the presence of the Father and eternal life.  He is the Resurrection and the Life.  He is the Way.  He is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father.  He is the center of our faith and hope. 

The message of the Book of Mormon is this: We invite all to come to Christ and be perfected in Him.  We invite all to come to Christ and be healed by him.  We invite all to Christ, and let him bring you back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Come unto Christ.

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