If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and 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; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:44-48)
In this post, I hope to share my recent journey of discovery and understanding concerning the scriptural charity described above in Moroni 7:44-48.
As I’m sure many of you do, I often wake up in the middle of the night and can’t immediately go back to sleep. I’ve learned to just embrace those quiet hours and think…more often than not about my relationship with Christ. Such prayers, as I’m sure you know, can often yield great insights. One night recently, I was thinking also about my wife, Diana, and how much I love her. I thought about whether or not my love was unconditional, and I realized that it wasn’t unconditional at all – that it was actually very much conditional upon who she is. If this lady so sweetly lying next to me were a different person, I wouldn’t love her like I do, so my love is conditional upon her personality, her virtues, her looks, etc. So, I began to ponder…”If I don’t love her unconditionally, do I love anyone unconditionally? Do I have any idea how to love unconditionally?” I concluded that, with the possible exception of a parent/child love, the love people have for each other, no matter how pure and beautiful it may be, is not, in the end, truly unconditional. So, again I asked myself, “How can I learn to love as Christ does – unconditionally? How can I love someone simply because they exist? How can I develop a desire to serve and enrich the lives of others regardless of who they are or how they treat me? How can I gain charity?” Then, I began to ask myself, “Is Christ’s love really unconditional?” I looked up the words “conditional” and “unconditional” in the scripture search on LDS.org and discovered that those words do not exist in the scriptures. Period. Nowhere. Nada. So, where do we get the idea that Christ’s love is actually unconditional? I’m not declaring unequivocally that it’s not, but I don’t know where the idea comes from if it’s not scriptural. As a matter of fact, there are numerous scriptural references to the conditions associated with repentance and salvation – so these manifestations (forgiveness and salvation) of Christ’s love are indeed conditional. Come to think of it – aren’t all of the manifestations of Christ’s love predicated upon obedience to some law? (D&C 130:20-21) So, what is love without manifestations of that love, and if the manifestations are conditional, isn’t the love conditional?
My next thought stream concerned whether this unconditional love (which may or may not actually exist) is the same as the scriptural “charity” as described by Moroni above (as well as by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13). I reviewed the description of charity, and as I prayed about it, I prayed as I had many times in the past that I might be gifted with this greatest of all virtues.
As a brief aside – I have concluded that charity is indeed a gift that must be bestowed on us based on Moroni 7:48 – …which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ…that it is not something that we can actually develop in and of our fallen selves, no matter how hard we try. I have furthermore concluded that once it is offered, it is still our responsibility to actively receive it – by surrendering our pride, jealousies, and fears (D&C 67:10) and cleansing ourselves of all unworthy (unworthy as compared to the description of charity above) personality traits and thought patterns that might actually prevent us from manifesting charity through our actions. In other words, we must believe and exercise faith that these virtues that constitute charity are more desirable than those that we must reject before we can make place for charity to abide in us.
So, as I reviewed the definition of charity, and as I prayed that I might be gifted with charity, the following things occurred to me:
- This description of charity is actually a very good definition of Christ’s character.
- This same description is the very antithesis of babylon, or the natural man. It refutes the lies that have been told us by satan since the garden drama took place.
This is probably not a particularly astounding discovery, although I’ve never heard it put quite that way, but where it leads me proves interesting and affirming – like wrapping a whole bunch of things with a nice, neat bow.
If charity describes Christ’s character – His very essence, if you will – then if we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, would this not be the same thing as receiving charity? Is His name not a label that represents His character, His personality, His essence? Therefore, to take upon ourselves the name of Christ = to receive charity = to reject the natural man = to leave babylon. Furthermore, would this seeking after and receiving of charity not be necessary if we are to know Christ and experience eternal life? (John 17:3) Does this not give new meaning to John 14:23 :
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him…
…as well as to all the versesin John 14, 15, and 17 referencing God abiding in us and being one with us (or us with Him)? If we are able to receive and nurture the attributes that define Christ, could that not be how he abides in us (his attributes are part of us) and how we become one with Him (we share the attributes that define us). This seems pretty all-encompassing, as if it is the very definition of redemption, even salvation.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that without this charity we are nothing. In other words, no actions, thoughts, or knowledge can make up for the lack of this attribute. Moroni says the same thing in verse 44, then, in verse 47 he says, “whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” Moroni thus softens his message just a little, but the point is the same…without charity…without Christ…we are nothing. We are terminal. The purpose of our existence, therefore, is to become what Paul and Moroni describe as “charity”.
Paul, also in 1 Corinthians 13, offers a very similar description of charity as Moroni did – than he says:
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 – emphasis added)
Moroni describes charity as “the pure love of Christ”. The pure love of Christ must, then, equal the description of charity offered by both Paul and Moroni. It is perfect. It reflects perfection (…”Be ye therefore perfect”…) Not only that, but it…”endureth forever”. Charity describes what the perfect, eternal…saved…being must be like. Christ is charity. According to Joseph Smith, Christ is the prototype of the saved man (Lectures on Faith 7:9), therefore charity describes the saved man. We are pretty much commanded to receive charity – the pure love of Christ – unto ourselves and become perfect. Such conclusions completely contradict the pernicious lie which has been perpetuated (I hope unwittingly) for millenia by the cultural churches and religions that further satan’s agenda, teaching that we cannot be perfect or that only Christ is perfect. This is a perfect lie, actually, one worthy of the great deceiver, in that it convinces that we cannot receive all that Christ offers us. It keeps the true disciple down, buried under the weight of unbelief. It is indeed a contradiction of epic proportion, but what a glorious contradiction it is!
In summary – my journey of discovery has resulted in the following understanding:
- Charity, as described by both Paul and Moroni, is the personality – even the very essence – of Christ. It is forever, it is perfection, it is all things, and without it, we are, even He himself is, nothing. If He were not these things, He would not be the Christ.
- Christ’s love is pure (unpolluted by the conditions of the fall?), but not necessarily unconditional.
- Charity may be bestowed upon us, but we must, in turn, receive it , and this is done by casting off the stakes of babylon, of the natural man in order to make a place for it in our hearts; that our actions might in turn reflect this charity – the essence of Him whom we worship.
- To “know” Christ, and thus to receive eternal life, we must take Him unto ourselves – this is synonymous with receiving and nurturing charity. It is in this way that He and the Father abide in us, and it is in this way that we become one with Him. Charity is required if we are to be saved.
I offer this perspective simply for your consideration. Perhaps it will lead you to a similar, or even a different, understanding. As for me, I will continue to seek to fully receive these virtues that constitute charity, the pure love of Christ, the essence of Christ, the very name of Christ – and I will seek to receive them by rejecting the jealousies, fears, and pride that Satan has imbued in the natural man, who is an enemy to God. (Mosiah 3:19)
The treatises on charity by Paul and Moroni, the Sermon on the Mount, and D&C 121:34-46, in my opinion, constitute Christ’s instructions on how we are to live the gospel; how we are to believe in Him, know Him, become one with Him, and gain eternal life. Pretty much everything we need to know, everything we need to do once we have been baptized, is contained in those scriptures. They represent the blueprint for how we are to treat each other, and it is by this blueprint that the desires of our heart are assessed – those very desires of our heart by which all men will ultimately be judged. (D&C 137:9 – “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts”) This is how we manifest our belief in Him; this is how we love Him and each other. We take them lightly and justify deviations to our damnation. People far too often get caught up in the do’s and dont’s of their religion; put up their stakes; resort to tradition and the philosophies of men in redefining that straight and narrow path that leads back to His presence and our redemption from the fall. Scriptures become allegorical, or are superseded by the interpretations of conspiring men. This “fog of religion” (terminology from Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge) tends to dilute, even displace, these pure, essential instructions with man-made commandments and false doctrines that have no power to save. They are a poor substitute for the doctrine of perfection and salvation given in these golden scriptures. To the extent that people – or churches – allow this displacement or dilution to take place, either personally or institutionally, they are in grave error, and have fallen into the same trap as the Pharisees of Christ’s day, loving the construct of the law more than they do Christ, who is the giver of the law. In Christ’s own words:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (Matthew 23:25)
If we are to make the inside of our cup clean, we must reject the natural man (babylon) with his house of pride, jealousies, and fears built so deceptively on the foundation of sand. We must take these key scriptures as our unwavering guide. We must seek to receive, nurture, and cherish this supernal gift of charity; truly take upon ourselves His name; know Him; and become one with Him. Only charity, bestowed by Christ and received by each of us individually, can save us. This last paragraph (4 sentences) I declare unto you in the name of Jesus Christ.