A Jealous God

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Abinadi the prophet lamented over the wickedness of King Noah and his priests. In a short chiasmus Abinadi prophesied:

And except they repent and turn to the Lord their God, behold, I will deliver them into the hands of their enemies; yea, and they shall be brought into bondage; and they shall be afflicted by the hand of their enemies. And it shall come to pass that they shall know that I am the Lord their God, and am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of my people. And it shall come to pass that except this people repent and turn unto the Lord their God, they shall be brought into bondage; and none shall deliver them, except it be the Lord the Almighty God.((Mosiah 11:21-23))

To see the chiasmus more clearly, refer to note.((A. And except they repent and turn to the Lord their God,
B. behold, I will deliver them into the hands of their enemies; yea, and they shall be brought into bondage; and they shall be afflicted by the hand of their enemies.
C. And it shall come to pass that they shall know that I am the Lord their God, and am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of my people.
B. And it shall come to pass that except this people repent and turn unto the Lord their God, they shall be brought into bondage;
A. and none shall deliver them, except it be the Lord the Almighty God.))

Abinadi also expounded on the Ten Commandments:

And now, ye remember that I said unto you: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of things which are in heaven above, or which are in the earth beneath, or which are in the water under the earth. And again: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.((Mosiah 13:12-15))

In both these quotes, Abinadi referred to the Lord as a “jealous God”. This is a concept familiar to the ancient house of Israel((see the list of Old Testament references to God as “jealous”)).

The Hebrew word translated into English as “jealous” is qinah (also of the form qanah or other derivative words). When applied to humans, jealous, as used in the Bible, typically refers to envy((e.g., Numbers 5:14)) and thus sin. It can also refer to zeal((e.g., Psalm 69:9)), which could be both positive or negative, depending on the circumstance and usage.

When referring to God as “jealous” the best interpretation is that God is fiercely protective of Truth, covenant, and His covenant people. A jealous God is a God Who defends right with zeal. A jealous God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.((Doctrine and Covenants 1:31; Alma 45:16)) A jealous God knows that wickedness never was happiness.((Alma 41:10)) As a jealous God, the Lord requires faithfulness and commands that we should have no other Gods before Him.((Exodus 34:14)) This is a harsh reality but it is a reality that provides safety and countless blessings. It is a harsh reality that leads to eternal life, an inheritance as an heir like Christ.((Romans 8:17)) God’s commands are not forced; all His children are able to express will and act independently, if they desire, from God.((There are some who are without mental/emotional capacity to understand choices or fully express moral agency. In some way or another, this is true of all of use because we do not fully understand the consequences of our actions or inactions. God, as a perfectly loving and just God, will weigh all in the balance with the intent to bless His children to the extent He is able.))

A jealous God is not filled with petty envy but rather with charity. God loves us enough to set firm boundaries. We can wander through life or we can travel the strait road of the jealous God, a road that leads to unimagined heights and countless blessings. God is jealous because He zealously protects His covenant children, particularly as they are faithful unto their covenants. This does not mean they are without suffering but their sufferings will be for their good.((Doctrine and Covenants 122:7))

Building a Habit of Charity

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The brain is made up of 87 billion neurons – the brain cells that allow us to breathe, think, walk, talk, pray, serve, and love. Each of these cells is connected to others with an estimated total of 100 trillion connections. That’s a staggeringly large number to contemplate. The number 1 followed by 14 zeros. These connections are not set for life; they strengthen or weaken constantly based on what we do and learn. Even simple actions, such as clapping or raising our hands in sustaining of church leaders, changes blood flow within our brains for half a minute. Each thought we think, each action we do, changes our brains. As we learn and re-learn things, the connections between brain cells change. If we do things over and over they become habits; habits might be easy or difficult to develop but they are usually hard to lose. This is because habits are ingrained within deep recesses of our brains; they travel along major brain pathways automatically and at rapid speed. Each thought or action we have or do has the potential to become a habit if we repeat it. What habits are you forming? What connections are you making in your brain – positive, uplifting, faithful ones, or are you strengthening connections that lead you away from Christ? The roads of the mind can elevate or debase. Do we seek and strengthen the paths that will lead us back home?

One way to elevate our minds is to strive for Christlike attributes. The greatest of these is charity. What is charity? Charity is the chief virtue. It is the “pure love of Christ, [that] endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” (Moroni 7:47). Charity is without end, it endures forever. Charity is not helping others, it is not treating others well; charity is the pure love that comes from God. Charity is a gift from God. It is a pure fruit from an everlasting tree of beauty and purity with preciousness above all else.

Charity is a gift from God and is manifest in those who believe in Christ and are striving to be like Him. C. S. Lewis explained his belief in Christ; he said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” (Lewis, Is Theology Poetry?, 1945). The Savior testified of His Light, “I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness…” (John 8:12). Christ also said, “Ye are the light of the world…let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…” (Matt. 5:14,16). What is this light? Did Christ mean that He was a physical light, a form of electromagnetic radiation that simply brightens the world around us? It is true that the resurrected Christ shines with a radiance above the brightness of the sun, as Joseph Smith described, but this is not really what Christ meant when He said that He is the light of the world.

Jesus created the earth, the moon, and the heavens above. He caused the sun to shine upon the earth to give us life. Jesus lights the earth around us but He also does more than that – He lights our souls with His love. Christ is love. Love is energy, you can feel it – it radiates like the sun. When we are told to “let [our] light[s] so shine” the Savior is telling us to follow His example by lighting others’ lives by love; we are to warm the hearts and souls of those around us through the warm radiance of charity. When we follow our Lord by keeping His commandments, He lights our souls with His love. When we have His love, we can share it with others. This means that it is not possible to light someone else’s soul without a burning in our own. This is a light that is in all people’s souls. In some it burns with a dazzling brightness, in others it flickers like a dying candle. When we have charity, the light of Christ shines through us with great intensity. When we are filled with charity we see the eternal light in those around us – we know that all are sons and daughters of our Eternal Father in Heaven. We know that all have the potential to become as He is.

But becoming like God is a process. None of us is perfect; we are fallen, living in a fallen world. We are in an embryonic stage, trying to grow up and control these wonderful but mortal bodies the Lord blesses us with. Sometimes we sin, sometimes we turn away from God, sometimes we forget who we really are. All of us on this earth, in the grand council of heaven, subjected our spiritual bodies and wills to the will of the Father; that is why we are here in mortality – we said in shouts of joy, “I will follow God’s plan for me!” Now as mortals we are trying to subject our physical bodies to the will of the Father – truly a difficult task. Just as in the premortal world, again Christ was the consummate example. He subjected His will completely to His Father’s; this surrendering of His will culminated with His death on the cross and His triumphal resurrection from the tomb in the ultimate act of love. Jesus Christ gave us the perfect example of charity.

We are commanded to serve others. Opportunities to serve come with baptism, when we covenant to be comforters: “And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9). A responsibility we have as Latter-day Saints is to help alleviate the suffering of others. We have been commanded to “look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer” (D&C 38:35). As Latter-day Saints and Christians we have been commanded to, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

The miracle is that by mourning with those who mourn and helping other people bear their burdens, our own burdens and suffering are lifted. The Savior spent His life focused on others but His ultimate act of selflessness, His ultimate act of charity, was when He shed His precious blood for each and every one of us. In this act, His will was completely swallowed up in His Father’s. The Atonement is infinitely Other-focused – it was not done to benefit Jesus. In the premortal world, Christ answered the call to act as propitiation for the sins and sorrows of God’s wayward children. He performed the greatest selfless act the world ever knew or will know. As we follow Christ and turn our focus outward and serve others without seeking personal gain, we will find the cure for suffering. In doing good to others, we will overcome our sorrows and sufferings. We do not suffer while selflessly serving others. Just as the Savior did, we can serve to bring light and life to others.

We might serve others at first because it is a commandment – we might serve out of a sense of duty but the more we serve the more we will do so out of love. The Apostle Paul taught: “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Tim. 1:5). This means that we are given commandments so that we might learn charity and serve with a pure heart, good conscience, and real faith. The end of commandments, or in other words the purpose of commandments, is that we might become Christ-like – full of God’s love, which is charity. While there are many good reasons to serve others, the highest and best reason is because we love others and are filled with charity. Charity is a measure of perfection.

While our motives to serve others might not always be out of pure charity, by serving we keep a commandment and work toward the day when we will be filled with God’s perfect love. Charity can be strengthened by action. Through repeated desires and actions we can make feelings and actions of charity more automatic; acts motivated by charity can become habits, written upon the tables of our hearts (see Prov. 7:3) and the pathways of our minds.

Pres. Henry B. Eyring wrote recently: “A few days ago, I met in my office with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to discuss work on increasing the spirit and the power of the Sabbath to build faith in Jesus Christ. As I later pondered this conversation, I felt that faith in Jesus Christ is built more by acting than by listening, even when the teacher or speaker has the power of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost testifies of our Heavenly Father and of the Savior with the purpose of moving us to repent and to keep commandments. Those are actions. It is the actions to pray, repent, and keep the commandments that build faith in the hearts of disciples of Jesus Christ.” Elder Henry B. Eyring, posted on Facebook on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015; https://www.facebook.com/lds.henry.b.eyring/posts/808659242514886)

As we act, we are blessed. If we want faith, if we want charity, we should act. Go and do. The call to action sometimes requires what I call a loving kick in the pants.

In October 2012, Elder Holland gave us such encouragement. He told of the apostles toiling after Christ’s death. The apostles were fishing without success when the Savior appeared on the seashore, although at first they did not recognize Him. It was not until He asked them to cast their nets again into the water that they recognized Him. By following His counsel, they caught many fish and came to shore to talk with their Savior. This is where the chastisement – the loving kick in the pants – started.

Jesus asked Peter three times – “Do you love me?” Peter responded, “Yea Lord, I do.” But the Savior needed to teach Peter a lesson – Peter had not fully grasped the nature of his calling as Apostle (and chief Apostle – the president of the church – at that!).

Now quoting Elder Holland:

“Jesus responded… perhaps saying something like: ‘Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.'”

Elder Holland continued with an admonition to all of us: “My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: ‘Did you love me?’ I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—’Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.’ And if at such a moment we can stammer out, ‘Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,’ then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty. ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments,’ Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back.” (Holland, The First Great Commandment, October 2012).

Will we be able to answer the Savior when we stand before Him to be judged that we really do love Him, that we loved Him enough that we put Him first in our lives? Did we love Him enough to really love other people? Do we really understand the weight of the responsibility we bear when we are baptized and are confirmed and make sacred covenants to follow the Savior? Do we feel like we can stand before the Savior today with clean hands and a pure heart having done all we can to follow His commandments? If not, what changes need to be made? Start making the changes today.

One of those changes we might need to make is to see others as our Father sees them. This vision requires charity. Charity isn’t just loving people for who they are it is loving people for who they might become. Charity is understanding the eternal potential and divine spark within all people. Charity is helping others draw near to God by seeing and edifying the good within. Do we love others enough to help them grow? Do we love others enough to help them return home giving them a loving kick in the pants when needed? Do we love and fill our lives with kindness?

Elder Wirthlin said, “The measure of our love is the measure of the greatness of our souls…. Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship…. Often, the greatest manifestations of love are the simple acts of kindness and caring we extend to those we meet along the path of life.” (Wirthlin, The Great Commandment, Oct. 2007)

Each simple act of kindness can be a manifestation of our love. Each hand we hold or tear we wipe, can share the love of God with His precious children. “Real love is best shown in the ‘how’.” (Holland, How do I love thee?, BYU Speeches, Feb 15, 2000). How do I love thee? Let me show you the ways.

One way to feel and show charity to others is when they are dealing with loss and grief for that is when love is needed the most.

With the strike of an automobile, some years ago tragedy struck our family. My 11 year old niece Allison was crossing a road on her bicycle with her father and younger sister when an automobile struck her, killing her instantly. It was a challenging time for my sister and her family. It was difficult for all the extended family. But who we are as people is defined by how we respond in the face of tragedy. Do we respond with faith or do we answer with festering bitterness? Do we forgive wrongs or do we allow the cankering cancer of hate to grow inside ourselves? I believe tragedy is a time to turn towards others, particularly our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The healing waters of Christ cannot wash away our hurt and grief if we keep them locked within the stony tables of our hearts. We must offer our hurt and grief to the Savior. Christ’s suffering – His Atonement – not only helps us overcome sin and death, it helps us overcome sorrow, suffering, and pain. Sorrow, suffering, and pain are not removed from our lives but their effects can be lessened. We can even find joy amidst the hardship as we turn towards Christ. Then one day, we have been promised that “every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude” (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Nov. 2008 Ensign).

Jesus offers hope and healing to all who mourn. Isaiah tells us that the Savior: “bind[s] up the brokenhearted [and] proclaim[s] liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound…. [He] comfort[s] all that mourn; [and] appoint[s] unto them that mourn in Zion [and] give[s] unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3). In these tender verses we learn of Christ’s role as healer; we learn of His great love for us. He pours forth the olive oil of mercy unto those in need and He comforts those who mourn: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

God shall wipe tears from our eyes – what a touching, beautiful, and miraculous experience that will be! What love our Father has for us! This is a miracle we can perform for others; this is a love we can share with others. Pres. Harold B. Lee said of this miracle – the miracle of healing those who sorrow and who suffer with spiritual sickness: “The greatest miracles I see today are not necessarily the healing of sick bodies, but the greatest miracles I see are the healing of sick souls, those who are sick in soul and spirit and are downhearted and distraught, on the verge of nervous breakdowns. We are reaching out to all such because they are precious in the sight of the Lord and we want no one to feel that they are forgotten.” (Lee, April 1973 General Conference). The Lord came to heal the sick – in body and spirit. We are commanded to follow Christ; we must to do as He did and reach out to and heal those who are dejected and sick in spirit.

Even in times of our own suffering we can help heal others. In the days before Allison’s funeral, my sister and her husband took time to visit and comfort the boy, a teenager, who was driving the car that hit her. Allison died and my family suffered because of his mistake but he was going to have to live with the weight of her death on his shoulders. My sister and her husband wanted to let the boy know that they forgave him for what happened. “There was hurt but no hate.” (Faust, April 2007 General Conference). They exemplified one of the greatest acts of love – the gift of forgiveness; it is the ultimate miracle, the ultimate gift of love. This is a gift given to us by Christ and one we can give to others. Those who Pres. Lee said are “sick in soul and spirit and downhearted and distraught” might be aching for one thing from us – the healing that starts when we offer a gift of forgiveness. What greater love is there than laying down hurt and hate and extending arms in love? What greater Christian attribute is there than that of forgiving those who might not deserve forgiveness and loving those who might not deserve love? This is charity, being filled with the pure love of Christ.

I pray that all our thoughts might be drawn out to God, that we might strive to be as He is, filled with a radiant, pure love. I pray that we might fill our hearts and strengthen the pathways of our minds with good and with love. This church is true. Jesus Christ lives and loves us!

The Covenant Path of Testimony

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In order to participate in President Monson’s call to hasten the work of salvation and rescue those who are lost, we must develop and maintain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To testify is to declare a belief about, of, or in something. It is to declare our knowledge of truth. The word testimony comes from a Latin word meaning witness. It is also related to the Latin words for three and stand, implying that the witness stands as a third or third-person (and therefore independent) witness. We are taught in the Old Testament, New Testament, and Doctrine & Covenants that the Lord’s pattern is for multiple witnesses to establish truth. Incidentally, testament is the same word as testimony; a testament is also a covenant. So we have an Old Covenant, a New Covenant, and a latter-day Doctrine and Covenants with, of course, the Book of Mormon standing as a special testament of Jesus Christ (and a special covenant between God and the remnants of the people of Lehi). All books of scripture serve to co-establish the truths contained within each other book. All of God’s word is established by multiple witnesses (Deut. 19:15Matt. 18:16D&C 6:28). The Godhead, though one in witness, purpose, and glory, constitute multiple witnesses. When Jesus Christ was baptized, His Father bore witness to John the Baptist saying, “This is my beloved Son.” The Holy Ghost also descended like a dove to bear witness to John of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

When Alma and Amulek started preaching to the people in the land of Ammonihah, people were astonished that two people bore witness unto them: “And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things whereof they were accused, and also of the things which were to come, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them” (Alma 10:12). This is one reason LDS missionaries go out two by two – they act as multiple witnesses of the truths of the gospel. Their witnesses are further fortified by the witness of the Holy Ghost, who carries the words of testament directly into the hearts of those present who are willing to hear.

A testimony is belief or knowledge of truth and is most effectively shared by multiple witnesses. In order to share a testimony, it must first be gained. Testimonies are gained by seeking to know the truth through humble and honest prayer while diligently seeking to obtain knowledge from God. Testimonies are strengthened by living the principles of the gospel. Elder Richard G. Scott stated: “A strong testimony is the sustaining power of a successful life. It is centered in an understanding of the divine attributes of God our Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. It is secured by a willing reliance upon Them. A powerful testimony is grounded in the personal assurance that the Holy Ghost can guide and inspire our daily acts for good. A testimony is fortified by spiritual impressions that confirm the validity of a teaching, of a righteous act, or of a warning of pending danger. Often such guidance is accompanied by powerful emotions that make it difficult to speak and bring tears to the eyes. But a testimony is not emotion. It is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions” (Ensign, Nov. 2001, Scott; emphasis added).

Let me repeat: “[A testimony] is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions.” A testimony is based on the goodness of our lives, of our characters, and our actions. Our testimonies are strengthened as we live in accordance to the principles and ordinances of the gospel. In fact, that is the surest way to gain a testimony! Live the gospel principles for which you strive to gain a testimony. If you want a testimony, act as if as though you have it and that action will help create the reality of it. If you want to have a testimony of tithing, pay it! If you want to have a testimony of Jesus Christ, keep His commandments. If you want to have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, read it, pray about it, and live the doctrines contained within. That is one reason we are taught in Alma 32 to “experiment upon the word.” As we test what God has told us, we can know of its truth. We rarely receive a witness when we seek not; testimonies are gained and strengthened through mighty prayer and righteous living. Sometimes – or most times – we must wrestle in prayer as we seek a witness of the truths of the gospel.

For any who want to receive a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel Elder Scott offers His apostolic counsel: “Try reading the Book of Mormon because you want to, not because you have to. Discover for yourself that it is true. As you read each page ask, ‘Could any man have written this book or did it come as Joseph Smith testified?’ Apply the teachings you learn. They will fortify you against the evil of Satan. Follow Moroni’s counsel. Sincerely ask God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, with real intent, if the teachings of the Book of Mormon are true (see Moro. 10:3–5). Ask with a desire to receive a confirmation personally, nothing doubting…. You will then know that Jesus Christ lives, that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church. You will confirm that the Savior guides His Church through a living prophet. These truths will become a foundation for your productive life.” (Elder Scott, Ensign, November 2003).

Thus, testimonies effect changes in our lives. A testimony is a foundation of faith upon which we anchor our actions and as such becomes the foundation for our life of covenant service to God.

The prophet Joseph Smith saw in vision people who had received testimonies of Jesus Christ but who were not valiant in their testimonies. They were good people but people who did not live up to or partake in all the covenants required for exaltation. They received testimonies but did not take the additional steps required as disciples of Christ. These individuals, in Joseph’s vision, were unable to return to live with God again (see D&C 76:79).

Being valiant with our testimonies includes sharing them with others. Such declarations are recorded in heaven: “Ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.” (D&C 62:3).

I know of a group of youth who recently held their own testimony meeting using social media. They shared their testimonies with friends and strangers alike. In a world full of much filth and negativity, it was beautiful to see young men and women freely bearing their witnesses of Jesus Christ and the restored church. As they shared their testimonies, many of the youth were touched by the Spirit. In sharing their testimonies freely, they were following apostolic admonitions to share the gospel using the internet, social media, and whatever other means are available (see M. Russell Ballard, July 2008 Ensign).

An important part of developing and strengthening testimonies is to develop and strengthen faith. Faith and testimony are intertwined – we cannot have one without the other. The word faith is often used colloquially as a synonym for trust, belief, or confidence. Understanding faith to be simply belief or trust does not encapsulate the real meaning of faith.

The apostle Paul said: “Now faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence [proof] of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). Alma gave this definition of faith: “And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (Alma 32:21).

A part of faith is hope or belief but faith is more than that. Thomas Hobbes explained: “But what (may some object) if a King, or a Senate, or other Soveraign Person forbid us to beleeve in Christ? To this I answer, that such forbidding is of no effect, because Beleef, and Unbeleef never follow mens Commands. Faith is a gift of God, which Man can neither give, nor take away by promise of rewards, or menaces of torture.” (Hobbes, Leviathan, iii. xlii. 271). “Faith is a gift of God.” We give the gift of our belief, hope, and trust to God. What He gives us in return is faith. Faith is a gift from God that is granted unto us in return for our belief and righteousness.

As Paul wrote, faith is an assurance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Faith is the evidence or proof of our belief. Faith isn’t the antecedent, faith is the consequent. Belief and good works are the antecedent. Alma further taught: “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. Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:27-28).

If we are seeking a testimony of the gospel, if we are seeking or want to strengthen faith in God, we can plant what Alma called a seed in our hearts. This seed is the word of God, it is also the seed of faith. We do not create this seed – it is a gift from God – but our responsibility is to plant the seed and not cast out it out by our unbelief. We believe and trust and follow the Lord’s commands to nurture the seed of faith. As we do so, we are blessed with further evidence (namely, faith) as we see the seed grow and sprout and produce good fruit. Faith is not believing without evidence, faith is the evidence supporting our belief.

Why it is important to recognize that faith is evidence (proof) is that many times we feel like we are acting “just with faith” or “in blind faith” until we receive proof – some big spiritual manifestation that will remove the need for faith. However, faith is the proof we are looking for. Faith is a gift from God. Faith comes of and by the Spirit of the Lord. Faith and testimony are core components of disciples of Christ.

The apostle Peter provided a blueprint of a strait and narrow road, a path whereon disciples of Christ travel and become more like the Savior. “And beside [giving up sinful ways], giving all diligence, 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.” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

First, we act with diligence. We cease our sinning, we repent, and we follow the teachings and commandments of Christ. This takes tenacity and perseverance. As we start to follow the teachings of Christ and His prophets, we are blessed with faith.

Faith is just a start. We next add virtue to our faith. Virtue is goodness, it is chastity. It is being morally clean in all the meanings of the word moral. Once we are filled with virtue we can gain knowledge. So first faith, then virtue, then knowledge. Why is this order important? Nephi provides an answer: “O that cunning plan of the evil one [notice that Satan has a plan for us just as Heavenly Father has one]! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.” (2 Nephi 9:28). Without a foundation of faith and virtue (goodness or valor in living truth), knowledge has a way of fostering pride and sin; without a foundation of faith and virtue, knowledge profits nothing. Knowledge can be powerful and without a virtuous foundation, knowledge can be misused.

Along this path to Christ – to diligence, faith, virtue, and knowledge we add temperance. Temperance is control, it is restraint. It is power over our appetites, passions, and desires. We learn and grow and understand the value and power of self-mastery. Part of learning temperance is learning self-restraint. Within the LDS Church we have Fast Sundays where part of our practice is to gain control over our appetites. We also are taught and given other reminders to be temperate in our physical appetites and passions.

To temperance we add patience. We can be patient in the midst of afflictions; we can be patient towards others; we can be patient by living in the hope of Christ’s promised blessings. Life flows more smoothly when we have an abundance of patience.

Next, we add to patience godliness. Godliness means having the characteristics and qualities of God – particularly holiness. Holiness means that we consecrate all we have to God and to His work. It means that we separate ourselves from and rise above the sins of the world living sanctified lives. It means, for Latter-day Saints, attending the temple and remaining true to the covenants we make there.

Now, all these Christian characteristics so far have been primarily focused on the self. That’s only part of what the gospel is about; being a disciple of Christ affects our interactions with others. To be truly like Christ we serve others. In order to serve others as Christ did, we develop brotherly kindness. We recognize that each individual is a child of God. We are all children of God and are asked to treat one another as such. If we are godly, we can then develop a true brotherly kindness and strive to do good to all others, even those who do evil to us.

Lastly, we add charity. The chief virtue is charity. This 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.” (Moroni 7:47). Charity is without end, it endures forever. Charity is much more than helping others, it is more than treating others well, it is a pure love that comes from God. Charity is a gift from God. It is a pure fruit from an everlasting tree of beauty and purity with preciousness above all else.

The path to Christ and our Father in Heaven is clear but strait and narrow. The foundation of this path is built on faith, our testimony, repentance, keeping God’s commandments, and receiving necessary ordinances. As we are diligent, we can become more like the Savior, becoming filled with the pure love of Christ. We will be able to bless the lives of those around us and have a desire to bless the whole world. As we walk the path of faith, starting with a simple testimony and persevering on, we will feel the pull to share God’s love with those around us.

This path of testimony is a covenant path. It leads from baptism through the temple unto life eternal. What begins as a simple witness turns into a life of consecration. We consecrate all we have to building the kingdom of God and serving God’s children. Recently, Pres. Monson has called for a renewed focus on hastening the work of salvation and rescuing those who are lost. A story from the Revolutionary War teaches the principle of rescue.

On a bitter cold Christmas night the Continental Army, led by George Washington, made a bold maneuver against the superior forces of the British army. General Washington led his troops over the Delaware in what would prove to be a defining moment of the Revolutionary War and American history. The crossing of the Delaware took all night; it was a significant adversity. Severe winter weather blew and froze the troops all during the crossing and the following day. Even so, the poor weather was a mixed blessing – it made the crossing treacherous but it also masked the movements of the Americans. Even after crossing the icy river, surviving the danger of that maneuver, it was so frigid that there are reports of at least two soldiers freezing to death that night. John Greenwood was a member of the army; he served as a fifer but because of the circumstances, John the fifer became John the soldier when he was called to carry a musket during the upcoming assault. As the army marched on its way after crossing the Delaware, John Greenwood was exhausted like many others. During one break he sat down with the intention of going to sleep. The voice of the bitter cold enticed John, lulling him into a false sense of security. He was so fatigued that he didn’t care if he never awoke from his slumber. As he drifted off to sleep, a passing sergeant noticed John, roused him, and got him up and moving. This act saved his life. Had the sergeant not noticed the lowly fifer, had the sergeant not gone after a sleeping sheep, John’s life would have been lost.

This story exemplifies the principle of stewardship in the gospel. All members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have responsibilities to other people. All are ideally called as visiting teachers or home teachers. Do we watch over others or do we leave them by the wayside to suffer the effects of their inaction? Cain asked a simple but condescending question of the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Even though Cain’s reason for asking was neither honest nor of concern for his brother, whom he had just killed, it is a question we would do well to ask ourselves in honesty. Do we really see ourselves as our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers?

When asked the similar question of: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a parable:

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

“And he [the man] said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Luke 10:30-37.

The Samaritan could have walked by the beaten man but he stopped and helped. He might have been on his way to a business meeting or to a family gathering; maybe his fields needed sowing. Surely he was not less busy than those who did not stop. He took care of a man on the edge of death just as the Continental Army sergeant did for John Greenwood. It is our covenant duty we have as members of the Church to love others and watch over them – even when inconvenient, maybe especially when inconvenient. When we watch over others we might just save their lives spiritually or physically. We can participate in Pres. Monson’s prophetic priorities by participating in hastening the work of salvation and rescuing those who are lost by sharing our testimonies with those in need.

When criticized by the Pharisees for spending time with sinners, Jesus said,

“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7)

May we develop and strengthen our testimonies and move onward and upward in supporting the work of the Lord by strengthening those in need. I bear my testimony that all can receive a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel. I bear witness of the reality and divinity of Jesus Christ. I bear witness that Pres. Monson is a prophet of God. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, amen.

Online Commentary

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I occasionally skim through comments on internet news sites, almost always to my misfortune. My general reaction, particularly on politically- or religiously-tinged articles, is one of frustration. The words of Isaiah come to mind:

Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Wo unto the wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight! Wo unto… [those] who justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! (2 Ne. 15:20-23; these verses quote Isaiah – see Isaiah 5:20-23).

Many online comments are toxic (this is the case for most social media sites). They are not helpful or uplifting. “Who is my neighbor?” the Savior was asked. He responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan – a story about being filled with charity for all. In the community of the internet where neighbors can live as far as Tulsa, Tunisia, or Tehran, instead of reaching out in charity and understanding, too many people comment with bitterness and hate. Online interactions have the great potential to be positive and uplifting but too often they are worthy of Isaiah’s condemnations.

Hope springs eternal for me so I infrequently skim through comments to look for uplifting comments that defend good and right and are full of kindness and charity but most of the time my hopes are swept away by the swollen and swirling streams of comments and dashed on the jagged rocks of disappointment.

However, generosus equus non curat canem latrantem (meaning: “A well-bred horse doesn’t care about a barking dog”). All we can really do is make sure that we do not add to any of the toxicity of commentary.

The Path To Christ

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The apostle Peter provided a blueprint of a holy house, a house wherein those who dwell become more like Christ.

“And beside this [giving up our sinful ways], giving all diligence, 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.” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

First, we need to act with diligence. We need to cease our sinning and follow the teachings and commandments of Christ. This takes tenacity and perseverance. As we start to follow the teachings of Christ and His prophets, we are blessed with faith.

Faith is just a start though. We need to add virtue to our faith. Virtue is goodness, it is chastity. It is being morally clean, in all the meanings of the word moral. Once we are filled with virtue we can gain knowledge (virtue could also be understood as priesthood power but that is not true to the underlying Greek {virtue in this verse is from the Greek areth meaning valor}; see Luke 8:46 {virtue in this verse comes from the Greek dunamin meaning power}).

So first faith, then virtue, then knowledge. Why is this order important? Nephi provides an answer: “O that cunning plan of the evil one [notice that Satan has a plan just as Father has one]! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.” (2 Nephi 9:28). Without a foundation of faith and virtue (i.e., goodness, or even valor in living Truth), knowledge has a way of fostering pride; then knowledge profits nothing.

Diligence –> Faith –> Virtue –> Knowledge –> Temperance. Temperance is control, it is restraint. It is power over our appetites, passions, and desires. I think this is a natural progression from knowledge, even if it is not practiced as much as it should be practiced. We learn and grow and learn the value of moderation. Temperance is also important with knowledge because knowledge is power and without a virtuous foundation and without temperance, it can be easy to abuse knowledge. Part of learning temperance is learning self-restraint. Within the LDS Church we have Fast Sundays where part of our practice is to gain control over our appetites. We also are taught and given other reminders to be temperate in our physical appetites and passions.

To temperance we add patience. We can be patient in the midst of afflictions; we can be patient towards others; we can be patient in living our lives in the hope of Christ’s promised blessings. I’ve found that life flows more smoothly with patience.

Next, we add to patience, godliness. Godliness means having the characteristics and qualities of God, particularly, holiness. Holiness means that we consecrate all we have to God and to His work. It means that we rise above the sins of the world living sanctified lives. It means, for Latter-day Saints, attending the temple and remaining true to the covenants we make there.

Now, all the Christian characteristics so far have largely been focused on the self. That’s not what the gospel is about though; that’s not what being a disciple of Christ means. To truly be like Christ, we have to serve others. In order to serve others as Christ did, we need to develop brotherly kindness. We have to recognize that each individual is a child of God. That’s not just a nice phrase of hyperbole, it’s a phrase of literal truth. We are all children of God and should treat one another as such. If we are godly, we can develop a true brotherly kindness and strive to do good to all others, even those who do evil to us.

Lastly: Diligence –> Faith –> Virtue –> Knowledge –> Temperance –> Patience –> Godliness –> Brotherly Kindness –> Charity. The chief virtue is charity. This is the pure love of Christ: “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.” (Moroni 7:47). Charity is without end, it will endure forever. Charity is much more than helping others, it is more than treating others well, it is a pure love that comes from God. Charity is a gift from God.

Peter lays out a clear path to Christ. The foundation is built on keeping His commandments and receiving His ordinances. As we are diligent in following the Savior, we can become more like Him, even becoming filled with charity. We will be able to bless the lives of those around us and have a desire to bless the whole world.

Acts of Service

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Every day around the world acts of service such as the one depicted in the embedded video are performed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe that a religion that does not effect positive changes in people’s lives and promote charity and service is no true religion. Religion is not only about lofty theology or enjoying the future bliss of blessings in heaven; true religion is about love and service and goodness.

“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…. 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.” (Moroni 7:44-45,47).

We serve others because it is a commandment but as the Apostle Paul noted: “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Tim. 1:5). This means that we are given commandments so that we might learn charity and serve with a pure heart and good conscience and unfeigned faith. The end of commandments, or in other words the goal, is that we might become Christ-like and full of God’s love, which is charity. While I believe there are many good reasons to serve others, the highest and best reason is because we love others and are filled with charity, which never faileth and never ends. Charity is perfection.

So while our motives to serve others might not always be out of pure charity, by serving we keep a commandment and are working toward the day when we will be filled with God’s perfect love. The LDS Church provides many opportunities for service, including ones like what is depicted in the following video. Service like this is given frequently by many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A Heart of Charity, Part 1

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C. S. Lewis explained his belief in Christ in this way: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” (Lewis, Is Theology Poetry?, 1945). Christ said, “I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness…” (John 8:12). Christ also said, “Ye are the light of the world…let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…” (Matt. 5:14,16). What is this light? Did Christ mean that He was merely a physical light, an electromagnetic radiation that brightens the world around us? It is true that Jesus Christ shines with a radiance above the brightness of the sun, as Joseph Smith described. But this is not really what Christ meant when He stated that He (and, by our following His example and through His spirit, we as well) is the light of the world. Christ is more than electromagnetic energy; He is more powerful and deeper than this physical light.

One powerful source of energy is love. Love is energy, you can feel it – it radiates like the sun. Jesus is “the light of the world”; He created the earth, the moon, and the heavens above. He caused the sun to shine upon the earth to give us life. Jesus lights the earth around us but He also does more than that – He lights our souls with His love. Christ is love. When we are told to “let [our] light[s] so shine” the Savior is telling us to follow His example by lighting others’ lives by love; we are to warm the hearts and souls of all humankind through the warm radiance of charity. When we follow our Lord by keeping His commandments, He lights our souls with His love. When we have His love, we can share it with others. This means that it is not possible to light someone else’s soul without a burning in your own. This is a light that is in all people’s souls. In some it burns with a dazzling brightness, in others it flickers like a dying candle, but it is there. C. S. Lewis said, “[We are] in a society of possible gods and goddesses…[in which] there are no ordinary people. [We] have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.” (Lewis, The Weight of Glory). When we have charity we keep in perspective who those around us really are – we are all sons and daughters of our Eternal Father in Heaven. We have His divine spark within us. We all have the potential to become as He is.

But that is a process – the becoming as God is. None of us is perfect; people are not perfect. We are in an embryonic stage, trying to grow up and control these wonderful, mortal, physical bodies the Lord blesses us with. As premortal beings, all of us here on this earth as mortals subjected our spiritual bodies and wills to the will of the Father; that is why we are here in mortality – we accepted the opportunity to follow God’s plan for us. Now as mortals we are trying to subject our physical bodies to the will of the Father, a difficult task at which we much work each day. Once again Christ was the consummate example. His will was completely in subjection to His Father’s, which subjection culminated with His death on the cross and His triumphal resurrection from the tomb.

C.S. Lewis Quote of the Day

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“He [God] wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love – a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy [God]; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.” (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, HarperCollins, 2001, pp.71-72).

This new love God wants us to gain is called charity. One of the greatest definitions of charity was given by the prophet Mormon.

“46 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—
47 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.
48 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 7:46-48).

The LDS Church and City Creek Center

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Jesus told the following parable.

14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
  15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
  16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
  17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
  18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
  19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
  20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
  21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
  22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
  23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
  24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
  25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
  26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
  27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
  28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
  29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
  30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 25:14-30).

In summary, a man had three servants to whom he gave different amounts of money. One received five talents, another two, and another one. What was important was not how much the servants were given but what they did with what they had. The servants who took their money and increased it were praised and given more when their master returned. One servant hid his money, doing nothing with it, and certainly not increasing it. This servant was punished for his wickedness and sloth.

This parable is not really about money but I’m going to draw some monetary parallels. Some people criticize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for spending as much money as they are on the City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City. Would not this money be better spent on the poor? First, any who criticize The Church for not doing as much as they can to care for the poor is being disingenuous. Besides, does all money The Church has have to ‘help’ the poor?

We read of a time when Judas criticized the use of some expensive ointment when he thought it would be better to sell that ointment and give the money to the poor:

“1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,
5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.
8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.” (John 12:1-8).

Now how is City Creek Center like this example? There are times when it is appropriate to not just spend Church money on the poor. There are more ways than one to build His Kingdom.

I’ll share one last example. Let’s say that I loan you $100. What are you going to do with it? Will you spend it on some new clothes? Will you pay your cable bill with it? Will you repay part of a student loan? Will you give it away to help the poor? Are any of those things bad? No, they are not. Helping the poor with the money is wonderful. However, what if you decided to invest that money or take it and buy some supplies that you use to make something else and sell for a profit. Pretty soon, with your ingenuity and diligence, you have $1000 where before you only had the $100 that I loaned you. Now you have enough money to pay me back and to continue to grow your wealth. As you continue to make more money you never stop helping to poor but soon you have enough money to build an entire orphanage. You have enough money to teach indigent farmers around the world how to improve their crop yields so they no longer are merely and barely surviving but are able to have an excess of food.

So what is a better use of money? Giving all of what you have away or using the money to increase what you have so you can be in a secure financial position to be able to help more people? Do you hide your money away or even give it all away, or do you work hard and increase it?

The LDS Church is in a similar position. It has tithing funds that are used to build temples and church buildings, to fund the upkeep of those buildings, and to help the poor and needy, among many other things. There are fast offerings that go to help the needy – both in and out of the Church. There are humanitarian funds that go to help the needy worldwide. The Church has an education fund that loans money at low interest rates to people so they can get the education they need to pull themselves out of poverty.

Then there are the commercial arms of the Church, like Property Reserve that is paying for City Creek Center. With this massive expenditure the Church is renovating downtown Salt Lake City. This benefits the businesses in the area, it benefits the people of Salt Lake, it beautifies the surroundings, and it is a good investment for the Church. They will be able to continue to grow their real estate holdings. The Church is trying to take its talents and increase them.

Simply giving money to the poor is not always the best way to help. I’ll end with some words by Arthur C. Brooks, who gave a forum address at BYU in 2009. He said:

“Rockefeller was famously quoted…as saying, ‘God gave me my money ‘…. Now, that’s sort of troubling to Christian people. God gave him his money? Some have used the quote as evidence that John D. Rockefeller was a bad man—that he believed he deserved to be rich when other people were poor. But that’s not actually what he meant.

In 1906 Rockefeller went on to tell a newspaper reporter for the New York American: “I believe the power to make money is a gift from God
. . . to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind”…. What Rockefeller meant was this: He believed that he made money because he was charged with helping others with his money, and he honestly believed (as he wrote at other times) that if he stopped giving his money and giving it in the right way, then God would take his money away.

Now, that still might trouble you theologically that God would intervene in the direct finances of John D. Rockefeller, but you have to admit that it doesn’t sound so weird at that point. John D. Rockefeller believed that he was rich because he gave so much, and throughout his life, before he was a rich man, he gave a lot. He was a charitable person.” (Source).

There is charity and there is charity. What I mean is that where some would simply give all their money away – again, not that that is bad – others will increase their talents and strive to help more and more people as they grow their holdings. You can help as many or even more people through business as you can through donations. I am not advocating we all become business owners but for good or for ill, businesses are at the heart of our world.

This post isn’t meant to be a commentary on economic theory. It is simply my opinion on matters of LDS Church spending. Critics will find any way they can to attack the Church. You might disagree with what the Church does but it is the Lord’s church. He directs the Church. This does not mean that leaders do not make mistakes but even if they do, it is not our place to be critical of them. Instead of attacking we should be building up the good we see in all around us. The LDS Church is doing many great things all over the world – things that benefit people both temporally and spiritually. This is the Lord’s work and He works in diverse ways and through diverse means.

Help Those in Haiti

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Today the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued this statement:

“Our hearts are filled with sadness as we have watched the suffering in Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake. We turn to the example of Jesus Christ who reached out to ‘lift up the hands which hang down’ and ‘strengthen the feeble knees.’  We are keenly aware that many in America are dealing with economic challenges caused by the recession. However, we are appealing to members to donate to Church Humanitarian Services as their means allow in order to help our Haitian brothers and sisters.  Many have already contributed and others are anxious to do so.
“Money is not the only need in Haiti. People are frightened, bewildered, and wholly uncertain about their future. In addition to what people can do in helping with food, water and shelter, there needs to be a calming influence over that troubled nation. We invite our people everywhere to supplicate God for a spirit of calm and peace among the people as urgent aid and reconstruction efforts continue.” (Link).

Please consider donating – even a small amount – to the LDS Humanitarian Services. 100% of donated funds go to those in need. All administrative costs are covered by other organizations or by tithing funds. All funds will go directly to those in need. The LDS Church is already helping people in Haiti and will continue to do so until the needs they can meet are met.