The Path To Christ

Standard

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.

Sin, Sorrow, and Suffering – Part 7

Standard

The Prophet Joseph Smith also suffered much affliction; however, most of his suffering was due to the persecution he received from others who did not believe his story. “I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until…one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision” (JS-H 1:27). Joseph Smith was persecuted from when he had the First Vision until he was assassinated 25 years later. He was persecuted and murdered for telling the truth; he was despised and rejected yet he remained faithful.

The word suffering implies patience. The Lord stated on occasion, “Suffer it to be so” (cf. Matt. 3:15). Suffering can mean “allow”, as in “suffer [allow] me first to go and bury my father” (Matt. 8:21). Thus, the word suffer is used contritely, even in a begging manner. In these instances suffering is a plea for patience. We should follow the Prophet Joseph Smith’s example and be faithful and patient in our afflictions and sufferings.

Three young Jewish men named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were living in captivity in Babylon. They, like Joseph in Egypt, impressed their captors and were eventually placed as rulers over the province of Babylon. They were respected by Nebuchadnezzar and many others. However, not all were fond of these men. When the king made a large gold idol, some of his advisers and other leaders sent out a decree that all people must worship the idol. The king signed off on the decree. Then his advisers told the king that these men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not worship the idol. The king was upset and sent for the three men. Their reply shows their faith and courage. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee [we won’t try to hide the truth] in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). What an example of faith! They would not deny their faith even if it cost them their lives.

The king was furious with these men. He commanded that the furnace be heated up 7 times hotter than normal. The fire was so hot that it killed those who put Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the furnace. However, when the king looked into the furnace he saw 4 men, one of whom looked “like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25). None of the men were hurt. The astonished king commanded them to come forth, which they did. None of their hair had been burned. None of their clothes had been so much as singed. They did not even smell like smoke. They had been protected and strengthened by God. They were blessed because of their faithfulness. After this, the king commanded that no one should speak ill of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He also promoted them to a higher position in their government, they had impressed him so much.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were faithful. They did not suffer but were strengthened in their afflictions. They were patient when being punished for their faithfulness. They were like Joseph in Egypt, or Moses, or Daniel who sat with lions, or Joseph Smith, who all were patient and suffered long, yet remained faithful. The Lord’s chosen have always suffered many afflictions at the hands of their enemies but they always could look to One who is more powerful and comforting than the waters of Bethesda. The Lord’s people are rarely without affliction but they need not suffer. They can have the faith of Alma and his followers: “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15).