Moroni 7:40-44 & 2 Peter 1:1-10 – ‘Hope,’ the Affirmation of One’s Eternal Reality – LeGrand Baker

When we know the gospel, our path is set so that we can move through the experiences of this life in an orderly sequence. The pattern is universal, but the details are not, and observation teaches us that much of what we must learn and do may be left to be completed after this life in the spirit world. That pattern is this:

1. We receive the necessary ordinances and make the requisite covenants to enter the path. As discussed last time, in many scriptures the word “faith” (translated from pistis and meaning covenant or contract) represents those ordinances and covenants. {1}

In every contract, there must be a binding signature — an “evidence” that validates the agreement and guarantees the fulfillment of the covenant. Between friends the evidence may be just a handshake, but it has to be something that is real. In a gospel context, the ordinances, such as baptism and the sacrament, are the evidences that we accept the terms of the covenants. {2}

2. That is followed by a period of challenge and growth when we decide how completely we wish to keep those covenants. That process is described differently in different scriptures. As in this sermon by Mormon, it is frequently called “hope,” because even though the terms of the covenant are not yet satisfied, in seeking to complete our part, we try to live as though the covenants were already fulfilled.

3. Finally comes a purification—a gift of the Spirit—when we have learned to be a personification of charity.

Each of the scriptures that take us through that sequence concludes with a promise of eternal salvation. In his sermon, Mormon concludes with this ultimate promise:

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 7:48).

In Mormon’s sermon, he does not spend much time discussing the interim (hope) between the covenants (faith/pistis) and charity. Instead, when he discusses hope he emphasizes the importance of the Atonement, and makes several references to the Beatitudes where the Savior filled in that interim gap between faith and charity with a great deal of detail. Mormon said:

40 And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
42 Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.
43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
44 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.

In our colloquial language, “hope” is a wish overcast with doubt. But in the scriptures, to hope is to anticipate the fulfillment of the promises of the covenants in the full light of life—it is to live as though the covenants were already fulfilled. Hope is, as Alma described it:

Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest (Alma 13:29).

Alma explained that after we make the covenants, we cannot have “a perfect knowledge” of their blessings until their terms have all been fulfilled. Here, he uses “hope” to describe our anticipation of the fulfillment of the covenants.

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).

After having made the covenants, our lives would become static if that’s all there was to it. But the covenants are only the beginning. They invite us into a new condition of life. That condition is appropriately called hope because it is a continuous reaffirmation of our new reality.

Mormon’s brief but brilliant discussion of hope illuminates that reality by showing that hope is a process through which we fulfill the covenants. To do this, he ties faith/pistis and hope into a single knot. He says that without our satisfying the responsibilities of our covenants and sharing their blessings with others, we cannot have hope in their fulfillment.

40 And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith [accomplish the covenants], save ye shall have hope?

Then he reasons,

42 Wherefore, if a man have faith [pistis] he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.

That argument is self evident. One cannot have hope without first having made the covenants. So making the covenants and keeping the covenants are an inseparable part of each other.

Sandwiched between those statements in verses 40 and 42, Mormon teaches what one must do to make that hope an eternal reality.

41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.

His logic is as simple as it is beautiful. We should live as though the promise of eternal life is already a reality. We can do that “because of your faith [covenants] in him [the Savior] according to the promise [that is, according to the “covenants of the Father” that he mentioned in verses 31 and 32.]” {3}

Now, like the great teacher he is, Mormon concludes his discussion of hope with a short review of the Savior’s Beatitudes. Thereby tying hope in the fulfillment of the covenants to a sequences of ideas the people in his audience undoubtedly knew and loved as much as he did. As I will demonstrate below, Peter uses the word pistis to represent the entire New Testament temple drama. I believe Mormon was doing the same thing. If that is correct, his use of pistis in the following verses refer to both the covenants and to the ordinances that validate them.

42 Wherefore, if a man have faith [pistis] he must needs have hope; for without faith [pistis] there cannot be any hope.
43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
44 If so, his faith [pistis – covenants] 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.

Those three verses of Mormon’s sermon presupposed, as I am sure he was very comfortable in doing, that the members of his audience knew Savior’s sermon at the temple and the Beatitudes that introduced it. His words call to mind several of those Beatitudes. He said:

for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart

One of the nearest corollaries to this brief reference to the Beatitudes is the following statement in D&C 88.

17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.
18 Therefore, it [the earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory (D&C 88:17-18).

They are both citing these two Beatitudes:

3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
5 And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (3 Nephi 12:3 & 5).

As we have shown in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, verse 3 is a short review of the entire Nephite temple drama. {4}

Verse 5 of the Beatitudes is a paraphrase of Psalm 37 and 25. Psalm 25 explicitly defines the meek as those who keep the covenants they made at the Council in Heaven. {5}

and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ

In the Savior’s Beatitudes, he begin by restating the first principles of the gospel: one must believe, be humble, and be baptized, then be “visited by the Holy Ghost (v. 2).” The next three Beatitudes teach us what we must do to progress from there until we are “filled with the Holy Ghost” (v. 6). In Mormon’s briefer version, that whole continuum is a process by which one can increasingly “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

In the Beatitudes charity is described by the Savior as a power-to-do that he bestowed upon the righteous. He said, “I give unto you to be the salt of the earth” (v. 13). In our discussion of this part of the Beatitudes, we have shown that to be a charge to fulfill our missionary responsibilities. {6}

And then he said, “I give unto you to be the light of this people” (v. 14-16). The light is the “candlestick,” the menorah in the Temple. It represents our perpetual responsibility to bless and look after the well-being of the Saints.{7}

As Mormon’s referring to the Beatitudes evinces, he intended his audience to use their knowledge of the Savior’s words to fill in the gaps between faith and charity that he sums up briefly by his reference to “hope.” The Beatitudes’s primarily focus is on what we must DO to achieve the salvation the Savior offers us.

Another place in the scriptures that parallels the Beatitudes and fills in other details of that same gap is Peters admonition “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1). The Greek word Peter uses that is translated “faith” is pistis. In the next three verses he gives us a beautiful, poetic description of the ordinances and covenants of the New Testament temple service and the fruits of the covenants they made there. Those verses read,

1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:1-4).

The difference between Peter’s sequence that follows, and the Beatitudes is that Peter’s focuses entirely on what we must BE rather than what we must DO. Peter begins his teachings with the covenant meaning of pistis, and concludes with charity. Then he promise that the faithful who follow those steps will make their calling and election sure. {8} He writes:

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Peter divides his analysis of the steps that Mormon calls “hope’ into two separate sequences. The first are four steps in the spiritual development of one’s Self:

1. add to your faith/pistis — the ordinances and covenants we receive.

2. virtue — the word actually means “manliness (valor)”— strength, integrity, honesty, intelligence. {9}

3. knowledge — of truth — we have only as much free agency as we have knowledge of the reality. Without sufficient knowledge of both the principles and their consequences, we are free to guess but not really free to choose. If we had all truth, our agency would be absolute.

4. temperance— self control—doing nothing in excess. The power to choose and to do gives freedom, but abdicating that power to our inability to control what we do is a form of slavery.

The second grouping is four steps about our attitudes and relationships with other people:

5. patience— we must be patient, especially with children; but also with ourselves; and even with God as is shown in Psalm 25. (see fn # 5)

6. godliness — the word means reverence — to revere something or someone is to rejoice in the beauty of their reality. One can never seek to hurt anything or anyone whom one reveres. (Strong # 2150)

7. brotherly kindness — in this verse, the King James Version uses the phrase “brotherly kindness,” but elsewhere in the New Testament that same Greek word is always translated as “brotherly love” which has a somewhat stronger connotation. Strong # 5360 (first edition, 1890) reads: “philadelphia; fraternal affection: brotherly love (kindness), love of the brethren” [Emphasis is in the original].

Righteous masculine virtues include hesed relationships, {10} otherwise priesthood quorums could not function properly. Philadelphia is a focused love, love for an individual, implicitly a reciprocated one-on-one relationship.

8. Charity expands that love to everyone. It seems to me that a major characteristic of God is his ability to love everyone equally and at the same time to focus his love on one individual without diminishing his love for everyone else. (My parents could do that with their six children. Each child knew he or she was the favorite, and each one also knew that all the others knew that about themselves as well. That is a beautiful thing to remember.)

After walking us through that sequence, Peter concludes with the instructions about how to “make your calling and election sure.” He writes,

8 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.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall (2 Peter 1:1-10).

Like Mormon, Moroni also uses the word “hope” summerize the steps between pistis and charity. He writes:

20 Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.
21 And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.
22 And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity (Moroni 10:20-22).

As Moroni wrote his last entries in the Book of Mormon, he again walks us along that same path, but with different words. After giving us a brief review of the Nephite temple drama, {11} he concludes,

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot (Moroni 10:32-33).

Moroni’s phrase “deny yourselves of all ungodliness” is the juncture between the Nephite temple drama (pistis) and charity. It may hold the key to the ultimate meaning of what the Book of Mormon prophets meant by “hope.”

At first reading “ungodliness” might simply mean things that are bad. But there is another possibility that I believe is worth exploring. That is to try to discover the etymology of the word. However, since we do not have the text in the Nephite language, the best we can do is treat it as though it were written in Hebrew. In all of our scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, the word “God” almost always refers to our Father in Heaven. In the Old Testament, “God” is almost always translated from the Hebrew word “Elohim.”

Elohim” is a masculine plural noun that has two separate meanings. One is “the gods in the ordinary sense,” that is, the members of the Council in Heaven. The second meaning is a name-title of the Father of the Gods, “Elohim.” (Strong # 430)

A splendid example of the use of this double meaning is the first verse of Psalm 82, which describes an event that took place in the Council in Heaven where the members of the Council made a covenant that is strikingly like the law of consecration. The first verse reads:

God [the Hebrew word is elohim] standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods [again, the Hebrew word is also elohim].

Another example is the creation story. The Book of Abraham begins that story by saying:

1 And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth (Abraham 4:1).

That is consistent with what we are told in Genesis:

1 In the beginning God [elohim] created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

A few verses later it says:

26 And God [elohim] said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea…. (Genesis 1:26. Emphasis added).

Now, to try to discover the etymology of “ungodliness.” If it says un-elohim-li-ness, then the next question is, which definition of elohim does it mean. After using the word, Moroni walks us through a series of steps whose object is to make us “holy, without spot.” So I think the name-title of Heavenly Father would not work there because, even though our becoming like him is our ultimate object, that meaning is far too early in Moroni’s sequence to make sense there.

That leaves his intent of “deny yourselves of all ungodliness” to mean “deny yourselves of all un-Council-in-Heaven-ly-ness.” That is, eliminate all the differences between what you are now and what you were at the Council in Heaven. That is, be true to the eternal law of your own being. {12} I believe that sin is a violation of the eternal law of one’s Self. If that is so, then the criterion by which we should judge our own perfection has to be that we come to know our Selves by identifying and discarding all the alien attitudes we accumulate in our this-worldliness, until we become our true Selves again, “holy, without spot.”

I believe that an important function of the Holy Ghost is to help us do that.

Because we forgot who and what we were, we are now left to be our own judges to see if we will remain true to the covenants we made there. We came to this world because we proved we would obey. However, one can obey for both the wrong and the right reasons.

If we obeyed there because we knew its advantages — we knew which side our bread was buttered on — unless we repent while we are here in this world, we will keep that attitude and seek to use other people to our own advantage. If, on the other hand, we obeyed then because we loved Heavenly Father and his children, that will remain true here also. So the question now is: Can we, in this environment, be as faithful as we were in our premortal environment.

If the answer is “yes,” then the final key is, as Moroni teaches us, that we must love God to receive the remission of our sins, so that we may become holy, without spot.

Their doctrines are all the same. In the Savior’s Beatitudes, he begins by teaching about the covenants and concludes with a charge that we teach and bless other people. In Peter’s sequence he begins with faith/pistis and ends with charity. In Mormon’s sermon, he begins with faith/pistis and also concludes with charity.

Between pistis and charity, each directs us through the path we must take so that we may become “holy, without spot.” The Savior’s Beatitudes focuses on what we must DO; Peter’s on what we must BE. Moroni gives us the criterion by which we can seek perfection.

I believe we now have enough information to discover an adequate definition of “hope.” It is the culmination of the things we must DO as taught in the Beatitudes. It is the things we must BE as taught by Peter. It is rediscovering our eternal Selves and being true to that eternal law of our own being as is taught by Moroni.

Ultimately, that is what this life is all about. In an ancient text, these words are attributed to the Saviour.

When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty. {13}

A far more modern rendition of that same idea is this description of a characteristic one who inherits the Celestial Kingdom:

92 And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;
93 Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever.
94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.
96 And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one (D&C 76:92-96).

Hope is the affirmation of one’s own eternal reality, but, as Mormon will now explain to us, only charity can bring us to discover who we really are.

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FOOTNOTES

{1} Last week while discussing Moroni 7:19-39 I showed that Mormon used “faith” the same way it is used in the New Testament. There faith is translated from the Greek word pistis, whose nearest English equivalent is covenant or contract. If what I wrote is correct, then hope must be defined within the that understanding of the covenants. Mormon confirmed that when he said, “Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.” (v. 42)

{2} When Paul defined pistis he included hope as part of that definition. Paul treats hope as a part of pistis, and it is. However it is such an important part that Mormon treats it separately. Simply stated, there are five parts of faith/pistis just as there are five parts of any contract.

1. Define the object of the contract — I get house and you get the money.
2. Agree on the terms — How and when I pay you the money so I get house.
3. There must be binding “evidence” — A signature that validates the agreement and guarantees the fulfillment of the covenant. Between friends the evidence may be just a handshake or even a smile, but it has to be something that is real. In a gospel context, the ordinances are the evidences that we accept the covenants.
4. The next is what Paul and Mormon called “hope”(Hebrews 11:1) — Living as though the covenant were already fulfilled. That is, I get to live in the house and care for it as though it were mine as long as I keep up the payments .
5. Finally, the fulfillment of the terms when the house is paid for — You have all your money and I get the deed to the house.

For a discussion of pistis, see on this website: “Moroni 7:19-27 – ‘faith in Christ’ as pistis, covenant/contract – LeGrand Baker.”

{3} This statement is essentially a repeat of the promises in verse 26. As I wrote last week, I understand the last part of that verse to be read this way:

26 … And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name [our using the Savior’s covenant name validates the prayer], which is good [prayer by revelation. The terms and object are given to us by the holy Ghost], in faith [according to the terms of the covenant] believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you. [When all of those things are in place, then the answer to the prayer is a forgone conclusion.]

{4} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter: “3 Nephi 12:3 – Poor in Spirit” first edition, 936-940; paperback, 653-656.
The paperback edition is in “published books” on this website.

{5} The Beatitudes are discussed in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, the first edition, 925-997; in the paperback edition,646-86

Psalm 25 explicitly defines the meek as those who keep the covenants they made at the Council in Heaven. Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapters: “Meaning of ‘Meek’ in Psalm 25: Keeping One’s Eternal Covenants” and “The Meek in Psalm 25″ in first edition, 525-543; in paperback edition, 378-90

{6} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter: “3 Nephi 12:13 – “salt of the earth,” first edition, 989-93; paperback, 686-89.

{7} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter: “3 Nephi 12:14-16 – “light of this people,” first edition, 993-97; paperback, 689-91.

{8} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter: “Calling and Election Made Sure, in the Epistles of Peter,” first edition, 977-981; paperback, 679-682.

{9} Strong # 703, “Manliness (valor)” is the definition in my 1890 edition. My newer, more politically correct edition prefers a nice-person definition.

{10} For a discussion of hesed, see on this website: “Ether 12:27 – weakness, strength, and humility; & pistis, hesed, and charity – LeGrand Baker.”

{11} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter “Moroni’s Farewell,” 1043-47; the paperback edition, 722-24

{12} For the origin of the phrase “Be true to the law of your own being” see the story of the blessing President David O. McKay gave to Jean Wunderlich in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, pages 537-39; and in the paperback edition, 387-88.

{13} Gospel of Thomas in James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1988),126 #3.

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