Moroni 7:45-48 — Charity, our only way to the presence of God — LeGrand Baker

Please remember, as with everything I write, this is my personal opinion.

45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
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 7:45-48).

This is the last of my seven-part discussion of Mormon’s sermon in Moroni 7. During the sermon Mormon moved from premises to conclusions, then used those conclusions as new premises on which to build new conclusions. So the rationale for this final conclusion that charity as our only portal into the presence of God is established by those earlier premises. Similarly, my discussion of charity will make a lot more sense if you have read the previous six short essays.

Mormon completed his discussion of hope with this warning:

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.

These references to the Savior’s Beatitudes are very telling. As I pointed out last time, meekness is keeping the covenants we made at the Council in Heaven. Lowly of heart (“poor in spirit”) is keeping the covenants we make while in this world. What Mormon says is that if we do not keep those covenants our “faith and hope is vain.” Vanity, like pride, is an illusion, actually a self-delusion, a puff of smoke, a fiction without substance — a nothingness.

Book of Mormon theology is simpler than ours in one regard. We teach of three degrees of glory and one hell. The Book of Mormon prophets did not make those distinctions. In their view there were only two options. Either we were going to be with God or we were going to be somewhere else. I suspect if Alma had written a commentary on D&C 76, he would probably have said there will be one degree of glory and three degrees of something much less than that. Consistent with that simpler version of the hereafter, Mormon teaches that we must have charity or we become nothing. Since only charity can bring us into the presence of God, anything less than that, in Mormon’s view, is only a “nothingness.”

Nephi explained that in terms of the realities of this world.

30 … the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish (2 Nephi 26:30).

My good friend, Chauncey Riddle explained further:

The crown of morality is charity, the pure love of Christ. Those who love Christ reflect his love to others who are less fortunate than they. Whereas people of the world concern themselves with those who have more wealth, talent, prestige, or athletic ability, true servants of Christ care about those who have less. When the covenant servants of the Lord do not care for the poor, the Lord punishes and chastises them as when he allowed the members of the Church to be driven out of Jackson County, Missouri, in 1833. One of the glories of Zion is that therein love has triumphed over natural differences. All who are Zion become equal in earthly things and then become one in the Savior because of their love for him. {1}

The equality of the people of Zion is a product of their living the Law of Consecration. When charity is what we ARE, living the Law of Consecration is what we DO. {2} They are two sides of the same coin. Mormon described how that worked in Alma’s church.

26 And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.
27 And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.
28 And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions (Alma 2:26-28).

Honest esteem for others is another expression of charity.

“Zion” describes individual persons who exude love, who esteem others, who have peace within themselves and radiate that peace to those around them. “Zion” also describes a community of such people. {3}

All of these — being Zion, living the Law of Consecration, having an honest esteem of others — are the outward expressions of charity.

I wish to address the question, What is charity on the inside? And why is it the final, and therefore the definitive quality that enables one to belong to an eternal Celestial society? Like Nephi, I will call it “love.” I will not discuss love as an emotion, but rather as the not-quite-intangible manifestation of the inmost part of our eternal being. To recognize charity/love as the “definitive quality” that leads to eternal life presupposes, as Mormon does, that it is a gift of the Spirit and is only taught by the Holy Ghost to those who have accepted, and are fulfilling, their premortal and earthly covenants.

I have written elsewhere that truth, light, and love are different names we have to describe the same thing and that their product is peace and joy. The rationale behind their sameness is quite simple:

Truth is information. It is knowledge of reality in sacred time— past, present, and future. Truth shines, but as raw information it does not shine. When truth becomes knowledge, the entity who knows shines with “light and truth.” The Savior shines with an enormous light (shechinah) that fills the immensity of space. {4} The revelations say:

11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings.
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things (D&C 88:11-13).

10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and OF him (D&C 93:10). {5}

Of course, all things were not made of the Savior’s person, but of that light that surrounds and defines him, and fills “the immensity of space.”

There is nothing at all farfetched about the idea that all things are made of the light that radiates from the Savior’s person. That revelation is essentially substantiated by modern science. In theoretical physics, matter is energy. Whether we use Einstein’s famous formula that showed mass-energy equivalence, or the string theory that holds that all matter is made of little wiggles of energy. Energy is light and scientists have shown that matter can actually be “created” from light. {6}

The Savior acquired that light in the only way one can: by assimilating truth. He testifies,

26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth (D&C 93:26).

If the Savior’s light fills “the immensity of space” so does his truth. So does his love. His love is also in all things and sustains all things. His truth/light/love “giveth life to all things”

The Savior’s truth, light, and love either occupy the same space at the same time, or they are equivalents. The latter is true. The words are simply different ways we have of describing the same thing. As we begin to understand this eternal triumvirate of truth/light/love, we begin to know something of the eternal majesty of Christ and his Father. However, it is also true that as we learn about that triumvirate, we learn more about our own eternal Self, and the path we must follow to become like them. {7}

In our primal state, as intelligences, we are “the light of truth.”

29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be (D&C 93:29).

An intelligence is an entity that assimilates truth and shines. The more truth it assimilates into it’s Self, the greater its light. That process most assuridly continues throughout our existence unless we choose to curtail it. As humans, that truth/light/love expands or contracts depending on how we use our agency. President McKay described it as the “radiation” that is the defining part of one’s Self.

Every man and every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone; it is not alone what he does. It is what he is. Every man, every person radiates what he or she really is. Every person is a recipient of radiation. The Saviour was conscious of that. Whenever He came into the presence of an individual, He sensed that radiation — whether it was the woman of Samaria with her past life: whether it was the woman who was to be stoned, or the men who were to stone her; whether it was the statesman, Nicodemus, or one of the lepers. He was conscious of the radiation from the individual. And to a degree so are you. and so am I. It is what we are and what we radiate that affects the people around us. {8}

When we meet a friend, and perceive the light that is in him, we love him. The lights merge and the love is reciprocated. For both persons, the products of truth/light/love are joy and peace, which are the essence of a full life. There can be no fullness of joy if we are alone. In the Celestial Kingdom people are sealed together in an eternal bond, and therefore, in the Celestial Kingdom their joy is complete. The Prophet Joseph explained,

1 When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.
2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy (D&C 130:1-2).

Little wonder he also said,

Friendship is the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism, to revolution civilize the world—pour forth love. {9}

It is impossible to distinguish between the quality of the light we radiate from the quality of the love we radiate.

A beautiful description of the attraction such people have for each other was written by Apostle Parley P. Pratt as part of his explanation about the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost.

In the presence of such persons, the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit.{10}

We are most comfortable among people who are like ourselves. The Lord put that fact in an eternal perspective when he said,

40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things (D&C 88:40).

We all radiate something, but not everyone radiates truth/light/love. Some people ooze contempt and darkness. {11} The Savior explained:

34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of li ght; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.
35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.
36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light (Luke 11:34-36).

Another equivalence of the Savior’s light is his law. In a description of the expansive power and extent of his light, he included this observation:

13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God (D&C 88:13).

A little further on in that revelation he explained that the law of our own beings is the criteria that will determine our resurrected glory. The quality of our spirit — the truth/light/love/joy/peace that defines each person and radiates from us — also defines our eternal nature, and will ultimately determine the quality of our resurrected body. I understand this next scripture to say that just as earthly matter can be created from light, so pure truth/light/love becomes the stuff our resurrected body will be made of. Therefore, the quality of one’s truth/light/love is the defining characteristic of one’s eternal resurrected Self.

28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received (D&C 88:27-29).

What I am suggesting is that charity is not simply an emotion, or an attitude of empathy, but it is a state of being, and that humans exude its warmth in a form of light/love that is perceptible, if not actually visible and tangible in the same way that light may be tangible. It is, in fact, the essence of one’s mortal and eternal being.

Mormon began his sermon by identifying his audience as peacemakers. He commended them with these words:

3 Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.
4 And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men (Moroni 7:3-4).

A peacemaker is one who loves others and therefore knows his place in the cosmos; he is comfortable with who he is, and spreads that comfort to those around him so they may feel at peace also. Mormon taught that the personal and extended power of that peace is magnified as charity is perfected. He explained,

45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (Moroni 7:45).

Paul also understood charity to be “the greatest of all” human attributes.

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (1 Corinthians 13:4-13).

Like Paul who wrote “the greatest of these is charity,” Mormon also taught that charity was the ultimate reach of personal human perfection, so also of personal priesthood power. Remember, this was a priesthood meeting, so priesthood responsibility is the unspoken thread that ties all of the ideas together. Mormon said,

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 (Moroni 7:46-47).

When his son Moroni closed the Book of Mormon, it was with that same admonition, except he used different words: “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him …. and love God with all your might, mind and strength …. that ye become holy, without spot (Moroni 10:32-33).”

When one’s person is “holy, without spot,” he is “quickened by a portion of the celestial glory.” Only such persons can receive a celestial body.

I believe love is also the ultimate sealing power. The priesthood ordinances are absolutely necessary to preserve order, justice, and continuity, and to validate the covenants, but without charity those ordinances and covenants have little meaning. Without charity we are sealed to neither family nor friends. In that aloneness we become, in terms of Mormon’s understanding, simply a “nothing.”

Mormon words, “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,” introduces us to the conclusion of his sermon. That conclusion, like his beginning, is the same as the Savior’s Beatitude:

9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called [that is, given a new covenant/royal name] the children of God (3 Nephi 12:9).

Mormon brings his sermon to a crescendo with that same new covenant king-name, but rather than citing it as a name, he makes it a reality.

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).

Section 76 explains what that means:

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).

Charity (the truth/light/love/joy/peace we radiate) is the supreme self-power that can prepare a person to live in such an environment.
——————

FOOTNOTES

{1} Chauncey C. Riddle,“A BYU for Zion,” BYU Studies, vol. 16 (1975-1976), Number 4 – Summer 1976, 491. Chauncey’s other writings can be found on his website: “Chauncey Riddle, The Life’s work of a Latter-day Philosopher,” address: chaunceyriddle.com

{2} See our discussion of the Law of Consecration in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, 252-53; paperback edition, 180.

{3}Mormon shows the importance of peace at the very beginning of this sermon and as the Savior did in the Beatitudes. The Savior said,

8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (3 Nephi 12:8-9).

Elsewhere he adds,

Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn (D&C 97:21).

In this sequence, as in Moroni 7:2-4, peacemakers are those who have been redeemed and therefore are the personification of both charity and peace.

{4} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, 1034-41; paperback edition, 716-21. Some parts of this essay are lifted from those pages.

{5} In Joseph Smith’s poem A Vision, he wrote:

And I heard a great voice bearing record from heav’n,
He’s the Saviour and only begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that careen in the heavens so broad.

Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons
By the very same truths and the very same powers.

The poem was published in the Times and Seasons, February 1, 1843.

{6} For an interesting read, Google: “making matter from light” and read articles about how scientists can “create” matter from light.

{7} We explained more fully the eternal grandeur of the triumvirate of truth/light/love in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, 1034-37; paperback edition, 716-18. Some evidence that truth, light, love. and life are the same things are in D&C 88:4-7,11-13; D&C 93:8-10, 24-28; D&C 84:45; JST John 1:1-21.

D&C 88:4-7,11-13
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—
6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. …
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God.

D&C 93:8-10, 24-28.
8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him. …

24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.

{8}President David O. McKay, “Radiation of the Individual,” The Instructor, October, 1964, p. 373-374.

{9} Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, compiled and edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980), 234.

{10} Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology/A Voice of Warning (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1965), 101 – 102.)

In its context, that statement reads:

The gift of the Holy Spirit adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.

In the presence of such persons, the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit. No matter if the parties are strangers, entirely unknown to each other in person or character; no matter if they have never spoken to each other, each will be apt to remark in his own mind, and perhaps exclaim, when referring to the interview—”O what an atmosphere encircles that stranger! How my heart thrilled with pure and holy feelings in his presence! What confidence and sympathy he inspired! his countenance and spirit gave me more assurance, than a thousand written recommendations, or introductory letters.” Such is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and such are its operations, when received through the lawful channel—the divine, eternal Priesthood.

{11} In theory, charity means loving everyone. In practice the definition of love has to be qualified to make the theory workable. We cannot learn to love everyone until after we learn to love just the one. The guy who said, “I love mankind, its people I can’t stand,” got it all wrong. But I think J. Golden Kimball got it right when he said, “The Lord said we should love everyone, and I do, but I love some a damnsight more than I love others.” His point is, I think, that there is a difference between loving someone and liking them. So how do you love someone you don’t even like. On its fringes, love also includes empathy, kindness, and even service. We can feel that kind of love toward people we may not feel comfortable being around, the kind of people we would not take into our confidence and certainly would not want to be our bosom friends. We can share a much richer love with people we actually like, and more especially with people we trust. That richer love includes devotion, loyalty, affection, and intimacy. With very special people that includes physical intimacy, however, with other friends it would include emotional, spiritual, and even academic intimacy.

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