Moroni 10:18-27 — the warnings before the promises — LeGrand Baker

This is a continuation of our discussion of Moroni’s exhortations in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon.

18 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.

There is a melancholy ring to these verses as Moroni addresses his “beloved brethren.” When we were reading Moroni 7 I pointed out that throughout the Book of Mormon, “beloved brethren” is always referring to faithful priesthood holders.{1}

By the time of this writing, Moroni has already told us that he is alone, so the only “beloved brethren” he could be writing to is us, who live about 1,600 years after he died. He was not writing to his contemporary Nephites who were in the throws of rebellion and apostasy. Rather he is warning us that we must not follow the path they followed. I wonder if he knew how complex our society would be with our bird-like transportation and instantaneous communication, and our sophisticated scientific assertions that all things were a product of chance and the only standards of excellence are what the individual thinks is in his own best interest—or the “best interest” his superiors can impose upon him.

Ouch! Just that thumbnail description of our time makes it sound really scary. Almost everything about our world challenges the assumptions of reality that were part of Moroni’s world. It is so very appropriate that he writes to us:

18 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.
19 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men.

That is the point: even in the tumultuous complexity of our world there is a constant that we can rely on to know the truth. Those spiritual gifts — all administered by the power of the Holy Ghost — are the criterion by which one can judge the reality of God and the legitimacy of his religion.

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.

But being privy to that reality has a price: Wherefore, there must be faith — The covenants must be in place. If there must be faith there must also be hope — If the covenants, then there must also be the inner assurance that the covenants will be fulfilled; otherwise we can live as though they were already fulfilled. If there must be hope there must also be charity — Charity is the product of our knowing and trusting the Savior’s love for us. If we know his love, then we will love him in return. If we love him then we must love those whom he loves. Otherwise we are not fulfilling our part of the covenants and our hope might be only a self-righteous delusion. When we become convinced that God hates everyone that we hate, then that is sufficient evidence that we are, at best, worshiping a false notion of the real God; or, at worst, worshiping an evil god.

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.

Mormon taught his friends,

1 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 (Moroni 7:41).

Having that kind of hope presupposes that one is living in fulfillment of his covenants, and therefore, living as though that promises are a reality. Therefore, Moroni can warn,

22 And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity. {2}

Then, to counterbalance that despair, Moroni offers the ultimate hope.

23 And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me.

As I understand it, the gifts of the spirit are administered according to our needs or the needs of those whom we bless. Therefore it is true that If ye have faith [that is, if the covenants are in place and you act accordingly] ye can do all things which are expedient unto me. Inasmuch as we follow the directions of the Spirit, we can do anything we are directed to do. That promise is repeated many times in the scriptures.

24 And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.

Belief was not mentioned in Mormon’s triumvirate of faith, hope, and charity; but it an important part of it.

There is a difference between faith/pistis, and belief. Belief is closer to our contemporary meanings of faith and trust. Trust is holding the hand of a friend while walking blindfolded into an unknown place. If faith/pistis is the covenant, and hope is living as thought the covenant were already fulfilled. Belief is walking in the direction of that fulfillment. It is acting on one’s determination to overcome the obstacles that make absolute hope seem impossible. It is trusting that it is wise to live in anticipation of the fulfillment of the covenants. If that belief is done away, then neither faith nor hope is valid, and the appearance of charity may be only a hook to ensnare others with their own good intentions and gullibility.

25 And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God.

When Moroni writes “for there shall be none that doeth good,” he does not mean there will be no nice people, he means that only charlatans will presume to perform the ordinances necessary to salvation. Moroni’s definition of “none that doeth good” is the same as the Savior’s when he spoke to the Prophet Joseph.

19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (Joseph Smith-History:1-27)

The problem in Joseph’s time was not that the people were unworthy. Rather, it was:

12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it— (D&C 123:12)

Many generations before the Prophet’s time false teachers and leaders changed the gospel and its ordinances to satisfy their own needs. That practice did not stop then, but continues until our time. Moroni had something to say about them as well.

26 And wo unto them who shall do these things away and die, for they die in their sins, and they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God; and I speak it according to the words of Christ; and I lie not.
27 And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?

That warning is severe, and his message is unbending. But so is his other message. Contrast that warning with his final promise:

34 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen (Moroni 10:34).

There is one gift left that Moroni has not yet discussed. The Lord taught the Prophet Joseph,

7 And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God (D&C 14:7).

After giving us the appropriate warnings, Moroni will now teach us the way to receive that ultimate gift. He will do that by reviewing the ancient Nephite temple drama, then explaining what the Nephites had to do, after they left the temple to become holy, without spot. We will discuss that next time.
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FOOTNOTES

{1} Well, almost always. There is one exception where Alma was scolding the men of the city of Ammonihah:
30 And now, my beloved brethren, for ye are my brethren, and ye ought to be beloved, and ye ought to bring forth works which are meet for repentance, seeing that your hearts have been grossly hardened against the word of God, and seeing that ye are a lost and a fallen people (Alma 9:30).

{2}The Prophet Joseph taught that very clearly:
5 (May 17th, 1843.) The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood.
6 It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:5-8).

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