Moroni 10:32-34 — Nephite responsibilities after their temple experience — LeGrand Baker

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.

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 10:32-34).

If, as I have suggested, the previous verses are Moroni’s reflection on the ancient Nephite temple experience, then his next words are about what one did after one left the Nephite temple.

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him,

Four times in two verses of his final charge to his readers, Moroni invites us to become “perfect.” Then he enlarges the concept with the phrase “become holy, without spot.” In his progression of thought, to be perfect is to be without spot. To be holy is the product of that perfection. In Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, I wrote a discussion about perfection that is relevant here, even though it was initially an analogy of the three degrees of glory.

“Perfection” is a statement about a thing’s wholeness, but need not necessarily be a reference to its value. Thus there can be a perfect diamond, a perfect crystal goblet, and a perfect glass window. Each may be “perfect” in its own right even though there is an enormous range in their respective values. This seems to be analogous to the three degrees of glory.

To say each is perfect only says each has internal integrity with no flaws. The value is found in the object that is perfect, not in the perfection of the object. For intelligences who define their sense of self in terms different from “the pure love of Christ,” there is a state of perfection and glory that is compatible with their self-definition. But for those who love as the Savior loves, the perfection of that compatibility is equivalent to eternal life. For the intelligences who receive celestial resurrected bodies, cosmos is perfect symmetry and harmony—in their physical persons, their personal sense of Self, and also in their celestial social environment. The Lord continued in section 88:
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.

41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever (D&C 88:40-41).

Since the success of the entire plan of salvation has always rested upon the Savior’s providing an opportunity for people to come to this earth where they can define themselves in an environment away from the overriding influence of the presence of our Father in Heaven, a path had to be provided so that people could leave his presence and then return again.
… To enable the intelligences to achieve a final perfection of self-identification and cosmos, they had to leave the presence of God. …

It is in the tensions and contrasts of this world that we are enabled to define what and who we really are. We do that by identifying and seeking to replicate—and ultimately to perpetuate—the experiences and relationships in which we find fulfillment and happiness. We are here to discover for our Selves whether that fulfillment is consistent with telestial, terrestrial, or celestial glory. For us to be able to do that, this world’s environment must be full of difficult choices with inexplicable tensions and contradictions. Yet those very contradictions are necessary to the success of the plan…. (Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, 595-97).

To achieve that perfection, Moroni first charges his readers to …

deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness,

I discussed the likely meaning of “ungodliness” in an earlier post and concluded that its etymology was probably “un-elohim-li-ness.” Elohim is a plural Hebrew word meaning “the gods in the ordinary sense,” that is, the members of the Council in Heaven [see Abraham 3:22 through 4:1]. The second meaning of Elohim is a name-title of the Father of the gods. Now the question is, which meaning does Moroni have in mind. It is apparent to me that since the object of these verses is to lead us through a state of increased perfection toward becoming “holy,” that this charge to “deny yourselves of all ungodliness” is far too early in the sequence for the elohim in “un-elohim-li-ness” to refer to Heavenly Father. We are not yet hardly anything like him. That leaves me to conclude that Moroni’s charge is to “deny yourselves of all un-Council-in-Heaven-ly-ness.” In that earlier post I wrote,

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. 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.” [If you choose to read the full discussion from the post called, “‘Hope,’ the Affirmation of One’s Eternal Reality,” I have quoted it here in a footnote.]

Moroni’s charge is that if we can become, in this world’s environment, the same person we were before you came here, we must confirm that by becoming a person of charity.

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;

Moroni says, if you love Heavenly Father “with all your might, mind and strength, then is his [Heavenly Father’s] grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.”

Our Catholic and Protestant friends have taught us that it is by the grace of Christ that we are saved. That is true enough, but that teaching overlooks the role of the all-important grace of the Father which enabled the Savior to perform the Atonement. Moroni continues:

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.

Our sanctification comes “through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father.” It is the Father’s covenant.

On his part, the principles and ordinances of the gospel are the terms of covenant that Heavenly Father made with us. The Savior’s Atonement is the validation and fulfillment of that covenant.

On our part, the terms are that we conform to the laws, covenants and ordinances “unto the remission of your sins,” that enable us to fully accept the blessings of the Atonement. Ultimately, the ordinances (“works”) are the validation. Our fulfillment of the covenant is being true to the eternal law of our own being, loving God and his children with a perfect love, “that ye become holy, without spot.”

As though his intent was to give evidence that the course Moroni has recommended is well within the realm of our possibility, he concluded with this invitation, which is also an expression of his own perfect hope, as well as of his final testimony:

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’s promise is that if we love God and are faithful to our eternal covenants we will rejoice together with him “before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah.”

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FOOTNOTE
The following is a quote from the post: Moroni 7:40-44 & 2 Peter 1:1-10 – ‘Hope,’ the Affirmation of One’s Eternal Reality – LeGrand Baker

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, 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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{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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