What is Human Nature? Part 1: The Nature of the Flesh

Main Idea: The scriptures teach us that human beings are composed of three different things: body, spirit and intelligence which together form a “soul.”  These souls are either male or female and are designed to be whole when united together.  The nature of the  body is evil while the nature of the spirit is good.  The intelligence is the executive function that chooses which part of the soul will dominate.  The “natural man” refers to the physical part of our nature which is inherently evil, weak, ignorant of God and is at war with spiritual part of the self.  A major purpose of life is to choose whether we want to be dominated by the lusts of the flesh or whether we want to subject them to the laws of the Spirit. 

i.) Spirit, Body and Intelligence 

The scriptures teach us that human beings are composed of three different things: body, spirit and intelligence.

In Moses 3:7 we learn that man was created by God from the “dust of the earth.”  The text reads:“And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.” (Moses 3: 7)

In Zechariah, we also read that God created the spirit of man: “The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.” (Zechariah 12:1)

Spirit is matter, it is just a finer substance that can’t be discerned by the eye:“There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes.” (D&C 131:7)

The third part of the soul is referred to in the scriptures as “intelligence.”  The intelligence of man has always existed and was not created nor can it be. Like God, there is an eternal part of our being that has always existed: “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)

President Joseph Fielding Smith commented on the “intelligence” of man when he said: “Some of our writers have endeavored to explain what an intelligence is, but to do so is futile, for we have never been given any insight into this matter beyond what the Lord has fragmentarily revealed. We know, however, that there is something called intelligence which always existed. It is the real eternal part of man, which was not created or made. This intelligence combined with the spirit constitutes a spiritual identity or individual.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Progress of Man [Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1936], p. 11)

D&C 88: 15 teaches us that when an intelligence is clothed with both a spirit and a body it becomes a soul: “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.”

Since God created our spirits and our bodies, He is our literal Father and we are all His children and therefore brothers and sisters.  In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul refers to humanity as a “family.” (Eph 3:15)

ii.) Nature of Man and woman

Another essential part of human nature is biological sex.  In the Book of Genesis, we learn that the “curse” initiated by Adam and Eve would affect men and women differently.

According to the text, God Curses the woman so that children will be conceived in sorrow and her desire will be to the man who shall preside over her: “Unto the woman, I, the Lord God, said: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Moses 4:22)

Similarly, God also curses the man by saying the ground he works will be difficult and he will need to labor intensively for survival: “And unto Adam, I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying—Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.  Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.  By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou shalt return unto the ground—for thou shalt surely die—for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou wast, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Moses 4: 23-25)

While we all inherit the effects of Adam and Eve’s transgression, we are not guilty before God for their transgression but only for our own sins: “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.” (D&C 93:38)

God also taught that men and women were not meant to be alone but to live in union with one another (Moses 3: 18).  Paul echoed this teaching when he taught the Corinthians:  “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman.” (1 Cor 11:11)

iii.) The Natural Fallen Man

In the scriptures, we learn that the bodies of flesh that we have inherited are naturally evil, weak and corrupt.  Our bodies naturally desire evil over good and have no knowledge of  God.  The flesh desires comfort, security and pleasure and is at war with the spiritual part of ourselves.

a.) Desires Evil over Good and is sinful

The scriptures repeatedly teach that the natural man desires evil over good and is sinful.  Jesus taught that most people reject the light because their deeds are evil and do not want to be exposed by the light.  They thus deny the light and fight against it to hide their sins.  (John 3:`1-21)

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches that Disciples that what men greatly esteem, God considers abomination.  “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16: 15) Similarly, Jesus declared that the natural man will not recognize or honor him.  Following Jesus will rarely be popular in this world as Jesus declared in the Gospel of John:  “I receive not honour from men.” (John 5:41)

The prophet Nephi also lamented the fact that many would ignore the teachings of Jesus and consider them to be of no worth: “For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet.” (1 Nephi 19:7)

While the natural man does not esteem Jesus, he is also inherently sinful.   Jesus taught the Pharisees: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” (John 8: 34)  Paul taught the same thing to the Saints of Rome when he wrote: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7: 18)

Paul says that even when he wants to do good, his evil body pushes him towards evil.  He continues: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (Romans 7: 19-21)

We are all sinners and all reliant on God’s grace.  Paul declared to the Romans: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)   The Psalmist also wrote: “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalms 14: 2-3)

In fact, the Apostle John even taught If we think we are sinless, we are deceiving ourselves.  He said:  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1: 8-10)

However, the fact that we inhabit fallen bodies is not our fault but is part of God’s plan for perfecting His children.  It was the fall that made our natures carnal, sensual and devilish. The “human condition” is that we are fallen beings who are evil by nature and in need of redemption through Christ.  We inhabit evil bodies but we ourselves are not evil.

“For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.” (Mosiah 16: 3)

The Prophet Historian Mormon reflected on the evil nature of mankind in Helaman 12: 4-6 where he writes:

 “O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world! Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!  Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.”  (Helaman 12: 4-6)

Since the fall made us all naturally evil, the prophet teach us to call upon God continually to rescue us from our fallen state: “…because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.” (Ether 3:2)

We are so fallen and evil that if we were to look upon the Holiness of God we could not remain in the flesh afterwards. In the Book of Exodus, the Lord had to hide his glory with a thick cloud and with thunders and lightning’s to warn the people not to ascend the Mountain as they would die if they gazed upon Him.  (Exodus 19-20) The Holiness of God is a stark contrast to the corruption and depravity of man which leads many people to seek intermediaries as the Israelites did with Moses: “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:19)

The depravity of man is so predictable that the prophet Jeremiah said that men can no more cease being evil than a leopard can change his spots: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23)

Moses himself testified against God’s own chosen people, the ancient Israelites and declared that they were a rebellious people: “Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the Lord… Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you.” (Deut 9:7, 24)

Even after being “born again” from the natural man to the spiritual man many desire to return to the lusts of the flesh. Paul addressed these types of Saints in Galatia when he said: ““But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Gal 4: 9)

The Cycle of Rebellion and Repentance in the Judges Era of the Old Testament and during Nephite History illustrates this tendency to revert back to the path of least resistance:

“And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.  And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.” (Judges 2: 18-19) Breaking our covenants with the Lord leads to slavery and bondage but God will deliver us if we repent. Unfortunately, when God delivers us, we have a tendency to return to our sinful ways thus creating a cycle.

The natural man is prone to a host of other sins and weaknesses that include:

i.) Abusing power and authority: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.  Hence many are called, but few are chosen.”  (D&C 121: 39-40)

 ii.) Idolizing vanities: The Golden Calf episode shows how wicked and fallen people are and how quickly they turn to evil.  The Lord said of those Israelites who worshiped the Golden Calf after His miraculous deliverance: “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them…I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people.” (Exodus 32: 8-9)  Israel forsook God, who made them great, and chased after vanities instead.  The Prophet Jeremiah later said: “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.” (Jeremiah 2:11)

iii.) Being short-sighted: Because evil is not immediately punished, people continuously commit evil. This allows God to try our hearts to see what we truly desire: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Eccl 8:11)

It is the sad truth that a great number of people do not wish for God to rule over them:O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that he should rule over them!  (Mosiah 8:20)

b.) Is Weak

While the fall made mankind sinful, it also made us weak.  Both Paul and Moroni taught that God gave us weaknesses for a purpose but they are definitely a consequence of the fall. (See post on weaknesses) The scriptures demonstrate that even the most faithful people who ever lived still had many weaknesses. Even Christ’s Disciples lost faith and fled when he was arrested. (Matt 26: 50-56) Peter, who would become the leader of the Church in His day, denied Jesus three times. (Luke 22)

Even though Jesus told the Disciples he would rise again, they still did not believe Mary when she bore witness that Jesus had risen.  (Matt 28)  Jesus felt out of place at times amongst the generation He was born into.  He lamented their faithlessness and their tendency to pervert the ways of God. (Matt 17:17)

Mormon taught that fallen man was so weak that he was even less than the dust of the earth:  “O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God…”  (Helaman 12: 7-8)

c.) Has no knowledge of God and easily dismisses the Spiritual

Along with being sinful and weak, natural man is also ignorant of the spiritual world. Many people live only according to their senses and are dead to the spirit of God: “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” (Jude 1: 19)

The great missionary Ammon declared that the natural man cannot know the things of God.  In Alma 26:21 he says:  “And now behold, my brethren, what natural man is there that knoweth these things? I say unto you, there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent.”

Paul also taught that the Natural man cannot know God unless the Spirit reveals God to Him:

 “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.… But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2: 10-11, 14)

Those who remain in their natural fallen state remain ignorant concerning the things of God and even become enemies to him: “But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God.” (Mosiah 16:5)

The natural man also has a tendency to rationalize away the things of God when he hears them.  This is illustrated by Korihor who asks Alma for a sign that God lives. Alma 30:44 records his response:“But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”

Another example is given in the Book of Acts, during the Pentecost. Not everyone accepted the miraculous occurrence and the gift of tongues that was made manifest.  Some explained it away saying that everyone was simply drunk. This shows that even mighty miracles are not enough to convince the hard hearted who are determined to continue in sin.  (Acts 2)

Even when the natural man experiences the spiritual, he has a tendency to “quench” the witness of the spirit.This is illustrated in the story of Paul’s testimony before Agrippa.  Paul knew that Agrippa believed in the prophets and that the Holy Ghost was testifying of the truthfulness of his words to Agrippa.  Agrippa declared that Paul had almost convinced him to become a Christian.  Even though Agrippa had the witness of the Holy Ghost, he chose to ignore it.  Like Agrippa, many receive the witness of the Spirit but choose to ignore it. (Acts 24-26)

d.) Desires Comfort and Security

Another core characteristic of the natural man is the tendency to desire comfort, security and certainty.  This principle is demonstrated when the Israelites are miraculously lead out of slavery in Egypt and instead of facing the uncertainties of freedom many yearned for the security of chains. (Exodus 13-15)

Similarly, the ancient Israelites rejected the prophet’s pleas not to have a king but to be led by God instead.  However, the people ignored the prophet and demanded a king who would provide them with security: “And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations…That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.” (1 Sam 8: 5, 20)

d.) Is at war with the Spiritual part of the self

And finally, one last characteristic of the natural man is that it exists in stark contrast to the spiritual part of the soul.  If the soul is comprised of an intelligence that is clothed with both a spirit and a body then the body is the evil part and the spirit is the good part of the soul.

Within every person there is a struggle between our natural bodies that want to sin and our spirits that want to obey God. Paul taught the Romans:For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7: 22-25)

The Apostle Peter taught that the lusts of the flesh war against the Spirit:“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

King Benjamin even taught that we are enemies to God in our natural state: “ For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)

Alma taught that the strictness of the spiritual law is in stark contrast to the desires of the flesh and thus it offends the natural man:  “And seeing that the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.” (Alma 35: 15)

Fallen man is sensual and devilish to begin with but  transgressing God’s law makes them more so: “But by the transgression of these holy laws man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man.” (D&C 20:20; Alma 12)

Eventually, those who transgress the spiritual laws begin to persecute those who obey the spiritual laws. Paul taught this principle to the Galatians when he wrote: “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” (Gal 4: 29)

Eventually, those who transgress God’s laws become tyrants and seek to subject the spiritual to the carnal.  Ammoron was an evil man who sought to enslave the Nephites and thus bring the spiritual in subjection to the carnal. He wrote:  “…and we will wage a war which shall be eternal, either to the subjecting the Nephites to our authority or to their eternal extinction.” (Alma 56:48)

Scriptural Policy Prescriptions

Main Idea: While the scriptures do not say much about many contemporary issues, they do give some specific policy recommendations that will be examined in this post.  Ultimately, the ideal government would be a theocracy though it must be implemented at the right time by the right authority.  You cannot force a theocracy on an unbelieving people so constitutional republics that restrain power and protect civil liberties are the next best thing.  Throughout history, God has implemented theocratic governments whenever he has established a covenant people.  The ancient Israelites and Nephites both established theocracies that made the laws of God the laws of the land. (Lev 17: 8-9; Mosiah 29, Alma 30: 21-22) However, God has not authorized the establishment of a modern theocracy and so we must work to uphold the constitutional republics that God has ordained should exist in the West.

a.) Immigration Policy

From Leviticus, we learn about God’s law on how to treat strangers and immigrants.  Strangers and Immigrants were to be treated as native Israelites and loved in the same way.  Lev 19: 34 says: “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

However, immigrants were expected to abide by the laws of the country that they moved to.  In Lev 24: 22 the Lord says:“Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 24:22)

b.) Monetary policy

In terms of monetary policy, the Bible teaches that just weights and measures shall be used in commerce in order to avoid inflation: “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.  Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Lev 19: 35-36)

c.) Criminal justice system

The ancient Israelite and Nephite criminal justice systems serve as models that we can also learn from.  One of the fundamental tenants of criminal justice was to distinguish between crimes done in ignorance and those done knowingly. The Lord differentiates between breaking the law in ignorance and doing it purposefully.  Numbers 15: 29-30 reads:

“Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.” (Numbers 15: 29-30)

The scriptures also reveal the Israelite and Nephite laws around murder and manslaughter.  In the Mosaic law,  the punishment for murder was death but those who committed manslaughter were sent to cities of refuge.  They needed to stay in those cities until the High Priest died, otherwise they could be killed. (Numbers 35)

Capital punishment for murder is a major theme found throughout the scriptures and is sometimes called a “blood atonement.”  In Numbers 35: 30-31 the blood atonement is taught:

“So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.” (Numbers 35:33)

The prophet Samuel pronounced the death penalty upon a murderer named Agag.  He said:  “As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.” (1 Sam 15:33)

The Nephites also appear to have followed the doctrine of blood atonement as well.  The prophet Alma told Nehor that if he did not take action against him for murdering Gideon that Gideon’s blood would cry out for vengeance.  Capital punishment was the crime that was instituted for murder amongst the Nephites as well. (Alma 1)

While capital punishment was the prescribed punishment for murder, the standard of proof for determining guilt in these cases was higher and required multiple witnesses.  Numbers 35: 30-31 reads:

“Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.” (Numbers 35:30-31)

Other crimes that warranted the death penalty included treason and cowardice during times of war. In Alma 51, Captain Moroni put to death those who would not take up arms to defend their country against Amalackiah.  Alma 46:35 reveals how Captain Moroni responded to those who had committed treason against the liberties of his people:

“And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.” (Alma 46:35)

Another key principle of the criminal justice system was that of proportionality or letting the punishment fit the severity of the crime.  In the Doctrine and Covenants it is written: “We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense.” (D&C 134:8) For example, those who bore false witness received the same punishment that would have befallen the person they lied about:

“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.” (Deut 19: 15-19)

d.) Tax policies

The Book of Mormon teaches us that righteous civil authorities do not engage in excessive taxation. King Benjamin didn’t oppress the people with heavy taxes but worked with his own hands, based laws upon the commandments and did not abuse executive authority to enslave the people. (Mosiah 2: 13-14) The Book of Ether condemns an unrighteous ruler named Riplakish who laid heavy taxes upon the people.  Ether 10:5 says:

And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did lay that upon men’s shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings. “ (Ether 10:5)

Another unrighteous King that the lord condemned was King Noah.  In King Noah, we see the opposite of King Benjamin. Noah decreed heavy taxes of 20% on his people, took many wives and concubines and used those taxes to support his idleness and wicked ways.  He had the people build him a very decadent palace and throne room.  He built several wine presses and became a drunkard.   (Mosiah 11)

e.) Governments should be limited in their power

The Book of Mormon makes clear that righteous governments should be limited in their power because of the potential for corruption and abuse.  Mosiah taught that if the people could always have a king like Benjamin, who judged the people according to the law of God, it would be well with them. (Mosiah 29)  However, he also pointed out that one evil ruler, such as King Noah, can cause great destruction and thus it is wise to restrain the power of the executive branch of government.

Not only do evil rulers cause much destruction but it takes much bloodshed to depose on.  Mosiah taught: “And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.” (Mosiah 29:21)

As a general rule, monarchies or systems of absolute centralized power tend to lead to tyranny and captivity.  The Brother of Jared was not pleased when his people asked for a king: “And now behold, this was grievous unto them. And the brother of Jared said unto them: Surely this thing leadeth into captivity.” (Ether 6: 23)

When the government has too much power, it attracts those who crave power.  As citizens, we should seek to establish men in power who do not desire it, such as Captain Moroni.  Moroni declared: “Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country.” (Alma 60:33)

f.) Governments must rule with the consent of the governed and the majority should rule.

God has also revealed that righteous governments rule with the consent of the majority of the governed.  This is because the majority of the people generally choose what is right.  Mosiah taught: “Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.” (Mosiah 29: 26)

However, this rule is not absolute and sometimes the majority can choose evil over good. When the majority choose iniquity the people are ripe for destruction:  Mosiah 29: 27 states: “And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.”

The rule of the majority is contrasted with the rule of the elite or a system of nobility.  In the Book of Mormon, Captain Moroni destroyed a group of people who sought to install a monarchy and a system of nobility: “And thus Moroni put an end to those king-men…and thus he put an end to the stubbornness and the pride of those people who professed the blood of nobility; but they were brought down to humble themselves like unto their brethren.” (Alma 51:21)

g.) Governments should uphold freedom of opinion, belief and expression.

Many civil liberties are endorsed in the Book of Mormon, the most important of which are the freedoms of belief, religion and expression.  While Zarahemla was a theocracy, it respected the sincere beliefs of those who disagreed with the state-endorsed beliefs.  In Alma chapter 1 we learn that those who practiced priestcrafts could not be punished because it was their sincere belief that priestcrafts were a good things (Alma 1:17) Alma taught that there can be no law against a person’s beliefs.  He said: “Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.” (Alma 30:7)

Along with freedom of belief and expression comes freedom of religion.  In D&C 134:4 we learn about this essential doctrine:

“We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” (D&C 134:4)

While freedom of religion needs to be protected, governments should not be involved in telling people how to worship.  D&C 134: 9 teaches: “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.”

In order to protect these liberties, Mosiah advocated a system whereupon judges were elected by the people and lower judges were overseen by higher judges.  If a higher judge abused his power he would be judged by a group of lower judges.  (Mosiah 29)  These judges made oaths to safeguard the liberties of the people. The Oath of a Judge is found in Alma 50; 39 which reads:

“With an oath and sacred ordinance to judge righteously, and to keep the peace and the freedom of the people, and to grant unto them their sacred privileges to worship the Lord their God, yea, to support and maintain the cause of God all his days, and to bring the wicked to justice according to their crime.” (Alma 50: 39)

h.) Governments must protect life and private property.

The other major liberties endorsed in the scriptures are that of life and private property.  In D&C 134:2 it is taught: “We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” (D&C 134:2)

The ancient Israelite inheritance laws reveal that private property was respected and upheld. Numbers 27: 8-11 says:

“And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.  And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren.  And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father’s brethren.  And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the Lord commanded Moses.” (Numbers 27: 8-11)

h.) Foreign policy and rules of war

The Nephites lived during a time of constant war and many of their foreign policies are outlined in the scriptures.  As a general rule, the people of God are commanded to “Renounce war and proclaim peace.” (D&C 98: 33-37) God promises that a righteous nation can never be defeated by outside enemies.  In Alma 44:4 we read:

“Now ye see that this is the true faith of God; yea, ye see that God will support, and keep, and preserve us, so long as we are faithful unto him, and unto our faith, and our religion; and never will the Lord suffer that we shall be destroyed except we should fall into transgression and deny our faith.” (Alma 44:4)

God also promises that He will preserve our freedom if we call upon Him in righteousness. This principle is revealed in Alma 43:50 when the Nephites were battling the Lamanites: “And they began to stand against the Lamanites with power; and in that selfsame hour that they cried unto the Lord for their freedom, the Lamanites began to flee before them; and they fled even to the waters of Sidon.” (Alma 43:50)

This is why it is important to ensure that a nation remains righteous and strong from within and why Moroni told Pahoran that they needed to ensure the Nephite government and people were righteous and united before attacking the Lamanites.   In Alma 60:23 we read of Moroni’s words to Pahoran: “God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.”

Before going to war, the Nephites sought God’s will about what to do.  Chief Captain Zoram asked Alma to pray about whether they should attack the Lamanites. God said yes and the Nephites saw incredible success, saving every Nephite captive.  (Alma 16) Sometimes God does command a people to go to war as he did the Nephites during Captain Moroni’s time.  Pahoran, the governor during the time of captain Mornoi wrote him the following letter:

“Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God.” (Alma 61:14)

As a general rule, war is only justified when God commands it and when peace is sought and rejected at least three times.  D&C 98: 33-37 teaches us this law:

“And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them. And if any nation, tongue, or people should proclaim war against them, they should first lift a standard of peace unto that people, nation, or tongue; And if that people did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring these testimonies before the Lord; Then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation, tongue, or people.  And I, the Lord, would fight their battles, and their children’s battles, and their children’s children’s, until they had avenged themselves on all their enemies, to the third and fourth generation.” (D&C 98: 33-37)

During times of war, certain liberties were suspended.  When Amalackiah was marching upon Zarahemla the kingmen leaders were thrown into prison without trial, because there was no time to have a trial.  After defeating some of the Gadianton robbers, Gidgiddoni refused to take any prisoner and instead executed them on the spot. (3 Nephi 4)

When a nation is defeated, they should be given a chance to surrender. Moroni could have destroyed the Lamanites after defeating them but instead he chose to allow them to leave if they agreed to peace. (Alma 44) Ultimately, if a foreign nation will not agree to peace then destroying that nation is justified.  Captain Moroni sought for peace with Zerahemnah after defeating him but Zerahemnah refused.  Alma 44:10 records Moroni’s response: “…And now when Zerahemnah had made an end of speaking these words, Moroni returned the sword and the weapons of war, which he had received, unto Zerahemnah, saying: Behold, we will end the conflict.” (Alma 44:10)

During times of war, women were still to be treated with the utmost respect and the conquerors were forbidden to abuse the women of the losing side.  If a man wanted a woman who was a prisoner of war then he needed to marry her and could not just impose his will on her. (Deut 21)

i.) Promoting a Gospel-Centric Culture

Israel was commanded to maintain a unique culture and to separate from other worldly cultures: “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.  Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 18: 3-4)

The prophet Jeremiah echoed this teaching to the Israelites of his time when he said: Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen… For the customs of the people are vain.” (Jeremiah 10: 1,3)

Preserving their culture was such a priority that immigrants and visitors were expected to keep the law and culture of the Israelites.  Lev 18: 26 states: “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you.” (Lev 18: 26)

In fact, one of the reasons that God marked the Lamanites with darker skin was to keep the Nephites from marrying them and losing their cultural beliefs.  (Alma 3:8)

However, the scriptures warn that ultimately, one of the reasons ancient Israel fell was because they failed to keep their culture pure and began adopting the practices of their neighbors.  Judges 2: 13 records: “And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.” (Judges 2:13)

Good citizens will therefore preserve the Judaeo-Christian belief system that underlies Western Civilization.

j.) Upholding the American Constitution

Through modern revelation, we have learned that the Lord inspired the American Revolution and the founding of the American Constitutional Republic. D&C 101: 80 states:“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.” (D&C 101:80; 101:77)

Elder M. Russell Ballard taught: “The principles and philosophies upon which the U.S. constitutional law is based are not simply the result of the best efforts of a remarkable group of brilliant men. They were inspired by God, and the rights and privileges guaranteed in the Constitution are God-given, not man-derived. The freedom and independence afforded by the Constitution and Bill of Rights are divine rights-sacred, essential, and inalienable. In the 98th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord indicates that the “law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.” (D&C 98:5.) (“Religion in a Free Society,” Ensign, Oct. 1992, 65)

However, the principles in the US Constitution are not reserved only for the American people but are principles that belong to all mankind.  D&C 98:5 says: “And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.” (D&C 98:5)

The Lord also declared that whatever deviates from the U.S. Constitution comes from evil:  D&C 98: 6-7 teaches:

“Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.” (D&C 98: 6-7)  This means that the constitution of the United States is to government as the Gospel is to religion.  Whatsoever is more or less than it is inspired of evil.

k.) We should find and uphold honorable and virtuous people to hold public office.

And finally, one last prescription for being a good citizen is to actively find and uphold honorable and virtuous people for public office.  D&C 98: 10 teaches: “Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.” (D&C 98:10)

And one final witness to this law is found in D&C 134:3 which says: “We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.” (D&C 134:3)

Non-Scriptural Beliefs about Policy

  1. Any belief that says we should not keep the laws of the land.
  2. Any belief that tries to remove God from government.
  3. Any belief that promotes diluting a nation’s culture and adopting “heathen” practices.

How to be a Good Citizen

Main Idea:  The Bible advises us to develop strong social networks and to be there for friends in times of need.  We all have a duty to show love for all community members, even those we may not like and employers are admonished to treat their workers justly.  The Scriptures also teach us to be good citizens by obeying the laws of the land, honoring authorities, putting God first and upholding liberty. Leaders are accountable to God for establishing the rule of law and dealing justly with everyone. 

While fulfilling our family roles are of paramount importance, it is also important to recognize our responsibility to other members of the community.  The scriptures give some guidance on what is expected of us as friends, neighbors and coworkers.

i.) Friend 

In the Book of Proverbs we read: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)  This scriptures suggests that friends have a duty to show love not only during the good times but also during the bad times.  Friendships that are made during difficult times will tend to endure.

The author of Ecclesiastes observed that in many circumstances two are better than one and that it is not good to have a poor social network.  Eccl 4: 9-12 says:

 “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.  Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl 4: 9-12)

ii.) Neighbor

While friend often refers to people that we like or choose to have more intimate relationships with, the scriptures also talk about our duty to our neighbors.  Neighbors are simply people who live in close proximity to us and could refer to anyone in our community, even those we dislike.  One of the most famous parables that Jesus ever taught was the Good Samaritan which was concerned with how we should treat neighbors, strangers and even enemies. The central message of this parable was that we have a duty to sacrifice and care for our neighbors who are in need, even if they are our enemies (Samaritans were enemies of Jews).

The Book of Proverbs also advises neighbors to leave on a good note when visiting and not to overstay one’s welcome.  Proverbs 25: 17 records: ”  “Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.” (Proverbs 25:17)

And finally, the scriptures also teach us to respect the elders in the community and to honor them.  Lev 19: 32 suggests: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord.” (Lev 19:32)

iii.) Employers and Employees

The scriptures also give employers and employees some guidelines to follow to ensure justice and harmony in the workplace.  Employers are commanded not to withhold wages that have been earned and to treat employees justly.  Lev 19: 13 records: “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.” (Lev 19:13)

Similarly, Deut 23: 15 says:  “At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee.” (Deut 23:15)

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he admonished employers to treat those under their stewardship justly.  He said:  “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” (Col 4: 1)

The Book of James, in the New Testament, warns that misery and judgment will come upon the rich who oppress those under their stewardship.  James 5 says:

 “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.  Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.  Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.” (James 5)

Civic Roles

Along with being a good friend, neighbor and employer we should also be good citizens.  The scriptures give us some guidance around how to be good citizens and even give some specific policy recommendations that we should uphold.  I will now discuss each of these civic duties in more detail.

i.) Keeping the Laws of the Land: We should be good citizens who obey the laws of the country in which we live.  Though these laws are rarely perfect, we are still bound to honor them and work within those laws to change them if necessary.  When Jesus was asked if the Jews should pay taxes to the Roman authorities (who were conquerors at the time) Jesus responded that they should “Render unto Caesar” the things that are Caesars (Matt 21: 12-13). We must pay taxes so that the government can fulfill its essential function of protecting life, liberty and property, and in promoting the welfare of all persons.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians that servants should obey their masters and their masters should obey Christ until a more just social order exists.  This is a hard principle to accept as it sometimes means obeying unjust laws as part of a greater strategy of overturning them.  In the Book of Philemon, Paul also encouraged the runaway slave Onesimus to obey the laws of the land and for his master Philemon to show him more love.  This same theme was repeated in Paul’s letter to Titus where he wrote: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,” (Titus 3:1)

Along with Paul and Jesus, the Chief Apostle Peter said:  “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme.” (1 Peter 2:13)  In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah told the Jews who were conquered by Babylon to seek the welfare of the cities that they now dwelled in.  He said: “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

And finally, the importance of keeping the laws of the land has been reaffirmed in modern times many times.  In the D&C 58: 21-22 the Lord says: “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.” (D&C 58:21-22)  And similarly in D&C 134:5 the latter day saints reaffirmed their duty to uphold any government that respects civil liberties.  It says: “We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly.” (D&C 134:5)

ii.) Honoring Civil Authorities

Along with honoring the law, the scriptures also teach that we should honor and respect the civil authorities of the land that administer the law.  The Apostle Peter taught: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”(1 Peter 2: 17)  Peter also warned that those who lack internal discipline often despise government and find fault with their civil leaders. In 2 Peter 2: 10-11 Peter writes:

 “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities…Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.” (2 Peter 2: 10-11)

iii.) Prioritizing God above Government

While it is important to keep the laws of the land, sometimes those laws will conflict with the law of God and you need to make a choice which law to follow.  The answer is that you should follow whichever law the holy spirit prompts you to follow.   Jesus taught that while we pay taxes to Caesar, we give our whole being to God.   The New Testament student manual elaborates:

 “The image of God stamped on the heart and soul of a man denotes that all its facilities and powers belong to God and should be employed in his service.  The scripture had taught that man was created in the image of God.  Just as the coin had Caesar’s image, it was Caesar’s.  Just as man has God’s image it is God’s.  Therefore, give to God all of your being and give to Caesar his coin.” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1968, 64–6; Matt 21)

In the Book of Acts, the Apostle Peter was brought before the authorities for preaching the word of God when it was against the law.  When Peter was asked why he did so, he responded:  “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5: 29)  On a separate occasion, when Peter and John were arrested for preaching the Gospel they told the officers: “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” (Acts 4: 19)

This theme of choosing to obey God over secular authority is also prevalent in the Old Testament.  In the Book of Samuel, we learn that God was displeased when the Israelites demanded that a monarchy be established.  The Israelites had been asking for a king since the time of the judges but wise men, such as Gideon, refused them.  In Judges 8: 22-23 we learn of Gideon’s response:

 “Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.” (Judges 8: 22-23)

However, this desire for a king was not abated by the pleas of men like Gideon.  The Israelites began appointing unrighteous men to be their leaders, beginning with one of Gideon’s sons Abimilech. Abimelech was not chosen by God to be king but Israel installed him as a king anyways.  As a result of ignoring God’s will, tragedy came upon Israel and the story of Abimelech’s downfall can be found in judges chapter 9.

The cries for a king continued into the time of the prophet Samuel where the people became ever more discontent about the fact that they hadn’t yet established a monarchy.  1 Sam 8: 6-7 tells us how Samuel responded:

“But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Sam 8: 6-7)

Taken together, these stories teach us that God should be our ultimate king and that we should not vote for leaders that God would disapprove of or tragedy may come upon us.

iv.) Upholding Liberty

The scriptures also teach us the importance of upholding liberty in the nations within which we live.  James called the Gospel the perfect law of liberty: “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1: 25)

Similarly, Paul exhorted the Galatians to embrace the liberty that Christ had given us. He said:  “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal 5:1)

Righteous people will uphold liberty and thus be a great benefit to their communities.  Proverbs 11:11 declares: “By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.” (Proverbs 11:11)  And the Psalmist wrote that:  “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Psalms 41:1)

While we should embrace liberty, the Apostle Peter warns us not to use it as an excuse to sin.  He tells us to act “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” (1 Peter 2: 16)

If we don’t uphold the cause of liberty then we will be visited with war, famine and pestilence.  One of the reasons that judgment came upon the ancient Israelites was for failure to uphold liberty.  The Prophet Jeremiah told his people:

“Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, everyone to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Jeremiah 34:17)

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma exhorted his people to guard and preverse their liberty.  He said:“…Even so I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you…..“Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another; therefore I say unto you it is not expedient that ye should have a king.” (Mosiah 23:13)

Upholding liberty is so important that the Lord will even command some people to rebel against tyrannical governments.  In the Book of Mormon, Captain Moroni raised the title of liberty to rally his people to defend their freedoms from being trampled upon by tyrants.  Alma 46: 12-13 records:

“And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole. And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land.”  (Alma 46:12-13)

Moroni had responded to tyranny by fomenting revolutions.  He wrote the following to the governor of the land who he thought was not helping to uphold the cause of liberty:

The Lord has said: “If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them…. “And I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct.” (Alma 60:27, 33)

v.) Responsibilities of Government Officials

While citizens have a responsibility to uphold liberty and to honor their leaders, those leaders have many God-given duties to those they lead.  Proverbs 29: 2 warns: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” (Proverbs 29:2)  The D&C teaches us that those in power are accountable to God for how they use that power.  D&C 134: 1 teaches: “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”

King David declared: “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” (2 Sam 23:3)  To be just means to live by the rule of law and not the rule of men.  The law taught the ancient Israelites to be impartial in judgments to uphold the rule of law.  Lev 19: 5 declares: ” Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”

We should therefore seek out just, god-fearing men to be our leaders.  During the time of the Nephites, even their generals had to be prophets.  3 Nephi 3: 19 reads: “Now it was the custom among all the Nephites to appoint for their chief captains, (save it were in their times of wickedness) someone that had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy.”

The scriptures differentiate between two major types of governments: those that serve God and those that do not.  Israel was a great nation at its peak because God was involved in all things. In Deut 4: 7-8 we read: “For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deut 4: 7-8)

The scriptures promise that nations who choose to serve God will be blessed and receive His inheritance: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” (Psalms 33:12)

In contrast, the scriptures warn us against putting our ultimate trust in secular authorities and governments.  The prophet Isaiah warned the Israelites who trusted in these secular authorities by saying: ”

“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:  That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!  Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion…Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!”” (Isaiah 30 :1-3; 31:1)

The prophet Zephaniah also warned that those nations who believe they do not answer to God and that they are the highest power will eventually be left desolate: “This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! Every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.” (Zephaniah 2:15)

Beliefs that Contradict Scripture

From the following principles discussed above, we can determine what beliefs would lead to sub optimal outcomes. The following beliefs would contradict those taught in scripture:

1. Any belief system that diminishes our responsibility to our brothers and sisters: “I am not my brother’s keeper.” “I have no obligation to help my neighbor when in need.”

2. Any belief system that devalues the Elderly: “Old people have nothing more to contribute.” “Old people don’t matter.” “Old people are a burden.”

3. Any belief that encourages valuing profit over fair wages to employees: “It doesn’t matter how I treat my employees.”

4. Any belief that encourages fault-finding of civic leaders.

5. Any belief that says Government is more important than God and should have our ultimate loyalty.

6. Any belief that allows undermining of liberty.

7. Any belief that puts trust in the institutions of men above God.

The Scriptural Basis of Family Roles

Main Idea: The scriptures teach us the importance of establishing families and magnifying the roles that we have been ordained to in those families.The scriptures give us instructions concerning marriage, divorce, parenting duties and duties that children have to their parents.  Fulfilling the family roles that you have been given is essential for ensuring the optimal development and functioning of every individual in society. 

i. Marriage

One of the first things we learn in the scriptures is the importance of creating families as this was one of the first commands given to Adam by God.  Gen 1: 27-28 says:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” (Gen 1: 27-28)

Marriage between a man and a woman is therefore ordained of God.  Jesus himself taught: “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh.” (Matthew 19:5)

Marriage is so important that the Apostle Paul suggested that it was not right to encourage people not to get married.  He lamented to Timothy that in the last days many would teach that marriage was unimportant. (1 Tim 4: 3-4)  The Apostle Richard G. Scott also taught that if you are of age to be married then getting married should be your highest priority.  He says:

 “If you are a young man of appropriate age and are not married, don’t waste time in idle pursuits. Get on with life and focus on getting married. Don’t just coast through this period of life. Young men, serve a worthy mission. Then make your highest priority finding a worthy, eternal companion.” (Richard G. Scott- Eternal Blessings of Marriage)

The scriptures have also given us some guidelines around who we should marry. One of the most common themes in scripture, concerning this subject, is to marry somebody who shares your faith. For example, Abraham did not want Isaac to marry outside of the covenant. He told his servant not to find a wife among the Canaanites but instead to go and find a woman who would share Isaac’s beliefs and values. (Gen 23-24)

This same attitude was prevalent amongst the ancient Israelites who were forbidden to marry the remnant of the Canaanites. In Joshua 23: 12 the Lord warns the Israelites not to marry any of the Canaanites: “Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you.”

Ezra the scribe, during the rebuilding phase of the Bible,  thought it so important to marry within the faith to preserve their culture and religion that he sent away all foreign wives and children. (Ezra 2)

The fall of King Solomon can partly be attributed to marrying outside of the faith.  In Nehemiah 13: 25-26 the Lord explains:

“And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.  Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.” (Nehemiah 13: 25-26)

Modern prophets and apostles have reaffirmed the importance of marrying inside the faith as well.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie  used Esau as an example of someone who did not live up to this standard and lost many blessing as a result.  He said:

“Esau married out of the Church; Esau did not marry in the everlasting covenant revealed to Abraham; Esau chose to live after the manner of the world, rather than to keep the standards of righteousness which the Lord had given them.” (Bruce R. McConkie -“Our Sisters from the Beginning,” Ensign, Jan. 1979, 62)

The scriptures also teach us that, barring certain circumstances, God’s standard is monogamy.  The prophet Jacob from the Book of Mormon explains:

“For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”  In other words, sometimes God will command his people to have more than one wife or “raise up seed” or have many children but normally God’s standard is monogamy.  (Jacob 2:30)

We see this exception with Abraham who married Hagar and Jacob whose 12 sons came from four different women.  During the time of the judges, Gideon had multiple wives and King David had many wives and concubines (Gen 13-15, 29; Judges 6-8; 2 Sam 5:13).  Nevertheless, these are the exceptions and not the rule as the vast majority of people throughout time have been commanded to practice monogamy.

While the scriptures teach us the importance of marriage, they also teach us how to establish a lasting and satisfying marriage.  While many cultures glorify passion and romance, it is a poor foundation to build a marriage upon.  A good marriage includes passion and romance, but it is not the foundation. The most important thing that a marriage can be built on is obedience to the will of God.  We see this principle being practiced in the story of Isaac and Rebekah who had an arranged marriage.  Rebekah did not know Isaac  but she believed that it was the will of God to marry him.  As a result, Rebekah and Isaac are forever remembered among the great patriarchs and matriarchs of the Old Testament.  (Gen 23-24)

While God commands us to multiply and replenish the earth in this mortal life, He also commands us to have our marriages sealed in heaven by proper priesthood authority.  In the Book of Matthew, Jesus gave Peter the power to bind on both heaven and earth:

“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 18: 18)

This power to bind or loose in heaven effectively gives heavenly authority to select priesthood holders on earth.  They literally become legal administrators in the heavenly jurisdiction so that whatever marriages they perform are recognized in heaven.  However, this means that if a marriage was not performed through the sealing power then it is not recognized in heaven.  Jesus responded to questions about marriage in heaven by saying: “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matt 22: 30) . This means that if a marriage is not sealed on earth then it is not recognized in the resurrection.

This is why it is so important to establish an eternal marriage in this life that will be recognized in the heavenly jurisdiction.  These marriages are performed in temples by those priesthood authorities who have been given the sealing power. The Lord promised, “If a man marry a wife by … the new and everlasting covenant … by him who is anointed, … and if [they] abide in [the Lord’s] covenant, … it … shall be of full force when they are out of the world” (D&C 132:19).

Eternal marriage is also a necessary precondition for exaltation as outlined in D&C 131: 1-3 which says:

“In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it” (D&C 131:1–3).

Jesus also taught that temporal families do not last but God’s eternal family will last forever.  He taught us that we should prioritize  submitting to God’s will above our families and be united with a new eternal family.  Mat 12: 47-50 records:

  • “Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matt 12: 47-50)

Our Eternal Family therefore consists of any who are part of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus taught the people that His eternal family consisted of anyone who obeyed the will of the Father in all things and thus accepted His gospel.

ii.) Divorce

While God desires that everyone enter into an eternal marriage, unfortunately many marriages do not even last for the duration of this life.  In Matthew 19, Jesus teaches the Pharisees about God’s law on divorce:

3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Jesus made clear that God never intends a marriage to end in divorce and warned anyone who would think of breaking apart what God had joined together.  He clarified that the Law of Moses allowed divorce in some situations because of how unrighteous the people had become. However, He also points out that “from the beginning,” or in the higher law, divorce is not permitted.  The only exception that Jesus gives to this rule is when one partner has an affair then the other may ask for a divorce.  He even went so far as to say those who marry a divorced person are committing adultery as well.

Marriage is so important in God’s eyes that He even commands those who are married to unbelievers to remain in the marriage.  In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives his opinion on the matter:

  • “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.  But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” (1 Cor. 7: 12-15)

iii.) False Doctrine Concerning Marriage

Now that we have identified the scriptural teachings concerning marriage we can identify common lies and false doctrine that will lead to suffering.  Some of these falsehoods include:

  1. Any belief that diminishes the utmost importance of marriage: “Marriage is outdated.” “Marriage isn’t for me.” “Marriage is no longer necessary.” “You don’t need to be married to have sex.”
  2. Any belief that prioritizes earthly families above heavenly ones (when of age): “I will listen to my parents instead of God.” “My family is more important than God.”
  3. Any belief that encourages marriage outside the faith: “It doesn’t matter if I marry someone who doesn’t share my faith.” “It’s better to marry someone outside the faith now than to have faith and wait for the right person.”
  4. Any belief that says marriage should be based upon romantic love: “It’s more important to base marriage on love than obedience to God.” “I can’t stay in a loveless marriage.” “If you don’t love your spouse you should leave them.”
  5. Any belief that permits divorce for any reason other than adultery, abandonment or abuse: “We have irreconcilable differences.” “I don’t love her/him anymore.” “I am not happy so I should get divorced.”

iv.) Parent’s duties to Children

While the scriptures stress the importance of marriage, they also stress the importance of having children and outline the duties that God expects us to fulfill.  One of the first commandments ever given to man is found in the opening chapter of the Old Testament:  “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” (Gen 1:28)

The Psalmist also taught that children are a gift of God that bring happiness to those who have them.  Psalm 127: 3-5 reads: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127: 3-5)

There are three main duties that parents have to their children that include: teaching, disciplining and providing.

i.) Teaching

The scriptures exhort parents to teach their children the law of God.  In Psalms 78: 5-7 it is written: “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” (Psalms 78:5-7)

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4)  In the Book of Moron, Alma tried to teach his son wisdom on his youth.  He said: “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.” (Alma 37: 35)

The powerful effects of good parenting is one of the major lessons in the story of Helaman’s 2000 stripling warriors.  In the Book of Mormon, the miraculous victory of the stripling warriors was attributed to their obedience to the principles their mothers taught them:  “And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56:48)

This function of parenting is so crucial that the Lord has revealed that if parents fail to teach their children the gospel then the sins of the children we be upon the neglectful parents head.  D&C 68: 25 reads: “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25)

ii.) Discipline

The second major duty outlined in the scriptures is to train and discipline your children.  This is one of the major themes found in the book of Proverbs which teaches:  “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24)  God is the perfect example of a Father, who chastens His children when they need to be chastened.  The author of Proverbs teaches: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:  For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” (Proverbs 3: 11-12)

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul reinforces this principle and suggests that we should accept chastening and correction from God who does so for our benefit because we are His childrenHe says that discipline is never enjoyed in the moment but is necessary for long-term improvement. (Heb 12: 5-11)

Proverbs further teaches us to discipline our children, even though they may protest and even dislike you for it: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” (Proverbs 19:18)

If you discipline your children, you will save them from a literal and metaphorical hell:  “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.  Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” (Proverbs 23: 13-14)

Disciplining children is far more effective than disciplining adults as the brain and body are more malleable at a younger age.  Proverbs 22: 6 declares: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Parents need to train children because they are naturally foolish and need guidance from adults.  Children do not just automatically know how to behave but need to be taught by their parents.  Proverbs 22: 15 teaches: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

The consequences of failing to discipline children are outlined in the story of Eli and his sons. God cursed Eli’s house partly because Eli was a permissive parent.  1 Sam 3: 13 records: “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” (1 Sam 3: 13)

Some useful guidelines for dealing with child temper tantrums was provided in a Sept 1988 Ensign article:

i.) Avoid reacting with anger when a child explodes in a tantrum. “But if you do become angry, let your feelings subside before disciplining the child. Do something to let off steam, like taking a walk around the block or putting the offender in a designated “timeout place” until you cool down.”

ii.) If your child is angry, decline to give in to his angry demands until he finds a better way to handle his emotions.

iii.) Ignore a child’s outburst, but not his feelings. “Acknowledging a child’s feelings assures him that you care and allows him to see you as part of his recovery rather than as his enemy.

iv.) If children are very young, try distracting them. “Distraction may help the child forget his anger and give you time to deal with the root of the problem at a better time.” (“Dealing with Anger and Contention,” Ensign, Sept. 1988, 62)

iii.) Providing the Necessities of Life 

Along with teaching and disciplining, parents are also responsible for providing their children with the necessities of life. In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin summarized this duty as follows:

“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14-15)

In the D&C we also learn that women and children have claim upon their Fathers and husbands for support: D&C 83: 2-4 reads: “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken; and if they are not found transgressors they shall have fellowship in the church. All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.”

This duty is so serious that the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that those that do not provide for their families have denied the faith: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim 5:8)

v. Children’s Duties

While parents have duties to children, children also have many duties to their parents.  The two major duties outlined in the scriptures is to honor and obey parents and to care for them when they are old.

i.) Honor and Obey

Honoring and obeying parents is so important that it is one of the ten commandments. In Exodus 20: 12 the Lord declares: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

This same promise of having a long life if you obey your parents is given by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.  Paul promises: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” (Eph 6:1-3)  He taught the Colossians that children should obey their parents in all things, as this was what the Lord desired. (Col 3: 20)

In Deuteronomy, we also learn that disobeying parents was seen as so serious that it was a capital crime:

“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” (Deut 21: 18-21)

Instead of disobeying their parents, Proverbs teaches us that wise children obey.  Proverbs 13: 1 teaches: “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.”

One of the major ways that children can obey parents is by helping to contribute to the work of the household by performing chores.  Children need to learn the necessary life skills to become independent eventually and it is a parents job to teach and the child’s job to obey.  (Delegating Work and Responsibility to Children, Ensign, January 1986)

ii..) Caring for aged Parents

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he taught that it was a family’s responsibility to care for their widowed parents and grandparents.  He said:  “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.” (1 Tim 5: 16)

Similarly, in Proverbs the author admonishes children to honor and care for their parents when they are old.  Chapter 23: 22 says:  “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” (Proverbs 23:22)

Vi. Husband and Wife

We have discussed the importance of marriage in general, but the scriptures also give some advice to husbands and wives for maintaining a successful marriage.  In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he taught that  husband and wife should not deny each other sex and be kind towards one another. (1 Cor 7: 1-6) Paul also establishes the patriarchal hierarchy in which Christ is at the head of the marriage and the husband presides.  He says:  “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Cor 11:3)

Paul gives counsel to wives, in his letter to the Ephesians, and tells them to sustain their husbands as head of the family.  He also tells husbands to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church (sacrificing and suffering for her welfare). (Ephesian 5: 22-33)

a.) Husband Duties

In the Book of 1 Peter, the Apostle admonishes husbands to honor their wives.  He says: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife…” (1 Peter 3:7) Paul expounds upon what it means to honor your wife and suggests that husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the church. He says:

 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Eph 5: 25-28, 33)

Husbands are also admonished to protect their families and to give their lives if necessary.  In Alma 43: 47 it is written:  “And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.”  (Alma 43:47)

b.) Wife Duties

The Book of Genesis teaches us that God never intended for men and women to be alone as He made woman from the rib of man:

 “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him… And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2: 18-24)

In his letter to Titus, Paul gives the following counsel to aging women: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” (Titus 2: 3-5)

The Apostle Peter also taught that wives should sustain their husbands who are called to preside over their families.  In 1 Peter 3: 5-6 Peter says:

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands… For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (1 Peter 3: 5-6)

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

And finally, in Proverbs 31 the author describes what the ideal woman of his time would look like.  He says that she would gather in food and know how to make clothing.  She would run the household and ensure chores are done, plants gardens, grows strong and sells merchandise and is industrious.  She gives to the poor and clothes her household. She is never idle and fears the Lord. (Proverbs 31)

Vii. Other Roles

The scriptures do not say much about other family roles but there are a few tidbits here and there.  One important law in ancient Israel stipulated that If a man died, his brother was to take his wife as his own and raise up their children in the dead brother’s name. (Deut 25: 5-9) This suggests that family members have a duty to care for one another and to relieve excess burdens on one another.

We can contrast the Good Samaritan’s attitude with that of Cain’s.  The central message of the Good Samaritan Parable is that God expects us to care for our neighbors, strangers and even enemies.  This high standard of care would also apply to our other family relations.  In contrast, Cain refused to acknowledge that he had any duty to his brother Abel.  In Moses 5: 34 we read:  “And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Moses 5:34)  Cain’s complete neglect of his familial duty would eventually lead him to hell.

And finally, the book of Proverbs teaches that grandchildren are the crown of old men and women.  Proverbs 17: 6 says: “Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6)

Viii. The Family: A Proclamation to the World

These principles outlined above have been reaffirmed by modern prophets and apostles through the “Family Proclamation.”  Elder Dallin H. Oaks suggested that our attitude towards the beliefs outlined in the proclamation are a sign of one’s standing before God.  The more out of alignment one is with the proclamation, the further one is from God.  Elder Oaks said:

“Those who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation and are most persuaded by the ways of the world consider this family proclamation as just a statement of policy that should be changed. In contrast, Latter-day Saints affirm that the family proclamation defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.

I testify that the proclamation on the family is a statement of eternal truth, the will of the Lord for His children who seek eternal life. It has been the basis of Church teaching and practice for the last 22 years and will continue so for the future. Consider it as such, teach it, live by it, and you will be blessed as you press forward toward eternal life.

Forty years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “every generation has its tests and its chance to stand and prove itself.” I believe our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is one of those tests for this generation. I pray for all Latter-day Saints to stand firm in that test.” (Dallin H. Oaks-The Plan and the Proclamation)

ix. False Doctrine Concerning Family Roles

  1. Any belief that diminishes the importance of having children: “ Having children isn’t for me.” “I think other things are more important than having children.” “People have too many children nowadays.”
  2. Any belief that says parents aren’t responsible for teaching children the gospel: “I don’t want to force religion on my kids.” “My kids can learn about religion when they grow up and make up their own minds.”
  3. Any belief that says parents should not discipline their children: “I don’t believe in punishing my kids.” “Disciplining children is mean.” “My kids will figure things out on their own.”
  4. Any belief that says parent’s don’t need to support their children: “My kids should be totally self-reliant.” “Let someone else take care of my kids, it’s not my responsibility.”
  5. Any belief that encourages children to disobey parents: “My kids set their own rules.” “Children can make up their own minds.”
  6. Any belief that says it is not the children’s responsibility to care for older parents: “My parents should have saved more money so it’s not my problem.” “The government should take care of my parents.”
  7. Any belief system that alters divinely inspired gendered roles: “Husbands should not preside in the home.” “Husbands don’t need to love and sacrifice for their wives as Christ did for the church.”

 

Resources

The Family Proclamation

Checklists: FatherMother, Spouse

M. Russell Ballard-That the Lost May Be Found

Dallin H. Oaks – The Plan and the Proclamation

The Father’s Divine Role (Hinckley Lesson)

Successful Marriages (Howard W. Hunter Lesson)

The Family (Howard W. Hunter Lesson)

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

Main Idea: Boundaries are limits that determine what we will allow into our lives and what we will keep out of our lives.  Effective boundaries are selectively permeable as boundaries that are too weak let the bad in and boundaries that are too strong keep the good out.  You can only set boundaries around things that are in your control as you must accept what you cannot change or control.  There are 10 rules you can use to help you set boundaries and avoid the myths of boundary setting. 

I. What are Boundaries? 

Boundaries define who you are by differentiating what is me and what is not me.  A failure to understand, respect and maintain proper boundaries leads to all sorts of problems that interfere with our functioning.  Problems arise when people fail to recognize what is in their control or they try to control what they don’t have control over.  An excellent book on this topic is called “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Many of the principles that I will discuss are derived from their work.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he taught them that each individual was responsible to bear his own load but was also responsible to help others with their burdens.  In Galatians 6: 2-4 we read:

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.  But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.” (Gal 6: 2-4)

The Greek word for burden means “excess” while the word for load means “burden of daily toil.”  Paul taught that everyone is responsible to take care of the everyday things that we all need to do.  However, when excess burdens fall upon a person then that person is entitled to help from other people.   Learning to differentiate between loads and burdens is essential to be able to function effectively in the world.  Problems arise when people act like their loads are burdens which leads to perpetual irresponsibility.  Treating our burdens as loads also leads to other problems such as perpetual pain and stress.

Without boundaries there could be no life as there would be no distinction between ideas or things.  Boundaries are everywhere but here are just a few examples for your consideration:

1. Skin: Skin serves as the boundary between the external world and our internal anatomy.  Like any boundary, skin functions to keep the good in and the bad out.  It protects your blood and bones but opens to allow food in and to excrete metabolic waste.

2. Words: Our words act as boundaries as they signal what we will allow and what we will not allow.  Many people struggle with using their words to establish boundaries but the most basic boundary setting word is “no.”  If we don’t learn to set boundaries then other people will use and abuse us.

3. Truth: Reality sets boundaries on our behaviors as natural laws lead to natural consequences.  The law of gravity puts boundaries on our upward movement and doesn’t change based on how we feel about the law.  Many people fail to recognize and respect the natural boundaries that exist in reality and try to change the consequences of their behaviors.

4. Geography:  Nature has established boundaries around what places are habitable and which are not.  Nations set boundaries by defining their borders.  You can also use physical space to set boundaries around what is permissible in areas you have control of. Paul taught the Corinthian Saints to separate themselves from those who do not keep God’s law and to establish clear boundaries. (2 Cor 6: 17)

5. Time: You can use time to set boundaries by establishing how long you will engage in or abstain from certain activities or behaviors.

6. Emotional Distance: You can choose whether to emotionally invest in something or not.  You can set boundaries by not attaching to certain people, things or outcomes.

7. Consequences: A consequence is a boundary that you have set that is implemented when certain conditions are met.  If someone begins yelling at you then you can implement the consequence of leaving the situation to communicate your boundary.

II. What is within my control?

Establishing boundaries is about recognizing what is in your control and what is not in your control.  Trying to control what you cannot control is an exercise in futility that will lead to excess suffering.  Below is a list of some of the things you have reasonable influence over:

1. Emotions:  In many cases you have long-term control over how often and in what circumstances you will experience emotions.  Nobody can “make” you feel anything as you can choose to escalate or deescalate automatic emotional responses. Your automatic emotional responses are also influenced by the habits you have ingrained in the subconscious over long periods of time.

2. Attitudes and Beliefs:  You control what you accept to be true or false and the attitude you will adopt toward certain things.  Many people with boundary problems blame other people for the feelings, beliefs and attitudes that they personally experience.

3. Behaviors:  You control how you will behave over the long-term of your life.  While momentary responses may be habitual, you are responsible for what habits you build into your character.  In Galatians 6: 7 we learn about the law of the harvest which states: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  This means that all behaviors have consequences that cannot be changed or avoided.  While you control your behavior, you do not control the inevitable consequences of that behavior.

4. Choices: You control the decisions that you make.  While you often cannot control the opportunities or threats in your environment you can choose how you will respond to them.  You can also choose between good and evil.

5.Values:You are responsible for what you choose to value and prioritize in your life.  Your values guide your choices and behaviors.

6. Limits:  You can limit how often you are around certain people.  God sets standards but lets people be who they are and then separates himself from them when they misbehave, saying “You can be that way if you choose, but you cannot come into my house.” We should separate ourselves from people who act in destructive ways (Matt 18:15‐17; 1 Cor. 5:9‐13).

7. Talents‐ While you can’t control the genetic gifts you have been given, you can choose whether to develop them or not.

8. Thoughts: While you cannot control every thought, you can control how you will respond to each thought. Do not try to suppress thoughts but instead accept them and nurture the productive ones.

III. What is not within my control? 

Boundary problems and much suffering arises when you attempt to ignore boundaries and control what is not controllable.  The following is a list of things that the scriptures tell us is not in our control:

a.) Gender: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Moses 2: 26-27)

b.) Human Nature: We cannot control the fallen nature of our bodies nor that we will be subject to afflictions, sin, temptation and evil. ( See Beliefs about Human Nature)

c.) Nature of the World: We cannot control the nature of the fallen world that we live in nor do we have power over how others will abuse their freedom.  (See Fallen nature of the world)

c.) Behaviours or Beliefs of Other People: It is not within our power to control other people’s behaviours or beliefs.  When Jesus performed His miracles, He was unable to control how others would react to them.  The people attributed His exorcisms to the power of devil, and complained that His healing miracles were done on the Sabbath day.

d.) Commandments and Laws of this world and their consequences: We cannot control the consequences for choosing good or evil.  Sin will always lead to a host of negative consequences and righteousness will always result in blessings whether we like it or not.

e.) Negotiating the terms of salvation: We are utterly powerless to save ourselves from death and hell. God is no respecter of persons and any who achieve salvation do so through obedience to unwavering law. (See Soteriology)

f.) The destiny and fate of nations: The Lord gives each nation their inheritance and sets their boundaries.

  • “When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” (Deut 32:8)
  • The Lord ultimately controls who is in charge: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

g.) Moral Agency of others: Whether one accepts the Gospel or not is out of our control. See the Parable of the Growing Seed.

h.) The bounds and parameters of our lives. God determines the lengths of our lives and death is certain: “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” (Job 14:5)

i.) Genetics and the limitations of our bodies: None of us can control the genes we have inherited nor the expression of those genes in terms of our personality, health, appearance, weight, height, etc…  “

  • We are as clay and God is like a potter who molds clay in His hand: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

j.) The will of God: Ultimately, the will of God will be done and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.  Herod tried in vain to kill Jesus and went so far as to execute every child in the region.  However, his bounds were set and he could not pass.  Jesus was protected by Angels. (From Nativity of Jesus)

k.) Our Foreordained life missions: Those in the church are foreordained to holy callings before they were born: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Tim 1:9)

  • Jonah could not escape the consequences of fleeing his life mission. (Book of Jonah)

l.) The natural laws of the system within which we exist: God gives to all intelligence truth within which they are free to act, otherwise there is no existence: “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.” (D&C 93: 30)

  • We all must have bounds placed upon the spheres within which we live otherwise chaos results. Men have different bounds placed on them compared to beasts or even the elements of the earth.

IV. Boundary Problems

Fundamentally, boundaries allow you to keep the good in and the bad out.  When you don’t have effective boundaries, you keep the good from coming into your life and welcome the bad to stay.  Cloud and Townsend observed that people tend to adopt a typical boundary style that will be outlined below.

1. Compliant: People who are compliant have a hard time saying no and say yes to the bad things that are harmful. Compliant people have boundaries that are too permeable.  These people often comply out of fear and not out of love.  They fear hurting other people, being abandoned, making others angry, being seen as selfish or experiencing guilt.  As a result, these people become dependent on other people.

2.  Avoidant: People who are avoidant have rigid boundaries and often say no to the good things in life.  They have trouble asking for help, recognizing the needs of others and letting people in.  Avoidant people tend to withdraw when in need and do not find support.

3. Compliant Avoidant: These people have reversed boundaries as they both keep the bad in and the good out.  They erect boundaries where they shouldn’t and they fail to create boundaries where they should.

4. Controller:  Controller’s are people who cannot respect other people’s boundaries and attempt to ignore them. These people are experienced as bullies, manipulators and aggressors.  Taken to the extreme, these types of people can become physically and verbally abusive.  Manipulative controllers try to talk people out of their boundaries using guilt messages.  Controller’s typically have poor frustration tolerance and lack the ability to delay gratification.  Controllers believe they are entitled to other people’s labor

5. Non-Responsive:  People who are nonresponsive do not pay attention to the needs of others and their own responsibilities to them.

Ultimately, it is difficult to set good boundaries when you do not have secure attachments to people who show you unconditional love.  Setting limits on people that don’t respect your boundaries creates the risk that you will lose the relationship.  However, to not set boundaries is to forever remain a prisoner to the other person’s desires.

V. The Ten Laws of Boundary Setting

1. Law of Sowing and Reaping: This is the basic law of cause and effect which states that for every action there is a consequence.  Boundary problems arise when others step in to try and rescue a person from the natural consequences of their actions.  The rescuer becomes an “enabler” who bears the consequences of the persons actions preventing the person from seeing the full consequences of his actions.  Proverbs teaches us to confront people when they are irresponsible. (Prov 9: 8)

2. The Law of Responsibility‐We are each responsible for ourselves and not for anyone else.  However, we are responsible to show love to other people helping with their burdens and limiting sin. (Prov 19:19)

3. The Law of Power: The Serenity prayer is a prayer to clarify boundaries. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” You cannot change others but you can influence them and you can change yourself so that you aren’t manipulated by the destructive behaviors of others.  While your power is limited, you have the power to submit to God who can exercise all power on your behalf.

4. The Law of Respect: You are responsible for respecting the boundaries that other people set and not judging them according to how you would set boundaries.  You need to accept the freedom that other people have and not get angry or make the feel guilty or unloved for setting boundaries.

5. The Law of Motivation: When you decide to relax your boundaries and give it should be done out of love and not fear.  Common motivations for giving include: getting love, avoiding anger, avoiding loneliness, avoiding guilt or gaining approval.  If your giving does not produce joy then you need to examine your motives for giving.

6. The Law of Evaluation: You need to constantly be evaluating the effects that your boundaries are having in your life and make modifications when necessary.  Sometimes things that seem good (junk food) are really harming you and sometimes things that seem hard are for your benefit.  Judge everything by the long-term effect it has on your life.

7. The Law of Proactivity: This law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Proactive people are known by what they love and strive for while reactive people are known by what they hate and stand against.  You need to learn how to proactively strive for good things instead of reacting against things you dislike.

8. The Law of Envy:  When you are envious you are defining what other people have as “good” and denying the good that you currently have.  Envy guarantees that you will never be happy as other people will always have things that you do not have.  Envy focuses outside of your own boundaries into the boundaries of others and on what you cannot control.  Envy can be a sign to you that you are lacking something so you can consider if there is a healthy way for you to obtain it and if it is truly necessary.

9. The Law of Activity: Boundary problems can arise from a lack of initiative and a passive lifestyle. The parable of the talents teaches us to be proactive and assertive instead of reactive and passive. You should be actively trying and failing, as this is simply learning, instead of not trying at all which will ensure your  boundaries are either too rigid or too permeable.

10. The Law of Exposure: You need to communicate and make your boundaries visible to other people instead of setting secret boundaries that you try to passive-aggressively reinforce.   If you are feeling resentful then that is a sign that one of your boundaries has been crossed and you need to communicate to the other person before bitterness consumes you.

VI. Boundary Myths

1. If I set boundaries, I’m being selfish: Appropriate boundaries will actually increase your capacity to care for others in the long-term.  Poor boundaries leads to resentment, fatigue and burnout which is costly to those we love.

2. If I begin setting boundaries, I will be hurt by others: Others who truly love you will respect your boundaries while those who are are using you as a tool for their own gain will not. If you do lose a relationship because of setting boundaries then the cost of that relationship was your entire identity and soul.

3. If I set boundaries, I will hurt others:  You aren’t responsible for meeting every need that other people have.  God has no problem telling us no so we should not feel guilty about setting reasonable boundaries with others.  If saying no to another person leads to devastation, you may have an idolatrous relationship with that person as only God should be indispensable in your life.  Once you can’t say no to somebody, you have given them complete control over your life.

4. If I set boundaries, I will feel guilty:  Sometimes people do favors for us so we feel obligated not to say no.  However, if the person feels angry when you say no they are giving you loans and not gifts.  If someone gives you something and gratitude is all they seek then they have given you a gift.

5. Reactively setting boundaries is healthy:  It is best to try and respond to boundary breaking instead of reacting to it.  When you react you automatically behave in a way that suggests the other person is in control of you.  When you respond, you take time to think before acting and are truly in control.

6. I can control the boundaries of other people:  Healthy boundaries are about yourself and not another person.  Even when asking others to respect your boundaries you are saying what you will do and not what the other person must do when a boundary is broken.  Boundaries without consequences are not boundaries. You must decide if you are willing to enforce the consequences before you set the boundaries.

7. Passive boundaries are effective:  Passive boundaries include withdrawing, triangulating, whining, having affairs or any other passive-aggressive behavior.  These behaviors are all destructive and never lead to increased intimacy.

8. Forgiveness means not setting boundaries: Forgiveness is about setting boundaries on your bitterness towards someone else and is not to be conflated with reconciliation.  When you forgive you let go of your own hatred and stop seeking vengeance against those who have wronged you. However, this doesn’t mean you continue a relationship, immediately trust the other person or condone what the person did.

 

Embracing Your Imperfections

Main idea: Weaknesses are given to us by God to teach us to be humble and to rely on Him which makes us stronger in the long-term. We should accept that we are all flawed and trust in Jesus Christ instead of our own abilities. While God commands us to be perfect, it will only happen through an endowment of grace in the next life if we do our best to follow Jesus Christ in this life.

I. The Purposes of Weakness

The “human condition” is a term that philosophers and theologians use to discuss the fundamental nature and experience of human beings.  One of the most obvious characteristics of people is that they are flawed, weak and imperfect.  Everybody has to come to terms with their weaknesses and either accept or deny that they exist and to determine what they signify.  Many people deny that they have weaknesses as a psychological defense mechanism.  Others try to compensate for their weaknesses by striving for superiority over others. The Apostle Paul and the Prophet Moroni were both given revelations concerning the importance of weaknesses.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he explains that he suffered from a “thorn in the flesh” or a weakness that he had asked God to remove three times. This is the Lord’s response to Paul:

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 9-10)

In the Book of Mormon, the Lord reveals some of the same principles to the prophet Moroni.  Moroni believed that he was a weak writer and  that the Gentiles would mock him for it and that out of his weakness others would suffer. This is the Lord’s response to these worries:  “And when I had said this, the Lord Spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness; and if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:26-27)

From these scriptures, we can determine some of the main purposes of weakness that include:

A.) God-given: The Lord taught both Paul  and Moroni that He gives men weaknesses and that He does not remove them to fulfill His own purposes. The Lord makes clear that weaknesses are given to us for our ultimate long-term good.

B.) Humility: The Lord taught Paul that his weakness forced him to rely upon God which allowed the power of Christ to come upon Him.  Similarly, the Lord taught Moroni that weaknesses are given to us so that we will be humble.

C.) Leads us to God: Moroni and Paul both learned that because they had weaknesses, they had to rely upon God for strength.  Our weaknesses are thus calculated to lead us to God.

D.) God will make our weaknesses strong: Our weaknesses exist to ultimately make us strong as they prompt us to rely on God who promises to turn our weaknesses into strengths.

E.) God’s grace is sufficient: Like Paul, many of us worry about the consequences of our weaknesses both on ourselves and other people.  However, God reassured both Paul and Moroni that His grace would wash away the consequences that their weaknesses had on other people as His “grace is sufficient.”  This means we simply need to do our best with what God has given us and then His grace makes up for whatever we lack.

Another possible benefit of our weaknesses is that they may define the boundaries of our life mission.  If we didn’t have weaknesses we might not fulfill our preordained life missions as we would pursuit other interests that we weren’t intended to. Weaknesses serve to highlight our strengths and talents which are signals to our life purpose.  In D&C 5:4 the Lord taught Joseph Smith that he was given the gift of translation and would not be given any other gift until he translated the plates.

The text reads: “And you have a gift to translate the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished.” (D&C 5:4)

In D&C 24: 9 the Lord repeats this principle and tells Joseph that he was weak in temporal labors so that he would focus on his true calling.  The Lord said: “And in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength, for this is not thy calling. Attend to thy calling and thou shalt have wherewith to magnify thine office, and to expound all scriptures, and continue in laying on of the hands and confirming the churches.” (D&C 24:9)

II. God Favors the Weak

The scriptures teach us that God chooses the weak and simple of this earth who are often overlooked and rejected to accomplish His work. God knows weaknesses are a good thing and looks for those who are made humble by them.  Spencer J. Condie taught that God often chooses those who are weak in certain areas to become strong in them.  He said:

“Some of God’s choicest servants-Enoch, Moses, and Elijah-were slow of speech. While a radiant countenance and eloquent speech are desirable qualities in preaching the gospel, it is the Holy Ghost, not the sentence structure, which begets conversion.” (Spencer J. Condie- Ensign, Oct. 1980, 34)

God is able to use the weak because they are more likely to come unto Him.  In D&C 1: 19 the Lord says: “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh.” (D&C 1:19)

In D&C 35: 13 the Lord further declares:“Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit.” (D&C 35:13)

We can also learn about how we should respond to our weaknesses by examining the differing responses that Moses and Enoch had. Enoch and Moses were both called of God to be His spokesman and both were described as doubting their ability to do so and being “slow of speech.”  Enoch, in the end, trusted that the Lord could make up for his weakness and as a result he became mighty in speech.  However, Moses did not have the faith or confidence and instead asked that God send Aaron instead.  Moses never became mighty in speech, as a result.  The lesson here is that faith and confidence can turn our weaknesses into strengths while doubting the Lord’s ability can make us lose out on blessings.  (Exodus 3-4; Moses 6-7)

III. Relating to Your Weaknesses

You can either relate to your weaknesses and interpret them through a spiritual or a temporal view.  The temporal view is inspired by the philosophies of men or even by the temptations of the devil.  The Spiritual view is the way that God would have us interpret our weaknesses.

In the temporal view, weaknesses are a fatal flaw that will destroy you.  They are humiliating, lead to despair and have no real benefits.  The world teaches us to ignore God’s grace and rely totally upon our own strengths in order to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.

In the spiritual view, weaknesses are seen as gifts from God that are designed to make us humble and ultimately lead us to God.  The scriptures teach us to rejoice in our weaknesses and to let God turn them into strengths.  In this worldview, we trust that God’s grace makes up for the effects of our weaknesses on others.

Spiritual View Temporal View
Weaknesses are given to us by God. Weaknesses are a fatal flaw that will destroy you.
Make us Humble. Are humiliating.
Lead us to God. Lead us to despair.
Rejoice in them as God turns them into strengths. Ignores the benefits and lessons of our weaknesses.
God’s grace makes up for effects of weakness. Ignores God’s grace and relies totally upon self.

IV. Am I Good Enough? 

While God promises to endow us with grace to make up for our weaknesses He does require that we come unto Him first.  This can cause a lot of anxiety as many people struggle with answering the question: “Am I good enough to warrant the grace of God?”  In an October 2016 General Conference Address,  Elder J. Devn Cornish gives a great response to this question.  I will briefly summarize the principles he outlines below.

Elder Cornish begins by reminding us that none of us are “good enough.”  Nobody can earn or deserve salvation but it is crucial to know if our efforts are acceptable before the Lord.  Elder Cornish promises that you will make it if you sincerely try.  He says:

“Let me be direct and clear. The answers to the questions “Am I good enough?” and “Will I make it?” are “Yes! You are going to be good enough” and “Yes, you are going to make it as long as you keep repenting and do not rationalize or rebel.”

“The God of heaven is not a heartless referee looking for any excuse to throw us out of the game. He is our perfectly loving Father, who yearns more than anything else to have all of His children come back home and live with Him as families forever.”

“I love the way President Gordon B. Hinckley used to teach this principle. I heard him say on several occasions, “Brothers and sisters, all the Lord expects of us is to try, but you have to really try!” “Really trying” means doing the best we can, recognizing where we need to improve, and then trying again. By repeatedly doing this, we come closer and closer to the Lord, we feel His Spirit more and more, and we receive more of His grace, or help.”

Similarly, the Apostle Dale G. Renlund taught: “A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying… In less formal terms, God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than about who we once were.  He cares that we keep on trying….If we don’t try, we’re just latter-day sinners; if we don’t persevere, we’re latter-day quitters; and if we don’t allow others to try, we’re just latter-day hypocrites. As we try, persevere, and help others to do the same, we are true Latter-day Saints.” (Dale G. Renlund – Latter Day Saints Keep on Trying)

After you keep on sincerely trying, God’s grace will become active in your life and is sufficient to make you “good enough.”  Elder Cornish teaches:

“It is … through the grace of the Lord that individuals … receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to [do]. … This grace is an enabling power… or heavenly help each of us desperately needs to qualify for the celestial kingdom.” All we have to do to receive this heavenly help is to ask for it and then to act on the righteous promptings we receive.”

V. Barriers to Grace

While God’s grace is sufficient to make up for what we lack there are certain barriers that will prevent us from accessing his grace.  Elder Cornish warns us that comparing ourselves to others is a destructive tendency.  There are simply too many variables that you cannot control for to make any real meaningful comparisons.  President Boyd K. Packer taught: “The only competition in life is with our former selves.” Comparing how you are today to how you were yesterday is a much more achievable and meaningful exercise than comparing yourself to others.

Another barrier to obtaining God’s grace is relying too heavily on our own opinions or on the opinions of others.  Just as you can’t know all of the idiosyncratic variables that constitute a person’s life, they also cannot know enough about you to make informed judgments.  The only opinion about you that should matter is what your Heavenly Father thinks of you because He is the only one who knows everything about you.  This is why Joseph Smith taught:

“We next proceed to treat of the knowledge which a person must have, that the course of life which they pursue is according to the will of God, in order that they may be enabled to exercise faith in him unto life and salvation. It was this that enabled the ancient saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had a more enduring substance.” (Joseph Smith)

Three further barriers to grace that Elder Cornish mentions are: Sin, Rationalization and Rebellion.

1. Sin: When we sin we separate ourselves from God and are doomed to suffer both physical and spiritual death.  However, repentance is the gift granted to us that enables us to be forgiven of our sins and to gain access to God’s grace.  Moroni taught “But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.” (Moroni 6: 8)

2. Rationalizing: Rationalizing is the opposite of reasoning and occurs when we start with a conclusion and then work backwards to try and justify that conclusion. When we rationalize our sins, we start with the conclusion that “My sinful behavior is okay” and then generate reasons to justify the conclusion.  Elder Cornish warns us not to do this and says: “What we cannot do is rationalize rather than repent. It will not work to justify ourselves in our sins by saying, “God knows it’s just too hard for me, so He accepts me like I am.” “Really trying” means we keep at it as we fully come up to the Lord’s standard.”

3. Rebellion: And finally, the last barrier to grace is open rebellion against God.  Elder Cornish teaches: “From the book of Moses, we learn that Satan was cast out of heaven for rebellion. We are in rebellion any time we say in our hearts, “I don’t need God, and I don’t have to repent.”

VI. Seeking Perfection

While it’s true that God gave us weaknesses, He has also commanded us to become perfect.  This tension between accepting one’s weaknesses and working to overcome them is something we all need to learn how to balance.  Many people despair and give up hope when they see that God has commanded us to be perfect but Elder Jeffrey R. Holland addressed this commandment in a General Conference address in October 2017.

Elder Holland acknowledges that the scriptures remind us that we are falling short of Celestial Law.  The Sermon on the mount even concludes with this commandment: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father … in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5: 48) Taken out of context, this scripture can cause us to despair and to give up hope that we will ever be good enough.  However, Nephi taught us that God does not give commandments that we do not have the power to keep. (1 Nephi 3: 7) Through the grace of God and through constant repenting and effort we can eventually become like God Himself.

Elder Holland warns us not to become toxic perfectionists or to attempt to shame ourselves into improvement.  He says: ” I also know that, as children of God, we should not demean or vilify ourselves, as if beating up on ourselves is somehow going to make us the person God wants us to become. No! With a willingness to repent and a desire for increased righteousness always in our hearts, I would hope we could pursue personal improvement in a way that doesn’t include getting ulcers or anorexia, feeling depressed or demolishing our self-esteem.”

Elder Holland further explains that when Jesus gave us the commandment to be perfect,  He was  paying tribute to God’s perfection and not giving us an impossible commandment to fulfill. He says:

” To put this issue in context, may I remind all of us that we live in a fallen world and for now we are a fallen people. We are in the telestial kingdom; that is spelled with a t, not a c. As President Russell M. Nelson has taught, here in mortality perfection is still “pending.”

So I believe that Jesus did not intend His sermon on this subject to be a verbal hammer for battering us about our shortcomings. No, I believe He intended it to be a tribute to who and what God the Eternal Father is and what we can achieve with Him in eternity. In any case, I am grateful to know that in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect—that at least He is, for example, able to love His enemies, because too often, due to the “natural man” and woman in us, you and I are sometimes that enemy. How grateful I am that at least God can bless those who despitefully use Him because, without wanting or intending to do so, we all despitefully use Him sometimes. I am grateful that God is merciful and a peacemaker because I need mercy and the world needs peace.”

VI. Perfection as a Gift of God

While we trust in the merits of Christ, Elder Holland warns us not to use those merits to justify our own sinful behavior.  Paul taught the Ephesians that one of the purposes of the gospel was: “For the perfecting of the saints, … till we … come … unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Perfection has always been the goal of the church but this perfection is never truly earned but is a gift from God that will be bestowed upon us in the next life.  The Prophet Moroni taught: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him … Love God with all your might, mind and strength, then … by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.

Elder Holland continues: ” Our only hope for true perfection is in receiving it as a gift from heaven—we can’t “earn” it. Thus, the grace of Christ offers us not only salvation from sorrow and sin and death but also salvation from our own persistent self-criticism.”

While God-like perfection cannot be achieved in this life, we can learn to become more perfect tomorrow than we are today.  Elder Holland uses the parable of the unmerciful servant to demonstrate this point.  He says: “

A servant was in debt to his king for the amount of 10,000 talents. Hearing the servant’s plea for patience and mercy, “the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and … forgave … the debt.” But then that same servant would not forgive a fellow servant who owed him 100 pence. On hearing this, the king lamented to the one he had forgiven, “Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?”1

If the smaller, unforgiven 100-pence debt were $100 in current times, then the 10,000-talent debt so freely forgiven would have approached $1 billion—or more! As a personal debt, that is an astronomical number—totally beyond our comprehension…That is because this isn’t a story about two servants arguing in the New Testament. It is a story about us, the fallen human family—mortal debtors, transgressors, and prisoners all. Every one of us is a debtor, and the verdict was imprisonment for every one of us. And there we would all have remained were it not for the grace of a King who sets us free because He loves us and is “moved with compassion toward us.”

Jesus uses an unfathomable measurement here because His Atonement is an unfathomable gift given at an incomprehensible cost. That, it seems to me, is at least part of the meaning behind Jesus’s charge to be perfect. We may not be able to demonstrate yet the 10,000-talent perfection the Father and the Son have achieved, but it is not too much for Them to ask us to be a little more godlike in little things, that we speak and act, love and forgive, repent and improve at least at the 100-pence level of perfection, which it is clearly within our ability to do.”

Since we are all striving for perfection, but none of us actually achieves perfection, in one sense we are all hypocrites.  However, Elder Holland suggests that striving for improvement while falling short does not make us hypocrites but human. He promises that  If we persevere, then somewhere in eternity our refinement will be finished and complete—which is the New Testament meaning of perfection.” The promise that we will be perfected will be fulfilled in the afterlife and not in this life.

Resources

Jeffrey R. Holland-Be Ye Therefore Perfect..Eventually

Developing Our Gifts and Talents

Main Idea: Everyone is given talents and abilities that are gifts from God and we all have a responsibility to develop and use those gifts for good. Nobody is given every gift so that we might remain humble and learn to rely on each other.  We should not boast in our worship our gifts but if we do not develop them then they are taken away from us. 

I.  Every human being is given gifts and talents from God

The scriptures teach us that God gives every person a set of gifts or talents and that everybody has something to contribute. We are all given some spiritual gifts but few people are given every gift. The Apostle Paul lists some common gifts of the spirit in his letter to the Corinthians:

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Cor 12: 4-10)

Moroni teaches the same principles in the Book of Mormon:

For behold, to one is given by the Spirit of God, that he may teach the word of wisdom;  And to another, that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; And to another, exceedingly great faith; and to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; And again, to another, that he may work mighty miracles;  And again, to another, that he may prophesy concerning all things;  And again, to another, the beholding of angels and ministering spirits; And again, to another, all kinds of tongues; And again, to another, the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues. And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.”  (Moroni 10: 9-17)

The following is a list of Gifts that are mentioned in the scriptures:

1. The Gift of Tongues –This is the ability to speak in foreign languages to teach others the gospel but is usually only temporarily given. (1 Cor 12)

2. The Gift of Interpretation of Tongues – This refers to the ability to understand a foreign language when hearing the gospel. (1 Cor 12)

3. The Gift of Translation- This refers to the ability to translate the words of God.  (D&C 8)

4. The Gift of Wisdom- This is the ability to apply knowledge in order to obtain the best possible outcomes. (1 Cor 12)

5. The Gift of Knowledge- This is the gift of knowing God and his laws as revealed by the Spirit. (1 Cor 12)

6. The Gift of Teaching Wisdom and Knowledge- Some people have the ability to explain and testify truths of the Gospel.  Nephi taught that “When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.”  It is the Holy Ghost that teaches. (2 Nephi 33:1)

7. The Gift of Knowing Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Faith) – A testimony of Jesus Christ is ultimately a gift of the spirit that some people are given.  In the D&C we read: “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.” (D&C 46: 13)  Ultimately, faith in Jesus Christ is a gift bestowed by the Spirit on those who have prepared themselves to receive it.

8. The Gift of believing the testimony of others – This is the gift of believing the messengers of God when they speak on His behalf.  In the D&C we read: “To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.” (D&C 46: 14)

9. The Gift of Prophecy- This gift involves receiving revelations about the past, present or future for ourselves and those under our stewardship. You will not receive revelation for all of mankind or church leaders. (D&C 46: 22)

” As we read in the Book of Revelation, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10.)This means that all who have a testimony of Jesus Christ have the gift of prophecy. The Prophet Joseph Smith relied on this scripture in teaching that “every other man who has the testimony of Jesus” is a prophet. (Teachings, p. 119.) Similarly, the Apostle Paul states that “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” (1 Cor. 14:3.) Thus, in the sense used in speaking of spiritual gifts, a prophet is one who testifies of Jesus Christ, teaches God’s word, and exhorts God’s people. In its scriptural sense, to prophesy means much more than to predict the future.” (Dallin H. Oaks-Gifts of the Spirit)

10. The Gift of Healing- Some people are able to heal others or have faith to be healed themselves.  (D&C 46: 19-20)

11. The Gift of Working Miracles – God gifts the gift of working miracles to some people as they receive grace that others might label “luck” or “fortune.”  However, this gift is often reserved for the very faithful.  In 3 Nephi 8: 1 we read: And there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity.” (3 Nephi 8:1)

12. The Desire to do Good – Some people are blessed with an innate desire to do what is right.  Henry B. Eyring taught that as we are converted we are given this gift: “It is not surprising that when we feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, we also can feel that our natures are being changed because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We feel an increased desire to keep His commandments, to do good, and to deal justly.” (Gifts of the Spirit for Hard times- Henry B. Eyring)

13. The Ministering of Angels – Some people are able to recognize and receive the ministering of angels.  President Dallin H. Oaks taught: “Moroni speaks of the spiritual gift of “beholding of angels and ministering spirits.” (Moro. 10:14.)  Mary had such an experience when she was visited by the angel who told her that she was to become the mother of the Son of God. (See Luke 1:26–38.) (Gifts of the Spirit-Dallin H. Oaks)

14. The Tongue of Angels: Nephi teaches us that when we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost we can then speak with the Tongue of Angels and shout praises to God.  The same power that gives utterance to Angels can now give utterance to you.  (2 Nephi 31:13)

15. Confounding Evil: In the story of Jacob and the anti-Christ Sherem, we see that Jacob was given the power to confound Sherem by the power of the Holy Ghost.  Jesus also promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would give them the words to confound their opposition: “And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (Luke 12: 11-12)

16. The Gift of Seership: The scriptures declare that a seer is greater than a prophet.  In the Book of Mosiah, Ammon explains that King Benjamin is a seer and can translate any ancient record through the gift of God.  To be a seer is a great responsibility because one might learn very important information through translating that one cannot share.  Seers make known unto the people things that are unknowable. (Mosiah 8:15-17)

17. The Gift of love:  Some people are filled with a love for others so deep that they cannot bear the thought of seeing them suffer.  The sons of Mosiah had this love and it was described in the book of Mosiah: “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.” (Mosiah 28:3)

Moroni taught that love is a gift that is given to all of the true followers of Jesus Christ: 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.” (Moroni 7: 48)

18. The Gift of Dreams: Many people commune with God through dreams and others are given the ability to interpret those dreams.  Joseph of Egypt had such a gift and he used it to help pharaoh interpet his dreams.  Joseph declared:  “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me them, I pray you…” (Gen. 40:8)

19. The Gift of Strength:  Samson was given the gift of miraculous strength by God in order to help his people.  The Book of Judges records:  “And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.” (Judges 14:6)

20. The Gift of Discernment: Some people are given the capacity to discern between truth and falsehood, prophets and anti-Christs.  “And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.” (D&C 46: 16)

21. The Gift of Administration: Some church leaders are given the gift of administration or the ability to know how to distribute the keys, callings and gifts of the spirit to suit unique circumstances.  “And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.” (D&C 46: 15)

II. The Responsibility to Develop Gifts

Since we are all given gifts of the flesh and of the spirit, God expects us to develop those gifts and to use them for the betterment of all. However, it takes time to develop these gifts as we all have a season of tutoring and learning before our talents and abilities can be recognized and developed. It is important not to judge your talents prematurely as there is a season to develop and nurture them. Paul taught the Galatians:

“Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.” (Gal 4: 1-2)

The Parable of the talents was a story that Jesus told in order to illustrate the importance of developing and using our gifts.  In the parable, a master gave three different servants some money: to one he gave 5 talents, to another 2 and to another 1. The master went away, expecting them the servants to take what he had given them and to increase it. When he returned, two of the servants were wise stewards and increased what was given them.  One did not and thus he lost the talent that was given him and it was given to the fruitful.

In the same way, we are accountable to God for the talents and abilities He has given us and we will need to make an account of how we used them when He returns.  If we have used them to increase and uplift others we will be rewarded but if we have hid our talents and resources then we will lose them.  To some are given more “talents” and thus more is expected of them but if we increase what God has given us He will reward us. (Matt 25: 14-30)

The story of Samson warns us against developing our gifts and then using them for our own gain and not the glory of god.   Samson was given a great gift but he used that gift for evil and to satisfy his own will.  As a result, he lost his gift and was ultimately killed.  If we place our own desires ahead of the Lord’s will, then we will not reach our divine potential.   (Judges 13-16)

As Paul counselled Timothy, we should not neglect the gifts or talents God has given us but use them to edify all: “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. ” (1 Tim 4:14-15)

We all have different gifts but together form a whole body as God designed the human family to be part of a puzzle that is only whole when all come together. We are not given every gift and ability, and this is by design, so that we learn to rely upon each other and become united.  Paul taught this principle to the Romans when he said:

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12: 5-8)

If we fail to use the gifts that God has given us to build up those around us then God will redistribute those gifts to other people so that His purposes might be fulfilled and all will benefit. Instead of being slothful, Paul encourages us to adopt an attitude of coveting the bets spiritual gifts.  He says:“But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor 12:31).

III. Trusting in God instead of our Gifts

While God truly gives many people incredible gifts, it is important to remain humble and to recognize the source of those gifts.  Ultimately, a gift is not earned and is given out of love or grace so we should not boast.  The Prophet Jeremiah taught:

“Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9: 23-24)

Paul reminded the people, in his sermon on Mars Hill, that we live and move and owe our existence to God.   All of our talents and abilities are simply gifts from God so none of us should boast or compare. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17: 28)

The Psalmist similarly testified that he would not trust in his own abilities but rely on the Lord instead.  Psalms 44: 6-7 records: “For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us.” (Psalms 44: 6-7)

Trusting in the Lord, and not our own strength, makes all things possible. The scriptures declare that None of us can do anything without Christ but through Christ, we can do anything.  Jesus taught: 

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing…If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:5-8)

Paul expressed his faith in this principle when he declared to the Philippians: ““I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil 4:13)

It was this faith and knowledge that allowed David to courageously defeat what should have been an impossible foe.  David demonstrated that being armed with the spirit of God is greater than any weapon that man can form:  In 1 Sam 17: 45  David’s courageous faith is recorded: “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.” (1 Sam 17:45)

Ultimately, the Lord delivers us from that which is too difficult for us. There will be many things that are too hard for us to accomplish alone, but God will give us grace to accomplish what is truly necessary for our lives. The Psalmist testified of this truth when he wrote: “He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.” (Psalms 18:17)

IV. Losing our Gifts

As the parable of the talents teaches, if we do not use our gifts then God will eventually take them away and give them to other people.  In D&C 60: 2-3 the Lord admonishes some of His saints who have been slothful in developing and using their gifts.  He says:

“But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine danger is kindled against them. And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have.” (D&C 60: 2-3)

On another occasion the Lord told his modern saints: “Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known.” (D&C 60:13)

It is important that we use our gifts so that all may benefit and so that we may become the whole body of Christ when joined together.  We all have different gifts that together form a whole just as a body has different parts that together form a whole. The Apostle  Paul says that an eye, whose role is to see, should not compare itself to an ear, whose role is to hear. In the same way, we can’t compare our gifts to others because we are all given different roles to fulfill in order to form a whole body.

“But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” (1 Cor 12: 18-21)

If you do not develop and use your gifts then the whole community suffers as a result of a missing body part.  If your gift was to see but you did not use it to to benefit others then the whole community can become blind.  This is why your gifts come with such great responsibility and why you lose those gifts if you do not use them.  We should all stand in the callings we have been given so that there may be a whole system that functions perfectly:

“Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand? Also the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.” (D&C 84: 109-110)

IV. Unhelpful Beliefs about Gifts

The beliefs laid out in the scriptures about gifts and talents is narrow and defined.  Jesus taught: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt 7: 14) Adopting the biblical view of gifts and talents will lead to the most optimal outcomes both for yourself and society.

However, there are near infinite other ways to view your gifts that will lead to sub-optimal outcomes.  Jesus also taught that there are numerous other beliefs we could adopt that would not lead us towards our highest potential.  He said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” (Matt 7: 13)

The following is a list of some of the most common beliefs that undermine the biblical identity outlined in scripture:

i.) Any belief that does not recognize God as the source of our abilities, achievements and successes: “I have achieved everything myself.” “My talents, riches or strength proves that I am better than others.”

ii.) Any belief that we don’t need God to accomplish things: “I should be able to accomplish anything myself.” “I can do anything.”

iii.) Any belief that denies the power of God to help us accomplish anything: “I am inadequate and destined to fail.” “I am fundamentally flawed.” “The grace of God can’t help me.” “The Grace of God doesn’t exist.”

iv.) Any belief that does not recognise the need for a time to nurture and develop ourselves. “I should automatically know and be good at lots of things.” “I shouldn’t need to study and practice to improve my talents.”

v.) Any belief that denies the importance of using our gifts and talents to uplift others: “I have nothing to contribute to others.” “It doesn’t matter if I use my gifts or not to help others.” “I have no obligation to contribute.” “I will not be held accountable for how I use my gifts.”

vi.) Any belief that says we should have certain gifts or talents: “I should be able to do what this other person is doing.” “I shouldn’t need anybody else but should be totally self-reliant.” “We are all not designed to form a whole together.”

vii.) Any belief that denies the existence of spiritual gifts: “Gifts of the Spirit don’t exist or don’t matter much.” “I should have all of the gifts of the spirit.”

The Biblical Foundations of Identity

Main idea: You are a child of God who was made in the image of God and you belong to the human family.  Your gender is an essential part of your identity as is the preordained role you play in your family.  This earth was created for you to rule over and you are valued more than anything else in this world by God. Your body is sacred and should be treated with respect as you have the capacity to become like God Himself.  When you join the church, you adopt a Christ-like identity and begin to reflect His image to the world.  What you continually hear and look upon determines which identity you adopt so be careful because there are numerous identities that you can adopt that will result in poor life outcomes. 

I. Made in the Image of God 

One of the most important things that the scriptures teach us is who we are and what we may become. This is one of the first truths declared in the Book of Genesis which says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Similarly, God declared the same thing to the Brother of Jared in a vision recorded in The Book of Ether.  It says: “And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.“ (Ether 3: 15)

The Apostle Paul taught that since we are the offspring of God we can know what God looks like.  He warns the people against assuming that God looks like the graven images and appearances imagined up by man.  Acts 17: 28-29 says:

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” (Acts 17: 28-29)

Not only did God create your body, but He also created your spirit.  In the Book of Zechariah it is written: “The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.” (Zechariah 12:1)

II. Gender and Family

Another fundamental aspect of your identity is your sex or gender.  This is not a social construction but is instead an intrinsic part of who you are.  God created the sexes as complementary parts that together would make a whole.  Paul taught:

“Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11: 11)

Understanding and embracing your preordained gender role is essential in order to live a fulfilling life.  Along with your gender role, God has ordained that you are to fulfill certain familial roles and obligations.  One of the primary obligations is to create a family yourself and to help aid in the process of creation:

“And I, God, blessed them, and said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” (Gen 1: 28)

III. Stewards of Creation

 God also created you to be a steward over the earth and to rule over it in righteousness.  You are the reason this earth was created and you are more important than anything else on the planet.  In Genesis 1: 28 it is written:

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

The same doctrine is repeated by the Psalmist who reveals mans place in creation:

 “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.  Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” (Psalm 8:3-6)

IV. The Sacredness of Your Body 

You  inhabit a body that was created by God to fulfill His holy purposes.  In Moses 3:7 we read: “And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.” (Moses 3: 7)

The scriptures further teach that your body is a sacred temple within which the Spirit of God can dwell.  Paul taught the Corinthians:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor. 3: 16-17)

V. The Human Family 

Since we are all children of  the same father and were created by the same God, we are all part of the same human family and everyone can be rightly viewed as a brother or sister. The Prophet Malachi taught:

“Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?” (Malachi 2:10)

Malachi warned us against treating our brothers and sisters treacherously and admonished us to to view one another as part of the same family.

VI. Infinite Potential

Since God is our actual father and we are His children it only follows that we have the potential to one day be like Him.  Recognizing this truth, many prophets have called human beings potential “gods in embryo.”  When the Pharisees accused Jesus of Blasphemy for saying He was the Son of God, He responded by quoting Psalm 82:6 which says we are all gods.

“Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods?” (John 10: 34)

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Psalms 82:6)

The Apostle Paul similarly taught the Romans that we can become: “joint heirs with Christ” and receive all the Father has.  Paul says that if we suffer with Christ in this life that we will be glorified with Him in the next life.  A part of your identity is the infinite potential and power that exists within you. Romans 8: 17 records:

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8: 17).

VII. Children of Christ

While we are all sons and daughters of God, we become the children of Christ when we join His church.  Paul taught the Galatians that when we join the church we become children and heirs of divine glory through Jesus Christ.  In Galatians 4:7 Paul says:

 “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Gal 4:7)

After we join the church, we take upon us the image of Christ and begin to reflect Him to the world.  As Christians, our identity begins to become one with Christ’s just as He is one with the Father. We reflect His image to the world just as He reflected the image of the Father.  Jesus taught:

“If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14: 7)

Jesus so perfectly reflected the image of the Father that to see and know Jesus was to see and know the Father Himself.  As Christians, it is our duty to become as perfectly united with Jesus as He was with the father so that if other see and know us then they see and know both Jesus and the Father.  This was what Jesus taught us in the great intercessory prayer before His crucifixion when He said:

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17: 20-21)

If we are faithful, Paul promises us that the Spirit of the Lord will transform us into the image of Christ.  In 2 Cor 3: 18 Paul teaches:

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

After joining the Church of Christ it is important that we don’t allow any worldly identity to transcend our Christian identity.  We should identify first as Christians and let no other identity be more important. Paul taught the Galatians:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3: 28)

VIII.  The Divine Economy 

In the Divine economy, God values His children more than anything else in this world.  This is the central message in several parables that Jesus gave including the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin and the prodigal son.  The central message of these parables is that God cares for every individual so much that He seeks after the individual that is lost.  God does not treat us a group of people but instead gives individualized care and attention.    These parables teach us that God is concerned about and cares for every individual and searches after every single soul that is lost.

Jesus taught that God knows the number of hairs on our head, that’s how concerned He is with our well-being.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12: 6-7)

On another occasion, Jesus taught that the soul is more valuable than all of the riches on the planet.  Jesus taught His disciples that they would be fools to sell their soul for all of the riches and everything this earth has to offer. The implication is that you are worth far more than all of the wealth of this planet.  Jesus said:

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26)

In the D&C we also learn that God calls the worth of every individual soul “great” and He has joy over every single sinner that repents.  D&C 18 10-13 records:

  “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God…And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!” (D&C 18:10, 13)

VIII. Cultivating an Identity

Ultimately,  our Identities are shaped by what we continually look upon. Jesus taught that we become defined by what we continually look upon. We control who we become by controlling what situations we put ourselves in, what we allow ourselves to look upon and what perceptions of reality we choose to take.  Jesus taught:

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt 6: 22-24)

Whatever you see and hear consistently over time will enter your heart and put your life on autopilot. This is why advertisers simply repeat messages over and over because they know it ultimately changes behavior.  If you want to deliberately cultivate a Christ-like identity then you must control what you see and hear on a regular basis.

IX. Sub-optimal Identities

The identity laid out in the scriptures is narrow and defined.  Jesus taught: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt 7: 14) Adopting the biblical identity will lead to the most optimal outcomes both for yourself and society.

However, there are near infinite other ways to view yourself that will lead to sub-optimal outcomes.  Jesus also taught that there are numerous other beliefs we could adopt that would not lead us towards our highest potential.  He said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” (Matt 7: 13)

The following is a list of some of the most common beliefs that undermine the biblical identity outlined in scripture:

i.) Any belief that does not recognize God as our Father and Creator: “We are all here by random chance.” “We are simply products of evolution.” “My life has no purpose.”

ii.) Any belief that distorts or confuses gender identity: “My gender is not an important part of my identity.” “Gender doesn’t matter.” “Gender is fluid.” “I can change my gender if I choose.”

iii.) Any belief that devalues your body: “My body is ugly or inherently flawed.”

iv.) Any belief that denies the spiritual part of your nature. “I’m just a random bunch of cells.” “I do not have a spirit.” “Spirituality is only for some people.”

v.) Any belief that denies that all people are part of God’s family: “That person is nothing to me.” “That group of people has no relation to me.”

vi.) Any belief that denies the importance of fulfilling family roles: “Having kids is not important.” “Starting a family isn’t for me.”

vii.) Any belief that sees the creation as more important than human beings: “Humans are a plague on the earth and shouldn’t exist.” “Animals are more important than humans.” “The earth should be worshiped.”

viii.) Any belief that diminishes your potential: “I cannot achieve very much.” “My future is hopeless.”

ix.) Any belief that prioritises any other identity above our Christian identity: “My title, status, position, job, family, achievements etc…is how I first and foremost define myself.”

x.) Any belief that denies the power we have to direct and control our destiny: “It doesn’t matter what I look upon.” “I have no power to control my future.”

xi.) Any belief that denies that you are loved: “I am unlovable.” “Nobody knows or cares about me.” “I am not worth much effort.”

xii.) Any belief that diminishes your value to anything less than priceless: “I am worthless.” “I am useless.” “I am not worth it.” “I am not good enough.”