How to be Virtuous: Mercy

Main Idea: To be merciful is to abundantly forgive all those who wrong us. Many people don’t understand forgiveness and conflate it with a variety of different concepts. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what a person has done, forgetting what was done, absolving the person of responsibility or reconciling with the individual. Forgiveness simply means letting go of bitterness towards another, placing the matter into the hands of a higher authority (justice system, God) and thus relinquishing the need for revenge or retribution.

Today, I will be talking about the character trait of mercy which is a propensity to forgive others. To be merciful is to abundantly forgive all those who wrong us.   It is a core Christ-like virtue and attribute of a godly character. I will start by first defining what it means to be merciful and forgiving and then I will talk about the benefits of being merciful and the costs of choosing to be merciless.  I will then conclude by exploring how to move through the forgiveness process.

What it means to have Mercy

So, what is forgiveness?  Many people don’t understand forgiveness and conflate it with a variety of different concepts such as condoning, forgetting, absolving or reconciling.  However, forgiveness does not refer to these concepts and is something unique in itself.  Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve gave the following definition:

“Forgiveness does not imply that an individual has “forgotten” all memories of the abuse, that he or she condones the behavior or absolves the perpetrator of responsibility, or that he or she must become reconciled with the perpetrator, particularly if there is the possibility of further abuse.  What forgiveness does imply is that an individual has relinquished feelings of hate or bitterness toward another, has placed the matter in the Lord’s hands, and has enabled Him to operate more fully in his or her life. In forgiving, an individual frees himself from the perpetrator and is therefore better able to progress.”

According to Elder Scott, the essence of forgiveness is letting go of bitterness, hatred and the need for revenge and putting it in the hands of the Lord.  You can let go of bitterness without forgetting what was done, without absolving the person of any consequences and without reconciling and continuing an abusive relationship.

Developing this character trait is a prerequisite for entering into the Kingdom of heaven and is a commandment of God.  In D&C 64:10 the Lord says: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”

Beliefs and Behaviors 

Now that we know what forgiveness is, I am going to talk about the beliefs and behaviors that merciful people display.

1. The Merciful forgive others when they are wronged as they hope to be forgiven their wrongs.

In the Book of Proverbs we are taught to write the virtue of mercy upon the tables of our heart. Proverbs 3: 3-4 reads: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”

When the Lord was asked by Peter how often he was supposed to forgive those who wronged him the Lord said: “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matt 18:22) Seventy times seven effectively means that there is no limit to how often we are to let go of bitter feelings towards others and place the matter into the Lords hands.

Jesus then gave Peter the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant to help Peter understand why he was required to always forgive those who wronged him.  In this parable, a king forgives a servant of a 10,000 talent debt and then the servant who was forgiven refuses to forgive another man who owed him a much smaller debt.  When the king found out about the servant’s hypocrisy, he arrested him and made him work off his immense debt until it was completely paid off.

Jesus said that the Forgiving king was like our Father in heaven who forgives us of the immense debts we owe Him and we become like the wicked servant when we accept God’s forgiveness but refuse to forgive those who owe us a much smaller debt than we owe God.  Jesus warns that if we refuse to forgive the smaller debts owed to us, the Father will refuse to forgive the greater debts that we owe Him. (Matt 18: 21-35)

This Parable suggests that it is easier to be merciful with others when we contemplate how we have wronged others throughout our lives and are in need of forgiveness ourselves. When we fail to forgive others who have wronged us but expect to be forgiven for all the wrongs we have done we become hypocrites. When we fail to forgive, we arrogantly assume that we would act better than the other person if we had their genetic inheritance and life experience. This is not something we can ever know with certainty and should therefore humble us enough to give the benefit of the doubt to those who wrong us. We cannot ever know all mitigating and exacerbating factors that contribute to an individual’s culpability for wrong doing and therefore must conclude that we are incapable of acting as their judge.

Jesus, who is the foreordained dispenser of justice and mercy, was the greatest exemplar of this trait that ever lived.  On the cross and during some of His most intense pain, He prayed for His killers when He said: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Those who take upon themselves the name of Christ will begin to reflect this virtue as well.  In the Book of Acts, Stephen the Martyr was stoned to death and these were his final words: “And he keeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:60)  Following Stephen’s example, Paul wrote to Timothy about forgiving those who forsook him in his time of need.  He said:  “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” (2 Tim 4: 16)

The importance of forgiving debt was also built into the ancient Jewish law of Jubilee.  John Rushdoony, in his book “Institutes of Biblical law” wrote about the meaning of the Jubilee:  “Every Israelite was called upon to proclaim throughout the land, by nine blasts of the cornet, that he too had given the soil rest, that he had freed every encumbered family estate, and that he had given liberty to every slave, who was now to rejoin his kindred. Inasmuch as God has forgiven his debts, he also is to forgive his debtors.” (In Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 141.)

2. The Merciful do not hold grudges.

Merciful people also put limits on their anger and bitterness and do not allow normal and justifiable feelings of anger at mistreatment morph into a grudge which is a prolonged feeling of bitterness and motivation for revenge.  James warned us against such things when he wrote:  “Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.” (James 5:9)

The Lord also warned his ancient covenant people against bearing grudges when He said in Leviticus: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love the neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord. (Lev 19:18)

The Book of Mormon warns against the immense destruction that grudge-bearing brings upon entire nations of people over hundreds of years.  The Lamanites hated the Nephites because they believed Nephi had wronged Laman many centuries ago.  As a result of this perceived wrong, the Lamanites swore an “eternal hatred” towards the Nephites.  This is one of the reasons why the Lord teaches us to forgive abundantly and to leave vengeance to Him.  It is not overstating it to say that failure to live this law can lead to millions of deaths over long periods of time. (Mosiah 10)

3. The merciful can enact consequences that are less than what someone deserves.

While the merciful forgive, sometimes they do absolve or enact consequences that are less severe than deserved.  In the Book of Ezra, the scribe describes God’s mercy in this way when he writes: ““And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this.” (Ezra 2)

Thus, the merciful always forgive but sometimes they even hope for a person to be punished less than they deserve to be.  As Ezra mentioned, this is one meaning of the word merciful.

4. The Merciful do not bring up past mistakes but allow others to move on from them.

Another way that we can show mercy to others is by not bringing up past mistakes that have been learned from and that the person has moved on from.  In Proverbs 17:9 we are warned against repeatedly bringing up the mistakes of others: “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)

In his talk, “Remember Lott’s Wife”, Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve expounded upon this principle.  I will use his talk to demonstrate four different principles:

i.) The Past is to be learned from but not lived in. Elder Holland said:“So, as a new year starts and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in.” (Remember Lott’s Wife- Jeffrey R. Holland)

ii.) We must forgive and forget the earlier mistakes that we or other people have made.  Elder Holland said: “There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life— either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others. That is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ. To be tied to earlier mistakes—our own or other people’s—is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist.”  (Remember Lott’s Wife- Jeffrey R. Holland)

iii.)When something has been repented of it is not right to open old wounds. Elder Holland said:When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal.” (Remember Lott’s Wife- Jeffrey R. Holland)

iv.) We are to let people grow, we are to be charitable and leave what’s buried alone. Elder Holland said:  Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is it charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried.” (Remember Lott’s Wife- Jeffrey R. Holland)

5. The Merciful remember enough to avoid repeating mistakes but forget the rest.

The next principle that we need to discuss is that of forgiving and forgetting.  Elder Holland also gave some counsel on what it means to “forgive and forget.”  He says:

“Forgive, and do that which is harder than to forgive. Forget. And when it comes to mind again, forget it again. You can remember just enough to avoid repeating the mistake, but then put the rest of it all on the dung heap Paul spoke of to those Philippians. Dismiss the destructive and keep dismissing it until the beauty of the Atonement of Christ has revealed to you your bright future and the bright future of your family and your friends and your neighbors.” (Remember Lott’s Wife- Jeffrey R. Holland)

The key words here are to remember enough so that you don’t repeat the mistake but forget everything else about past wrongs.  Thus, we forgive and forget all that is unnecessary for remaining safe in the future.

6. The Merciful can forgive knowing that Christ has paid the price for sin and will balance mercy and justice in the end.

It is also easier to be merciful when we come to the realization that Christ has paid the price for sin and has promised to balance mercy and justice perfectly in the end.  In D&C 64: 8-11 the Lord said:

“My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened. Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.  I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.  And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.” (D&C 64: 8-11)

This scripture is clear that the Lord expects us to forgive by letting go of bitterness and hatred and putting what was done in His hands so that He can administer justice and mercy where appropriate.  The scripture even goes so far as to say that those who don’t forgive “Keep the greater sin.”  What does this mean?  Commenting on this scripture, Brad Miller, an LDS Family Services Therapist,  suggested that to forgive means to “GIVE your feelings to Him who was FOReordained to administer justice and mercy, and that foreordained healer and judge is Jesus Christ. According to Brother Miller, the greater sin that remains in you is what the perpetrator did to you and the changes in beliefs, feelings and behaviors that resulted from the abuse.  Forgiveness is a process of cutting ties with the perpetrator and freeing yourself of the sin committed against you.  Thus, to fail to forgive is to fail to cut ties to the abuse that was done to you which means the effects of the abuse remain within you.

The last verse in D&C 64 8-11 is often not emphasized but it is crucial.  According to this scripture, part of the forgiveness process is asking God to repay the perpetrator according to his deeds.   This means that those abusers who are truly penitent will be forgiven by the Lord but those who do not repent will, as Limhi said: “Reap the chaff in the whirlwind and the effect thereof is poison.” (Mosiah 7:30)  The crucial part of forgiveness is letting go of the need to administer justice and mercy yourself and trusting God to reward the perpetrator according to his deeds.

The Lord has warned us against seeking revenge against those who wrong us and has declared that to be His foreordained role.  Paul taught the Romans: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) Paul tells the Romans that if they do not seek revenge themselves then they give place for God’s wrath to occur. However, the implication of this verse is that seeking revenge yourself interferes with God’s wrath or mercy occurring where appropriate.   Similarly, the author of Proverbs taught this same principle when he wrote: “Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee.” (Prov 20:22)

This principle was illustrated in the story of Saul and King David.  Saul had sought to kill David on numerous occasions until one day David cornered Saul in a cave and was able to get revenge.  However, this was how David responded, perfectly demonstrating the principle taught in D&C 64.  He said to Saul: “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.” (1 Sam 24:12)

Jesus has already suffered for the sins of those who have wronged us. No sin ever escapes punishment as Jesus only gives mercy to those whom He has taken the punishment for.  Commenting on this principle, Elder Boyd K. Packer taught:

“I recently received a letter from a woman who reported having endured great suffering in her life…She admitted that she struggled with feelings of great bitterness. In her anger, she mentally cried out, “Someone must pay for this terrible wrong.” In this extreme moment of sorrow and questioning, she wrote that there came into her heart an immediate reply: “Someone already has paid.” (Boyd K. Packer-The Reason for our Hope)

Since Jesus has already paid the price for this sin it doesn’t need to be paid again by the victim.  As a result, the Lord has promised to compensate you whenever you are wronged by others. In 2 Nephi 2:2 the prophet Lehi declared: “Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”  To consecrate means to “set apart for a sacred purpose” and gain means to “acquire as a profit.”  Thus, Lehi promises us that God will take our suffering and set it apart so we can profit from it or have more than we had prior to being wronged.

Elder Melvin J. Ballard taught this principle when he said: “A person cannot give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf in return.”  Brother Miller, referred to earlier, compares Jesus to a Master alchemist.  An alchemist is someone who turns base metals into precious God.  Thus, Jesus takes our base metal suffering and turns it into pure gold that we can profit from.

In Matthew 19:29 The Lord teaches us about this law of compensation: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin reiterated this principle as well when he said: “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin‐ Come What May and Love It)

And finally, one of the lessons of the Book of Job is that the Lord allows the faithful to suffer but eventually compensates the faithful by giving them more than what they had prior to suffering.  In Job 42:10 it is written: “The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10)

One of the major ways that the Lord compensates us is by taking the effects of our abuse into account and judging us on how we would have acted had the abuse not occurred.  Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone taught:

“The innocent victim shouldn’t be required to carry guilt and scars and baggage of shame.  A loving and willing master desires to lift those things from our hearts and our minds and to replace them with his love.  The lord will judge them for what they would have been had the abuse never occurred.”

And Finally, C.S. Lewis, in his book the Great Divorce, wrote about how obtaining heaven will transform our prior sufferings into blessings.  He wrote:

“They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.”

In summary, the following are key behaviors that merciful people engage in:

i.) When someone has wronged you then you respond by letting go of bitterness towards that person and leaving the matter in the hands of a higher authority.
ii.) When someone has wronged you and you have the chance to wrong them back you abstain from doing so. You surrender the impulse for revenge.
iii.) When someone repeatedly wrongs you choose to forgive them every time.
iv.) When someone has wronged you then you enact consequences less severe than deserved.
v.) When someone has wronged you then you allow them to move on from it and don’t bring it up again.
vi.) When someone has wronged you then you remember only enough to avoid repetition but forget the rest.
vii.)When someone has wronged you then you remember that Jesus paid for their sins and will be the judge of whether they deserve forgiveness or not.

In contrast, the following are key behaviors that unmerciful people engage in:

i.) When someone has wronged you then you respond by nursing bitter feelings towards them and personally seek to exact revenge.
ii.) When someone has wronged you then you take the next opportunity to wrong them back.
iii.) When someone repeatedly wrongs you then you declare you will not forgive them this time.
iv.) When someone wrongs you then you wrong them back worse than they deserve to teach them a lesson.
v.) When someone has wronged you then you repeatedly bring it up and use it to manipulate them.
vi.) When someone has wronged you then you choose to rehearse every detail of the wrong repeatedly.
vii.) When someone has wronged you then you believe it is your role to ensure they get what they deserve and leave God out of it.

Fruits of Mercy vs. Ruthlessness  (Blessings and Consequences)

Next, I would like to examine some of the blessings that the scriptures promise for developing this virtue and some of the consequences that result when we are unmerciful.

1. The Merciful will obtain Mercy from God while the Ruthless will remain in their sins.

In His sermon on the mount, the Lord Jesus Christ taught: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt 5:7)   Jesus repeated this doctrine several times and also gave this warning to the unmerciful: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6.14-15).

This doctrine is repeated in the Book of Mormon by the prophet Alma who taught: “And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation.” (Mosiah 26:31)

Elder Holland observed that the commandment to forgive not only applies to others but also to ourselves!   He taught:  “The provision, of course, is that repentance has to be sincere, but when it is and when honest effort is being made to progress, we are guilty of the greater sin if we keep remembering and recalling and rebashing someone with their earlier mistakes—and that “someone” might be ourselves. We can be so hard on ourselves, often much more so than with others!” (Remember Lott’s Wife- Jeffrey R. Holland)

2. Mercy heals the wounded person’s soul while failing to forgive maintains the injury.

In Proverbs we also learn that mercy heals our souls.  Proverbs 11:17 reads:  “The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.” (Proverbs 11:17)  Commenting on his ancient disciples, the Lord said: “My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.” (D&C 64: 34-35)

3. We will be judged according to the standard of mercy we have shown others.

The scriptures also teach us to be merciful because God will use the standard we have used to judge others in order to judge us.  Jesus taught: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged. and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

4. Mercy binds and unites families and neighborhoods while failing to forgive destroys them.

Elder Holland also taught that mercy is a necessary virtue for binding families, neighborhoods, communities and ultimately nations together.  He warned against the danger that failing to be merciful to others would bring when he taught:

“Such dwelling on past lives, including past mistakes, is just not right! It is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is worse than Miniver Cheevy, and in some ways worse than Lot’s wife, because at least there he and she were only destroying themselves. In these cases of marriage and family and wards and apartments and neighborhoods,we can end up destroying so many, many others. Perhaps at this beginning of a new year there is no greater requirement for us than to do as the Lord Himself said He does. “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58.42). (Remember Lott’s Wife- Jeffrey R. Holland)

5. The Psychological Research 

Few concepts have been as well researched and understood as the positive benefits of forgiveness. The Greater Good Science Center of the University of California summarized many of the known benefits of forgiveness. According to them Forgiveness has been found to yield the following benefits:

Happiness: When people forgive they report feeling happier afterwards.
Improved Health: Nursing grudges raises our blood pressure and stress levels. People who forgive show superior immune functioning to those who don’t.
Improved Relationships: Those who are unable to forgive have less satisfying and long lasting relationships. Forgiveness is essential for happy marriages and friendships.
Improved Kindness and Connection: Those who forgive report feeling kinder and more connected to other people in general.
Reconciliation and Peace: Forgiveness was an essential component of the peace that was achieved in South Africa at the end of Apartheid. Without forgiveness, blood feuds and war are perpetuated.
Improved Mental Health:  Forgiveness predicts less depression, anxiety, anger and reduces symptoms of PTSD.

The results are clear. If we wish to have happier, healthier lives with better relationships that are characterized by peace and connection then forgiveness is a non-negotiable behavior that we must learn.

Models of Forgiveness

i.) Validation Therapy

Brother Miller has observed that: “The goal of psychotherapy is to replace neurotic suffering with ordinary suffering.”  Not all children that go through abuse are damaged adults.  According to Bro. Miller, 94% recover when they have four things: i.) Someone believes the trauma occurred, ii.) The victim’s feelings are validated and accepted with non-resistance (“No wonder I feel this way.”)  iii.) They feel safe and protected and iv.) They understand how the abuse affected them. Only 28% improve if they don’t have all four of these components.  The goal is to move from identifying yourself as a victim (focus on identity) to a survivor of abuse (focus on experience).

It can be difficult to know how the abuse has affected you if it occurred when you were a child.  Children lack the verbal and cognitive abilities to understand things with the conscious mind so the effects of abuse are stored subconsciously and manifest as feelings.  These feelings can be transformed into what Bro. Miller calls “Your Gethsemane Experience” modeled after the Lord’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane.  To do this, go somewhere you can be safe and pray and ask God to “Remove the bitter cup.”  “Nevertheless” resolve that you are going to trust in him even if the cup remains and say: “Thy will” be done.  Consider that His will is to heal and restore you. Make a list of what you need to be healed and pray for those things.

ii.) The Enright Process Model: Robert Enright, a Catholic Psychologist, has outlined what he calls the “Enright Process Model of Forgiveness.”  According to this model, forgiveness occurs in four stages that must be progressed through in a linear fashion, which include:

  1. The Uncovering Phase: In this phase, the person gains insight into how the injustice and the reaction to the injustice has affected one’s life.  Typical consequences include: shame, guilt, obsessive thoughts about the offender and/or one’s offense, temporary or permanent life changes due to the offense, and changes in one’s views about the justice of the world and of God.
  2.  The Decision Phase: In this phase, the person gains an accurate understanding of what forgiveness is and commits to forgiving or at least moving towards it.
  3. The Work Phase: In this phase, the person begins working toward forgiving the perpetrator by reframing the offense and viewing the offender as human and not evil incarnate. It involves extending realistic empathy and compassion towards the offender and giving up resentment.  Consider the frailties and suffering the offender has experienced in life.
  4. The Deepening Phase: In the final phase the person begins to find meaning in the suffering, feels connected with others and experiences a decrease in negative emotions and an increase in positive emotions.  Consider some of the growth you have experienced or could experience as a result of this experience.

One way of working through this model is to write a letter either to yourself or to the perpetrator that outlines the effects of the injustice, your decision to forgive and the reframing that will allow you to forgive.

iii.) Raising Awareness Exercises

The following is a list of Socratic questions designed to help you understand the effects of holding grudges in your life.

i.) How do you feel when you hold onto a grudge? What negative emotions do you experience? Do you feel any positive emotions?
ii.) Can you identify some mental roadblocks when experiencing the grudge? Example roadblocks include thinking about revenge, feeling bad for yourself, or replaying what happened several times in your mind.
iii.) How was your relationship with the individual with whom you held a grudge affected?
iv.) What were some challenges of letting go of the grudge?
v.) For you personally, what leads to grudges? What values of yours are disturbed?
vi.) How do you feel when you know that someone you love is holding a grudge against you?
vii.) Have you been able to let go of grudges previously? If so, how?
viii.) What is your evaluation process on whether or not a grudge is worthy of being released or not? Have there been times when it makes sense to hold onto that grudge?
xi.) What are the pros and cons of removing grudges?

iv.) Facilitators of Forgiveness

The Psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Petersen, in their Book “Character Strengths and Virtues” have summarized the research on facilitators and inhibitors of forgiveness:

1.) Empathy: When a victim takes the perpetrators perspective and empathizes he/she is more likely to forgive.  Brain scan research shows that when people think about forgiving, the brain areas associated with empathy are active.
2.) Positive Emotions: The Bitterness of hatred is often done away when the individual chooses to experience love based emotions such as empathy, sympathy or kindness.
4.) Age: Young children are least likely to forgive while older people are most likely to forgive.
5.) Rumination: Ruminating and rehearsing the offense decreases the likelihood that you will forgive the perpetrator.
6.) Intentionality: People are less likely to forgive if they believe the act was intentional and it led to dire consequences.
7.) Apologies: People are more likely to forgive when they have received an apology.  Researcher Aaron Lazare says that an effective apology has four parts: It acknowledges the offense, offers an explanation for the offense, expresses remorse or shame, and involves a reparation of some kind.
8.) Gender: There are no gender differences in how often one forgives.
9.) Interventions: Enright’s 20‐unit process model has been found to be more effective than waiting list control groups in facilitating forgiveness. This model is also associated with reduced negative emotional states and increases positive states such as hope.
10.) Length: Six hours seems to be the minimum amount of time needed to reflect on and really forgive somebody.
11.) Pride: Sometimes people feel entitled and hold onto their resentment and view it as a noble cause.
12.) Reframes: Viewing forgiveness as something for you and not the other person helps people forgive.

Measures of Forgiveness

There are five commonly used scales that measure how merciful we are.

  1. The Transgression Related Interpersonal Motivation Inventory (TRIM) is the most widely used self‐report instrument. Link: http://www.midss.org/sites/default/files/trim_18_mc_r_c_2006.pdf
  2. The Rye Forgiveness scale measures how completely you have forgiven a particular offender.   Links: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286221719_Measures_of_Forgiveness
  3. The Decisional Forgiveness Scale focuses on whether you have decided to forgive.
  4. The Emotional Forgiveness Scale measures the positive change in emotions that come with forgiveness.
  5. The Trait Forgivingness Scale focuses on measuring the propensity to forgiven instead of individual offenses.

Antonyms

When you fail to develop the character trait of mercy, you are in danger of  developing the following traits: 
1.     Cruelty. Enjoying the pain or distress of others; willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others.
2.     Relentlessness. That does not relent; unyieldingly severe, strict, or harsh.
3.     Callousness. Insensitive; indifferent; unsympathetic.
4.     Mercilessness. Without mercy; having or showing no mercy.
5.     Ruthlessness.  Without pity or compassion.
6.     Viciousness. Unpleasantly severe; given or readily disposed to evil.

 

Links

  1. Forgiveness Exercises (Greater Good in Action): https://ggia.berkeley.edu/#filters=forgiveness
  2. Trim: http://www.midss.org/sites/default/files/trim_18_mc_r_c_2006.pdf
  3. Other Measures: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286221719_Measures_of_Forgiveness
  4. Mercy Tracking Sheet

How to be Virtuous: Humility

Main Idea: Humility has at least three components: having an accurate view of the self, recognizing our reliance upon God and others and recognizing the value and contributions of others. A failure to develop this character trait will result in the development of its opposite: arrogance. Arrogance involves having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s abilities and often involves displays of superiority or self-importance. While humility is an essential element for growth, arrogance is a vice that will prevent growth and lead to stagnation.

Today, I will be talking about humility which is sometimes called “meekness” in the scriptures.   It is a core christ-like virtue and attribute of a godly character.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “Meekness is a companion virtue to patience…and… one of the attributes of Deity. Jesus described himself as being “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).  (Meekly Drenched in Destiny‐Neal A. Maxwell)

This subject is of paramount importance to us because the prophet Moroni said: “For none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart.” (Moroni 7: 48)   Humility is also important to study because it is so rare.  In contrast, the opposite of humility, which is pride, is commonplace.  Ezra Taft Benson said: “Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. … Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.”  And Neal A. Maxwell said: “We have all learned to be proud; anyone who doesn’t think he is proud is very proud indeed.” (Neal A. Maxwell)

I will start by defining humility and then examining the behaviors that humble people display.  Afterwards, I will focus on the blessings of humility and then end by differentiating it from related concepts.

i.) Having an accurate view of the self

Humble people have an accurate understanding of what their strengths and weaknesses are and are able to accept them without fear or defensiveness. This fundamental belief about what weaknesses mean will influence our capacity to receive correction and to be taught by others. If you are not threatened by your weaknesses then you will not become defensive when you are corrected during a performance review. You will also be able to accept guidance and direction from those who may be more developed than you are in certain areas.

Instead of viewing their weaknesses as humiliating flaws that have no purpose, humble people instead focus on the benefits of their weaknesses. Weaknesses are a fundamental part of being human and teach us to rely on others. If none of us had weaknesses, we would not need to rely upon each other and the joy of connection would be severely hampered. Overcoming our weaknesses can also be a deeply meaningful activity that helps us understand and value strengths. If you had no weaknesses, you would not appropriately value your strengths. As Thomas Paine famously stated: “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly, it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

ii.) A recognition of our reliance upon God and others
Along with an accurate view of the self, humble people also have an accurate understanding of their reliance upon God and other people for their existence and quality of life. The psychologist John Bowlby observed:“There is no such thing as true independence; there is only effective or ineffective dependence.” This is true, as none of us would have survived into adulthood without relying upon the diligent attention of our parents and other caregivers.  Interestingly, secure attachment has been found to predict developing humility later in life while having an avoidant attachment style predicts low humility (Neilsen & Marrone)

A high functioning organization relies upon the specialization and division of labour. We can specialize because we trust that others will specialize in areas we choose to ignore and then we can rely on each other to achieve wholeness. Humble people are aware of this necessary interdependence and thus do not elevate themselves above others.

Along with recognizing our reliance upon other people, humble people also recognize their reliance upon God for their quality of life. When we consider what God has done fore us, we experience what psychologists call a sense of “awe” and “wonder.” Meaning making is often about becoming aware of and submitting to forces that are greater than ourselves. If you believe you are the ultimate power in this universe, you will be more likely to over-inflate your importance and will cut yourself off from important sources of joy, meaning and wonder.

Some Psychologists call this dimension of humility being “epistemically aligned.”  Psychologist Jennifer Cole Wright explains: “Humility is the understanding and experience of oneself..as a finite and fallible being that is but an infinitesimal part of a vast universe, and so has a necessarily limited and incomplete perspective or grasp on the ‘whole,’ which is infinitely larger and greater than oneself….In this way, humility is a corrective to our natural tendency to treat our ‘selves’ as ‘special,’ to strongly prioritize or privilege our own mental states (e.g. our beliefs, values, etc.) and capacities (e.g. skills, abilities, etc.) – i.e. to seek social praise, status, acclaim, influence over others – and have undue attachment to them simply because they are ours.”

Others have called this dimension the “transcendent self-concept” which can be summarized as an: “Understanding of the small role that one plays in a vast universe and recognizing that some things in the world are greater than oneself and out of one’s control.” (Neilsen & Marrone)

iii.) A recognition of the value and contributions of others

And finally, the last component of Humility is the capacity to recognize the contributions of others and to appropriately value those contributions. This is possible because weaknesses do not threaten humble people, and they recognize the interdependence we all rely on. If we are not humble, we may be tempted to minimize or ignore the contributions of others to outcomes in our organizations or in our personal lives. This will inevitably lead to others feeling under-appreciated and undervalued and leads to relationship breakdown in our personal lives and high turnover in our organizations.

Some psychologists call this dimension of humility being “ethically aligned.”  Jennifer Cole Wright puts it this way: “By ‘ethically aligned,’ we mean that humility is the understanding and experience of oneself as only one among a host of other morally relevant beings, whose interests are foundationally as legitimate, and as worthy of attention and concern, as one’s own (a state of ‘extended compassion’).”

iv.) Psychological Definitions

Taken together, Psychologists believe that the essence of humility is low self-focus and high “other-focus.”  Low self-focus does not mean low self-esteem or concern but simply less selfishness or prioritization of the self above others.  Humble people appreciate their skills and abilities but focus more on what can be achieved by them and less on the fact that these skills are one’s own.    When one does not prioritize the self or believe one is special compared to everyone else then this leads to the second dimension of being “other focused” which means considering and caring for the needs of others as well as one’s own.

Humble Beliefs & Behaviors

We have talked about the attitudes of beliefs that underlie humility, but these should manifest in certain behaviors.  If you truly accept your flaws and limitations and recognize your reliance on God and others and appropriately value what others can contribute then your behavior will change.  I will now examine how humble people behave in more detail.

 1. Humble people accept correction.

Truly humble people are not defensive about receiving correction or chastisement because they do not assume that they are perfect and whole and need no further development.  In contrast, proud people assume that they are better than others and that therefore they are in no need of correction.  In Proverbs 9: 7-9 we read: “Correct a proud person and he will hurt you but the wise accept and learn from correction: Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.  Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”

Similarly in Prov 12: 1 we learn: “Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.”  And finally in Prov 15:10 we read: ““Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.” (Proverbs 15:10)   To hate reproof is to die because you assume that you are complete and whole as you are now which leads to stagnation and then to deterioration and then to death.  To hate correction is to dismiss vital feedback mechanisms concerning your own beliefs and behaviors which cuts you off from reality and further entrenches you within your own arrogant delusions of being “complete.”

Thus, humility is a prerequisite for learning and growth in any domain but especially in the spiritual domain.  King Benjamin taught that humbling ourselves before God is a prerequisite for true conversion.  In Mosiah 3: 19 he taught:  “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)

2. The Humble do not boast or assume honors, but instead allow others to praise and honor them.

Since humble people are not invested in propping up delusional beliefs about their own superiority, they do not boast or assume honors but let others praise them.  This principle is taught in Proverbs 27:2 which reads:  “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

Jesus also taught us about the importance of not assuming honors when he gave the Parable of the Chief Seats.  In this parable,  Jesus taught the Pharisees not to sit in the most honorable place or else someone more honorable may come and ask you to sit lower.  In the same way, we should not assume we are greater than others or someone truly greater will come and put us in our place. Instead,  Jesus taught the Pharisees to take the lowest places of honor and recognize their own dependence on God and their own fallibility. When you take the lowest seat, the master of the feast can ask you to move up higher but if you start by assuming you are chief then the master will tell you to move lower.  (Matt 12: 43-45)

The psychological research confirms the wisdom of these teachings.  Studies have found that those who boast tend to generate negative impressions in other people while those who are humble have greater group status and acceptance and better relationships with friends, family and romantic partners. (The Psychological Significance of Humility)

3. The Humble Recognize their reliance upon God for everything they have.

Humble people also act as though they rely upon God for all that they have and are.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:  “Humility is the recognition of our dependence upon a higher power, a constant need for the Lord’s support in His work.” (Neal A. Maxwell)

The Apostle Peter demonstrated his reliance upon God after performing some miraculous healings.  In Acts 3:12 Peter says to the people:  “Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” (Acts 3: 12)  Similarly, Paul demonstrated this attitude in his letter to the Corinthians when he wrote: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.  So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (1 Cor. 3: 6-7)

On another occasion, Paul taught the Corinthians to act as though everything they had was given to them by God. He said: “For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4: 7)  And Paul also taught the Corinthians to keep the limits of their own knowledge in perspective.  In 1 Cor 8: 2-3 Paul teaches:  “And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.  But if any man love God, the same is known of him.”

Moses, who performed some of the mightiest miracles in all of world history was described in the scriptures as: “Very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) This attitude was demonstrated when God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh to deliver the Israelites and Moses responded: “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

The scriptures clearly teach us that we are completely dependent upon God for all that we have and are.  In the Parable of the Unprofitable Servant, Jesus explains that even if we did all we could to serve God we would still not be able to pay Him for all He has given us.  Ultimately, the gift of eternal life can’t be earned in the sense that the proportionality of the reward can never match the proportionality of service given.  Hence, we are unprofitable servants.  (Luke 17: 7-10)

In his famous sermon, King Benjamin emphasized this principle as well when he said:  “I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility.” (Mosiah 4: 11)

When you have a proper understanding of your own nothingness before God, you are ready to receive instruction from him.  The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob taught:  “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.” (Jacob 4:10)

When you become humble then you begin to hold up Christ as the light that others should follow and not yourself.  The Resurrected Christ told the Nephites:   “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed.” (3 Nephi 18:24)  While the humble defer to Christ, the proud hold themselves up as a light to follow which is the definition of priestcraft.

4. The Humble have an accurate view of themselves and their abilities and how they fit within the context of creation.

Humble people balance two principles that are true: the idea that compared to God we are nothing and the idea that through God we have infinite potential for growth.  Elder Uchtdorf said:  “This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God.”  But even though man is nothing, it fills me with wonder and awe to think that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! His work and glory—the purpose for this magnificent universe—is to save and exalt mankind.” (You Matter to Him‐ Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

When we recognize that we are nothing without God and that all of our abilities are gifts from Him we approach God with grateful humility.  In the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, Jesus taught that the humble publican who realized he was a sinner would receive grace, because he was humble enough to recognize his need for God.  However, the proud Pharisee did not have an accurate view of himself and believed he did not need grace and thus perished in the end.   (Luke 18: 10-14)  Elder Dale G. Renlund, commenting on this parable said: “The message for us is clear: a repenting sinner draws closer to God than does the self-righteous person who condemns that sinner.” (Dale G. Renlund-Our Good Shepherd)

Likewise, in the Parable of the Two Debtors Jesus taught that those who recognize their need for forgiveness and the debt that they owe God are more likely to repent and grow. (Luke 7: 41-47)  When propping up delusional ideas about our own superiority ceases to be our priority, we begin to be able to serve in God’s Kingdom.   Jesus taught that unlike the Gentile philosophies, the greatest in the kingdom of heaven are those that serve their brothers and sisters.  While in Gentile Kingdoms the great ones HAVE servants, in the Kingdom of heaven the Great ones ARE servants. (Matt 20:20-27)

The prophet Alma gave his son Shiblon this counsel:“Do not say: O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren; but rather say: O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy—yea, acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times.” (Alma 38:14)

Recognizing the importance of developing a humble character, Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel said:  “Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” (1 Sam 2:3)

In the Book of Proverbs we are warned about considering ourselves wiser than everybody else.  Proverbs 12:15 reads:  “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15) Isaiah also warned us about thinking that our own opinions were wiser than God.  He said: “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:21)

Isaiah even compared those who boast of their accomplishments to an axe that boasted when it was swung and ignored the fact that it was swung by a superior force.   In Isaiah 10:15 we read:  “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.” (Isaiah 10:15)

The psychological research confirms the importance of having accurate self-awareness as it allows one to leverage strengths and compensate for weaknesses.  If you do not know what your true strengths and weaknesses are then you cannot optimally engage with the world (Neilsen & Marrone)

5. The Humble do not look down upon others but value them appropriately while the Proud elevate themselves above others.

Another belief that humble people have is that other people are just as valuable as they are and have important gifts to contribute to their communities.  In contrast, proud people derive their worth from counting the number of people they believe they are superior to.  Elder Uchtdorf taught: “At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with “Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,” it always seems to end with “Therefore, I am better than you.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf Pride and the Priesthood)

The dimensions of comparison are usually wealth and education.  Jacob warned those who allow education to give individual grandiose beliefs of superiority when he said:  “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Nephi 9: 28-29)

On another occasion Jacob warned those who allow wealth to give them grandiose ideas of their own superiority when he said: “And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they. And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.”   (Jacob 2:13-14)

This theme of pride arising due to riches and learning is repeated all throughout the Book of Mormon.  Alma asked his people: “Yea, will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another; yea, will ye persist in the persecution of your brethren.” And before the coming of Christ, the Nephite society was described as corrupt because the people broke down into classes based upon wealth and learning: “And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.” (3 Nephi 6:12)

Jacob then instructs his people concerning the proper attitude they should have towards others: “Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever.” (Jacob 2:21)

In contrast to comparing ourselves to others, the Apostle Paul taught the Romans:  “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12: 3)   And then later on Paul taught the Philippians:   “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Phil 2:3) This wasn’t just Paul’s opinion as this doctrine is repeated in D&C 38:25 which reads: “And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.” (D&C 38:25)

6. The Humble are teachable and able to be led

The next sign of humility that we should consider is the idea that humble people are teachable and able to be led.  The scriptures are clear that humility is a prerequisite for learning from God.  In the book of James, the author wrote: “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)

Similarly, in the Psalms we learn that God will guide the meek.  Psalms 25: 8-9 record:   “Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.  The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” (Psalms 25: 8-9)

And in Proverbs we learn that we should not rely on our own opinion about things but should defer to the word of the Lord when it is revealed.  Proverbs 3: 5-8 exhorts us to: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.  It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” (Proverbs 3: 5-8)

Without recognizing the limitations of our own capacities and opinions, we would never reach out to God for help.  Speaking on the importance of being teachable, Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “How crucial it is to be teachable! There “is no other way” in which God could do what He has declared it is His intent to do. No wonder He and His prophets emphasize meekness time and time again! Since God desired to have us become like Himself, He first had to make us free, to learn, to choose, and to experience; hence our humility and Teach-ability are premiere determinants of our progress and our happiness. Agency is essential to perfectibility, and meekness is essential to the wise use of agency‐‐and to our recovery when we have misused our agency.” (Meekly Drenched in Destiny‐Neal A. Maxwell)

Elder Larry R. Lawrence encouraged us to ask the Lord the following question:  “What is keeping me from progressing?” In other words: “What lack I yet?” Then wait quietly for a response. If you are sincere, the answer will soon become clear. It will be revelation intended just for you.  The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time, or as the Lord has taught, “Line upon line, precept upon precept.” (Larry R. Lawrence‐What Lack I Yet Oct/15)

The research once again confirms the importance of being humble and thus teachable.  According to Psychologists Neilsen & Marrone, Humility predicts: ” Higher course grades, enhanced contributions to teams and greater perceptions of leadership effectiveness.” In one study, humility was found to be a better predictor of student test scores and contributions to class projects than general mental-ability, conscientiousness and self-efficacy.

In contrast to being teachable, the proud refuse to submit to the will of God and worship their own knowledge.  President Ezra Taft Benson, in his famous talk on Pride, warned:

“The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done….Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard‐heartedness, stiff‐neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.” (Ezra Taft Benson-Beware of Pride)

7. Humility leads to generosity and not taking offense. 

Humble people are also generous in their opinions of others and are not easily offended nor do they intend on giving offense.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “Not only are the meek less easily offended, but they are less likely to give offense to others. In contrast, there are some in life who seem to be waiting to be offended. Their pride covers them like boils which will inevitably be bumped.  Meekness also cultivates in us a generosity in viewing the mistakes and imperfections of others.” (Meekly Drenched in Destiny‐Neal A. Maxwell)

Since the humble have no need of deriving their self-worth from being superior to others, they pay less attention to the faults and weaknesses of others.  Studies have also confirmed that the humble are more generous in giving of their time and resources to help others.  According to Psychologist Jennifer Cole Wright: ” A recent set of studies  shows that humility is a consistent predictor of generosity. People who are humble tend to be more generous with both their time and their money.” (The Psychological Significance of Humility)

8. The Humble are gentle and meek with others while the proud are aggressive or apathetic.

While humble people are generous towards others, they also adopt a posture of gentleness towards others.  In his letter to Titus Paul admonished him: “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” (Titus 3:2)  Psychologists call this the “Social Bonds Hypothesis” of humility.  Humility facilitates social bonds through fostering greater commitment from members to another.  If you think that other group members are humble and will not seek to elevate themselves above you then you are more likely to remain committed to the group.

9. The Humble are modest and avoid extravagance and ostentation

And finally, humble people also tend to be modest and avoid the extremes of extravagance and ostentation.  In D&C 42:40 the Lord says:  “And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands.”  Humble people are modest in the sense that they don’t feel the need to draw attention to themselves through extremes in dress or behavior as they are comfortable being equal with others.

The Fruits of Humility and Pride 

In this next section, I will examine the blessings of humility and the consequences of Pride.  The Lord Jesus Christ taught: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:16) which means that we can judge whether an action is good or bad based upon the consequences of those actions.  So let’s examine why humility is called a virtue and pride is called a vice.

From the psychological research literature we learn that  humility is associated with a range of health benefits. For example, in the fall 2012 issue of the Journal of Psychology and Theology, Neal Krause reports that humility correlated with better health as people aged. This is because people who lack humility struggle to form and maintain relationships which leads to less social support and a weakened ability to cope with the demands of life.

In his 2001 book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t,  Jim Collins found that the CEOs  of “great companies” had a unique mix of drive and humility that set them apart from the competition.  Some psychologists call this the “social oil hypothesis” because humility is like the oil that prevents an engine from overheating in a car by preventing competition between group members to become too extreme or self-serving.

The Scriptures are also filled with many promised blessings for the humble and curses for the prideful.

1. The Humble receive Grace from God while the Proud remain in their own strength

The first promise from the scriptures that I want to look at is the promise that the humble will receive grace while the proud are left in their own strength.   James wrote: “Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble… Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:6, 10)  This exact same doctrine was also taught by Peter who also said:   “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5: 5-6)

Jesus Christ himself, in the Gospel of Luke, taught: “For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”(Luke 18:14) In Helaman 4:13 the downfall of the Nephites is attributed to the fact that they boasted in their pride and lost the grace of God and were left in their own strength.  These are Mormon’s words:  “And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper…” (Helaman 4:13)

In contrast to losing the grace of God, the humble are promised that they will eventually see God and know that He lives.  This promise is found in D&C 67:10 which reads:  “And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.” (D&C 67:10)

The ultimate grace that God can give anyone is reserved only for the meek and humble as Jesus promised in His sermon on the mount: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt 5:5) We know that this world will one day be transformed into a perfect habitation for those who will inherit the celestial kingdom. Since meekness is a prerequisite for salvation, only the meek will inherit the earth. 

This grace appears to be evident in the scientific literature as well.  According to Nielsen & Marrone: “Humble individuals report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction and lower levels of depressed affect and anxiety disorders when facing stressful events than less humble individuals.”  (Neilsen & Marrone)

2. The Humble live in peace with others while the Proud have strife and contention

The second promise that I would like to examine is the idea that the humble will live in peace while the proud will experience strife and contention.   In Psalms 37:11 the Lord promises: “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalms 37:11)  King Benjamin promised that the humble would: “not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably.” (Mosiah 4:13)

In contrast, Proverbs warns us that any time there is contention there is always pride.  Proverbs 13:10 says: “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom..” (Proverbs 13:10)  President Ezra Taft Benson also warned us about Pride when he said: “Unity is impossible for a proud people, and unless we are one we are not the Lord’s.” (Ezra Taft Benson)

According to Jennifer Cole Wright, Humble people have been found to have lower rates of infidelity and display more cooperative behaviors than non-humble people.  In economic trade games, humble people predictably make more fair allocations of resources.  She also reports that: ” Individual differences in honesty–humility are negatively related to manipulativeness, displaced aggression, vengefulness, social dominance, and other counterproductive behaviors, while being positively related to integrity, cooperation, and other morally relevant capacities.”

Other studies have found that when people lack humility they are less likely to forgive and are more likely to seek revenge. In contrast, humble people are more willing to admit mistakes, acknowledge gaps in knowledge, be open-minded and flexible and show more compassion for others.  (The Psychological Significance of Humility)

The research on the effectiveness of humble leaders is also clear.  Studies consistently find that those who work under a humble leader are more engaged, less likely to leave the organization and report higher job satisfaction. Humble leaders tend to model open-mindedness and they accept their own weaknesses and seek help when they need it.  As a result, their organizations tend to perform better. ((Neilsen & Marrone)

3. The Proud eventually are destroyed while the Humble are saved.

Third, the scriptures are very clear when they warn us that the proud are eventually destroyed while the humble receive salvation.  In Proverbs 15: 18-19 we read: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.  Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (Proverbs 16: 18-19)

In the Book of Obadiah 1: 3-4, the Lord promises that He will bring the proud low. It reads:  “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, who shall bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.”

Using what is some of the harshest language in all of scripture, Jacob says this about how God views the wealthy and educated who are proud: “And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.” (2 Nephi 9: 42)

Mormon attributed the downfall of his people to Pride.  He said: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction” (Moroni 8: 27).  One of the central messages of the Book of Mormon is to avoid the fate of the ancient Nephite and Israelite civilizations which were both destroyed by pride.

The history of God’s people in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible can be seen through the lens of what is often called the Pride cycle. The pride cycle is typically broken down into six stages that include the following:  1.) The people are righteous 2.) The people start to prosper and be blessed  3.) The people begin to become proud  4.) This pride leads to wickedness  5.) Wickedness then leads the loss of God’s grace and destruction  6). And then finally, the remnant humble themselves and repent and the cycle starts anew.

Unfortunately, pride tends to come because we misattribute the cause of our prosperity to our own genius and we begin to deny God.  In Deuteronomy, the Lord warns the Israelites about this cycle: “And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Deut 6: 10-12)

In contrast to the destruction that awaits the Proud, the humble are promised that if they offer God the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit that they will be born again.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: We must also be willing to endure the subsequent erosion of unbecoming ego. Furthermore, our hearts will be broken in order that they might be rebuilt. As Ezekiel said, one’s task is to “make you a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31). There is no way that such dismantling, such erosion, such rebuilding can occur without real cost in pain, pride, adjustments, and even some dismay. Yet since we cannot be “acceptable before God save [we are] meek and lowly in heart” (Moroni 7:44), the reality of that awesome requirement must be heeded. Better to save one’s soul than to save one’s face.” (Meekly Drenched in Destiny‐Neal A. Maxwell)

And finally, those who humble themselves before God are promised that they will one day see Him.  D&C 67:10 records:  “And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am‐‐not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.” (D&C 67: 10)

4.   The Humble become wise while the result of pride is shame.

The next promise is found in Proverbs 11:2 which says: “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)  Humility is a prerequisite for wisdom because when you are humble you are teachable and enter into a state capable of receiving further light and knowledge.

5.    The Proud are vulnerable to humiliation while the Humble are not.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell also taught that the humble are less prone to humiliation and disappointment.  He said: “Humility is the only certain defense against humiliation. Because they make fewer demands of life, the meek are less easily disappointed. They are less concerned with their entitlements than with their assignments.” (Meekly Drenched in Destiny)

6.   The Proud are constrained by ego and a need for admiration while the Humble can act without concern for image.

While the humble are less prone to disappointment, the proud are constrained by their need to support an over-inflated ego.  Elder Uchtdorf taught:

“This sin has many faces. It leads some to revel in their own perceived self‐worth, accomplishments, talents, wealth, or position. They count these blessings as evidence of being “chosen,” “superior,” or “more righteous” than others. This is the sin of “Thank God I am more special than you.” At its core is the desire to be admired or envied. It is the sin of self‐glorification.  For others, pride turns to envy: they look bitterly at those who have better positions, more talents, or greater possessions than they do. They seek to hurt, diminish, and tear down others in a misguided and unworthy attempt at self‐elevation. When those they envy stumble or suffer, they secretly cheer.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf‐Pride and the Priesthood)

The Humble are not motivated by fame or reputation while the proud are beholden to popular opinion.  Elder Uchtdorf said:  “God knows that some of the greatest souls who have ever lived are those who will never appear in the chronicles of history.” (You Matter to Him‐ Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

7.  Pride leads to selfishness and is often disguised as individuality. Humility leads to selflessness.

While Humility leads to selflessness, Pride leads to selfishness that is often disguised as individuality. Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed:  “Isn’t it interesting, in a world wrongly impressed with machismo, that we see more and more coarseness which is mistaken for manliness, more and more selfishness masquerading as individuality?” (Neal A. Maxwell)

Ultimately the proud make following their own will and demonstrating their own superiority their ultimate concern in life.  Elder Uchtdorf warned us against worshiping the idol of the self when he said:

“When our hearts are filled with pride, we commit a grave sin, for we violate the two great commandments. Instead of worshiping God and loving our neighbor, we reveal the real object of our worship and love—the image we see in the mirror.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf‐Pride and the Priesthood)

8.  The Proud are only happy when they have more than others while the Humble are content when needs are met.

Another limitation of Pride is that it robs the individual of happiness and never allows you to be content with what you have.  C. S. Lewis observed: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” ‐‐‐C.S. Lewis

9. Humility is the initiator, facilitator and consolidator of other virtues such as Faith, Hope and Charity.

Elder Maxwell also taught that humility is the foundation upon which the other virtues are built.  He said: “Moroni declared that it is also vital because one simply cannot develop those other crucial virtues‐‐faith, hope, and charity‐ without meekness. In the ecology of the eternal attributes these cardinal characteristics are inextricably bound up together. Among them, meekness is often the initiator, the facilitator, and the consolidator. ( Meekly Drenched in Destiny‐Neal A. Maxwell)

For example, in one study it was found that humble people felt more gratitude after writing a gratitude letter than did less humble people.  (The Psychological Significance of Humility)

And, finally, Kruse, Chancellor, Ruberton, and Lyubomirsky (2014) found that humility and gratitude are mutually reinforcing. People who wrote a letter expressing their gratitude showed higher humility than those who performed a neutral activity and people’s baseline humility predicted the degree of gratitude felt after writing the letter. Also, humility and gratitude mutually predicted one another in people’s diary entries over time, even after controlling for the other’s prior level.

10. Pride is the foundation of all other sins while Humility is the foundation of righteousness.

To sum it all up, Pride is the foundation of all other sins while Humility is the foundation of righteousness.  Elder Uchtdorf taught: “Pride is a deadly cancer. It is a gateway sin that leads to a host of other human weaknesses. In fact, it could be said that every other sin is, in essence, a manifestation of pride.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf‐Pride and the Priesthood)

Elder Uchtdorf also called Pride the great original sin that led to the fall of Lucifer.  It was because Lucifer lacked humility and embraced delusions of grandeur that he and his followers have lost the capacity to progress and become like God.  At the heart of all sin is pride or the assumption that we know better than God does or that the laws of reality will bend to our will.

Jennifer Cole Wright explains how humility is the foundation of other virtues by summarizing the research literature in this way: “We also found that scores on our humility scale correlate with several important markers of psychological well-being, such as optimism, hope, achievement values, positive life-regard, secure attachment, positive growth, personal relationships, decisiveness, comfort with ambiguity, and openness to experience. It was also found to be positively related to intrinsic religiosity and faith maturity, as well as belief in free will and dualism. And it was negatively related to sadism, psychopathic tendencies, and insecure (anxious) attachment, as well as economic and social greed.” (The Psychological Significance of Humility)

Differentiating Humility From Weakness & Shame 

Another way to deepen our understanding of humility is to learn how to distinguish it from similar concepts such as weakness and shame.  For example, humility is often confused with timidity or weakness but this is not the case.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell explains: “We even tend to think of a meek individual as being used and abused‐‐as being a doormat for others. However, Moses was once described as being the most meek man on the face of the earth (see Numbers 12:3), and we recall his impressive boldness in the courts of Pharaoh and his scalding indignation following his descent from Sinai.” (Meekly Drenched in Destiny‐Neal Maxwell)  Humility is also not the same thing as feeling ashamed of oneself.  The following table illustrates the differences between Shame and Humility.

Shame Humility
Feelings of embarrassment, worthlessness Feelings of calm assurance
Impulse to hide weaknesses from others Impulse to acknowledge weaknesses to others
Fear of being exposed Self‐acceptance, warts and all
Shifting responsibility and blaming others Taking responsibility, desire to improve
Avoiding risk‐taking out of fear of failure Taking risks so as to grow and contribute
Comparing self to others who are seen as superior Seeing weakness as common to all people
Defensive and stubborn or wishy‐washy Meek and teachable
Sarcasm or excessive seriousness Humor and enjoyment of life and others
Preoccupation with flaws Flaws seen in perspective
Fear Of God’s disapproval Confident in God’s love.

Summary

And in Summary, the following table illustrates the differences between humility and Pride.

Humility Pride
Has an attitude of Gratitude Holds an attitude of entitlement
Is teachable and inquisitive Is dogmatic and resistant to new ideas
Remains open, willing to yield to others Is closed to alternatives; needs to be right
Works to stay connected to others Isolates real self from others
Emphasizes contributing and growing Focuses on consumption
Desires to serve and help Is preoccupied with self‐interest
Is self‐aware and working to improve Compares self to others and works to win
Is willing to repent and let go Has a hard heart and turns away from God
Sees the big picture but works on today’s problems today Lives for momentary satisfaction and postpones problem‐solving for tomorrow
Accepts and addresses weaknesses Denies and tires to hide from weaknesses

 

Measuring Pride & Humility

The following are behaviors that humble people engage in. Grade yourself on these behaviors and if you have the courage, allow others to grade you on them as well to overcome any blind spots.

  1. Situation: When you are being given feedback or corrected.

Humble Response: When you are corrected, you accept and consider the feedback without regard to your ego.

Proud Response: You are not able to accept correction or feedback but get angry and defensive instead.

  1. Situation: When you experience an accomplishment or setback.

Humble Response: When you accomplish something, you do not boast but instead allow others to praise you.

Proud Response: You boast of your accomplishments and make sure others know about them.

  1. Situation: When something causes you to consider your worth and abilities.

Humble Response: You believe that you are reliant upon God for everything that you have. You believe that you are worth everything to God but that without God you are nothing. You have realistic views of your abilities and recognize your limitations.

Proud Response: You believe your wonderful skills and talents are the source of everything you have. You believe your skills and abilities are better than they actually are. You believe that you are better than other people and that there is no higher power than you in the universe.

  1. Situation: When you are presented with the accomplishments or setbacks of other people.

Humble Response: You value the worth and contributions of others and do not look down upon them.

Proud Response: You do not value contributions of others as they are threats to your ego.

  1. Situation: When you are presented with new learning or knowledge.

Humble Response: You are open to learning new things and receiving guidance from others.

Proud Response: You are not open to learning new things as this might hurt your image.

  1. Situation: When you interact with others and must choose how to present yourself.

Humble Response: You present yourself in a posture of gentleness, kindness and equality.

Proud Response: You are bound by your need to be admired or known by everyone. You present yourself in a posture of superiority or you ignore others as they don’t matter much to you.

  1. Situation: When you make judgments of evaluations of other people.

Humble Response: You are generous in your judgments of others as their successes are no threat to you.

Proud Response: You look for faults in others to confirm your belief that you are superior.

  1. Situation: When you have a disagreement with others.

Humble Response: You are able to live in peace with others and relationships are not characterized by strife or contention. You have no need to be right or to demonstrate the superiority of your views.

Proud Response: Your relationships are marked by competition, comparison and contention. You must prove that your knowledge is superior and that you are right. You take satisfaction in proving your views are superior.

  1. Situation: When your ideas or abilities are being evaluated.

Humble Response: You are not easily humiliated nor do you easily take offense at what others say as the need to be admired is not being threatened.

Proud Response: You are easily humiliated and take offense at any sign that your aggrandized self-image might be threatened.

  1. Situation: When you are making comparisons between yourselves and other people.

Humble Response: You are able to be happy when your needs are met and don’t need to compare what you have to others. Comparisons are absolute.

Proud Response: You are not happy unless you have more than everyone else. Comparisons are Relative.

  1. Situation: When you become aware of a weakness or strength.

Humble Response: You are able to acknowledge weaknesses and strengths and yet still accept yourself.

Proud Response: You dismiss or deny your own weaknesses to preserve your inflated image and exaggerate strengths.

  1. Situation: When you do something wrong.

Humble Response: When you do something wrong, you are able to accept responsibility instead of shifting blame.

Proud Response: When you do something wrong, you deny or look to blame others.

  1. Situation: When you are presented with the opportunity to try something new.

Humble Response: You are more open to taking risks and trying new things as fear of failure doesn’t matter much.

Proud Response: You fear taking risks and doing new things as the fear of failure is crippling.

  1. Situation: When you become aware that your beliefs or behaviors contradict conscience or the word of God.

Humble Response: You do not trust in your own understanding but instead submit to the will of God.

Proud Response: You trust in yourself as the ultimate authority in life.

Improving Humility

The “PROVE” method has been found to enhance the humility of those who use it.

  1. Pick a time when you wren’t humble. Write it out in detail and consider how you acted from a third party observer.  How would the observer’s perspective be different?
  2. Remember the Place of your abilities and achievements within the big picture.  Consider a time you accomplished something and your thoughts, feelings and actions afterwards.  How could you have been more humble?
  3. Open Yourself and be adaptable.  Write about a time you were humble and did something for someone else.  How did you feel and act?  Were you wise? How so?
  4. Value all things to lower self-focus.  Make a list of five things you should value more and describe why.  What thing that most people would see as negative could really be seen as valuable?
  5. Examine your limitations and commit to a humble lifestyle.   Write a letter to yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and barriers to humility. Consider the weaknesses of humanity in general as well.  Determine how you will hold on to humility moving forward in your daily life.

Daily Meditations: What would a self-focused day look like today?  How can you be more other-focused?  What strengths will you use today and what weaknesses will you need to compensate for?  Who will you be relying on today for optimal functioning?

Key Terms: Antonyms

  1. Pride: An excessively high opinion of oneself; conceit.
  2. Arrogance: offensive display of superiority or self‐importance; overbearing pride.
  3. Haughtiness: disdainfully proud; snobbish; scornfully arrogant.
  4. Pompousness: characterized by an ostentatious display of dignity or importance:
  5. Vanity: lack of real value; hollowness; worthlessness: something worthless, trivial, or pointless.
  6. Conceit: an excessively favorable opinion of one’s own ability, importance, wit, etc.
  7. Pretentious: characterized by assumption of dignity or importance.
  8. Ostentatious: characterized by or given to pretentious or conspicuous show in an attempt to impress others.

 

Resources

Avoiding Pride at Church (Howard W. Hunter Lesson)

Measuring Humility and Its Positive Effects

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2016.1167940

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ijmr.12160

PROVE Workbook

Humility Worksheet

 

Understanding Suffering Part 2: The Purpose of Suffering

Main Idea:  God allows us to suffer because it enhances our capacity to feel joy and is a refining fire that teaches us to develop a Godlike character.  While some suffering is the result of sin, some suffering is given to us to glorify God and can even be the result of living a godly life.  God gives us trials to strengthen our faith and to test us to see if we are worthy of inheriting eternal life. 

The Purpose of Trials and Afflictions

a.) Some trials and hardships are not our doing but are given to us to glorify God.

In the Book of John, we learn of the man who was born blind at birth. Chapter 9: 2-3 says: “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?  Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

In what appears to be a variation of the “just-world hypothesis” the disciples assumed that this affliction had to be caused by a sin he or his parents committed.  However, the Lord refutes this assumption and says that this affliction was not caused by anyone’s sin and that this particular man had this affliction so that the works of God could be made manifest in him. One of the first things to learn about trials is that they are not always a result of disobedience or sin but can actually be experienced in order to show others the power of God.

The Lord told the Modern saints: ‘Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.” (D&C 24:8)

b.) Trials are  a “refining fire” that cleanse us and shape a godly character worthy of inheriting eternal life.

Since we know that not all trials and suffering are a result of sin we can conclude that they have value in and of themselves.  The scriptures compare suffering and trials to a “refining fire” that cleanses us and shapes us into a Godly character worthy of inheriting eternal life.  In the Book of Acts 14:22 we learn that: “… we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)

In the previous post, I spoke about Jesus as the Master Alchemist who turns the base metal of suffering into the gold of eternal life. In Isaiah 48: 10 the Lord told Israel: Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Just as a crucible forges silver and gold the Lord forges our hearts in the crucible of life: “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts.” (Proverbs 17: 3)

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself could not become exalted until He had experienced immense suffering.  In Hebrews 2: 9-10 we learn: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2: 9-10)

Like Jesus, we can be made perfect through our sufferings if we obey Christ.  Hebrews 5: 8-9 teaches us: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

It was this perspective on suffering that allowed Paul to exhort the Romans to be thankful for their trials and afflictions.  He said: “…but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

In the Epistle of James the author gives his readers similar advice:  “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

The Psalmist also testified that suffering cleanses us from evil and builds character: “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” (Proverbs 20:30)

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin talked about the importance of suffering in developing empathy and compassion for others.  He said: “We experience hard things so that we too may have increased compassion and understanding for others.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin‐ Come what may and love it)

Suffering was seen as so valuable to the Apostle Peter, that he declared that it was worth more than all of the gold and earthly riches on the planet.  He said:   “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7)

In D&C 136:31 the Lord says that He will try is people in all things to prepare them for eternal glory.  The text reads: “My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.”

In his talk entitled, “Do we trust him?” Elder Stanley G. Ellis said:

“Hard makes us stronger, humbles us, and gives us a chance to prove ourselves. Our beloved handcart pioneers came to know God in their extremities… The scriptures say Jesus Christ learned “obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

In the world of nature, hard is part of the circle of life. It is hard for a baby chick to hatch out of that tough eggshell. But when someone tries to make it easier, the chick does not develop the strength necessary to live. In a similar way, the struggle of a butterfly to escape the cocoon strengthens it for the life it will live. Through these examples, we see that hard is the constant! We all have challenges. The variable is our reaction to the hard.

Before this calling I was a financial consultant in Houston, Texas. Most of my work was with multimillionaires who owned their own businesses. Almost all of them had created their successful businesses from nothing through lots of hard work. The saddest thing for me was to hear some of them say that they wanted to make it easier for their children. They did not want their children to suffer as they had. In other words, they would deprive their children of the very thing that had made them successful.  (Do we trust Him? Stanley G. Ellis)

c.) Trials can come as a result of living a godly life.

The next explanation that the scriptures give for suffering is that it results from living a godly life.  Paul wrote to Timothy: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3: 12).  Paul also taught Timothy about the importance of suffering for Christ’s sake.  He said:  “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.” (2 Tim 2: 11-12)

However, speaking of the inevitable suffering that would result from choosing to live a godly life, the Apostle Peter said:  “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3: 17-18)

On another occasion, the Apostle Peter also taught: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (1 Peter 4: 12-16)

Since trials are an inevitable result of living a godly life, Paul counseled Timothy that enduring hardship would be an essential duty of the good Christian.  He said: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Tim 2: 3-4)

On another occasion, the Apostle Peter said: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (1 Peter 4: 12-16)

d.) Trials are tests to see if we will remain faithful and obedient to the Will of God.

The fourth purpose of suffering that the scriptures give is that sometimes we are given trials as tests to see if we will remain faithful to God.  The Lord allowed the Israelites to suffer by wandering in the desert for 40 years so that He could see what was in their hearts. Deuteronomy 8:2 explains:  “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” (Deut 8:2)  In the same way, God allows us each of us to suffer in the wilderness of this life to try our hearts and see how committed we are to keeping His commandments.

In the Book of Job, Satan accuses Job of only obeying God because he was extremely blessed.  In Job 1: 10-12 we read of Satan’s accusations against Job: “Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.   But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1: 10-12)

The test of Job then is to have our blessings removed to see if we will remain obedient to God.  I hope that none of us are called upon to endure what Job did but I suppose in a broader sense we have all lost the blessings we experienced while living with God and have been temporarily removed from His presence to see if we will be faithful.  In one sense then, our entire lives can be compared to a test of Job designed to see how we will act when the bounties of eternity have been temporarily removed.

In D&C 98: 13-14 the Lord says that He will prove us in all things:  “And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name’s sake, shall find it again, even life eternal. Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.” (D&C 98: 13-14)

e.) Trials are sometimes brought upon us by our own disobedience.  They are the natural consequences of sin.

While not all trials are brought upon us by sin  or disobedience, some are the natural consequences of our own sins or the sins of others.  The scriptures give many examples of righteous people suffering as a result of the bad choices of others.  In the Book of Joshua we learn of a man named Achan who stole the riches of war and then brought a cruse upon all of Israel for his actions.  In Joshua 22:20 we read: “Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? And that man perished not alone in his iniquity.” (Joshua 22:20)

The scriptures are also clear that the inevitable result of sin is death and hell which have been compared to an unquenchable suffering that cannot be escaped.  In Mosiah 7:30 the Lord gives us the law of the Harvest which states: “And again, he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind; and the effect thereof is poison.”   After we have reaped the consequences of sin, we may seek immediate relief.  However, the Lord has said that He will often delay His response so that the individual might learn about the effects of his behavior.  In D&C 101: 7 the Lord says:  “They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.” (D&C 101:7)

f.) Trials are sometimes God’s correcting hand in our life or they keep us close and reliant upon God.

The next purpose of trials and suffering that the scriptures give us is that they are sometimes God’s correcting hand in our lives.  In Deuteronomy, we learn that God will chasten us as a Father chastens His son.  Deut 8:5 says: “Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.” (Deut 8:5)

In the Book of Job we learn that a key to happiness is being able to endure the chastening of the Lord.  Job 5: 17-18 says:  “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” (Job 5: 17-18)  In D&C 101:5 this principle is repeated: “For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.” (D&C 101: 5)

In D&C 95:1 the Lord says that His chastening is a sign of His love for us.  He says: “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you” (D&C 95:1; Helaman 15:3)

God’s chastening comes upon us if we are not fulfilling the commands so that we may learn the natural consequences of our actions.  In D&C 105: 6 we learn:  “And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer” (D&C 105:6)

For example, God told Nephi that the Lamanites would be a scourge to his seed to stir them up in remembrance of God’s commandments when they would fall away. (2 Nephi 5:25) Through King Limhi, the Lord told His rebellious but now repentant people:   “For behold, the Lord hath said: I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them. ” (Mosiah 7: 29-31)

If our suffering and afflictions humble us and make us open to hearing the word of God then they become great blessings to us.  Alma, when preaching the word, found great success amongst the poor.  In Alma 32:13 we read:  “For he beheld that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word…And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.” (Alma 32:13)

In Helaman chapter 11 the Lord  caused a famine in the land so that the Nephites would remember their reliance upon Him.  The Nephites did repent for a time, so this famine ended up being a great blessing as it led the people back to God and to salvation.

Unfortunately, if God does not chasten His people then they will tend to forget him.  Mormon lamented what we often call the pride cycle that often occurred amongst the Nephites.  In Helaman 12: 2-3 Mormon writes:

 “Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity…And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him. “ (Helaman 12:3)

However, not everyone responds in the same way to the chastening of the Lord.  Some people humble themselves and soften their hearts while others harden their hearts and respond with pride.  In Psalms 119 we read about those who allow their suffering to lead to destruction:  “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes…. Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.” (Psalms 119: 71, 92)

g.) Trials and afflictions prepare us to be able to comprehend and appreciate blessings and to eventually know true joy.

Another purpose of suffering is to give us the experience necessary to develop the capacity for joy.  The prophet Lehi taught that opposition is necessary for existence, meaning and purpose. In 2 Nephi 2: 11-15 he wrote:

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.” (2 Nephi 2: 11-15)

In D&C 29:39 the Lord taught that the only way we could experience joy was to experience its opposite.  He said:  “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.”

Thus, experiencing adversity and suffering is a necessary prerequisite for inheriting eternal life.  Donald L Hallstrom taught: Throughout the world and among the membership of the Church, there is great joy and great pain. Both are part of the plan. Without one, we cannot know the other. “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25) and “for it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11) are not contradictory; they are complementary. In describing how he felt when he turned to the Lord, Alma the Younger said, “My soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain” (Alma 36:20). (Donald L. Hallstrom‐Turn to the Lord)

Alma reveals that his capacity to feel joy was directly proportional to the intensity of suffering that he had experienced.  Thus, suffering is designed to give us experience that will allow us to understand and thus appreciate eternal life.  The preacher in Ecclesiastes taught this principle when he said: “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Eccl 7: 3-4) On another occasion the preacher wrote:  “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (Eccl 1:18)

Jeffrey R. Holland observed that before great blessings come we often have to experience great trials.   He said: “There is a lesson in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision that virtually everyone in this audience has had occasion to experience, or one day soon will. It is the plain and very sobering truth that before great moments, certainly before great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness.” (Cast not away therefore your confidences‐Jeffrey R. Holland)

Interpreting the purpose of suffering through an eternal perspective helps us understand why, as the Book of Job records, we all shouted for joy at the opportunity to come down and learn through the things we would suffer.  Paul told the Corinthians to keep this eternal perspective in mind when he wrote:  “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4: 17-18)

God told Joseph Smith to keep an eternal perspective throughout his suffering as well when He said:  “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” (D&C 121: 7-8)

It was because of this perspective that Adam and Eve rejoiced that they had initiated the fall.  In Moses 5: 10-11 it is written: “And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” (Moses 5: 10-11)

Paul also taught that when we truly have an eternal perspective, we yearn for our eternal home:For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” (2 Cor 5: 1-4)

h.) Trials are sometimes an opportunity to have our faith strengthened.

Another reason we are given trials is so that they can strengthen our faith.  In the Old Testament, we learn of Hannah who was barren and there was nothing she could do to change that.  However,  she turned to the Lord and the Lord turned her barrenness into great fruitfulness as her son would become a great prophet.  Hannah’s trial taught her to turn to the Lord and to rely on Him and in the full context of her life increased her faith.   (1 Sam 1-2)

It is through stories like these that we learn that we will never experience a trial not necessary for our salvation. Brigham Young once said: “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 345).

In our times of despair, God can seem far away from us even though we seek Him.  Job teaches us that we must trust that we are being purified in the furnace of affliction and will come forth as gold.  He says“Oh that I knew where I might find him! That I might come even to his seat! Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23: 3, 8-10)

The Psalms describe this relatively common experience where we struggle with our faith as God seems silent in the face of our suffering.  In Psalms 13: we read: “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? For ever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?  But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.  I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalms 13: 1,2,5) The Psalmist acknowledges his emotions but nevertheless resolves to trust in the Lord, even when He appears silent.

Since we cannot achieve certainty in this life nor can our finite minds fully comprehend the workings of an infinite God, we need to remain humble and acknowledge our limitations before God.  In the Book of Job, when Job began to doubt whether God knew what He was doing the Lord responded by asking Job a series of questions:

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding…When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

“Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?”

“Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? Or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?”

“Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?”

“Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? Declare if thou knowest it all.”

“Where is the way where light dwelleth? And as for darkness, where is the place thereof?”

“Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew?  Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?”

“Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?”

“Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?”

“Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? Or fill the appetite of the young lions…Who provideth for the raven his food? When his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.”

“Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?”

“Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south? Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?” (Job 38)

As you can see, these questions were designed to help Job remember what a limited perspective and capacity he truly has that prevents him from fully understanding everything.  When our experiences go beyond our capacity to understand, the scriptures teach us to have faith in the character of God.

While we sometimes suffer at the hands of others, we can also be blessed by how others use their moral agency.  Vern P Sanfill observed: ”While we are struggling in the darkness, there is nothing wrong with relying temporarily upon the light of those who love us and have our best interests at heart.” (Choose the Light Oct/15)

However, the hard reality is that sometimes God allows us to suffer major losses and does not remove the bitter cup that we find ourselves holding.  When this is the case we can look to the example of shadrach meshach and abednego who refused to stop worshipping God even though their king outlawed it.  These three devout disciples said: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. … But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods.” They possessed full confidence that God could save them, “but if not,” they had complete faith in His plan.” (Donald L. Hallstrom- Has the Day of Miracles Ceased?)

Commenting on this episode from the scriptures, Donald L. Hallstrom taught: “A critical question to ponder is “Where do we place our faith?” Is our faith focused on simply wanting to be relieved of pain and suffering, or is it firmly centered on God the Father and His holy plan and in Jesus the Christ and His Atonement? Faith in the Father and the Son allows us to understand and accept Their will as we prepare for eternity. While it is good to pray for and work for physical protection and healing during our mortal existence, our supreme focus should be on the spiritual miracles that are available to all of God’s children.” (Donald L. Hallstrom-Has the Day of Miracles Ceased?)

i.) Trials sometimes come upon us as a result of the moral agency of others. Their bounds are always set but God allows us to suffer at the hands of others so that all may learn and it creates a witness against sin.

And one final purpose of suffering is to teach everybody of the effects that sin has on other people.  Unfortunately, this means that we can suffer due to the abuse of another person’s agency.  The preacher in Ecclesiastes observed: “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)  God allows us to abuse our agency without instant punishment because it reveals what is truly in our hearts.

The Lord allows the wicked to do evil that His judgments will be just. When Amulek saw the people of Ammonihah burning the Christians alive he asked Alma to intervene.  Alma responded: “But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” (Alma 14:11)

Similarly, the Lord has said that the prophet Joseph’s martyrdom was necessary in order to condemn the wicked.  In D&C 136: 39 the Lord says:“Many have marveled because of his death; but it was needful that he should seal his testimony with his blood, that he might be honored and the wicked might be condemned.”

However, while God allows us to abuse our agency, it is always within certain bounds and our agency can never permanently harm another person’s eternal destiny.  To Joseph Smith in moments of trial, and referring to his enemies, the Lord said, “Hold on thy way, … for their bounds are set, they cannot pass.” (D&C 122:9.)

Elder Chauncey C. Riddle taught: “I believe that the first and foremost thing for us to remember is that our beloved Master is in charge. In him we live and move and have our being. He has placed controls on the course of the heavens, the forces and events of nature, the course of nations, and the life of every human being. He grants each of us on this earth enough agency to show our true nature, but never enough to destroy his own purposes. Because men have agency, there is evil. But that evil always has bounds.” ‐Chauncey C. Riddle

A 1914 First Presidency message summarizes the principles that we have just discussed.  It says:

“ God, doubtless, could avert war, prevent crime, destroy poverty, chase away darkness, overcome error, and make all things bright, beautiful and joyful. But this would involve the destruction of a vital and fundamental attribute in man — the right of agency. It is for the benefit of His sons and daughters that they become acquainted with evil as well as good, with darkness as well as light, with error as well as truth, and with the results of the infraction of eternal laws. Therefore he has permitted the evils which have been brought about by the acts of His creatures, but will control their ultimate results for His own glory and the progress and exaltation of His sons and daughters, when they have learned obedience by the things they suffer. The contrasts experienced in this world of mingled sorrow and joy are educational in their nature, and will be the means of raising humanity to a full appreciation of all that is right and true and good.” (1914 First Presidency Message)

In summary, we should interpret trials as being necessary for our growth, view them as time-limited and trust that God will turn them into gains for us. If we are keeping the commandments, we can know that whatever happens it’s the will of God and it is for our benefit.  In D&C 42: 44 the Lord teaches this principle when He says: “And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me.” (D&C 42:44)  “And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.” (D&C 42: 48)

Common Maladaptive Beliefs

i.) Any belief that sees suffering as being pointless and for no reason.

ii.) Any belief that denies that all things will work out for good for them that love God.

iii.) Any belief that minimizes the importance of suffering in one’s life.

iv.) Any belief that suggests we should be able to comprehend all things.

v.) Any belief that suggests that it is unusual and undesirable to suffer.

vi.) Any belief that denies the power of God to help us overcome anything.

Resources

Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ (Lesson)

Interpreting Trials through a Gospel Lens (Lesson)

Putting on the Armor of God (Lesson)

Adversity (Howard W. Hunter Lesson)

Understanding Suffering Part 1: Qualifying for God’s Protection

Main Idea: God does not spare anyone great trials but promises to strengthen and deliver the righteous until their life mission is complete.  The scriptures teach us to put on the armor of God and to build our lives upon the foundation of Christ’s teachings to qualify for God’s protection.  God delivers the righteous from evil, provides for their needs, turns their afflictions into gains, compensates them for all their losses, gives them spiritual strength to bear their burdens with ease and ultimately delivers them from death and hell and gives them the unspeakable gift of eternal life. 

1.) God does not spare anyone great trials, but will strengthen and deliver the righteous.

The scriptures are filled with examples of good people who suffered many afflictions despite their obedience to God. In the opening verse of the Book of Mormon, Nephi says that he has seen many afflictions and yet remains highly favored of God (1 Nephi 1:1). Joseph of Egypt was innocent and a righteous man but he was sold into slavery and suffered imprisonment for crimes he was falsely accused of.  The entire book of Job explores the question of why God allows the righteous to suffer and be afflicted.  In Job 10:15 Job speaks of his confusion: “If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction.” (Job 10:15)

God does not spare anyone from experiencing great trials and tribulations in this life but He does promise that He will not allow any external force to interfere with our essential mission on this earth. For example, in Acts 12, the Apostle Peter was imprisoned and guarded by many soldiers for preaching the word and then an angel was sent to release him from prison. Herod could not kill or imprison Peter because his work was not yet finished. Similarly, the Apostle Paul was afflicted but miraculously preserved until his mission was finished.  On his journey to Rome, he was shipwrecked but protected by an angel and was able to shake off the bite of a viper to continued performing miraculous healings until he reached Rome.”  Paul described the experience of the Saints of his time in this way: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4: 8-9)

However, While Peter and Paul’s work was not yet finished, God allowed Herod to martyr John the Baptist because his work was finished.  It appears that God protects His servants until they fulfill their life mission and then he allows them to die to receive a crown of Glory.  Jesus was protected by the Holy Spirit against His enemies until the appointed hour of His crucifixion and Joseph Smith was protected from his enemies until he had finished the work he was given and passed on the restored priesthood keys to his successors.

2.) How to Qualify for God’s protection

Since we know that God protects us from experiences that would destroy our ability to complete our foreordained life missions then it becomes important to know how to qualify for this protection.  The Apostle Paul told the Roman Saints: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13:12)  Paul also wrote to the Ephesian Saints about putting on the armor of God (Eph 6: 10-18).  Paul says that you put on the armor of God by acting in faith and in accordance with truth by keeping the commandments of God.  He also stresses the importance of receiving the protection afforded by Gospel ordinances and covenants and  by allowing the Spirit to protect and defend you.

If you put on the whole armor of God then Paul Promises that everything will work out to your benefit.  In Romans 8:28 Paul says:  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)

Other scriptures compare putting on the armor of God to building your life on a solid foundation.  Jesus gave the Parable of the Wise and Foolish builders in which He said that those who build their lives on His teachings are comparable to those who build their houses on a rock while those who build their lives on any other foundation are building on sand.  When the adversity and afflictions of life come if you are built on a solid foundation then your house cannot be destroyed but if you have built on a shaky foundation then the storm will tear down your house (Matt 7: 24-27).   This is why the Psalmist wrote: “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

The Book of Mormon uses the phrase “tight light a dish” to describe how the Jaredites built their barges to cross the sea, according to the commandments of God.   The Jaredites had prepared well in advance and been obedient to the Lord’s commands.  As a result, when the storms came in the sea they were protected and had all they needed to endure the trial.  In the same way, when we prepare and are obedient to God we can be “tight like a dish” to the storms in our life. (Ether 2)

To qualify for God’s protection, we must do all that we can to put on the armor of God and to build our lives on the foundation of Christ’s teachings and then await the salvation of God.  In D&C 123: 16-17 it is written: “You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” (D&C 123: 16-17)

3.) How God protects us

In this next section, I’d like to look at how exactly God protects His saints, using examples from the scriptures.  The scriptures teach us that Whenever we are obeying the will of God we are doing His business which entitles us to His protection:“Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business.” (D&C 64: 29)

a.) The Lord protects us from evil and those who seek to harm us.

The scriptures contain many stories that show how God protects His saints from evil.  Paul promised the Thessalonians: “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” (2 Thess 3:3) He also told the Thessalonians that God would recompense to every man who persecuted the Saints. He said: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” (2 Thess 1:6)

In the Doctrine and Covenants, this promise of protection is given many times.  In D&C 71: 9-11 we read: “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you‐‐there is no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; And if any man lift his voice against you he shall be confounded in mine own due time.”  D&C 98:22 gives a similar promise: “And again I say unto you, if ye observe to do whatsoever I command you, I, the Lord, will turn away all wrath and indignation from you, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.” (D&C 98: 22) And finally in D&C 101:16 the Lord declares:  “Let your hearts be comforted …all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.” (D&C 101:16)

One of the most dramatic examples of this principle is found in the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 6.  Elisha was surrounded by an entire army of Syrians who sought to destroy him when his servant began to tremble in fear.  Elisha said to this servant:  “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.  And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kings 6: 16-17) God had literally sent the armies of heaven to protect Elisha from harm so that he could finish his work.

The Book of Mormon contains numerous examples of God protecting His saints from evil as well. The Nephites were frequently outnumbered and yet they constantly defeated their foes who were far more numerous.  In Mosiah 9 a great battle is described in which the Lamanites lost over 3000 men and the Nephites only lost 279.  In the Nephite civil war described in Alma 2, Alma and his followers defeated an alliance of Lamanite and Nephite dissenters led by Amlici even though they were far outnumbered.  The story of the 2000 stripling warriors defeating Lamanite armies without losing a single man shows the miraculous power of the Spirit (Alma 56).  Similarly, in the Battle of the city of Noah, Captain Moroni was obedient in preparing his fortifications and as a result repelled a Lamanite army without losing a single man.

In other examples from the Book of Mormon, when Alma and Amulek were imprisoned for preaching the word, God caused the prison to collapse and kill all of their captors but Alma and Amulek were preserved  (Alma 14). Similarly, in Helaman 5, when Nephi and Lehi were imprisoned for preaching the word, God surrounded them with fire and shook the walls of the prison and spoke to the Lamanites directly inviting them to repent (Helaman 5).  When Alma and his people were in bondage to the Lamanites, God caused a deep sleep to come upon the Lamanites that allowed Alma and his people to flee the land of Helam (Mosiah 24).  Samuel the Lamanite could not be harmed by the wicked Nephites who shot arrows at him and tried to stone him.  The Spirit of the Lord protected Samuel and deflected those projectiles so that Samuel could finish the mission he was given. (Helaman 13-16)

These are actual example of the principle that Jacob taught in Jacob 3:1 which reads:  “Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.”  (Jacob 3:1)  Similarly, God describes the extent to which He will go to protect His saints in D&C 35:24 which reads:  “Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye are bound; and I will cause the heavens to shake for your good, and Satan shall tremble and Zion shall rejoice upon the hills and flourish.” (D&C 35:24)

God promised Joseph Smith that his enemies would not be able to end his life a day sooner than God had preordained.  He said: “Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” (D&C 122:8-9)

And one final promise from the D&C to consider is found in section 136:30 which says:  “Fear not thine enemies, for they are in mine hands and I will do my pleasure with them.” (D&C 136:30)

b.) The Lord provides for our needs.

While God protects us from evil, He also promises to provide for the physical needs of His saints.  In the sermon on the mount, Jesus taught us to work diligently to keep His commandments and then our physical needs will be met:

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

c.) The Lord turns our afflictions into gains for us.

The next promise to consider is the idea that God will take our experiences of suffering in this life and use them for our eternal gain.  The prophet Lehi taught: “Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” (2 Nephi 2:2)  Jesus has been compared to a master alchemist who turns base metals into gold.  However, the base metals that Jesus deals with are the experiences of suffering and affliction that we all have and He turns those experiences into the Gold of eternal life.  Speaking through Isaiah, the Lord used this metaphor when He said: “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10)   Continuing with this metaphor, the prophet Isaiah promised that the Lord uses our experiences to burn away the dross of our souls and refine us into gold: “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin” (Isaiah 1:25).

Speaking to Joseph Smith of the persecutions that he had experienced, the Lord said: “If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb; And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122: 5-7)

God often hears our prayers and decrees they will be answered in His own due time and that our struggles in the meantime will be consecrated for our gain.  In D&C 98: 2-3 the Lord gives the Saints this counsel: “Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted. Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.” (D&C 98:2-3)

Elder Evan A. Schmutz observed: “Suffering in and of itself does not teach or grant to us anything of lasting value unless we deliberately become involved in the process of learning from our afflictions through the exercise of faith.” Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “Certain forms of suffering endured well can actually be ennobling…Part of enduring well consists of being meek enough, amid our suffering, to learn from our relevant experiences. Rather than simply passing through these things, they must pass through us in ways which sanctify [us].”(Evan A. Schmutz-God Shall Wipe Away all tears)

Perhaps there is no greater example of the Lord turning an affliction into gain than the story of Joseph in Egypt. Joseph was sold into slavery and cast in prison but these circumstances led him to become second only to Pharaoh and to be able to preserve the Israelites from famine.

While all experiences work to our benefit, as Paul Promised the Romans, this is primarly from an eternal perspective and does not always happen immediately.  Speaking of this principle, Sisters Neil F. Marriott said:  “Our family motto doesn’t say, “It will all work out now.” It speaks of our hope in the eternal outcome—not necessarily of present results. Scripture says, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”  This doesn’t mean all things are good, but for the meek and faithful, things—both positive and negative—work together for good, and the timing is the Lord’s. We wait on Him, sometimes like Job in his suffering, knowing that God “maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” (Neil F. Marriot-Yielding Our Hearts to God Oct/15)

d.) The Lord compensates us for all our losses.

As previously discussed, the Lord allows the righteous to suffer and experience loss but He has also promised to compensate us for all of our losses. In Matthew 19:29 The Lord teaches us about this law of compensation: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”

One of the lessons of the Book of Job is that the Lord allows the faithful to suffer but eventually compensates the faithful by giving them more than what they had prior to suffering.  In Job 42:10 it is written: “The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10)

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin spoke of this principle as well when he said: “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin‐ Come What May and Love It)

This law of compensation is even at work in the greater context of the world.  Elder Neil L Andersen taught: “As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.”  (Vern P Sanfill, Choose the Light, Oct/15)

e.) No hardship will last forever as God will eventually deliver us from them all.

The scriptures promise us that no hardship lasts forever and that God will eventually deliver us from all of struggles, in His own due time and in accordance with His perfect knowledge of what we need for our eternal development.  In Psalms 30:5 it is written:  “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5)  And Psalms 34:19 also says:   “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalms 34: 19)

f.) The Lord fortifies our spiritual strength and will always provide a way for us to cope with stressful life situations.

The next comforting promise that the Lord gives His saints is the idea that He will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able to endure.  In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul taught: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor 10: 13)

Paul also told the Corinthians that their bodies might decay but that God would renew their spirits every single day: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (2 Cor 4: 16)

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself invited all who are overwhelmed by life to come unto Him and allow Him to help you bear your burdens.  He said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11: 28-30)

The Psalmist testified of this principle when he said: “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Ps.55:22)

On another occasion, the Lord taught the disciples that they would experience tribulation in the world but could experience peace through coming unto Him: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Paul also promised the Romans that no trial or burden they experienced could ever separate them from the Love of God: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38–39)

While God promises to ease our burdens, He does not always immediately change our external situations.  Speaking to Alma and his people who were in bondage to the Lamanites, the Lord said:  “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” (Mosiah 24:14)

The Lord is able to ease our burdens because He has personally experienced them and knows how to overcome them.  In D&c 62:1 the Lord says:  “Behold, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.” (D&C 62:1)  The scriptures promise that the Lord can heal us of any sorrow

g.) The Spirit intercedes on our behalf and asks God for what we truly need.

Another way that God protects His saints is by allowing the Spirit to search our hearts and to ask God for what we need but aren’t aware that we need.  Paul taught this principle to the Romans when he said: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8: 26-27)

h.) The Lord can heal us of any sorrow, disappointment or affliction.

The scriptures promise that the Lord can heal us of any sorrow, disappointment or affliction that we experience.  In Psalms 147:3 the Psalmist writes:  “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” (Psalms 147:3)

This is because the Lord has personally experienced our hardships.  Alma testifies of the healing role of Jesus Christ when he says: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. “And he will take upon him death that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succour his people according to their infirmities.”  (Alma 7: 11‐12)

i.) The Lord gives us Eternal Life

Ultimately, the Lord promises us eternal life with Him and complete victory over death and hell.  In 2 Nephi 9:10 Jacob proclaims: “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.”   In D&C 59:23 the Lord declares the reward of the righteous: “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.

The scriptures thus teach us that death is a blessing that allows us to be resurrected into a much higher glory (2 Nephi 9:6).  In the D&C 50: 40-42 the Lord promises that if we endure well we will overcome the world through Christ: “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me. And none of them that my father hath given me shall be lost.”

Speaking of the eternal life, which is the ultimate gift God can give, the Lord has said: “Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.” (D&C 58 3‐4)

Paul also testified of the glory that awaits the saints when he wrote to the Corinthians: ” But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)

From an eternal perspective, the trials that we endure are such a small moment of our eternal existence.  The Lord said this to Joseph Smith: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; “And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” (D&C 121: 7‐8)

It is for this reason that the scriptures declare that the righteous need not fear the death that they experience once their mission on this earth is complete.  The prophet Alma said of the Ammonites:  “And they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it.” (Alma 27:28)

Resources

Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ (Lesson)

Interpreting Trials through a Gospel Lens (Lesson)

Putting on the Armor of God (Lesson)

Adversity (Howard W. Hunter Lesson)

How to Follow the Prophet

Main Idea: The prophet is God’s representative on earth and holds all of the Priesthood keys.  He speaks for God by teaching known truths, interpreting hidden truths and revealing new truths.  The living prophet is more important than the scriptures or past prophets.  Prophets are not perfect and do not require earthly credentials but God will not allow the prophet to lead the church astray.  The prophet tells us what we need to know on any matter and is not limited by human knowledge.  Prophets are usually not popular with the proud, rich and educated and are often dismissed and persecuted by the world.  False prophets speak soothing lies and appear as sheep but are motivated by personal gain and are inwardly ravening wolves.  All people can be “small p” prophets who teach known truths under direction of the spirit. 

Good morning brothers and sisters, today we are going to be looking at the role that God’s servants, the Prophets, play in the world. According to the Gospel Principles Manual: “A prophet is a man called by God to be His representative on earth. When a prophet speaks for God, it is as if God were speaking (D&C 1:38). He receives revelations and directions from the Lord for our benefit. He may see into the future and foretell coming events so that the world may be warned.  A true prophet is always chosen by God and called through proper priesthood authority (Articles of Faith 1:5).”

“Latter-day Saints sustain the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles as prophets. However, when we speak of “the prophet of the Church,” we mean the President of the Church, who is President of the high priesthood. Through the Ages, God has called Prophets to lead mankind, such as Moses, Nephi and Joseph Smith.”  In the book of Hosea we are reminded that God uses prophets to accomplish great works on earth.  Hosea 12: 10-13 read: “I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.  And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.” (Hosea 12: 10, 13)

In the Book of Amos, we learn that The Lord directs his people through prophets that He calls.  Amos 3:7 testifies: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”

The Prophet speaks on the Lord’s behalf and all that they prophesy will be fulfilled.  In D&C 1:38 we learn: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

We have a prophet today who is President of the Church and also has the keys to direct the work of the church on earth.  In D&C 132:7 we also learn that: “There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.” (D&C 132:7)

Prophets can predict the future and see the past. In the Book of Helaman, a quite remarkable account is given of the prophet Nephi being shown by the power of God who had murdered the chief judge.  Nephi not only was able to know and see the murder of the Chief Judge but he was able to predict exactly how Seantum (the murderer) would respond when questioned about the murder.  God can work mighty miracles through His prophets.  (Helaman 9)

Fourteen Fundamentals-Ezra Taft Benson

President Ezra Taft Benson, a prophet of God, gave us fourteen fundamental principles that we need to understand about prophets in an address he gave at BYU in 1980.  I will now examine each of these principles that he laid out for us .

1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord on everything.

In D&C 132:7 the Lord speaks of the Prophet–the President–and says: “There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom his power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.”  Alma also taught us that Prophets speak by command to the church and by invitation to the world.  He said:  “I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life.” (Alma 5:62)  In D&C 21:5 we are commanded to view the words of the prophet as the words of God Himself: “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” (D&C 21:5)

It is the ordained prophets, seers and revelators of the church that determine doctrine and not the majority opinion of the members or of prominent thinkers.  Elder D. Todd Christfferson explains: “In some faith traditions, theologians claim equal teaching authority with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and doctrinal matters may become a contest of opinions between them. Some rely on the ecumenical councils of the Middle Ages and their creeds. Others place primary emphasis on the reasoning of post-apostolic theologians or on biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. We value scholarship that enhances understanding, but in the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority.” (The Doctrine of Christ- D. Todd Christofferson)

2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

President Brigham Young taught: “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,” said he, “when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.” Brigham Young

3. The Current prophet is more important than past prophets.

President Benson said: “God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore, the most important prophet, so far as you and I are concerned, is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us….Our marching orders for each six months are found in the general conference addresses, which are printed in the Ensign magazine.”

In referring to the importance of being led by a current prophet, Hugh B. Brown observed in his talk “profile of a prophet” that if the Lord did not speak to His people it would be because he doesn’t care, we don’t need Him or He isn’t able to do so.  Elder Brown spoke of a conversation he had with a Christian judge who did not believe in modern revelation which I will now quote:

Elder Brown said: “May I suggest some possible reasons why he has not spoken. Perhaps it is because he cannot. He has lost the power.” The judge said, “Of course that would be blasphemous.”

“Well, then, if you don’t accept that, perhaps he doesn’t speak to men because he doesn’t love us anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men.”  “No,” he said, “God loves all men, and he is no respecter of persons.”

“Well, then, if you don’t accept that he loves us, then the only other possible answer as I see it is that we don’t need him. We have made such rapid strides in education and science that we don’t need God anymore.”  And then he said, and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war, “Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why he doesn’t speak.”  My answer was, “He does speak, he has spoken; but men need faith to hear him.”

4. The Prophet will never lead the church astray.

President Marion G. Romney gives this account of some counsel he was given by President Heber J. Grant.  He said: “I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home….Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” [In Conference Report, October 1), p. 78]

President Wilford Woodruff said that a prophet will never be allowed to lead the Church astray:“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff [2004], 199).

This principle taught by President Woodruff is found in the Book of Ezekiel 14:9 which reads:And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.” (Ezekiel 14:9)

5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

President  Benson warned us against thinking that our earthly knowledge is superior to revelation from the source of all knowledge.  He said: “Remember if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet and you’ll be blessed and time will show you have done the right thing.”

God often calls the simple, who are overlooked by the world, to become prophets.  For example, the prophet Amos said this about his life before His call to be a prophet: ”Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.” (Amos 7: 14-15)

In fact, the scriptures even contain stories of the prophets not acting perfectly at times.  For example, Joseph Smith’s rebuke at the hands of the Lord for his poor decisions has been canonized and is now D&C section 3.  Speaking of his weaknesses this great prophet said: “Many persons think a prophet must be a great deal better than anybody else… I am not, God judges men according to the use they make of the light which he gives them.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 303)

The prophet Jeremiah suffered so intensely that he wished he was never born and appeared to be ungrateful for his life.  He said:  “Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.” (Jeremiah 20:14)

It is for these weaknesses, that seem apparent to those who grow up with future prophets, that a prophet is often not accepted in his own country.  People can begin to form a fixed view of a prophets identity based on youthful mistakes and inexperience.  Jesus Himself taught this principle in Luke 4: 24 which reads: “And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.”

6. The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture. 

In D&C 21:4 it is written: “Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you.” (D&C 21:4.)  Notice that the Lord said to heed ALL the prophets words and not just his commandments.

However, this principle needs to be balanced with the idea that a prophet isn’t always acting in his role as a prophet as he has other roles he fulfills in life.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson explains:

“At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.” (D. Todd Christofferson-The Doctrine of Christ)

7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know. Prophets warn and exhort us to repentance.

“Said President Harold B. Lee: You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life…. Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow…. Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church.” [in Conference Report, October 1970, p. 152-153)

True prophets are often a minority and don’t always tell us things we want to hear.  In the Book of 1 Kings, Ahab easily found 400 prophets who would tell him what he wanted to hear but the real prophet was a minority voice that was hated and scoffed at. (1 Kings 22)

Isaiah compared the prophet to a watchman on the wall who can see the dangers coming from afar off.  In Isaiah 21:11 we read:  “He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” (Isaiah 21:11)

Before Judgment, the Lord sends Prophets to warn of impending destruction.  In 2 Kings 17: 13 it is written:  “Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”

God sends His prophets among the people even when He knows they will reject them so that they will not be able to say they weren’t warned of the consequences of their choices.  The prophet Ezekiel said:  “And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.” (Ezekiel 2:5)

8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

President Benson said: “There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelations of God and the reasoning of men-between the prophet and the politician or professor. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire.” (Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, vol. 2, p. 173).

Human knowledge is derived from the senses and is limited by our finite natures.  Technically speaking, human knowledge is never certain but always provisional as it is vulnerable to what are called “black swan events” which are rare events that have never been experienced that change our assumptions about the world.  This is because the scientific method is based on induction which involves making generalizations from specific observations.  Induction cannot yield certainty as human beings are incapable of observing every instance of something in the past, present and the future throughout all of time.  For example, for hundreds of years people thought that all swans were white until a black swan was discovered in Australia.  The assumption that “all swans are white” was based on human experience up to that point which people may have naively thought was whole and complete.  However, when the black swan was discovered it shattered the assumption that many people were certain about that “all swans were white.”

The revelations from God are not bound by the limitations of finite human experience but are precious truths derived from an infinite being who has searched out all of existence and knows all things past, present and future.  There are no black swans that God has not yet discovered so we can be sure that revelations from Him have taken into account the totality of all truth that is past, present and future.  Through the prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said: “Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.”  And since truth only has it’s full meaning when everything that is was and will be is considered in relation to everything else that ever was is and will be we can see that only a God can know absolute truth and thus only through revelation can we know absolute truth.   Revelation is always superior to human reasoning.

9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter–temporal or spiritual.

“Said Brigham Young: Some of the leading men in Kirtland were much opposed to Joseph the Prophet, meddling with temporal affairs… .  In a public meeting of the Saints, I said, “Ye Elders of Israel…. will some of you draw the line of demarcation, between the spiritual and temporal in the Kingdom of God, so that I may understand it?” Not one of them could do it… I defy any man on earth to point out the path a Prophet of God should walk in, or point out his duty, and just how far he must go, in dictating temporal or spiritual things. Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be.” [Journal of Discourses, 10:363-364]

10. The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

President Benson said: “When a people are righteous they want the best to lead them in government. Alma was the head of the Church and of the government in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was mayor of Nauvoo, and Brigham Young was governor of Utah. Isaiah was deeply involved in giving counsel on political matters and of his words the Lord Himself said, “Great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1). Those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government.”

The separation of church and state does not mean that we should not allow spiritual values to inform public policy.  It simply means that the ecclesiastical and political hierarchies are separate and that the church should have no power to deprive citizens of their civil liberties.  Since all beliefs are based on technically unprovable assumptions of the world, one group of people’s faith-based beliefs are going to be imposed on everyone else.  The only question is whose beliefs will be imposed?  Secular materialist worldviews are based on faith in the capacity of the senses to be able to discern all that is. To say that nothing exists beyond what your senses tell you is to declare yourself a God who is the pinnacle of all existence. It is false on its face since you don’t live long enough to observe all that ever was, is and will be. In my estimation, that is an incredible leap of logic that does not follow from the facts.

11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

President Benson said: “The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them; otherwise, the prophet is just giving his opinion–speaking as a man. The rich may feel they have no need to take counsel of a lowly prophet.”

In 2 Nephi 9:42 the prophet Jacob gives a dire warning to the proud who are rich and the proud who are educated.  He says: “And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.”

As discussed earlier, the truly educated and wise know the epistemological limits of human knowledge and are humbled by them.  Socrates, who was considered one of the wisest men to ever live concluded: “I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.”   Socrates truly knew the limits of human knowledge and was humbled by them.

12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

President Benson said: “As a prophet reveals the truth it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words, but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him.”  History is filled with examples of false prophets who are popular with the people and true prophets who are persecuted and murdered and only vindicated with the passage of time.

Samuel the Lamanite rebuked the Nephites of his time for supporting false prophets and for persecuting God’s real prophets.  He said:

“Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angrywith him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.” (Helaman 13: 26-28)

In the Book of Exodus, we learn that when we murmur against the Lord’s prophet, we are murmuring against God Himself.  Exodus 16:8 reads:“The Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord.” (Exodus 16:8)

The scriptures give us several keys to detecting false prophets, which I will now examine.

  1. Motivated by personal gain: In the Book of Numbers, we learn of the false prophet Balaam who was motivated by money and power and not by submitting to the will of God in all things (Num 22-25). The Apostle Peter used Balaam as an example of a false prophet.  He said that false prophets: “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.” (2 Peter 2: 15-16)“The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, is not the Lord among us? None evil can come upon us.” (Micah 3:11)The Prophet Alma taught that teaching the word of God in order to obtain riches and honor among men was the essence of Priestcraft.  He said: “Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.” (Alma 1:16)
  2. Making predictions that do not come true:  “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deut 18:22)
  3. Lulling the people into carnal security: The 400 prophets that Ahab gathered were not interested in the word of the Lord but in simply upholding Ahab’s will. False prophets do not seek the Will of God and bring destruction upon those that trust in them.” (1 Kings 22)
    • “Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.  Then the Lord said unto me, the prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.  Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; by sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.” (Jeremiah 14: 13-15)
  4. Speaking soothing lies rather than hard truths: “Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for everyone from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8: 10-11)
  5. False Dreams and Visions that lead people astray:  “I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.  How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? Yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.” (Jeremiah 23: 25-27)
    • “Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:32)
    • False prophets follow their own spirit and pretend they have had visions: “Thus saith the Lord God; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!” (Ezekiel 13:3)

6. False prophets use the Lord’s name in vain: I think the real meaning of the commandment not to use the Lord’s name in vain is not to use it without authority or to pretend you speak for Him when you do not. In the Book of Ezekiel the Lord condemns the false prophets who have used his name in vain:  “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God.  And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 13: 8-9)

7. False prophets appear gentle and harmless but are in reality vicious and dangerous. Jesus warned: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.(Matt 7: 15)

8. False prophets are usually popular:  In the Book of Mormon, The Antichrist Nehor founded his own church and taught the people that priests should be popular and should not have to work.  He also taught that everyone would be exalted no matter what and denied the doctrine of Christ.   (Alma 1)

9. Many False prophets teach against the doctrine of Christ:  Alma gives us the example of Korihor which he described this way:  “And he was Anti-Christ, for he began to preach unto the people against the prophecies which had been spoken by the prophets, concerning the coming of Christ.” (Alma 30:6)  We can contrast what Alma, a true prophet taught with what Korihor a false prophet taught by using the table below:

Alma Korihor
Hope in Christ’s Coming and Atonement. Hope in Christ is Foolish and Vain.
God knows the future and reveals through Prophets. Nobody can know the future.
Prophecies are true and sacred. Prophecies are foolish traditions.
The Spirit reveals truth. You cannot know of things you haven’t seen.
Testifies that there is a God and Christ will come. Belief in God is Mental Illness.
There is good and evil. Survival of the Fittest is the only morality.
All will be resurrected and judged after death. Denial of an afterlife.
Testifies that Church leaders have labored with their own hands for support. The Church is meant to enslave its members and live off their labor.
The Church removes ignorance from the people. The Church keeps the people in ignorance.
Revered God and His teachings. Reviled Against God and His teachings.
Believed based on faith. Sought signs to believe.

 

13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency–the highest quorum in the Church.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord refers to the First Presidency as “the highest council of the Church” (107:80) and says, “whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those….the First Presidency, whom I have sent” (112:20).

14. The prophet and the presidency–the living prophet and the First Presidency–follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

One of the major lessons of the scriptures is the idea that ignoring the warnings of the prophets will lead to destruction.  The story of Ahab and Micaiah illustrates  this principle well as they gathered 400 prophets before they went to battle and all of them prophesied he would be victorious.  Ahab then asked the true prophet Micaiah what would happen and he prophesied that Ahab’s army would lose.  As a result, Ahab had Micaiah thrown in prison.  Ahab went prophet shopping until he had found the answer that he had wanted.  He ignored the warnings from the prophet Micaiah and disaster came upon his army for listening to the 400 soothsayer false prophets.

Similarly, in the book of Amos, The Lord condemned Judah for telling the prophets not to prophesy: “But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, prophesy not.” (Amos 2:12)

The Book of Amos also teaches us that when God’s prophets are rejected enough times they are removed from the land and the people are left without divine guidance.  Amos 8: 11-12 reads:  “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” (Amos 8: 11-12)

In D&C 43:25 the Lord laments the hard-heartedness of the people who will not hear His voice.  He says: “How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!” (D&C 43:25). (Safety in Counsel-Henry B. Eyring)

In contrast to Ahab, the story of Abimelech and Abraham demonstrates the blessings that come from honoring the prophets.  Abimelech and his wife were barren and without an heir.  Abimelech honored Abraham as a prophet and blessed him with gifts and land.  As a result, God blessed Abimelech and his wife to have heirs.

Similarly, we can compare the stories of Joseph in Egypt and Moses and the ten plagues to see different outcomes depending upon how the Pharaoh treated the servant of the Lord.  The Pharaoh that ruled Egypt in the time of Joseph was wise enough to heed Joseph’s counsel and then honored him by making him second in power only to Pharaoh himself.  As a result, Egypt was blessed and was able to survive a great famine that lasted 7 years.  In contrast, the Pharaoh that refused to listen to the word of the Lord that came through Moses brought great plagues and destruction upon his own people.  These stories teach us that how we treat the prophet predicts whether we will be blessed or cursed when the judgments of God come upon us.

15. Everyone a prophet

While THE prophet of the church is the only one who can definitely declare the word of the Lord for the entire world, the scriptures do encourage all people to become “small p” prophets.  This principle is illustrated in the Book of Numbers where Moses is asked to rebuke two men who were prophesying to the Israelites.  Moses responded in the following way:

26 But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.

27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.

28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.

29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lordwould put his spirit upon them! (Numbers 11: 26-29)

Now this story need some further expounding and to do that we need to look at the definition of prophet, seer and revelator given to us by Elder John Widsoe which said:

“A prophet is a teacher. He teaches the body of truth, the gospel, revealed by the Lord to man; and under inspiration explains it to the understanding of the people. . . . (See D&C 20:26; 34:10; 43:16).

“A seer is one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and the present. . . .

“A revelator  makes known, with the Lord’s help, something before unknown. It may be new or forgotten truth . . .

“In summary: A prophet is a teacher of known truth; a seer is a perceiver of hidden truth; a revelator is a bearer of new truth.”

With this definition, the story of Eldad and Medad prophesying makes sense.  Moses was wishing that all would be prophets or teachers of known truths but he did not say all would be seers and revelators for the entire church.  For example, even though women did not hold the priesthood, there are some women who are called “prophetesses” in the scriptures.  In 2 Kings 22 the King of Israel sought the advice of the prophetess named Huldah.  Huldah could be a “small p” prophet as she taught known truths under the direction of the spirit to those who would listen.

Like Huldah, Eldad and Medad, we can all be teachers of known truths but we should all honor the ordained Prophets, Seers and Revelators when it comes to interpreting controversial doctrine or revealing new doctrines.

The Importance of the Restored Church

Main Idea: The Gospel has existed since the beginning of time and the church exists to distribute priesthood keys and to administer in the ordinances of salvation in an orderly manner. The Church exists to facilitate the command to “meet together oft” and to aid in accomplishing the Father’s ultimate purpose of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  This is done through the fourfold mission of the church which involves: perfecting the saints, preaching the gospel, redeeming the dead and caring for the poor and needy. Church members are set apart and asked to become a “peculiar people.” 

Since the beginning of time, the Gospel has been declared by holy angels to Adam and his posterity.  The ordinances of the gospel have been revealed and a firm decree has been established that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will exist until the end of time.  In the Book of Moses 5: 58-59 we read:  “And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost. And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached, and a decree sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end thereof; and thus it was. Amen.” (Moses 5: 58-59)

Since salvation and exaltation are based upon receiving these ordinances, the Lord has established His church to administer in an orderly fashion as the The Lord has said, “Mine house is a house of order” (D&C 132:8).

1.) There is only one church with proper priesthood authority.

God has established His church as the means through which the Priesthood keys should be distributed on earth in order to lawfully administer the ordinances of salvation that will be binding in the eternities.  In the gospel of John, Jesus taught Nicodemus that receiving the ordinances of the Gospel are a prerequisite for salvation.  He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:5)  To be born of water is to be baptized and to be born of the Spirit is to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  These ordinances are the strait gate through which we must go in order to enter into lawful covenants with the Lord that guarantee us eternal life, if we are faithful to those covenants.

Paul taught the Hebrews that nobody could assume the Priesthood authority but had to be called of God.  He said: “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Heb 5:4)  Similarly, in the D&C 42:11 the Lord gave us a key to judge whether someone is truly representing Him:  “Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to anyone to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by someone who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.” (D&C 42:11)

Paul taught the Ephesians that there was only one faith and one baptism that God recognizes.  He said:  “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph 4: 4-6)

In Modern revelation the Lord declared that He would not recognize baptisms performed by those who do not have His priesthood authority.  D&C 22:2 reads: “Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it available him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.”  Thus, the central purpose of the church is to be that strait gate that holds the power and authority to administer the ordinances of salvation.

In this dispensation, The Lord has established His church and given it a specific name.  In the D&C 115:4 we read: “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”  His church will be called in His name.  Paul warned against those who would seek to use names other than Christ.  He said: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1: 12-13)

Likewise, the Resurrected Christ clarified what the name of the Church would be to the Nephites when He said: “Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day; And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.  Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.  And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.”  (3 Nephi 27: 5-8)

Church members have struggled with the name of the church in this last dispensation and have allowed nicknames to overtake the true name of the Church.  President Russel M. Nelson recently admonished the church for doing so and emphasized the importance of using the Savior’s name instead of names such as: “LDS” or “Mormon.”  He said:

“What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan….If we as a people and as individuals are to have access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ—to cleanse and heal us, to strengthen and magnify us, and ultimately to exalt us—we must clearly acknowledge Him as the source of that power. We can begin by calling His Church by the name He decreed.”

2.)  God’s Church is built upon the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is led by prophets and apostles.

The scriptures also reveal to us that God’s church is built upon the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is led by prophets and Apostles.   Paul wrote to the Ephesians that the church was: “…Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.”  (Eph. 2:20)   When the Lord spoke to Peter about establishing His church, He said that the revelation from the Holy Ghost of His divine mission was the rock upon which His church would be built (Matt 13: 16-20).

When Jesus founded His church during His mortal ministry, He had many disciples but only ordained 12 Apostles to lead the church.  In the Gospel of John 15:16 the Lord said: “ Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.”  This means that we cannot just choose to be ordained to certain offices in the church but must be called of God through proper priesthood authority.

In the Book of Acts, we also see that the Apostleship was an office that was to continue in perpetuity and was not reserved only for the original 12 that Jesus had called.  After Judas died, the 12 met and received revelation that Matthias was to be called as an Apostle to replace Judas.  In the Book of Acts, we also learn about the role of the 12 in establishing and settling doctrinal disputes.  In Acts 15 we read of a dispute that had arise amongst church members at the time concerning whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised or not.  In order to settle the dispute, the 12 met together and then decided on the matter for the whole church.  This is in accordance with the principle that the Chief Apostle Peter taught, that there is no private interpretation of scripture but that the scriptures are ultimately interpreted by those in proper authority. (2 Peter 1:20)

Likewise, Paul warned the Ephesians about being led astray by those who would teach doctrines that were not in accordance with what the 12 taught.  He admonished them that they would: “…henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph 4: 14)

However, the ultimate power and authority of the church is the Spirit of God that inspires it.  The prophet Mormon taught that church meetings should always be led by the spirit.  He said: “…And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.” ( Mormon 6:9)

Likewise, church leaders are expected to submit to the promptings of the Spirit and will need to give an account of their stewardship to the Lord and how faithful they were in heeding those promptings.  In D&C 64:40 The Lord warns: “And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their stewardships shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead.” (D&C 64:40)

The Lord said something similar to Joseph Smith and warned him against following his own will instead of the Lord’s will for the church.  In D&C 3:4 we read the Lord’s warning: “For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.” (D&C 3:4)

3.) The Fourfold mission of the church

While the church is built on the foundation of the Gospel and is led by proper priesthood authority, all of its activities are designed to accomplish what is called the “fourfold mission of the church.”   These four goals include: perfecting the saints, preaching the gospel, redeeming the dead and caring for the poor and needy.   Ultimately, these four goals contribute to the ultimate purpose of God’s work on earth which He describes in Moses 1:39 which reads: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  Let’s look at each of these four objectives in more detail.

Sometimes one of these four objectives will be given more emphasis than others and the Lord calls different people to focus on different aspects of His work.  For example, in Acts chapter 6, the Apostles are criticized because they appear to be neglecting caring for the poor and the needy and are focusing most of their efforts on preaching the gospel.  In response, they said that they could not change their focus but called others who would be asked to care for the widows and the needy.  This episode shows us that we all have different focuses at different times in the kingdom of God.  Some are called to minister to the poor others to preach the word.

The first objective of the church is to perfect the saints. Paul taught the Ephesians of this purpose when he said:  “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph 4: 11-13)

The rituals, ordinances and programs of the church are designed to help us become perfected in Christ.  General conference talks, Sunday School, Sacrament talks and Priesthood and Relief Society instruction are all designed to teach the doctrine that, when applied, leads individual church members to become perfected in Christ.  The Lord has warned His people numerous times about engaging in vain rituals when our hearts are not right and when we have no real desire to become perfected.  Through the prophet Isaiah, He said: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats…Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.” (Isaiah 1: 11-13)

The Lord doesn’t give us meetings and rituals as a checklist of items that must be endured to receive salvation. These things are meant to be sincerely engaged in with real intent so that, in the words of Moroni, we may “Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.” (Moroni 10:32)

The church is also designed to be a place where Saints can fellowship with those who are on this same mission of becoming perfected in Christ.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph 2: 19-22)  The prophet Alma taught that part of the baptismal covenant that we make is to bear one another’s burdens as we move towards this grand objective.  He said: “…as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” (Mosiah 18: 8-9)

The second objective of the Church is to preach the Gospel to every living soul on the planet.  This is accomplished through the missionary program and the emphasis that has been placed on every member being a missionary.  This mission is often called the Great Commission, in the New Testament,  and is found in Matt 28: 19-20 which reads:  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

The Disciples of Christ obeyed the great commission that Jesus had given them and began preaching and baptizing people in all the land.  The work of God continues to this day and this Great Commission is still in effect. Just as Jesus said the He was a representative of His father on earth, He has also said that His saints are His representatives on earth.  In John 17: 18 Jesus says: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

The ultimate purpose of preaching the gospel is to find and gather in the elect that God has scattered amongst the nations.  In D&C 29:7 the Lord says: “And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;  Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.” (D&C 29:7)

The third mission of the church is to redeem the dead which is accomplished through work done in the temple where living church members stand as proxies to receive the ordinances of salvation for deceased ancestors. This practice is not unique to this dispensation as Paul alludes to the practice in his letter to the Corinthians in which he wrote: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor 15:29)

Clearly, God takes the requirement that all must enter in at the strait gate of baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost so seriously that He has built temples and commanded His servants to devote countless hours to fulfilling this requirement for their ancestors.  Just as Christ stood proxy for us, in taking upon Himself the consequences of our sins, we stand proxy for our deceased relatives and can become what the scriptures call: “Saviors on Mt. Zion.”  (Obadiah 1:21)

The authority to engage in this work was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith by the Prophet Elijah in the Kirtland Temple in the year of 1836.  This event was prophesied in the Old Testament when the prophet Malachi wrote: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4: 5-6)

And finally, the fourth objective of the church is to care for the poor and needy, which is accomplished through the welfare programs that the church provides to its members and the humanitarian services it offers to the entire world.  The Bishop of the ward holds the keys to accessing what is called the “bishop’s storehouse” which is a variety of goods and services that the church has made available to its members in need.  In D&C 83:6 we read: “And the storehouse shall be kept by the consecrations of the church; and widows and orphans shall be provided for, as also the poor. Amen.” (D&C 83:6)

4. Managing the Membership 

Another essential function of the church is to control who enters and leaves the Church and to discipline members when it is needed. In D&C 20: 80-84 the Lord gives instructions to the church concerning keeping a list of members who are in good standing and removing those who are not.

When the Resurrected Christ visited the Nephites, he instituted the sacrament and commanded the people to meet together on a regular basis.  He said:  “And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not.” (3 Nephi 18: 22-23)  The church is designed to help facilitate this commandment of the Lord to meet together often and to partake of the sacrament and renew the covenants we have made with Him.

In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul spoke of the importance of disciplining those members who violate their covenants.  He said: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1 Tim 5:20)  Paul is concerned that if members who sin are not disciplined then other members will have no reason to keep their covenants either.

On the issue of disciplining public and private sins, the doctrine and covenants gives this further guidance: “And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world. And if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many.  And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed. And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God.  If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her.  And thus shall ye conduct in all things.” (D&C 42:88-93)

For serious sins, the scriptures teach that members must be excommunicated.  The Prophet Moroni wrote: “And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ.  But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.”  (Moroni 6: 7-8)

However, even when a person is ex-communicated they can still attend public meetings, provided they are not disruptive.  In D&C 46: 3-4 it is written:  “Nevertheless ye are commanded never to cast any one out from your public meetings, which are held before the world.  Ye are also commanded not to cast anyone who belongeth to the church out of your sacrament meetings; nevertheless, if any have trespassed, let him not partake until he makes reconciliation.” (D&C 46: 3-4)

In order for the church to be a house of order, the Lord has emphasized that members need to be subject to the properly ordained priesthood authorities that have stewardship over them.  The Apostle Paul taught the Romans that all who hold power in the church receive that power from God.  He wrote:  “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power, IN THE CHURCH (JST), but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” (Romans 13: 1-2)

An episode from the Book of Samuel warns us against making it our mission to correct those who have stewardship over us.  In 2 Sam 6, we learn of a man named Uzzah who decided he knew better than those who instructed him not to touch the Ark of the Covenant and he touched it and was immediately struck dead.  The symbolism of this story suggests that spiritual death often comes when we think we know better than those priesthood authorities that give us inspired counsel.

5. A Peculiar People 

Concerning the types of people that make up His church, the Lord has often called them the “weak and simple” of the world. In ancient times, the Lord used the small size and relative weakness of the nation of Israel as a symbol of the type of people that He uses to accomplish His work.  In Deuteronomy 7: 6-8 the Lord says: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deut 7: 6-8)

An episode from the Book of Samuel will also illustrate the point.  When Samuel was looking for the next King of Israel, Jesse brought all of his sons before Him except for David.  Jesse didn’t even think about bringing David before Samuel because he just assumed David could not be king because of his stature.  However, through revelation, Samuel learned that the Lord had selected what appeared to be the weakest and simplest of all of Jesse’s sons to be King. In 1 Sam 16: 7 we read: ” But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. ” (1 Sam 16:7)

The church is made up of repentant sinners and not the self righteous.   Jesus called a publican (tax collector) to be one of His disciples. Publicans were distrusted outcasts at the time and the Pharisees complained that Jesus associated with sinners.  Jesus responded that it is the sinner that needs God and not the so called “perfect men.” .None of us are perfect, but the Pharisees believed they perfectly kept the Law of Moses, but were deceived. (Matt 9: 9-13)

Jesus took His message to “sinners” inviting them to repent and be born again.  His church is not a paradise for the perfected or those who think they are perfect (like the Pharisees) but is a hospital where sinners may become whole by following the prescriptions of ordained ministers.  (Matt 9: 9-13)

Since none of us are perfect, this also applies to our leaders in the church.  Alma emphasized that the preacher and hearer are considered to be equal in the sight of God: “And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.” (Alma 1:26)

President Eyring recently gave a story about a time where he gave a church member bad advice and praised the spirit with which the member responded to it.  He said: “His requests surprised me. But his prayer surprised me even more. It went something like this: “Heavenly Father, You know that Bishop Eyring gave me advice last week, and it didn’t work. Please inspire him to know what I am to do now. … If that boy had judged me for my failure to give him good advice the first time, he never would have come back to ask again. And so, by choosing not to judge me, he received the confirmation he desired.”

Part of sustaining our church leaders is recognizing that they are nor perfect and that they need our help in fulfilling their callings. In Exodus 17:11 we learn a great lesson on sustaining our leaders.  The Lord had said that as long as Moses would hold up his arms then Joshua and the Israelites would  win the battle against the Amalekites.  However, if Moses did not hold up his arms then the Israelites would begin to lose the  battle.  The task proved too difficult for Moses to do on his own so two other men had to come in and hold up the arms of Moses in order to ensure victory for Israel.  This episode symbolizes the fact that if Israel does not sustain and support its leaders, it will lose its battles and will ultimately be defeated.

While God often uses the weak and simple of the world to accomplish His purposes, He also commands that His people stand apart from the world.  The Apostle Peter taught: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2: 9)

Likewise in the Book of 1 Kings 8: 53 we read: “For thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.” (1 Kings 8: 53)

The Apostle Paul repeated this theme of being a “peculiar people” in his epistle to Titus when he wrote about Jesus:  “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14)

In order to become a peculiar people, Paul counseled the Saints of his time that they must behave differently than those who live in the world.  In Ephesians 4:17 Paul counsels: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind. Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Eph 4:17)

On other occasions Paul also told church members to: “Give no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.” (2 Cor 6: 3)  And he also compared the saints to lights that shine amidst the darkness of the world.  He exhorted the saints to: “…Be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Phil 2: 15)

In Matthew 13, the Lord Jesus Christ gave His “Kingdom of heaven parables” in which he compared the kingdom of God to both a mustard seed and to the leaven in bread.  He said:

“The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.  Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” (Matt 13: 31-33)

Jesus also called the Saints the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”  In Matt 5: 13-16 He said:

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

c.) God protects His church and His Kingdom cannot fail.

And finally, one last theme to consider concerning God’s church on earth is the promise He has made that His Kingdom cannot fail and that He will protect His church.  Speaking through Isaiah, the Lord said:  “Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness.” (Isaiah 50:2)

Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord also compared Israel to his battle ax that will destroy the nations that fight against Him.  Jeremiah 51:20 reads:  “Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms.” (Jeremiah 51:20)

In the Book of Acts, when the Apostles were brought before the Pharisees for preaching in the name of Jesus, a pharisee named Gamaliel counseled the people to leave them alone and gave numerous examples of cults that had arisen and died away relatively quickly.  However, he also said: ” Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5: 12-42)

We would all be wise to heed the advice of Gamaliel who said that if Christianity was of God then nothing could stop it from going forth and being established and fulfilling its preordained destiny of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.   I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Common Maladaptive Beliefs

i.) Any belief that suggests that church members should fit in and be accepted by the rest of the world.

ii.) Any belief that says that church is not important or God doesn’t care if we attend.

iii.) Any belief that says organised religion is always bad.

iv.) Any belief that says all churches are the same so it doesn’t matter which one I attend.

v.) Any belief that says God doesn’t care for the church. He has abandoned it.

vi.) Any belief that suggests the name of the church isn’t a big deal.

God’s Judgments: The Rewards of Righteousness

Main idea: The Lord blesses those who Keep His commandments in all things and ensures that everyone works out for their benefit.  He promises to prosper them and the land that they live on and extends their lives and protects them from their enemies.  He leads the righteous out before His judgments come and ensures that they will never be overwhelmed by temptation.  He gives them the desires of their hearts and blesses them with peace, joy and a clear conscience that points to the ultimate gift that cannot be comprehended: eternal life. 

Good morning brothers and sisters.  This is a continuation of the last post and is centered around the theme: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6: 23)  While we looked at the wages of sin last time, today we are going to focus on the rewards of righteousness.

While Paul says that the “wages of sin are death” he also says that “the gift of God is eternal life.”  However, there are many intermediate gifts that God gives us before we receive eternal life that are contingent on our obedience to His commandments.  In the D&C 130:20-21 we learn that: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130: 20-21)

This means that God operates according to the rule of law and has made obedience to law a necessary prerequisite for obtaining blessings.  Every time we receive a blessing it is because of our obedience to a certain law.  In the same way, any time we are cursed it is because of disobedience to God’s laws.  In D&C 82:10 we further learn that as a just lawgiver, God is bound to bless us when we obey His commandments.  It reads: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”

This theme of being blessed for keeping the commandments is one of the most common themes found in scripture.  In the D&C 6:20 the Lord promises: “Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.” In the Book of Leviticus,the Lord promises His people that they would have food in abundance, peace in the land, victory over their enemies and that their nation would expand and multiply.  He also promised to authorize His temple to be built and that He would personally dwell among the people. (Lev 26: 3-12)

In Deuteronomy 28, the Lord outlines the blessings that Israel would receive if they are faithful in keeping their covenants with Him and contrasts these blessings with the cursings that come from disobedience.  Some of theses blessings included:

  • Their Cities and Fields will be blessed.
  • The Fruits of the body, ground and cattle will be blessed. Baskets and stores are also blessed.
  • Those who leave Israel are blessed and those who return again are blessed.
  • All enemies will be destroyed and flee seven ways. Other nations will fear Israel.
  • The Lord will bless the storehouses and the land.
  • Israel will be set apart and made a holy people who are unique to the Lord.
  • The earth will give forth abundantly and be a blessing to Israel.
  • Israel will lend to nations and not borrow.
  • Israel will be made the head of all nations. (Deut 28)

a.) God extends the lives of the righteous.

The scriptures reveal that God will sometimes extend the lives of those who keep His commandments.  In Deuteronomy 5: 33-34 this promise is given: “Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.” (Deut 5: 33-34)

This principle can be observed in the Book of Kings where King Hezekiah ends up bargaining with the Lord to extend his life.  2 Kings 20: 3-6 says:  “I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord.  And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.” (2 Kings 20: 3-6)

b.) God prospers the Righteous and causes everything to work out for their good.

Another promise that is found repeatedly in the scriptures is the idea that God will cause those who keep His commandments to prosper in all things.  For example, in Deut 29:9 we read:  “Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.” (Deut 29:9)  Similarly, this promise is given repeatedly in the Book of Mormon: “And he hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” (2 Nephi 1:20, Alma 37:13)

King Benjamin, in his great sermon, taught that the righteous are blessed in all things:  “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”  (Mosiah 2:41)

In the Old Testament, it is also repeatedly promised that God will bless the land when the people are righteous.  In Zechariah 8: 12 the Lord promises:  “For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.” (Zechariah 8:12)  In contrast, Haggai said that the people would be  cursed with drought and famine if they were disobedient.

Combining these two contingencies, Isaiah said:  “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 1: 19-20)

Part of God prospering the righteous means that God compensates the righteous for all of the losses that they experience.  Jesus taught: “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold…” (Mark 10:29‐30)

And finally, the Apostle Paul gave one of the most sublime promises ever recorded in scripture that encompasses most other promises: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)   If this promise is true, then nothing can happen to you that God can’t consecrate for your eternal gain.  That is a comforting thought.

c.) God protects the righteous from their enemies.

The next promise that we are going to consider is the promise that God will protect the righteous from their enemies.  The ancient Israelite King David repeated this promise numerous times.  He said:

  • “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.” (2 Sam 22:31)   
  • “He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms….For thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that rose up against me hast thou subdued under me.” (2 Sam 22: 39-40)
  •  “It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me, and that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.” (2 Sam 22:48)
  •  “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” (Psalms 9: 9-10)
  • Psalm 23: The Lord is Our Shepherd Who Watches over and Protects His Sheep.

Echoing Davids sentiments, the prophet Isaiah made a similar declaration when he said:  “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40: 28-31)

Isaiah also promised that no weapon could be formed that would damage Israel: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 54: 17)

And finally, in the Book of Mormon, Nephi promises that God will intervene through miraculous means to preserve His people.  Nephi wrote: “For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous. Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.” (1 Nephi 22: 16-17)

d.) God gives the righteous the desires of their heart.

Another promise that God has made His saints, is to give them the desires of their hearts.  In Psalms 34: 10 it is written:  “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.”  Further in Psalms 37: 4-5 the same promise is repeated: : “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Modern revelation has confirmed these promises made in the Psalms.  In D&C 50: 29 we read: “And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.” (D&C 50:29)

e.) The Righteous enjoy peace, joy and a clean conscience.  They are given hope for eternal life.

One of the sweetest gifts that we can receive in this life is peace ,joy and a clean conscience.  The scriptures are clear that this is the result of righteousness or living in harmony with God’s laws.  The prophet Isaiah said it this way:  “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)

Alma contrasted the experience he had of being racked with the torment of a guilty conscience with the peace that the Savior can bring.  He wrote about his experience in Alma 36:21 which says:  “Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36:21)

This joy that is brought by the spirit has been described as “unspeakable” meaning there is nothing that it can really be compared to. (Helaman 5:44)  Peace in this life is a signal to us that we are on the path towards eternal life.  In D&C 59:23 the Lord said: “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (D&C 59:23)  And in Section 63:23 the Lord also said:  “But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.” (D&C 63:23)

The ultimate reward for the righteous is described in D&C 14:7 which reads: “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.”   Speaking of this gift, the Apostle Paul taught that it was too great a gift for the mortal senses to comprehend.  He said: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)

G.) The Lord gives the righteous protection from temptation.

The Apostle Paul also promised that God would not allow any temptation to overwhelm our capacity to resist it.  He said: “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

This means that no matter what you are going through, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ can make up the difference between your abilities and the problems that you face.  If you do your best then you unlock the keys of grace in your life and God takes care of the rest.

Peter also said it this way: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished.” (2 Peter 2: 9)

H.) God delivers the righteous when judgments come

And finally, one last promise to consider is that God promises to protect His saints from the judgments that He pours out upon the wicked.  For example, in the Book of Revelation the Angels of destruction are not loosed until the servants of God have been gathered and protected by the covenants they make: “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” (Rev 7:3)

In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, we learn that God will go to great lengths to spare the righteous and would have spared the entire city of Sodom if only 10 righteous people were found.  Genesis 18:32 records Abraham bargaining with God : “And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.” (Gen 18: 32)

However, while 10 righteous people could not be found, God did not allow the few righteous people that were there to be collateral damage and the Angels were sent to gather them out before the fire and brimstone fell.  This pattern continues throughout the scriptures.  In the Book of Omni, the Lord led Mosiah I and other righteous Nephites out of the Land of Nephi before the wicked Nephites were destroyed.  In the story of Abinadi, we see the Lord preserving his life through miraculous power until his life mission was completed.  The guards could not touch Abinadi until he had fully delivered his message. (Mosiah 13)

The scriptures even say that God sometimes spares entire nations because of the small group of righteous people found within those nations.  In Alma 10:22 it is written:  “Yea, and I say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction.” (Alma 10: 22)

One last example to consider is the great destruction that came upon the Nephites before the Resurrected Christ appeared to them.  The scriptures bear witness that the Lord spared the righteous during that time:  “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:13)\

Ultimately, Gold appears to gather out the righteous before His judgments come upon a nation and He leads them to a land of promise.  When God confounded the languages of the people at Babel, He spared the righteous and instead blessed them with a land of promise. (Ether 1) Similarly, before Jerusalem was destroyed, the Lord led Lehi and his family out and into the promised land of the Americas.

In summary, the Lord blesses those who Keep His commandments in all things and ensures that everyone works out for their benefit.  He promises to prosper them and the land that they live on and extends their lives and protects them from their enemies.  He leads the righteous out before His judgments come and ensures that they will never be overwhelmed by temptation.  He gives them the desires of their hearts and blesses them with peace, joy and a clear conscience that points to the ultimate gift that cannot be comprehended: eternal life.

Common Maladaptive Beliefs

i.) Any belief that says that because judgement is not immediate, it is not going to come.

ii.) Any belief that denies that God punishes wickedness and rewards righteousness.

iii.) Any belief that minimizes or denies the consequences of sin or the rewards of righteousness.

iv.) Any belief that says God won’t preserve the righteous when judgement comes.

God’s Judgments: The Wages of Sin

Main Idea: The Wages of Sin are ultimately death and misery while the gift for obedience is eternal life and transcendent joy.

Good morning brothers and sisters.  The theme of this talk will be taken from Romans 6: 23 in which the Apostle Paul wrote: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6: 23) The scriptures repeatedly warn us about the consequences of sin and the blessings that result from righteousness or obedience to God’s laws.   I will first use the scriptures to clearly outline the warnings they contain concerning the wages of sin and then I will outline the blessings that are promised when you obey God’s laws.

The Apostle James defined sin as knowing that something is good and choosing not to do it.  He said:  “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4: 17) John broadened our understanding and said that sin was the transgression of law. (1 John 3: 4-5)

The Apostle Paul declared to the Romans: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3: 23) Similarly, James said that whoever has broken one of God’s laws, is guilty of breaking all of them: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10)  Taken together, this means that we have all sinned by transgressing God’s laws or by not doing what we know is right.  Since we have broken one of God’s laws, it is as if we have broken all of them, since the eternal penalty is the same.  “For the wages of sin is death” Paul said, which means that because we have sinned we will experience a physical and spiritual death.

However, Jesus Christ was sent to save us from the consequences of our sins on condition of obedience to His gospel.  This is why the Lord Jesus Christ is our judge, because the default state we find ourselves in is headed towards both physical and spiritual death.  He judges our worthiness to access His grace because He has personally suffered the consequences of our sins in order to maintain the integrity of God’s laws.  And part of His role as judge is to warn us of the consequences of continuing to break God’s laws by heeding the temptations of Satan, the great adversary of God’s plan and enemy of our souls progression.

Since God’s law could not be broken without consequence and Jesus had to pay the penalty for every sin we would commit, it follows that God will not excuse sin in the least degree.  In D&C 1: 31-32 the Lord declared: “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.” (D&C 1: 31-32)

And lest any of us should be tempted into thinking we can hide our sins the Lord warned the Israelites thorugh Hosea: “And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.” (Hosea 7:2)

The Lord has promised to recompense us according to our works and He will not take pity on the evil who have not repented.  In Ezekiel 7: 9 we read: “And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the Lord that smite.” (Ezekiel 7:9)

1.) God Punishes Wickedness and Sin

The Scriptures contain many warnings concerning the consequences of sin which will now be examined in detail:

A.) God curses the Wicked and ultimately destroys them.

In Deuteronomy 28, the Lord outlines in very clear terms that consequences that the Israelites will face if they choose to disobey His laws.   These Consequences include the following:

Israel will be cursed in the city and in the field.

Israel’s basket, store, fruit of the body, land and cattle will all be cursed.

Those who come into Israel will be cursed and those who go out form it will as well.

They will be cursed, vexed and rebuked in all they do.

Pestilence will consume them until they are consumed.

Plague, disease and death will come upon them.

The heaven will be brass and the earth will be iron to them while rain will be like dust.

Israel’s enemies will have victory over them.

They will be smitten with madness, blindness and fear.

They will be oppressed and spoiled.

They will not enjoy the fruits of their labor as others will come in and steal them.

They will be enslaved to other nations and their children born into captivity.

They will be at the bottom of nations and will borrow but not lend.

Ultimately, Israel will be besieged by foreign nations and destroyed.

They will be left few in number and scattered among the nations.

They will fear for their lives and will not find rest. (Deut 28)

In 2 Kings 21: 14-15 the Lord declares that He is allowing the Israelites to be conquered by their enemies because they have continually broken His laws:  “And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.” (2 Kings 21: 14-15)

Ezra the scribe bore witness that:  “The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.” (Ezra 8:22)

Job observed: “That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite (is) but for a moment?” (Job 20:5) And in Psalms we learn that: “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.” (Psalms 32:10)  The Psalmist also wrote that: “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.  He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.” (Psalms 7: 11-13)

The Prophet Isaiah bore witness of the desolate state that Israel would be left in after the judgments of God came upon them.  He prophesied that the Israelites would be led by young, inexperienced rulers and women because most of the men would be killed.  (Isaiah 3: 4-5, 12)  This scarcity of men would lead the women to all cling to the remaining few who would beg them to be married (Isaiah 4:1).  The people would be so poor that anyone that had clothing would be seen as a ruler (Isaiah 3:6)

Ultimately, Isaiah prophecies that Hell itself will consume the Israelites: “Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.” (Isaiah 5:14)

The scriptures bear record that many nations throughout history have been destroyed as a result of their wickedness, and not just the Israelites.  In Deuteronomy 9:5 we learn that the Israelites were sent to conquer the Canaanites not because the Israelites were righteous but because the Canaanites were fully ripe with wickedness.  The text reads:  “Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deut 9:5)

Isaiah prophesied of the destruction of Babylon, which was a mighty world power at the time: “And Babylon, the glory of kingdom’s, the beauty of the Chaldees’ Excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Isaiah 13:19)  Babylon became a symbol for any future worldly powerful kingdom whose ultimate fate is that of Sodom and Gomorrah’s, which were destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven.  ( Gen 19: 24-25)

The prophet Daniel  ultimately bore witness to the fall of Babylon and interpreted what the hand of the Lord had written on the wall to King Belshazzar:  Daniel 5: 25-28 reads: “And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” (Daniel 5: 25-28)

And finally, Isaiah prophesied that the Lord will punish the entire world for its wickedness in order to cause the arrogance of man to cease: And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”  (Isaiah 13: 11-12)

The story of Noah’s Ark and the great flood is a warning that God will not tolerate wickedness, even if it means removing all kingdoms from the earth and starting anew.   While the Lord is slow to anger, the prophet Nahum promises that He does take vengeance on His enemies eventually: “The Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked .” (Nahum 1: 2-3)

The Lord is no respecter of persons and is ultimately a just administrator of the law.  This is demonstrated in the story of King David, whom the Lord loved, but who sinned and experienced the consequences of those sins.  After David’s sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah his house was continually at war and he lost his wives.  He was deposed as king and his children rebelled against him.  (2 Sam 14-20)

Similarly, David’s son, King Solomon, committed idolatry even though he had personally seen God in a vision twice. As a result, the Lord divided Israel and Solomon’s heirs would only rule over 1 tribe instead of all 12.  His inheritance was cut by over 90%. (1 Kings 12-16)

While God will not make exceptions for His servants, He will protect His servants from those who seek to harm or destroy them.  In D&C 121: 16-17 the Lord says:  “Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them. But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves… It had been better for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depth of the sea.” (D&C 121: 16-17, 22)

In section 124 of the D&C the Lord also promises to judge those who persecute His Saints and hinder his work: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.  And the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord God.” (D&C 124:49-50)

Ultimately, a day of wrath has been foreordained in which the Lord will destroy all of the wicked people of the earth, unless they repent.   The prophet Isaiah warned the people of his time: “Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty… Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” (Isaiah 13: 6, 9)

We see a similar warning in the D&C section 63: 6 which warns: “Wherefore, verily I say, let the wicked take heed, and let the rebellious fear and tremble; and let the unbelieving hold their lips, for the day of wrath shall come upon them as a whirlwind, and all flesh shall know that I am God.”

Other examples from the scriptures include:

  • The Angel declared to the prophet Nephi that all nations that fight against God and His apostles will eventually be destroyed: “Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (1 Nephi 11:36)
  • Desolation comes upon the wicked: “And now, my beloved brethren, behold, I declare unto you that except ye shall repent your houses shall be left unto you desolate.” (Helaman 15:1
  • Mormon’s Last Lament for his people: “O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!  Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.  O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen! But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return.” (Mormon 6: 17-20)

B.) God removes His protection and blessings from the Wicked and leaves them in their own strength.

A second theme found in the scriptures is that God removes His protection and blessings from the wicked and leaves them in their own strength.  In the Book of Numbers, Moses warns the Israelites not to go to war with the Canaanites and the Amalekites because they had broken God’s law and the Lord would not be with them.  (Numbers 14: 41-45)  Similarly, in the time of the Judges the Lord told the Israelites to look to their false Gods that they had been worshiping for deliverance as He refused to help them:  “Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.” (Judges 10: 13-14)

This theme of the Lord leaving the Israelites to their own strength which results in repeated defeat at the hands of their enemies  is repeated throughout the Old Testament.  (2 Kings 13:3, 1 Kings 11:14, Psalms 81:12)

Similarly this theme is also repeated in the Book of Mormon where loss in battle was attributed to the wickedness of the people.  Mormon, commenting on the repeated defeat of the Nephites before the Lamanites said: Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God.” (Helaman 4:11)

Even when the Lord delivered the Nephites, when they didn’t deserve it, they still refused to repent.  Mormon 3:15 records the Lords response: “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth.” (Mormon 3:15)

Mormon bore witness that the day of grace had passed over His nation because they had rebelled against God, even after being continually delivered by Him:  “And it came to pass that my sorrow did return unto me again, and I saw that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually; for I saw thousands of them hewn down in open rebellion against their God, and heaped up as dung upon the face of the land.” (Mormon 2:15)

Through Modern revelation, we learn that disobedience leads to a loss of blessings.  In D&C 58:32 it is written:  “I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.” (D&C 58:32) We also learn that one of the greatest blessings we lose is the presence of the spirit:  “I, the Lord, am angry with the wicked; I am holding my Spirit from the inhabitants of the earth. I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man.” (D&C 63:32-33)

Ultimately those who reject the Lord and His laws lose His protection and are delivered over to the buffetings of Satan: “And the soul that sins against this covenant, and hardeneth his heart against it, shall be dealt with according to the laws of my church, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.” (D&C 82:21)

C.) God allows the wicked to become lost and alone. 

The Apostle John taught that when we sin, we are cut off from the presence of God: “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” (1 John 3:6)

The prophet Isaiah taught a similar principle in Isaiah 59 2-4 which reads: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.  For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.  None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.” (Isaiah 59: 2-4)

This principle was observed in the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years.  The Lord had said that since the people had not given their full hearts to God that they would not inherit the promised land and as a consequence they would wander in the desert for the rest of their lives. (Numbers 32: 11-13)

Similarly, as a result of their disobedience, God removed Moses and the Priesthood from Israel.  Melvin J. Petersen explains: “Since they could not abide the Lord’s presence, the priesthood and the ordinances that would have set them onto the path of eternal life were withheld. God ‘took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; and the lesser priesthood continued.” (See D&C 84:25-26; JST Ex. 34:1-2.)” (Melvin J. Petersen, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Dec. 1985, 61)

Unfortunately, as a result of continued willful rebellion against God, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed and the people were scattered by the Assyrians and then the Southern Kingdom was conquered and sent into exile by the Babylonians. Losing our inheritance and being scattered is a type of the final judgment that comes upon those who disobey God.  The ultimate inheritance to lose is eternal life and the ultimate scattering is to be cast into outer darkness.

This is why the Psalmist wrote:  “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” (Psalms 1:5)  In the D&C we learn of a similar principle: Behold, I, the Lord, command; and he that will not obey shall be cut off in mine own due time, after I have commanded and the commandment is broken.” (D&C 56:3,  D&C 1:14)

The Book of Mormon also testifies that the Gentiles that reject the Restored Gospel will be cut off from the Covenant People: “Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.”  (3 Nephi 21: 11)

Once a people have been cut off from the presence of the Lord for wilfull disobedience, the Lord eventually forbids His servants from preaching to them.  Mormon writes of his experience in 1:16 which reads: “And I did endeavor to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them; for behold they had wilfully rebelled against their God.” (Mormon 1:16)

D.) God turns the plots of the wicked on their own heads and avenges the righteous.

Another principle to consider is the fact that God promises to avenge the righteous and to cause the plots of the wicked to backfire.  The Psalmist testified of this principle when he wrote:  “The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.” (Psalms 9: 15-16)  On another occasion, the Psalmist wrote:  “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.” (Proverbs 26:27)

Similarly, in the Book of Proverbs it is written: “Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession.” (Proverbs 28:10)

The scriptures also teach that God often allows the wicked to destroy each other.  The Jaredite civilization was destroyed through warring factions killing one another until only 30 souls remained.  The prophet Moroni taught this principle when he said: “But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed.” (Moroni 3:5)

God promises to avenge His people.  In Mosiah 17:9 Abinadi promises that “God executeth vengeance upon those that destroy his people.”   In the D&C the Lord also promises that those who try to oppress His servants with the law will be oppressed by the laws themselves and those who use violence will be smitten of the Lord.  Section 24: 16-18 record: “And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall lay their hands upon you by violence, ye shall command to be smitten in my name; and, behold, I will smite them according to your words, in mine own due time. And whosoever shall go to law with thee shall be cursed by the law.” (D&C 24: 16-18)

E.) God delivers the wicked to death and Hell and Satan has power over them.

The scriptures declare that the wages of sin are both physical and spiritual death.  (Romans 6: 23)  The ultimate fate of those who rebel against God’s laws is described in Psalms 11: 6 which reads:  “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.” (Psalms 11:6)

Alma experienced a taste of hell when he was racked with the torment of a guilty conscience.  He described the experience this way: “But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.  Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.” (Alma 36:12-15)

In the 1st epistle of John, he describes sinners as being children of the devil.  1 John 3:8 testifies: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”

The Lord told the rebellious Israelites that: Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” (Exodus 32:33)  Ezekiel similarly testified that:  “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right…He shall surely live, saith the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 18: 4-9)

Speaking of the fate of Korihor, the Prophet Alma said: “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.” (Alma 30:60)

And finally, in Proverbs 11:19 it is written: “As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.” (Proverbs 11:19)

F.) God removes the memory of the wicked from the earth, over time.

In Psalms 34: 16 it is promised that the wicked will not be remembered: “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”

G.) Confusion, Chaos and Civil War come upon a people who reject God.

In the Book of Isaiah, the Lord’s judgments on Egypt included inciting a civil war and a spirit of confusion on Egypt:  “And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom. The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.” (Isaiah 19:2)

H.) Those who deny the Holy Ghost are not forgiven and become sons of Perdition.

Those who commit the unpardonable sin of denying Jesus Christ after having a sure knowledge that He exists commits the unpardonable sin.  In the book of Matthew, it is suggested that some of the pharisees had committed this sin.   The Pharisees had received a witness of the Holy Ghost that Jesus was the Christ and saw mighty miracles. They blasphemed against that sure knowledge by ascribing it to Satan and as such it was unforgivable.  (Matt 12: 31-32)

Paul wrote to the Hebrews: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10: 26-27)

I.) Sin leads to a guilty conscience and ultimately to the death of conscience and spirituality. They lose the ability to tell good from evil.

One of the major consequences of sin is a guilty conscience.  Paul wrote about this to the Romans when he said: “Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.” (Roman 2: 9-10)

The Psalmist compared a guilty conscience to a heavy burden that weighs us down: “For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me… For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.” (Psalms 38:4, 17)

However, those who continually disobey God are in danger of losing their guilty conscience and becoming spiritually dead.  Paul warned about this state that occurs when men are given over to a “reprobate mind” when they disobey God enough.  (Romans 1: 26-27)

Nephi taught his brothers that they were so wicked that they had become past feeling the influence of the Spirit. (1 Nephi 13: 34)  Similarly, Mormon described the state that his fallen people were in when he said: “Behold, thou knowest the wickedness of this people; thou knowest that they are without principle, and past feeling; and their wickedness doth exceed that of the Lamanites.” (Moroni 9: 20-21)

The Doctrine and Covenants warns that every time we disobey God we lose light and truth: Section 93:39 records: “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.”

If knowing good from evil is being like God, those who reject Him lose the capacity to discern between the two. They lose an attribute of deity given to man with the Fall.

J.) Sin leads to delusion and deception until one’s whole life becomes a lie.

The scriptures also warn that sin will lead to delusion and deception until one’s whole life becomes a lie.  In 2 Tim 3:13 it is written:  “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Tim 3: 13)

Korihor the anti-Christ is an example of beginning to believe the lies he had told.  He said that he knew there was a God but decided to teach against it.  Eventually he really came to believe there was no God because he taught it so much.  (Alma 30:53)

K.) Sin can lead to natural disasters and cursing of the land.

Another consequence of sin appears to be natural disasters and a cursing of the land.  In Ether 9 it is written that one of the curses that came upon the Jaredites was a host of poisonous serpents.  When the Jaredites tried to escape the land, God would not allow it and he sent those serpents to block their way.

L.) The Pleasures of sin are short-lived and ultimately turn to sorrow.

While wickedness can lead to pleasure in the short-term the scriptures warn that this pleasure will be short-lived.  Job warned: “That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite (is) but for a moment?” (Job 20:5)  The Lord Himself taught that those who derive pleasure from sin are not building on a lasting foundation.  He said: “But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.” (3 Nephi 21: 14-16)

In Micah the Lord curses the indulgent sinners by saying:  “Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied….Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap.” (Micah 6: 14-15)

The prophet Jeremiah warned the people that the natural consequences of their sins would prompt them to correct theri behavior:  “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 2:19)

M.) Sin leads to despair and hopelessness

Sin leads to God removing His Spirit form our lives and we lose the hope and joy of salvation: “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalms 51: 11-12)

Because of sin, the Lord was not near to comfort Israel in her desolation:  “For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed.” (Lamentations 1:16)

N.) Sin leads to God withholding blessings from us that we could have had.  It has eternal opportunity costs.

When we sin we lose the blessings of God: “Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.” (Jeremiah 5:25)

O.) Sin can lead to intergenerational judgments

Simeon and Levi lost their inheritance: “[Simeon and Levi’s] looting the city and taking of its wives and children, for which they evidenced no shame or repentance (34:30-31), would cause the descendants of Simeon and Levi to be dispersed among Israel with no definite allotment of territory, through their father’s deathbed pronouncement (49:5-7).” (The Apologetics Study Bible, Cabal [Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007], 57)

Sometimes we are blessed because of righteous ancestors: Solomon committed idolatry but his children were not entirely cut off because of David’s righteousness.

P.) God’s worst judgments are upon those who once knew God but chose to rebel against Him.

Apostasy leads to a deeper fall: Jesus taught that after a person joins the church and falls away their fall is deep and it would have been better for them never to have known God. (2 Nephi 31:14)

Those who have the Gospel and Rebel are Destroyed: With great knowledge comes great responsibility and the higher we rise the lower we fall.  “And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them.” (Alma 9:23)

The Higher We Rise the Lower We Fall: “And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things.” (Alma 24:30)

Sinning against a Great Knowledge: Nephi tells the Nephites that because the Lamanites don’t have as great a knowledge of the Lord as they do, that they will be judged with mercy. However, the Nephites had a full knowledge of God and thus if they chose evil they would be utterly destroyed.  (Helaman 7: 24)

Q.) Sin leads to loss of agency, bondage and addiction.

Wickedness leads to bondage: God warned Noah and his people that if they did not repent He would allow them to come into bondage to the Lamanites to see the natural consequences of their actions (Mosiah 11).

Satan starts with a Flaxen Cord: “Yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.” A flaxen cord is a thread.  Satan starts by binding us with little sins that then lead us towards greater sins and thus stronger cords that bind us.  (2 Nephi 26:22)

Wickedness leads to bondage: King Noah’s people had the fulness of the gospel amongst them and they wilfully rebelled against it.  The result is and always will be bondage.   (Mosiah 19)

Iniquity leads to bondage: Limhi teaches the people that they had become enslaved by the Lamanites because his people had killed the prophet Abinadi and were a wicked people. (Mosiah 7)

R.) Sin cuts us off from God and we become unable to do any good works.

Those who follow the devil are dead unto all good works: “ And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death, as to things pertaining unto righteousness, being dead unto all good works.” (Alma 5:42)

S.) Sin leads to the loss of light and knowledge we once had until we know less than we used to.

Those who harden their hearts lose all knowledge they once had. The more we obey God the more He reveals unto us:  “And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.  And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.”  (Alma 12: 10-11)

Those that Receive get more, those that do not lose more: “For unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, we have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30)

T.) Sin leads to strife, contention and chaos. It destroys peace.

Pride, Priest Crafts and Secret Combinations destroy peace and paradise: The Nephites enjoyed a Utopia until the people became proud and loved riches more than each other. This led to setting up a class system that bred inequality and corruption.  Priest Crafts abounded and so did the secret society of Gadianton.   (4 Nephi)

U.) Sin leads to a fear of death and judgment.

The Wicked Fear Death:  “And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.” (Mormon 6:7)

God prolongs the life of the righteous and shortens the life of the wicked: “The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” (Proverbs 10: 27)

 

 

 

4.) God Rewards Righteousness

A.) God blesses those who keep the commandments. 

We can only receive blessings when we obey God’s laws: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130: 20-21)

God made a covenant with Israel to bless them if they kept His Commandments. They would have food in abundance, peace in the land, victory over their enemies and their nation will expand and multiply.  God promises to authorize His temple to be built and that He will dwell among the people. (Lev 26: 3-12)

Keeping our covenants leads to great blessings and deliverance. (Deut 7: 12-16)

If we keep the commandments God encircles us in the arms of His love: “Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.” (D&C 6:20)

The Lord is bound by His laws and character to bless us when we obey His commandments: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10)

If our purpose in life is single to obeying the will of God we will become filled with light until we know all things and see God: “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” (D&C 88: 67-68)

Those who keep the commandments receive truth and light until they know all things: “He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.” (D&C 93:28)

If Israel keeps the commandments God will bless them with:

  • Cities and Fields will be blessed.
  • Fruits of the body, ground and cattle will be blessed. Baskets and stores are also blessed.
  • Those who leave Israel are blessed and those who return again are blessed.
  • All enemies will be destroyed and flee seven ways. Other nations will fear Israel.
  • The Lord will bless the storehouses and the land.
  • Israel will be set apart and made a holy people who are unique to the Lord.
  • The earth will give forth abundantly and be a blessing to Israel.
  • Israel will lend to nations and not borrow.
  • Israel will be made the head of all nations. (Deut 28)

B.) God extends the lives of the righteous.

Keeping the commandments extends our lives and blessings: “Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.” (Deut 5: 33-34)

The Lord healed Hezekiah of sickness and his life was extended because of his righteousness: “I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord.  And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.” (2 Kings 20: 3-6)

C.) God prospers the Righteous and causes everything to work out for their good.

If we keep our covenants we will be prospered in all we do: “Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.” (Deut 29:9)

The Lord had blessed Solomon with great wisdom and wealth: The Lord had kept his promise to David and made his house the wisest and wealthiest on the planet.  Those who serve the Lord will have wisdom and wealth that surpass all others.

Prospering in the Land:  Lehi taught his children that if they would be righteous they would be free and prosperous but if not they would be led into captivity and poverty. (2 Nephi 2:7)

Keeping the Commandments leads to Prosperity in the Land:  “For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” (2 Nephi 4).

The Righteous are blessed in all things:  “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”  (Mosiah 2:41)

Keeping the Commandments leads to Prosperity in the Land:  “O remember, remember, my son Helaman, how strict are the commandments of God. And he said: If ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land—but if ye keep not his commandments ye shall be cut off from his presence.” (Alma 37:13)

God uses nature and the earth to bless or curse His people: “For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.” (Zechariah 8:12)

Haggai said the people would be cursed with drought and famine for their disobedience as well.

If we keep God’s law we prosper in the Land but if we reject Him our enemies will destroy us: “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 1: 19-20)

D.) God protects the righteous from their enemies.

God’s way is perfect as he is a shield to those that trust in Him: “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.” (2 Sam 22:31)

God strengthens us to overcome our enemies: “He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms….For thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that rose up against me hast thou subdued under me.” (2 Sam 22: 39-40)

God will put all enemies under our feet if we serve Him: “It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me, and that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.” (2 Sam 22:48)

Those that trust in the Lord should rejoice for He will be their shield: “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.” (Psalms 5: 11-12)

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed who put their trust in Him: “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” (Psalms 9: 9-10)

The Lord gives righteousness and judgment for those that are oppressed: “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” (Psalms 103:6)

The Lord gives us power over our enemies: “He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.” (Psalms 18:34)

Psalm 23-The Lord is Our Shepherd Who Watches over and Protects His Sheep.

Those who trust in the Lord will be given strength and power: “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40: 28-31)

No weapon that is formed against Israel will prosper: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 54: 17)

The Lord Delivers and Preserves us when we repent: The Lord rescued the Israelites at Mizpeh and it is written that He preserved them against the Philistines during the life of Samuel. (1 Samuel 7)

The Lord preserves the righteous by destroying the wicked: “For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous. Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.” (1 Nephi 22: 16-17)

E.) God gives the righteous the desires of their heart.

Those that seek the Lord will not lack any good thing: “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” (Psalms 34:10)

Trust in the Lord and do His will and He will give you the desires of your heart: “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalms 37: 4-5)

Those that are ordained of God possess all things and all things are subject unto Him: “He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all. Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son.” (D&C 50: 26-27)

When we are purified of sin we are granted anything we ask for: “And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.” (D&C 50:29)

F.) The Righteous enjoy peace, joy and a clean conscience.  They are given hope for eternal life.

Righteousness yields peace, quietness and assurance forever: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)

Following Jesus leads to Exquisite joy: “Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36:21)

God can give us an unspeakable joy: And they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory. (Helaman 5:44)

Those who keep the commandments receive peace in this world and eternal life in the next: “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (D&C 59:23)

Those who keep the commandments receive the well of living water that springs up unto everlasting life: “But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.” (D&C 63:23)

G.) The Lord gives the righteous protection from temptation.

Temptations of Jesus: What Satan tempts us with and how to respond. (Whole resource)

Those who are ordained of God have power to discern and overcome all false spirits: “Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God. And it shall be given unto you, power over that spirit; and you shall proclaim against that spirit with a loud voice that it is not of God— Not with railing accusation, that ye be not overcome, neither with boasting nor rejoicing, lest you be seized therewith…and the kingdom is given byou of the Father, and power to overcome all things which are not ordained of him. ” (D&C 50: 31-33, 35)

H.) God delivers the righteous when judgments come

When the judgments of God come, only the God fearing remnant remain: “And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite.” (Zechariah 9:7)

The Four Angels will not destroy the earth until the servants of God are saved: “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” (Rev 7:3)

“Four destroying angels holding power over the four quarters of the earth until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads, which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 321.)

God will go to great lengths to spare the righteous and would have spared the entire city of Sodom if only 10 righteous people were found: “And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.” (Gen 18: 32)

God removes the righteous before destruction comes upon the wicked: The Angels were sent to destroy the city but before they did so they ensured all the righteous were gathered out. (Gen 18-19)

The Lord preserves the righteous when His judgments come upon a nation: Rahab helped the Israelite spies and as a result indicated to them that she should be spared from destruction. Before judgment comes a way for the Lord to preserve the righteous. (Joshua- 1-4)

The Lord Numbers all those that serve Him and preserves them when Judgment comes: “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19: 18)

God spares the individually righteous when judgment comes:  God told Josiah that he would be spared experiencing the destruction of Jerusalem because he had humbled himself and was contrite for his sins. (2 Kings 22)

The Lord knows how to preserve the righteous while delivering the wicked to judgment:  “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished.” (2 Peter 2: 9)

The Lord Preserves the Righteous and Destroys the Wicked: The Lord led Mosiah I and other righteous Nephites out of the Land of Nephi before the wicked Nephites were destroyed. (Omni)

The Lord preserves us until our work is done: In the story of Abinadi we see the Lord preserving his life through miraculous power until his life mission was completed.  The guards could not touch Abinadi until he had fully delivered his message. (Mosiah 13)

The Righteous of the Nation’s Prevent Judgment: “Yea, and I say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction.” (Alma 10: 22)

The more righteous Nephites were spared from destruction: “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:13)

God leads the righteous to a land of promise: When God confounded the languages of the people at Babel, He spared the righteous and instead blessed them with a land of promise. (Ether 1)

Common Maladaptive Beliefs

i.) Any belief that says that because judgement is not immediate, it is not going to come.

ii.) Any belief that denies that God punishes wickedness and rewards righteousness.

iii.) Any belief that minimises or denies the consequences of sin or the rewards of righteousness.

iv.) Any belief that says God won’t preserve the righteous when judgement comes.

God Judges the World

Main Idea: God judges the people and nations of the earth by ultimately upholding the righteous and destroying the wicked.  While His judgments are inevitable, they are sometimes delayed because He is long-suffering and wants to allow every opportunity to repent. The scriptures give us certain signs of apostasy to look for before judgment is imminent with one key being the majority of people choosing to reject the laws of God.  

1.) God judges the people and nations of the earth.

One of the major roles that God plays in the creation is to act as a judge for the people and nations of the earth.  God gives the people of the earth a choice, to obey His commandments and be blessed or to disobey His commandments and be cursed.   This decision is laid out clearly in Deut 11: 26-28 which reads:  “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.” (Deut 11: 26-28)

Isaiah taught that God’s judgments are designed to teach us how to be righteous: “…for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)  Without consequences being built into His laws, those laws would be ineffectual.

However, Alma taught that God judges each nation according to the portion of the word that He has given each nation.  In Alma 29: 8 he writes: “For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have.” (Alma 29:8)  This means that each nation exists on a continuum between those who have the fulness of His gospel and those who do not have His law at all.    The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob explained that “The atonement satisfieth the demands of His justice upon all those who have not the law given to them…but wo unto him that has… all the commandments of God… and that transgresseth them…for awful is his state!”” (2 Nephi 9: 26)

These scriptures teach us that with greater knowledge comes a greater responsibility and accountability before God.  This principle is reinforced in D&C 82:3 which reads:  “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” (D&C 82:3)

Ultimately, God gives each nation and person a portion of His law and rewards them according to their diligence in obeying the portion of laws they have been given.  He has given us moral agency to choose whether to act in accordance with His laws and receive the promised blessings or whether to disobey those laws and receive the promised cursings.   Alma said:  “Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience.” (Alma 29:5)

2.) Timing of God’s Judgments

A.) God’s judgments are inevitable. 

Concerning the timing of God’s judgments, the scriptures promise that they are inevitable and cannot be escaped.  While preparing to go to war with the Canaanites, Moses told the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh that if they didn’t honor their vows to help conquer Canaan then judgment would find them.  He said:  “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)

The Apostle Peter even reasoned that if God didn’t spare the angels in heaven who rebelled against Him or the generations before the flood then He won’t spare a wicked generation that sins on earth today.  In 2 Peter 2: 4-5 he says: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.”

The judgments of God inevitably come and  when they do they often occur suddenly and abruptly.   In the Book of Mormon, the wicked city of Ammonihah had killed the prophets and all of the believers.  Ultimately, the city was destroyed by the Lamanites in a single day.  The land became known as the Desolation of Nehors thereafter.  (Alma 16)

Similarly, the great destruction that came upon the Nephites prior to the visitation from the Resurrected Christ occurred within a 3 hour period.  This shows us the speed at which the judgments of God are ultimately brought forth.  The prophet Mormon observed the destruction of his entire civilization and testified that it occurred in only a few short years.  He said:  “O my beloved son, how can a people like this, that are without civilization— (And only a few years have passed away, and they were a civil and a delightsome people). (Moroni 9: 11-12)

B.) God’s judgments are sometimes delayed.

While the judgments of God are inevitable, they are sometimes delayed, which can try our faith. In the Book of Job, Job observes that there appears to be exceptions to the general rule concerning the timing of God’s judgments.  In the 21st chapter of Job, he lamented that the wicked seem to get away with their sins in the short term and the righteous aren’t always immediately blessed.

The prophet Jeremiah made a similar observation and complained to God in chapter 12:1 which reads: “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?” (Jeremiah 12:1)  The scriptures also record the lament of Habakkuk as he struggled with the timing of God’s judgments:  “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” (Habakkuk 1:2)

While the wicked appear to prosper in the short-term and the righteous can be persecuted, the prophet Malachi promised that our deeds are recorded in the “book of remembrance” and a day of judgment has been appointed wherein God’s judgments will not be escaped.    Malachi 3: 14-18 records:

 “Ye have said, it is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?  And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. Then they that feared the Lord Spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.  Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” (Malachi 3: 14-18)

Concerning the timing of His judgments, the Lord even taught that He allows hypocrites to dwell among the Saints who may not be detected but promises that if they do not repent they will be cut off eventually:  “Behold, I, the Lord, have looked upon you, and have seen abominations in the church that profess my name…But the hypocrites shall be detected and shall be cut off, either in life or in death, even as I will.” (D&C 50:4,8; 63: 14-15)

The reason that God’s judgments can sometimes seem delayed is because he is so long-suffering towards His children and takes no pleasure in consigning the wicked to their fate.  The Lord, speaking through Ezekiel, said it this way: “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” (Ezekiel 18:32)

The scriptures also teach us that God will not execute judgment on a nation until it is “fully ripe.” Alma taught: “For behold, there is a curse upon all this land, that destruction shall come upon all those workers of darkness, according to the power of God, when they are fully ripe.” (Alma 37:31) For exampleGod would not allow Israel to invade the land of the Amorites because He said “the iniquity of Amorites is not yet full.” (Gen 15:16)  However, in his perfect foreknowledge of how everything would play out, told the Israelites that in four generations they would inherit the lands because the Amorites would be fully ripe in iniquity.

Another principle to remember is that Time is measured very differently with God. What seems like a long time to us is really short to Him.  Peter said it this way: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 4:8)

However, Peter also warned us not to confuse God’s long-suffering with Him breaking his promises or not executing the consequences of obeying or disobeying His laws.  Peter said:  “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise and coming, as some men count slackness; but long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)

C.) Signs that judgment is near.

While God’s judgments are sometimes delayed, they are always inevitable and the scriptures warn of certain signs that precede judgment. In the Book of Jeremiah, we learn that When a nation does not respond to correction, judgment is near.  Jeremiah 3:5 reads: “O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.”

The people during the time of Jeremiah would not repent or those who said they were repenting did not do so sincerely.  As a result, the Lord said He would no longer hear of His people repenting.  He said: “Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.” (Jeremiah 15:6)

The Lord also told Jeremiah to tell his people not to marry, have children or make fellowship with the doomed.  He even forbade Jeremiah from mourning for those who had brought destruction upon their own heads by their own wickedness. (Jeremiah 16: 1-9)  He even told Jeremiah to stop praying for his people.  In Jeremiah 14: 11-12 we read: “Then said the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.” (Jeremiah 14: 11-12)

Nephi also warned that a people who are facing judgment begin to lose the spirit of the Lord.  In 2 Nephi 26:11 he wrote: “For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction.”

In the Book of Isaiah, we can also learn some of the reasons why the Israelites at the time were becoming “fully ripe” in iniquity.  The Lord described the Israelites of the time in this way:  “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.  Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.” (Isaiah 1: 3-4)

Through Isaiah, the Lord condemns the Israelites for being murderers, oppressors, abandoning the orphans and widows and for engaging in idolatry and fornication.   The people looked to other religious philosophies, listened to soothsayers, became like the heathen nations in culture, were wealthy and materialistic, had great militaries and trusted in other Gods.  The women of the time were condemned for being proud and more concerned with beauty, jewellery and clothing than with righteousness.

The people had also attempted to do away with God’s laws and began to despise the scriptures.  The Lord warned the Isarelites of the time:  “Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 5:24)

Along with rejecting the word of God, the people began to trust in themselves and to worship the works of their hands.  (Isaiah 17: 7-9)   Corrupt leaders and false prophets had also arisen that were leading the people astray: “…For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” (Isaiah 9: 14-16)

In 2 Kings 17: 15-17 we learn the reason why the entire Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed and scattered among the nations. It reads: “And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them. And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.” (2 Kings 17: 15-17)

Moving to the New Testament, Jesus warned the people against trusting in carnal security.  In Luke 6: 20-26, Jesus said that those who trust in riches will not receive the kingdom.  Those who are full already with worldly philosophies and pride and don’t receive Jesus will not receive the kingdom. Those who laugh now and are not troubled by their sins or spiritual poverty will not come unto Jesus and thus will not be saved. Those who are proud and are loved and accepted of the world will not accept Jesus either and will not receive the kingdom. (Luke 6: 20-26)

In the Book of Mormon, we learn that God defines “ripening in iniquity” as the majority of people choose evil over good.  IN Helaman 5:2 it is written:For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.” (Helaman 5:2)

While the judgments of God are inevitable, the Lord promises us that He never destroys a people before forewarning them through His prophets.   In 2 Nephi 25:9 He says: “And never hath any of them been destroyed save it were foretold them by the prophets of the Lord.” (2 Nephi 25:9)

In the Book of Mormon,  Ether warned Coriantumr that if he did not repent, God would give the land to another people and that he would live to see it occur. This prophecy of Ether was fulfilled when the Mulekites came into the land and Coriantumr dwelt with them and then died. (Ether 13)

Similarly, Abinadi was sent to warn King Noah’s people that God was about to visit them in judgment.  He listed many future events that would indicate that his prophecy was being fulfilled.  These included: bondage, famine, pestilence, hail, insects devouring crops and utter destruction. (Mosiah 12)

The Church becomes apostate

Unfortunately, when a nation begins to become ripened in iniquity the church itself begins to be corrupted as well.  During the time of Jeremiah,  Israel was so corrupt that God says that even the prophets and priests were wicked: “For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.” (Jeremiah 6:13)

On another occasion the Lord said: ‘For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:11)   “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.  Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23: 15-16)

The Lord compared the leaders of the time to shephereds who were scattering and destroying the sheep.  He said: “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! Saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

The temple had also become corrupted and the Lord even called it a “den of robbers.”  In Jeremiah 7: 9-11 the Lord says:  “Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 7: 9-11)

The people at the time were still engaging in religious rituals, even though they did so without sincerity.  As a result, the Lord said: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5: 21-24)

When apostasy occurs, the gospel itself becomes changed and corrupted to reflect the philosophies of men.  Paul warned the Galatians of the curse that would come upon any who perverted the gospel when he said:  “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8)

d.) God will turn away judgment if the people repent.

When the judgments of God begin to be poured out upon a nation it is still not too late to repent unless that nation is “fully ripe.”  There are two possible ways to respond: humble yourself before God or harden your heart in pride and trust in your own strength.

When the judgments of God begin, if a people do not humble themselves and repent but rely on their own strength then complete destruction is imminent.  When the judgments of God began to be poured out upon the Isarelites during the time of Isaiah, they responded by putting faith in their own ability to rebuild and did not humble themselves before God.   Isaiah 9: 9-14 records: “And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars. Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together; The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth.” (Isaiah 9: 9-14)

However, even when apostasy is occuring and before a people are fully ripe the Lord will turn away His wrath if the people will repent.  Throughout the book of Isaiah the prophet repeats this phrase over and over again: “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 9:17)  This means that even when His people are breaking their covenants, He still stands ready to receive them again if they will simply repent.

I bear my witness that God is a merciful God and that even His judgments are acts of mercy towards the rest of His creation, since wickedness undermines the integrity of God’s laws which provide stability to creation. It is best if the judgments of God can be avoided altogether but if you are seeing the signs of judgment in your own life then I invite you to humble yourself and repent and allow yourself to be embraced by the loving arms of Jesus Christ.