Have you ever read a passage of scripture that you have read before and have new insight–a new “ah hah” moment? I recently had a similar experience with Moroni 7:36-48 which I thought would be good to share.
To begin with, what is faith? It is an assurance of something that you cannot necessarily see or prove but that you know is true. For example, when you study for a test you don’t necessarily know what the test will contain but you have a confidence that if you study and prepare well that you will perform well on the test. The scriptures define it this way: “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”(Alma 32:21, see also Hebrews 11:1). Faith isn’t merely a belief, it is also an action. As another example, faith in the laws of gravity and physics (even if we don’t fully comprehend these principles) is what leads us to shoot a basketball towards a hoop. We can’t see all the forces that act upon that ball but we have the assurance that if we aim appropriately that the basketball will follow a prescribed course (and that it won’t veer off toward the bleachers, for example). Our faith is evidenced in the act of shooting the ball.
According to Mormon, however, to have real power in our lives, true faith must be in our Savior, Jesus Christ, because that is the only way we can obtain salvation (see Moroni 7:38). Building upon our definition of faith, faith in Jesus Christ is the assurance or confidence that our Savior is able to do what He said He can do, which is to save us from our sins and suffering. Faith in Jesus Christ is believing in the power of the Atonement and knowing that redemption is possible through this Atonement. Consequently, if we do not exercise faith in the Atonement and in our Savior then redemption from our sins and sorrows is not possible (see D&C 19:15-20).
What is hope then, and how does it differ from faith? Let me continue with the basketball example. When you shoot a basketball you exercise faith that it will follow a prescribed course. Hope plays a role in that if you shoot the basketball with the right force and angle that it will go into the hoop. Because the conditions are right, you have an actual assurance that the ball will go in. Hope, in the gospel sense, is an actual assurance that you are on the right path, that your trajectory (like a basketball) will take you to eternal life. This kind of hope is what leads people to find continual joy in their lives. This hope comes because you know that you are doing your absolute best to keep the commandments of God. This hope also comes because you know that our Savior is able to, and in all actuality will, help you to overcome any of your sins and weaknesses. This enables us to have hope that we can, in reality, live again with our Father in Heaven–that because we know of our Savior’s redeeming power we can enjoy this blessing. Hope is more than just knowledge that this is possible in a general sense, hope is knowing that it actually applies to you and that our Savior’s Atonement is actually working in your own life. Does it make sense now why Mormon would ask, “How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?” (Moroni 7:40)
Why then does it follow that we must be meek and lowly in heart (Moroni 7:43)? When I was 18, I was called as an assistant Scout master to work with the 12-13 year old scouts. We had a fun campout planned which would require me to drive my little Nissan Sentra up the canyon–the only problem is that it was already showing signs of overheating. I believed the problem was the thermostat, and after carefully researching how to change out this component, I decided that it was possible for me to do on my own. I mean, it was simply a matter of removing three little bolts, removing the old component, replacing the new component, and then replacing the three little bolts. Two hours and two broken bolts later, I came to realize that I couldn’t do this on my own, especially because one of the bolts broke off in the casing and needed specialized tools in order to remove it. I was tired and frustrated that I couldn’t do this on my own and I was definitely in need of help. At this point I called my wonderful father who came to my rescue. As a trained and experienced mechanic, he has dealt with many broken bolts and he had the right tools and right know-how to fix the problem. In just 15 minutes, he not only had extracted the broken bolt but had completed the repairs and I was able to be on my way.
I use this example to explain why we must be meek and lowly in heart if we have faith and hope in Jesus Christ. When we come to realize that we need our Savior and come to trust completely in His atoning power, we become meek and lowly of heart as a natural consequence of this process–because we know that we really, completely, rely on Him. Meekness and lowliness of heart aren’t weak traits, rather they enable us to tap into the power of the Atonement. This comes from an actual recognition of our total dependence upon our Savior to get us back to our Heavenly Father and to eternal life.
Why then must charity necessarily follow? To illustrate this principle I would like to share another story from my childhood. One Christmas my family was very poor off. There were 9 kids in our family and it seemed like there was no money at the end of the year to buy presents for everyone. My parents always did all they could in order to provide memorable Christmases for us but this year in particular we were just not doing well financially. Fortunately we had silent observers who had compassion on us and we received an anonymous basin full of presents! Because I have gone through this experience and because I know what it feels like to both be without and then to receive kindness, I have compassion on those who are in a similar circumstance. This is the beginning of the virtue of charity.
In like manner, once we have experienced the actual power of the Atonement in our lives–once we have trod the path of faith and repentance and have come to taste the joy of forgiveness and redemption for ourselves–then we begin to understand what that means to us and desire to share that with others. If we are healed, if we are relieved from our pain and sorrow, if we are able to conquer our temptations and sins through the loving grace of our Savior, then we have the desire to help others to do the same. Enos is a great example of this (see Enos 1:2-12). Charity is the ultimate result of this path of repentance, this path of faith and hope, because we recognize our dependence upon our Savior and the joy we’ve felt at His intervention and so we want everyone to have it and this gives us a new way of looking at those who surround us. This is why charity is so grand and why it must not fail.
Faith, hope, and charity are simple gospel concepts that even a child can understand–just like a child can understand how to make a basket with a basketball–but they are also wonderful principles that caused me some serious reflection. I am grateful for the scriptures in my life and for these principles and hopefully I am able to live them more fully.