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By Way of Exhortation

Mar 3, 2021Religion0 comments

As Moroni finished up the compilation that we now know as the Book of Mormon, he sealed it up with a promise. Amidst the promise of being perfected in Christ are a few things that he left behind as challenges to each of us. Moroni understood that it is not enough to know, but it is imperative to do. We must be willing to do the things that the Lord has commanded.

In the tenth chapter of the book of Moroni, as the conclusion of the Book of Mormon, Moroni exhorts us to do eight different things. Each of these is centered in the grace of Jesus Christ and is worth noting and discussing individually.

The eight exhortations of Moroni are:

  1. “I would exhort you … that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts” (Moroni 10:3)
  2. “I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true” (Moroni 10:4)
  3. “I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God” (Moroni 10:7)
  4. “I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God” (Moroni 10:8)
  5. “I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ” (Moroni 10:18)
  6. “I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away…” (Moroni 10:19)
  7. “I exhort you to remember [there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity…]” (Moroni 10:27)
  8. “I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (Moroni 10:30)

Each of these exhortations is for our benefit and growth. Here, I dive in a little deeper into each of them.

Remember His Mercy

“I would exhort you … that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts” (Moroni 10:3)

Let us remember the mercies of God. It is easy for us to get caught up in the negatives of mortality or the direct challenges we face here. Whether it be illness, death of a loved one, divorce, a rebellious child, loss of income, or any other number of challenges that we face, they can leave us discouraged and heartbroken. These challenges can make it hard to see the tender mercies of God.

However, the opposite can be true as well. Our challenges can help us to better see the tender mercies, while in those times when everything is going well, we can likely forget God and His grace.

I appreciate Moroni’s first exhortation here. In the mission field, I quoted this verse at least a couple of times a day as we would invite people to read the Book of Mormon. When I would quote it, I indeed focused on the following invitation to pray. However, I have found the words of this verse to be very telling for me in keeping a proper perspective in life. As I look at the ways that God has been merciful to me, my family, and the generations that have gone before me, I can see more clearly that He lives. My faith grows. I have a brighter hope. I feel the charity that He has extended to me through the grace of His Son. These tender mercies strengthen me.

As a family, we reviewed some of the tender mercies that we have seen in the Book of Mormon this year. There are so many, from Nephi getting the plates and making it to the promised land, to Captain Moroni, the repentant Lamanites of King Lamoni, the Brother of Jared, and even to Ether, Mormon, and Moroni who all witnessed the mortal, and even spiritual, destruction of their peoples. 

God was in the great things of their lives as well as in the details. He remains in the details of our lives as well. We also reflected on the great things that have happened to us this year. The year 2020 has been one for the history books for sure. This is something that we have never seen before, but it has shaped us all. Hopefully, we have grown from the challenges this year. This has been a year to look to God. We have reasons to hope. As we see His tender mercies, then we can see that He loves us and strengthens us through our challenges.

The greatest mercies of the Lord that we ought to see is His forgiveness of the repentant soul. Yes, He strengthens us, empowers us, walks with us, and guides us, but ultimately He exalts all who obey His voice, repents and forsake their sins, and call upon His name (see D&C 93:1). This is divine mercy. Amulek recounts the prophet Zenock in saying, 

“Thou art any, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son” (Alma 33:16). 

Because of Christ, we may be partakers of His most excellent gift. It is this gift that is extended by His merciful arm. As we take hold of this gift, we are able to find faith, hope, and charity and obtain joy in His Kingdom. Let us never forget this level of mercy!

Ask of God

“I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true” (Moroni 10:4)

The great challenge of the Book of Mormon is not to take it at face value but to ask of God. Moroni understands that those who simply read its pages and choose to accept it or reject it at face value will not stand the test of time. We might be able to say we believe it and even act on it, but without knowing, through a personal witness of the Holy Ghost, we are susceptible to being tossed to and fro. We must ask of God.

When Nephi heard of the vision of his father, he did not merely accept it. He had learned before that vision, even before leaving Jerusalem, that he needed to gain a personal witness. He acted. Nephi chose to pray to God to know the source and meaning of what His father had seen. After a glorious vision, he returned to find his brothers complaining and bickering about the meaning of their father’s dream. His reply was simple as he asked, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” (1 Nephi 15:8). 

The simplicity of Nephi’s question is profound, but the answer is ever more striking. His brothers responded, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” (1 Nephi 15:9). Do we look to follow the example of Nephi and so many others who testify to these truths by asking God, or do we choose to rebel against God because we feel that He won’t make the truth known unto us? It is a form of pride to think that God will not enlighten us and answer our honest pleas.

Moroni does give us some critical qualifiers to asking that we must employ. He states that we must “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ” (Moroni 10:4). If we exercise faith and are willing to obey in accordance with the answer, then we will receive. Our solutions may be as simple as a reminder that we already know, or they could be as great as a two-way conversation with heavenly messengers as Nephi, Moses, Joseph Smith, and others have had. It all starts with asking.

Deny Not God’s Power

“I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God” (Moroni 10:7)

Who are we to command God? Is it our place to lessen His abilities and even very existence? If we have chosen to deny his power and claim that miracles no longer exist, then we have alienated ourselves from His power and His grace, and we have cause to repent. 

As stated in the previous exhortation, we will receive answers to our honest pleadings. James testified of this in his record by saying that “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally” (James 1:5). By understanding His liberal-giving nature, we can hold fast to the truths that God has extended to each of us. These come by virtue of His power. 

God has the power to save, resurrect, heal, lift, create, undo wrongs, be entirely merciful and fully just, counsel, guide, direct, redeem, exalt, understand, comprehend, condescend below all to lift all above all, and so much more. His power is infinite. It transcends time and space. With this power, there is none that he cannot reach. There are no souls that cannot be taught and redeemed from death, hell, and the devil. 

Let us choose to accept the power of God in our lives. Let us hear Him through the scriptures, the Holy Ghost, living and past prophets, and the voice of His Son. As we do these things, we will see His power. We will see his divine mercy playing a role in our lives.

Deny Not God’s Gifts

“I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God” (Moroni 10:8)

Following His power are the gifts that He gives to women and men the world over to bring to pass his work and his glory. He desires to redeem all who will obey Him and exercise faith in His name.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
–James 1:17-18

God gives spiritual gifts to HIs children that they may become perfected. These are for edification and perfection. If we choose to deny that the very gifts of God exist, then we have rejected the power of God and His ability to bring us unto perfection. We have turned our back on Him and His almighty and infinite power. One of the most significant ways for us to deny the gifts is to believe that we cannot be the recipients of these gifts.

God has commanded us to seek the gifts of the Spirit. It is repeated in the New Testament by Paul, here from Moroni, and again by the Lord himself to His prophet Joseph Smith as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. As the Lord stated to Joseph Smith, “seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given…And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit” (D&C 45:8, 28). If we fail to seek these gifts, then we have denied them. We may believe that they exist, but if we do not seek to obtain them, then we are not accepting that God has prepared them for us. 

Our patriarchal blessings can be a great place to see what specific gifts the Lord has given to us individually, but also as we look at what we are struggling with or what our weaknesses are can tell us what gifts we ought to be seeking. As individuals that have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost and are obeying the covenants that we have made and keeping His commandments, we are entitled to receiving the gifts of the Spirit that will enlighten us, strengthen us, and ultimately exalt us. He desires us to have all the gifts, but we must seek to obtain them.

The greatest gift is that divine gift of charity that is unto all who call upon His name. Mormon counseled us to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7:48). Let us not deny the gifts of God but seek to obtain them, especially the gift of charity.

Remember That Every Good Gift Comes From Christ

“I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ” (Moroni 10:18)

As we have chosen not to deny His gifts, we are able to see the divine source of these spiritual gifts, which is Jesus Christ. It is by virtue of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we are able to be cleansed and purified to be able to obtain these gifts. Also, it is by His grace that we are strengthened by the Spirit to have and hold such gifts. 

Christ is the light that lighteth all. He is the light that grows within us. He is the grace that lifts us from one plateau to another. He is the giver of all that is good. Again, Mormon taught us that all good things come from God and that without the Atonement of Christ, there could no good thing come into the world. These gifts are of benefit to each and every one of us. As we recognize that they come from Christ, then we will have a greater desire to hold to these gifts and seek them. 

The gifts of the Spirit are there for us to be able to hold to every good thing. They are there to strengthen us. They are there to help us to hold fast to the power and virtue of the Atonement. It is by these gifts that the charity of Christ heals us and perfects us. 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught an insightful philosophy on the two types of charity in his book, Christ and the New Covenant. He relates that there is the charity that we can have for others but that the superior form of charity is that which Christ has for each of us. He stated:

“The greater definition of ‘the pure love of Christ,’ however, is not what we as Christians try but largely fail to demonstrate toward others but rather what Christ totally succeeded in demonstrating toward us. True charity has been known only once. It is shown perfectly and purely in Christ’s unfailing, ultimate, and atoning love for us. It is Christ’s live for us that suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not.’… It is as demonstrated in Christ that ‘charity never faileth.’ It is that charity—his pure love for us—without which we would be nothing, hopeless, of all men and women most miserable. Truly, those found possessed of the blessings of his love at the last day—the Atonement, the Resurrection, eternal life, eternal promise—surely it shall be well with them.”

We must exemplify charity as much as we can. We must seek to obtain the traits that are alive in each of the spiritual gifts. It is when we recognize that God is the source for all that is good that we acknowledge that these gifts are applied to us to strengthen us, enlighten us, and perfect us. The greatest of these gifts being charity, even the charity that Christ shows towards you and me through his divine grace.

Remember the Constancy of God

“I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away…” (Moroni 10:19)

As long as there is faith, there will be miracles. As long we hope we will be able to endure all manner of trials. As long as there is charity, there will be power to overcome evil. These are all rooted in God and His grace and constancy. It is by knowing that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever that we can have faith in Him, that we hope through Him, that we love because of Him. By remembering that he is a constant and eternal being, we can trust that He will be there for us and do what he has promised.

God has given us commandments. We have entered into sacred covenants with Him. These would have none effect if God were ever-changing. His word would be null and void if He failed to be the same. As we learn that He is ever constant and is bound to His word, then we can put off the fears of the uncertain and the unknown. We can overcome the doubts. We can rely on His ability to come through in His time in all that He has promised us. 

Understanding that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever does not necessarily mean that his programs are the same. He won’t always lead His people in the exact same way. Adam, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, Nephi, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Moroni, and Joseph Smith all received the same gospel by virtue of revelations and manifestations from God, but they were not all required to do the exact same things. Abraham was asked to take Isaac to the altar to be sacrificed, Moses was asked to lead the children of Israel into the wilderness from Egypt, Jesus was to make an atonement for all of humanity, and Joseph Smith was to restore the fulness of the gospel. Though their tasks were varied, just as yours and mine are, their ultimate purpose was the same—to bring all to Christ and His redeeming grace. 

The commandments, the covenants, the core of the gospel, that Jesus came, suffered, died, and rose three days later, are constant. The New and Everlasting Covenant is eternal. As we understand who God is and how He has provided the way for us to become like Him, we better comprehend HIs power and ours. We will then come to trust Him more. He is indeed the same today as he was yesterday and will be forever. He is our loving and gracious Father. He is divine. He is almighty, infinite, and eternal.

Remember Faith, Hope, and Charity

“I exhort you to remember [there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity…]” (Moroni 10:27)

The three greatest virtues that we ought to seek are the very virtues that are presented by all three of our closing authors in the Book of Mormon. As each individual bears their witness, they proclaim the sacred value of each of these three virtues, faith, hope, and charity, with charity being the greatest of all. They are echoing words that were also proclaimed in the old world through the ministry of the apostle Paul. There are no greater attributes that we could attain.

These three attributes are the basis of all Christianity. It is upon these attributes that we build upon to become perfect in Jesus Christ. It is by these attributes that we are able to overcome the despair, evil, and folly of the carnal world that surrounds us. If we are to come unto Jesus Christ, as women and men of God, then we are to seek each of these three divine attributes prayerfully.

Faith

First, let us briefly discuss faith. In the School of the Prophets, the Prophet Joseph Smith gave seven inspired lectures on the topic. These lectures were the basis of the doctrine that was contained in the Doctrine and Covenants for many years. They are still valuable for study and learning. In these lectures, Joseph proclaimed, “But faith is not only the principle of action but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth.” (Lectures on Faith 1:13). It is by faith that we act on a trusted and perceived outcome. It is a firmly held belief that if we are to do something, then we are going to receive a promised reward or effect. However, not only does it bring about action, but it also gives us the power to act to bring about magnificent results. As the author of the Hebrews so states, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3).

The beginnings of faith start with a desire to believe. That desire then works in us and grows like a seed. The parable of the seed was shared by the prophet Alma to give us a glimpse into the power of taking a simple desire and letting it swell to grow unto a great tree that springs forth eternal fruit. Eventually, it is this great faith that is the power to create worlds and bring about salvation for the human family. We are not required to have that type of faith now, but we ought to seek to grow our faith and nourish it.

Further lessons on faith can be found throughout scriptures by both examples of faith as shown in Hebrews 11 and Ether 12 as well as lessons on how to apply and grow our faith in those chapters and in Alma 32, Moroni 7 & 10, and several other passages. Without such faith, we cannot be saved in the Kingdom of God, and, as James teaches us, we must have the work and action that accompanies faith; otherwise, it is of none effect for us. We will not have faith enough for salvation if we are not able to act and endure the trials of faith.

Hope

Hope is a seemingly fleeting word in our lexicon. It is often something that we say when we are wishful in our thinking. If this is the way that hope is, then why would it be seen as such a powerful Christian virtue? The ultimate concept of hope is to be looking forward to the rest of God, “which rest is the fulness of his glory.” (D&C 84:24). We are to “hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God” (Ether 12:4). And this hope is anchored in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer and Great Deliverer. Moses delivered the Children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt as they hoped for something greater, but Christ delivers us from the sufferings of mortality and the evil one. This hope is in what greater things will come. 

C.S. Lewis taught, “that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not…a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is…The Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next…Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” (Mere Christianity, 134)

As our focus turns from merely the things of this world to the things of a Greater World, then we are able to exalt the things of this world more readily. Our focus changes through hope. This hope is built up by our faith in Jesus Christ, and in turn, the greater faith that we have, the more our hope will increase. This is the great cycle of virtues.

Elder Wong gives us a great visual of “how a rope is formed by twisting several strands together. This helped me visualize my newfound understanding of faith, hope, and charity as strands combining with each other to form a sturdy rope.” (Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, Faith, Hope, and Charity: Interlacing Virtues, Ensign December 2016)

Charity

This then brings us to the greatest of all gifts and virtues, even charity. It is repeated throughout scripture that hope and faith are vain without charity. These three are intertwined into our bringing us unto perfect creatures. They are the powers of heaven that are manifest within each of us. We are to prayerfully and diligently seek each of these in our lives. 

We often think of charity as acts of kindness that we do for others. Those who have studied the words of Paul and Mormon have a slightly deeper concept of charity as this ultimate goodness and mercy that we show for others. To take it even a step further, we can see charity as the Ultimate Gift that Christ has given to each of us through the power of His divine Atonement. Elder Holland gives us a glimpse into these two types of charity that can be had.

“One [meaning of charity or ‘the pure love of Christ’] is the kind of merciful, forgiving love Christ’s disciples should have one for another….

“The greater definition of ‘the pure love of Christ,’ however, is not what we as Christians try but largely fail to demonstrate toward others but rather what Christ totally succeeded in demonstrating toward us. True charity has been known only once. It is shown perfectly and purely in Christ’s unfailing, ultimate, and atoning love for us. … It is that charity—his pure love for us—without which we would be nothing, hopeless, of all men and women most miserable. Truly, those found possessed of the blessings of his love at the last day—the Atonement, the Resurrection, eternal life, eternal promise—surely it shall be well with them.

“This does not in any way minimize the commandment that we are to try to acquire this kind of love for one another. We should ‘pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love’ [ Moroni 7:48; see also 1Corinthians 13:4–5, 7–8 ]. … As Christ lived, so should we live, and as Christ loved so should we love. But the ‘ pure love of Christ’ Mormon spoke of is precisely that—Christ’s love. With that divine gift, that redeeming bestowal, we have everything; without it we have nothing and ultimately are nothing, except in the end ‘devils [and] angels to a devil’ [ 2Nephi 9:9 ]” ( Christ and the New Covenant, 336–37).

Yes, we should pray for charity for our neighbor. We should pray for our enemies. We should pray to be long-suffering, to endure all things, to hope all things, and to have this pure love for others. However, we must pray with all energy of heart for this love as bestowed upon us by Christ. He is the Ultimate Giver. He is standing there with His arm stretched out still. He is the One that shows forth a pure and perfect love that has the power to redeem and exalt the whole of the human family. He is the One that has shown forth the great form of charity. It is this divine love that we must be seeking and praying for. It is this that gives us faith and hope and even charity for others. Without His grace, we are nothing. 

Come Unto Christ

“I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (Moroni 10:30)

Ultimately, the purpose of our very existence is to come unto Christ. By coming unto him, we are able to put off our natural tendencies and grasp our eternal capacities. He unlocks the divine that is inside of all of us.

Satan’s goal has been to destroy the agency of man from the beginning. If he can cause us to forget to choose or choose against Christ, then he can make us miserable like unto himself. This is his desire. This is antithetical to the wishes of our Father and His Son. Christ came that He might give us the power and freedom to choose for ourselves. We are gifted with agency from the beginning because of His sacrifice. How are we going to use this God-given agency?

If we choose to come unto Christ, then we receive power, His power. Through Lehi’s dream, we learn a simple yet profound lesson. As we face the mists of darkness in our lives, we are not left to wander aimlessly if we don’t want to. There were groups that made it through those mists because they held fast to what Lehi saw was an iron rod that ran the length of the path until it came to the Tree of Life. This iron rod is representative of the Word of God. John proclaimed that Jesus is the Word. He is the One that we hold fast to. 

Sometimes we cling, and sometimes our grip is sure, but if we take his outstretched arm, then we will be able to endure through the trials. This is what is meant to come unto Christ. We are to hold fast to Him by obeying His word, keeping our covenants, seeking to build up others, and walking in His paths by emulating Him as best as we are able.

Learning to come unto Christ is not always easy. It takes defying our fears and overcoming doubts. It takes faith, hope, and charity. Peter had to defy the laws of science to come to Christ by walking on water. As long as he trusted, then he was able, but even after the doubts crept in, he still trusted that Christ would deliver him from the depths of the wave-tossed sea. Christ will always deliver us if we reach out to Him.

Let us turn our thoughts and our hopes towards Christ. Let us seek to build up ourselves and others to be more meek and lowly as He is. He will help to lift our burdens. They are light compared to the burdens that we would otherwise carry on our own, but they will not always be easy. It will take some work and perseverance.

As we learn to heed Moroni’s closing exhortations, we know that God lives. We comprehend that there is a place for us in the eternities and that we are able to find ourselves standing with God in oneness. This is the power of the Atonement and the revealed Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the power to lift and save. He condescended below all things that He might lift us above all things. 

We are empowered to choose, so let us choose to follow Moroni’s divinely inspired counsel.

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