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by Adam Croft Throughout Christianity it is accepted that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was given to us to help us gain eternal life in the Kingdom of our Father in Heaven. Adherence to the gospel means following the example and teachings of Christ. Central to His example and teachings are the three essential attributes of faith, hope, and charity; to which I would also add humility (for reasons I will explain later). The topic I would like to address is why these attributes are so important in the goal of attaining eternal life. As a youth being raised in the gospel I was often given instruction by my parents regarding one matter or other. In reference to those times, my mother has told me that she never had much trouble getting me to do what needed to be done, but that I always had to know why. This drive to know “why” extends to every facet of my life, both secular and spiritual. I find both knowing and understanding why something needs to be done or why it needs to be done in a certain way can be a great motivator to actually doing what needs done in the proper manner. In the scriptures we are given spiritual guidance in the form of commandments, laws, and admonitions. We are taught that God is a god of order and that he doesn't do anything without both intent and purpose. We are also taught that God does not require anything of us that He does not also require of Himself. This is true because he wants us to learn to be just like Him. This can be seen in 3 Nephi 27:27 where the Lord said, “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” as well as in Mathew 5:48 where He says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” It's no secret that God has high expectations for his children. What good parent doesn't? The question is, how do we, as flawed as we are, achieve those expectations? Throughout Christ's ministry, He emphasized the importance of faith, gave people hope, and demonstrated his boundless charity by his continual acts of kindness and forgiveness. He also demonstrated great humility by submitting His will to his Father and taking upon Him the price of our sins. His apostles learned from his example and continued to teach the importance of developing these basic attributes within ourselves. Regarding faith, Christ taught that, if you have it, “ … nothing shall be impossible to you”(Matthew 17:20). We are also told by James that “ … faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone”(James 2:17). In many cases, people confuse faith with belief, but, while one is a root of the other, they are not the same thing. Faith is the confidence, or trust, in a belief that precipitates action. All actions are based on faith in one thing or other, whether spiritual or secular. Students study because they have faith in their ability to learn; scientists experiment because they have faith in their ability to understand the universe, as well as in the idea that the universe is structured in such a way that it can be understood; people live according to their religious/spiritual beliefs because of their faith that it is the right way to live and that such a lifestyle will yield blessings that they would not otherwise receive. The more our actions are rewarded with positive consequences, the more confidence we have in the areas wherein we exercised faith, until our confidence becomes absolute. The more our actions are rewarded with negative consequences, however, the more difficult it becomes to have faith in the related areas. If such negative consequences persist long enough, it is possible for a person to lose all faith in the related areas, effectively eliminating any motivation or incentive to exert effort in those areas. In other words, our willingness to act on anything is directly proportional to the strength of the faith within us regarding that thing (be it a gospel principle, or a scientific theory). This is why faith and works are so closely tied together, because works are the manifestation of faith and directly affects our way of life. Faith, therefore, is important because it gets us doing things, which is the only way we can grow and progress, and it is only through growth and progression that we can ever hope to become like God. So faith enables us to have hope, but what exactly is hope? One definition of hope is “ … the
feeling that what is wanted can be had” (dictionary.com). So what should we hope for? In Moroni 7:4142 we read, “ … Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise. Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.” In short, our faith in the promise of Christ's atonement, which faith is evidenced by our works, allows us to have hope that we can, in fact, attain eternal life. The greater our faith in God, the more our thoughts and actions are in line with those of Christ, and the more in line we are with Christ, the greater our hope in Him; in His forgiveness of our sins, His acceptance of us and our offerings of faith, and of His continual assistance throughout our progression to become like Him. This is not to say that we earn his love and forgiveness through our actions (because those things are gifts from him that we could never earn), but that through our thoughts and actions we demonstrate the deepness of our desire and dedication to be worthy of receiving those gifts. This brings us to charity. What is charity? A secular definition describes it as “ … generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless” (dictionary.com). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints defines charity as the “pure love of Christ,” or the pure, selfless love that Christ has for all of His Father's children. These definitions, while different, are not mutually exclusive, nor are they contradicting. The secular definition defines the evidential actions of someone who might have the attribute described by the religious definition. This is true because a person who possesses the love that Christ has would, no doubt, perform such acts towards those in need just as naturally as they would breath in the air around them. The only thing that would limit these actions in one possessing charity would be means and opportunity; “ … for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27). It is important to note, however, that merely performing actions that would be outwardly perceived as being charitable does not necessarily mean that a person actually has charity. The religious definition refers to the inward motivation of the person performing those acts, that being love. Such acts can also be motivated by duty, or even self aggrandizement, but any such act that is not a willing manifestation of love, no matter how beneficial it may be to the recipient, is worthless to the giver on a spiritual level, and may even be detrimental. “For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God” (Moroni 7:8). First Corinthians 13 has long been one of my favorite scriptures. In this chapter Paul states that charity is the greatest of the core christian attributes. He goes so far as to say that without it, regardless of the presence of any other attribute or action, man is nothing. Paul continues by describing the attributes of one possessing true charity: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). He even refers to the eternal nature of this attribute in the statement “ … charity never faileth” (1 corinthians 13:8). It is at this point in the chapter that, as a youth, I became confused. The confusion came because, at the time, it seemed to me that the subject of the chapter took a left turn and appeared to talk about something else that seemed unrelated to what had come before. Paul starts talking about the incompleteness of the human condition, specifically regarding our understanding of spiritual things, adding to that statement an assurance that “ … when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:10). He then solidifies this idea using the example of the differences between how he thought and acted as a child verses how he thinks and acts as an adult. Then comes the potentially cryptic reference in verse 12 (which to me is possibly the greatest promise God has ever given) where he says “ … For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” In other words, the barrier or veil which obscures our perceptions and understanding of spiritual things will one day be removed and we will find ourselves standing face to face with our Father in Heaven and we shall know and
understand Him with the same perfection as He does us. At some point during or around the time of my mission, I came to realize that the topic of discussion in this chapter doesn't change direction at all. In fact, in these last few verses, Paul is very simply giving answer to my favorite question; “why?” Why is charity so important? To understand Paul's answer to this question it is important to look again at the statement, “Then shall I know even as also I am known.” This statement is, perhaps, an echo of Christ's great intercessory prayer where He said, “ … this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”(John 17:3). To truly know God in the same manner in which He knows us, we have to be like Him in every conceivable way. We would have to know what He knows, understand what He understands, and love as He loves. Earlier I expressed that this promise of knowing God as well as He knows us is possibly his greatest promise to us, and this is why: when we perfectly know Him, we will be perfectly like him and perfectly unified with Him and His purposes, which is the definition of “eternal life,” which could also be called eternal happiness because it comprehensively incorporates all blessings our Heavenly Father has in mind to give His children. However, regardless of what we learn and how we grow in this life, if we fail to develop the attribute of love, we have truly missed the point, or the object, of what our Heavenly Father is trying to teach us. Now I come to the fourth and final attribute I listed at the beginning, humility. Why is humility so important that I feel the need to add it to the classical list of faith, hope, and charity? It is my feeling that humility is the catalyst that allows us to successfully pursue and develop those other three attributes in our lives. A person without humility would have difficulty developing faith because faith requires trust in someone or something else to do what we ourselves cannot; a humble person has the ability to admit their own limitations, to rely on the help of others as necessary, and to be open to the experience, wisdom, and knowledge of others. A person without humility would find it difficult to develop hope because hope requires a certain level of uncertainty. A prideful person doesn't hope, they expect because of some misguided belief that they deserve what they want, or that it is rightfully theirs, whereas a humble person has the ability, in spite of countless looming obstacles and difficulties, to hope that they might achieve what they may have once thought to be impossible. Finally, a person without humility would find it difficult to develop charity because charity requires us to look beyond ourselves for the care, benefit, and growth of others. A prideful person simply doesn't see the worth of pursuing anything outside themselves unless it adds to their own perceived glory or benefit. A humble person isn't interested in personal glory or benefit, they merely want to do what they can to assist, uplift, and inspire others to be better, happier people. After having briefly covered the importance of these attributes, how do we know that they are, in fact, attributes of God the Father? Is God humble? Yes! In James 1:5 we read “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” In other words, God is always available, day or night, to patiently and sincerely listen to our petitions (whoever we may be), granting blessings and knowledge as appropriate, and never reproaching us for asking. If God were prideful he wouldn't feel our needs were worthy of his time and he would most certainly rebuke or punish us for bothering Him with them. Does God have faith? Yes! If our Heavenly Father didn't have faith in our ability to learn, grow, and make righteous choices, he certainly wouldn't have given us our free agency. He knows what's best for us and what will bring us the most happiness, but he also knows that what is best for us will only bring us happiness if we choose it for ourselves. Does God have hope? Yes! God demonstrates his hope in us by investing the time to patiently teach and guide us in ways that only He can and by providing a Savior for us, knowing that we would sin, but hoping that we would recognize our errors, repent, and return to him. Finally, does God have Charity? Yes! Our Father in Heaven demonstrates his love for us by giving us of His time and attention, being mindful of our needs and wants, and (most importantly) offering the gift of eternal life to all those who would accept it through the atoning sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ. In summary, the development of faith, hope, charity, and humility within ourselves is essential
to our progression to attain Eternal Life and become like our Heavenly Father. In Moses 1:39, the Father tells Moses, “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and Eternal Life of man.” Referring to this endeavor as his “work” and “glory” implies that He not only pursues this course out of a sense of personal responsibility, but because He truly loves and enjoys helping His children. He glories in our successes, supports us through our trials, helps us back to our feet when we fall (if we let him), and gives us strength and encouragement to press forward. As such, we can be assured that He, as our loving Father, who wants nothing more than for us to succeed and be truly happy, will assist us as we try to apply these core attributes in our lives until our understanding is clear and our greatest potential is attained.
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