Day 84: The Nature of Good and Evil

Moroni 7:12-17

I remember one day on my mission my companion and I decided to go finding in a large city park near our apartment. We took a baseball and bat thinking we could start a game and meet new people who might be interested in learning more about Jesus Christ. On the way to the park we stopped to talk to a couple on the sidewalk. We introduced ourselves, extending a simple invitation to listen to our message. The woman looked at our baseball and bat and said something to the effect of, “with all the terrible things in the world, I can’t believe there’s a God. You would be better off playing baseball in the park than trying to teaching people about something that doesn’t exist.” The woman’s attitude might sound familiar to many of you. Lots of people argue that the plethora of “bad things” in the world is definitive proof God doesn’t exist. They argue that “god” would never let so many terrible things happen.

The prophet Mormon’s discourse from Moroni 7 clarifies the nature of good and evil. “[All] things which are good cometh of God” (Moroni 7:12). Kindness, charity, love, happiness, joy, good works, all come from God because He inspires them (Moroni 7:13). He is the definition of good. Satan also exists and he is the exact opposite of God (Moroni 7:12, 17). Satan inspires wickedness, anger, breaking God’s commandments, being unkind, cheating, lying, stealing.

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. (Moroni 7:16)

Every person on earth has agency, the ability to reason, make choices, and act. We, every individual on earth, must choose between good (God) and evil (Satan). Many of the “bad things” that happen on earth are the result of individual choices. God will never take away nor compel a person’s agency. Individuals are responsible for their choices, not God. God’s commandments teach us responsible ways to use our agency; they are designed to maximize the good in our lives as well as bring eternal happiness and joy.

In addition, many “bad things” that happen on earth, like natural disasters, come as the result of natural laws. God sometimes steps in to protect individuals, families, and groups that are living righteously and have sought His help. He often won’t change circumstances or take away “bad things,” but He can strengthen us to endure and overcome, and He does make amazing blessings available to those who trust in Him.

If we want to see more good in the world, it’s up to us to choose good and do good. It’s our responsibility to seek out God and supplicate His help for increased strength and ability to become a force for good in our families, our communities, and our world.

Day 75: Peace on earth

3 Nephi 26:17-21

When I read the Christmas story from Luke 2, I prefer to use the translation of verse 14 that makes a slight change in verbiage from “peace on earth, good will toward men” to “on earth peace to men of good will” (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition). The more I study the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I am convinced that lasting peace on earth can only be achieved when every person lives the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is exemplified in The Book of Mormon.

Consider what happened in the Americas following Christ’s ministry among the Nephites and Lamanites. The apostles Jesus ordained traveled around, teaching the people, baptizing them and giving the Gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 17). The Church of Christ was organized (v. 21). The apostles and baptized members of the Church “did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them” (v. 20). The people taught and ministered to each other (v. 19). As a result of the spread of the Gospel, the rise of the Church, the people keeping the commandments and ministering to each other, “they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another” (v. 19).

This sounds like peace to me! People living in harmony, sharing generously with each other, loving each other, being just to each other. Jesus teaches people to love, to give freely, to be kind, to think the best of others, to work on personal imperfections and be generous with the imperfections of others, to care for the needs of others, to be just and merciful, to tell the truth, to have good will. If everyone lived this way all the time, we would have peace on earth.

So, rather than wish for peace on earth this Christmas, I’m going to try a little harder to live after the manner of peace and teach my children to do the same.

Day 74: The Sacrament

3 Nephi 18; 20; 26:13

The Sacrament is a sacred ordinance performed weekly in Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregations. The Sacrament is a symbolic “lord’s supper” in which anointed priests (usually young men between the ages of 12-18) bless and pass the bread and water. Baptized members of the Church take the Sacrament each week to renew previously made covenants with God as well as to formalize personal repentance.

I wrote previously about saving ordinances and their necessity for receiving eternal life. The Sacrament is an ordinance that points us to Jesus christ and helps us remember Him. It also helps individuals become washed clean from sin (much like what happens at baptism) and find spiritual renewal. In many ways, the Sacrament facilitates the keeping of covenants, provides a marker for spiritual growth, and keeps us oriented toward Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ established the Sacrament among His apostles at Jerusalem and it is one of the first ordinances He introduced in the Americas. He repeated the ordinance of the Sacrament many times during His ministry among the Nephites and Lamanites, including miraculously providing the bread and wine in 3 Nephi 20:3-9 (see also 3 Nephi 26:13). Third Nephi 18 records the first sacrament in the Americas. Jesus prepared and blessed that first sacrament while instructing His Nephite and Lamanite apostles on the proper method and ceremony:

Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.

And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.

And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. (3 Nephi 18:5-7)

A few things to point out:

  1. “One ordained among you”: The Sacrament can only be prepared, blessed, and passed by Priesthood holders.
  2. The Sacrament should be a regular part of worship in Christ’s church.
  3. The Sacrament is for people who believe in Jesus Christ and have been baptized by the authority and power of God in Christ’s church.
  4. We follow Christ’s example when we participate in the ordinance of the Sacrament.
  5. The Sacrament is a symbolic ritual in which the bread reminds us of Christ’s body, His physical sacrifice and mortal death.
  6. We signify to God that we remember Christ when we eat the bread.
  7. Christ promises us that we will have His Spirit with us if we remember Him.

The second half of the Sacrament is the blessing and passing of the water (they used wine in Jerusalem, the Americas, and the early days of the Restored Church).

…[H]e commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it….

And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.

And…ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. (3 Nephi 18:8, 10-11)

The slight variations between the blessing of the bread and wine (water today) are so instructive. The water, as the second half of the ordinance, rounds out and completes the ordinance. When we have drunk the water we have completed the full ordinance; we demonstrate to God that we have been obedient to this commandment and we signify that we will keep all of God’s commandments. The water represents Christ’s blood, both the blood that dripped from every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane and the blood shed on Calvary during the Crucifixion when the soldier pierced Christ’s side. The promised gift of Christ’s Spirit to be with us is reiterated as we complete the ordinance.

The Sacrament points us to Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, the ultimate act of charity that makes eternal life possible. Because Jesus Christ suffered, died, and resurrected, He can redeem us from sin, bring us back into God’s presence, and gift us eternal life.

Day 70: Restored Truths and the Importance of The Book of Mormon

3 Nephi 15:16-24 and 1 Nephi 13:40-41

When Jesus appeared to the Nephites and Lamanites in the Americas, He established His identity, His importance to their lives, and His law, the law of Christ. One of the most critical truths for us to understand is that there is “one fold and one shepherd” (3 Nephi 15:21). Jesus personally declared His divinity, His role as Savior and Redeemer, and the primacy of His law. His words in 3 Nephi echo earlier prophetic writings in 1 Nephi that “there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth” (1 Nephi 13:41). This is Jesus Christ.

The Book of Mormon serves as a second witness of Jesus Christ. It stands alongside the Bible as a testimony of His divinity, it clarifies important points of doctrine such as the need for baptism by immersion by the proper authority, and teaches additional doctrines such as the Plan of Salvation in beautiful simplicity.

The role of Jesus Christ in our lives can be summed up in simple statements of truth. Just as there is one shepherd and one God over all the earth, so is there one plan and one law that apply to everyone on earth: “the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (1 Nephi 13:40). Our purpose on earth is to learn charity, selflessness, to become more like God, to repent when we fall short, to make promises to God, to keep His commandments, and to prepare for eternal life. Jesus Christ set the example and makes all this possible through His Atonement and Resurrection. By following Jesus Christ according to the pattern He set anciently and reestablished through His church today, we choose the path to eternal life.

Day 58: Remembering

Alma 62:49-50

Memory is a really important concept in the scriptures. We are meant to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, OT), to “always remember” Jesus Christ (Mormon 4-5, BoM), “and to remember his holy covenant” (Luke 1:72, NT). Remembering should impel us to action such as doing sabbath appropriate activities; fostering thoughts of Christ to influence our day-to-day choices and behavior; making choices in keeping with our covenants.

Following Captain Moroni’s successful conclusion of the war, Nephite society began again to flourish. Many people became wealthy and the society as a whole prospered. Usually this spells disaster for the Nephites “[but] notwithstanding their riches, or their strength, or their prosperity, they were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes…” (Alma 62:49). The crucial difference between pride and humility? Remembering.

The Nephites were not “slow to remember the Lord their God; but they did humble themselves exceedingly before him” (ibid.). Part of remembering God seems to include a present awareness of His existence and one’s relationship to Him. Keeping God present in our thoughts helps us keep an accurate perspective on mortality. Also, the Nephites

“did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies” (Alma 62:50).

By maintaining a present and active awareness of God through memory, the Nephites stayed humble, they prospered temporally, their society expanded, and they received many blessings from God.

One additional thought I’ve been mulling over is how I experience joy every time I remember something specific God has done for me. That feeling of joy improves my life in the moment but also motivates me to active gratitude through obedience and careful covenant keeping.

What experiences have you had that bring you joy in the process of remembering them? How could more intentional “remembering” make God more present in your life?

Further Reading

Henry B. Eyring, “O Remember Remember,” General Conference (Oct 2007).

Day 52: Taught to Keep the Commandments of God

Alma 53:17-21

By way of follow up, my husband and I began a Family Home Evening lesson series on the commandments. I had mentioned in a previous post that I felt the need to do this. So far it’s going well! We kicked off the series with a lesson activity discussing life and the many choices we get to make on a daily basis. I presented our family with a plate of bite size pieces of several varieties of chocolate. Scattered amongst the chocolate pieces were toothpick flags, each representing a choice. I wrote a scenario on one side of the flag and once someone had read the scenario and provided a response, s/he flipped the flag to read a commandment-oriented statement. One flag read, “It’s Sunday and a friend invites you to go to the movies.” The reverse side paraphrased the commandments to keep the Sabbath Day holy. My kids really enjoyed the hands-on experience (and now they want chocolate every Family Home Evening). We have continued with “love the Lord thy God” and “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39, NT). I struggle a little with making the lessons completely kid-friendly, but I really want to follow through on this prompting.

In case I was feeling a little discouraged, the perfect motivation popped up in my Book of Mormon reading. I’m in the midst of the war chapters of Alma and 2000 young men (sons of the people of Ammon) have joined the Nephite army to help “fight for liberty” and “to protect the land” (Alma 53:17). Despite being young, inexperienced, and untrained as soldiers, “they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity…. [T]hey were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted…. [T]hey were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God…” (Alma 53:20-21, emphasis added). This is what I want for my children! If I persevere, continue teaching them the commandments, and provide them with opportunities to grow their faith and personal testimonies, then they, too, will become valiant, courageous, strong, true, trustworthy, honest.

Day 48: Peace in this life

Alma 38:8

Peace is often connected in the scriptures to promises associated with eternal life and exaltation. In Alma 38, the prophet Alma the younger helps us understand how to receive peace in this life, a peace that prefigures the permanent and eternal peace of the next life.

Alma recounts his conversion story for his middle son, Shiblon, in this father-son interview of counsel and Gospel teaching. Alma hasn’t made any secret of his wild and wicked youth, and uses his experience as a launch pad to help others understand the importance of the Gospel and the reality of Jesus Christ. Alma is a powerful witness of the mercy of God and the saving power of Jesus Christ. He tells Shiblon that after the angel warned him and the sons of Mosiah, Alma “was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul” (Alma 38:8). Have you ever felt “bitter pain” or “anguish of soul”? Can you imagine feeling that constantly for three days?! But when Alma, remembering something his father had preached, called upon Jesus Christ to have mercy on him, he received “a remission of [his] sins” and found “peace to [his] soul” (ibid.)

In Alma’s experience, receiving a remission of his sins resulted in peace. There’s the obvious explanation that a person feeling tormented by his/her sins will be at peace once s/he has repented and received forgiveness from God. But I see additional insight here into the nature of peace and what Alma is really getting at. We experience peace in this life when our conscience is clear and we are in good standing with God. If we are keeping the commandments and following God’s counsel and laws, we will have peace. In my own experience, I can have this kind of peace even in the midst of stressful situations, life challenges, or other problems that typically cause pain and distress.

True peace comes through Jesus Christ as we repent regularly, keep God’s commandments, and live up to our covenants.