Moroni 7

 

A Confirming Covenant Witness

      Mormon 8 -- Moroni


 

Moroni 7 (Faith, Hope, and Charity):

 

     According to Monte Nyman, charges of plagiarizing have been leveled against the Prophet Joseph Smith because of the similarities between 1 Corinthians 13 and Moroni 7. There are several possibilities for these similarities:

     (1) The Holy Ghost inspired both men;

     (2) Jesus taught these things to both the Jews and the Nephites and they were not recorded (John 21:25; Acts 1:3; 3 Nephi 26:8-12);

     (3) Paul and Mormon both were quoting from an earlier source that was lost from the original text of the Bible with other plain and precious things. (1 Nephi 13:24-29)

     Some support of the latter is given by references to charity in Old Testament times by Nephi. (2 Nephi 26:30) The last two possibilities are supported by modern biblical critics who question Paul as the originator of the message of 1 Corinthians 13. For their theories and evidences, see Richard L. Anderson, Understanding Paul (Salt Lake city: Deseret Book Company, 1983), pp. 118-19 and notes.

[Monte S. Nyman, "Hope, Faith and Charity," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, p. 302]

Moroni 7:2 I, Mormon, Speak unto You, My Beloved Brethren:

 

     According to the theory of Jerry Ainsworth, Mormon was commanded to write the history of his own people, not any other (see Mormon 5:9-13). That being the case, the "beloved brethren" (Moroni 7:2) spoken of in the book of Moroni lay outside Mormon's parameters as a historian. Even if these people were Nephites, Mormon chose not to write about them because they were not a part of the Nephite nation. Moroni, on the other hand, was under no such constraint, and that may have been the reason he placed certain writings of Mormon in his own book. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 36]

Moroni 7:3 I Would Speak unto You That Are of the Church, That Are the Peaceable Followers of Christ:

 

     Jerry Ainsworth notes that the writings of Mormon and Moroni about events of their day caused him to focus on several statements they made, which, on the surface, seem to contradict one another. Though he viewed these "contradictions" as insignificant, he still felt a need to resolve them in his own mind. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said, "By proving contraries, truth is made manifest" (History of the Church, 6:428).

     According to Ainsworth, one of these contradictions involves Moroni 7:1, 3-4:

           And now I, Moroni, write a few of the words of my father Mormon, which he spake concerning faith hope, and charity; for after this manner did he speak unto the people, as he taught them in the synagogue which they had built for the place of worship . . . Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven. And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.

 

     In these verses, Moroni indicates that Mormon had preached to a people of his own day who had the following characteristics: (1) They were members of the Church; (2) they had built a synagogue in which to worship; (3) they were peaceable followers of Christ; (4) they walked peaceably with the children of men; and (5) they were living the gospel well enough to have "a sufficient hope by which [they could] enter into the rest of the Lord." Mormon calls these people "brethren," in contrast to "this people" or "my people," which terms he uses generally. This appears to contradict the following previous statements:

           (1) Mormon comments in his abridgment of Nephite history that by A.D. 300, both the Nephites and the Lamanites had become exceedingly wicked, the one just like the other. In fact, Mormon notes that "there were none that were righteous save the disciples of Jesus." (4 Nephi 1:45-46) This was just 10 years before his birth.

           (2) Mormon notes that at the age of fifteen, after being "visited of the Lord," "I did endeavor to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them . . . But I did remain among them, but I was forbidden to preach unto them, because of the hardness of their hearts" (Mormon 1:15-17)

           (3) Thirty five years later, Mormon notes that the Lord relented and told him to "cry unto this people--Repent ye, and come unto me . . . and ye shall be spared" (Mormon 3:2) However, this attempt also failed (see Mormon 3:3).

           (4) As a final statement before the battles in which the Nephite nation would be destroyed, Mormon states: "there never had been so great wickedness among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel, according to the words of the Lord, as was among this people." (Mormon 4:12)

 

     Now, the message of Mormon's epistle which Moroni included in his writings was of faith, hope, and charity, not repentance. So the question arises, To whom was Mormon preaching? Where could he have found members of the Church who were of such great faith as Moroni describes among a people who had degenerated into so great a state of wickedness? [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, pp. 34-35]

Moroni 7:5-6 By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them . . . A Man Being Evil Cannot Do That Which Is Good:

 

     In Moroni 7:5-6 we find: "For I remember the word of God, which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also. For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good . . ."

     According to Monte Nyman, Mormon's quotation is very similar to 3 Nephi 14:16-20 or Matthew 7:14-20. Because these sources use "fruits" instead of "works" and "a tree" rather than "a man," it is possible that Mormon was paraphrasing these teachings. Another possibility is that he was quoting from an Old Testament source that is no longer in the Bible because of the loss of plain and precious parts. (1 Nephi 13:24-29) Further support for the latter possibility is that much of the so-called Sermon on the Mount was known to the Nephites before it was given as a collective sermon to the Nephites. (See Matthew 7:7 and 2 Nephi 32:4) [Monte S. Nyman, "Hope, Faith and Charity," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, p. 302]

Moroni 7:10 Wherefore, a Man Being Evil Cannot Do That Which Is Good:

 

     [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 10:23]

Moroni 7:12 All Things Which Are Good Cometh of God; and That Which Is Evil Cometh of the Devil:

 

     Amy Hardison writes that anciently, covenants were written with a specific vocabulary. Inside the covenant context, certain words had official and legal meanings that sometimes differed from their normal, everyday use,. For instance, to "know" means to be loyal to and to recognize the legitimate suzerain or lord with whom the covenant is being made, and to acknowledge the terms of a covenant as binding.148 To do good is to keep one's covenants.149 To do evil is to break one's covenant (evil in covenant curses conveys disaster, calamity, and misfortune--not the moral opposite of righteousness).

     Understanding the covenant meaning of these words increases our understanding of certain scriptures. For instance, in Isaiah 1:3 we read, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib [manger]: but Israel doth not know [me], my people doth not consider." God's complaint about Israel's lack of knowledge refers not to her intelligence but to her loyalty. Also of interest is Isaiah 45:7, wherein God states, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil." This verse does not mean that God is the author of evil. What this verse in Isaiah really means is that God will fulfill the terms of his covenant, granting covenant blessings (peace) or covenant curses (evil) as the people warrant them.150 As Moroni explains, "All things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil" (Moroni 7:12). [Amy Blake Hardison, "Being a Covenant People," in Covenants Prophecies and Hymns of the Old Testament, p. 24]

Moroni 7:19-25 Lay Hold upon Every Good Thing:

 

       Richardson, Richardson and Bentley note that in the Book of Mormon the use of the expression "lay hold" is authentic (see also Helaman 3:29 and Mormon 7:8). Had Joseph Smith or any of his contemporaries written the Book of Mormon rather than ancient prophets, he might have written that people were exhorted to "accept" the word of God or to "receive" it. Yet "lay hold" upon the "word of God" or "upon every good thing" was a common expression among ancient peoples of the Middle East. For example, a Jewish document urges the people to "take hold of the way of God." (See Nibley, Since Cumorah, pp. 166-167).151 [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 264]

     Note* In Moroni 7, Mormon speaks of how if "ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ" (Moroni 7:19). In just 7 verses he uses this phrase 4 times. It is interesting that in the entire Book of Mormon, the phrase "lay hold [up]on every good [thing]" is used only 5 times: 4 by Moroni writing a few words of his father Mormon (Moroni 7:19, 20, 21, 25), and by Moroni in his last exhortation to his brethren the Lamanites:

           And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.

           And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.

           Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

           And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy without spot. (Moroni 10:30-33)

 

     The phrase "lay hold upon every good thing," or something similar, is not found in the Bible, although their are two instances worth citing. In Proverbs 3:18 we find, "[Wisdom] is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her." In Hebrews 6:10-20 we find,

           For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

           And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end;

           That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

           For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

           And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

           For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

           Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

           That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.

           Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

           Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

 

     It is significant that all of the instances in the Bible and the Book of Mormon where "lay hold upon" is used speak of obtaining or "laying hold upon" the knowledge of Christ, with both Paul and Moroni implying that it involves a covenant process. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

Moroni 7:31 The Office of [Angels'] Ministry Is to Do the Work of the Covenants of the Father:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, the word covenant is from covenira, meaning "come together." Venir is "to come." Venue, conventical, and convention are related words. It's a coming together of two worlds. Mormon has just said that the Lord dwells in heaven. Why should he bring that in? "He dwelleth eternally in the heavens" (Ether 7:28). The answer is that because the Lord dwells in the heavens, we have to have a connection here . . . a celestial connection. Faith brings about this meeting of the worlds, which he calls here joining in the covenant. The office of angels' ministry is "to do the work of the covenants of the Father" (Moroni 7:31). . . to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith" (Moroni 7:30). . . .

     A covenant, as I said, is a coming together, an agreement. This is a covenant where everybody is joined in the same atonement, at-one-ment. They're all joined together, and this is the way it happens. Mormon says that the Lord does it in regular order here. But nobody's privileged above another. It's just the office of their ministry. As Brigham Young said, prophecy is not an office at all--it's a gift. It doesn't go with any office. Some women have the gift more often than men, as a matter of fact. One of the greatest prophets we had was Eliza R. Snow. My grandmother told us some marvelous prophecies she gave that have been fulfilled. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, pp. 281-282]

Moroni 7:32 The Lord Prepareth the Way:

 

     [See the commentary on Alma 38:9]

Moroni 7:44 None Is Acceptable before God, Save the Meek and Lowly in Heart:

 

     Hugh Nibley asks, What is our obstacle? Why don't we have the faith and the revelations that go with it? Moroni 7:43-44 tells us--it's because we're not honest. We are not meek and lowly: "I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek and lowly of heart" (Moroni 7:43). That's what being honest is, recognizing what you don't know, not what you do. Forget degrees and everything else. "The glory of God is intelligence." Intelligence is problem-solving ability. . . . How do you go about solving a problem? You always, step by step, find out what you don't know. "This is where I'm ignorant." "This is what I don't know." And so I have to fill that gap. There are no fields; there are only problems to solve. If you have a particular problem you have to work on and it requires a certain language, you've got to get the language. If it requires certain math, you've got to get the math. See, it's not the field you're in that makes it; it's the problem you have to solve. You have to get whatever you lack. You can't fall back on your degrees and your reputation and all this sort of thing and say, "well he's an authority on the subject." There are none such. You have to be honest and smart enough to realize where the limitations are and where we're supposed to go. But only by a systematic and progressive revelation of your own ignorance can you do that. That's a humiliating process, and very few will face it. They must be meek and lowly.

     The greatest classical philologist who ever lived, Joseph Justus Scaliger, lived back in the sixteenth century. He went to Rome and lived in the ghetto to learn Hebrew. They spoke Hebrew in those days. The little children laughed at him when he'd make mistakes, and his fellow colleagues disowned him. He wasn't scholarly about it at all. You don't go down and mix with vulgar people. His colleagues wore fur-lined robes and everything else, but their knowledge of Hebrew was less than elementary. That's the difference, you see. You have to be meek and lowly if you're going to learn anything or do what the Lord wants you to do. Realize your situation and what you really are. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 283]

Moroni 7:44 Wherefore, He Must Needs Have Charity:

 

     According to Catherine Thomas, charity is another spiritual gift given to mortals in increments called grace. The Greek word behind grace in the New Testament means "divine gift." It refers to divine gifts of power unlocked by the Atonement. Grace, like all divine gifts, is administered to mortals through the Holy Ghost. It helps them do what they could not do by themselves. [Catherine Thomas, "A More Excellent Way," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, p. 278]

 Moroni 7:45-47 Charity Suffereth Long, and Is Kind, . . . :

 

     In Moroni 7, Moroni quotes Mormon as saying the following:

           And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail-- But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possess of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. (Moroni 7:45-47)

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, it appears that here Mormon goes into a long section directly from the New Testament. Aha! Moroni is quoting Paul here in the Book of Mormon! Or is he? In 1 Corinthians 13:4-9 Paul says the following:

           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. Charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

 

     Paul gives an operational definition of charity here, as you may notice. Charity is an intimate, subjective thing--very hard to define. Unless you have it, you don't know what it is. It's like indigestion or gift for music or math or something like that. You have to have it. That's what charity is, very hard to define. It's impulsive, and yet it's ongoing. It can't be faked; it can't be artificial. . . .

     Although Paul's definition of charity is quoted in the Book of Mormon, Paul was himself quoting another work. He was quoting an old hermetic work on the subject. Richard Reitzenstein and some others showed that [to be the case] some years ago, and it's typical of the hermetic writings. In fact yesterday I was reading an apocalyptic work I'd never read before, and it gives exactly the same analysis of charity. This was a very common theme, not only with the philosophers. We know, especially from recent research, that Paul quoted all over the place. He quoted about every classical writer you can name. Possibly half the statements of Paul are quotations from the classics, from the orators, from the plays, etc. Paul quoted all over the place; he was a very learned man. What Paul's quoting here [in Corinthians 13] is from an ancient writing, and it's quoted here [by Mormon] in the Book of Mormon. Where we find it is in the hermetic writings which were taken over from the Jews at a very early time. Remember, Moroni was going through the records now and picking out the best things. So he picked the best definition he could find on charity [which just happened to be the same definition as given by Paul, and the same definition as given by his father Mormon]. It's the best thing you can find on charity. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, pp. 283-284]

Moroni 7:45 Charity Suffereth Long, and Is Kind, and Envieth Not:

 

     According to McConkie, Millet and Top, Mormon's language in Moroni 7 is unmistakably similar to Paul's language in his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Both Paul and Mormon described the charitable person as one who: (1) Suffers long, bears all things; (2) Is kind; (3) Envies not; (4) Is not puffed up, seeks not his own; (5) Is not easily provoked; (6) Thinks no evil; (7) Rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; (8) Believes all things; (9) Hopes all things; (10) Endures all things.

     Certainly both could have received independent revelations from the Lord on the same matter. In offering an alternative explanation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

           Both Paul and Mormon expounded with great inspiration about faith, hope, and charity, in many verses using the same words and phrases. If there is any difference between them it is that Mormon expounds the doctrines more perfectly and persuasively than does Paul. It does not take much insight to know that Mormon and Paul both had before them the writings of some Old Testament prophet on the same subjects. ("The Doctrinal Restoration," in The Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things, p. 18)

[Joseph F. McConkie, Robert L. Millet, Brent L. Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. IV, pp. 343-345] [See the commentary on Moroni 10:8-17]

Moroni 7:45 And Charity Suffereth Long, and Is Kind, and Envieth Not:

 

     According to Donl Peterson, Moroni felt impressed to include excerpts from a discourse of his father (Moroni 7). The last few verses of his sermon are quite similar to Paul's great sermon on faith, hope, and charity (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It is logical to conclude, because these two sermons contain similar wording, that both were based upon a great sermon given by the Savior in his ministries among these two branches of the house of Israel. Moroni, too, was fond of this theme. In his own writings he had previously referred to the need for faith, hope, and charity (see Ether 12:28-35). [H. Donl Peterson, Moroni: Ancient Prophet Modern Messenger, p. 65]

Moroni 7:48 When He Shall Appear, We Shall Be Like Him:

 

      According to Michael Griffith, anti-Mormons assert that the Book of Mormon contains almost no Mormonism" (Decker and Hunt 114). By this the critics mean to claim that none or almost none of the more unique doctrines of Mormonism can be found in the Nephite record (Decker and Hunt 114; J.L. Smith 23-30). Griffith refutes this claim. Among the many proofs put forward he states the following:

     One of the most sublime and uplifting doctrines of the Restoration is that we have the potential to become like our Heavenly Father, i.e., to attain godhood. This teaching is abundantly evidenced in the Bible and in numerous early Christian writings (Stephen Robinson, Are Mormons Christians?, 1991:60-70; Darrick Evenson, A Converted Anti-Mormon Responds To Critics of the LDS Church, 1989:49-60; Turner; Keith Norman, "Divinization: The Forgotten Teaching of Early Christianity," in Sunstone, Winter 1975:1-19; Phillip Barlow, "Unorthodox Orthodoxy: The Idea of Deification in Christian History," in Sunstone, Sept./Oct. 1983:13-18; Michael Griffith, Signs of the True Church of Christ, 1989:48-51).

     We also find this doctrine in the Book of Mormon. Moroni is rather explicit, saying that when the righteous will see Christ they "shall be like him" and can look forward to being "purified even as he is pure (Moroni 7:48). A little later on in his epistle, Moroni speaks of coming unto Christ and being "perfected in him" (Moroni 10:32). According to Moroni, if we do our part we can become "holy, without spot" (Moroni 10:33).

     The Savior was equally explicit. He told the Three Nephites that "your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fullness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am . . . " (3 Nephi 28:10). This doctrine can also be evidenced in Alma 5:24; 3 Nephi 12:48; 3 Nephi 27:27. [Michael T. Griffith, Refuting the Critics, p. 134]