Continuing the transfer of comments
As I mentioned previously, I still have more words to transfer to this site which I left on another blog two years ago. This time around I have opted to put the words in the last two sections with slight modifications. The rest of the post is new material created on the spot.
Mormon’s assessment of Moroni
Mormon said that captain Moroni “was a man of a perfect understanding.”
We typically think that Jesus Christ alone was the only perfect man, meaning the only adult specimen of the species to have never sinned. That is and will continue to be a true thought, at least until the great Millennial day dawns. After that, all the children born will grow up to adulthood “without sin unto salvation” (D&C 45:58). This shows that the idea that nobody is or can be perfect in anything, save Jesus only, is merely cultural conditioning, based upon our familiarity with our fellow man and his apparent endless imperfections. But the gospel teaches no such thing (see Matt. 5:48 and 3 Ne. 12:48 and also 1 Ne. 3:7); instead we read in the scriptures that certain individuals have achieved perfection in certain areas during their mortal sojourn. For example, we read in the Old Testament that Noah was perfect:
Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. (Gen. 6:9)
and also that Job was perfect:
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. (Job 1:1)
These scriptures don’t mean that Noah and Job never, ever sinned, but that they started out as sinless children, sinned and subsequently fell, and then repented and were made whole again by the atonement of Christ and their faith, becoming new (and perpetually holy) creatures. So, the difference between Jesus and these men was that Jesus was perfect from the beginning and remained perfect, whereas these men were fallen men who were later made perfect.
The doctrine of perfection, or of making perfect
I am able to make you holy (D&C 60:7)
The reason why people can be made perfect is that the atonement itself is perfect. Only perfection can work perfection upon imperfection.
These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood. (D&C 76:69)
The atonement is perfect in that it its influence is perfecting, meaning that its application has power to make men perfect, or right again with the law. Abinadi taught the priests of Noah,
And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses. And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses. (Mosiah 13:27-28)
Some take that to mean that the law of Moses was not perfect. But Abinadi had previously taught these same men,
And it shall come to pass that ye shall be smitten for your iniquities, for ye have said that ye teach the law of Moses. And what know ye concerning the law of Moses? Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye?
And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses. But now Abinadi said unto them:
I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved; yea, if ye keep the commandments which the Lord delivered unto Moses in the mount of Sinai (Mosiah 12:31-33)
So, if the law of Moses is kept, which were the commandments of God given to these ancient people, it would save them. So, salvation does come by the law of Moses. And salvation comes by the law given to Abraham, too, and to Enoch and to Adam and to Joseph and to every other seer God has ever revealed laws to. Salvation comes by keeping these commandments because they are all perfectly expedient, according to the conditions they are revealed in. Only perfect laws have power to keep men perfect, if they obey the same.
And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same. That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.
All kingdoms have a law given; and there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom. And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions. All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified. (D&C 88:34-39)
This means that anyone who keeps the laws of God, which are all always based upon expediency, is preserved, justified, sanctified and perfected by the same laws. That means that all of God’s laws, including the law of Moses, are perfect, because those who abide in them and never break them, will be saved in perfection, as perfect spirits.
Nevertheless, the salvation that comes by the law of Moses (or any of the revealed laws of God) only deals with sin, or remaining untouched by sin, keeping ourselves in a justified state. These laws do not deal with temporal death. So, even if all of fallen man were, from the fall of Adam to the very end of the earth, perfectly obedient to all the laws that God gave them, so that sin was non-existent on this planet, the temporal death would unravel the perfection achieved by all these perfect spirits, and they would all end up as angels to the devil anyway.
For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself (2 Ne. 9:8-9)
Thus, salvation does not come by the law of Moses alone, nor by any of the laws of God alone, nor by the atonement alone. No, salvation comes by the law of Moses + the atonement, or the laws of God + the atonement. You must have both, otherwise, perfection unravels. The law—and it doesn’t matter which law of God it is, only that it is the one that is expedient for your time period and circumstances, as deemed and revealed by God—is necessary to perfect the man, but only works if he doesn’t ever break it; and if he breaks it, instead of saving the man, it ends up damning him to hell. The atonement, then, is necessary to bring the man back into conformity with the broken laws, so that the laws can perform their function of perfecting the man. It (the atonement) takes care of the temporal death, too.
The atonement alone has no power to save, for it is obedience to the laws of God that keeps mankind in a state of perfection. For this reason, laws of God are always given in conjunction with the teaching of the atonement. We are not taught about the atonement and resurrection from the dead, told to repent and exercise faith, receive a remission of our sins, and then sent on our merry way with nothing more to do. No, we are taught and given commandments to live in conjunction with the doctrine of the atonement of Christ, for there is not one without the other.
Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength. And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me. (D&C 59:3-4)
This is why Nephi said,
And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled. For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments. (2 Ne. 25:24-25)
The Nephites were commanded to keep a dead law. It was that same dead law that preserved, justified, sanctified and perfected them! Now, I won’t explain this mystery, I only show it to demonstrate that there is no salvation without the atonement + God’s laws and commandments. And I show it because there are some among the latter-day saints that think once you come to Christ, there is no more need for commandments and laws, that the Spirit will just guide you in everything you need to do without revealed commandments needing to be written down and obeyed. Such ideas are needlessly erroneous, for the word of God speaks directly on this very issue:
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Romans 3:31)
Getting back to captain Moroni
In light of the above doctrine, it is entirely possible that Moroni “was a man of a perfect understanding.”
Now, there is a saying that goes, “It takes one to know one.” If that saying applies in this case, then Mormon was also “a man of a perfect understanding” and thus he was able to recognize in Moroni another man who also had this “perfect understanding.” Therefore, Mormon’s assessment of Moroni may have also been a revelation about himself and his own understanding and powers of discernment.
In order to have a perfect understanding of something, it would necessarily require that you have all the facts. In the movie, “My Cousin Vinny,” Vinny’s girlfriend was a mechanic that knew absolutely everything about cars and was eventually called to testify in court as an expert witness. She had all the facts about cars and had a perfect understanding about them. At one point in the movie, she came across another mechanic who started saying something about Vinny’s car and Vinny asked her opinion on the matter. Vinny wasn’t qualified to make an assessment of the validity of the other mechanic’s statement and relied upon his car expert girlfriend who had all the facts. In like manner, if Mormon and captain Moroni both had perfect understandings, then they must have known everything there was to know about whatever it was in which they had their perfect understanding. In Vinny’s girlfriend’s case, it was the topic of cars. In Mormon and Moroni’s case, their perfect understanding was in the laws of God.
Following through with this logic, then, they must have had access to all the laws of God. Not just the Nephite laws, but all the laws of God, from Adam to the end of the world. Did they have such access? Yes, they did.
What we know about Mormon and others who “had all the facts”
He lived after Christ had visited the Nephites. Christ, when He came, “expounded all things…from the beginning…even unto the great and last day” (3 Ne. 26:3-4.) Mormon had access to all the records, including those that contained this exposition.
Mormon had read the plates of Ether, which contained the revelation given to the brother of Jared, which was “a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof” (2 Ne. 27:7), which reveals “all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof” (2 Ne. 27:10). Jesus “ministered unto [the brother of Jared] even as he ministered unto the Nephites” (Ether 3:17). So, the brother of Jared received the same exposition of all things that the Nephites received when Jesus came among them.
We see from this that Mormon had all the facts, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof. He was uniquely qualified, having a perfect understanding himself, to make an assessment as to who else had such a perfect understanding. No one can compare our modern, Gentile prophets and apostles, who have limited knowledge of things, to Mormon, whose eyes were completely open. There is a good reason why the Lord chose him to write this book and chose his name to be put onto it. And what can be said about Mormon can also be said about his son Moroni, for Moroni also read the plates of Ether.
Now, let’s talk about king Mosiah. Mosiah translated the plates of Ether and thus Mosiah had all the facts. Mosiah, then, was a man of perfect understanding, like Mormon and Moroni and the brother of Jared. But there are more than these three who have been given by the Lord this perfect understanding, for there are “others who have been, to them hath he shown all things” (1 Ne. 14:26).
Now, let’s talk about Alma the younger. Mosiah conferred everything he had upon Alma the younger, including all the records, interpreters, etc. (See Mosiah 28:20.) Alma the younger, then, having the interpreters, was called a seer. (See Mosiah 28:16.) Alma, then, having the plates of Ether and the interpreters, could read them. Now Alma gained a perfect understanding, but like Mosiah and all the others, was “laid under a strict command that” he “not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him” (Alma 12:9). “For this cause did Mosiah keep” (Ether 4:1) these records and the revelation given to the brother of Jared from the people, and Alma did the same. However, not everyone was kept from reading the revelation that revealed all things from the beginning. Helaman, son of Alma, was also given the records and things and he, too, became a man of “perfect understanding.”
So, the plates of Ether were available to those who showed forth great faith, so that they also would become men of perfect understanding.
How it was that captain Moroni had a “perfect understanding”
Finally, we come to captain Moroni. Mormon said captain Moroni was “like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God” (Alma 48:18). Now what did all these men have in common that gave them this perfect understanding? They all read the plates of Ether using the interpreters and learned of the revelation of all things given to the brother of Jared.
Can I make this any clearer? In the modern church, certain people get the second anointing, certain people get the more sure word of prophecy, certain people have their calling and election made sure. The rest do not. In the ancient Nephite world, the Jaredite revelation was kind of like that. Some were commanded to look into the interpreters and read it, becoming by definition seers, while most were not. (See Mosiah 8:13-18.) Captain Moroni was one of those people who got to read it.