Continued from part twelve.
Charity on a series about faith?
On December 20, 2007, I wrote the following on this blog:
Mormon also talked about faith (and hope and charity) in Moroni 7. Like Ether and Helaman, quoted in the previous part, Mormon explains that faith precedes hope. (See Moroni 7: 41-42 “…ye shall have hope…because of your faith…” and “…without faith there cannot be any hope…”) In fact, the order of these three grand principles is always given as “faith, hope and charity” because faith precedes hope, or allows hope to be engendered and then faith and hope allow charity to be engendered. (This is a topic for a different post and will not be covered here. I mention it merely to show that faith is different than hope and charity and required in order to obtain the other two necessary principles.) (The faith of God, part three bold type added.)
I had originally intended to address charity in a post separate from the faith of God series, but as I’ve researched the topic, I see now that it belongs here.
Paul’s definition of charity
Paul gives the universal definition of charity, used by all the Christian world, including us, found in the entire 13th chapter of Corinthians:
Paul said, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 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. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 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. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Cor. 13)
Mormon’s definition of charity
Mormon also gives his definition of charity, which is nearly identical to that of Paul, except that Mormon expounds upon the principle a bit more, taking up the entire chapter of Moroni 7:
Mormon said, “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 possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” (Moro. 7: 45-47; see also the entirety of chapter 7)
Charity encompasses all good things
All principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ are found within charity. Using Paul and Mormon’s words, we find: patience (“suffereth long”), kindness (is kind), slowness to anger (“is not easily provoked”), joy in truth (“rejoiceth in the truth”), strength (“beareth all things”), belief (“believeth all things”), hope (“hopeth all things”), and endurance (“endureth all things”).
Charity has none of the evil gifts or principles. There is no envy (“envieth not”), boasting (“vaunteth not itself”), vanity and pride (“is not puffed up”), bad behavior (“does not behave itself unseemly”), stinginess (“seeketh not her own”), quick anger (“is not easily provoked”), evil thoughts (“thinketh no evil”) or joy in iniquity (“rejoiceth not in iniquity”).
In all cases, the principles encompassed by charity are in their fulness: “all things” not just some things. This means that charity is not given in portions (in one sense of that word), as are other gifts of the Spirit. You either have charity, or you don’t.
Charity is not the sum total
The gifts and principles of the gospel which are found within those who have charity do not equate to charity. In other words, merely possessing these gifts and principles in their fulness does not mean you automatically have charity. Charity, then, are these gifts plus something more. It is not the sum total of the gifts alone. This is why Paul says you can have a fulness of (name of principle or gift), but if you don’t have charity, you are nothing.
Mormon’s progression to charity
In chapter 7 of Moroni, Mormon gives a progression from faith to charity. He declares that “no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have” and then he lists 5 necessary principles: 1st, faith; 2nd, hope; 3rd, meekness and lowliness of heart; 4th, confession by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ; and 5th, charity. He demonstrates by his progression that it is impossible to have faith without the word of God, and that it is faith that allows one to lay hold on every good thing (see Moro. 7: 21-25; see also The faith of God, part four: the word of God), or, in other words, it is through faith (see the following note) that every good gift (which is “sent forth by the power and gift of Christ”—see Moro. 7: 16) is obtained from God, including the greatest of all the gifts of God, which is charity.
(Note: Mormon taught that the way to obtain charity is to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7: 48.) Christ said, “Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you” (Moroni 7: 26.) This shows that charity is obtained by the prayer of faith.)
Salvation = Charity and Charity = Salvation
Some may take issue with my statement that charity is the greatest of the gifts. They may bring up the following scripture:
The Lord said, “If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.” (D&C 6: 13)
For most LDS, the interpretation of the word “salvation” in this verse means “exaltation,” which all understand to be the greatest gift of all. Nevertheless, Mormon clearly states that charity “is the greatest of all.” (See Moro. 7: 46.) Paul also states the same in 1 Cor. 13: 13. There is no contradiction in these scriptures between Mormon, Paul and the Lord because charity and salvation are the same gift. I will explain why this is so later on.
Charity and Perfectness
Paul, Moroni and the Lord all aligned charity with perfectness:
Paul said, “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Col. 3: 14)
Moroni said, “And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.” (Moro. 8: 17)
The Lord said, “And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.” (D&C 88: 125)
These scriptures indicate that charity is not your average love.
No inheritance without charity
Ether chapter 12 also talks of charity. Moroni in this chapter said the following:
And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father. (Ether 12: 35)
Moroni makes it clear that charity is a prerequisite to salvation. No charity? No salvation. Have charity? Have salvation. This is why Mormon states in Moro. 7: 47 that “whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” In other words, if you possess charity at the day of judgment, you are guaranteed salvation because charity is all you need. You may possess anything else, in fact, you may possess all other things (gifts) possible to possess, but if you don’t possess charity, you don’t get saved. In other words, the possession of charity is the only thing that saves.
In the final chapter of the Book of Mormon, Moroni reiterates this point:
And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God. (Moro. 10: 21)
The Nothing and things of naught
One of the more curious aspects of charity is that without it we are “nothing.” Paul said, “Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13: 2). Mormon said, “If [a man] have not charity, he is nothing” (Moro. 7: 44). Nephi said, “Except [men] should have charity they were nothing” (2 Ne. 26: 30). The Lord said, “And if you have not faith, hope, and charity, you can do nothing” (D&C 18: 19).
Keep in mind that Lehi also spoke of “a thing of naught” which has no power, purpose or even existence. (See 2 Ne. 2: 11-13. This is a bit deeper doctrine than I will discuss here but if the reader wants more information, you can read the Deep Waters category articles, Lehi’s model of the universe and Creatio ex nihilo, creatio ex materia and creatio ex deo are all true doctrines.)
Weak things and strong things
Charity is associated with strength and makes weak things become strong or all-powerful. Said the Lord to Moroni:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness. (Ether 12: 27-28)
Moroni then goes on to explain that the Lord “hast prepared a place for man…among the mansions of [His] Father” and that the whole purpose of the Lord’s atonement and resurrection was “to prepare a place for the children of men” so that they could “inherit that place which [He] hast prepared in the mansions of [His] Father” through men having charity. (See Ether 12: 32-34.) Thus, those who possess charity stay in the kingdom of God (see Moro. 10: 21), become strong and inherit a prepared place, while those who do not possess charity “must go down to hell” (Moro. 8: 14). These latter people lose all power and become nothing.
The pure love of Christ
When asked, “What is charity?” LDS will typically quote Moroni 7: 47 and say, “Charity is the pure love of Christ.” Obviously, this is a correct and scriptural answer, but it doesn’t exactly explain what charity is. Yes, it is love. Yes, it is the type of love that Christ demonstrated and possessed. But what the heck is it? And why is it so all important that its possession makes us saved beings?
All are alike
Moroni, in the above quote, when explaining that he possessed charity, made a point to state that “all children are alike unto [him].” For most of us, love comes in degrees and is prioritized. We love our wives more than anyone. We love our wives and children more than our own brothers and their wives and children. We love our brothers and sisters more than our in-laws, and more than our friends. We love our friends more than our acquaintances. We love our neighbors more than strangers. We love our fellow citizen more than foreigners. In other words, “all are not alike” unto us. This demonstrates that most, if not all, of the love that we manifest is not charity.
The opposite of charity
If you look at past and present history, and review the brutal murders, genocides and other atrocities committed by mankind, you will find that one of the ways these men, women and even children justified their actions against their fellow men was to view their victims as aliens. They viewed them as less than human, as animals even, as vermin, as alien invaders to be fought and exterminated at all costs. In other words, they viewed them not as “alike unto them,” but as completely different and even opposite in all things. This hatred, inspired by Satan, is the opposite principle of charity. It views others as altogether different and seeks to destroy such different “things.” Charity, on the other hand, views all things as part of the family and creation of God, and alike unto ourselves, and seeks to edify, save and exalt all things.
Between charity and hatred
The prioritized love that we feel towards those whom we consider worthy of our love, known to us as our “loved ones,” is not exactly charity and not exactly hatred. It is a mix. It has conditions. “As long as you don’t hurt me, I’ll love you.” Etc. But the moment one of our loved ones hurts us real badly, then the love we feel evaporates to be replaced sometimes by hatred. So, when circumstances are going good, the love we feel can manifest great pleasure and happiness, but when times are tough or people around us are making agency choices that hurt us, often that same loving feeling can disappear in an instant and cause us great emotional pain and anger, even hate.
Satan, who knows that the principal of hate allows him to control people, also knows that it is okay for a person to possess love, as it can easily be turned into hate, by simply changing the circumstances of the person from good to bad. It is only charity—which remains constant, or perfect, regardless of the circumstances—which altogether removes Satan’s hold upon men.
What charity really is: the LDS Anarchist definition
Charity is an over-whelming desire and willingness to share all that you have with everyone else.
In the beginning
A visitor named Doug once asked me,
This brings up the point, why is God all powerful? It’s because the intelligences TRUST him, because he never lies. Trust + a healthy dose of smarts is the key to Godliness. The intelligences not only trust God, but they adore him and do whatever he asks.
To which I answered,
All you write here is very true, but there is another, prime reason that precedes these other reasons as to why all things trust and obey God. I’m currently writing another article on this other reason. I’ll link this comment to that future post (if I remember to do so.)
God is motivated by charity and charity alone. In fact, our current scriptural translations go even farther by saying that God is love, (or God is charity.) Charity is the divine motivation behind both the atonement and plan of salvation and also the creation of all things. God desires to bring the nothing into existence (or creation) so that all the many created things can share in everything He has. It’s like a rich man in a mansion, opening his doors and saying aloud to all in the streets,
“Come in, one and all, and partake of all these riches! Sit with me, dine with me, walk with me, learn of me and enjoy all the wealth and pleasures I have! What is mine is yours if you but come!”
Everything He does is to facilitate the gathering of all things around Him, into His mansions, so that they can share in His treasures with others. This is charity. God, therefore, is the personification of charity. In other words, God literally is love.
Man is also motivated by charity, God’s charity. In fact, all things obey God because God has charity. We, in the beginning, being on the outside of the mansion, in the streets (in outer darkness), entered into the kingdom of God, or came into existence, because of the offer He made of sharing all He has with us. Who in their right mind would turn down the offer to enter into a rich man’s mansion and live there in wealth and prosperity for the rest of eternity? And not just living there, but partaking of all of the riches as if you were the rich man, meaning unbridled sharing of all there is, with no stinginess, whatsoever. Who would turn such an offer down? None of us did. No one ever does. It is not in our nature.
Charity brought us into existence
When God first gave us awareness of the inner sphere of light, it wasn’t His intelligence or His trustworthiness or any of His many other qualities that caused us to leave outer darkness and enter into our existence in the inner sphere of light (the kingdom of God). It was that noble offer of His, His charity, His desire and willingness to share all He had with us, that caused us to enter His created mansion. This is how created things get created, or are brought into existence. God has a two-fold mission, one directed at the already created things which exist within the bounds of the kingdom (sphere) of light and one directed at the nothing found in outer darkness. To the created universe, He works to facilitate their obtainment of all that He has through the atonement and plan of salvation. To the nothing, he extends the offer of entering His sphere of light and partaking of everything He has.
The creation is ongoing because the nothing cannot resist the charitable offer. And so the Universe expands.
All things love God
Why? Because God loves all things. He demonstrates that love by desiring to, being willing to, offering to, and working to give us everything He has. This is what God is all about. Giving. Not selling. Not having things earned (a meritocracy.) But an unearned gift. This is charity. He likes to give gifts to all that like to receive them. As long as we enjoy receiving, He’ll keep on giving. He is willing to give us everything there is, without any degree of selfishness. Not giving us a replica of what He has, but the very things He has, we becoming joint-owners of His things, or as the scriptures say, joint-heirs. This is the greatest love there is. There is nothing greater than God’s love, called charity. Thus, it is the most powerful motivator, in all cases. It motivates God and it is designed, or it is His design that charity be our motivation, also. For all the created Universe, it is also their motivation. They obey Him in all things because they love Him for His love for them, which defies all comprehension, for once it is even remotely understood just how much God has and is willing to give to us, all things are humbled by the magnanimity of God and all things bow the knee and bend the head in humble reverence and worship of the divine Lover of all things.
There are no two ways about it
There is only one type of charity: God’s charity. If you don’t have an overwhelming desire and willingness to share everything you have with everyone else, you don’t have charity. (See the Deep Waters post, How many wives? How many husbands?, for how charity works in divine relationships). Any degree of stinginess gets you kicked out of the kingdom. The law of heaven is having all things common, or sharing all things with everyone else.
Sharing. We learn this as children in the nuclear family. Share your toys, our mothers teach us. This is, in fact, a sure-fire way to make quick friends. The more open and sharing you are with others, the more friends you’ll end up having. The minute you say, “No, it’s mine! I’m not sharing!” suddenly even close friends don’t want anything to do with you.
As adults, we learn to share with our spouses and children. Parents provide for their children their necessities: food, clothing, shelter, nurture, protection, education. We do this freely, as gifts. The family is designed to be a gift society, so that we can better inculcate charity, which saves us. The more generous and charitable we are, the more importance we put on people and the less we put on things. Charity is the only lesson we need to learn here on earth. Those who learn it qualify themselves for entering into the charitable society that exists in heaven. They also prepare themselves to establish that society here on earth, otherwise known as Zion.
What charity is not
Charity is not giving of your surplus to a church, the poor or the needy. It is not fast offerings or tithing. Those things are important, but they are not what is charity. We call them charitable donations because they mimic the work that charity does. Nevertheless, unless a person has “an overwhelming desire and willingness to share everything” he or she has with everyone else, what they have is something less than charity. The love of a mother or father for his or her children is close to charity. A parent will give everything, even their own life, for their children, and will share all that they have with them. But until they have the desire and are willing to do the same for everyone, they don’t possess charity.
In the absence of charity
Without charity, men go through various stages of selfishness and stinginess. Babylon thrives in the absence of charity. When charity enters the hearts of men, Babylon disappears and Zion becomes established. In Zion’s absence, men have power to do all manner of wickedness and can be partially or totally controlled by the devil. Once charity becomes the motivating impulse in men, Satan loses all power and God rules on earth in their hearts. This is because charity is 100% divine. It is not a human concept, principle or emotion. It comes only from God. As charity overwhelms with desire, its possession makes men relinquish all the less than perfect human emotions and allows them to embrace the divine nature.
Charity can only be obtained, as Mormon explained above, through faith, hope, meekness, etc. So, as a strategy, the devil does all in his power to destroy faith, hope, etc. Faith, in and of itself, is useless against Satan. So is hope. None of these principles can stop him. Only charity can.
“Let all men have faith, hope and the rest of the gifts of the Spirit,” says the evil one. “As long as they possess no charity, these things are powerless to save them and can be a useful means of deception.”
The fastest way to obtain the gifts
As it is through faith that all other gifts are obtained, including charity, and as charity encompasses every other gift, it may be tempting to use one’s faith to seek all other gifts first and when one has fully developed them, to seek for charity. This is actually the slowest way to obtain the gifts because it puts the one seeking the gifts within Satan’s grasp.
It is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. (D&C 49: 20)
This principle applies equally to the gifts of God. When we possess more gifts of God than our fellowman, or gifts which we believe are better than the one’s our neighbor has, Satan can lead us to sin in our thoughts by tempting us to think we are the better, or more righteous, man. Such thoughts can lead to sinful behavior and attitudes, which will end up damning us, despite our gifts.
The antidote is to first seek for charity and then, once it is obtained, to seek for the other gifts. This nullifies the devil’s power and facilitates and expedites the receipt of all the other gifts, for the Lord readily bestows His gifts upon possessors of charity because He knows already that they will use them to bless His other children.
The rewards in heaven will be based upon how close we came to charity
Those who enter into their exaltation are those whose lives on earth were denoted by this divine desire and willingness to share everything with everyone. These men and women who actually obtained the divine gift of charity will receive everything God possesses and will become gods and goddesses themselves.
All others will receive according to how close they came to charity. In the day of judgment, we will be assessed only by charity or our lack thereof. Did we possess the desire but not the willingness to carry out the desire? When presented with the opportunity, did we share all, most, a lot, a little or none at all? Did we play favorites, sharing with him, her and them but not with those? Or were we totally selfish, sharing nothing with no one and with an unwillingness and no desire to bless those around us with the good things of life? Did we discard charity altogether and seek for its opposite, desiring and willing that others receive nothing but evil from our own hands or the hands of others?
Locations in heaven will be based upon charity or its lack
Those who receive the reward of exaltation (the ones who possessed charity in mortality) will reside in the midst of all things, like God Himself, at the center of the sphere of light (the created Universe or the kingdom of God). Like God, they will receive all power (agency) from all things and all things will look to them (the center) and obey them for they have the same desire, willingness and now power to share everything they possess (which is everything) with all.
Persons who were less charitable in mortality will receive inheritances in other mansions or kingdoms (planets) which are located more towards the edges of the sphere of light. These will possess less power (agency) than those who reside more towards the center of the Universe.
Repentance brings salvation (charity)
Obviously, almost all mankind will be saved through the atonement of Jesus Christ, which means that just about everyone will eventually repent of their sins and go through Mormon’s steps, acquiring faith, hope, meekness, lowliness of heart and confessing by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ. This means that they will finally obtain charity and become saved in the kingdom of God. With this charity they will share all of what they have with everyone around them. In the case of those exalted, “all of what they have” is everything there is to possess, even all that the Father has. For everyone else, “all of what they have” is of a limited nature, but still everything that they were willing to receive, they not wanting or desiring to receive any more than the reward or gift which they obtained.
Only the sons of perdition lose out entirely, as they remain firm in their impenitence, refusing to receive charity, and being cast back into outer darkness.
Charity is not based upon a church
Baptism into a church is not what qualifies a person for the reception of the gift of charity. It is one’s desires and willingness to share all with all. Anyone who uproots the selfish spirit from their soul through Jesus’ words and the Holy Ghost’s actions, humbling him or herself before God, whether they are members of the baptized, covenant people of the Lord or not, can and will receive this gift and if so, they will receive the corresponding reward in heaven. There will be many charitable “heathens” who will enter into greater rewards than uncharitable church members, regardless of how much tithing, fast offerings, service projects, temple work, meetings or callings they accept, attend or contribute.
The goal is charity
It may seem weird to bring up charity in the faith of God series, but I felt it was important to give an understanding of how charity fits in to God’s faith. The faith of God is not the end of the matter. It is merely a means to an end. Through faith God obtains and maintains all things, granting Him possession of all things. But possession is not the end all and be all. The things possessed are to be used for a divine purpose. Why get all if not to give all? Underlying all that immense, godly power, knowledge and holiness is the divine motivation, which precedes both our own faith as well as God’s, for God works by faith in order to be able to share all that He has with everyone. Charity, then, is God’s goal for both Himself and mankind. Charity is both the first and the last principle. It brought us into existence, it keeps us in existence, and using it, it can bring others into existence. It is the reason for the happiness that is existence, the sharing of all things with all. Charity is the Zion principle.
Everything that leads to charity is to be motivated by charity, thus, the Savior’s command of “freely ye have received, freely give” is according to the principle of charity and is to apply to all the gifts of God. We are to use all that God gives us to benefit all His children and creations, freely, generously and openly, without reservation or respect to persons. All are to be alike to us.
Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part fourteen: God is a miracle worker, not a scientist
Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part twelve: Truth
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