1 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.
What does “after this manner” mean? Would it be fair to read it as “I don’t claim to remember his exact words, but this is the gist”? Or is there a better way to read it?
Is it significant that we get Moroni recording these words and not Mormon? Assuming that (1) Mormon wasn’t inspired to include them and (2) Moroni was inspired to include them, why might the Lord have inspired the son to record the words of the father instead of having Mormon do his own writing? (Is there any link here to Moroni’s kvetching in Ether 12 about being a weak writer?)
The faith, hope, and charity trifecta was, of course, made famous by Paul. (More on that later.) Why do you think it ends up here as well? Is there an inherent relationship between these three items?
It is pretty rare for an editor or writer to give us such a concise summary of a coming sermon as “concerning faith, hope, and charity.” Why do you think Moroni chose to go against the grain and do that here?
Is it significant that these things were spoken “unto the people”?
Jim F. has a great outline of the sermon here.
Why does Moroni bother mentioning the synagogue? Why does he explain to us what a synagogue is? Is it significant that he uses the word synagogue and not church here? How does the setting affect your interpretation of the sermon?
Does 6:9 (“And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.”) set the stage for this sermon? In other words, did Moroni include this sermon as an example of how preaching/exhorting should be done?
Thoughts on possible chronology here.
2 And now I, Mormon, speak unto you, my beloved brethren; and it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy will, because of the gift of his calling unto me, that I am permitted to speak unto you at this time.
What does “grace” mean in this verse?
In “his holy will,” is the antecedent of “his” the Father or the Son? Does it matter?
This sounds a little more like a letter opener than a sermon opener. Can you imagine someone getting up and saying, “Now, I, Brother Jones, speak unto you . . .”? It seems a little weird.
This verse almost makes it sound as if “his holy will” is a separate-but-equal entity from the Father and the Son. Is that the best way to understand this verse?
What does this verse suggest about the relationship between grace and gifts? Gifts and callings? How might this be relevant to your life?
What do you make of “permitted to speak unto you”? Do you think this is just boilerplate, or was he speaking in unusual circumstances (persecution?) or what?
Again thinking about the last verse, do you think this verse likely represents the specific words of Mormon verbatim (perhaps Moroni had a written record or notes?), or a likely reconstruction, or what?
3 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.
Thinking about the word synagogue in v1, what do you make of the word “church” in this verse?
Does this verse imply that there were non-members in the congregation? Does it matter to your interpretation of what Mormon is preaching?
Is Mormon defining all church members as the peaceable followers of Christ, or referring to a subset of church members who are peaceable followers, or what? And: when he talks about those with a sufficient hope, does that mean a subset of church members or all church members? (Does v4 help you answer these questions?) Does it matter to your interpretation of what Mormon is preaching?
Why do you think he modified “followers” with “peaceable”? Does it hint that there is a danger faced by those trying to follow Christ of being “unpeaceable” (warlike? contentious?)? If so, what might that look like? How might it be a danger to us today?
Does this verse suggest a relationship between being a peaceable follower and having hope? If so, how would that work; why would these two items be related?
What does the word “obtained” teach you about hope?
Why does he say “hope by which ye can enter” and not “faith by which” or “works by which” or “ordinances by which”? What exactly is hope? How does it differ from faith?
What is “the rest of the Lord”? If it is just a circumlocution for “heaven,” why was it used? Does it teach us something about heaven? (Note the use of heaven at the end of the verse–does that help you think about these questions?)
What does the juxtaposition of the words “hope” and “rest” suggest to you?
What does “from this time . . .” modify? Obtained? Hope? Rest? Something else? What work is it doing in the sentence?
4 And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.
Note “my beloved brethren” in v2. Is it significant that Mormon is repeating this address? Is it significant that “beloved” has dropped out?
What exactly had Mormon been judging? (I am thinking that they had sufficient hope that they would rest in the Lord, but I am not entirely sure.)
Does this verse mean that all of the items mentioned in v3 are things that Moroni thinks are already true of the audience? If so, how does that affect your interpretation of this sermon, knowing it was being delivered to a spiritually mature group of people?
How does “peaceable walk” relate to “peaceable followers”? Does the repetition of “peaceable” imply that this was a key concept for Mormon? If so, how does it relate to the faith/hope/charity business? Also, given the context of Mormon’s life (=a very war-filled time), how does all of this emphasis on peace play out?
What does the word “walk” suggest to you about following Christ?
5 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.
Is “I remember” a throw-away line, or is Mormon doing something significant here by mentioning it?
What does “I remember the word of God” suggest to you about Moroni’s use of and relationship to scripture/revelation?
Notice the “for.” How does this verse relate to the one before it?
I’m curious about the relationship between hope (an internal state) and works (obviously, external) that Mormon is working on here.
Is it true that if someone’s works are good, they are good? (Think about a mafia boss who donates to orphans.) Does this verse conceptualize “goodness” as a binary state? (Is it?) Does this verse think of works as the only measure of goodness? (Is it?) Does this verse imply that someone’s works are consistently good or bad? (Are they?)
Does this verse imply that people are NOT their works? (I think you have to read it that way.) What are the implications of that idea?
6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
Note “word of God” in v5 versus “God hath said” in this verse. Is that a significant difference?
What does it mean for a man to be evil? Does that apply to all people? (Does it mean “evil because of the fall”?) Or just some people? Is it true that an evil person cannot do any good? (I don’t think we really believe that. It would force us to conclude that a pedophile who writes a check to a charity is not evil. On the other hand, maybe that is the point of this verse: no one, including the pedophile, is pure evil.)
How does this verse define “good”?
Does everything after the “for if . . .” consist of Mormon’s commentary, or is it still what “God hath said”?
Why are offering gifts and praying the two examples used here? What does that suggest to us about this verse’s definition of “good”?
What does it mean to offer a gift “with real intent”?
Does the “except” leave open the possibility that an evil person can pray/offer a gift with “real intent”?
Does this verse imply that the definition of “good” means that it profits you? (I think it kind of sounds like it is suggesting that, but that doesn’t sound quite right.)
Isn’t it possible for an evil (whatever that means) person to offer a gift “with real intent”? (Again I am struggling with the binary presentation of this section. It seems to be that I might be evil in some areas of my life but honestly be good in other areas, but this verse doesn’t seem to allow for that possibility.)
What does it mean to pray with real intent? Intending what?
In what situations might we be tempted to pray or offer gifts without real intent?
Let’s say that I am aware that my intent is lacking. Is it better then not to pray/offer a gift, or to offer it with muddled intent?
7 For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
Is it fair to say that v6-7 imply that an act doesn’t count as “righteous” unless it is done with real intent? If so, what does that suggest to you about righteousness? What are the implications of this idea?
Why the “behold” here?
What does “counted” suggest to you?
What does “for righteousness” mean? Does it mean “as being a righteous act”? Could it mean something else?
Here’s the thing bugging me about v6-7: I think you have to conclude that if you had a basically evil person considering donating a chunk of change to your charity (not that he gave a rat’s patoot about the poor, mind you), v6-7 tell him not to donate because he won’t get anything out of it. Well . . . the poor still will get something out of the donation, though, right? So isn’t it still better that he donate?
8 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.
Is it possible that the definition of good is “does stuff with real intent” and the definition of evil is “does stuff grudgingly”? That is, that maybe global evaluations of a person are not being made, but just good and evil with respect to the particular situation? (Or is that too apologetic?)
It seems to me that he’s just giving an example here, of an evil person who gives a gift grudgingly. It seems that there are all sorts of other wrong ways that an evil person could give a gift–such as with an eye to praise, etc.
Does this verse define retaining a gift as evil? How else could you read it?
Note that doing stuff with real intent is placed in opposition to doing stuff grudgingly. What can you learn from this opposition? Also note that “not doing stuff” doesn’t seem to be an option.
In what situations might we be tempted to do things grudgingly?
Is it better to do something grudgingly or not to do it at all? (Or does this verse imply that there is no difference between these options?)
Is everything counted as either evil or righteous? Are there other options?
I’d rather my kids did their chores grudgingly than didn’t do them at all. Is that wrong? (Is the difference here because we are talking about prayer and gifts?)
9 And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
Why do you think the gift issue was dealt with in v8 and the prayer issue here if they are basically the same?
What does it mean to have real intent when you pray?
Is it better to not pray if you don’t have real intent?
Is the point of praying to profit yourself?
Why might someone pray if they didn’t have real intent? What might we learn from this?
And this verse is why I do not support prayer in schools or other similar settings. (That and the ones about praying in your closet.)
How do you reconcile what Mormon is saying with what Brigham Young said:
If I do not feel like praying, and asking my Father in heaven to give me a morning blessing, and to preserve me and my family and the good upon the earth through the day, I should say, “Brigham, get down here, on your knees, bow your body down before the throne of Him who rules in the heavens, and stay there until you can feel to supplicate at that throne of grace erected for sinners.”
10 Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.
Again, is this really true? Is it really so binary and clearly demarcated?
11 For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.
Skousen reads “being the servant” here.
In what ways are people like fountains? In what ways are they different?
Can you make a useful comparison between this verse and Revelation 3:15-16:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
And yet again, the idea in this verse just doesn’t seem to ring true to me: aren’t we all a combination of some good and some evil? Aren’t even the most evil people capable of doing some good, and even the most good (except the perfect!) capable of doing evil? Or am I missing something basic here? Is this just hyperbole?
Does the servant thing help us better understand how this passage is defining good and evil?
What does the servant imagery suggest to you? (Note that not being a servant doesn’t appear to be an option.)
General: remember that Moroni introduced this passage by telling us that Mormon had taught about faith, hope, and charity. In what ways does all of this good/evil, gifts/prayers stuff have to do with faith, hope, and charity?
12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
Does this verse help us define good and evil? (My kids are always asking me why God created roaches and ants. According to this verse, would those be evil or good? What does that tell you about the definitions?)
Does this verse imply that the devil is a creator? If so, how might that nuance our understanding of creation? Of evil?
What does “enemy” mean in this verse?
Notice the verbs: fight, invite, entice. Conclusions?
Are “invite” and “entice” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?
13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
Compare with v12–note that sin and “do good” appear to be put into opposition. What might you conclude from this? Is sin just the opposite of “doing good”?
Is “to love God and to serve him” a different way of saying “inviteth and enticeth to do good” or does it further limit “inviteth and enticeth to do good” or what?
Are loving God and serving God the same thing in this verse?
Is this verse tautological?
V12-13 kind of bug me because they make things sound so simple (v14 only makes it worse) when it feels like in real life there is just a ton more ambiguity than this.
14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
Note the “wherefore”; how does this verse relate to what has come before it?
In what ways might we be tempted to judge evil to be from God, or vice versa? Is there specific guidance in this passage for avoiding this situation?
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
This verse sounds as if it is echoing the language of the creation/fall story. Is it? If so, what might we learn from that? More generally, how does this discussion about good and evil in this section affect our interpretation of the concept of a tree of knowledge of good and evil?
If the way to judge is plain/obvious/etc., then why were we warned in the last verse about the dangers of judging wrongly? Wouldn’t that be a non-issue? Also, in my experience, it isn’t always obvious which is the right/moral decision in a given situation. Does this verse imply that I am thinking about things wrong? Or what?
What does “it is given unto you to judge” mean? Does it mean that the ability to judge is a gift or a blessing or a right or something? is this related to the story of the fall?
Does “that ye may know good from evil” imply that when you judge (repeatedly, and gain experience) that that process helps you learn good from evil? Or is there a better way of understanding the logic of this verse?
What does it mean to say that the way to judge is plain? Does it mean that every decision should have an obvious choice? (Not in my world it doesn’t.)
Does “that ye may know with a perfect knowledge” mean that when you judge (and it is plain), you gain a perfect knowledge? Or is there a better way to understand what is going on here?
Do we ever have a perfect knowledge of anything in this life? If not, what does this phrase mean? If so, how exactly do we gain this perfect knowledge? From experience? Or something else?
Does “perfect knowledge” imply a binary? (I am thinking that that is what the day/night thing implies.) Is it always that way?
What does the day/night thingie teach you about the concept of “perfect knowledge”? Or does the day/night analogy apply to “plain” and not “knowledge”?
How do you mesh this verse with the “judge not, that ye be not judged” verses?
What kinds of situations do you think Mormon was envisioning with what he is saying in this verse? Because my life feels more complicated than this.
16 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.
What is “the Spirit of Christ”? Is it the same as the Holy Ghost? Or different? How do you know? When/how/why does every person get the Spirit of Christ?
How does the Spirit of Christ make it possible for people to know good from evil? What, if anything, does this have to do with the fall? (You might be able to read it as saying that the Spirit of Christ is what you get if you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which kind of doesn’t sound right but then kind of sounds right at the same time.)
Are “power” and “gift” the same thing? Two different things?
Notice the similarities and differences between this verse and v15. What do you make of the comparison?
I’m hung up again on the perfect knowledge thing–is that really something humans can have? It seems that thinking you could have it might lead to hubris and a lack of teachability.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
Are (1) persuade to do evil, (2) believe not in Christ, (3) deny Christ, and (4) serve not God four different things, four ways of saying the same thing, or something in between?
What is the manner after which the devil works?
Does the devil have angels?
18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
How does this verse help you understand what the light of Christ is?
We talk about the light of Christ as distinct from the Holy Ghost, as something given to all people. If that is the case, then why don’t all people judge with perfect knowledge?
Why is Mormon warning us about judging wrong when it is supposed to be a night/day thing? Whoever says it is night when it is day?
Why are we judged with the same judgement we judge? Doesn’t this bind God? What happened to God’s mercy? Wouldn’t it put God in the position of being forced to judge unfairly if we had judged unfairly? Wouldn’t the cynic decide to judge really leniently on everyone else so God would be forced to judge her really leniently?
19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.
If the light of Christ has this day/night, very-obvious, thing going on, then why do we need to search diligently?
How does this passage nuance your understanding of what happened in the fall? Why is Mormon exhorting us to be able to know good from evil–didn’t the fall take care of that?
What does “lay hold” suggest to you?
Does this verse imply that the status of being a child of Christ is conditional? Is it? What is the relationship between a child of Christ and a child of God?
20 And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing?
Is it possible to lay hold upon _every_ good thing? (See v22 for more on this.) Don’t we have to pick and choose?
Why does Mormon ask a (rhetorical?) question here?
21 And now I come to that faith, of which I said I would speak; and I will tell you the way whereby ye may lay hold on every good thing.
This verse sounds to me as if the previous (almost) two dozen verses have been a long wind-up and this is the pitch. Why did Mormon feel the need to give us all of that material as a build-up to a discussion about faith? How do you read the material differently knowing that Moroni summarized these teachings as being about faith, hope, and charity and Mormon used these verses as ground work for a discussion about faith? Why did we need to know all that about choosing good versus evil as backdrop?
I don’t remember him saying that he would speak about faith–I remember Moroni telling us that as a summary of the sermon. Either we have a slip-up here, or we have evidence that Moroni has (sloppily) edited Mormon’s sermon. Are there other possibilities for what is going on here?
22 For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing.
What are the implications of believing that God knows _all_ things? How literally do you take this statement?
In what way does “being from everlasting to everlasting” impact God’s ability to know all things? (I think this verse implies that these two ideas are related.)
Why is God’s omnipotence the background to the sending of angels?
What does “minister” mean in this verse?
Is “children of men” related to the recent reference to “children of Christ”?
If “every good thing” came in Christ, then what does “every good thing” mean in this verse?
23 And God also declared unto prophets, by his own mouth, that Christ should come.
What work is “by his own mouth” doing in this verse?
Thinking about v22 and this verse, is there a message about different kinds of revelation here? Is one kind privileged over another kind? (See v24 for more on this idea.)
24 And behold, there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men, which were good; and all things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them.
Was it really necessary to say that all the ways God communicates were good? Isn’t that kind of a given?
I like the emphasis on the idea that divine communication comes in a variety of ways. And they are all good.
A wooden reading of this verse would conclude that all the ways that God communicates come from Christ, but that doesn’t sound quite right. What is going on here?
Wait–aren’t men fallen now? What does “otherwise men were fallen” mean? It seems to imply that men aren’t fallen, but that doesn’t sound quite right. Even aside from that, what is the “otherwise” doing–what is the other hypothetical condition that Mormon is talking about here? Does this verse imply that if men are fallen, no good can come to them? Is this true? (I really don’t understand what is going on in this verse–I’m lost at several points.)
25 Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing; and thus it was until the coming of Christ.
What is this verse (and the previous ones about God’s messages to humans) imply about the relationship of revelations and faith? (My thought is that it suggests that revelations come _before_ faith and _cause_ faith, but we usually think of the arrow as pointing in the other direction, don’t we?)
Did we ever decide what “every good thing” means in this passage?
This verse and the next imply that things change with the coming of Christ. What changes?
26 And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: 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.
Skousen reads “became” instead of “become” here.
Skousen reads “assuredly as Christ” instead of “as surely as Christ” here.
Does this verse imply that a child/son of God is something you inherently are or something that you become? Either way, what are the implications of this idea?
Are there any parameters of limitations on “whatsoever things” here? Should there be?
See “child of Christ” in v19–is that the same as or different from “sons of God” in this verse?
What would you say to something who says, “I prayed that her life would be spared . . . I prayed with faith, and it absolutely would have been a good thing . . . but it didn’t happen”?
Is there a point where your “faith believing that ye shall receive” can turn the corner into being demanding of God or arrogant?
27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?
How does this verse relate to the one before it?
Why is Mormon asking a (rhetorical?) question here? How does it relate to the last rhetorical question he asked?
Was Mormon worried that his audience would think that miracles had ceased? Why might they have thought this? Why might we think this?
This verse could have made the point of the rhetorical question had it ended with the word “heaven.” So why do you think the rest of the verse is here? It kind of reads as if Mormon is trying to sneak a few items into the record, despite the fact that they aren’t germane to his argument. How do you understand what is happening here?
What did Christ claim from the Father? ”Claim” kind of makes it sound as if the Father didn’t want to give it, or maybe gives it grudgingly only because Christ is entitled. Why do you think this word was used?
Does “to claim of the . . . mercy” mean that Christ was claiming mercy for himself (I can’t think why he would need it?) or claiming it to give to other people? (If so, why did the Father have it and why did Christ take it?)
28 For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens.
How does the “claim” in this verse relate to the claim in the previous verse?
Note how what seemed like a tangent circles back to faith . . .
Why “cleave”? (I hate words with two opposite meanings.)
What does “advocate” suggest to you?
What is “the cause of the children of men” in this verse?
Is “children of men” the same as or different from “child of Christ” and “sons of God” in recent verses?
Why mention that he dwells eternally in heaven? It doesn’t seem to fit the context of the verse.
29 And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.
Why is Mormon repeating his rhetorical question here?
Is Mormon implying a relationship between miracles and angelic ministry here? How are these ideas related?
Why is the issues of whether miracles have ceased relevant to a discussion of faith, hope, and charity?
30 For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.
Why emphasize that angels are subject to Christ here?
We know from Laman and Lemuel that not everyone who sees an angel has strong faith and a firm mind. So how do you understand what Mormon says here?
Are strong faith and a firm mind two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?
What does it mean to have a firm mind in every form of godliness? What is a form of godliness anyway?
31 And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.
What does “office” mean in this verse? What about “ministry”?
Do you normally think of the primary role of angels as calling people to repentance? Is it?
Given the definition here, does this change your perception of the relationship between angels and miracles from v29?
Do “fulfil” and do the work” mean the same thing or two different things here? What does it mean to “do the word of the covenants”?
What does “chosen vessels” suggest to you? Do only chosen vessels have angels visit them?
Is the “they” in “that they may bear testimony” referring to the angels or the chosen vessels?
As compared with the other ways in which God might communicate with humans, why might angels be used in some circumstances?
32 And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men.
What effect does “residue” have on you? Why isn’t it everyone?
What power is in mind here?
What manner is he talking about?
33 And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.
How does faith lead to power? Can there be power without faith? Why is there a link between faith and power?
How does this verse compare with v26?
34 And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved.
In this verse, repent + baptism + faith = salvation. What do you make of this formula? Anything missing? Is the order of elements significant?
35 And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?
Is Mormon speaking here, or is this still Christ? How do you know?
Why does he phrase this as a conditional (“if this be . . .”)?
Are power and glory two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?
Does this verse imply that there are things that we are not shown until “the last day”? Does it imply that we aren’t shown anything until the last day?
This is our third rhetorical question about the end of miracles . . . in a discourse that we were told was going to be about faith, hope, and charity. What’s going on here? What is Mormon trying to do? What is he concerned about? (My thought: given that this is the real ending of the BoM, and given that one of the primary issues a new reader of the BoM is considering is whether Joseph Smith really did receive divine communications and participate in miracles, these seem like very appropriate questions to be considering.)
36 Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
What do you make of this onslaught of rhetorical questions?
37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
Does this verse imply that faith is a prerequisite for miracles? For angelic visitations? (If so, how do you explain the one to Laman and Lemuel?)
But note that this verse locates the power to produce miracles and angels in the hands of the person of faith.
Would you say that “these things” _had_ ceased in Mormon’s time, or is he speaking hypothetically?
What is the link between unbelief and vanity?
38 For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.
I presume that “these things” refers to miracles. If that is right, then is this verse saying that if miracles have ceased, it is because faith has ceased? Is this true? How often do you see miracles in your life and does that track your level of faith?
What links is this verse making between miracles, faith, and redemption?
Is there a link between “words” and “name” in this verse?
Interesting: Christ performs the redemption, but our decision re having faith determines if the redemption exists for us.
39 But behold, my beloved brethren, I judge better things of you, for I judge that ye have faith in Christ because of your meekness; for if ye have not faith in him then ye are not fit to be numbered among the people of his church.
What does “I judge better things of you mean”? That Mormon is saying that their faith _isn’t_ dead? Is there any relationship between this statement of judgment and what the previous verses were saying about judging between good and evil?
What does “because of your meekness” imply? What is the relationship between meekness and faith? Is the implication that meekness is the best evidence of faith?
Does this verse conceptualize being numbered among the church as a privilege? Right? Gift? Reward? Natural consequence? Something else?
Would you agree with a reading of this verse that concluded that people who lack faith should be excommunicated? Why or why not?
We don’t normally think of Mormon’s time–when the entire Nephite nation was at war and being destroyed–as a time when there were just buckets of faith. Of course, he is only speaking to (a subset of the people) in the synagogue. But I think it noteworthy that even during this terrible time, there were still people who had faith.
I’m curious about Mormon’s use of “judge” here, given the earlier discussion of judging. How do the two relate?
40 And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
Does this verse mean that he had spoken of hope previously in this discourse, or on a previous occasion? In other words, what is the “again” doing?
Does this verse teach that hope is a prerequisite for faith? Is it? What is the relationship between faith and hope? Is hope just weak faith? Or “pre-faith”? Or what?
Why does Mormon use a rhetorical question here? How does it compare with the other rhetorical questions that he has used? What effect should it have on the reader?
41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? 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.
Is this the same stuff you should have faith in? (How does that help us understand the relationship between hope and faith?)
Does “through the atonement” mean having hope regarding the topic of the atonement, or that something about the atonement makes it literally possible to have hope?
Do “atonement of Christ” and “power of his resurrection” mean the same thing, or is that two different things?
What does this verse say about the relationship between hope and faith?
What work is “according to the promise” doing here? What promise? How does it relate to faith?
Mormon begins this verse by asking what you should hope for. But the answer to that question, despite the “behold,” is not entirely clear to me, because he says “hope THROUGH” in his answer, making me think that hope is possible because of the atonement, so the atonement isn’t the thing that we are supposed to have hope IN. Maybe the thing we are supposed to have hope IN is “to be raised unto life eternal.” Does that work?
42 Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.
What does this verse teach about the relationship of hope and faith? I think this one (especially the second half) makes faith sound like a prerequisite to hope, but v40 made it sound as if hope were a prerequisite to faith. What’s going on here?
43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
What’s the relationship between faith, hope, and meekness? Why do you need to be meek to have faith and hope?
Do “meek” and “lowly of heart” mean the same thing or two different things here?
44 If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
Skousen reads “lowly of heart” here.
I see v43 as talking about a lack of hope/faith but this verse as talking about a vain hope/faith. Is that the same thing? Is there some tension here?
In “none is acceptable before God,” none what? Is the reference to un-meek hope or something else?
Does this verse nuance your previous understanding of the relationship between hope/faith and meek/lowly?
Does this verse see “by the power of the Holy Ghost” as a certain kind of confession or as a characteristic of all confessions?
Does “he must needs have” mean (1) he is morally obligated to have or (2) he will of necessity possess? Does the phrase beginning with “for if he have not . . .” help you answer that question?
45 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.
Here’s the NET for the parallel passage in 1 Corinthians:
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful.
How does this verse relate to Mormon’s larger argument here?
So Mormon clearly would not have had access through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians through normal challenges. Do you think he received this material by special revelation? (If so, why aren’t we told that?) Or perhaps both Paul and Mormon are both quoting from an older, otherwise unknown text? Or perhaps Joseph Smith was translating loosely to language he was already very familiar with? Are there other possibilities for understanding this text? Exploration of the issues here.
Reflections on charity here.
46 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—
What does it mean to say that love never fails?
What does it mean to say that all things except charity will fail? Is this literally true?
47 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.
Why do you think he defines charity at the end of his argument and not at the beginning?
Is it fair to read this verse to conclude that as long as you are full of the love of Christ, nothing else matters at the judgment?
Mormon concludes the arguments of his discourse by emphasizing charity as the love of Christ. Of course the need for this definitional statement is directly related to the way in which the Greek was translated by the KJV translators. Other English translations do use the word love here instead of Charity. Therefore, this specific sentence must be included as a clarification of the English text, not part of a translation of a plate text. Citation
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.
Note the “wherefore.” How does this verse relate to the verse before it?
What does an energetic prayer look life?
Does this verse imply that love is something God just gives you? Or is it something you cultivate? Or what?
Why would love be something God bestows on Jesus’ followers?
What are the implications of Mormon saying that you can _become_ a son of God?
Is the idea of being like him related to the idea of seeing him as he is? Does any of this relate to the experience of bJared?
What does “like him” mean in this verse? (Appearance? Character?) How does it relate to the idea of “we shall see him as he is”?
What does “that we may have this hope” do in this sentence?
What does purification have to do with the main idea of this verse? What purifies in this context?
1 An epistle of my father Mormon, written to me, Moroni; and it was written unto me soon after my calling to the ministry. And on this wise did he write unto me, saying:
Now, do you treat this chapter as an entirely different universe from chapter 7, sort of as if each were a different appendix after a book, with no link between the two, since one was a sermonish thing and this is a letter? Or do you look at the fact that Moroni chose to include them in the record back-to-back and conclude that they should be read juxtaposed against each other?
Note “an epistle OF my father.” We’ll soon get clarification that “of” means “by,” but this still interests me for some reason.
Does “on this wise” mean “here’s the letter verbatim” or does it mean “here’s the gist as best I remember it”? How do you know?
What is “soon after my calling” doing? (Is it an apology for the fact that his father is about to call him out on the carpet for a huge doctrinal mistake: ”hey, I was new when this happened!”)
2 My beloved son, Moroni, I rejoice exceedingly that your Lord Jesus Christ hath been mindful of you, and hath called you to his ministry, and to his holy work.
If we were to compare this chapter to the last one, the first thing I’d note is that he uses the same address (“beloved”) on his son as he did for the random people that he was preaching to in the last chapter.
I like “your” as a modifier for “Lord Jesus Christ.”
Are “ministry” and “holy work” the same thing or two different things in this verse?
3 I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end.
What point is Mormon making by saying in the last verse that Jesus is mindful of Moroni and saying in this verse that he is mindful of Moroni?
Acts 4:30 is only other scriptural use of “Holy Child.” Why do you think this unusual moniker was used here?
Are “goodness” and “grace” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing here?
Does “through the endurance of faith” mean Mormon’s faith or Moroni’s faith or something else? What does the phrase teach you about the idea of God “keeping” you?
4 And now, my son, I speak unto you concerning that which grieveth me exceedingly; for it grieveth me that there should disputations rise among you.
Now that you see Moroni getting down to business in this verse, does it change how you understand the previous verses of this letter? (We don’t know what Nephite letter-writing conventions were, so it is hard to know if what we just read was nothing more than a pro forma introduction or if it was an effusive statement of love and faith.)
Do you grieve when there are disputes? Should you? Why do you think Mormon had this reaction?
Who is the “you” in this verse? Is this letter a rebuke of something that Moroni had been doing? How else can you read it?
Disputations are differences of opinion inside the church. In the Book of Mormon, contentions were differences of opinion between believers and non-believers in Nephite society. When internal contentions disrupted Nephite society, the causes were conflicts between the traditional Nephite religion and the “outside” religions of the non-Nephites (and typically of some form of Nehorite religion). In contrast to contentions, disputations occur completely internal to the church. These are arguments within the church, that may or may not have any relation to the outside religion. There is no direct competition with a foreign religion, even though some of the ideas from the foreign religion might be entering Nephite faith. Citation
5 For, if I have learned the truth, there have been disputations among you concerning the baptism of your little children.
I like his careful phrasing here–he leaves open the possibility that he might have been misinformed.
Again, does “your” mean Moroni’s personal children, or the children of the community, or what?
6 And now, my son, I desire that ye should labor diligently, that this gross error should be removed from among you; for, for this intent I have written this epistle.
Note the emphasis on laboring diligently. What does that suggest to you? Anything here that might be relevant to your life?
Even if you don’t read Moroni as in the wrong on the child-baptism issue, I think you could read this verse as something of a criticism of him for not working hard enough to stamp out this incorrect practice.
7 For immediately after I had learned these things of you I inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the Holy Ghost, saying:
What work is “immediately” doing here?
Does “of you” mean “that you were doing these things” or “that you were involved in this controversy” or “that you told me these things”?
Did he inquire because he wasn’t sure what the correct policy was? Or because he wasn’t sure how best to correct the problem? Given what he writes later in the chapter, shouldn’t he have been able to reason his way to the correct answer and not really need to pray about this? What are we to learn from the fact that he prayed about it?
What does “by the power of the Holy Ghost” mean? Does the word of the Lord always come this way, or is it a subset?
8 Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.
Note how this verse begins with a command to listen. Presumably, Mormon was already doing that.
Why the multiple titles for Jesus in the first sentence?
Does this verse imply that Christ is God? Is he?
What can you learn from comparing Jesus to a physician?
Note the “wherefore.” How does the material before it relate to the material after it?
This verse seems to define “whole” as “without sin.” It also seems to define “righteous” as without sin. Are those fair statements? What are the implications? I’m curious about the idea that sin makes you something-other-than-whole. What would that be? Partial (in the sense of “in parts”)? Broken? Empty?
Why aren’t little children capable of sinning? What does that teach us about the definition of sin?
What is “the curse of Adam”? How is it related to sin? Is the implication that the fall made sin possible?
Does this verse imply that little children _are_ under the curse of Adam, but the atonement somehow covers that? Is it then fair to say that they _do_ actually sin, but the sins don’t “count” in some sense?
If the curse of Adam can be taken from little children by Christ, why can’t the same thing happen for adults?
What effect does the “curse of Adam” have on adults?
I think the reference to the law of circumcision kind of feels like it comes out of left field. What is it doing here? (Note that this is the only reference to circumcision in the entire BoM.) Circumcision is an interesting topic to mention in this context, since in the OT it was performed, obviously on little children. How does circumcision (and the age at which it was practiced) relate to baptism? I’m wondering if maybe the “disputers” thought that little children needed baptism because little children had been circumcised. (Of course, we don’t actually know that the did circumcise in the BoM–presumably they did as a part of the Law of Moses, but there is absolutely no reference to it–literal or symbolic.) If so, what is it that we are supposed to see here about the difference between baptism and circumcision as an entry-in-the-covenant rite? (And, of course, I can’t help but mention the feminist element.) And shouldn’t we be a touch more sympathetic to people who argued by analogy to circumcision for child baptism, given that they are making a logic argument and their hearts are in the right place, even if they are wrong?
9 And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.
What does “after this manner” mean?
Does the “wherefore” begin what Mormon says to Moroni? (I think that is the best way to read it.)
Note the “wherefore.” That sounds to me like Moroni’s conclusion based on his revelation. But, honestly, I don’t think the rhetorical intensity of this conclusion is justified by the revelation.
Does this verse imply that Mormon was told other things that aren’t included in this letter?
What in the last few verses led him to the “solemn mockery” formulation? (Because I didn’t see that. I saw “unnecessary,” but I didn’t see “mockery.”)
“Solemn mockery” sounds like a self-contradictory phrase. What does it mean? Is it deliberately weird?
The reason that it is “solemn mockery” is that it is well-intentioned, but it denies the true nature of the atonement. The “solemn” refers to the righteous intent, and the “mockery” to the fact that baptizing infants denies the essential agency involved in the baptismal covenant. Citation
I don’t think I agree with Gardner on this one–it is an interesting proposal, but if solemn means that their intent was good (and when does the word “solemn” ever mean that?) then I don’t know how you end up sending people with good intentions to hell.
Given that the revelation to Mormon taught doctrine (and not a particular method for correcting the heresy), do you think it is fair to conclude that Mormon’s reason for praying about it was to find out for himself what the doctrine was. (I think that is the best way to read this, but even if you think that Mormon was clear on the teaching, I think it is reasonable to conclude that Moroni wasn’t. It seems like a pretty big lacuna, then, that’s he’s been called to a ministry but isn’t clear on this pretty basic and important issue. What’s going on here?)
10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
Does it seem that Mormon has authority over what Moroni teaches? What might this suggest about Nephite organization here?
Are “accountable” and “capable of committing sin” two ways of saying the same thing or two different things?
Why do you think Mormon starts talking about the parents in the middle of this discussion about children?
When you read “teach parents that they must repent,” I think the natural assumption is that the “they” refers to the children, but when you get to “humble themselves as their little children,” I think there is room to wonder whether the “they” who needed to repent meant the parents. If so, it is sort of interesting that Mormon thinks the solution to this false teaching is for the parents to repent and be baptized. Weird, because I don’t know that the parents are the disputers. (This is the first mention of the parents as a group.) Also because the end of the verse makes the focus on the salvation of the parents.
I like the idea in this verse that if the doctrine of repentance is emphasized, then the problem about who should (not) be baptized would/should pretty much take care of itself.
Why are little children taken as the model for humility?
11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
How do you mesh the idea of Jesus being baptized with what is taught in this verse?
12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!
What does “alive” mean in this verse? What does it teach us about children?
What work is “even from the foundation of the world” doing here?
Are partial/changeable/respecter three different things or three ways of saying the same thing?
Is “respecter TO persons” different from a “respecter OF persons”?
Why would God be partial if little children were not alive in Christ? What’s the logic here? (Wouldn’t it be less partial to have one standard for all of humanity instead of dividing them up by age?)
Well, Mormon, a lot of adults have died without (access to) baptism, too. What about them? Wasn’t God partial in their cases?
13 Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.
For hundreds of years, Christians had no problem with the hypothetical in this verse: they assumed that a child who died without baptism had been “chosen” to occupy that position in life, so no harm, no foul. Why is that an inadequate solution?
What about adults who didn’t have access to baptism? In other words, it seems that the solution to Mormon’s problem is proxy work, not the lack of necessity of baptism for children, because the former solves the problem for adults as well as for children, but Mormon’s formulation still leaves us in a pickle with respect to adults.
14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.
Does the faith/hope/charity trifecta encourage us to read this chapter in light of the last chapter?
Shouldn’t it make a difference as to _why_ a person thinks that children need baptism?
Did Jesus “need” baptism?
This verse is . . . somewhat harsh. Not just in the extreme language, but it is the only verse I can think of that presents eternal damnation as the consequence for a thought. It also seems to exclude the possibility of post-mortal repentance for a thought. Frankly, I think Mormon has overplayed his hand here (that is, gone well beyond the revelation he had, which was just–see v8–that kids didn’t need to be baptized, but then in v16, to be fair, he does claim authority for this). I posted about it once here; some of the comments are excellent but I am not sure if I agree with myself anymore.
Note that both this verse and the one before it end with references to going to hell. Is that significant? What should you learn from the parallel?
15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.
This verse seems to assume that post-death baptism isn’t an option on the table. It also seems to forget the problem of adults with no access to baptism. It also seems to assume an entire theology behind the practice of young-child baptism that may or may not be accurate. For example, I think many people who practice infant baptism today see it more as a symbol of the child’s entry into the community–much the way we see a baby blessing–and then they consider another ritual (First Communion for Catholics) to symbolize the child’s personal accountability–much the way we view baptism. In other words, to the extent that the practice of infant baptism might be wrong, I think it is a really, really, really minor wrong–a very subtle mistake that could very easily be made by a good-hearted, faithful person. It isn’t worth mentioning in the same breath as, you know, child prostitution or slavery or whatever. So I fail to understand why Mormon is making such a big stinking deal about it. Perhaps I am over-reading this: perhaps the infant-baptizers in Moroni’s association were personally and willfully and specifically wicked, and that the only problem is that we want to apply these verses to infant-baptizers today who are doing it for entirely different reasons and therefore don’t come under the condemnation that Mormon sees here.
16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.
Does this verse indicate a slight retreat from v15, since it suggests the possibility of repentance?
What does “boldness” mean here?
What authority does he have?
Where does the fear/love business come from? Why is it relevant here?
17 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.
Are we supposed to find irony in the claims of everlasting love coming so hard on the heels of his condemning some people to hell for certain thoughts?
Why does Mormon mention charity here? (Especially his own–this comes off, I think, as a little arrogant.)
Is it possible for any human to love with a perfect love?
Why does he mention 2x how alike children are? Why is that even relevant here? (Especially because his larger point is that they are not like adults.)
18 For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.
Are there any ways in which this statement is not true? To what extent does it apply to Jesus?
In the context of v18, how do you understand God weeping?
19 Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy.
Why can’t little children repent?
General question on this section: given the importance that Mormon obviously places on this issue, why do you think he doesn’t define the age at which one is no longer a “little child”?
What work does “pure” do here?
Is there a theology of little-child baptism that doesn’t deny the mercy of God? Could there be?
Thinking about v17-19, what do you see here that should shape how you parent?
20 And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.
21 Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.
Are death/hell/torment three different things or three ways of saying the same thing?
How literally do you take the death/hell/torment?
General question: if you read this letter as a dressing down of Moroni, the only comparable BoM text would be Corianton’s lecture. How do these two texts compare?
Who is the “them”/”they” that he is supposed to listen to?
22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—
Does “all they that are without the law” apply to any person of any age? If so, how does that nuance Mormon’s presentation here? Why is this the first time Mormon mentions this group?
What does “without the law” mean?
Does this verse imply that there are people who would not be benefited by baptism because they are without the law? If so, who are these people?
The cynic says: shouldn’t we _not_ being doing missionary work, since people are better off without the law?
23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.
How do “dead works” fit into all of this? (Is this a reference back to the circumcision issue?)
24 Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.
What work is “my son” doing here? (I think this verse kind of makes it sound as if Moroni thought little kids should be baptized, but the text admittedly never comes right out and says that.)
What does “broken law” mean? (Why would people be under a broken law?) How is a broken law a curse? (Doesn’t this whole thing kind of make it sound as if God has messed up?)
25 And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins;
What does the concept of repentance bearing fruit suggest to you about repentance?
26 And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.
Why would remitted sins lead to meekness? How does this relate to the idea in the last chapter that meekness was a prerequisite for faith/hope? How does that relate to the idea in this chapter that meekness leads to visits from the Holy Ghost? Why do we get “hope and perfect love” instead of hope/faith here?
Are “meekness” and “lowliness of heart” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?
Why is meekness a prereq to a visit from the Holy Ghost?
What does the word “Comforter” suggest to you about the Holy Ghost?
Why would prayer help love endure?
Article about the structure of this passage here.
27 Behold, my son, I will write unto you again if I go not out soon against the Lamanites. Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction except they should repent.
Why does Mormon mention pride here?
What does “or the people of the Nephites” suggest to you here? Did Mormon think his son wouldn’t be clear as to who “this nation” was? If not, then why the “or” phrase?
Why would pride lead to destruction?
28 Pray for them, my son, that repentance may come unto them. But behold, I fear lest the Spirit hath ceased striving with them; and in this part of the land they are also seeking to put down all power and authority which cometh from God; and they are denying the Holy Ghost.
Once again, I am impressed by how much effort BoM figures put in to reclaiming the lost sheep.
Is repentance something that comes to you?
What does “striving” suggest to you about the acts of the Spirit?
What does the phrase “pull down” imply about power?
29 And after rejecting so great a knowledge, my son, they must perish soon, unto the fulfilling of the prophecies which were spoken by the prophets, as well as the words of our Savior himself.
Is “knowledge” (not faith) significant here?
30 Farewell, my son, until I shall write unto you, or shall meet you again. Amen.
Well. That’s a depressing letter. Why do you think Mormon chose to include this in the record? Is it significant that it come nearly at the end? Would you read it differently in an earlier context?
1 Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites; and I would that they should know that *more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ.
Remember that we just skipped chapter 9, since that was in a previous lesson.
Does “seemeth me good” mean “not specifically by revelation” or “I was inspired to do this” or “I’m lonely and bored and just killing time” or what?
Interesting that he’s willing to call the Lamanites his brethren. . .
Why does Moroni give the date here? Is it significant? Is the point to call our attention to the sign and/or to Christ?
2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.
Does “seal up” mean bury or something more?
“Spoken” is pretty awkward since he’s writing. Why does he use it here? (Or is this just an example of his famed weakness in writing?)
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
What do you do with the “if it be . . . read them” phrase? I mean, obviously, if you are reading this then . . . you are reading this?
Does this verse imply that every reader of this verse is reading it because of a specific act of God’s wisdom? Or is that overreading?
Note that the primary thing Moroni wants of his audience is to remember, and the primary thing he wants them to remember is the Lord’s mercy. How does this statement influence your reading of the BoM? If I asked you in the abstract what the main message of the BoM is, I doubt “the mercy of the Lord” would be in your top five (you’d probably mention things like Jesus Christ, the pride cycle, covenants, pride, etc.). So should we be thinking differently?
Is the reference to Adam just because Adam is the starting point, or is something else going on? (Particularly since the BoM doesn’t begin with Adam.)
I like how this verse links the reader to the creation, and shows that God is the same all the way through.
What does “ponder” mean in this verse? What exactly is there to ponder here?
In the OT, heart usually means mind. It would be interesting if we read this verse as counsel to “think about these things.”
We usually focus on v4-5 in this chapter; how does v3 shape the context of v4-5?
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Why the _not_ before true? Is that significant?
Moroni puts three qualifiers in here: sincere heart, real intent, and faith. Why these three? (Are these three different things or three ways of saying the same thing?) How do they relate to each other? Why are they prerequisites to learning the truth?
How universal do you think this promise is? Are there limits?
What does “true” mean? Is it necessarily the same as “historical” and/or “accurate”? (I don’t think so.)
We know that Moroni does not consider true to mean an absence of errors. In the Title Page, Moroni tells us: “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men.” It is also doubtful that Moroni considered true to mean historically accurate. There is no doubt that he would have assumed that his recordwas historically accurate, but that would not be the thrust of the account. Should we find historical errors, and we do find some discernible historical errors of interpretation in Mormon’s writings, that still does not constitute making the text false in the way that Moroni is indicating. Citation
Our critics point to the use of this verse in missionary contexts and say, “sure, they say if you pray about it, you’ll know it is true, but if you pray and don’t learn that, they’ll blame you for lacking faith.” How might you respond to this?
What does this verse suggest to you about the role of the Holy Ghost?
What effect does “manifest” have on you?
What role does the Holy Ghost play here?
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
What does “all things” mean in this verse? Is this hyperbole? Why does the Holy Ghost have a special role in knowing truth?
6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.
How does this verse relate to the verse before it?
Is this verse saying that good = just + true? Is that always, er, true? What are the implications of this formula?
7 And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.
What kinds of denying the power of God did Moroni have in mind here?
Does this verse imply that God’s power is limited by people’s faith?
What is the same today, tomorrow, and forever: power? Faith? The children of men?
Why today/tomorrow/forever, but no mention of the past? How does this lacuna relate to the earlier exhortation to “remember”?
8 And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.
Why would someone deny the gifts of God? In what situations might you be tempted to do that?
How does this verse relate to the one before it?
Why are there many gifts from God and not just one?
What is a “gift”? Why is that the best word to use here? Is his point that the BoM is a gift from God, or is the topic here different?
Does this verse suggest anything to us that might be useful as we think about giving gifts to others?
What does it mean to administer a gift?
Is this verse saying that the point of a gift is to profit people?
9 For behold, to one is given by the Spirit of God, that he may teach the word of wisdom;
What does “word of wisdom” mean in this verse? (Be sure to compare v10.)
Is teaching a gift? What does that suggest to us about teaching and teachers and students?
10 And to another, that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
Thinking about v9 and v10, what is the difference between a word of wisdom and knowledge? What do you make of the fact that being about to teach both is a gift, but not the same gift?
If we are defining “knowledge” as something like “not spiritual,” then isn’t it interesting that this supposedly not-spiritual kind of stuff can still be taught by the Spirit?
11 And to another, exceedingly great faith; and to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
Is faith a gift? Always? Does that mean some people don’t get it? Does that imply that you can or can not increase it?
V9 and V10 are clearly paired; would you say that faith and healing are paired here?
Is the ability to heal a gift?
(Obligatory question re gendered nature of gifts in the church.)
12 And again, to another, that he may work mighty miracles;
Why are healing (v11) and miracles separated?
13 And again, to another, that he may prophesy concerning all things;
What do you take from this emphasis on prophesy as one gift among many instead of an office-at-the-head, as it is in the modern church?
How literally do you take “all things”?
14 And again, to another, the beholding of angels and ministering spirits;
What kind of sense does it make to separate prophesy from angels, as v13 and v14 do? Or are these paired?
Are “ministering spirits” a thing? Are they different from angels? How do you know?
Why would the ability to see angels be a gift?
15 And again, to another, all kinds of tongues;
What does “tongues” mean in this verse?
16 And again, to another, the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues.
Note the distinction that this verse makes between “languages” and “tongues.” What does that imply?
17 And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.
What does “every man severally” mean here?
In “as he will,” does “he” refer to Christ, or to the person getting the gift?
18 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.
Why would he say this? It doesn’t really seem like something that might be forgotten, no?
19 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men.
How does this verse relate to the one before it?
Thinking about this verse alongside v16, I can see room to wonder why we do not speak in tongues today. Is it because of unbelief? Why else?
In what sense is Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever–aren’t there changes based on his mortal experience, death, resurrection?
What does “which are spiritual” tell you about the gifts? What does “spiritual” mean here?
20 Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.
Moroni seems to be positioning faith as a prerequisite for these gifts, but one of the gifts is great faith. How does that work exactly?
Is this verse saying faith –> hope –> charity, or do I have those arrows pointing in the wrong direction?
How and why are these three items related?
How does this verse relate to the discussion of gifts? (Note the “wherefore.”)
21 And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.
Why is he talking about faith/hope/charity and not faith/baptism/repentance or whatever?
How do faith/hope/charity relate to the “gifts”? I find it interesting that there are some things that all people must have but then there are some things that not everyone has, and that’s OK.
22 And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.
What does “despair” mean in this verse? Is it just the absence of hope, or something else?
Is it universally true that lack of hope is a sign of iniquity? If so, what are the implications of this idea?
23 And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me.
24 And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.
The chapter began with an address to his brethren, the Lamanites. Here, he shifts to “all the ends of the earth.” Should you interpret the two parts of the chapter differently, given their two different intended audiences?
Wasn’t the same message (unbelief –> no gifts) given to the Lamanites?
25 And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God.
Do you take the first sentence as a prophecy or a hypothetical?
26 And wo unto them who shall do these things away and die, for they die in their sins, and they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God; and I speak it according to the words of Christ; and I lie not.
What does “do these things away” mean?
What does dying mean in this context?
Did Moroni believe in the possibility of post-mortal repentance? Was he right?
“Lie” seems an unusually harsh was to phrase this; why do you think that word is here?
27 And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?
How literally do you take this verse?
What does this verse teach about judgment?
What does a “bar” suggest to you about judgment?
What does the image of crying from the dust suggest to you?
What work is the “yea, even . . . ” phrase doing here?
28 I declare these things unto the fulfilling of the prophecies. And behold, they shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the everlasting God; and his word shall hiss forth from generation to generation.
What effect does the word “hiss” have on the reader?
29 And God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is true.
30 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.
Does this verse imply that we should aspire to gifts?
What does the idea of “laying hold” suggest to you about the nature of gifts?
Are there evil gifts? What are evil gifts?
Does the “touch not” language and good/evil create an allusion to the story of the fall? (Also references to dust in recent and coming verses.)
31 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.
Is the reference to the dust related to the dust reference in v27?
Why call them Jrsm?
What do the garments symbolize here?
What do the stakes and borders symbolize?
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of 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.
What things should you be denying yourself?
Why is grace conditional?
How does grace make you perfect?
33 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.
How does the blood of Christ relate to the covenant?
34 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.
Skousen reads “pleading bar” instead of “pleasing bar” here.
Does he sound arrogant in this verse (re “triumphant”)? What’s the difference between arrogant and confident?
Given all of the “false starts” we’ve had at arriving at an ending of the BoM, what do you make of the actual ending?
(1) Remember that our reading assignment this week is missing a chapter because Moroni 9 (a letter that Mormon wrote to Moroni) was included in a previous lesson. Would you understand that letter differently if you were to read it in its canonical context? Would chapters 8 and 10 be read differently if you read the letter between them? Why do you think Moroni inserted the letter at this point in the record?
(2) Modern prophets on the BoM:
The Prophet Joseph Smith: I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.
President Brigham Young: When the Book of Mormon was first printed, it came to my hands in two or three weeks afterwards. I examined the matter studiously for two years before I made up my mind to receive that book. I knew it was true, as well as I knew that I could see with my eyes, or feel by the touch of my fingers, or be sensible of the demonstration of any sense. Had not this been the case, I never would have embraced it to this day.
President John Taylor: The Gospel in the Book of Mormon and the Gospel in the Bible both agree: the doctrines in both books are one. The historical part differs only: the one gives the history of an Asiatic, the other of an American people. It is true, and we know it.
President Wilford Woodruff: As I did so [begin to read the Book of Mormon] the spirit bore witness that the record which it contained was true. I opened my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and my heart to understand. I also opened my doors to entertain the servants of God.
President Lorenzo Snow: I am one that has received from the Lord the strongest revelation concerning the truth of this work [the restoration, including the Book of Mormon]. That manifestation was with me powerfully for hours and hours; and whatever circumstances may occur in my life, as long as my memory lasts this perfect knowledge will remain with me.
President Joseph F. Smith: The Book of Mormon cannot be disproved, for it is true. There is not a word of doctrine, of admonition, of instruction within its lids, but what agrees in sentiment and veracity with those of Christ and His Apostles, as contained in the Bible. Neither is there a word of counsel, of admonition or reproof within its lids, but what is calculated to make a bad man a good man, and a good man a better man, if he will hearken to it. It bears the mark of inspiration from beginning to end, and carries conviction to every honest-hearted soul.
President Heber J. Grant: I have rejoiced during the past six or seven weeks in reading carefully through, at the rate of about ten pages a day, with a prayerful heart, the Book of Mormon. I do not think that I have ever before enjoyed that book so much. I do not think the wonderful testimonies contained in it regarding the divine mission of the Savior, have ever made a more profound impression upon my heart and soul than they have made this last time that I have read the Book of Mormon. . . . I rejoice in the increased testimony that has come into my heart and soul regarding the divinity of the Book of Mormon, in the reading that I have just completed.
President George Albert Smith: The Book of Mormon is a sacred record containing information that is found in no other book. The Lord has commanded us to divide with all his children the truths of the everlasting Gospel that have been revealed to prepare them for a place in the Celestial kingdom. It fills my heart with joy to know that every man who will read it [the Book of Mormon] prayerfully, every man who will desire to know whether it be of God or not has the promise, not of Joseph Smith or any living being, but the promise of our Heavenly Father that they shall know of a surety that it is of God.
President David O. McKay: I testify to you that the Book of Mormon is truly the Word of God, that communication between earth and heaven has been opened up again, and that the true way of the Lord has been revealed to men on earth, showing the means by which all needful knowledge and blessings may be received by every true believer in Christ.
President Joseph Fielding Smith: It seems to me that any member of this Church would never be satisfied until he or she had read the Book of Mormon time and time again, and thoroughly considered it so that he or she could bear witness that it is in very deed a record with the inspiration of the Almighty upon it, and that its history is true. I want to bear testimony to you that I know that the Book of Mormon is true; that Joseph Smith received it from the hand of God through an angel that was sent to reveal it, the same angel who, while living in this world, finished the record and sealed it up to come forth in this Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.
President Harold B. Lee: How fortunate that our eternal Heavenly Father, who is always concerned about the spiritual well-being of His children, has given to us a companion book of scriptures, known as the Book of Mormon, as a defense for the truths of the Bible that were written and spoken by the prophets as the Lord directed. By this second witness we may know more certainly the meaning of the teachings of the ancient prophets and, indeed, of the Master and His disciples as they lived and taught among men. This should inspire all who would be honest seekers after truth to put these two sacred scriptures together and study them as one book, understanding, as we do, their true relationship.
President Spencer W. Kimball: May I tell you of a great adventure? As I traveled to a weekend assignment, I took with me an unusual book which was my constant companion. I could lay it down only to sleep, eat, and change trains. It fascinated me, captivated me, and held me spellbound with its irresistible charm and engaging interest. I have read it many times. As I finished it, I closed the book and sat back, absorbed as I relived its contents. Its pages held me, bound me, and my eyes were riveted to them. I knew the book was factual. It is the word of God. It is a powerful second witness of Christ. In the final chapter of the book is the never-failing promise that every person who will read the book with a sincere, prayerful desire to know of its divinity shall have the assurance. My beloved friends, I give to you the Book of Mormon. May you read it prayerfully, study it carefully, and receive for yourselves the testimony of its divinity.
President Ezra Taft Benson: The Book of Mormon is for both member and nonmember. Combined with the Spirit of the Lord, the Book of Mormon is the greatest single tool which God has given us to convert the world. If we are to have the harvest of souls that President Kimball envisions, then we must use the instrument which God has designed for that task: the Book of Mormon.
President Howard W. Hunter: We share with our early brothers and sisters a witness and testimony of the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. . . . It is through reading and studying the Book of Mormon, and prayerfully seeking confirmation of its contents, that we receive a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. How thankful we are for the efforts of President Ezra Taft Benson in encouraging us to read and study this sacred book.
President Gordon B. Hinckley: Brothers and sisters, without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.
President Thomas S. Monson: With other latter-day prophets, I testify of the truthfulness of this “most correct of any book on earth,”even the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ. Its message spans the earth and brings its readers to a knowledge of the truth. It is my testimony that the Book of Mormon changes lives. May each of us read it and reread it. And may we joyfully share our testimonies of its precious promises with all of God’s children.
(3) Grant Hardy on Moroni as a writer:
In many ways, Moroni’s approach is the opposite of his father’s. Where Mormon had hoped to persuade his readers through rational arguments based on objective evidence, Moroni realizes that the testimony of the Spirit is ultimately more convincing than historical data. It is Moroni, after all, who urges us to ask God “if these things are not true,” assuring us that “he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moro. 10:4). Part of Moroni’s willingness to turn things over to God may be his embarrassment about his own lack of literary ability, especially when compared to the Brother of Jared. In Ether 12, he worries about the weakness of his writing, fearing that “the Gentiles shall mock at our words. Moroni does indeed seem to be a reluctant writer. His main tasks are to conclude his father’s record and add an account of the Jaredites. It doesn’t sound too difficult, but he doesn’t even get started until some sixteen years after Mormon’s death, and then he makes not one, but three attempts to bring the book to a close: Mormon 8-9, Ether 12, and Moroni 10 (which was written another twenty years after his first ending). In addition, when Moroni does write, he tends to borrow liberally from the phrasing of his predecessors. In fact, some passages seem little more than a compilation of quotations from Nephi, Mormon, Joseph of Egypt, and others. For anyone who has struggled to put his or her ideas into words, who is self-conscious about writing style, and has to go through multiple drafts, Moroni is an author to love. Citation
(4) And thus we come to the end. Thanks for reading. :) I won’t be continuing these posts into the new year, but I will be participating in a Mormon Theology Seminar on Genesis 2-3 (Are there two richer chapters in the entire canon? I think not!), so I invite you to read that. (I’ll post a link to it when the discussion is up and running in the new year.)