I also was given topic of charity with scriptures 1 Corinthians 13 and Moroni 7.
I love these two passages. I love how they interact with each other. The Book of Mormon is quoting the Bible here. And that’s a common criticism of the Book of Mormon, that it’s plagiarizing the Bible. But that criticism misses the point that it’s not just that the BOM is quoting the Bible, but how it’s doing it, the subtle differences, and what the Book of Mormon adds or emphasizes. The intertextuality is genius.
Both Paul and Mormon use the same language to describe charity. Moroni’s writing but recalling his father Mormon’s previous sermon.
1 Cor 13:4-7 and Moroni 7:45
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity denvieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
I found this note on this verse that was insightful. The end there. Instead of “believing all things” which makes charity seem naïve, that can actually be translated as, “endures all abuse, never loses faith, is always confident, and remains patient no matter what happens.”
And it’s Mormon that gives the perfect definition in v. 47
“charity is the pure love of Christ,”
In English, we are using the word charity. In Greek, the word is agape. This word appears 106 times in the New Testament. And is usually translated as love.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
It also appears 340 times in the Septuigint, which is the Old Testament translated into Greek that the people of Jesus’ time used most commonly as scripture.
I love seeing how in the Old Testament they had the seeds of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt
You’ve probably heard this before. There are three words in Greek that can be translated as love. Eros meaning romantic love. Filia meaning brotherly love or love that’s on a more equal footing, love between friends, family, etc. and agape. which is has a connotation of a more selfless, benevolent love, one that’s offered without expectation of any return.
In the hymn Poor wayfaring man of grief based on the parable of sheep and goats, a man comes across a person in need and nurtures him, but the amazing thing is that with each act of service, his own position is increased.
He gives him drink and then when he drinks from the same cup, he never thirsts again.
He offered his bed and he slept on the floor. Yet
“and seemed In Eden’s garden while I dreamed.“
There’s a transaction taking place. Each time he serves, he’s getting back something greater. This is the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
It’s exactly opposite of what we think it should be.
We live in a world of scarcity. Our inclination is to protect what’s ours. The pie is only so big, so if I want a bigger piece, I have to take from someone else. But Jesus is offering a way out of that world of scarcity.
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
In verse 5 of the hymn. He finds the man beaten and dresses his wounds and fixes him up and what happens? “I had myself a wound concealed, but from that hour forgot the smart, and peace bound up my broken heart.”
I’m wounded. we’re all wounded. we’re all hurting. But I think what I find is that if I have faith. And act with love and get outside myself and think about others and stop worrying about my wounds. And stop demanding things that I think will help those wounds, if I can stop and serve, I forget about those wounds.
OK, but there’s another element to this. Sometimes we feel like we are giving. We are giving and serving. But we don’t feel like we’re getting anything back. Our sleep is restless not like in Eden’s garden. Our wounds don’t feel bound up. They’re bleeding and gaping. We watch the neighbor’s kids, volunteer for the PTA, stay up all night doing a science fair project, we’re giving as much as we can, but we don’t feel like that exchange is taking place. Instead of a transformed heart, we just feel taken advantage of and burned out.
I don’t know the answer. But I think Paul and Mormon try to address this.
1 Corinthians 13:3
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the apoor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
That phrase “give my body to be burned” is literally talking about dying as a Christian martyr. We sometimes feel like martyrs when we get in this mentality.
Mormon goes into more detail on this. And this is the Book of Mormon’s genius to me, when it’s taking a verse like this and expounding on it.
6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good (and where it says man is evil, I think that sounds more harsh than it’s meant, I think it’s just meant to say humans are weak compared to God who is perfect); for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
8 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly;
Are we a martyr in Paul’s words or in Mormon’s words do we offer service without real intent, or grudgingly?
That sounds judgmental to accuse all the good people (and I’m trying to do this too) that are struggling with doing good works and sometimes not feeling like we’re getting anything out of it, just getting taken advantage of and run down. But I think there’s some truth there to think through.
I find it interesting that neither Paul nor Moroni command us to do good works in these passages or give a list of examples. The command is to have charity. The good works will naturally follow.
Where does charity come from?
Mormon in v. 48 says we must be first “filled with this love”
That’s the key. Charity is the pure love of Christ. It comes from him. If we don’t have it, then it means we don’t understand his love for us. We’re not experiencing and walking in the love of God. First his love comes into us. Then it goes out to others.
I have this thing where asking do you love your life ie equivalent to “do you love your wife?” Love your life. Love your wife. Hate your life. Hate your wife. Maybe that’s because I’m a little too codependent, but it seems how that relationship goes with my sweetheart, is reflective of my general state. It’s hard to love anyone or serve anyone or think about others when you don’t love yourself.
If you’re stuck in that condition where you can’t love yourself, then pray and ask God how he feels about you. Study and reflect on the life of Jesus Christ and see how he treated people and taught us to treat others. Read about how the people closest to him felt about him. He loves us perfectly exactly as we are. And we need to be feel that love.
When we feel that love, that love transforms us, and we become a new creature in Christ.
He wants our heart. The Pharisees and others in his time had such a hard time understanding his message because they were focused on outward acts. He turned it all upside down. He wants the change to be in our heart on the inside where no one else sees it.
The old law was thou shalt not kill. The new law he gave was don’t even get angry. The old law was don’t commit adultery. The new law was don’t even lust. The old law was to treat others the way we would want to be treated. The new law was to love others. The law of Moses focused on outward actions. The new covenant of Christ has the goal of transforming our insides. We don’t need to feel guilty if our hearts are not there yet. That’s not the point. The point is the love of God can come into our hearts and transform us to be like him.
BYU professor Eric Huntsman recently gave a great talk at a BYU devotional where he talked about the example of Jesus Christ to be loving and empathetic to the marginalized people in society. When Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus died they came to him. With Martha, he comforted her with words. With Mary, he sensed that what she needed was for him to empathize with her. He sat with her and what he do with her? John 11:35 the shortest verse in the Bible “Jesus wept.”
We covenant to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Sometimes what’s needed best is to sit and experience someone’s pain with them. Brother Huntstman said the marginalized in our society that we can do better empathizing with in our own church are those with mental health problems, those suffering from discrimination due to racism or sexism, LGBTQ members, and even those who have left the church. They need our love and understanding. He quoted Elder Ballard’s admonition to be more empathetic.
These are Elder Ballard’s words also from a BYU devotional: “We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly, we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home where their brothers and sisters love them and where they have a place to worship and serve the Lord.”
Taking this approach can work miracles in our lives.
In Moroni chapter 7 in verse 35 Mormon asks the rhetorical question is God’s great power and glory alive in the last days or have miracles ceased?
I believe that when the power of Christ transforms our hearts and enables to act with godliness in true charity for each other, that we are witnessing miracles. As in this story from someone who was reporting back to a teacher who challenged them to take an experiment with Christlike empathy in an exercise of compassionate listening.
I was very angry with my father. (this is not me, but we all can relate) I made a vow to never talk to him again. So I did not believe I could talk to him the way you told us with loving compassion. But I mustered up the courage and gave him a call on the phone. I heard his voice and I almost hung up, but I took a leap of faith. (This is the faith part of faith, hope, and charity. They all work together and we need all three to create these kinds of miracles.)
On the phone, he said to his father: “I know you have suffered a lot in these past many years. I was not able to help you suffer less. In fact, I reacted in a way to make you suffer more. I am sorry. It’s not my intention to make you suffer like that. I believe that if I would have understood your suffering, I would not have reacted the way I did and made you suffer even more. I’m sorry. Please tell me, father, of your suffering. I want to know. Because I’m sure that if I understand your suffering, I will not react the way I have in the past. Please help me understand.”
And at the other end of the line, the father began to cry because his son had never talked to him that way. No one had ever talked to him like that. His son’s kindness and empathy enabled him to apologize to his son for the suffering he caused him and healing and forgiveness was able to begin to take place.
Miracles have not ceased in the last days. I’m sure miracles will take place in each of our lives if we could talk this way to our loved ones.
I want to bear my testimony briefly as I finish and make a quick tangent. Sister Terry in Gospel Doctrine class frequently references faith crisis issues when she’s teaching. This is a topic that’s close to us. I went through a faith crisis process starting about ten years ago. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give this talk and bear my testimony of the Church today, but for many years, I wasn’t comfortable doing this. I couldn’t reconcile a lot of scriptural and church history issues until the point that I felt like maybe I needed to leave the church. This was a very difficult time for me. But during this process, I never wavered from my love for the teachings of the church and the deeply positive experience I was having on a weekly and daily basis attending church and trying to be a good Mormon. I fought hard to search for understanding that would reconcile these intellectual issues. I went through a faith reconstruction phase that has lasted many years and is still ongoing and I’m at a place where I’m mostly at peace on this. My testimony is much different than it used to be. For example, I’m now more likely to view certain things metaphorically than literally, but my love for the core teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the restored church we have through Joseph Smith and led today by Pres. Nelson has never been greater.
Christlike charity and empathy are not gifts I would have or be naturally good at without working at it. I’m grateful for the pushing and prodding I get in this church to become more like Christ and become my best self.
I’ll close with Mormon’s testimony in the last verse of Moroni 7.
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 (and daughters) 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.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.