Moroni 7: Faith, Hope, and Charity
While reading scripture, I think it’s helpful to keep the teachings in context. We know that Moroni did not expect to be writing this book of scripture at all (see Moroni 1:1). By this point, his father Mormon had died in battle and he was alone, a former general of a civilization that no longer existed. In Moroni’s final words, he chose to focus on the organizational church (Moroni 1-6). In chapter 7, Moroni decides to quote earlier sermons from his father.
It’s difficult to make total sense of the sermon’s context in Moroni 7. It appears it was delivered in a time of peace and at least given to a people striving to live up to their Christian covenants. Given the horrors of war described in Mormon and soon to be described in Moroni 8 & 9, it’s a memory of a time and place for different from Moroni’s current situation. It’s a beautiful sermon entitled right up front by Moroni as a few words about “faith, hope, and charity” (Moroni 7:1).
In the sermon, Mormon right up front expresses this teaching opportunity as a “gift of his calling unto me” given “by the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Moroni 7:2), which I think is the right way to approach this type of encounter with others. Every time we are in the same space with another person, consider it a gift of God. I think of that right now as my oldest daughter is contemplating a lift-off out of our house into the broader world. These encounters are precious. We should treat them as such.
In verse 3, Mormon addresses his audience as the “peaceable followers of Christ” which has added poignancy considering Mormon’s service as a war general from age 16 until his death in battle. Who are these peaceable followers of Christ? Nonetheless, they have “obtained a sufficient hope by which [they] can enter into the rest of the Lord…” Moroni 7:3. I think there must be a link there. Hope brings rest.
From verse 5-15, Mormon boils the gospel down to this – “by their works ye shall know them” (Mormon 7:5) and even more expansively, “all things which are good cometh of God”. (Mormon 7:12) I think we need to take this principle to heart in all that we do, as a way to break through walls and connect cross-culturally, cross-faith tradition, bi-partisan, find ways to build bridges. The gospel is less about specific beliefs and more about what we do and how we do it.
These verses also make the deep case that character does matter, “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.” (Moroni 7:6). More poignantly, this sermon makes the case to judge righteously. “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.” (Moroni 7:14).
To be a bit political for a moment, we can’t expect our political leaders, no matter what they say with their lips to lead well if they aren’t good within. But if they are good, we can expect goodness to flow out of them. What they say, how they say it and how they treat others matters. We should modify our politics accordingly.
The injunction to “lay hold upon every good thing” (Mormon 7:18), according to Mormon requires deep and abiding faith, “by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing.” (Mormon 7:25). Then Mormon ties faith to miracles, linked I think directly to the act of holding onto every good thing. I think as we open ourselves up, authentically with vulnerability, relationally with others, we can experience miracles and the visitation of angels, in all of their forms, however you choose to interpret that.
All of this gets boiled down to what the core of the gospel has always been about, “And the office of the ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father…” Moroni 7:31 Everything comes down to faith, repentance, and covenant.
Mormon 7 concludes by connecting faith with hope in Christ and to underly it all with the pure love of Christ, which is charity, which “suffers long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up… ” Moroni 7:45). He concludes the sermon with a plea to pray “with all the energy of heart” to be filled with this love. (Moroni 7:48).
Moroni 8: Don’t Baptize Young Children
Again, this chapter seems oddly out of place considering the hellscape both Mormon and Moroni were living within. But apparently, many among them were arguing about whether to baptize little children. I think within the context of deep mortality, where men, women and children were likely holding onto life by the bearest of threads, securing salvation through ritual must have been top of mind. In Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the heroine, in late night desperation baptizes her dying child. Mormon’s response to this impulse is that children “need no repentance, neither baptism.” (Moroni 8:10).
This chapter re-affirms baptism as a covenant to live a life of penitent concern for others, designed for those old enough to make this covenant and that underlying everything we do should be grace, hope, charity and faith. In that sense, baptism is not an item on a checklist, nor is the gospel about checklists (not that checklists aren’t helpful tools, but they are tools). We should learn not to get hung up with details.
Moroni 9: Society is Still Actually Falling Apart
The transition in Moroni 8 from baptism to the state of society feels a bit like when Hermione Granger to in Harry Potter said:
Now, if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed. Or worse, expelled.https://www.definitions.net/definition/get
Yes, baptizing little children is not good, but there are plenty of far worse things to worry about, “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction except they should repent.” (Moroni 8:27)
And then it just gets worse from there, Moroni 9 goes into dark details of cannibalism, rape, murder, destruction, “O the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy.” Moroni 9:18. However, here’s the hope, the importance of our work:
And now behold, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.Moroni 9:6
The Book of Mormon is deeply concerned with justice, mercy, grace and works. None of these principles are in tension, they are all intertwined. It’s through grace we work, we find mercy only in a just world. There is a deep need within us to be useful, connected and at work for the benefit of others. Let us all labor diligently, no matter how desperate or dim we find our circumstances.