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Much has been written on this triad, but Moroni made it clear that these are not three things we must acquire but they are one thing with three aspects. They are not acquired individually but chain together inseparably.
“if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.” Moroni 10:20
They belong to God’s divine nature and hence help us understand and experience both His love and Power. Both Paul and Moroni are clear that without charity we are nothing; it seems to be the pinnacle spiritual gift and means to eternal life “which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (DC 14:7) But Moroni clarifies that charity is not received in isolation.
“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.” Moroni 10:21
So, since they are a unity, what do these three aspects teach us about “The Doctrine of Christ” and receiving and acquiring His divine nature?
“that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear, we shall be like him” Moroni 7:48
Faith is the beginning here, as well as in the Doctrine of Christ[i]. But faith in Christ requires sufficient lowliness of heart, humility and meekness[ii] to act outside of our experiential confidence. One doesn’t use faith because the outcome is seeable or even known. We exercise faith with hope for an unseen desired outcome, whether in science or in matters of the Spirit. The process isn’t different, but the focus is. In science the focus is one of control — controlling variables and the hope of repeatability. Some science is about discovery through exploring the unexplored while others seek to verify postulates and hypotheses.
In matters of the Spirit, the focus is on letting go of control and trusting Christ to bring the ancient repeatable promises of the Fathers. Both endeavors require that one act with hope but herein lies the great difference and danger. The scientist designs experiences/experiments that will validate his hypotheses and theories. Unless working to prove a bias and hence receive remuneration, he uses the tool of careful skepticism with peer review to acquire knowledge. This requires self-discipline and a loyalty to truth that exceeds self-interest.
In matters of the Spirit one must also act in faith, but the focus is Christ rather than protocol. Trusting He is there, that He has the ability and capacity, that He can work through and with your skepticism, that He understands your specific needs and circumstances, that He knows your future, that His wisdom exceeds your own, that His timing is ultimate, that He can consecrate your life’s events to your ultimate good, etc., so that you are willing to act incrementally on that trust, is the essence of your faith. As with the brother of Jared whose faith[iii] transported him through the veil, it was because of his knowledge of God’s nature and attributes that “he could not be kept from beholding…” (Ether 12:12, 19).
A correct understanding of the justice of God[iv] – that whatever God says He will and can do[v], gives the necessary assurance[vi] for faith in Him. If you can find where God has said or done, or if it is in His nature to so do, then you can exercise that trust/ faith. The dangers lurk in our willingness to believe and wait upon the Lord without being willing to study and understand His recorded history and doctrine. Without this scriptural foundation, like a mad scientist with no foundation in math and other laws, we are prone to confirmation bias, “psychologism,” or other deception, whether external and internal.[vii] Even Alma teaches faithful skepticism wherein experimentation is verified by carefully analyzed results.[viii] Ultimately, exercising faith, in matters of the Spirit, is about our divine and mortal relationships – the power to influence and exalt, rather than raw knowledge, skill, power to control or profit. Faith must be “attained.”[ix] It begins with a choice[x] and then grows into divine power.[xi]
Though hope is second in this unified triad it both precedes[xii] and follows[xiii] faith. Since the focus of faith in Christ is generated by an understanding of God’s faithfulness to us, what is the focus of hope? Again, Moroni makes this clear:
“And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” Moroni 10:22
Paul, Jacob and Moroni speak of a “hope in Christ” but here Moroni makes it clear that without obedience to, or repentance through Christ there is only despair from our resultant sin. We cannot trust or have faith in Christ if we don’t value what He says. This makes our behavior towards Christ the variable. Therefore, if we are doing our best through study, obedience, and repentance, as His disciple, we will feel His love. Understanding the nature, depth and limitations[xiv] of His mercy/love will increase our hope.
Hence, understanding divine justice will augment our faith because it says that God can while understanding divine mercy tells us that God will. It may take moments to a lifetime for God to answer our pleas, but He always will even if He has to change us in order to bless us.
When Moroni says that charity is the pure love of Christ, there are some that understand it to mean “feeling His love.” But as the third element in this triad of the divine nature, it is more than that. Christ began His ministry by demonstrating His love and then teaching “to love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is the core of the preparatory and cleansing “law of the gospel.” Later, to His apostles He taught a “new commandment.”
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you…” John 13:34
This “new commandment” requires consecration to God’s purposes and nature. Charity isn’t just to receive the love of Christ, but to be possessed of it as a lifestyle in all relationships. It is not simply learned or earned but rather it is “bestowed upon all who are true followers of Christ.” (Moroni 7:48) Through it we become joint-saviors, under-shepherds in His yet unfinished work[xv], through which we then become joint heirs.[xvi]
Faith is unto repentance just as faith is sequenced in the triad by hope. Therefore, through faith we learn to trust Christ. Through hope we show Christ that He can trust us. Growing charity is the sure evidence that He is enabling us, that our faith and hope are not in vain. It is the enlarging of the soul and enlightening of the mind. Charity, bestowed as a gift, compels us to teach others to trust Him as well. While science is validated through what it does for us, spiritual pursuits are validated in what they do to us.
“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.” Moroni 10:32
[i] 2 Nephi 31:19-21; 3 Nephi 11:31-35; 3 Nephi 27:1-16
[ii] Moroni 7:43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
[iii] Ether 12: 20 And behold, we have seen in this record that one of these was the brother of Jared; for so great was his faith in God, that when God put forth his finger he could not hide it from the sight of the brother of Jared, because of his word which he had spoken unto him, which word he had obtained by faith.
[iv] See Justice, Mercy, and Law by the author, here: https://ldsmag.com/understanding-the-doctrine-behind-justice-mercy-and-law/
[v] Moses 4: 30 For as I, the Lord God, liveth, even so my words cannot return void, for as they go forth out of my mouth they must be fulfilled.
[vi] Hebrews 11:1-3 Now faith is the substance (Greek=assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
[vii] JS Matthew 1:22 they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.
:37And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived
[viii] Alma 32:28 “for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”
“Enlarged soul” – Heart: increased love, patience, etc;
“enlighten understanding” – Mind: understand more;
“delicious” – attractive and pragmatic
[ix] Moroni 7:40 How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
[x] Elder Neil L. Andersen, Ensign Nov 2015; Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice
[xi] Moroni 10:23 And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me.
[xii] Moroni 7:40 see above
[xiii] Ether 12:4 hope cometh of faith
[xiv] See footnote 4 above
[xv] 2 Nephi 9 my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
[xvi] Romans 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.