Faith, Hope and Charity
This chapter is Moroni’s discourse on faith, hope and charity.
I’ve tried to really understand how faith, hope and charity all relate. I think I finally understand how these three attributes combine to become the “fountain of all righteousness.” (Ether 12:28)
Ether 12:4 sums up how the three attributes relate. A person comes to believe in God with a hope in a better place (better than this life or earth that we are on). This hope comes from having faith. This hope, which comes from faith, makes an anchor for our souls. We are not swayed by the persuasions of the world; rather we are persuaded that there is a better life that we can attain if we do what is right. Believing that if we do what is right, we’ll obtain a better place, we therefore choose good works, thus faith turns into charity.
Later on in Ether 12:6, Moroni explains a little more about how to obtain faith. He says that “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen.” So we begin with hope (not a sure hope); just simple hope. What do we hope for? We hope for a better world than this. We hope that we’ll live with Christ and God. We hope that we will be with our family and loved ones forever. We hope that Christ’s mission was real and that we will attain forgiveness of sins so that we are pure and can live with God. We hope for a better life. We hope that everything that we’ve been taught is true, because if these things are true, then we will have a better life – we will be eternally happy. So this simple hope turns into faith. We hope for these things, but we do not see them nor are we 100% sure that they are true or real. We have faith in them. Now, going back to Ether 12:4, if we believe in God or if we have faith in God, then our hope is more sure. With can hope with a for a better world with a surety. This sure hope comes from faith. This sure hope also anchors our souls into doing good. Now comes the trial of our faith (Ether 12:6). If we are sure in our faith and hope in God, then we will do as he has commanded us. Our faith is put on trial. Do you have faith? Prove it! I will prove my faith through my works. My faith will be put on trial through my works. After we do, then we receive a witness.
To summarize: simple hope leads to faith, faith (especially in Christ) leads to sure hope, sure hope anchors our souls because we believe if we do what is right, we’ll receive blessings, so we put our faith on trial by showing God that we keep his commandments (enter charity) and as we keep his commandments, God witnesses to us that the things we hope for are indeed true and our hope and faith turn into knowledge. Hope, faith and action lead to charity and a witness.
Elder Maxwell calls this sure hope “ultimate hope.” “For a variety of reasons, brothers and sisters, today’s society seems to struggle in order to be hopeful. The associated causes and effects co-mingle ever so subtly.
“Our everyday usage of the word hope includes how we “hope” to arrive at a certain destination by a certain time. We “hope” the world economy will improve. We “hope” for the visit of a loved one. Such typify our sincere but proximate hopes.
“Life’s disappointments often represent the debris of our failed, proximate hopes. Instead, however, I speak of the crucial need for ultimate hope.
“Ultimate hope is a different matter. It is tied to Jesus and the blessings of the great Atonement, blessings resulting in the universal Resurrection and the precious opportunity provided thereby for us to practice emancipating repentance, making possible what the scriptures call “a perfect brightness of hope” (2 Ne. 31:20).” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov 1998, 61)
Examples of Faith and Hope
In all the examples that Moroni cites, the believers acted upon their faith. Alma and Amulek taught the people in faith knowing that God would protect them. At the opportune time, God delivered them from the prison according to the prayers of Alma.
Nephi and Lehi acted on their faith by believing that they could convert bloodthirsty Lamanites. So powerful was their faith, that they converted thousands of Lamanites and in this way regained the Nephite lands which were at the center of their battles.
Ammon and his brethren believed that they could convert the Lamanites of their day. They hoped that they could be the means of saving many souls. The Lord wrought a great change among many Lamanites through the work of Ammon, Aaron, Omer and Himni.
Another example from the Bible is that of Moses. I don’t know if this is scripture, but I’ve heard that Moses had to take a few or even quite a few steps into the Red Sea before the waters would part. Can you imagine what faith he had to have had? He could not doubt. He could not be thinking, “I hope this works!” He knew that God would deliver them and he took a course of action that led God to help them. He acted on his faith. This is the same with all the other prophets who have preached and made prophesies and who have wrought miracles. They had faith in God, nothing doubting, that God would deliver them.
“And neither at any time has any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believe in the Son of God.” (Ether 12:18)
Consider the Prophet Joseph Smith. When he was considering which church to join, he had a degree of hope of finding the correct one to join. He didn’t feel right about any church, but he did not let the matter drop. He pressed on and read the Bible and found the passage of James. In his heart stirred emotions and a swelling of faith that God would be good on his word and that if God promised something, God would deliver. Joseph challenged God on His promise and acted on faith. He went to the Grove and prayed. He was seized and he was delivered. He saw God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ. There in that meeting, Joseph received wisdom, just as God had promised. Joseph hoped, had faith, acted and then received a witness.
Later in the chapter, Moroni talks about weaknesses and how if we are humble, we will know of our weaknesses and the Lord will help us to make those weaknesses into strengths.
Neal A. Maxwell also discussed this point in the same talk. “Because God wants us to come home after having become more like Him and His Son, part of this developmental process, of necessity, consists of showing unto us our weaknesses. Hence, if we have ultimate hope we will be submissive, because, with His help, those weaknesses can even become strengths (see Ether 12:27).
It is not an easy thing, however, to be shown one’s weaknesses, as these are regularly demonstrated by life’s circumstances. Nevertheless, this is part of coming unto Christ, and it is a vital, if painful, part of God’s plan of happiness. Besides, as Elder Henry B. Eyring has wisely observed, “If you want praise more than instruction, you may get neither” (“To Choose and Keep a Mentor,” Addresses Delivered at the 1993 Annual University Conference, Brigham Young University , 42).” (Maxwell, Ensign Nov. 1998)
This is a tremendous sermon on hope, faith and charity. I encourage anyone to read and ponder the words found in Ether 12.