I recently received a book called ‘The Book of Mormon: The Keystone Scripture’. The book is a collection of essays written by BYU religion professors on topics relating to The Book of Mormon. My favorite of these essays is one written by Larry E. Dahl entitled Faith, Hope, Charity. The author presents these characteristics in a way that suggests a progression. This same progress I have tried to make in my life, and will continue to do so.
Most of my life the church was simply my religious belief. A set of teachings and doctrines that I generally believed. Since I grew up in a very active LDS family, living the religion in my youth was mostly a product of the culture of my family more than decisions I made for myself. Eventually I made the decisions to serve a mission, get married, go to college, and move away. As I matured the church became not just something that I believed, but something that I lived. A life that became more and more different from the lives of those around me. Eventually as I began to take home teaching and experience local church leadership the church became something that I did to help others come to the same religious faith and hope that I had. Faith – Hope – Charity.
We don’t talk much in the church about religious hope. I am starting to think part of the reason for this is that we combine faith and hope into one and call it faith. This really isn’t much of a problem per se, but a little interesting. I’d now like to review the essay by Larry Dahl.
The need for these characteristics was established by the following verses:
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. 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 10:20-21)
When writing about faith as taught in the Book of Mormon the author says that the word faith is used 260 times in the Book of Mormon, but is defined in only about half a dozen places. The majority of the times the word faith is used it is used in the context of what comes from faith – the fruits of faith. But when it comes to describing what faith is it is often referring to ones religious belief. There seems to be an emphasis in the Book of Mormon on experiencing the fruits of faith and how to acquire it than what faith is defined as. The few attempts at defining are mostly made in Alma, where it says that faith is not to have a perfect knowledge (Alma 32). This chapter lets us know that faith is based on an unseen, unknown, and anticipated future.
Hope is used 50 times in the Book of Mormon and is used in two senses. One is as a desire accompanied with expected fulfillment. The other is a state of mind, heart, and spirit necessary for salvation. One good scripture that describes the first is Ether 12:4 which states that ‘Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith’. Ether 12 also says that hope ‘maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being lead to glorify god’.
Dahl then makes the connection that faith (including prayer, repentance, and obedience) prepares a person to receive a spiritual rebirth, which brings a remission of sins and changes the heart so that it desires righteousness.
Charity is used the fewest, only 27 times. It is defined quite well in Moroni 7. The connection Dahl makes that I like is that as hope is a hungering and thirsting after righteousness for oneself, charity is a hungering and thirsting after righteousness for others.
This progression made a lot of sense to me. There comes a time in our discipleship where we need to move from believing, to doing, to serving. Becoming self reliant in the gospel enough to be of use to others. Hopefully I can get there.