Sometime after 400 A.D. the prophet Moroni translated and abridged the writings of the prophet Ether. But, while doing his translation Moroni also added his own commentary and in so doing has given us one of the greatest discourses on faith ever recorded. To gain a better appreciation of his message let’s take a closer look at what he wrote as recorded in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Ether.
Beginning in the fourth verse we read where the prophet Ether wrote that all those who believe in God do so that they might have a sure hope for a better world. The world he refers to is not the world we currently live in but is a place that is at the right hand of God. We commonly refer to that place as heaven. But Ether states that this hope in that better world comes by faith, which faith then becomes an anchor to the souls of men.
Those who do not know where they are going are like a ship without an anchor in port. The anchor secures the ship and keeps it from drifting away with the tide. Faith in a world that is better than the one we now live in does the same thing for the salvation of our souls. It helps keep us firmly anchored to God and His promises. But without faith, it becomes easy to drift away from that hope which God offers us, and when that happens, like a ship that has been carried out to sea, we eventually lose sight of where we want to be and we become separated from God and His promises.
Reaching heaven has also been likened to a journey, and, with any journey, there is a path we must follow to get where we want to go. As long as we have faith that there is a better world waiting for us then it becomes easier for us to stay on the path that takes us there. Thus, it is our faith that helps us to remain steadfast and unwavering in following that path. But, when we lose that faith, then we become unsure of which path in life we should take because we become unsure of where we want to go. As a result of that lack of faith, every bump and difficulty we encounter along our way causes us to become discouraged and to seek a better path to follow. Thus, it is our faith that keeps us anchored on the right path no matter how many problems and obstacles we may encounter.
In verse five we learn that the Prophet Ether prophesied about many great and marvelous things to his people but they would not believe him because they could not see them. Therefore, they disputed with him and had no faith in what he was telling them. Even though this is all that Ether said on the subject of faith, Moroni felt that this message was so important that he decided to amply and expand on it. Starting in verse six Moroni begins to write his own sermon on faith.
He explains that the word “faith” means to believe in something that we hope is true but which we haven’t actually seen. The “better world” that Ether talked about is such a place because we can’t actually see or even prove it exists. Therefore to have hope or belief in such a world requires faith on our part. Therefore, Moroni tells us not to question or dispute the things of God just because we cannot see or prove them as the people in the days of Ether did. In fact, doubt and skepticism are the very opposite of faith and without faith it is impossible for us to please God (Hebrews 11:6). That is why Moroni next said, “for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”
There are those who say, “Show me the proof first and then I will believe.” But this is a false argument because to the skeptic there is no such thing as absolute “proof.” Those who are already convinced otherwise will always find some sort of a rational explanation to dismiss whatever evidence they are given. On the other hand, God says, “Believe first and then I will show you the proof.” If God were to prove all things first then there would be no need for us to have faith because the very act of proving something eliminates the need for having faith in it. Therefore, God tests our faith first, and only after He is sure our faith in Him is true and firm does He then give us evidence to confirm the faith we already have. In this way God helps strengthen our faith rather than destroys it.
In verse seven Moroni explains that it was because of the faith of the Nephites that made it possible for Christ to appear to them after he had risen from the dead. But He did not come until after they first had faith in Him. Therefore, it was necessary that there were at least some people who had faith in Him, otherwise He would not have come. Moroni also explained that is the reason why Christ did not appear unto the rest of the world because the rest of the world did not believe in Him.
Before Christ visited the Nephites, there was a great destruction in the land and many people died as a result of it. Although there’s no doubt that some righteous people perished in that destruction it is for sure that all the wicked died. And the reason for this is because when Christ appeared afterwards it was only to those who already had faith in Him. His coming was meant to validate the faith of those who already believed in Him rather that to convinced the skeptics of His existence. Notice that when Christ appeared it was to those who were assembled around the temple located in the land of bountiful (3 Nephi 11:1). Since those who lacked faith in Christ wouldn’t have gone there, it is certain that when Christ appeared it was only the believers who saw Him. But before that event took place their faith had already been severely tested. That is why Moroni said “for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”
The same was true for the Jews in Jerusalem. It was Mary Magdalene, a believer, who first saw the risen Lord. Later in the evening Jesus appeared unto the eleven apostles who also were believers. Jesus likewise appeared to two of His disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus. Yet, there is not one account of the resurrected Jesus ever appearing before someone who did not first believe in Him.
The scriptures tell us that before Christ returns in glory He will first destroy all the wicked. That destruction may very well include some believers, but it will certainly include all unbelievers. Thus, when Christ returns, the only people who will be alive to see Him are those who already believe in Him. But this will happen only after their faith has first been tested.
However, in verse 8 Moroni tells us that Jesus did appear unto the unbelievers of the world when He came and lived among men in the flesh. Did this invalidate the need for faith? According to Moroni, not at all. He explains that it was because of the faith of the prophets of old that Jesus showed Himself in the flesh to the world, wherein He glorified the name of the Father. Had there not be anyone who had faith that He would some day come in the flesh, Christ would not have come. Therefore, Jesus came in the flesh in response to their faith. And in doing so, He prepared the way whereby others could become partakers of God’s heavenly gift. But they can only partake of this gift by having hope in a gift they have not seen. And the same is true for us. We can become partakers of that gift but only if we first have faith in it.
In verse ten Moroni reveals that it was by faith that the prophets of old were given the priesthood, which was known then by the title of “the holy order of God.” What Moroni tells us is that a person must have faith in God first before God will grant them the privilege of receiving the heavenly gift of the priesthood. The same is true of the law of Moses. If Moses had not first exercised faith in a God whom he could not see, God would not have given him the law. Therefore, it was because of the faith of Moses that the law was able to be given.
Although the law of Moses was designed to bring people to Christ, God had even a greater gift to give us, which was the gift of His Son. By this means God had prepared a more excellent way for us to be saved. But it was because of the faith of those who lived before the time of Christ who believed in the coming of the Messiah that the promise of His coming was able to be fulfilled. And the reason why is because God will not show Himself until after people have faith in Him first. Therefore, had there not been anyone who believed Christ would come in the flesh, then Christ would not have come. Why? Because the coming of Christ was the witness, the evidence, and the proof that confirmed the faith of those who already believed in Him. So, if there is no faith there can be no witness.
In verse twelve Moroni tells us that faith is so important that if there is no faith among the children of men then there can be no miracles because miracles cannot be performed without faith. Earlier Moroni had explained that “the reason why [God] ceaseth to do miracle among the children of men is because they dwindle in unbelief and depart from the right way…O then, despise not and wonder not but hearken unto the words of the Lord… Doubt not.” (Mormon 9:20,27).
That is why Christ did not appear unto the Nephites until they had first demonstrated their faith in Him because His coming to them was a miracle. It was because of the faith of Alma and Amulek that their prison walls were able to tumble to the ground. Indeed, any one who as ever performed a miracle has done so only because of their faith in Christ, and that includes those who lived before Christ as well as those who live after Christ.
In verse seventeen Moroni tells us that it was because of their faith that the three Nephite disciples were able to obtain a promise that they should not taste of death, but they did not obtain that promise until after they had first demonstrated and proven their faith. This has always been the case because there has never been a time when any miracle has been performed among men until after they had first believed in the Son of God.
In verse twenty-two Moroni tells us that it was because of the faith of his ancient Nephite fathers that they were able to obtain the promise that their writings would some day come forth and be had again among their people through the Gentiles. And that was the very reason why the Lord, even Jesus Christ, commanded Moroni to write what he did.
But in verse twenty-three Moroni writes that he was troubled by this commandment because he was afraid that when the Gentiles read his words they would laugh and make fun of the things he had written. And the reason why he felt this way was because he thought he was weak in his writing skills. He bemoaned the fact that, although the Lord had made him mighty in speaking, that the Lord did not also make him mighty in writing.
When the Nephite prophets spoke, they did so with power because they had the Holy Ghost with them. However, in verse twenty-four Moroni laments that the Lord had only made it possible for his people to write but a small portion of the things they spoke because inscribing words onto plates fashioned out of gold was awkward for them. Therefore, Moroni felt that Nephite writings were not very powerful like those of the brother of Jared who was so mighty in writing that his words had an overpowering effect upon those who read them. As such, Moroni wished he too could write that way.
In verse twenty-five Moroni states that the spoken words of the Nephite prophets were so powerful and so great that they couldn’t be written down. Therefore, when they did try to put their words into writing, the weakness of their writing skills became apparent. They stumbled over how to say what they wanted to communicate. They fumbled to find just the right words to express their thoughts. As a result, they had a hard time with the placement of their words.
There are several interesting things we learn from Moroni’s admission. When we read the Book of Mormon, we tend to imagine the Nephite prophets sitting down and inscribing beautifully constructed words onto gold plates as though they just flowed from their pen. But, according to Moroni, just the opposite was true. The prophets agonized over the placing of their words, meaning, that they took careful thought of what they were going to say and how they were going to say it before they ever wrote it. One reason for this is because inscribing words on metal was an awkward process. Writing wasn’t an easy thing for them to do. Writing, for them, was a difficult job that involved a laborious, time-consuming process.
Furthermore, when inscribing words on metal they couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. Today, if we make a mistake, we just erase it and write it over again, but once you inscribe something in metal there is no way to correct it. Therefore, the Nephites had to get their words right the first time they wrote them.
And it was for these reasons that the Nephite prophets wrote only a very small portion of the things they spoke. And this bothered Moroni because when he reread his own words they didn’t seem to have the power nor the fullness of meaning that his spoken words had. It’s like seeing a beautiful mountain range or the gorgeous colors of the leaves in fall and wanting to capture that magnificent beauty on film. But, no matter what kind of a camera you use, the flat, two-dimensional picture you get always fails to provide the same grandeur that the original view provided. And Moroni felt the same way about his writing. Instead of capturing the power and majesty of his spoken word, his written words seemed flat and unimpressive. Therefore, he feared that when the Gentiles would read his words they would mock him for the things he had written, thinking they might sound foolish to them.
Earlier Mormon had expressed this same concern when he wrote, “If there be any faults [with my writing] they be the faults of men” (Mormon 8:17). Therefore, “condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him… If our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew… If we could have written in Hebrew behold ye would have no imperfection in our record” (Mormon 9:31-33).
However, in verse twenty-six we read that the Lord spoke to Moroni and told him not to worry about the weakness of his writing. He said, “Only fools engage in mocking others but if they do mock your writing, let them beware for some day it will be they who will mourn. My grace, which is my loving, tender kindness, is all that anyone needs. It is sufficient to overcome any kind of weakness or shortcoming. But, I give my grace only to those who are meek and humble before me. Therefore, do not worry about your writing inadequacies because the Gentiles will not be able to take advantage of you because of the lack of your writing skills.
“If men come unto me, I will show them what weaknesses they posses, because all men have them. Without weaknesses men would become proud and boastful, therefore, I give all men weaknesses in order to keep them humble. They can either become humble on their own as they recognize and admit their weaknesses and inadequacies, or they will be forced to become humble as their weaknesses and shortcomings become revealed to others. If people humble themselves before me, they need not worry about their weaknesses because my grace is all they will need. In fact, when people humble themselves before me and exercise faith in me, I will actually turn their weaknesses to their advantage. Your weak words, as you call them, will become powerful words to those who are humble because I will make them powerful.
“My servant Paul from Tarsus, was small in the sight of men. He was persecuted from within the church as well as from outside of the church. There were those who mocked him because he lacked eloquence of speech, but I will make him one of the most read and quoted apostles of the world despite his weaknesses. My servant Moses was slow of speech and yet, not withstanding his weakness, I have made him one of my greatest spokesmen. .
“Behold, do not worry that the Gentile shall mock your words because of the weakness of your writing, for I the Lord will show the Gentiles their weaknesses and I will show them that it is only through having faith, hope, and charity that they will be able to come unto me. I am the fountain of all righteous. I am the source from which all righteousness flows. Therefore, only those who come unto me can become righteous and they can only come unto me by faith.”
In verse twenty-nine we read that when Moroni heard these words he was comforted for he knew that God works among the children of men only according to their faith. Where there is no faith, God will perform no work among them. Therefore Moroni had faith that what God had told him would surely happen.
In verse thirty-two Moroni wrote that he remembered that the Lord had said He had prepared a house for all men in the mansions of His Father so that men might have a more excellent reason to have hope in a better world. But men must first have faith in that better world which God has prepared for them or they cannot receive it as their inheritance.
Then in verse thirty-three Moroni wrote that he also remembered that the Lord had said He loved the people of the world so much that He was even willing to lay down His life for them and then take it back up again just so He could prepare a place for them in the mansions of His Father. This love that Christ has for the children of men, Moroni refers to it as charity and, in verse thirty-four, he says that unless men have this same kind of charity they cannot inherit the place that Christ has prepared for them in the mansions of His Father. That is why the Lord said that He will test and prove the Gentiles to see whether they will have charity towards the weakness of Moroni’s writings. And if they do not, He will take from them the talents and blessings they have already received and give them to others so that their talents and blessing might become more abundant.
In verse thirty-six Moroni showed his great charity towards all of mankind by praying unto the Lord on behalf of the Gentiles that they might be blessed with charity. What makes this prayer so noteworthy is that Moroni was an Israelite, not a Gentile, and yet he still prayed for God to bless the Gentiles. What we see is that Moroni had a love for all men everywhere rather than just for his own people and he desired that all men, regardless of their nationality, would come to Christ and be worthy to inherit that better world Christ has prepared for those who believe in Him.
Yet, despite his prayer, in verse thirty-seven the Lord made an interesting comment. He said, “It doesn’t matter to me if the Gentiles have charity or not. What is important to me is that you have been faithful. Therefore, because of your faithfulness, your garments will be made spotlessly clean. And because you have acknowledged your weaknesses before me I will make you strong, insomuch that you shall sit down in the place that I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” This reference to being made strong doesn’t mean in a physical sense. What the Lord is telling Moroni is that he will become strong in the sense of becoming an exalted being, which is the definition of being a god. And, it goes without saying that all gods are “strong.”
In verse thirty-eight Moroni concludes his sermon and bids farewell to both the Gentiles and his own people whom he loves. But he also declares that we will all meet before the judgment-seat of Christ some day, where, at that time, all men will know that Moroni’s garments are free of the blood of their sins. On that day they will know that he, Moroni, had actually seen Jesus and that Jesus did indeed talk to him face to face, conversing with him in his own language just as two friends talk with each other and that Jesus plainly told him the things which he has written.
However, in verse forty he says that he wants us to know that what he has written is just a very small portion of the things he knows and that is only because of his weakness in writing. Even so, he recommends that those who read his words, as weak as they may be, seek for and find out about this man Jesus whom the prophets and apostles have written, and Moroni prays that the grace of God, the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which is He who bears witness of the Father and the Son, may abide with the reader forever.
It is interesting to note that although the Nephite prophets could only write very little of what they taught, and Mormon gave us only a small portion of what the Nephite prophets wrote, Joseph Smith did not translated all that were on the gold plates he received. A portion of those plates were sealed and he was not allowed to translate them. Thus, what we have today in the Book of Mormon is a very, very small portion of God’s word.
This then is another example of what Moroni was trying to teach us. As He has always done, God gives us a little and then tests our faith. And it is only after we have been true and faithful to what little God has given us, that He will then give us more, because without faith in God, He will do nothing among the children of men. This is the message Moroni taught concerning the doctrine of faith.
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