After Love, Then What?

Moroni’s emphasis is on meekness which does not assume we are already in possession of something we should be prayerfully seeking with all the energy of our hearts.

I was reading the First Presidency Message for September preparing for my Home teaching lesson this month. Something about it made me read it several times before I could put my finger on what befogged me about it…

Uchtdorf’s message implies that feeling compassion and love for others and declaring our love for God is what entails charity, the pure love of Christ (referencing Moroni 7:46-47), and then asks what do we do after that?

I believe that the charity Moroni is speaking of is more than a declaration of our love for God. It’s more than our feelings of compassion and love for others. When Moroni implores for us to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that we may be filled with this love” (v 48), he is telling us that this is a love that is bestowed upon true followers of Christ that they may become “sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him.” In other words, this is a gift bestowed by God, not a simple declaration from our mouth that we posses it.

Moroni teaches us that our obligation to God is to exercise faith (v 37-39), that we may obtain a hope in Christ (v 40-43), so that we may become possessors of charity, a pure love of Christ (v 44-48), a fruit sweet and who’s beauty and whiteness exceeds the whiteness of the driven snow (1 Ne 8:11; 11:8) which is the greatest of the gifts of God (1 Ne 15:36). Moroni’s emphasis is on meekness (v 39, 43-44) which does not assume we are already in possession of something we should be prayerfully seeking with all the energy of our hearts.


What if what is meant by perfection is to have God declare in his own voice that our sins are forgiven?

I recently had the opportunity to review the draft of a book written by a friend. The book addressed the topic of perfection. I gave the following feedback:

I’ve read through most of your book and have enjoyed your insights and perspective.

You mentioned something in Chapter 4 that made me pause and reflect on the idea of perfection. It happens to be a subject that I have given a lot of thought to recently.
You wrote,
“Since there is no way we can become completely perfect in this life we can become perfect in obedience to God’s laws and commandments and to participate in all His ordinances. I’m sure this is what He meant when He commanded us to be perfect.” (pg 51)

I think this is a good way to assess the difficult conundrum of reconciling the impossible commandment to be perfect. Do you mind if I offer some of my own insights as I have pondered this same question?

What if what is meant by perfection is to have God declare in his own voice that our sins are forgiven? Is that something that is possible to achieve in this life? If no unclean thing can enter God’s presence, then it stands to reason He must invariably forgive sins (making a person clean and pure) before a person is permitted to see God.

Other questions related to this include, What if becoming pure and having our sins forgiven is what is meant by “salvation”? (see Lectures on Faith, Lecture 7 para 9) What if the greatest mystery is to know God (D&C 76:118, John 17:3)? What if being redeemed, like the brother of Jared was in Ether 3:13, is the very experience that the scriptures and prophets are trying to tell us we need to do in order to be redeemed (see also Mormon 9:13)? What if this is an event that is intended we are to experience in this life (Alma 34:32), or, in the language of scripture “in the flesh”? (D&C 76:117-118)

In other words, what my line of reasoning is alluding to is that perfection is part of what happens when we receive the Second Comforter (D&C 88:3-4), which is something the scriptures and prophets teach we should seek for “in the flesh”, or in other words, in this life (D&C 76:117-118). On the subject of becoming like God, Joseph Smith said, “I want you to know, that God, in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming his name, is not trifling with you or me.” (TPJS, p 346)

I’m not aware of anywhere in scripture that says we cannot become perfect in this life. But there are scriptures that appear to allude to the possibility of becoming perfect in this life (here are some you reference at end of ch 4).

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:13)

“Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected” (D&C 67:13)

“For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2)**

Again in chapter 9 of your book (pg 97), “How many of us in this world have obtained perfection? If we haven’t, then we are living in a state of sin because we have not attained perfection as God has commanded. To repent of this sin we must constantly strive to overcome our imperfections and be in a continuous state of complete repentance.”

I agree that if we have not obtained perfection yet, we are living in a state of sin. I wonder, however, if constantly striving to perfect our natural man through a continuous state of repentance is the process that the scriptures are telling us will get us there.

Joseph Smith taught that “Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God.” (TPJS pg 148)


It’s not repentance that is displeasing to God, but the idea of continually turning back to transgression that is offensive. If we set aside the negative connotations of pain, punishment and penalty (from French and Latin roots) that we associate with the word repentance, and instead turn to the Greek root, we get a definition that means a change of mind, a reorientation, a fundamental transformation of outlook. Or as Hugh Nibley said, “Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting he is a righteous man. There is hope for him. And no matter how good he has been all his life, if he is not repenting, he is a wicked man. The difference is which way you are facing. The man on the top of the stairs facing down if much worse off than the man on the bottom step who is facing up. The direction we are facing, that is repentance; and that is what determines whether we are good or bad.” (Approaching Zion, pg. 301-302)

When we turn to face God, he will reveal to us what we need to do: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” (Phil. 3:12)

Joseph Smith confirms this, “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (TPJS pg 151)

So, what I understand so far is that the way to perfection is to first turn and face God (repent), and then allow God to direct me by following the impressions of the spirit until they become clearer and more sure as I follow them. Is this what it means to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God? (Matt 4:4)

King Benjamin teaches us that by not following these promptings, we are rebelling against God: “And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—
I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.” (Mosiah 2:36-37)

There is also the tricky matter about the natural man. This is a topic that is too much to elaborate on in a simple letter, but here is some insight I’ve gained in my study. We know the natural man is an enemy to God (Mosiah 3:19). In our attempts at becoming perfect we often find ourselves trying to perfect the natural man. In our attempts to force the natural man to be better and better, we invariably falter, playing a game of one step forward and two steps back. But Paul tells us not to perfect the natural man, but to crucify him (Gal 5:24). We need to do him in. How do we do this?

Again, King Benjamin teaches us the way in Mosiah 4. I could not help but notice the parallels between the petition of the people’s prayer with the Evangelical/Born Again Christian approach to a religious experience. Consider the words of the prayer of the people of King Benjamin in verse 2, “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

Is this not a confession of belief coupled with a request for forgiveness? Do Latter Day Saint’s belittle this approach?

We claim that much more is needed, including certain authoritative rites and ordinances. Ultimately, that may be part of God’s plan, and certainly Christ’s own example informs us that baptism was required even of Him “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt 3:13-15) But the ordinances are signposts that provide an outward proof of inward change. Here, in the account of King Benjamin, we have the focus entirely on the inward change. This is the “weighter” part of the process. Christ condemned those who observed the ordinances, but failed to exercise mercy and faith; the inward target of the outward observance (see e.g. Matt. 23:23). I think there is some considerable peril in being too proud of our ordinances. They have displaced the inward, weightier part of the gospel in past dispensations, and certainly can do so again.
The next verse records the effect of this inward change of heart in the people of King Benjamin. It is the universal evidence which comes from God to all those who find saving grace. “
The Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.

What better description is there of overcoming the natural man than to have the Spirit of the Lord work “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:2)

Finally, no discussion of the topic of perfection can be complete without consulting the seventh lecture in Joseph Smith’s Lectures on Faith. Many fascinating insights are given in that short lecture.

Well, I’ve made this letter too long and must close. But I have appreciated reading your book. The gospel is exciting and I love the new discoveries that come by study and prayer.

God bless,

Jay Ball

**[This scripture appears to be in reference to having no accuser as Joseph Smith stated, “If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins.” (History of the Church, 4:445)]

How to Last Forever

Only two things in your life have the potential to endure forever.


Only two things in your life have the potential to endure forever. Your words and your posterity. The famous structures made of marble and stone where Paul taught anciently in Rome can now be seen crumbling and in decay, but the words he taught there have remained with us through generations and we still profit from them today.

Here is my attempt at a simple parable. (If it gets preserved maybe it will have power to endure for generations (smile).

Once upon a time there were two men. The first was a man with great wisdom and power who retained his knowledge and did not share with his children. We have no knowledge or record of him because there was none left after he passed away to give account of his greatness and to this day he remains nameless and unknown. The second was a man with a only a portion of wisdom and power, which he shared freely with his children. They built upon what he shared and taught their own children. This wisdom has been shared and passed down through generations and now nations honor this man’s name.

Tolerance and Disagreement

It’s not criticism and open critical thought that Christ condemned when he taught among the Nephites, but contentions and disputations. There is a difference.

Two days ago I had a conversation with Warren Puckett, an affiliate and friend to Shawn McCraney and his CAMPUS church. Shawn hosts Heart of the Matter weekly ministry ( where he has become famous for his efforts to help Mormons leave their faith and come unto Christ. I took occasion to read Shawn’s recent book, Knife to a Gunfight and was impressed with the books message that among Christians “we do not need to divide.” and “The Spirit of Christ that abides in all who are His plainly suggests that we can remain accepting of each other while differing greatly in opinion, praxis and thought.” (pg 224).

What impressed me about my conversation with Warren (who now has begun his own online ministry, Breaking Bread with Warren Puckett) was how this group lives what it preaches. Warren related to me how he strongly disagrees with Shawn’s preterist views (ibid ch 14, pg 139). This struggle became so great that felt he needed to disassociate himself from Shawn and the CAMPUS church. As he poured out his heart to God about the matter he didn’t receive any confirmation about preterism, but nevertheless, as Warren put it, “I felt impressed of God to stay with Shawn because he is definitely a brother in Christ regardless of our differences in understanding doctrinal points. I love God and I love Shawn and the beautiful thing about the gospel is basically those two things. 1) Love God and 2) Love people! All the law and the prophets hang on THOSE TWO THINGS! If the focus is on those commandments of God, division can and will be replaced with harmony in the midst of disagreement!

Shawn does not require or insist that Warren agree with his views in order to feel included. All are welcome, despite their views. I feel confident that even as much as the group disagrees with Mormonism, one who desires to fellowship with them, even though he may believe in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, would be welcome there. Contrast this with those in the Christian community who applauded Shawn’s success in bringing Mormons out from the LDS church, but when Shawn disagreed with their Trinitarian ideas they declared him a heretic.

We should ask ourselves, as Latter Day Saints can we be as openly accepting of contrary views into our midst as Warren is with Shawn McCraney? Or are we more like the Zoramites standing upon our Rameumptoms declaring, “Holy God,… we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children… and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee… And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen. (Alma 31:16-18)

I’m reminded that it was not uncommon for early church leaders to disagree and debate over questions of doctrine. Brigham Young and Orson Pratt often had strong differing views. Did these disagreements destroy or harm the church? Clearly not. Brigham Young recognized that “’Mormonism’ includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel.” (Brigham Young, DBY, 3)

All of us understand things differently, and in some cases more completely as a subject is studied. Even the same individual will understand things differently over time. As we study in good faith and confidence before God we may believe in something that we will change our understanding about later. I think that is inevitable as we progress.

Christ taught the Nephites, “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention… Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Ne 11:29-30)

It’s not criticism and open critical thought that Christ condemned, but contentions and disputations. There is a difference. Consider this. First, tolerance requires disagreement. Insisting on agreement is not tolerance, but it’s opposite. Second, Christ clearly teaches against disputations and contentions among His followers. Therefore, is it possible to have disagreement without disputations and contentions?

From a recent news release, “President Thomas S. Monson made a plea during general conference… for more religious understanding: ‘I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours.’” (Respect for Diversity of Faiths)

It appears Joseph Smith agrees:

“I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. (DHC 5:340)

As did Hugh B Brown:

“I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.” Hugh B. Brown, Speech at BYU, March 29, 1968.]

We should seek to be more tolerant in our views without being contentious. As Rumi once wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”


Questions. To Ask, or Not to Ask, That is the Question.

A question mark opens, the period closes… It’s only when we ask questions that we get answers.

On July 29, 2013 I got an email from a friend. He wrote:

“An interesting thought.
‘The trouble with us today, there are too many of us who put question marks instead of periods after what the Lord says. I want you to think about that. We shouldn’t be concerned about why he said something, or whether or not it can be made so. Just trust the Lord. We don’t need to try to find the answers or explanations. We shouldn’t try to spend time explaining what the Lord didn’t see fit to explain. We spend useless time when we do this.’”

I responded:

Where is this quote from? I actually gave this quite some thought.

I found these comments interesting because I’ve always considered it the other way around.


A question mark opens, the period closes. I think we are damned more by putting an exclamation point or period at the end of statements instead of question marks. A period makes it a statement, dot, the end. No more to be said, no more to learn, no more divine wisdom to be gained.

It’s only when we ask questions that we get answers.

Questions are what has brought about some of the most profound revelations of salvation on record. And often the answer to the question asked was only an introduction to much greater revealed wisdom. Some examples: Joseph Smith, first vision, what church to join? (JS History 1:10-20). Nephi, asked to see what his father saw (1 Nephi ch 11 & 12). Brother of Jared, how do I light these vessels? (Ether 2:22-25 and ch 3).

Some say we should not ask deeper questions and delve too deep into the mysteries.

“God has revealed everything necessary for our salvation. We should teach and dwell on the things that have been revealed and avoid delving into so-called mysteries. My counsel to teachers in the Church, whether they instruct in wards and stakes, Church institutions of higher learning, institutes of religion, seminaries, or even as parents in their homes, is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Deep Roots,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 77)

Note – Wirthlin’s counsel “is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.” which, incidentally teach us to search for the mysteries.

Nephi warns us (in 2 Nephi 28:29-30), addressing Latter Day Saints (or “Zion”, see v24), wo to those who “have enough” and need no more. “For unto him that recieveth I will give more and to those who have enough shall be taken away that they have.”

Is modern day “Zion” guilty of feeling like we “have enough”?

Alma tells us that by NOT seeking the mysteries we can be taken captive by the devil and led down to destruction:

“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:9-11)

I believe the reason Elder Wirthlin counsels us not to delve too deep into the mysteries in our teaching is because no one can teach the mysteries except God. However, it is clear that the scriptures admonish us to seek them.

I’ve rambled too much, but personally, I’ve found asking questions while I read God’s words in scripture has led me to much greater understanding than had I not.

My friend responded that the quote was from Harold B Lee. I looked it up, here’s more of the quote in context:

“Now, there is one thing that I think we should all be mindful of. I was with a group of missionaries in the temple one day. A question was asked by one of the sisters about the Word of Wisdom, concerning the promise made that if one would keep the Word of Wisdom he should run and not be weary and should walk and not faint. And she said, ‘How could that promise be realized if a person were crippled? How could he receive the blessing that he could run and not be weary, and walk and not faint, if he were crippled?’

“I answered her, ‘Did you ever doubt the Lord? The Lord said that.’

“The trouble with us today, there are too many of us who put question marks instead of periods after what the Lord says. I want you to think about that. We shouldn’t be concerned about why he said something, or whether or not it can be made so. Just trust the Lord. We don’t try to find the answers or explanations. We shouldn’t try to spend time explaining what the Lord didn’t see fit to explain. We spend useless time.

“If you would teach our people to put periods and not question marks after what the Lord has declared, we would say, “It is enough for me to know that is what the Lord said.”
Harold B Lee, Admonitions for the Priesthood of God – Ensign Jan. 1973