Google Analytics (invisible)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Talk: The Spirit of Christ

I am speaking today about the spirit of Christ, often referred to as the light of Christ. The spirit of Christ is a gift from our Father in Heaven. In Moroni 7:19 we learn,

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man [which is to say, mankind. So men and women], that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

There are two things I’d like to pull from this scripture and discuss today. First, the spirit of Christ is given to us that we may know good from evil. Second, the spirit of Christ is given to every man.

Let’s discuss the first topic. The spirit of Christ is given to us that we may know good from evil. Sounds a little like Jiminy Cricket, doesn’t it? Well, we’re not each given a cricket to help us know good from evil, but we are given a conscience. That is one of the main functions of the Spirit of Christ—it is our conscience.

So what? Why do we care? Why am I up here telling you all that you have a conscience? I hope you all already know that. So, how can knowing that you have the Spirit of Christ, to know good from evil, be applicable to your life? Why is this topic worthy of a sacrament talk?

In Doctrine and Covenants 93:38-39 we read:

Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

When we are born, all of us are innocent. We have perfect access to the spirit of Christ to know right from wrong. But as we grow and as we start to disobey, we allow Satan access to come and take away that light and truth. He slowly removes our access with every disobedient choice we make.

It’s easiest to think of sin in terms of murder, adultery, abuse and other big sins. We also think of sin in terms of lesser offenses such as not reading scriptures, not paying tithing, being mean to your brothers or sisters, etc. But we can sin in even smaller ways. James 4:17 teaches, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

How many times have you thought, “I know I should be doing X, but I just don’t want to?” I know I think it all the time. “I know I should clean up dinner, but I really just want to go read my book.” I know it is right, to keep my house a house of order; the scriptures teach me so. But far too often, despite knowing what is right, my natural man kicks in and I instead choose to be lazy.

Daniel K. Judd wrote an article for the Liahona about the Spirit of Christ. In there he discusses this concept of sin as knowing to do good and not doing it. He tells a story that describes it well.

My wife had asked if I would rock our baby Rachel to sleep. I knew I should, but I really wanted to watch the football game. I quickly settled on a compromise: I could take the baby into my room, watch the football game on the portable television, and rock her to sleep at the same time. A real win-win situation! I would miss the color screen, but what a small price to pay for being a good dad!
The problem came after about two minutes of watching the game. Rachel began to fuss. The thought came to my mind that if I turned the television off, walked with her, and sang to her, she might be soothed. I knew it was the right thing to do, but did I do it? No, I spent the next 30 minutes struggling to watch the game and rock Rachel, all the while resenting the fact that I couldn’t do what I wanted to!
While it is a little uncomfortable to admit, when I didn’t get up and walk with my child, I went against that which I knew was right, and that, in a word, is sin.

With every disobedient choice we make, whether it’s disobedience to a commandment or to our conscience, which is the spirit of Christ, we allow Satan to remove that light from our lives. If we want to bring ourselves back to that easy access of knowing right from wrong, we have to again start listening and doing those things we know to be right. Justification is our enemy. In Bro. Judd’s story, he justified his actions. He listed his justifications as (1) I’ve been working with difficult situations all day, so I need some time to myself; (2) My wife is much better suited to deal with babies than I am, and she should be doing this; (3) My wife doesn’t appreciate all I do, so it’s really unfair she would have me do this; and (4) I’m so tired; I need to sit down and relax. I’m sure all of those justifications seemed fair and just to him. But it did him no good. He still chose to disobey what he knew to be right, he started to distance himself from the light of Christ, and in so doing, started to drive a wedge between himself, his wife, and his duties as a father.

President Spencer W. Kimball stated: “There are many causes for human suffering—including war, disease, and poverty—and the suffering that proceeds from each of these is very real, but I would not be true to my trust if I did not say that the most persistent cause of human suffering, that suffering which causes the deepest pain, is sin—the violation of the commandments given to us by God. … If any of us wish to have more precise prescriptions for ourselves in terms of what we can do to have more abundant lives, all we usually need to do is to consult our conscience.”

Now have I depressed you all? I know I’d be thinking, “Well, shoot. Now I know I’m not perfect. I make choices like that every day. There’s no way I’ll ever make it back.” That is not the end of the story. Do not forget that our Father is a loving god whose work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. He provides ample opportunity to fix our mistakes, to do better, to repent. This is the whole point of the Plan of Salvation! Every time we choose to instead do what we know to be right, we work our way back. When we keep our sacrament covenants and repent of our sins, they are washed clean. Big sins and little.

But there are those who feel their sins cannot be wiped away so easily. Perhaps they feel they are so far removed from the spirit of Christ, because of their own choices and actions, that there is no way back. This is not true. No matter how far buried the spirit of Christ is in you, it is still there. Let’s look at King Lamoni as an example. You remember the story? Ammon goes on a mission to the Lamanites, gets captured, ends up a servant to the king and cuts off the arms of the bandits who are trying to kill the king’s sheep. Prior to Ammon’s arrival, the bandits usually managed to steal the sheep and the king would kill his servants for allowing the sheep to be stolen.

We usually focus on Ammon in this story. Let’s focus on King Lamoni instead. He had been raised his entire life by wicked men who had taught him that, as king, “whatsoever he did was right.” So if he killed his servants, then it was right. No biggie. But when Ammon cut off all the arms of the enemy bandits, Lamoni’s long-buried conscience kicked in. Alma 18:5 says, “Notwithstanding [King Lamoni and his father] believed in a Great Spirit, they supposed that whatsoever they did was right; nevertheless, Lamoni began to fear exceedingly, with fear lest he had done wrong in slaying his servants.”

Despite a lifetime of distancing himself from the Spirit of Christ, believing himself to be right in whatever choices he made, the Spirit of Christ was still inside of him. As the story continues and as Lamoni allows himself to act according to his conscience, he progresses closer and closer until he is prepared to be baptized and receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

If Lamoni, who slew untold numbers of servants simply because they displeased him, could repent and find his way back to recognizing the Spirit of Christ, then surely every one of us can as well. We are never too far gone.

On that same note, no one else is ever too far gone. Too often we judge other people’s future actions based on their past and pass judgment that they are past help. We believe that someone who has left the church clearly knew what they left and thus what’s the point of even trying to help them? We judge the homeless man out by Walmart. We judge everywhere we look.

One day I had a conversation with a non-LDS friend of mine on Facebook. His view was that all Muslims are evil. Why? Because they aren’t Christian. There is clearly no hope for them, he thought. This concept blew my mind. God will not punish his children simply because they never had the opportunity to learn. That’s why we have temple work—to give those people the opportunity to accept the gospel. We also send our missionaries all over the world, to bring people to Christ. Currently my sister-in-law is serving her mission in Cambodia where the majority of the people are Buddhist. We do not believe the Cambodian people to be without hope simply because they were born into a different religion.

This brings me to my second point. Why is it important to know that the Spirit of Christ is given to every person? Because it is important to know that everyone has the capability to know right from wrong. Everyone has the opportunity to be enlightened. My friend doesn’t understand this. Because he doesn’t understand, it is easy for him to pass judgment and to believe that non-Christians are simply evil. We cannot afford to pass that judgment on anyone. The first presidency is focused on Hastening the Work of Salvation. That is impossible to do if we do not understand that the Spirit of Christ is given to all men.

Throughout history we have seen non-Christians and non-LDS people alike enlightened through the spirit of Christ. In 1978 the First Presidency stated that great religious leaders “such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as the philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light … to enlighten whole nations.” Isn’t it interesting that God would choose to enlighten an entire non-Christian nation? Perhaps they were not ready for the entire truth, but they were ready for a portion. Why did he enlighten these men? Because He loved their people so much to want to give them more. Because he knew that because they had the spirit of Christ, they were capable of learning the truth and deciphering it from the lies in the world.

It’s not just religious leaders that God enlightens through the spirit of Christ, but also leaders, philosophers, scientists, artists, etc. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “Those who make these discoveries are inspired of God or they would never make them. The Lord gave inspiration to Edison, to Franklin, to Morse, to Whitney and to all of the inventors and discoverers, and through their inspiration they obtained the necessary knowledge and were able to manufacture and invent as they have done for the benefit of the world. Without the help of the Lord they would have been just as helpless as the people were in other ages.”

We, as confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are entitled to the constant companionship of the Spirit. But everyone in the entire world, past, present and future, is given the spirit of Christ, which prepares people to first receive the temporary witness of the Holy Ghost, and then the constant companionship. We need to stop judging people by their past and instead believe in their potential. Instead of judging based on what we see or think we see, we need to always give the benefit of the doubt, no matter their actions, no matter their religion, because they still have the spirit of Christ and there is always hope.

I testify that each of us has the spirit of Christ, that God loves every single one of us. I testify that there is always hope, no matter our situation in life, or the lives of others. I testify that we alone allow ourselves to be distanced from that gift of the spirit of Christ through sin, but through repentance and obedience can be brought back to enlightenment. And I do so in the name…

No comments: