Notes for my writing

This blog is made up of notes on the gospel as found in the only true and living church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes notes that are either excerpts from or ideas for books I either have in draft or may yet write.

Monday, February 22, 2016

On the scripture stating that the Lord gives men weakness that they may be humble

I occasionally hear a horrible misunderstanding of the scripture:

Ether 12: 27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Certainly, we take on the flesh, and we must war against it. But I do not like to hear a man taking his own failings and then using Ether 12:27 to blame them on the Lord, and to muse aloud about why the Lord gave them that particular weakness. I have heard such words more than once, to be sure. Such talk is a complete misunderstanding of the scripture. Each man's sins are his own. When we give way to the adversary on some matter, then his influence in our life on that matter becomes more potent and this can lead to a pattern of misbehavior if we don't fight to right it. But to take that pattern of misbehavior and blame it on God, saying it is a weakness God gave us, is completely wrong. We gave ourselves the weakness by surrendering to temptation. Until then, it was no weakness. The more frequently or more severely we gave in, the greater a weakness it became.

We brought moral strengths and weaknesses with us into mortality, just as we will into the spirit world when we leave this life.

D&C 130:18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

The Lord does not give men weakness in doing right, that they will be humble and come unto him. It is a false idea that we can blame our moral weaknesses, our weakness toward sin, on our God. It is not that sense in which he gives us weakness.

What sort of weakness is being discussed when Ether 12:27 was written? Was it moral weakness? No. Here is the verse with some context.

Ether 12: 23 And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;
24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.
25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
26 And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

The topic at hand was the weakness of mortal power to do things. It was not the weakness of mortals in doing right. We make plans and they turn out to be folly. We try to accomplish something and it falls apart. We are subject to disease and suffering. We have but the power of mortal men. And that weakness is meant to be humbling.

If one man does worse deeds in mortality than another, it was not because God gave him greater weakness, or gave him weakness on great moral issues such as chastity. On matters of right and wrong, our sins are our own. Just as some men grew to be spiritual giants in premortality, others chose not to be. Just as some men choose to be spiritual giants in mortality, some men choose not to be. And if we find we are not satisfied with our behavior here, we can change it. We have agency and can choose a different direction any day we please, either for better or for worse. 

Now in those verses the Lord says sis grace is sufficient for all men who will humble themselves. He can transform us through his grace. He can make weak things become strong unto them. Through the Holy Ghost he can accomplish good works that man, working by himself cannot accomplish. That was the topic at hand when the scripture was given. Moroni wanted to save the souls of men, but beheld that he found it difficult to write with the power he needed. But the Lord's grace is sufficient for those who humble themselves before him. And the result, those parts of the Book of Mormon written by Moroni, is certainly spiritually powerful. Almost certainly, as we have no reason to doubt Moroni's dissatisfaction with his own ability to write his meaning, some of the grace that was manifest came in the translation by Joseph Smith, who knew Moroni personally, and cast Moroni's writings into english by means of the Urim and Thummim. Certainly God helped him with the placing of Moroni's words, casting them into English with much of the truth, power, and meaning that Moroni meant to convey.

And the Lord can, by his grace, his merciful and loving gifts, make weak things become strong to those who seek to save the souls of his children. He can even make those who do humble themselves "strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father." We have no power, as mortals, to do such a thing. But by his grace we can be made even able to receive such marvelous things as that.

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