Friday, February 26, 2016

Laying hold on every good thing

I’ve been studying Moroni 7 recently (a talk of Mormon's which Moroni recorded) and re-examining my assumptions about what some things meant. It’s been rather instructive.

19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.
20 And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing? (Moroni 7:19-20)

When I read this, the first thing I noticed was the exhortation to search diligently in the light of Christ to know good from evil. This seemed a little odd to me because I never thought of knowing good and evil as requiring diligent searching.  I have generally been one to make snap judgments. Things seem pretty obvious.

But thinking more deeply, I realize that no, that discernment between good and evil is not always as easy as it looks. I may only get one side of the story, or I may not get enough information about either side. Plus, there is so much of what we call spin and even outright deception in the world that appearances are not always trustworthy.  Evil slings mud at good to try to turn people away from it.  Maybe there is a lot more misinformation out there than truth.  So maybe it does require diligent searching to tell good from evil.

The next part I was drawn to is this phrase Mormon used—“every good thing”—as he encourages the Saints of his day to lay hold on it.  Just what does he mean by laying hold on every good thing?  I think I must have a very materialistic perspective because for the longest time I took it for granted he meant tangible goods or good experiences.  And that sounds rather overwhelming to have to do that.

But what has challenged that interpretation is Elder Oaks’ talk “Good, Better, and Best.” Elder Oaks taught we should focus on the best things, not merely good things. So it first made me wonder if Elder Oaks’ teaching superseded Mormon’s because it is more applicable to our modern circumstances of abundance and glut. But I started to realize that maybe my definition “every good thing” was off somehow, and perhaps there was a way Elder Oaks and Mormon harmonized instead of conflicting.

(By the way, I also noticed that “every good thing” and variations of it were all over this and the next eight verses. It is obviously that is what Mormon wants to emphasize.)

So I went looking for things that Mormon considered fit his definition of “every good thing.” The first two things that stuck out to me were v26 and 33.

“…And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be done unto you.” (v26, emphasis added)

I started to wonder if this meant it would be done for us or done to us. Having things done for us is God acting to change our circumstances, but having things done to us is God changing us for the better, with our permission. It suggests “every good thing” includes positive changes.

“And Christ had said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” (v33, emphasis added)

This tells us that another good thing to lay hold on is the power from Christ to do what He tells us to do and to use our agency to do other good acts that we decide on our own need doing.

Then I noticed v22. (It’s kind of funny how I have to jump around to notice bits and fit them together.)

For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing. (v22, emphasis added)

For a long time when I read that, for some reason I would always first associate "every good thing" with inventions and scientific advances because I’ve been taught to see all those things as inspirations from God to push His work along. That’s what “in Christ should come every good thing” made me think of.

But this time I realized that true as it is, that is not the tenor of the verse. The verse is focused on the foreknowledge and revelation of God about Christ. It’s talking about “every good thing” as exemplified by Christ. It’s character traits. Christ gained every good character trait so He could help us gain them too.

And then I noticed other good things we can acquire, which were scattered over the rest of the chapter, so I started making a list of all I found.

Good things men can lay hold on:
--change of character (v26)
--every good character trait (v22)
--power to do good things (v33)
--miracles (v27)
--salvation (v36)
--angelic ministry (v29-30)
--prophetic ministry (v23,25)
--power of the Holy Ghost (v36)
--mercy Christ has the right to bestow (v27)
--faith, hope, and charity (v40-44)

All of these are intangible good things, so they can’t be bought. They have to be prayed for and worked for. They all require faith in Christ.

Odds are everyone could use something on that list today.  Which means we all have opportunities to experiment on the word, exercise our faith in Christ, and pray for what we need.  Let’s take that opportunity today and begin to lay hold on every good thing.