Monday, August 1, 2016

Mormon speaks to those who don’t believe in Christ

1 And now, I speak also concerning those who do not believe in Christ.
2 Behold, will ye believe in the day of your visitation—behold, when the Lord shall come, yea, even that great day when the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, yea, in that great day when ye shall be brought to stand before the Lamb of God—then will ye say that there is no God?
3 Then will ye longer deny the Christ, or can ye behold the Lamb of God? Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?
4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
5 For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.
6 O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day. (Mormon 9:1-6)

When I have read this in the past, I have mentally been prone to say, “Yeah, you tell ‘em, Mormon! Stick it to those atheists and agnostics!”   

However, I eventually came to the interesting point of wondering how atheists and agnostics would have a chance to read Mormon’s words.  I suppose the Lord can bring about those circumstances somehow, but it is more likely that Mormon meant to address unbelievers in the church itself. 

After all, Latter-day Saints have the book and plenty of opportunity to read it.  And it is true that no matter what the dispensation, there have been people part of the church who go through the motions, hollowed-shells of performance without faith.  Mormon certainly would have seen far too much of that in his day, as he watched the Nephites (who were supposed to be Christians) self-destruct into depravity.  And he’s desperate to say something to help these people, to shake them out of apathy and show them the danger they are in.

In verse 2, Mormon asks the unbelieving reader whether they will persist in their unbelief at the day they are brought to stand before God to be judged.  It might be tempting for some to disbelieve in the judgment as well as Christ, but Mormon’s experience precludes that.  Mormon is an ancient apostle of Christ, one who has seen the resurrected Christ Himself. He knows there is a Christ, and he knows there will be a final judgment.  The whole reason there is a Christ is to make a way for that final judgment to happen and to make a way to escape the penalties of sin at that day.

So, the unbelieving reader must exert themselves to imagine a day of final judgment, of standing before God. It is something made even more inescapable and inevitable than death.

And what if the unbelieving reader persists in not believing in God until that day when they are actually resurrected and come face to face with God in judgment?  Well, then it is too late to prepare. Because then you’re there and there’s no time left.  The preparing has to happen before you come face to face with God. So to prepare, one must believe that event will happen and get ready.

In verse 3, Mormon asks the unbelieving reader to imagine whether they would feel comfortable in the presence of God once they realize that they had broken, scorned, and avoided all the commandments God gave.  Mormon points out that if the unbelieving reader has always broken and abused the scorned God’s laws, they will know they have sinned. That knowledge will make it very miserable for them to face God, and they’ll be more comfortable with the damned.  

Clearly, the takeaway is, don’t abuse God’s laws, even when having a hard time with them. They are there for a reason, even if that reason doesn’t make sense.  They are there to discipline us to become more like God. They are exercises adapted to the capacity of a mortal, physical body to allow the body to experience spiritual things and develop divine characteristics.
Verse 5 tells us that when an unbeliever is brought face to face with God and comprehends how holy and just God is and then compares him or herself, that comparison will be very painful and kindle an unquenchable fire of misery. 

This isn’t going to be an all-at-once comprehension, but a questioning and reporting process in which the unbeliever’s every excuse will be shown to be hollow and insincere.  The unbeliever will see and honestly acknowledge the incredible efforts Christ made to reach them.  They can no longer take refuge in self-deception; they will be brought to comprehend and assent to all the mercy and long-suffering of God.  It will be understood that Christ know all their pain and sin and could have and would have healed them, but the unbeliever would not even try to accept the gift.

This is all very uncomfortable to contemplate, but the happy thing is the unbeliever can come out of this kind of thought exercise realizing they still have time to prepare in this life.

So what’s unbeliever to do?  Verse 6 gives Mormon’s best answer. At the very least, the unbeliever must realize they have to be cleansed from sin. Mormon advises the unbeliever to turn to the Lord and pray mightily in the name of Jesus that perhaps they might be found spotless and pure at that judgment day.  At the very least, pray that you’ll be found clean in the end.  Pray that every day, even if you can’t muster the belief in anything else. I notice Mormon gives no guarantees; He makes no judgments about what the results will be because God is the judge. But the fact that He advises that course of action shows that if an unbeliever does that they will be spiritually better off than if they did nothing at all.  Raw repentance and prayer counts for something in the eternities, even if we don’t know what.

Faith in Christ is one of the first principles of the gospel.  Jesus said He was the vine and we are the branches (see John 15:5). Yet faith in Christ is easy to forget among all our efforts to keep the commandments, which means we are all at risk of becoming one of the unbelievers.  We are prone to wander.

For me, this reminds me how important faith in Christ is. I feel my faith could be improved.
I hope you will join me in an experiment to see how our lives can be made better by living through our days and solving our problems with a conscious (rather than merely subconscious) faith in Christ.