Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Virtue Opens Heaven’s Views

August 24, 2014
Michelle Cox

The prophet Joseph Smith said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue.”

Virtue might be most quickly linked in our minds to modesty or chastity, however, virtue is even more than these.  The Preach My Gospel manual defines virtue as “a pattern of thought [or] behavior based on high moral standards.”  I’ve found that link to our thoughts very interesting.  Virtue describes the condition of our hearts and minds – and is also a means for transforming us and opening up access to God’s power.

Mark chapter 5 describes a moment during Jesus’ mortal ministry when the hem of his robe was touched by a woman who had been very ill for 12 years and was seeking healing from him.  Verse 30 describes Jesus “immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him.”  Also in Luke chapter 6, it is recorded that “the whole multitude sought to touch him; for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.”  These brief accounts seem to say that virtue is synonymous with divine power.

Why are we here on this earth?  Are we here to just trudge along and get by?  Just be as good as we can?  Moses 1:39 quotes the Lord saying, “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  Therefore, we are here to be fundamentally changed; to progress from imperfect beings into something so magnificent that we can comfortably look our Heavenly Father in the face and live in His presence, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, being “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

What does virtue have to do with it?  Quite a lot.  In order to succeed in this life – to succeed in the way that would bring eternal joy – we look to the One who overcame the world, the Savior Jesus Christ.  His virtue healed, blessed, and glorified.  His virtue served others, reached out to the lonely and the sick.  And, most importantly, his virtue observed every law and commandment of God.

The Book of Mormon teaches us that virtue leads to charity, which is the pure love of Christ, an eternal love that brings eternal blessings (Moroni 7:48).  Psalms 24:4-5 teaches us who will receive this honor, “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”

How else is virtue essential to our mortal journey?  2 Peter 1:3-4 open up another aspect of virtue.   The passage reads, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” 

Virtue unlocks divine power in our lives, as well as “great and precious promises.”  We gain access to the healing, forgiving power of Jesus Christ.  We become qualified to participate in God’s work as his servants and missionaries.  Doctrine and Covenants 4:5-6 lists characteristics of those who are called to the work, “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.  Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”  And back to 2 Peter 1:5, the apostle admonishes, “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge.”

Why does knowledge seem to be linked to virtue?  2 Peter 1:8 explains that if these wholesome qualities “be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  By embracing virtue, we become fertile ground for knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ.

In Doctrine and Covenants 121:45-46 we learn even more. The Lord lovingly commands us, “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.  The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion.”  The image is clear:  when our thoughts are carefully guarded and tended to with virtue,  the doctrine of the priesthood (its keys, authority, power, callings, responsibilities and duties) will be pure and refreshing to our souls.

Without virtue, we lose access to this knowledge of Jesus Christ, his doctrine, and his plan.  We weaken our connection to the Holy Ghost, whose role in the Godhead is to confirm truth to us through thoughts in our minds and feelings in our hearts.  Therefore, our minds must be unfettered by the unvirtuous things of the world.  Modern-day apostle, Jeffery R. Holland, simply promised, “The promptings of the Holy Ghost will always be sufficient for our needs if we keep to the covenant path,” which includes taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, remembering him, and keeping his commandments.

Doesn’t that make us stop and consider what might impact our ability to access this key prerequisite of virtue?  Of all the millions of books, movies, videos, magazines, songs, games, etc, that there are in the world, there is an urgent need to “bridle all your passions” (Alma 38:12) as the Book of Mormon says, and to “cleave unto [the Lord] with all your heart” (D&C 11:19).

Consuming anything that is unvirtuous puts us on risky ground.  The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

If we are to be able to understand the things of God, and not discount them as foolishness, and love His doctrines and willingly keep all of his commandments – then virtue is key.

How do we know if we’re on the right track?  Simply, we will love the things of God.  Doctrine and Covenants 88:40 explains, “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light.” We will also have no desire for sin.  In the Book of Mormon, a people who were converted unto the Lord exclaimed, “Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

What can we do when we falter?  Elder Holland lovingly invites, “Claim the promises of the Savior of the world.  Ask for the healing balm of the atonement for whatever may be troubling you. … Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you.”  The voice of the Lord, Himself, beckons to us, “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (Mosiah 26:30).

When we may feel bleak and broken, remember: there’s a man who died for usHe suffered for our sins.  He allowed himself to take on the sins of all the world so that you and I, all of us, can be made clean if we take action.  “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;  But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;  Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—  Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.  Wherefore, I command you again to repentLearn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.  I am Jesus Christ; I came by the will of the Father, and I do his will.” (D&C 19:15-20, 23-24).  “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27).

With the loving and eager help of the Lord, we can maintain the path of virtue as it leads us to the happiness and fulfillment that awaits us.

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