“But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
“Wherefore, take heed my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
“For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every things 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” (Moro. 7:13-17).
More than once in the past week I’ve heard a member of the Church voice concern about the message of repentance. The concern is expressed more or less as follows:
Unless the call to repentance comes from a leader of the Church, we as members of the Church have no right to share the message of repentance with one another, especially if 1) those with whom we share that message are not members of our own family over which we preside, or 2) are in a position of authority or office over you in the Church.
The message of repentance is from God. It is part of “the doctrine of the kingdom,” and we have been commanded to teach it to “one another” (D&C88:77). It “inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ.” The scriptures are nothing to us if they are not an invitation to repent, and follow the path taken by those who have pierced the veil. That’s been the message of God from the beginning, and the message of all the prophets.
The Book of Mormon’s first story is about a man who listened to the message of repentance when it was offered to him and he and his family were blessed for it (1 Ne. 1). He was also persecuted for teaching that message. He ended up receiving covenants from God to the blessing of his posterity in the future.
What is it about a man or a woman that is offended at this message? What influence has crept into her heart to cause such disdain for that which is ordained of God?
In effect, what those people are arguing is that members of the Church have only the right to focus on the kind scriptures, and not on the rest of the unkind ones telling us to repent and return to Christ (i.e. “the doctrine of the kingdom”); unless that message is directed at others who are less worthy, who actually need the message, who are not members. You may have heard before that “it becometh every man who hath been [warmed] to [warm] his neighbor.” That’s nice, but it’s not what the scripture says (D&C 88:81), and the changed version is so typical of our attitude.
Wilford Woodruff, while serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, recorded:
“Joseph the Seer arose in the power of God; reproved and rebuked wickedness before the people, in the name of the Lord God. He wished to say a few words to suit the condition of the general mass, and then said:
“’I shall speak with authority of the Priesthood in the name of the Lord God. …Notwithstanding this congregation profess to be Saints, yet I stand in the midst of all [kinds of] characters and classes of men. If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses, for if we are not drawing towards God in principle, we are going from Him and drawing towards the devil. Yes, I am standing in the midst of all kinds of people.
“’Search your hearts, and see if you are like God. I have searched mine, and feel to repent of all my sins.
“’We have thieves among us, adulterers, liars, hypocrites. If God should speak from heaven, He would command you not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to covet, nor deceive, but be faithful over a few things. …Is not God good? Then you be good; if He is faithful, then you be faithful. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and seek for every good thing. The Church must be cleansed, and I proclaim against all iniquity’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 72).
“You must be innocent, or you cannot come up before God: if we would come before God, we must keep ourselves pure as He is pure. The devil has great power to deceive; he will so transform things as to make one gape at those who are doing the will of God. …Iniquity must be purged out from the midst of the Saints; then the veil will be rent, and the blessings of heaven will flow down – they will roll down like the Mississippi river” (ibid.).
If a message that you read or hear inspires you to worship God and work righteousness, it is of God. If it persuades you otherwise, the message is not of God.
Unfortunately, because of pride, many people we read about in the scriptures rejected the message of repentance when it was offered to them, precisely because they refused to believe the message pertained to them. The message angered them. As angry as they became, it may have been easy to convince themselves the message couldn’t have been from God, because God’s message will always make you feel good. Is that true?
I wonder how the Lord’s message to Martin Harris made him feel when he said:
“And let him repent of his sins, for he seeketh the praise of the world” (D&C 58:39).
Martin Harris could have chosen to be angry because of the message, and insisted to Joseph that the message couldn’t have been from God, because it didn’t make him feel good. Or, he could prayerfully search inside himself and ask if the message really came from God. Because Martin Harris was an honest and sincere man, he probably recognized that the truth of the message was what made him uncomfortable, not its falseness. The message invited him to repent and alter his course. It persuaded him “to believe in Christ.”
The humble always accept the message of repentance. Repentance is a reality to the humble, because they are penitent. They accept the message and preach it because they have “tasted of his love” by their repentance and faith in Christ, and they desire all to receive it (Mosiah4:10-12; 1 Ne. 8:10-18).
If you hear a message preached that you believe in your heart was of God, but the sister sitting next to you tells you she felt otherwise, you should be willing to trust the Spirit that invites you to worship God, and not the sister who would detract from that Spirit.
If a brother teaches you something that does not “persuade to believe in Christ,” then you are under no obligation to believe his teaching, regardless of his office. Truth is not determined by the office of the preacher, but is verified by the Spirit of God. The truth of God wins out independent of office. We should pray for those who are called to teach us (D&C 107:22).
We must judge wisely, taking the Spirit as our guide. The Lord has warned us that in the last days there will be many who are deceived (Matt. 24:24). We have been commanded as members of the Church to seek the best gifts that we be not deceived in these last times (D&C 46:8).
Some topics are just taboo, it seems. Hugh Nibley would point out that money, or riches, was one of those topics. It is usually never a good topic to bring up, especially if you’re quoting what the scriptures have to say about it. Some folks are too touchy about it. It tends to stir up contention in men’s hearts. Repentance seems to be one of those topics.
We’ve all got justification for our present path.