8 December 2019
by Chauncey C Riddle
Brothers and Sisters, I rejoice in this opportunity to speak to you. Being the oldest member of this ward, this is probably the only time I will ever be asked to address you. My task here is to say what the Lord would have me say, and I have spent many hours searching out what he would have me say. Your task is to dissect everything I say so that you understand me, but then not believe a word that I say. But you are bound by and will be judged by what the Holy Ghost tells you while I am speaking. Do believe the Holy Ghost and do what he tells you to do.
But remember that there are two spirits speaking to you while I speak. Satan will entice you not even to listen to me or to interpret what I say incorrectly, while the Holy Ghost will tell you what our Savior wants you to hear and to do after hearing what I say. You are the agent that will choose.
The topic I have been sent to discuss with you is the difference between doing a righteous act and preparing to do righteous acts.
A righteous act is blessing some other person or thing as one is instructed by the Savior and done at some personal sacrifice of our own. It must be done as instructed by our Savior because he is the true vine and we are the branches who can bring forth no good fruit except we do it in him. It must be done at some personal sacrifice of our own because only then is it our true gift to the person we bless. Preparation for doing a righteous act is repenting and increasing our faith in Jesus Christ so that we can truly do our Savior’s quality of work in blessing others. Preparatory acts are necessary and good things to do. Acts of righteousness are the best things to do. Let us not confuse the two.
Our Savior gave us a parable to impress upon us the difference between preparation and real righteousness: And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him,
Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. (Luke 10:30-35)
Most people see this parable as simply a lesson on who is our neighbor. It is. But the larger message is how do I love my neighbor instead of myself. And here many people get confused. They think they are supposed first to love themselves and then love their neighbor the same way. I submit to you that that is not what the Lord intends. He intends that we love our neighbor instead of loving ourselves. Do not confuse self-love with self-respect. We must respect all that God has given us: a body, a life, opportunity to serve. And that is what this parable shows among other things. The principal other thing it shows is the difference between preparation for righteousness and righteousness itself. The priest and the Levite doubtless were very observant of the instructions of the Law of Moses and prayed and fasted and performed sacrifices of blood on the altar. Praying, fasting and performing sacrifices on the altar were good things to do, but they are preparation to do righteous acts, not righteous acts in and of themselves. We do not know what preparation the Samaritan performed, but we know he did rise to the opportunity to bless another person in real need and at his own expense of time and money. Thus, the Samaritan did acts of true righteousness and the priest and the Levite shrank from true righteousness in spite of all their preparation to do righteous acts.
Another word for righteousness is charity, and charity is the pure love of Christ. It is the pure love that comes from Christ and ministers to those in need as the one who ministers, has compassion on the one in need to do acts inspired by Christ. All good things humans do come from Christ and are inspired by Christ, for we are nothing without him. Our Savior said:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Fathers commandments, and abide in his love.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15: 1-13)
The fruit the Lord wants to bear is righteousness, not just preparation for doing righteous acts. But he also wants us to be well prepared to bless our neighbors.
What are the acts by which we prepare to bless our neighbors? Let us recount and define some of them.
- Repenting of our sins is the unique preparation for exercising true faith in Christ unto baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost. Repenting is thus preparation for ministering to others as instructed by the Holy Ghost, which is righteousness.
- Praying sincerely to God for forgiveness of our sins and for the guidance of God is indispensable preparation for performing the acts of faith in Christ which are the sacrifices of righteousness.
- Fasting is a wonderful way to enhance prayer, a good thing to do often, but it is good preparation rather than righteousness itself.
- Partaking of the sacrament to renew our covenants is a good thing to do, but is preparation for rather than righteousness itself, as is attending our church meetings.
- Receiving our own endowments in the temple is a wonderfully good thing to do, but it is preparation rather than righteousness itself.
- Being sealed to an eternal companion in the temple according to God’s law is a magnificent and good preparation for righteousness but is not of itself righteousness.
- Studying the scriptures is wonderful preparation, but of itself is not the crowning work of righteousness.
- Meditating in the Spirit of the Lord is wonderful and good, but is preparation.
It should be plain that all these good things are great preparation, but of themselves, they do nothing to help our neighbor who lies helpless because he has been robbed and beaten by the servants of Satan.
If we do all of these things, we are uniquely prepared to be inspired by our Savior to know exactly what sacrifices we should make to bless the wounded people we encounter. Actually, blessing our neighbor by sacrificing something of our own stewardship in his behalf is the only true righteousness. The following are some of the ways of performing acts of righteousness.
- Mothering and fathering, service to our brothers and sisters.
- Ministering (assigned or not assigned), especially to the widows and the fatherless.
- Fulfilling our church calling.
- Teaching the Restored Gospel.
- Preaching the Restored Gospel. (Every member a missionary).
- Performing or being proxy for temple ordinances for others.
All can be true righteousness if done in the pure love of Christ and as guided by the Holy Ghost.
And if we do not bless our neighbor through Christ-inspired sacrifice, we actually curse our neighbor by withholding the blessings Christ wants him or her to have.
Righteousness is also called charity in the scriptures. Charity is really caring about someone unto preparing ourselves in all humility to administer the blessings Christ would have them have. Paul gives us a good list of defining characteristics of charity in 1 Corinthians 13:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
A person who gives a great talk in church but who will not minister blessings to his neighbors does not really believe the Gospel of Christ.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
Having sought and received the gifts of the Holy Ghost is wonderful, but that blessing to him is meaningless unless the one so gifted cares about his neighbors enough to bless their lives.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Thus, one can give away everything he has, even his life, and not have it be righteous charity unless the person cares enough about his Savior to come unto Christ and cares enough about his neighbor to minister as Christ would have him do.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
The person who has attained the pure love of Christ is willing to suffer whatever suffering God allows to be put upon him, and he or she is kind to everyone, friends and enemies alike, and envies no one because he or she has the greatest of all the gifts of God, which is charity. The person who has this charity does not toot his own horn to call attention to himself or herself but avoids all pride by proceeding through life as a humble child of Christ.
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
This person who has true charity never tries to call attention to themselves by their dress, grooming, or actions. They do not seek to feather their own nest, which thing all those who love themselves try unceasingly to do. Those who have charity bear abuse with aplomb, not rising to self-defense except when prompted to do so by the Holy Spirit, and never giving in to anger, which always is prompted by Satan. And they never plot evil against anyone, for that also is always prompted by Satan.
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
The true servants of Christ always lament the evil, the inequities they see around themselves, but they rejoice in the truth of all things, no matter where found.
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Those faithful to Christ are willing to suffer whatever Christ allows to be put upon them, and they believe all that comes from Christ, hope for every good gift from Christ, and endure all the vicissitudes of mortal life in and by the power of Christ.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
If a servant of Christ attains the gift of charity, it will never be taken from them as long as they exercise that gift in ministering to the needs of their neighbors. But if one does not gain charity, then eventually their other gifts of the Holy Spirit will be taken away from them, even their ability to prophesy, the ability to speak in foreign tongues will be taken from them, as will be the special insights of knowledge they have been given. For all the gifts of God are given to mankind so that they may minister righteousness to their neighbors. If they never learn to love and bless their neighbors, they will lose their other gifts from God and just be like all the other natural and fallen persons in this world dominated by Satan.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Until we attain the gift of charity because our faithfulness to Christ, all of our other blessings from him are temporary and partial. But when we gain the greatest of all spiritual gifts, that of charity, the pure love of Christ, then and only then can our ministering to others become perfected and complete. When we gain the gift of charity, we will have become as Christ in the most important way that can be done, because the essence of Christ is his pure, selfless love for all other persons and things. When we have become like Christ in that ultimate step, then we will be privileged to know him even as he knows us, which is to know him completely.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
The greatest gifts God gives to mankind are faith in Christ, hope in Christ and the pure love from Christ. And clearly, the greatest of these gifts, the ultimate fruit of the Holy Spirit, is the ability to minister to our neighbors in the pure love of Christ, which is charity. (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8, 12-13)
So how does a covenant servant of Christ gain this greatest and most desirable of all the gifts of God? Mormon tells us plainly in the Book of Mormon:
And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. (Moroni 7: 29-30)
The requirement for receiving the gift of charity is the same requirement to receive the ministering of angels and of coming into the presence of Christ himself. The covenant servant of Christ must pursue faithfulness to Christ until his faith in Christ is so strong and unchallengeable that the servant has attained strong faith and a firmness of mind and will unto the keeping of all of the commandments of Christ. The words of Christ will show us all things we must do to attain life, salvation, and a completeness or perfection of our power to minister in the name of Jesus Christ. Nephi also makes this very clear:
Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. (2 Nephi 32:3)
So if we will press forward in the vicissitudes of this fallen world, thrusting aside all of the temptations of Satan until through feasting upon the words of Christ unto receiving from him instruction as to all things we should do, then doing all things he instructs us to do, we will come to know him face to face and will be like him when we see him.
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; (D&C 93:1)
It is my hope and prayer to be able to truly come unto Christ through calling upon his name unto the faithful keeping of each and every instruction and commandment that he gives me until I see his face and know him as he knows me. For then I will have shown that I truly have taken upon me that greatest gift he has to give, his pure love and his personal ministering to each of his created children. And I desire that blessing for each of you also, that with one accord we can come to the fountain of eternal life and minister the pure love, in righteousness, to others through him, unto all eternity.
Conclusion: Do diligently prepare to be righteous, but also earnestly fulfill righteousness.
This talk was constructed as an admonition to myself. And if there is any one person who now hears me who is being helped to come unto Christ and to be perfected in ministering in the pure love of Christ to his or her neighbors, I would be most grateful.
I bear you my witness that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and that the only true and living church on the face of this earth is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Other churches have much truth, and there are many persons who do not now belong to the true Church of Jesus Christ who are good persons and who do much to bless others because of the light of Christ which is in them. When all of Israel has finally been gathered, every soul who loves Christ will have been brought under his influence and love unto a fulness of all that they can stand to receive of his blessings. What a blessed day that will be indeed. And for that day all who love Christ will serve him with as much of their heart, might, mind and strength as they can muster.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.