Imagine if you will that you are Moroni and you have carried and protected the Golden Plates for many years. You have experienced some amazing spiritual experiences, like walking and talking with angels, and also you have spent many hours in the presence of Jesus Christ Himself. Now the time has come for you to bury the Golden Plates in the Hill Cumorah, but before you do, you would like to etch your final words of testimony and warning. What do you write?
If I were Moroni, I think I’d write the most important things I could think of, like give the secret to life. How cool is that? That’s exactly what Moroni did. He gave us the most powerful information and secrets of the entire Book of Mormon encapsulated in the very last chapters he wrote.
I could go on and on about Moroni chapter 7, it’s one of my favorite chapters in all the standard works, second only to Ether chapter 12, which BTW Moroni also wrote. But today I would like to focus on the very last verses of the Book of Mormon, starting at verse 32
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
34 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen. (Moroni 10:32-34)
Verse 34, the last verse of the Book of Mormon, Moroni bids us farewell. At this point it doesn’t appear that he is a candidate for translation, but he certainly teaches us his belief in the resurrection. And Joseph Smith would be the witness to the glorious truth of the resurrection when the Angel Moroni, a resurrected being visited him.
I think Mark E. Peterson’s testimony is one of the most eloquent:
It was on September 21, 1823, when the angel Moroni first appeared to the young prophet Joseph Smith in his farm home near Palmyra, New York.
As we remember it today, we declare our solemn testimony to all mankind that, indeed, Moroni did come! It is a fact, a firm and unshakable truth. Moroni came!
As an angel of God, a messenger from heaven, this glorious personage visited Joseph Smith in physical reality. It was no dream, nor any kind of mystic occurrence.
It was a visitation. Two physical beings communed together—with Moroni, a resurrected person of flesh and bones, emerging from the eternal veil and paying repeated and never-to-be-forgotten visits to this mortal farm boy, Joseph Smith. (See JS—H 1:30–54.) (The Angel Moroni Came!, October 1983)
As powerful a message as verse 34 teaches, I believe verses 32 and 33 encapsulate the entire Book of Mormon, and reiterate the testimony of each and every prophet that ever lived. They are the crowning jewel verses of all the standard works.
Lindon and I could dedicate each and every blog post of PrisonTemple to just these two verses and we would have an eternity of doctrine to share. Lindon’s beautiful testimony in his last blog post spoke tremendous truths about what it means to “come unto Christ,” the invitation Moroni makes at the beginning of verse 32.
I could write pages and pages on what it means to become perfected in him. Notice it doesn’t say “become perfected like him?” There’s a lesson to be learned here, perhaps in a different post. Today however, I would like to focus on what it means to “deny yourselves of all ungodliness.”
I believe the word deny was a carefully chosen word. It sort of infers that there are some things that we like to do, or are tempted to do, maybe even desire and crave. Do you get that feeling when you read the word deny?
And just what is ungodliness? In Moroni chapter 7 Moroni teaches us the way to determine the difference between that which is of God, and that which is evil, and then he beseeches us to lay hold upon every good thing (that which is of God).
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?
24 And behold, there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men, which were good; and all things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them.
25 Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing; and thus it was until the coming of Christ. (Moroni 7:19-20, 24-25)
Here we learn that every good thing cometh from Christ. Therefore, it’s pretty easy to see, that if it is not good it must come from evil.
So what is ungodliness? It’s anything that is not good. And we are commanded to deny ourselves of anything that is not good.
The daily discipleship to which I’m referring is designed to develop the very attributes which are possessed to perfection by Jesus. These attributes emerge from a consciously chosen way of life, one in which we deny ourselves of all ungodliness and we take up the cross daily—not occasionally, not weekly, not monthly. If we are thus determined, then we are emulating yet another quality of our Lord, of whom we read, “And there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it” (Abr. 3:17). True disciples are meek but very determined. (“The Pathway of Discipleship,” Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, Sept. 1998, p. 8)
What is this taking up the cross daily? There are several scriptures which speak about it. Let’s discover what it means together.
25 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.
26 And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself of all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments. (JST Matt 16:25-26)
Okay, that’s a bit clearer definition, isn’t it? To take up ones cross means that we are supposed to deny ourselves of all ungodliness. I think this verse if kind of funny that it redundantly clarifies for those who might think that worldly lusts don’t fall under the category of ungodliness – they get covered twice just to make sure everyone understands.
The Church would grow much faster now, numerically and spiritually, if it were not for the wickedness of the world (see 1 Ne. 14:12). It would also grow much faster if you and I were better by taking up the Christian cross daily (see Luke 9:23). Part of taking up the cross is denying ourselves the lusts and appetites of the flesh. “For it is better,” the resurrected Jesus said, “that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross” (3 Ne. 12:30). Thus, the daily taking up of the cross means daily denying ourselves the appetites of the flesh. (“Overcome … Even As I Also Overcame”, Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1987, pp. 70-71)
Ooooo, that’s rich in understanding what it means to take up our cross daily. We have appetites of the flesh, that’s for sure.
That reminds me of a verse where King Benjamin is ending his big sermon to his people. He tells them that in order for them to become sanctified they must “put off the natural man.” (Mosiah 3:19) Isn’t that basically what Moroni is saying in Moroni 10:32-33? That in order to become sanctified in Christ we must deny (put off) the natural man of all ungodliness. Or in other words, deny ourselves of fleshly appetites and lusts, even if we like them, desire them, or feel we need them.
But what are we first to deny ourselves? Verse 26 in the Joseph Smith Translation reads: “And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.” The “giving away” of all of one’s sins is a preceding and accompanying condition to losing oneself for the Savior’s sake. Unless we give away those wrong things we cannot “give place” for the seed of faith to grow (see Alma 32:27). The crowding cares of the world will constrain the things of the Spirit (see Luke 8:14). This need for particularized denial is also strongly emphasized in the directions given by the resurrected Jesus:
Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;
But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.
Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;
For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell. (3 Nephi 12:27-30.)
Mental as well as physical adultery are especially mentioned as being among “these things.” Therefore, losing our lust is part of losing ourselves for the Savior’s sake. Losing the burden of our lust makes possible the taking up of the cross. (A Wonderful Flood of Light, Neal A. Maxwell, , pp.96-97)
And so we now understand that taking up our cross also means to “give up” our sins. King Lamoni’s father in the Book of Mormon was willing to give away all his sins to have this sanctification, and as a result he and his entire household are converted.
18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead. (Alma 22:18, emphasis added)
And King Lamoni several chapters earlier actually received that sanctification and did see the Savior.
13 For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name. Now, when he had said these words, his heart was swollen within him, and he sunk again with joy; and the queen also sunk down, being overpowered by the Spirit. (Alma 19:13)
And that my friends, is what happens when you deny yourself of all ungodliness, and take up your cross. You are sanctified and brought into the presence of your Redeemer, and Savior, Jesus Christ, and are made perfect in Him.
That you may deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and daily take up your cross, is my prayer. And I am certain, it was Moroni’s greatest desire for each and every one of us. That’s why he saved the very best for last.
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