We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
A common phrase used in Mormonism is “endure to the end.” Perhaps equivalent to Paul’s “keep the faith,” it is the injunction to the convert of Christ to remain faithful throughout his or her days. Mormonism insists that repentance is not a one-time occurrence. It is necessary to continue to refine one’s life after baptism. The good works that come from repentance and continual self-improvement are a natural result of strong faith in Jesus Christ. After loving the Lord, the second commandment is to love one’s neighbor. It is upon these commandments that the gospel is built, and righteous living is entirely motivated from the love of one’s fellow man.
In what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord gives the gospel’s perfect instruction on righteous living. Mormonism looks to these words as a blueprint for eternal progression, and becoming more Christ-like. The Savior sets forth a law of the inner soul rather than outward actions, to be judged only of God, who can look into the heart, and not of man. First named are those who are blessed of God, and live happily in the gospel–the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers. Thoughts and intentions are not exempt, and are, in fact, the source of one’s character and actions. Anger is condemned and must be purged from the soul, without the need for a violent action to require attention toward it. The lustful thought betrays one’s guilt, without the need for lascivious acts to confirm it. The followers of Christ are held to a higher standard. The extra mile sets a standard for dealings with others, economic or otherwise. When assisting another, voluntarily or for payment, it should be done cheerfully and in abundance–not the minimum required, but much more. And not only is it thy neighbor who is to be loved, but thine enemy! Do not judge others, forgive them. The golden rule is unconditional and is a summary of the message. In all ways one is to conduct oneself with the utmost integrity.
The admonition of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 demands the same of the followers of Christ as does the Sermon on the Mount. The Mormon religion uses the King James Version of the Bible, which translates this divine attribute as charity. The term ‘charity’ has been adopted in Mormonism, from this King James Version usage, to denote the pure love of Christ, differentiated from the many connotations of ‘love’ in the English language. As Paul writes, without charity no good deed is beneficial to the individual. Be it great or small, no act or good work will make one perfect in Christ. This is possible only through charity. The thirteenth Article of Faith of Mormonism suggests that its believers have charity, at least in part. The followers of Mormonism believe all things, and hope all things. Mormon history shows evidence of enduring many things, and part of the hope of the faith is to continue to endure. The Book of Mormon also teaches about charity. It echoes much of Paul’s writings and then adds that charity is a gift of God, bestowed upon the righteous followers of Christ, and those who desire it are admonished to pray for it, just as with all the gifts of God.
Two principles of Mormonism which determine worthiness and standing in the Church, and also separate Mormonism from the world, are the Law of Chastity, and the Word of Wisdom. The Law of Chastity reinforces traditional sexual practices that are falling out of favor in the modern world. Physical love is neither shameful or degrading in Mormonism, as long as it is expressed in the context set by God. The love between husband and wife, and the ability to participate with God in the creation of a new life may be the most sacred gift entrusted to mankind. However, this gift from God was given with specific boundaries, and it has been terribly perverted by many. The Law of Chastity forbids sexual relations except with one’s legally wedded spouse. It is preached plain and simple, and without gray area. There is great social pressure to abandon, disregard, or stretch this commandment, but Mormonism does not waver. The Law of Chastity also prohibits viewing or reading pornography, engaging in masturbation, joking or speaking disrespectfully about this sacred act, and preoccupation with sex. In keeping with the Lord’s higher charge, it extends beyond what can be observed by others or enforced by the Church. Even a lustful thought is contrary to this commandment. Bridling one’s passions is something we must learn to do in this life, and breaking the Law of Chastity is one of the most offensive acts to God (Alma 39:5).
The second principle of Mormonism that is essential to clean living is the Word of Wisdom. It was received as a revelation to Joseph Smith in 1833. It has since been accepted as the Mormon ‘law of health.’ The Word of Wisdom proscribes the consumption of coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. It also promotes the use of grains, fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and the limited consumption of meat. Some studies have proven the benefits of living this law, and the beginning of the 89th section in the Doctrine and Covenants warns that the revelation is given in anticipation of evil and conspiring men, but as in the Law of Moses, wisdom rests, finally, with the Lord. Obedience to this commandment brings the promised blessings of health and knowledge, both physical and spiritual.
Mormonism also encourages its adherents to seek after knowledge and refinement. Mormon books of scripture teach that the knowledge we gain in this life, we will retain in the next life, and it will be advantageous to us (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19). This is further evidence that mortal life is but a moment in our eternal progression. Joseph Smith has said that we will be saved as fast as we gain knowledge. Mormonism has a deep commitment to education and the acquisition of knowledge. The Mormon Church operates Brigham Young University, with campuses in Provo, UT, Rexburg, ID, and Laie, HI. The Church Educational System (CES) provides religious instruction in seminaries and institutes nearly everywhere there is a Mormon congregation. The Perpetual Education Fund was started in 2001. This fund loans money on a need-basis to allow poor members of the Church to attend school and gain training and skills for employment. Mormonism strives for the education of its members, but this is not always formal schooling. Parents are encouraged to educate their children at home with good books and conversation. Family Home Evening is a program of the Church designed to bring families together at least once a week for learning and devotion. Youth programs usually meet once during the week and provide similar instruction. Adult activities are frequently organized, although less than weekly, to provide continued learning throughout life.
An address given during Mormon General Conference in 2000 serves as a guide for which learning is virtuous, lovely, or praiseworthy. “A spiritual-minded man is observant of the beauty in the world around him. . . Our awareness of grand music, literature, and sublime art is often a natural product of spiritual maturity” (Ensign, Nov. 2000, 30). Here, the humanities are mentioned as ennobling to the soul. The study of science, the workings of God’s creation, is equally so. And how valuable would the righteous student of law be to all people everywhere? The field of study is not as important as the nature of study. If the approach to learning is motivated by the two great commandments, to praise God, and to aid one’s fellow man, then it is a righteous desire and eternally beneficial to the individual. Mormonism seeks and accepts truth wherever it is to be found, and learning is an eternal pursuit. The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36).