MEASURING RIGHTEOUSNESS Recent trends have seen the rebirth of an old "doctrinal varient" or social/cultural belief (in the place of a religious belief). The basic premise is that an individual can measure whether or not his or her conduct is acceptable or pleasing to God by the degree of spiritual strength that the individual has. The reasoning goes "if one has spiritual strength or spiritual matters, then one may ignore the promptings of conscience as mere emotional baggage." This use of logic to deny the justice or the promptings of God is endemic to Church history. Alma's discourse with his son Corianton (Alma 39 to 42, inclusive) is an example of such logic and where it leads. Both more sobering, and more on point, is Matthew 7: 21 to 23. Not every one that saith un- to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? In other words, in that day people will justify themselves before God using the evidences of spiritual strength. They will say: Lord, have we not had thy Spirit and used it? Were we not spiritually strong? Surely then, were we not doing thy will and were we not righteous? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. In other words, Christ directly refutes the concept that spiritual strength is a sign of godliness or a fruit of the Spirit. Thus Paul is not overstating his case for effect in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 when he says: THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of an- gels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowl- edge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not chari- ty, I am nothing. Instead of poetic overstatement or color, Paul is following directly what Christ said. Matthew 25: 41 to 46 is very clear. The King shall say: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, pre- pared for the devil and his angels:" This basic theme is one of the two strong reasons for the story of Samson in the Old Testament. (see Judges 13 to 16). "the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times ..." Samson's strength was the result of spiritual power. Yet when he dallies with Delilah no one should mistake the possession of spiritual power as proof of spirituality or righteous-ness. After all "saw there a harlot, and went in unto her" may describe both Samson and Corianton, but it does not define spirituality or the ways by which one acts to please God. That is not what we are called to look at or the judgment we are entrusted with. Instead we are to walk and be "worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, for- bearing one another in love ... in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4). This humility and penitence leads to the fruits of the Spirit. Possession of the fruits of the Spirit, not spiritual strength, measures righteousness. Any other measure is self deception, as warned against in 2 Nephi 28: 14-15; 21-23. As Paul notes (Galatians 5: 22-23): But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffer- ing, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance, against such there is no law. As to the other viewpoint, Joseph Smith put it directly in the words Christ gave him when he said: "but when we undertake to cover out sins, or gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or domin- ion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of un- righteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw them- selves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man." Neither prophecy, nor casting out devils, nor any other mighty works will save us. Unless we have love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, all our spiritual strength will avail us is the right to hear the Lord say: "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." It is true that the temptation to justify ourselves based on spiritual strength is old. The deception ancient. The judgment clear. All that is left is to avoid the mistake made by Sampson, Corianton and others.
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