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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