Monday, November 18, 2013

Breaking Good

At church yesterday one of the teachers began a discussion about goodness, and what it means to be good. Various people shared experiences about when they had been good to others or when others had been good to them. It was a great lesson that got me thinking about the Savior Jesus Christ, and His example of goodness. In a time when so many are interested in Breaking Bad, and in a time when good is called evil and evil is called good (Isaiah 5:20), it was refreshing to hear some reflections on goodness.

The scriptures record that Jesus Christ "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38), and yet he was despised for it (see The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles). The scriptures also show the way to determine that which is good: "For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God." (Moroni 7:16)

The word "good" figures approximately 1,000 times in the Standard Works (The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price), but these writings point away from themselves and toward Jesus Christ. And even when others used the word "good" to describe the Lord, His response was invariably to deflect and then direct praise toward His Father in Heaven:

"And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? / And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God." (Luke 18:18-19)

Similarly, the Prophet Joseph Smith once stated: “I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the smooth-faced hypocrite. I do not want you to think that I’m very righteous, for I am not. There was one good man, and his name was Jesus.” (Documentary History of the Church, 5:401).

On another occasion, a Baptist priest came to Nauvoo to determine the piety of the Prophet Joseph Smith, asking: "Is it possible that I now flash my optics upon a prophet, upon a man who has conversed with my Savior?" "Yes," replied the Prophet, "You've had that privilege. Now, how would you like to wrestle with me?" (Journal of Discourses, 3:67).

If one of the best men who ever lived on this earth said that "there was one good man, and his name was Jesus," and if Jesus himself said that "none is good, save one, that is, God," then at least we can be assured that anything good comes from the one who is good, namely God:

"And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.
And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God." (Moroni 10:24-25)

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