RS/MP Lesson 8: Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart (Lorenzo Snow Manual)
Posted by kirkcaudle on April 18, 2013
The link to the full lesson can be found here.
The additional scriptures listed at the end of this lesson include 2 Peter 1:2-11. This section of the Biblical text struck me as important and so my thoughts today will be based upon these verses. This chapter deals with the theme of hoping for eternal life, which fits very well with the sub-heading of this lesson, “Righteous Latter-day Saints strive to ‘establish a character before God that could be relied upon in the hour of trial.’” As you read this commentary ask yourself (and perhaps your class if you are a teacher) “how can each of these verses help me improve my own personal character as a disciple of Jesus Christ?”
1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
The word “servant” here comes from the Greek word doulos. Doulos is probably more properly translated as bond-servant, in my own translations I generally prefer the word slave. (For a larger commentary on the usage of this word see my notes on Romans 1:1 here.) I bring this up because it is interesting to note that Peter first introduces himself as a slave/servant of Jesus Christ first and as his Apostle second. In other words, it is our relationship to Jesus Christ which defines us, the capacity in which we are called to serve him in is secondary. It is very easy to start thinking that we are better than we are when we define ourselves by our positions in life and/or our church callings. This can quickly destroy our character. We as Mormons fall prey to this just as much as anyone else does. As Lorenzo Snow said, “There are those among us who are recognized as members of this Church who take a vast amount of pains to be favorably known by those around them, but whose real character, or the inwardness so to speak, of such people, is veiled or disguised” (119).
The Greek word for knowledge used here is epignosis, it means to have a full spiritual understanding of something. Therefore, it is through grace and peace that we obtain understanding. This same word is used in verses 3 and 8.
Sometimes we might question if it is possible for us to have a clean heart and to possess a righteous character before God. If we believe what Peter says, then it is possible. Peter tells us that God has given “unto us all things” necessary to obtain these attributes. Glory and virtue are not just good things for us to have, but they are attributes that we are literally “called” to have. Lorenzo Snow taught that, “If there should be a sacrifice demanded it will be very opportune for all those who wish to make their religion a study, and who are endeavoring to conform to its requirements, by living it in their everyday life, to show their willingness to bow to the will of Jehovah, acknowledging his hand in adversity as in prosperity” (124). Living the standards of the gospel helps us feel the magnitude of that calling.
Our calling in life is not just to “establish a character before God that could be relived upon in the hour of trial” as in says in the sub-heading of this lesson. Rather, our calling is to become like God, or as Peter puts it, to “be partakes of the divine nature.” Establishing a good character is not an ends unto itself, it is the means by which we put ourselves into a position for God to transform us by grace.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
We cannot just sit around and expect God to magically transform our character into a righteous one. We must work with “all diligence” using the divine tools that he gave us mentioned in verse 3. Part of this “giving all diligence” I believe includes self-retrospection. “Throughout his life, President Snow wanted his heart to be right before the Lord, and he also encouraged the Saints to examine their own worthiness” (119). If we want to added to our faith in order to improve our character then I believe that it is imperative that we continually have honest conversations with ourselves. Ask yourself where you are at and try to give yourself honest answers. These honest self interviews can lead one to great knowledge.
The Greek word for “knowledge” used here in verses 5 and 6 is not the same word that is used in verses 2,3, and 8. This word, gnosis, refers to a more general knowledge, and not necessarily to a full spiritual knowledge of things. Temperance is just another word for self-control. Obtaining the right kinds of knowledge can help us achieve a better ability to control our urges and passions, thus, making us more patient with others.
Notice that verses 5-8 all have to do with our own actions, steps that we can take to be better people and to improve our character. Peter does not spend his time giving us a list of prohibited activities (like the Mosiac Law), but he spends his time telling us what we should be doing. I believe that it is always better to be engaged in a good works than it is to work very hard at avoiding bad ones. I’ve found in my life that the more busy I am doing good, the less time I have to try and think of ways to avoid sinning. It is amazing how much doing simple acts of charity takes your mind off of the things of the world.
We will know that we have true knowledge of God when we wish to use the tools that he has given us to serve him/others. Peter is clear on this, If we truly know God “ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful.” True knowledge equals action. A good example of this point (which is too long to quote verbatim here) comes from Lorenzo Snow in the section “Examples in the scriptures teach us how to improve our character” on page 121. In this section we have the example of Moses who had real knowledge and thus “stood in the gap and there pled with the Lord on behalf of his people . . . he was the means of saving the people from threatened destruction.” On the other hand Snow talks about Jonah who at first “exhibited weaknesses” but ultimately gained “grand and admirable” characteristics. Moses had true knowledge and his actions showed that. Jonah lacked that sort of spiritual knowledge at first, but through his repentance, he ended up gaining that needed knowledge.
I like to say that our true character is what we do when nobody else is around. “It would be well to examine ourselves, hold communion with ourselves in the secret closet, to ascertain how we stand … before the Lord, so that if need be we may renew our diligence and faithfulness, and increase our good works” (124).If we have personal interviews with ourselves and are honest with ourselves we might find out that we have much less virtue in our lives than we originally thought. Our faith might be lacking and our character might be faltering. Peter tells us that if this is the case then we have forgotten what God has done for us. Luckily, if we see this there is something we can do about it. Knowing that you lack in character is the first step in repairing that damaged character.
Here we are not only commanded to believe, but to be saved. Not only to be saved, but to be saved forever. Remember, becoming like God is something that one will hold onto for eternity. The trick here is that we must “give diligence” in order to receive this unshakable testimony and character. It is not just something that God gives, it must be something that we want, so we need to ask God for this gift. After all, he has already given us the tools to put us into a position to receive such a gift, we just need to stop rejecting that gift.
If we recognize that we are servants/slaves of Jesus Christ this is where we will end up because we will have used the tools that he gave us to become like him. Achieving a character righteous enough to reach this point is not impossible, in fact, it is already within us. Once we realize that Christ will perfect our characters through us by his grace, the faster our characters will become like his character.
I will end these notes with this quote from Lorenzo Snow:
“Our character, as Latter-day Saints, should be preserved inviolate, at whatever cost or sacrifice. Character, approved of God is worth securing, even at the expense of a life-time of constant self-denial. While thus living we may look forward … , with full assurance that … we shall be crowned with the sons and daughters of God, and possess the wealth and glory of a Celestial kingdom” (124-25).
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