Optimism in a Falling World- Faith, Hope, and Charity

Over these past few days I have considered the roles of faith, hope, and charity. Specifically I have considered how each of them is integral to being invested in this world, rather than stepping aside and letting it fall to ruin.

These three qualities are definitely linked to one another. We must first have hope in God and His purposes. We must have hope that He is able to reclaim our own soul from ruin, and then we can foster hope in His ability to reclaim the souls of our brothers and sisters as well. With that spark of hope we can then act in faith, investing in our communities and nations, trying to bring some good into them, even when we’re not sure how we will succeed. And integral to all this work is to have genuine charity for those we work with. We need to have an unconditional love, even for those who do not give us a reason to love them.

And it is important to note that none of these qualities can be taken for granted. It might be tempting for us to say “well I’m a Christian, of course I live with charity,” when in reality this is not a given. I called myself a “christian” for many years, and all the while had a hopeless outlook on my own soul. Having no hope, I was incapable of investing faith to care for myself. And as I was unable to give those kindnesses to myself, I certainly didn’t have the capacity for charity for my fellow-man. Having the label of a “baptized christian” meant absolutely nothing about me. It certainly did not mean that I was actually a Christian.

Possessing these qualities does not come cheaply. Perhaps some of us are more naturally inclined to one of them or the other, but I think it is fair to say that all of us have a great deal of work ahead if we mean to achieve all three. None of us are born a full and complete Christian, we have to work our way into it.

I also want to emphasize that if there are any of us who are giddy for the destruction of the wicked, then they we do not possess charity and are not true Christians. And if there are any of us who wish the world was better but are not willing to do the work to help it be so, then we do not possess faith and are not true Christians. And if there are any of us who have just given up on the world, then we do not possess hope and are not true Christians. Faith, hope, and charity are not things a Christian should have, they are things that a Christian must have, or they are not a true Christian.

And I do not mean any condemnation by that. I used to be devoid of these qualities as well. I was not a true Christian, but I was able to become one, and so can anyone else. In fact, even true Christians must continue striving to become ever more so.

A Surety of Truth- We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

My country was founded on the belief that there are certain truths which do not have to be proven because they are “self-evident.” The assumptions is that a simple examination of them will reveal their inherent rightness, and they were therefore chosen as the fundamental building blocks for all that the nation should pursue and preserve.

But just because a truth is claimed to be “self-evident” does not mean it cannot be disagreed with. The fact is there have been many other nations that have rejected the “self-evident” truths of my own country, and have instead chosen fundamental principles that are totally different.

Indeed this is a common pattern of popular philosophies through the ages. A great many of them claim to be unquestionably true, given that they have been built upon self-evident truths, which will be obvious to anyone who simply regards them. But no matter how confident the author is in the theory, there always follows mass criticism, and the founding precepts of that philosophy are rejected by another competing philosophy. Though it has been claimed that the opening assertions are obvious to everyone, they frankly are not.

Now of course, I do happen to believe that there still are universal, self-evident truths. I believe the injunction to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is valid, and self-evidently so. It is perfectly balanced, applies universally, does not discriminate, and perpetuates only an increase of good.

But even though I believe there are universal, self-evident truths, I acknowledge that calling them out is not as simple as one might think. Indeed, self-evident truths are actually very rare and precious, and when one is found it should be considered most sacred.

The Way That Things Are- It’s True, Isn’t It?

The following is quoted from Gordon B. Hinckley, who was speaking at a Conference in April 1973. He was speaking of a young naval officer that he once met, one who had recently converted to Christianity.

He was introduced to me just before he was to return to his native land. I said, "Your people are not Christians. You come from a land where Christians have had a difficult time. What will happen when you return home a Christian?" 
His face clouded, and he replied, "My family will be disappointed. I suppose they will cast me out. They will regard me as dead. As for my future and my career, I assume that all opportunity will be foreclosed against me."
I asked, "Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?"
His dark eyes, moistened by tears, shone from his handsome brown face as he answered, "It's true, isn't it?"
Ashamed at having asked the question, I responded, "Yes, it's true."
To which he replied, "Then what else matters?"

Often the world criticizes the principles and commandments found in religion, stating that adherence to a strict moral code is outmoded, and that the gospel needs to get with the times. They focus primarily on the behaviors that religion calls for, but do not ask whether those behaviors are based upon true premises.
In my experience, the observances followed by most world religions are remarkably consistent with the claims of that gospel. For example, Christianity teaches that each person is composed of an immortal spirit paired with a mortal body. It teaches that God created the first man and woman, and authored the institution of marriage between them. It teaches that we come to this earth life in order to gain a body, to learn to follow God’s will, all so that our perfected self can live with Him after the resurrection.
Now if all of these claims are true, then obviously there is an awesome responsibility related to birth, life, and the union we call marriage. If these premises are true, then it matters greatly how we deal with these subjects, and it is only logical that there would be laws to govern them.
If these claims are true, then doesn’t it make sense for there to be laws of chastity and sexual purity? Doesn’t it make sense for there to be safeguards that protect the sacred procreative power which binds an eternal soul to a mortal body? Doesn’t it make sense for marriage, and the definition of it, to be under the purview of the God who invented it? Doesn’t it make sense to master one’s appetites as necessary to pursue the true purpose of life?
If these claims are true, then what else matters? If these claims are true, then any argument that God’s laws are “outmoded” become hollow. If these claims are true, then these laws are simply the natural, logical extension of what is right.
Thus the only meaningful question is the one asked by that young sailor. Is it true, or not?