Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Everyone Has A Conscience

Moroni 7:16 "For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil;"

A major theme of the Book of Mormon is the teaching that all men are born with a conscience and therefore understand the difference between right and wrong. The Book of Mormon refers to conscience as "the Light of Christ" or "the Spirit of Christ". In addition to teaching this wonderful truth, the Book of Mormon contains several illustrations that demonstrate the universality of and the consequences of conscience. I will list a few of the many examples.

1. Laman and Lemuel. These wicked and rebellious brothers of Nephi on one occasion saw and heard an angel of God. The angel appeared to reprove them for striking their brother Nephi after Laban had stole their wealth which they had planned to use to purchase the Brass Plates. On another occasion, they felt the power of God shock them. On this occasion Nephi was commanded to stretched forth his hands in an attempt of motivate Laman and Lemuel in assisting with the construction of the ship which would take them to the American Continent. And again, while crossing the ocean, they witnessed Nephi's prayer calm the turbulent sea. Yet, despite all these signs and miracles, Laman and Lemuel refused to humble themselves to the will and commandments of God. They resented Nephi's leadership and example and were continually threatening and attempting to get rid of and even murder Nephi.

The Book of Mormon describes Laman and Lemuel as being "past feeling". The point of being "past feeling" is not the absence of conscience. The point is that they did not respond to it except when constrained by an angelic visitation, the pleading of their wives, or being threatened with utter destruction. In several instances, Laman and Lemuel ask Nephi for forgiveness and Nephi says at one point that he had high hopes for them. But, in the end, Nephi's hopes are in vain and he is warned to take those who would go with him and separate themselves from their evil brothers.

The lesson here is that even the most evil and rebellious can be convinced and constrained to do what is right.

2. Sherem and Korihor. These two characters in the Book of Mormon are both anti-Christ's. Both Sherem and Korihor seek to attack the church of God and the faith of the people by claiming that there was no God, and that it was impossible for prophets to know of anything in the future. Particularly, these two challenged the knowledge of the future life and mission of Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.

However, when push comes to shove, and Sherem and Korihor face divine judgement for seeking a sign, they both confess that they had both known all along that there was a God and that Christ would come but that they had been lying even to the point that they began to believe in their own lies.

The lesson here is, just like a steroid-using athlete who will deny it until the bitter end, even the most outspoken atheists really do believe in God.

3. King Lamoni is another example of conscience. In the Book of Alma, the sons of King Mosiah embark on a courageous mission to the Lamanites to convert them to the truth. King Lamoni demonstrate conscience when he is convinced Ammon is the Great Spirit sent to punish him for killing his servants when others had scattered his flocks.

Here is the King who could easily have convinced himself that as king, it was well within his right to spare or deprive anyone under his rule with life, liberty or property; instead acknowledges that when judgement seems to be upon him, that he was wrong to have killed his servants when his flocks were scattered.

King Lamoni teaches us that kings and rulers are not beyond having a conscience and self-evident truth. And the truth is that life, liberty, and property are self-evident, God-given rights and not merely privileges doled out by the good graces of a ruling elite.

3. Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah demonstrate conscience at the time they were visited by the angel. Like Saul in the New Testament, Alma the Younger was going about persecuting the Church of God. Upon facing the potential of eternal punishment, Alma the Younger demonstrates a mighty change of heart and becomes a valiant servant of God.

Here we learn that when faced with the consequences of sin, even the most rebellious and wayward child can have a miraculous change of heart for the better.

4. Lastly, the Lamanites who were converted to Christ by the preaching of Ammon and his brethren are another great example of the operation of conscience. In Alma 26, Ammon comments that many Nephites laughed and scoffed at the idea of going on a mission to the Lamanites. Ammon says that the Nephites saw the Lamanites as beyond any hope. In fact, Ammon confesses that many Nephites were of the opinion the only option was to entirely destroy and kill off the Lamanites so that they would no longer come up against them to war.

However, the example and success of Ammon in converting many of the Lamanites to the truth was that every man on this Earth is born with a conscience, and the Light of Christ is the Spirit of Freedom and there is no man anywhere that is beyond the ability of Christ to Redeem them. Likewise, neither is there anyone that cannot potentially understand, appreciate and embrace the principles of freedom.

Alma 28:14 "And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life."

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