THE THIRTEENTH ARTICLE OF FAITH –
UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST
Address prepared by Kenneth Allen for February 17, 2008, Palo Alto Second Ward
THE PARABLE OF THE SCRAWNY BUSH
I’d like to tell you a story, a bit of a parable, from my own back yard. I call it the Parable of the Scrawny Bush.
Some years ago we had a small bush planted in our back yard. For years it never seemed to do anything. It never grew and it never got any fruit. Still we nurtured it and watered it and occasionally trimmed its thorny branches. It even survived a few hard frosts. Then one spring it started to shoot up. It blossomed, it filled out. We were shocked and then we realized what had happened. Its taproot, hidden in the ground, had reached down to the abundant water table just a few feet below. It had found its buried treasure. It had found its source of strength.
Today it is a tree nearly 20 feet tall, and it is covered with huge and bright oranges year round. That beautiful orange tree is now our backyard centerpiece.
And so it is with us. Sometimes we spend much of our life without an understanding of the treasure and the source of strength available that is so near to us if we will just reach out.
THE 13th ARTICLE OF FAITH
I’d like to share with you some thoughts about sources of strength, about something supposedly familiar to many of us, namely the 13th Article of Faith. Many of you memorized it as an eleven year old.
I thought about this topic a bit as we were serving as senior missionaries a couple of years ago, and as I memorized it again in German and was given the assignment as a visiting high council speaker in Hamburg to speak about it.
Let me recite it… in English.
In his last address to BYU students last September, President Hinckley spoke on this topic. He called it a short and simple statement of faith that has enormous implications. I commend that sermon to your study.
However, I’d like to focus on the words of Paul that are cited. WE believe ALL Things, WE hope ALL Things. WE have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things.
As I studied these words, I found, particularly reading the German version, that the key words are found in the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians in 1st Corinthians 13:13. There he states that “belief” – which in German is Glaube or Faith-- and “hope” are so closely related that they cannot be separated from Charity, which is the Pure Love of Christ.
Then it occurred to me that this inseparability of the Pure Love of Christ is exactly the theme of Lehi’s Dream in the first chapters of the Book of First Nephi, the vision of the Tree of Life.
The Tree of Life, that tree that has fruit more precious above all others, is the Love of God.
The prophet Mormon, three hundred years and an ocean away from Paul, evidently had the same vision as Paul as he wrote:
Therefore Charity suffers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Taking these things together led me to this epiphany. In the Thirteenth Article of Faith the pronoun WE replaces the term Charity, the Pure Love of Christ. When we ponder that, perhaps we come to the beginning of an understanding what is expected of us, and what stands before us. We cannot merely analyze words from a theological and academic standpoint to understand the teachings of Paul. We can only discern the true meaning of the Thirteenth Article of Faith when we internalize the substance as a whole by putting the underlying principles into actual use. WE must BE the Pure Love of Christ
If we envision ourselves in the position of being this Love of God or as an instrument to dispense the Love of God, many things can become clear to us.
ELDER BUSCHE WISDOM
The German General Authority, Elder Enzio Busche, who is from Sister Covert’s hometown, made the following observations.
“Many people are hesitant to listen to matters concerning the spiritual world because they feel they have no control over such things. There is, therefore, a level of spiritual awareness that most people seem to have closed themselves to. But when spiritual eyes have been opened, circumstances change…
“ This world we live in is not the real thing. The actual world—which is closer to us than we sometimes realize—is full of truth and capable of bringing us to a higher level than we can understand. Indeed, it is more beautiful and majestic than a human can imagine. My spiritual insight let me see that we as human beings live far below our potential from day to day. One day we will be confronted with our true potential; and we will see what we have missed because we have not embraced the ultimate help offered to us from our Creator. Life is not worth living if we walk around in it without really knowing that every choice we make defines our lives in the eternities.”
WHY IS IT THE LAST ARTICLE?
Have you ever thought why this Article of Faith stands at the very end. If it is so important, shouldn’t it be someplace else in order? Elder Bruce R. McConkie said in his very last book, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, that Joseph Smith placed this Article of Faith last because this statement is the summary of the doctrine and Gospel principles embodied in the previous twelve Articles, and it rests on a foundation of continuing revelation.
WE believe all things, WE hope all things. What is it then that we believe and that we hope?
Let me summarize and restate that which we believe--from those previous twelve Articles:
1. The nature of God as our literal father, with Christ and the Holy Ghost as separate and distinct entities of the Godhead we worship.
2. The reality of first earthly parents with free agency and the error of condemnation for Original Sin.
3. The two-fold mission of Christ as savior of the world and redeemer through the atonement to those who repent.
4. The first principles of belief in Christ, transformation through repentance, and the first ordinances being earthly rebirth and the granting of the gift of the spirit of discernment.
5. The manner of granting of power and authority and of attaining office.
6. The ecclesiastical organization after the order that Christ established.
7. The various gifts of the Spirit and healing.
8. The Bible as the word of God although an imperfectly propagated work, and the Book of Mormon as a second witness of the word of God.
9. Past, present and future or continuous revelation as the true source of truth and faith, and thus not a creed decided by committees
10. The gathering of the faithful through missionary work in preparation for the prophesied second coming of Christ and the glorious millennial period.
11. Freedom of religion for all faiths.
12. Obedience to civil law.
Thus the Thirteenth Article of Faith is not as it might appear to be, merely an expression of living a good life. It gives us the reason why we should lead a good life. It encompasses the meaning of life and reiterates the importance of continuing revelation.
13. Thus it may be characterized. When we so believe and so hope and so be as to embody the Pure Love of Christ, we will be called upon to endure much, but we will be in a position to endure everything. Then will we understand Christ, because we will be like him, because we will share his experience.
That is what Paul meant when he said in 1st Corinthians 13:9-13, that we will not know everything, as if we are blinded to the world beyond the reflecting window as in a lighted room, only to see when the source of light is changed. It is then that we see “through a glass darkly.” It is then that Paul reiterates: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
I think of this relationship as follows:
Faith is the motivation and direction.
Hope is the path to the goal.
Charity is the source of power.
Thus it is the Pure Love of Christ that makes it possible to endure despite all of the challenges that we may suffer.
How can we apply this discovery in our lives? I am sorry, but I cannot tell you that. Each of us came to church today seeking comfort and understanding. I can only hope that what I have said may have had some personal meaning and help you deal with personal challenges. The Lord doesn’t tell us how to do it. It is for each of us to learn for ourselves. We must find that deep-rooted source of strength for ourselves, just as the orange tree did. And through that discovery, we will gain the strength to endure.
I pray that as we ponder and exercise the Pure Love of Christ, we will always remember Him, so that we may understand why he endured all things for us.
I leave you my testimony of the reality of the Restoration. I close with the comforting words of Christ shortly before he departed mortality: John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”