Charity in Mormonism
The world understands charity to be the act of giving donations to the poor and needy, of offering contributions to various organizations that strive to do good in the world. However, this is not the meaning that Mormonism actually gives to the word charity. Giving donations to the poor and needy may be a product of charity but not always. For example, there are some people who give money, food, and services for so-called charities, without feeling any true charity in their hearts. Rather, their motivation might stem from a desire for glory and praise, for tax write-offs, or for a good name in the public’s mind.
Mormons believe that charity is much more than this. In fact, charity is the pure love of Christ. The meaning behind the phrase “love of Christ” can be threefold. First, it represents the reason Jesus underwent so many trials and suffering for us: He loved us and continues to love us with the utmost mercy, hoping that we will accept His sacrifice and follow Him to perfect joy—in this sense, charity could be rephrased as love from Christ. Second, charity can be described in terms of love for Christ—if we truly love Jesus, are we not willing to indeed follow Him and do all that He asks? It is our duty to foster a deep affection for Jesus and let that love guide us in all our decisions and actions. Third, charity is a Christlike love, or a love like that of Christ. If we wish to follow His example in all things, that would definitely include noticing and appreciating how much He loves us and then turning around and loving each other in a similar manner. In the midst of agony, Jesus uttered, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” These few words speak volumes about what it means to love. Christ’s perfect example of forgiveness, and anxiety for the welfare of others over that of Self, is an example we all should aspire to emulate, in every contact we have with each other as brothers and sisters under God.
Mormons have both the Bible and the Book of Mormon to teach them the importance of charity. Corinthians chapter 13 emphasizes that if a person has no charity, then his case is hopeless and vain even if he has all knowledge, or has faith enough to move mountains, or gives all his possessions for the poor, or suffers a martyr’s death. The prophet Mormon teaches that charity is the greatest of all spiritual gifts—greater than faith, hope, and meekness—and “whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
”The Bible and the Book of Mormon use similar language in describing a person who has charity: “And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
”The pure love of Christ causes a person to want to serve others. This might include giving monetary donations to an effort that supports the health or education of less fortunate individuals. More often, however, a charity-filled person actually gets involved in the lives of other people and seeks for ways to most effectively touch them for good.
There are a lot of problems and suffering in the world. Some of these sufferings are part of our mortal probation and cannot be completed avoided. However, Mormonism also teaches that many problems and suffering are a consequence of our transgressions (whether ignorant or deliberate) of God’s commandments. Unfortunately, many people do not realize the importance of, or even scoff at, God’s commandments and they underestimate the importance of such things as prayer to a loving Heavenly Father, study of His word in the scriptures, wholesome family activities, chastity, forgiveness, selfless kindness, and purity of mind, body, and spirit.
After the death of Christ and His apostles, the true doctrines of Christ’s gospel were changed or lost because of neglect and even wickedness. Mormonism is the Restoration of the true Christ’s gospel, and because of feeling of charity, Mormons wish to share their knowledge with the rest of humanity. That is why Mormonism stresses the value of missionary work, and each year tens of thousands of members of the Mormon Church leave their homelands to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with others. Charity causes many of these Mormons to feel as did missionaries of old who are described in the Book of Mormon: “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.
”Since charity is so crucial in motivating a person to do good and in helping him gain salvation, how is it obtained? Mormon teaches us: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.”