Context and General Information
- Lehi, shortly before his death, is teaching Jacob for a final time.
- People are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.
- The Law is given unto us.
- By the law no flesh is justified, or it is cut off – from God.
- By the temporal law we are cut off, and by the spiritual law, we are cut off. So without a redemption from Christ, we would be miserable forever.
Good and Evil
This phrase is standing out to me today:
“And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.” – 2 Nephi 2:5
Just so you know, I usually write these blog posts a few weeks/months in advance. It is just the schedule I’m on. And, as I’m writing this post, here in the U.S., we have had two mass shootings in less than 24 hours. Mass shootings get a lot of sensational coverage, but unfortunately, they overshadow other problems. I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and I really agree with the sentiment expressed:
“In a tweet on Monday morning, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the shooting in Elmwood [Philadelphia] “everyday” gun violence and the shooting in Gilroy a “mass shooting.” The implication is that there is something normal or routine in 20-year-olds being shot while filming a music video — while a mass shooting is a completely unpredictable event that targets the truly innocent.
Both the shooting in Elmwood and the shooting in Gilroy are “mass shootings” and neither should be thought of as an “everyday” occurrence.” – The Inquirer Editorial Board
Gosh, it’s sad. And I don’t like putting such sad things on my blog that is usually focused on “that good part!”
But these acts of violence stood out to me today, as I read “And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil…”
I don’t really know exactly why it stands out to me – other than I need to study it and I’ll find out. So, come along on this journey with me.
The Spirit of Christ
The first place we can look is the footnote that we read in 2 Nephi 2:5. The footnote is a cross reference to Moroni 7. We read:
“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.” – Moroni 7:16
This spirit of Christ is given to all people – all humankind – so we can know good from evil. Even if we don’t believe in Christ, we have this innate understanding of good and evil. Another way to describe the Spirit of Christ – it’s our conscience. It’s that light we’re born with. We all have it. We can decide to quash it or to nurture it.
But you know, as I study this I’m noticing something. Look at that again: For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil;”. Maybe I was misunderstanding. Maybe this statement implies that we have the ability to discern, but we will still have to express agency in order to really know good from evil. Making sense?
In other words, we are given the tool (the Spirit of Christ) that will help us to know good and evil, but that doesn’t mean this tool is automatically in use in our lives. We must choose to use it. If we don’t learn to discern, then this tool goes useless. Worse yet, if we don’t choose to discern correctly, then we might abuse the tool.
This is exactly what happens! Those mass shooters, for example, they know that what they are doing is wrong. And then they are manipulating their knowledge to find ways to target vulnerable people and kill them. Yes, they did have the Spirit of Christ with them at one point, and they defied it. They have chosen to embrace evil rather than good. Sad, sad, sad.
What the Spirit of Christ will Teach Us
Moroni teaches us how to discern. It is of utmost importance.
- Everything that invites us to do good is from God
- Everything that invites us to believe in Christ is from God.
- Anything that persuades us to do evil is from Satan.
- Anything that persuades us not to believe in Christ and to deny Him is from Satan.
- Anything that persuades us not to serve God is from Satan
What’s the big deal then? Who cares? Well, here’s the thing – Christ is life. Christ is good. Christ will bring us joy and peace. Christ builds us up and encourages us to build up others. Remember what the King Benjamin taught about service:
“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” – Mosiah 2:17
When we serve others, we are serving God. We are doing the Savior’s work. We are doing good. And it is in us to know it. We will feel good!
On the other hand, Satan wants us to be miserable. He is death. He wants us to be captive – and so he entices us to be bound by our appetites and other sins. Satan will never want us to do good. He wants to destroy, he wants chaos, he wants sadness, he wants death, he wants misery. When we give into evil and the things of the devil, we will not feel good!
If we want to be able to discern between evil and good, then we need to search deep within us, for we each have that light that will help us to discern.
Let’s not Confuse the Two
Of course, like so many other things in life, this is all easier said than done. Sometimes the good thing to do feels hard. Satan usually tempts us to believe that the evil thing is easier and therefore better. Isaiah warns:
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” – Isaiah 5:20
We can say whatever we want to say, but that won’t make something true. We can justify our sins, we can justify evil. But that will not actually make evil good. It will only make us more and more susceptible to misery, pain, and death.
Instead, we need to truly embrace good, light, and sweet.
I know – this is easy to say. I don’t think anyone would say that they are purposely embracing evil, darkness, or bitterness. So, let’s think about it more deeply? Are we unwittingly embracing evil, darkness, or bitterness?
I’ll give an example at the risk of alienating many. There are times when I have heard people justify the bad actions of a political leader because their opponent has done the same thing. They might say something like, “Who cares if Donald Trump had an affair – Bill Clinton did, too.” As if one wrong will justify the wrong of another. This is called the “tu quoque” fallacy – in simpler terms, “two wrongs make a right.” Of course, we know that this isn’t true! Now, remember – this is just an example so that we can ask ourselves
Am I embracing good or evil?
Really think about it. Think about your actions. I’ll think about mine, too. Let’s ask ourselves: what are the kinds of articles I read? What are the kinds of entertainment that I consume? What are the kinds of politicians I endorse? What are the kinds of words that I speak about others in my home? What are the kinds of principles I’m teaching to my children? What am I doing behind closed doors?
It is given to each of us to know good and evil. What a blessing this is. We don’t have to go through life confused by the sophisticated arguments and deceptions given by those who are not good. We can learn to look toward God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We can learn to embrace good. We can learn to promote good. This, I feel, is the only way to overcome the sad news that we seem to see each day. It starts in our in our towns, in our homes, and in our hearts.