In the Article of Faith 13, we read, “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” However, all you have to do is read the daily paper or watch the evening news or click into your favorite news app to feel that there seems to be a great void of virtuous, lovely, good and praiseworthy things to seek after. There appears to be a great imbalance of evil in the world.
Recently Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the BYU Education Week about the increase of wickedness in the world (Aug. 18, 2015). In his talk, Elder Andersen quoted the following statistics: “Worldwide there has been a 35 percent increase in terrorist attacks in the past year. In 2013, 41 percent of all births in the United States were to unmarried women. … Adult Americans claiming no religious affiliation increased from 16 percent in 2007 to 23 percent in 2014. … There are now more than 43 million refugees worldwide. … [One] California college will now ask students to pick from six [different] genders in their application for admission.”
Elder Andersen also quoted President Thomas S. Monson who explained, “Where once the standards of the Church and standards of society were mostly compatible, now there is a wide chasm between us, and it’s growing ever wider.” This is simply another way to say that wickedness is on the rise in the world.
In a world of such increasing wickedness it could be easy to become discouraged in trying to find the virtuous, lovely and good. How do we find the good when it is surrounded by so much bad? An example of this idea is demonstrated well in the vision that Nephi and Lehi had about the tree of life. While the good offered from the tree of life was there, it was difficult to find for many individuals because of the “mists of darkness” which “are the temptations of the devil” (1 Nephi 12:17). Truly God created a beautiful world filled with good. However, in these last days the level of wickedness has increased so much that it has become difficult for many to see clearly through the darkness to find the good.
We typically associate Moroni 7 with the powerful discourse Mormon gave on “faith, hope and charity.” However there is great insight in the verses leading into that discussion that give context to and reasoning for the discussion of faith, hope, and charity. In Moroni 7:19-28 we find a pattern of counsel from Mormon to “lay hold upon every good thing.” Mormon repeats this counsel to “lay hold upon every good thing” four different times in these few verses. To “lay hold upon every good thing” becomes the context for Mormon’s introduction to faith, hope and charity. He then concludes this introduction to faith, hope, and charity with language that increases the intensification to the “lay hold upon” when he says, “they who have faith in [Christ] will cleave unto every good thing” (verse 28).
The language to “lay hold upon” and “cleave unto” seems to also be connected to the tree of life vision. The key to making it through the mists of darkness was to continually hold “fast to the rod of iron” which “was the word of God” (see 1 Nephi 8:30 and 1 Nephi 11:25).
Later, in Moroni 7:21 we see Mormon explain how we can find the good in a world filled with sin. “And now I come to that faith of which I said I would speak; and I will tell you the way whereby ye my lay hold on every good thing.” He then explains that “in Christ there should come every good thing” (verse 22). “And thus by faith they did lay hold upon every good thing” (verse 25). Here Mormon connects faith centered in Christ as being the way we “lay hold upon every good thing.”
Through these verses we come to understand that in a world of increased wickedness for the majority, the righteous minority are blessed to know how to see clearly through the mist of darkness to lay hold upon that which is good. It is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that gives us the way. His light shines through the darkness of worldliness and wickedness to provide us the way. Where Christ’s light is, there is no darkness. Therefore, although we may feel surrounded by a sea of filth and evil, we can have the assurance of finding that which is good provided by the Lord Jesus Christ, accessible to us through our faith in Him.
Elder Neil L. Andersen, as a second witness to these principles, gave the following hopeful encouragement, “As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous … an additional spiritual endowment, a revelatory gift for the righteous. … Faith is the muscle of spiritual knowledge and power. Faith is a spiritual gift of God, but it is developed and magnified as we eagerly pursue our journey of embracing and following the Savior.”
In spite of a world that seems to be spiraling downward into wickedness, we have the assurance that through the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we can indeed find that which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.”