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Godliness

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Godliness implies those qualities associated with our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. We are devout in our worship of God and seek to be Christ-like in our everyday behavior: We seek to be like the Father and the Son by acting in a godly manner. Indeed we seek to be even as They are (see 3 Nephi 12:48; 27:27). This is part of the process of taking upon ourselves the divine nature of Christ (see 2 Peter 1:3-12) and of becoming as He is (see Moroni 7:48). Our life takes on a new vision. We have an eye single to His glory, a perception born of love for all mankind, an overwhelming desire to do good and to be good, and in all things we seek to do as He would do. Godliness has within it the qualities and virtues of God. This should be our goal—in everything we do and in everything we say.

THE SCRIPTURES TEACH US

• 1 Timothy 4:7-8—7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

Paul in his letter to Timothy surely emphasizes and prioritizes the importance of acquiring the attributes of godliness, both as it relates to mortality and our life to come.

• 2 Peter 3:11—Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness...

The Prophet Joseph exclaimed: “When I contemplate the rapidity with which the great and glorious day of the coming of the Son of Man advances, when he shall come to receive his Saints unto himself, where they shall dwell in his presence and be crowned with glory and immortality, when I consider that soon the heavens are to be shaken and the earth tremble and reel to and fro and that the heavens are to be unfolded as a scroll when it is rolled up, that every mountain and island are to flee away—I cry out in my heart, ‘…What manner of person ought I to be in all holy conversation and godliness!’ (2 Peter 3:11).”
(Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 210.)

• Doctrine and Covenants 84:20-21—20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;…

"That is what holds these people together—the power of the priesthood. And in the administration of it we have seen and do see the power of godliness; not a form of godliness, mind you, but the power of godliness. Paul said that in the latter days men would be ‘having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof’ [2 Tim. 3:5]; but what I refer to is the power of godliness. Have you ever seen it manifested in your lives? We heard of it this morning from the leader of the Church as manifested in the healing of the sick. We see it in the temples of the Lord; we see it in the sick rooms; we see it manifested in presidencies of stakes, bishoprics of wards.

“In all the leadership of the priesthood you see that same power of godliness. . . . It is the power of godliness, of godly lives. It is the power of godly men and godly women, through the ordinances of the priesthood made manifest; and everyone shares in it.” (CR, April 1927, pp. 26-27; see also D&C 107:28-30.)

(Roy W. Doxey, comp., Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 3:74.)

MODERN PROPHETS SPEAK The mysteries of godliness are taught in the temple. As early as 1841, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that “there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood. For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:28, 41.)

These revelations, which are reserved for and taught only to the faithful Church members in sacred temples, constitute what are called the “mysteries of godliness.” The Lord said He had given to Joseph “the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 28:7). As a reward to the faithful, the Lord promised: “And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:7). In this sense, then, a mystery may be defined as a truth which cannot be known except by revelation.

(Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 575.)

Develop the character traits of godliness. Be upright, just, and merciful, exercising a spirit of nobility and godliness in all your intentions and resolutions—in all your acts and dealings. Cultivate a spirit of charity, be ready to do for others more than you would expect from them if circumstances were reversed. Be ambitious to be great, not in the estimation of the worldly minded, but in the eyes of God, and to be great in this sense: “Love the Lord your God with all your might, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” You must love mankind because they are your brethren, the offspring of God. Pray diligently for this spirit of philanthropy, this expansion of thought and feeling, and for power and ability to labor earnestly in the interest of Messiah’s kingdom. (May 1884, BLS, p. 487.)

(Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984], 10.)

IDEAS FOR DAILY LIVING

Here are seven ideas to help us acquire the attributes of godliness:

1. Ponder the word—Study the word of God as given in the scriptures and through the voice of the living prophets. Herein are the attributes of godliness identified, clarified, and put forward for emulation (see Jacob 3:2; Alma 32:28; D&C 138:1-11).

2. Choose the best patterns—Organize and structure your life after the best models and examples—the Lord’s prophets and servants, righteous neighbors and family members. Especially seek to follow in the footsteps of the Savior (see Matthew 16:24).

3. Be clean—Cleanliness is next to godliness as reflected in purity of thought (see Proverbs 23:7) and actions (see James 1:22; Mosiah 5:15).

4. Be obedient—Godliness entails righteousness (see D&C 27:14; 98:30). Faith is the foundation of righteousness (see Romans 3:22; 9:30-32) ; hence it is most important as we seek godliness (see 2 Peter 1:3-12; Doctrine and Covenants 4:6; Moroni 10;32-33).

5. Be a leader in all walks of life—Godliness entails being a good example. Through our example we can lift and bless others (1 Timothy 4:12; Alma 17:11; 3 Nephi 12:16).

6. Be prepared—Recognize that those who lead a godly life shall suffer persecution (see 2 Timothy 3:12). Understand the blessings and the challenges.

7. Remember—Create a way to remember the things that are required to take upon oneself the attributes of godliness: surround yourself with reminders (pictures, charts, posters, notes, wall and table ornaments—anything that will bring the principles of godliness to mind throughout the day). Guard against forgetting due to the ease of the way (see Helaman 12:1-2); but remember the goodness and mercy of the Lord in all things (see Mosiah 4:11).

SOME ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON GODLINESS

• “For a person to take up his cross means ‘to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments’ (JST, Matthew 16:26). Such daily discipline would be impossible without faith unto both avoidance and repentance.” Neal A. Maxwell (Not My Will, But Thine [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998], 62). • “To deny oneself of all ungodliness is to come to Christ by ordinances and covenants, to repent of any sins which prevent the Spirit of the Lord from taking precedence in our lives (see Moroni 10:32). To deny oneself of all ungodliness is to ‘offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit’ (D&C 59:8).” —Ezra Taft Benson (CR April 1979, Ensign 9 [May 1979], 32; The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 73).

SUMMARY

Godliness precedes charity, the pure love of Christ. Charity or love fulfills all the law and the prophets. As we begin to think and act in a godly manner, we begin to understand and appreciate charity—we begin to possess this ultimate attribute, the pure love of Christ. Then our motives will be pure and our actions will reflect our true character. Godliness follows faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience and brotherly kindness.

  • This article was adapted from What We Need to Know and Do, by Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen.
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