How are Faith, Hope and Charity Related?
Scriptural prophets link the attributes of faith, hope and charity together. Moroni states that you cannot have one without the others. (Moroni 10:20) But if you only know the common meaning of the words it seems odd to link them together.
This is because faith, hope and charity are the most misunderstood words in Christian vocabulary. Each have a common use in language that is only vaguely related to their use in the scriptures.
For instance you probably understand:
Faith as acting when you don't fully understand what you are doing, or believing in something that you can't see.
Hope as when you wish something would happen, and
Charity as giving things to others without expecting anything in return.
But these are not how the words are used in the scriptures, so it is no wonder that they don't seem to fit together as the scriptures suggest.
But faith hope and charity are related. The theory of neurological intelligence provides a definition of these attributes that match the way they are used in the scriptures.
The theory states that the three most important elements of intelligencs are their identity, their method of thinking, and their relationships. Faith, hope and charity are all forms of trust that you have in each of these elements.
Faith is trusting in your identity, and the identity of other people you interact with;
Hope is trusting in your actions and decisions; and
Charity is trusting in your relationships with others.
I used to believe that faith meant believing in things that you cannot see, however I learned the real meaning of faith through teaching swimming lessons. When I was teaching a class of kindergarteners how to swim I had to first teach them how to float. This is super scary for some kids because they cannot feel the bottom of the pool and they do not yet understand that the water is nothing to be afraid of.
When I would help the children to learn I would hold onto their hands or their armpits until they got into position, and they I would briefly let them go so that they would feel what it was like to float. One girl in my class was terrified, and every time we would try to learn to float she would whimper, "Don't let me go."
When she said that I realized that she did not have faith that what I wanted her to learn was actually possible. The fear of not being on a solid surface stopped her from trusting me.
Then I realized that having faith in God has very little to do with not being able to see him, after all, the little girl did not have faith in me, and she could see me. When we lack faith in God, it is because we don't believe that he can actually do the things he promises. But if we have the faith to follow him we will see that our doubts and fears are like the water in the pool. We might not always understand God's plans, and that can be scary, but God's plans work, and you can understand them as you overcome your fears and act in faith.
When you trust that righteous action will lead to the best outcome you have hope. I used to think of hope as merely a desire for a particular thing to happen, but that is incorrect. Hope as it is used in the scriptures is the knowledge that righteous actions always have a beneficial outcome.
Going back to the analogy of the swimming lessons you could think of swimmers who have learned to float as having hope. They understand that they can stay on the top of the water so long as they perform the proper actions. This is having hope in their ability to float. As a result they no longer need to have faith in me to help them float.
In the scriptures we are told to have hope that our righteous actions will bring us salvation. Our hope is canonized in the second article of faith. "We believe that through the atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind may be saved through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel."(Articles of Faith1:2) You can build hope by acting righteously and studying the covenants that you have made with God.
Hope is an Anchor
The book of Hebrews states that hope will anchor our souls.(Hebrews 6:19) Hope depends only on our own actions and our own decisions. This means that no matter what hardships or temptations we are facing, our hope can keep us steady. When times are difficult this is not easy. We are warned that in the last days people’s hearts will fail them for fear. They will give up on doing what is right because they are afraid of the evil around them. But abandoning hope is like abandoning your anchor, you will be swept away by the torrents of the devil and destroyed.
Finally charity is trusting that your relationships will be beneficial. As a swimming instructor I got the chance to meet and teach dozens of kids. I had to trust that by teaching them the best I could that I would make a difference in their lives. Although I am not certain how my small amount of time with them helped them out in the long run I am certain that they were better off for it. When we have charity we strive to help all the people in our lives, just like a teacher tries to help all of their students. Although we may not be able to see how our actions affect others, when we have charity we will seek to help others and know that it will always be for the better.
The Pure Love of Christ
Charity is often described as the pure love of Christ. (Moroni 7:47) By studying Christ’s life and teachings we can understand charity better. Something that set Jesus apart from others is that when his life was hard and a normal person would have looked inward to think only of themselves, Christ would turn outward and help others who were struggling as well. For instance when he was captured by Roman soldiers he healed one of their ears. Christ's love is always available to us and he has taught us to make our love available to others as well.
In the sermon on the mount he instructed “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”(Matthew 5:41-45) When we have charity we will do good to everyone, even those who are evil to us.
The apostle Paul spoke about charity saying: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
I find this statement much easier to understand after knowing the definition of charity. Paul is trying to say that if we have charity, then we will not hinder our relationships with others because of our trials, or our behaviour. We will not only seek to build good relationships with the people who are charitable towards us, but everyone. We rejoice when those around us are doing what is right, we are invested in other people’s wellbeing, and we never grow tired of helping people.
Another phrase that I find these definitions make easier to understand is a statement by Moroni, “Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity. And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.”(Moroni 10:20,21)
Why do faith, hope and charity have to go together? It is because if you trust in Christ's identity, then you will do what he asks. But when you do what he asks you will learn that your righteous actions will bring a beneficial outcome, and for your actions to produce the most beneficial outcome you must love one another.
Why are Faith, Hope, and Charity Important?
Having faith hope and charity are essential to our salvation. We cannot be saved in the kingdom of God without faith, because it is through faith in the Savior that we are able to repent, and become as God is. We cannot be saved in the kingdom of God without hope, because if we doubt our righteous actions then we will falter in them. And if we falter in our righteous actions then we will have no hope of salvation. We cannot be saved in the kingdom of God without charity, because it is through love that we build the kingdom of God, it is also how we help each other to stay on the right path.
"Wherefore my beloved brotheren, 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; and that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we may 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." (Moroni 7:48)