1 John 3:1 that we should be called the sons of God
As spirit children of our Father in Heaven, we have the potential to become like our Father. However, we often forget the effect the Fall had on that relationship. By the Fall, man is disenfranchised from God. By sin, we give up our right to our inheritance with Him. By the Fall, the nature of our relationship with the God changes. When you think about it, if the Fall had no effect on our relationship with God, then there would be no need for an atonement. In fact, the Fall not only separates us from God, both physically and spiritually, but it also disqualifies us for an inheritance as a spirit son or daughter of God.
Because of this, we must be born again as sons and daughters of Christ (Mosiah 5:7). Otherwise, our potential to become like Him is wasted.
You will notice that John does not refer to being a "son of God" as a given. He does not convey the idea that in the pre-mortal sphere we were called "sons and daughters of God" and that we have been such ever since. He means that the Fall required that we be born of God to reestablish the relationship, the inheritance, and the potential to become like God. That relationship is only possible because of the great love which "the Father hath bestowed upon us" in giving us his Son as a propitiation for our sins.
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. (Mosiah 5:7)
1 John 3:2 it doth not yet appear what we shall be
John hints that our own potential as "spiritually begotten" sons and daughters of God is not appreciated-perhaps not comprehensible. Do we know what it will be like to be "perfected in Christ"? To have a resurrected, celestial body? To dwell in the presence of the Father and Son?
Bruce R. McConkie
Christ, our Prototype, has attained oneness with his Father. Paul's associate apostle John takes the next step and applies the same principle to all who by faith become the sons of God. "Now are we the sons of God," he wrote, meaning that here and now while in mortality we have been adopted into the family of Deity and have become joint-heirs with his natural Son. "And it doth not yet appear what we shall be," he continues, meaning that no mortal man can conceive of the glory and dominion which shall be heaped upon those who reign on thrones in the exalted realms. (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 134.)
1 John 3:2 when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is
John indicates that in order to see Christ as he is, we need to be like him. He means we need to be like him in the sense of being a glorified, perfected, resurrected personage. Can't we "see him as he is" without first being resurrected? Prior to being glorified, Joseph Smith saw the Lord, "We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber. His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters." (D&C 110: 2-3) At the time of this vision, the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery were mortal men. Neither were perfect. Neither were glorified. Neither possessed a celestial body. As such, they could not appreciate his glory to the same degree as if they themselves had been glorified.
What will be different about seeing the Lord at his Second Coming? Or, more accurately, what will be different about the saints at the Second Coming that we will be able to "see him as he is"? At that day, the saints will be like him, both spiritually and physically. As Elder Charles W. Penrose said, "By that time we will be able to comprehend God." (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 23: 160.)
In other words, in order to truly see him as he is, we must be as he is.
Joseph Fielding Smith
John did not mean that we would see him in the form of a man. Every man is in that form, whether he repents of his sins or whether he does not. Every man was created in the image of God, in his likeness; but when Christ comes, those who have kept the commandments and stand before him, will see themselves like they see him, a Son of God! They will be entitled to the blessings of sons, heirs. The Lord has promised to them the fulness of his kingdom so they can go on through the eternities. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 37.)
Our bodies will be glorified in the same manner as his body is; then we shall be truly in his image and likeness, for as he is immortal, having a body of flesh and bone, so we will be immortal, possessing bodies of flesh and bones. Will we ever become Gods? Let me refer you to the answer of the Savior to the Jews when accused of blasphemy because he called himself the Son of God. Says he, "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If ye called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scriptures cannot be broken." This clearly proves to all Bible believers that in this world, in our imperfect state, being the children of God, we are destined, if we keep his commandments, to grow in intelligence until we finally become like God our Father. By living according to every word which proceeds from the mouth of God, we shall attain to his likeness, the same as our children grow up and become like their parents; and, as children through diligence attain to the wisdom and knowledge of their parents, so may we attain to the knowledge of our Heavenly Parents, and if they be obedient to this commandment they will not only be called the sons of God, but be gods. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 18: 292.)
Charles W. Penrose
There is the great lesson, my brethren and sisters, and friends. If we want to come into the complete and perfect society of God, in His personality, to be where He is, to enjoy His company, His divine presence, His instructions, the joy that comes froth looking upon His countenance, and feeling the influence that proceeds from Him who is our life, if we want that we have to be like Him. In this respect, to be pure, even as He is pure; to keep His commandments; to walk in His ways; to do that which He desires us to do. (Conference Report, October 1914, Afternoon Session. 38 - 39.)
1 John 3:3 every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself
Marion G. Romney
In this statement John holds out a goal beyond the comprehension of those who know not the true God. The promise that when we see God we will be like him will motivate everyone who has this hope to purify himself from sin. This hope works in everyone who believes the promise and fosters a spirit of reverence-reverence not only for self, but reverence for God. ("Reverence," Ensign, Sept. 1982, 5)
The Latter-day Saints expect to arrive at this state of perfection; we expect to become as our Father and God, fit and worthy children to dwell in his presence; we expect that when the Son of God shall appear, we shall receive our bodies renewed and glorified, and that these vile bodies will be changed and become like unto his glorious body. [See Philip. 3:21.] These are our expectations.
Now let all present put this question to themselves. Are our expectations well founded? In other words, are we seeking to purify ourselves? How can a Latter-day Saint feel justified in himself unless he is seeking to purify himself even as God is pure-unless he is seeking to keep his conscience void of offense before God and man every day of his life. ("Blessings of the Gospel Only Obtained by Compliance to the Law," Ensign, Oct. 1971, 19)
Joseph Fielding Smith
We should keep ourselves clean and pure from sin, from anything that tends to destroy the functions of these bodies, these tabernacles. The Lord intends that we should keep them holy, sanctified, cleansed from all iniquity. We cannot do that if we partake of the evils that we find in the world. No man who uses tobacco can keep his body clean. No man can keep his body clean when he puts into it alcoholic beverages. That cannot be done. (Conference Report, April 1933, First Day-Morning Meeting 25.)
Bruce R. McConkie
Why must those who seek salvation pursue the course charted in these scriptures? Because if they do not, they cannot be like Christ. If they are not pure as he is pure, "holy, as he is holy, and perfect, as he is perfect, they cannot be like him; for no being can enjoy his glory without possessing his perfections and holiness, no more than they could reign in his kingdom without his power." (Lectures on Faith 7:10.) (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 207.)
1 John 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you
John is writing at a time when wolves were roaming amongst the sheep. Apostates and anti-christs had begun their work of destruction. John's instructions help the true saints perceive the truth. He does this by paraphrasing the idea of the Savior, that "every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." (Matt 7:17)
He that doeth righteousness is righteous (v. 7)
He that committeth sins is of the devil (v. 8)
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (v. 9)
Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God (v. 10)
Next, John gives us keys by which we may know if we are deceiving ourselves. How can we know if we are in good standing with the Lord? "Hereby we know that we are of the truth..."
If we love our brother in deed and in truth (v. 18)
If our heart condemn us not (v. 21)
If we do those things that are pleasing in his sight (v. 22)
If he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us (v. 24)
1 John 3:8 the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil
This is Satan's work and his glory, to block the immortality and eternal life of man. The scriptures teach us that he does this by ensnaring the children of men, "that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction" (Alma 12:17). His bedfellows in this sinister work are death and hell. The forces of death and hell are the most binding, "and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. Yea, they are grasped with death and hell." (2 Ne 28:22-23)
In order for the Savior to "destroy the works of the devil," He must destroy death and hell. One might think that Satan holds the keys of death and hell, but it is not so. In fact, the Savior "holds the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:18). He will exercise these priesthood keys to destroy the works of Satan, "That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him; Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition." (D&C 76:42-43)
Bruce R. McConkie
To catch souls in his snares and then drag them down to hell is the plan and program of the devil. (D. & C. 10:26; Alma 30:60.) One of his latter-day wiles is to persuade men that there is neither a devil nor a hell and that the fear of eternal torment is baseless. (2 Ne. 28:21-23.) But Christ, who holds "the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:18), and can therefore control and abolish them, has power to save and redeem men from hell. (2 Ne. 33:6; Alma 19:29; 26:13-14.) This he does on conditions of repentance and obedience to his laws. (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 351.)
1 John 3:14 he that loveth not his brother abideth in death
Thomas S. Monson
"He that loveth not his brother abideth in death," wrote the Apostle John nineteen hundred years ago (1 Jn. 3:14).
Some point the accusing finger at the sinner or the unfortunate and in derision say, "He has brought his condition upon himself." Others exclaim, "Oh, he will never change. He has always been a bad one." A few see beyond the outward appearance and recognize the true worth of a human soul. When they do, miracles occur... When we treat people merely as they are, they may remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they may become what they should be. ("With Hand and Heart," Ensign, Jan. 1995, 4-5)
1 John 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer
This doctrine seems a bit harsh. Many are guilty of hating someone, but they certainly would never commit murder. However, John is really teaching the same concept the Lord did in the Sermon on the Mount, "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment." (Matt 5:22)
But John takes it one step further-saying those who hate are murderers. What if we compare the doctrine on the sin of lust. "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matt. 5:28) Isn't John teaching, "whosoever looketh on his brother with hatred hath committed murder already in his heart"? This is a very literal application of the old adage, as a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Prov. 23:7) John is teaching that if a man's heart is full of hatred, he must be a murderer. Whether he acts upon that hatred or not, he is guilty of the same emotion as a murderer.
1 John 3:16 we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren
C. Max Caldwell
Jesus' love was inseparably connected to and resulted from his life of serving, sacrificing, and giving in behalf of others. We cannot develop Christlike love except by practicing the process prescribed by the Master.
The Apostle John was not only loved by the Lord, but he also loved others like the Lord. John affirmed the process by saying, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 Jn. 3:16.)
Is it a coincidence that missionaries give a portion of their lives in behalf of others, then come home and testify of their great love for the people they have served? Is it any wonder that bishops and other priesthood and auxiliary leaders who sacrifice for others are filled with love for those who are recipients of their labors? Is there a greater love among mortals than that of a mother, who offers all for her child? Many who desire to have charity like Jesus attain it as he did... People who have charity have a love for the Savior, have received of his love, and love others as he does. ("Love of Christ," Ensign, Nov. 1992, 30)
1 John 3:18 let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth
Marion D. Hanks
God's children need to be loved, and to have someone to love.
But it is written, "let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (1 Jn. 3:18)...
We speak of the love of Christ that is greater than faith, greater than hope; that expresses itself in sacrifice, in service, in giving.
Now, some of those who need our love are near at hand, others are far away. A few of the latter are arriving in our communities to remind us that vast numbers of displaced people are now and will be increasingly in need of help across the earth. We have heard a little of the tragedy of the boat people. Yet the problem of the hungry, the homeless, the hopeless, the poor and cast out, is beyond anything most of us can comprehend.
There are others nearer at hand who struggle with problems with which we must also be concerned. Major organized institutional welfare and social service efforts are in process, thank the Lord, but these are to augment our individual concern for the strangers who are among us, resident or passing through, for the wayward, the elderly, and the ill.
The widowed and divorced suffer devastating displacement, also, often alone and often in need of encouragement and help. Brokenhearted parents who have really tried, but whose progeny have chosen another path, are heartsick and often find little comfort in sermons or in the success of others. The numbers of single-parent families burgeon, each one representing special needs not understood by those who have not experienced them.
We have the testimony of scripture that the Lord God weeps when we do not choose him or truly love each other. The saddest circumstance any of us can envision, indeed the only evil that ultimately can really harm us, is in not choosing him and thus to be separated from him. But the companion tragedy-one that also brings suffering that makes him weep-is to fail in our affection for each other, affection expressed in unselfish efforts to give the Christian service President Kimball referred to thrice this morning, Christian service to the hungry, the naked, the oppressed, those who are cast out, the widow, the orphan, the afflicted, the brokenhearted, the bruised, the abandoned, the elderly, the sick, and the imprisoned.
We have two great challenges, you and I, and the challenge never ends as long as breath lasts: to choose him and to love each other. (Marion D. Hanks, "Willing to Receive," Ensign, May 1980, 30-31)
I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the long, smooth-faced hypocrite. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 303.)
1 John 3:21 if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God
Gene R. Cook
This great apostle is teaching us that if we can pray with confidence that we are trying to be sinless, not that we are perfect, but that we are trying to live up to what we know to be right, then we will have the assurance that what we ask for, the Lord will grant. If, on the other hand, our hearts condemn us, it will be very hard for us to muster up the confidence to ask the Lord for a blessing. When our own hearts condemn us, we cannot obtain the faith and assurance necessary. Do you feel that your heart is right before God? I hope and pray that it is, and that if it is not, you are trying to make it so. (Living by the Power of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 78.)
1 John 3:22 whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments
Richard G. Scott
Life in today's world can be at times so complicated and the challenges so overwhelming as to be beyond our individual capacity to resolve them. We all need help from the Lord. Yet there are many individuals who don't know how to receive that help. They feel their urgent pleas for help have often gone unattended. How can that be when He Himself has said, "Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you"? (D&C 4:7.)
Such difficulty results either from not following His spiritual law for providing help or from not recognizing help when it comes. Well did James observe, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss." (James 4:3.)
True, the Lord has said, "Ask, and ye shall receive." (D&C 4:7.) But He also declared, "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me." (D&C 9:7.)
It is evident that He intends that we do our part. But what, specifically, are we to do? No one would expect to receive a result from physical law without obeying it. Spiritual law is the same. As much as we want help, we must expect to follow the spiritual law that controls that help. Spiritual law is not mysterious. It is something that we can understand. The scriptures define it in significant detail. I will cite key scriptures that teach how to ask for help, then summarize the spiritual law they clarify.
The Savior declared, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (D&C 82:10; italics added.)
John taught, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." (1 Jn. 3:22; italics added.)
Nephi counseled, "Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?-If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you." (1 Ne. 15:11; italics added.)
The Lord has the power to bless us at any time. Yet we see that to count on His help, we must consistently obey His commandments.
Enos recorded, "I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it." (Enos 1:15; italics added.)
Mormon wrote, "Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth." (Morm. 9:21; italics added.)
The Savior taught:
"Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not." (D&C 8:10; italics added.)
"And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you." (3 Ne. 18:20; italics added.)
"Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you." (D&C 88:64; italics added.)
"If ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done. But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask." (D&C 50:29-30; italics added.)
These teachings of Jesus Christ emphasize that it matters very much what we ask for and how we ask for it. I testify that when we seek His will and do it, we will obtain the greatest blessings in life. ("Obtaining Help from the Lord," Ensign, Nov. 1991, 84)
1 John 3:22 hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us
This passage reveals a secret important to all. Those who repent often wonder if they have been forgiven. How are they to know for sure? This passage reveals that we are in good standing with the Lord if we enjoy the companionship of the Holy Spirit.
Harold B. Lee
Some years ago, President Romney and I were sitting in my office. The door opened and a fine young man came in with a troubled look on his face, and he said, "Brethren, I am going to the temple for the first time tomorrow. I have made some mistakes in the past, and I have gone to my bishop and my stake president, and I have made a clean disclosure of it all; and after a period of repentance and assurance that I have not returned again to those mistakes, they have now adjudged me ready to go to the temple. But, brethren, that is not enough. I want to know, and how can I know, that the Lord has forgiven me, also."
What would you answer one who would come to you asking that question? As we pondered for a moment, we remembered King Benjamin's address contained in the book of Mosiah. Here was a group of people who now were asking for baptism, and they said they viewed themselves in their carnal state:
And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; ...
after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience... (Mosiah 4:2-3.)
There was the answer.
If the time comes when you have done all that you can to repent of your sins, whoever you are, wherever you are, and have made amends and restitution to the best of your ability; if it be something that will affect your standing in the Church and you have gone to the proper authorities, then you will want that confirming answer as to whether or not the Lord has accepted of you. In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find that peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance. Satan would have you think otherwise and sometimes persuade you that now having made one mistake, you might go on and on with no turning back. That is one of the great falsehoods. The miracle of forgiveness is available to all of those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our day: "... go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God." (D&C 82:7.) Have that in mind, all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin.
And to you who are teachers, may you help to lift that great burden from those who are carrying it, and who have their conscience so seared that they are kept from activity, and they don't know where to go to find the answers. You help them to that day of repentance and restitution, in order that they too may have that peace of conscience, the confirming of the Spirit of the Lord that he has accepted of their repentance. ("Stand Ye in Holy Places," Ensign, July 1973, 122-123)
Walter P. Monson
Now, my brethren and sisters, have we the Spirit of the Lord in our hearts, and in our houses? If not, is it not time we were putting them in order, in order that the living testimony of Jesus may be found abiding in our homes, and in our daily conduct in life; for, after we have been forgiven of our sins through baptism, through obedience in baptism, the Spirit of the Lord comes as an attestation from our Father that our lives are approved of him, whatsoever our conduct may have been in the past. "When ye shall receive the companionship of the Holy Spirit of the Lord, then know ye that God has forgiven our sins." And when you have not that Spirit, then it is time to bow in sackcloth and ashes, repent and secure that Spirit, so that when we are called from time to time, we may speak that which will be the word of the Lord, that which will be scripture, that which will be the mind of the Lord, that which will be the power of God unto salvation. (Conference Report, October 1921, Third Day-Morning Session 166.)