The Sunday School study guide for Moroni 7-9 asks, ‘Why do we need faith and hope to receive the gift of charity?’ Why, indeed? I think first, we need to define or understand what charity is.
Mormon tells us that charity is ‘the pure love of Christ’. What is that love? It is love that draws us to Him, and the Father. The work of salvation, which makes us whole, and fits us for eternal joy. It is love that did and does everything needed for these ends. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Travelled, provided a ‘working definition’ of love that goes something like this:
By ‘spiritual’, he meant what we might call our souls – the whole self. Personal progession. He also realised that the progression God is moving us towards, and which we’re helping move each other towards in love, is Himself – perfection and beauty and wholeness. We call it ‘eternal life’.
So when we experience charity and show it to another, we’re participating in God’s work of salvation. That’s why faith and hope are needed in order to have charity – because it’s not feeling sympathy for another’s plight, or doing kind things for them, or allowing them to be whoever and do whatever they want, although the first are part of it. It’s doing whatever will move them towards greater spiritual growth – closer to God and their eternal possibilities. And that means going against what might be your first impulses; examining them to see if what you want to do is actually selfish rather than loving, fearful rather than gentle, ignoring and not forgiveness. Charity is the love that God has for us, and if we are to have it, we must get it from Him, and use it in the way He does.
So now we can see why charity requires faith and hope. It’s not a standalone thing; it’s caught up with God’s plan for His children and all existence. To demonstrate it, we need first (and throughout) hope in His plan – in eternal life for ourselves and the others we aim to love – and faith that Christ will take us there, through His atonement, performed and applied to each person through His perfect love. This is why we cannot have love, real love, without them. And why faith and hope both lead naturally to charity – when we have faith and hope in God’s plan, in a better world, we want to help others have it, too, and to achieve it with us. Charity is a natural outpouring of hope towards others, and faith in God.
So, to summarise, if charity is extending oneself for the spiritual progression of another, you won’t do it unless you hope for a better world – a reason for that progression – and have faith in Christ, to bring you and them there, by making that spiritual progression possible. We work with Them to do this. There cannot be charity separate from God and His work of salvation. That’s why a lot of things that people call ‘love’ for others are not love at all. Not the pure love that Christ has. And if we are to have love, it needs to be that kind; or how can we call ourselves His disciples, and hope to be where He is?