Friday, June 21, 2013

Despair Cometh of Iniquity

Some time ago, a friend of mine asked a question about Moroni 10:22:
And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity. (Moroni 10:22)
Her question was that if we were in despair that that necessarily meant that was a result of our own sins. At the time, she was suffering from a number of trials, none of which were of her own doing. I had no answer at the time, but I have thought about it a number of times since.

I note at the outset that the English term despair comes from French espoir "hope" or rather from its negative désespoir "hopelessness." So despair is precisely the lack of hope: if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair.

When Moroni says that despair cometh because of iniquity, he does not say whose iniquity that is. Certainly despair can come because of our own iniquity, but I have come to learn that despair at our situation can also come because of others' iniquity.

Ultimately, we might "have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal" (Moroni 7:41), but proximately there might be little to hope for. Think of Abinadi, condemned to die for pointing out the iniquities of king Noah, or the time when Alma's little band of followers were denied the ability to appeal higher authority by their wicked overseers: those "found calling upon God should be put to death" (Mosiah 24:11). These were times when proximate hope had to be low or non-existent. In one case, earthly deliverance came, in the other, it did not. In both cases the iniquities of others caused hope to dim.

The prospect of others' iniquities can cause hope to fade even among the prophets. As Nephi notes:
I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope (2 Nephi 33:9).
Here Nephi has despair, a loss of hope, because of the iniquities of others, but his loss of hope is not for himself but for them.

When iniquity abounds, as it surely does in the last days, it is hard to keep one's hopes up. This can be hard, because "the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day." (Mosiah 23:21–22)