1 John 4:1 try the spirits whether they are of God
Dallin H. Oaks
[The] power of discernment is essential if we are to distinguish between genuine spiritual gifts and the counterfeits Satan seeks to use to deceive men and women and thwart the work of God. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "Nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the spirit of God." (Teachings, p. 205.) He also taught that "no man nor sect of men without the regular constituted authorities, the Priesthood and discerning of spirits, can tell true from false spirits." (Teachings, p. 213.)
Satan-inspired and man-made counterfeits of spiritual gifts have been present throughout our religious history. This is evident from the enchantments wrought by Pharoah's sorcerers and magicians (see Ex. 7:11, 22; Ex. 8:7), and from Isaiah's warnings against "wizards that peep, and that mutter" and "them that have familiar spirits" (Isa. 8:19). The Savior warned against false Christs and false prophets who "shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect ... according to the covenant." (JS-H 1:22.) The Apostle John said, "Try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 Jn. 4:1.)
Just a few months after the Church was organized, Hiram Page, one of the earliest members, was receiving revelations through a seer stone. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith to tell Hiram Page privately that "those things which he has written from that stone are not of me and that Satan deceiveth him." (D&C 28:11.) The receipt of revelation had not been "appointed unto" Hiram Page, the Lord explained, "neither shall anything by appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants. For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith." (D&C 28:12-13.)
Here we learn that Satan gives revelations to deceive the children of men and that our protection is in following the order of the Church on who should receive revelation for what subject. In this, both men and women have equal responsibility to follow the duly ordained leaders of the church who have the obligation to lead and, on occasion, to correct. ("Spiritual Gifts," Ensign, Sept. 1986, 71-72)
1 John 4:2 Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God
George Q. Cannon
Paul advised the people to whom he wrote to try the spirits, whether they were of God or not; and one of the signs-a most important one in that day-was whether the spirit would confess that Jesus was the Christ. That was the crucial test in those days because Jesus had been born a little while before and had been crucified, and He was denounced as an impostor and a man worthy of death. Therefore, the Apostle could well say, "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." (1 John 4:2.) But that rule would not apply today with the same force that it did then because the belief in Jesus is almost universal. Times have changed. Jesus is now accepted, and there are comparatively few men who will openly avow their unbelief in Jesus. But the same reasons exist now for trying the spirits that did then to see whether they are of God or not.
I hope no one will think I am sacrilegious or that I am lowering my Savior when I say that when I hear a man confess that Joseph Smith is a Prophet I think he has some of the Spirit of God within him, because it is a good deal of a test nowadays. A man who will admit that a man who lived such a life as Joseph Smith is reported to have lived and died such a death as he did is a Prophet of God satisfies me as to whether he is speaking by the Spirit of God or not.
Tests vary according to times and circumstances. That which might have been a very excellent test 1900 years ago might not be so much of a test now. Yet when a man today confesses Jesus he does speak by the Spirit of God. There is no doubt about that. That has not changed. It is the Spirit of God that prompts men to acknowledge Jesus, just as much now as it ever did. But it is not such a test now as it was in ancient days. There were very few then that dare do it; and whenever they did it, they did it, it may be said, almost with the fear of their lives before them, because the whole world was arrayed against the Savior and ready to pounce upon any man who acknowledged Him to be the Son of God.
But we can test the spirits now. Everything that is good cometh from God, I care not where it may be... (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, selected, arranged, and edited by Jerreld L. Newquist [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 145.)
(In reference to 1 John 1:1-3) This is no test to this generation, for all men of the Christian world confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. This generation, however, is not left without a test. I have taught for thirty years, and still teach, that he that believeth in his heart and confesseth with his mouth that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is his Prophet to this generation, is of God; and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fulness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is anti-christ. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 9: 312 - 313.)
1 John 4:3 this is the spirit of antichrist
Joseph Fielding Smith
Today there are many men who proclaim the doctrine that man has the power in himself to rise through his native intelligence, and if there is any salvation to be obtained such a man will receive it irrespective of any act or virtue coming from Jesus Christ. This is the spirit of anti-Christ which the Lord said would be in the world. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 1: 88, footnote 6)
There is a feeling, from one end of the country to the other, of throwing off the yoke of what people call Christianity. I care not for the cranks that may arise from time to time, for their lives are short; but it seems to me that when a man like Dr. Charles R. Eliot, of the great Harvard University, comes out and announces as a new doctrine a faith that denies the Divinity of Jesus Christ, that denies that man is made in God's image, that denies the authenticity of all biblical miracles, the efficacy of prayer, the supernatural value of the sacrament, the merit of self-sacrifice, and even denies the immortality of the soul-it strikes me, my brethren and sisters, that there is danger for Christianity among the people. He is a man who has been honored with the greatest of positions, and even, within a short time, offered a position as the American ambassador to one of the greatest countries on this earth. While I haven't the time, this morning, to analyze these denials of his, I am going to content myself by saying, today, that such teaching has a tendency to bring into the homes of the American people a disregard for Christ and His teachings When that is accomplished, when the spirit of anti-Christ enters the home, I want to say to the good people here assembled, and to the people of this country, there is a condition in the home that cannot be too strongly condemned, and can only be overcome by the acquisition of a knowledge of Christ and our Heavenly Father. (Conference Report, October 1909, Second Day-Morning Session. 69 - 70.)
1 John 4:5-6 They are of the world... We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us
On latter-day representation of this principle can be seen in response to General Conference. They who are of the world have no interest in this semi-annual gathering of apparently deceived Mormons. Those who are of God look forward to an opportunity to hear the word of God as presented by His servants.
John says, "he that knoweth God heareth us." Now it is no different. He that knoweth God heareth his apostles and prophets. He that knoweth God listens to General Conference. Indeed, a great test of the heart of any latter-day saint is found in his or her attitude toward General Conference. The worldly are not impressed. The saints won't miss it.
1 John 4:7 let us love one another
"God is love (1 John 4:7-5:5)... The word love is used thirty-four times in these twenty verses, which highlight at least five characteristics of love: God, through his Son, is the source of love (1 John 4:7-12); love is a gift of faith received through the Spirit (1 John 4:13-16); love brings confidence and dispels fear (1 John 4:17-18); love of God is manifest in our love for others (1 John 4:19-21); and the ultimate reward of keeping God's commandment to love is to share in his Son's victory (1 John 5:1-5). For John, these are the cardinal principles of Christian discipleship." (Victor L. Ludlow, "John: The Once and Future Witness," Ensign, Dec. 1991, 54)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Love of God is basic. It is the very foundation of true worship. It puts heart and soul and spirit into our lives. It subdues arrogance and conceit and greed. It leads to love for all of God's creations. It leads to obedience to the second great commandment, love of neighbor. In the world in which we now live, that love of neighbor finds expression not only in Christian acts of charity and kindness to those in need, but in a larger sense includes a sacred regard for the environment in which all men as neighbors across the earth must live. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 46.)
Harold B. Lee
Now I want to tell you a little sacred experience I had following the call to be the President of the Church. On the early morning thereafter with my wife I kneeled in humble prayer, and suddenly it seemed as though my mind and heart went out to over three million people in all the world. I seemed to have a love for every one of them no matter where they lived nor what their color was, whether they were rich or poor, whether they were humble or great, or educated or not. Suddenly I felt as though they all belonged to me, as though they were all my own brothers and sisters.
So with that heart full of love toward all of you people included in that great feeling, I extend my blessing to you and your families, that your lives will become symbols of your faith and your love for your Heavenly Father, that you will be more diligent and faithful in the performance of all your duties in the Church. (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 637.)
1 John 4:8 God is love
Hartman Rector, Jr.
This was so very difficult for me to understand before the missionaries knocked on my door, for, from this scripture and others quite similar, it appeared that God and love were one and the same. Is God, then, just an emotion? You can't see love. You may see the effect of love or the lack of it, but love is not a corporate entity. When I learned the truth-that God is an exalted man of flesh and bone and spirit-then I understood what John was saying: that love is God's distinguishing characteristic. (Conference Report, October 1969, Afternoon Meeting 76.)
Ezra Taft Benson
The final and crowning virtue of the divine character is charity, or the pure love of Christ (see Moroni 7:47). If we would truly seek to be more like our Savior and Master, learning to love as He loves should be our highest goal. Mormon called charity "the greatest of all" (Moroni 7:46).
The world today speaks a great deal about love, and it is sought for by many. But the pure love of Christ differs greatly from what the world thinks of love. Charity never seeks selfish gratification. The pure love of Christ seeks only the eternal growth and joy of others. (CR October 1986, Ensign 16 [November 1986]: 47.)
The Lord Jesus Christ liberated man from the world by the pure gospel of love. He demonstrated that man, through the love of God and through kindness and charity to His fellows, could achieve His highest potential. He lived the plain and sure doctrine of service, of doing good to all men-friends and enemies alike. (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 275.)
N. Eldon Tanner
The most important thing that Jesus Christ taught when he was on earth is that we must love one another. He told us that "love is of God" and commanded us to "love one another." (1 John 4:7.)
The prophet Mormon said: "... all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love. ..." (Moro. 8:17.) The most perfect of all love is, of course, the love our Heavenly Father and Jesus have for each one of us. Their love is so great that we can't even begin to comprehend it...
When you truly love, you will receive love in return. Many leaders of churches in the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith asked why he was able to attract so many people who were anxious to follow him in spite of the suffering they had to endure. He answered them: "Because I possess the principle of love ... I can offer the world ... a good heart and a good hand." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [Deseret Book Company, 1968], p. 313.)
How can you learn to keep the commandment to love one another, your parents, your brothers and sisters, your friends? Someone said that we learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, and just so, we learn to love by loving. We need to express our love to those around us by telling them every day that we do love them, and mean what we say. Sometimes it is even more important to show people that we love them than it is just to say "I love you."
But if we tell them of our love and also show that we feel a love for them by being kind and thoughtful and courteous, then each one of our homes can become a little piece of heaven. ("Message from the First Presidency," Ensign, Jan. 1971, 3)
1 John 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time
"There are several statements in the KJV (King James Version) in which there are direct statements and inferences that mortal man cannot see God and live. The most prominent of these are in KJV Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, 1 John 4:12, and 1 Timothy 6:15-16. These passages stand in contradiction to other KJV passages wherein it is declared that Moses and seventy elders saw God (Ex. 24:9-10) or that Moses saw God 'face to face' (Ex. 33:11) or that God was seen by Isaiah (Isa. 6:1) or Abraham (Gen. 18:1) or Jacob (Gen. 32:30) and a host of others. The JST brings order out of these contradictions by inserting certain concepts that are missing in the KJV.
"For example, in KJV Exodus 33:20 the declaration is made to Moses that he cannot see the face of God, 'for there shall no man see me, and live.' The JST explains it more fully: 'Thou canst not see my face at this time ... And no sinful man hath at any time, neither shall there be any sinful man at any time, that shall see my face and live.' (JST Ex. 33:20.) The clarification is that it is sinful men who cannot see God, but this does not preclude righteous men from such an experience, when the time is right.
"To John 1:18, which says, 'No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him,' the JST adds the clarifying information that 'No man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved' (JST John 1:19). This means that whenever anyone has had contact with the Father, the Father has borne record to him of the Son. This is consistent with the experiences recorded in Matthew 3:17 after the baptism of Jesus; in Matthew 17:5 on the Mount of Transfiguration; in 3 Nephi 11:7 at the appearance of the resurrected Lord to the Nephites; and in Joseph Smith's first vision. In each instance, the Father testified of the Son.
"To 1 John 4:12, which reads, 'No man hath seen God at any time,' the JST adds 'except them who believe.'
"To 1 Timothy 6:15-16, which asserts that God is 'dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see,' the JST explains: 'Whom no man hath seen, nor can see, unto whom no man can approach, only he who hath the light and the hope of immortality dwelling in him.'
"In each of these scriptures there is a clarification which removes the contradiction that exists in all other Bibles. To these clarifications we can also add Moses' explanation as to why he was able to survive the presence of God:
But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him. (Moses 1:11.)
"Without these explanations and restorations to the text that are available only from the JST, biblical statements about whether or not man has ever seen God would remain hopelessly in contradiction." (Robert J. Matthews, "Plain and Precious Things Restored," Ensign, July 1982, 19-20)
1 John 4:13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him... because he hath given us of his Spirit
"What is our indication that we are on course? How do we know we are in the gospel harness? 'Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit' (1 John 4:13). The presence of God's Spirit is the attestation, the divine assurance that we are headed in the right direction. It is God's seal, his anointing, his unction (1 John 2:20) to us that our lives are in order. 'A seal is a mark of ownership . . . and God's seal, by which he brands us as belonging forever to him, is the Holy Spirit himself. The Holy Spirit is the identity tag of the Christian' (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 81)." (Robert L. Millet, Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 170.)
1 John 4:14 the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world
Bruce R. McConkie
As temporal and spiritual death came by the fall of Adam, so immortality and eternal life come by the atonement of Christ. Such was and is and ever shall be the plan of the Father, Adam was sent to earth to fall and Christ came to ransom men from the Fall.
Thus the Father sent forth this call in the councils of eternity: "Whom shall I send to be my Son, to ransom men from temporal and spiritual death, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, to put into full operation all the terms and conditions of my eternal plan of redemption and salvation?"
Christ is the Redeemer of men and the Savior of the world because his Father sent him and gave him power to do the assigned work. He said he had power to lay down his life and to take it again because he had been so commanded by the Father. (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998], 62.)
1 John 4:16 God is love
Milton R. Hunter
Our Eternal Father and his Only Begotten Son both have intense, comprehensive, and full love for us. They have much greater intelligence and understanding than we have, and so their feelings of love go far beyond our capabilities to love. The attribute of love is so highly developed in these divine Beings that the scriptures state: "God is love." (1 John 4:16.) In fact, Deity's transcendent love is above and beyond our deepest feelings and keenest conception. At times of great spiritual experience when we feel an abundance of the Spirit, we have a greater realization of the magnitude of God's love. ("The Vitality of Love," Ensign, Dec. 1971, 68)
Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. (Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q.Cannon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], "Apostles")
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear
"Charity will cast out any negative quality: resentment, envy, greed. All flee in the face of perfect love. But John specifically mentions fear. What happens when we are afraid? We prepare to defend ourselves. All of the body's and the mind's mechanisms close down and become very focalized. 'Flight-or-fight' decisions are made. This may be appropriate behavior when we are truly endangered, but so much of our fear is learned, and sometimes we fear excessively or inappropriately. It is this fear that perfect love casts out. The Savior promises us, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' (John 14:27.) Unhampered by fear, apprehension, or anxiety, we can expand our perspective through love." (Carol B. Olsen, "A Sense of Perspective," Ensign, June 1982, 70)
"If we truly love God, then, we will want to live his commandments. We will do so because it gives us a good feeling to do so, not because we fear the consequences of not doing so. This gives a new meaning to John's statement, 'There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.' (1 Jn. 4:18.)
"...Each member of the Lord's church should ask himself why he lives God's commandments and what motivates him to seek the spiritual goals he has set for himself. Remember that fear of punishment, a spiritual motive to avoid failure, is not bad. It is better to obey the commandments because of fear of punishment than to not obey the commandments at all. We will surely be happier if we obey God's commandments than if we do not, but that happiness will likely be increased if we are motivated to do so by love of virtue rather than by fear of punishment. We will likely find more joy in the achievement of our spiritual goals if we seek them because we want to rather than because we ought to." (Kenneth L. Higbee, "Achieving Spiritual Goals ... Why?" Ensign, Nov. 1971, 20)
Howard W. Hunter
There are many people who live the so-called good life because of fear, but as Christians we must not serve for this reason. Fear must be banished from our hearts. (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 98.)
Ezra Taft Benson
We live in a world of fear today. Fear seems to be almost everywhere present. But there is no place for fear among the Latter-day Saints, among men and women who keep the commandments, who place their trust in the Almighty, who are not afraid to get down on their knees and pray to our Heavenly Father. God is at the helm. I know it and you know it. Even during the days of persecution and hardship, the Lord has continually encouraged us to trust in Him to keep his commandments, to do that which is right and then to be unafraid. (Conference Report, April 1954)
1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us
Jeffrey R. Holland
My brothers and sisters, the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength--that's the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life. Indeed it is only with that reassurance burning in our soul that we can have the confidence to keep tryihg to improve, keep seeking forgivemenss for our sins, and keep extending that grace to our neighbor. (General Conference, Apr. 2016)
H. Burke Peterson
One of the most effective secrets for happiness is contained in the fourth chapter of 1 John, verse 19. It is only eight words long-listen carefully: "We love him, because he first loved us." This will cause a change to happen because it is right. Do you get the message? "He first loved us." Your children will love you; your brothers and sisters will love you; your eternal companion will love you-because you first loved them. Now I don't mean it will all happen in a day, a week, or a year. But it will happen if you do not give up. ("The Daily Portion of Love," Ensign, May 1977, 69)
Marion D. Hanks
He loves us and believes in us and has done and will do anything he can to help us, but he will not impose on our free agency. "We love him," says the scripture, "because he first loved us." (1 Jn. 4:19.) He does not love us because we love him; he loves us unconditionally. But his love does not take the course of negating or smothering our privilege to choose, or our responsibility to account for what we choose and to experience the consequences. Indeed, it is written that he weeps for the bad judgment of some of his willful and disobedient children. ("Agency and Love," Ensign, Nov. 1983, 21)
Rex D. Pinegar
Henry Drummond, in his classic writing on the subject of Christ's love, tells of a man who went to see a dying boy. He put his hand on the boy's head to comfort him and said, " 'My boy, God loves you.' " The boy soon arose "from his bed, and called out to the people in the house, 'God loves me! God loves me!' One word! It changed that boy. The sense that God loved him overpowered him, melted him down, and began the creating of a new heart in him. And that is how the love of God melts down the unlovely heart in man, and begets in him the new creature, who is patient and humble and gentle and unselfish. And there is no other way to get it. There is no mystery about it. We love others, we love everybody, we love our enemies, because He first loved us." (The Greatest Thing in the World, Old Tappon, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., n.d., pp. 47-48.) ("The Gift of Love," Ensign, Nov. 1978, 10-11)
1 John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar
It is folly in the extreme for persons to say that they love God; when they do not love their brethren; and it is of no use for them to say that they have confidence in God, when they have none in righteous men. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 271.)
Howard W. Hunter
The logic of this is simple, clear, and unequivocal: the proof of love of God is love of one's brother. This becomes the fundamental commandment of Christianity. This was the religion taught by the Master. How happy would society be were these two plain, rational precepts properly observed: Love me, and love thy fellows. (Conference Report, April 1966, Afternoon Meeting 49.)
We can best exemplify our love for our God by living our religion. It is vain to profess a love for God while speaking evil of or doing wrong to His children. The sacred covenants we have made with Him strictly impose upon us the duties we owe to one another; and the great office of religion is to teach us how to perform those duties so as to produce the greatest happiness for ourselves and for our fellow-beings. When the obligations of our religion are observed, no words are spoken or acts are committed that would injure a neighbor. If the Latter-day Saints lived as they should do, and as their religion teaches them to do, there would be no feeling in any breast but that of brotherly and sisterly affection and love. Backbiting and evil-speaking would have no existence among us,; but peace and love and good will would reign in all our hearts and habitations and settlements. We would be the happiest people on the face of the earth, and the blessing and peace of Heaven would rest upon us and upon all that belongs to us. (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75), 3: 146.)