And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
For some time now, this has been my favorite scripture. It’s a real eye opener. It tells us (in God’s own voice!) that God knows and understands that we are weak. He expects us to be weak, even made sure that we would be. There is a purpose to our weakness. And best of all, this passage assures us of the possibility of change, improvement and redemption. We can not only overcome weakness, weak things can become strong. Does that give you an enormous outpouring of hope? It does me. That’s why I love this chapter and this verse in particular: the hope of one day becoming strong in all the ways that I am now weak. The possibility of that keeps me going on my worst days.
But lately, some people have been messing with my favorite scripture. In the past couple of years I have run into a number of people who have given lessons or talks or commented on this scripture who have said that because this verse uses the word “weakness” (singular) rather than”weaknesses” (plural) it means only that we can become strong in the skills wherein we are weak (like the writing skillz that Moroni is complaining he lacks), not that all our weaknesses can be made strong. By drawing this distinction between “weakness” and “weaknesses” these people take all the power and all the hope (and most of the meaning) out of this scripture for me. If all it means is that I can become a good singer or writer or speaker (whichever I am currently weak in) then why should I care? I don’t need God’s grace for those things, just more practice time.
I don’t know where this argument comes from. It seems to me that it might be advanced because people are uncomfortable with the idea of God giving us weaknesses, like for example a weakness for alcohol or for drugs or for sexual misbehavior. I don’t have any squeamishness about that. I figure God did make me how I am, weaknesses and all. I may do things that either help or hurt myself in terms of my relative strengths and weaknesses, but whatever is inherently a part of me is from God and is given to me so that I can learn and progress and help others to do the same.
The new reading of this verse has some of Moroni’s words to recommend it (he is talking about his weakness in writing after all, not complaining to the Lord about a weakness for locoweed) but it’s pernicious and wrong, in my opinion. There does not appear to be any support for this reading on the Church website. Under the entry for “Grace” the topical index has this to say:
The Lord promised that if we humble ourselves before Him and have faith in Him, His grace will help us overcome all our personal weaknesses (see Ether 12:27).
Does anyone know where this ridiculous new reading of this scripture comes from? Was there a talk that I missed or a lesson in Gospel Doctrine class that started this new interpretation?
Whoever started it, be warned: I’m taking back my favorite scripture, so back off.
Here is the scripture in it’s full context. You tell me if I’m right or wrong about what it means:
23 And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;
24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.
25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
26 And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.28 Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.29 And I, Moroni, having heard these words, was comforted, and said: O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith;30 For the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin, Remove—and it was removed. And if he had not had faith it would not have moved; wherefore thou workest after men have faith.31 For thus didst thou manifest thyself unto thy disciples; for after they had faith, and did speak in thy name, thou didst show thyself unto them in great power.32 And I also remember that thou hast said that thou hast prepared a house for man, yea, even among the mansions of thy Father, in which man might have a more excellent hope; wherefore man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou hast prepared.33 And again, I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men.34 And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.35 Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not charity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.36 And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity.37 And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.38 And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.39 And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;40 And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.
41 And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.