…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Our Essential Goodness

By Rex Goode


The scriptures often give us a picture of mankind as being essentially evil. When the brother of Jared prayed to the Lord to touch the sixteen stones for light, he said:

O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires (Ether 3:2).

Also, King Benjamin taught:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father (Mosiah 3:19).

We come to understand through the scriptures, that man is fallen and corrupt because of the fall of Adam. This would be our state, if not for the understanding we also have from the scriptures regarding the atonement. Though the fall of Adam brought upon us a taint of disobedience, the atonement of Christ nullified that curse even before the atonement actually occurred.

King Benjamin prefaced the above comment by saying:

For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.

But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them (Mosiah 3:11–13).

Because of the fall, we might be fallen and corrupt, if it were not for the atonement that erased that condition. Because of the atonement, we are able to enjoy a clean and neutral slate as it pertains to good and evil, free to choose either good or evil for ourselves. We cannot excuse bad behavior with the fall and cannot claim credit for good behavior except for the atonement. We will be judged by our works, punished for our own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression (Articles of Faith 2).

Evidence of this state of original cleanliness is given also by King Benjamin:

And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins (Mosiah 3:16).

We, therefore, as little children, begin life without sin and without the stain of the transgression of Adam. Children are not the odious creatures the early Christian fathers claimed. They need no baptism because they are innocent before God until they reach the age of accountability and sin.

I don’t think that anyone now living, who grew up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was not told that as a generation, we came forth in this, the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times because we were fore-ordained to do so because of who we were in the premortal realm.

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born (Abraham 3:22–23).

William J. Critchlow, Jr., commented on these verses by saying:

These comments by Abraham and Joseph Smith give unspeakable joy to my soul, and they firm up my peace of mind no end because they give assurance that: I, along with you, was judged worthy to come to earth in the flesh. We were reserved to come in the greatest dispensation of them all — the ‘Dispensation of the Fullness of Times (William J. Critchlow, Jr., Conference Report, April 1964, Pg.32).’

We can know, simply by being of this generation, that we were among those upon whose souls God looked and saw that they were essentially good.

As spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we are inheritors of his essential goodness. I am convinced that if everyone, when tempted to sin, were to stop and consider his royal heritage, we would not be so plagued with difficulties. When we sin against others, I think we are forgetting, even if momentarily, that we are dealing with fellow children of our Heavenly Father, among the royal and good souls that God showed to Abraham.

In my own life, when I speak harshly, criticize, hurt, abuse, degrade, or malign someone, I have ignored my own essentially good nature and worse, have failed to recognize the worth, value, and goodness of others.

We do not fully understand how good we are or how infinite our potential. God understands this and deals with us as with his very own children, because that is what we are.

He knows us as we are, but also as we can become. I believe that the future is more of a part of his reality than the present is to us. Were it not so, he would not have sacrificed his Only Begotten Son in hope of who we can become rather than judgment for who we are.

Others play a role in who we see ourselves to be, in whether we see ourselves as good or evil. That is why it is important for us to associate with people who see us as people of value. However, I believe also that until we have the capacity to see the potential of others, we are not doing enough. If we only associate with people we view as righteous, I don’t think we fully understand ourselves and our responsibility.

He was so thoroughly good that he committed no sin, yet he kept company with sinners and unclean. To strengthen ourselves, we sometimes need to associate with those who build us up, but to what end do we strengthen ourselves if not to be in a position to strengthen others?

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Philippians 2:3).

I believe that as children of God, we are essentially good but are placed in a world where we must choose to either remain good or follow the world. I believe that even those who deal with sin, even chronic sin, show themselves to be good at heart by consistently standing up after a fall and setting their faces towards the right. If we could only consistently see ourselves as good, the frequency with which we have to pick ourselves up and choose again to follow the right would be minimized. It is only by setting our sights in reverse that we lose the power to stay clean.

I am a son of God and deserving of respect, even self-respect. I am one in whose heart dwells a testimony of the love our Father in heaven has for us. I am far from perfect and sin with more regularity than I care to admit, but I know that God loves me and sees me as deserving of his love. In my eyes, I see his eternal light shining, though often with too much dimness. Despite my sins, I know that deep inside me beats the heart of a good man.

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