Godliness

In an 1829 revelation to Joseph Smith, Sr., God listed ten attributes we should remember as we do His work (Doctrine and Covenants 4:6). Today, I studied the seventh of those attributes: godliness.

As President Russell M. Nelson observed, “Godliness is an attribute that seems as difficult to define as it is to attain” (“These…Were Our Examples,” General Conference, October 1991). The apostle Paul expressed the same sentiment when he said, “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16). The Savior also spoke of the “mystery of godliness” as He explained to Joseph Smith the anguish He endured as He suffered for our sins (Doctrine and Covenants 19:10).

The word “godliness” appears 15 times in the King James Version of the Bible. All of those appearances are in Paul’s epistles to Timothy and Titus and in Peter’s second epistle. In particular, Paul uses the word ten times as he teaches his young colleague Timothy how to behave as a church leader. Consider the following distinctions Paul draws between appropriate and inappropriate behavior:

  • “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).
  • “If any man…consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words” (1 Timothy 6:3-4).
  • “For the love of money is the root of all evil: while which some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Timothy 6:10-11).

From these passages I get the impression that a godly person prioritizes sacred things over worldly things. He or she has a moral seriousness and is focused on things of eternal worth, not ephemeral value.

The Greek word which is translated as “godliness” in these passages is eusebeia (εὐσέβεια). It is a combination of the word eu which means “well done” and sebó, which means “reverence” or “worship.” A godly person worships God and has a deep reverence for sacred things.

Godliness invites revelation. In describing the role of angels, Mormon said that they “minister according to the word of [God’s] command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness” (Moroni 7:30).

President Nelson explained that godliness is the natural result of our love for God.

Godliness characterizes each of you who truly loves the Lord. You are constantly mindful of the Savior’s atonement and rejoice in His unconditional love. Meanwhile you vanquish personal pride and vain ambition. You consider your accomplishments important only if they help establish His kingdom on earth.

These…Were Our Examples,” General Conference, October 1991

Today, I will strive for godliness. I will focus less on things of temporary value and more on eternal things. I will approach the activities of the day with an attitude of reverence for God and for sacred things.

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