I spent a lot of time last time, learning about what it means when the scriptures talk about fools, which wasn't what I'd expected when I first read the chapter. So, now that I understand that a little better, I'm backing up and looking at more of the chapter. This chapter seems to have a lot to it; there's a JST version for the whole chapter, and it's also quoted by Paul in the New Testament, so I'd always planned on spending some time here.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. ... They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
So, to draw on the things I learned before: The fool, either unable or unwilling to reason says there is no God. He then acts contrary to sound wisdom, preferring trifling pleasures to the service of God, whom he treats with contempt. He turns aside from the strait and narrow path, crosses into sin, and becomes filthy, rather than good. We are all foolish from time to time; we fall short of real goodness. The Hebrew word used here to mean good is towb, which means completely good in every sense that a thing can be good. It looks like it's similar to the Greek word, agathos, which is what's used to convey Christ's words in this next verse:
Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.
Strong's, in the entry for agathos, says God is "essentially, absolutely, and consummately good." It's important that we know that; knowing our Father's character enables us to have faith in Him. Knowing that He is absolutely, completely, consummately good, and that this characteristic is central to His being, it gives us confidence in Him, and teaches us what we must do to please Him.
There are those who, while they may not actually keep all the commandments, are seeking to keep them, but there is none that is actually completely, essentially, absolutely, consummately good. King Benjamin talked about this when he addressed his people near the end of his life:
I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another-- I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that you may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another-- I say, if ye should serve him with your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
Always we fall short. It's interesting to me that Christ, Himself, refuses to be called good; it puts me in mind of the difference between His command to the Jews to be perfect "as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect", and the command when He offered the same teachings to the Nephites, but told them to be perfect "as I, or your Father who is in Heaven, is perfect". In any case, we all fall short of the glory of God, and are dependent on Christ's grace to save us. There is none that is wholly, completely good.
But, knowing that we're all falling short, and that Christ's grace is absolutely essential, it's not an excuse for just sitting around; the Lord expects that we will be up and doing, and that in our efforts, we will be seeking Him and doing our best:
The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
2 Nephi 25:23