When I contemplate all that I have been given by the Lord and then reflect on what I am doing with it, I have to confess I am concerned for my eternal well-being. Something I read the other day heightened this concern. In a conference talk given by Marion G. Romney about the requirements of receiving a celestial body at the time of our resurrection, and the laws we must obey to attain to such a body, he said:
“Obedience to this law is a prerequisite to resurrection with a celestial body. Great will be the glory of those who attain it, and sad indeed will be those who do not attain it. The Prophet Joseph Smith, in remarks at a funeral, said that ‘the disappointment of hopes and expectations at the resurrection would be indescribably dreadful’. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints, 6:51.) Ensign, May 1975, p. 85.
I don’t know if trepidation should be our reaction to reading this, but I have to admit that is how I respond. I want to receive those things that Heavenly Father has made available to me and you. I desire to attain to a resurrection with a celestial body and enter into the Celestial Kingdom as a joint heir with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Often I look around me and attempt to detect the barriers that exist in my life and in our culture that impedes my receiving an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom. There are many. However, the atonement, the Holy Ghost, living prophets, the scriptures, and repentance are gifts from the Lord to help us identify and conquer the barriers, obstacles, and pitfalls before us. Surely, these gifts are more than enough to subdue the enemies of our soul and to win our crown, that is, if we utilize them. Therein lies the challenge, ask yourself, as I have, “Am I utilizing the things the Lord has given me so that I can receive a celestial inheritance?“
Following are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you with the wish that by doing so all of us can live nearer to the Lord and have a brighter hope of receiving Eternal Life (D&C 14:7).
When I reflect upon my life and ponder upon the experiences I’ve been through, and when I look about me and observe the experiences of others, I am brought to the conclusion, that for those who would follow Christ, there are but three possibilities as it pertains to our discipleship.
Elder Erastus Snow said;
“We will suppose that drawn immediately in front of you is the line of your exact duty. Satan will make every effort to hold you back from that line. When he discovers that it is impossible to hold you back, his next effort will be to push you as far beyond it as possible; and, being forced beyond the line of duty into superstitious observances, is liable to get you into as much difficulty as being held back from toeing it squarely.“
Many of us are trying to get to the line, a few are on it, and a few have gone beyond the line. There is one common need that all of us have no matter where we are in relation to the line—that is repentance. For those who are on the line it takes repentance to stay on the line. For those who are allowing themselves to be held back from the line, repentance is the cure. For those few who have allowed themselves to go beyond the line repentance is also needed.
With this in mind I’d like to relate to you some of the things I’ve been learning about the awesome subject of repentance.
A friend of mine provided me with a thoughtful comment on repentance given by Hugh Nibley:
“Who is a righteous man? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting, he is a righteous man. There is hope for him, and no matter how good he has been his entire life if he is not repenting he is wicked. The difference is the way he is facing. The man on top of the stairs facing down is much worst off than the man on the bottom of the stairs facing up. The direction we are facing is what determines if we are good or bad.“
I think this is a profound thought. The only time a person would not be in need of repentance is if they are perfect. To my knowledge perfection is not possible in this life for any man or woman.
This being true, then it necessarily follows that it doesn’t matter what our depth of spiritual experiences have been or what church positions we’ve had or have or the number of acceptable sacrifices we’ve make, we need to acknowledge our nothingness before the Lord, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith (Mosiah 4:11). Otherwise, we might begin to trust in ourselves that we are righteous and become as the holier-than-thou Pharisee in the parable found in Luke 18:9-14.
Another great thought on the deeper meaning of repentance comes from President Ezra Taft Benson. He draws a distinction between repentance and reformation:
“Repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior. Many men and women in the world demonstrate great willpower and self discipline in overcoming bad habits and the weaknesses of the flesh. Yet at the same time they give no thought to the Master, sometimes even openly rejecting Him. Such changes of behavior, even if in a positive direction, do not constitute true repentance.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which sincere and meaningful repentance must be built. If we truly seek to put away sin, we must first look to Him who is the Author of our salvation. Repentance involves not just a change of actions, but a change of heart.” (Ensign, Oct. 1989 p. 2)
One of the great learning experiences of my life came when I understood the difference between repentance and reformation. It was at this point I came to understand in a special way my reliance upon the atonement of Jesus Christ.
It is so easy for Latter Day Saints to “look beyond the mark” in this area because of the emphasis we put on of self-reliance. True repentance is a gift from the Lord. All that we can do to deny ourselves of ungodliness is required, but ultimately it is because of the atonement of Christ that we have hope and are reconciled to God (Jacob 4:11 and Moroni 7:41).
Sometimes we measure the Lord, and what He can do, with the measure of a man. This always leaves the Lord short. Measure the Lord by the measure He has given us—the scriptures and living prophets. In our generation it seems that many Saints struggle in their faith when it comes to the ability of the Lord to succor (D&C 62:1) them, and forgive (Mosiah 26:30) them.
On the subject of forgiveness I like what Boyd K. Packer said in a conference address:
“except for the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ.” (B. Packer; Ensign Nov 95, p. 20.) (This even includes murder I’m told).
I began this message with the hope that you and I are personally free from the bondage of sin. We are free from the bondage of sin when we come unto the Lord and follow him with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of our sins.
Then the promise is that we will be given the Holy Ghost and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.
Once we have access to the gift of the Holy Ghost we are on the path that leads to eternal life. Then we must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save and endure to the end. If we do, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life (D&C 84:49-51; 2 Nephi 31:13, 18, 19-20).
I’ll close with the words of Brigham Young:
“Take a course to open and keep open a communication with your Elder Brother or file-leader-our Savior. Were I to draw a distinction in all the duties that are required of the children of men, from first to last, I would place first and foremost the duty of seeking unto the Lord our God until we open the path of communication from heaven to earth-from God to our own souls. Keep every avenue of your hearts clean and pure before him.” JD 8:339.