Worthiness is a word that is used often in Mormon circles. For example, worthiness interviews are conducted in every stake, ward, and branch in the church. The purpose is to determine if an individual is worthy to:
1. Obtain a temple recommend
2. Be advanced in the Priesthood
3. Receive baptism
4. Be married
5. Receive certain callings
Our church leaders refer to worthiness often. For example from our most recent conference:
“Brethren, great promises await us if we are true and faithful to the oath and covenant of this precious priesthood which we hold. May we be worthy sons of our Heavenly Father. President Monson, Oct 2009 General Conference
“One of the adversary’s sharpest tools is to convince us that we are no longer worthy to pray.” President Boyd K Packer, Oct 2009 General Conference.
“My dear brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged if you stumble at times. Don’t feel downcast or despair if you don’t feel worthy to be a disciple of Christ at all times. The first step to walking in righteousness is simply to try. We must try to believe.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Oct 2009 General Conference.
How Does One Become Worthy
In the church there are several ways a member can be referred to as worthy. Worthy to be baptized, and worthy to receive a temple recommend, are two examples. In each of these cases, a standard of worthiness is set forth that the candidate will need to meet.
The Lord’s revealed that there are laws (standards of worthiness) that need to be obeyed in order to receive blessings:
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. D&C130:20 – 21
To be found worthy a member needs to understand the law and then commit to obey it. This may require repentance. The law of tithing needs to be obeyed in order to be found worthy to be baptized or to receive a temple recommend. Repentance is the key to worthiness.
Kinds of Repentance
There are three kinds of “worthiness” that man can arrive to: 1) Manmade worthy, 2) Holy Ghost worthy, and 3) Fire and the Holy Ghost worthy.
This kind of “repentance” (reformation) is arrived at by self discipline. There are men and women of accomplishment who overcome many of the challenges of life by the power of their own will. Some of them know nothing of God and His Son, some even openly reject them. Manmade worthy, as commendable as it is, isn’t repentance because the foundation of true repentance is the Savior’s atonement.
Holy Ghost Worthy
This kind of repentance is arrived at by faith (a form of self discipline) and the Holy Ghost. Repentance, the Lord’s way, is based on covenants. A covenant is an agreement between God and man. As we make a sincere effort to keep our covenants the Lord visits us by the influence of the Holy Ghost. When we backslide in keeping our covenants, we can repent and renew our covenants. That’s why we have the sacrament each week.
Fire and the Holy Ghost Worthy
This kind of repentance is referred to as the doctrine of Christ. Nephi explained it as follows:
“…repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost…” 2 Nephi 31:13
Nephi tells us that we receive the Holy Ghost, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. According to Nephi it is a two step process. When members are baptized it is for a remission of their sins. When does one receive a remission of sins? Answer: when they receive fire and the Holy Ghost. But prior to receiving a remission of sins members have access to the Holy Ghost to acquire a testimony and experience other manifestations of the Holy Ghost, for example, the various gifts of the Spirit.
The two step nature of receiving the Holy Ghost is referred to in the following talk:
“A worthy person who receives the gift of the Holy Ghost can expect something in addition to testimony. This is pointed out by Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who gave a definition of the difference between testimony and conversion:
‘A testimony comes when the Holy Ghost gives the earnest seeker a witness of the truth. A moving testimony vitalizes faith; that is, it induces repentance and obedience to the commandments. Conversion, on the other hand, is the fruit of, or the reward for, repentance and obedience. (Of course one’s testimony continues to increase as he is converted.)
Conversion is effected by divine forgiveness, which remits sins. The sequence is something like this. An honest seeker hears the message. He asks the Lord in prayer if it is true. The Holy Spirit gives him a witness. This is a testimony. If one’s testimony is strong enough, he repents and obeys the commandments. By such obedience he receives divine forgiveness which remits sin. Thus he is converted to a newness of life. His spirit is healed.’ Loren C. Dunn, “Fire and the Holy Ghost,” Ensign, Jun 1995, 22–26
I hope all of us will seek to be “fire and the Holy Ghost worthy”. The Lord’s given us enough information so that we can learn to rely on the Savior’s atonement. Nephi says: “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.” When we understand the term “wholly” we realize that we are never done repenting. One Elder at the end of his mission wrote to his mission president saying: “I’ve learned that the fight in this life is not with others, but with ourselves. I’ve learned about the atonement and that it can’t be used up. It doesn’t run out or expire. There is nothing on it that says, ‘Best if used by this date.’ It will always be a force in our lives.” When we experience that kind of reliance on the Lord we will be on the high road to obtaining the Lord’s choicest blessings.