The Gospel Doctrine lesson #20; scriptures Doctrine and Covenants 76; 131;132:19–24; 137
The doctrine of the Kingdoms of Glory was always a bit of a conundrum for me. On the one hand, how merciful is the plan that provides a kingdom of glory for all of God’s children! On the other hand, there seemed to be so much I had to do, not only to obtain the Celestial Kingdom, but then also to fulfill the requirements to attain exaltation or highest degree of glory within the Celestial Kingdom. I mean, even the “honorable” sons and daughters who accepted Jesus Christ but simply weren’t valiant in their testimonies might end up with Terrestrial glory rather than Celestial (D&C 76:75). What if that was me? I want to be with my son again!
You see, I have a child who is Celestial. According to D&C 137:10, “All children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the kingdom of heaven.” Knowing that my son was saved and living with his Heavenly Father brought me so much comfort as I endured the loss of my baby boy. Today, I find it brings me even more peace and assurance because now I understand that my son didn’t do anything to earn his place in the Celestial Kingdom. He’s saved because of the grace of God.
As latter-day Saints we know that faith without works is dead (James 2:26), but as Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God.”1 We don’t earn our way to exaltation.
Certainly there are things we need to do to obtain life eternal. There are keys that we need to open the gates to the celestial kingdom. That is why we have the ordinances of baptism, the endowment and temple marriage. But just as we cannot raise ourselves from the dead, we cannot save ourselves from spiritual death. No matter how many good works we perform, we will always be “unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21).
So why do we try so hard? Jesus said “If ye love me keep my commandments.” We are not obedient to prove how good we are but to show we love him and desire his love in return. “Grace is a gift from God, and our desire to be obedient to each of God’s commandments is the reaching out of our mortal hand to receive this sacred gift….”2 In other words, obedience keeps our hearts and minds constantly ready so we can be saved, hour by hour, day by day.
Here is one example, my husband and I were having an argument late one night in bed. Shocking, I know. Being the kind of guy he is, my husband finished making his point, rolled over, and proceeded to drift off to sleep. I, on the other hand was furious and could not stop thinking about all the things I wanted to say but probably shouldn’t. Finally, I got out of bed in a huff, grabbed my phone and went downstairs to distract myself on Facebook. Almost instantly after getting online, I found myself tempted to look at things that I knew would not make me feel better about myself. I knew through experience that the best thing to do was to actively seek out church memes and videos. As I did this, I had a profound sense of peace come over me. My heart was changed and I had no more desire to be angry. All I wanted to do was go upstairs, make amends and forgive.
Was I being obedient that night? Yes, I was. Was it my obedience that made me a good person? No, at the time I was angry and anything but holy. What made me good was God’s grace. Only His power could change me like water into wine. He made me better. My obedience was simply me choosing to love God more than the world.
If we love God enough to reach out to Him and obey Him, even as imperfectly as we do, we are told that “This form of genuine love and gratitude will miraculously merge our works with God’s grace”.3 The Lord will justify our good works and make us “more worthy of (his) love”.4
The grace of God has the power to change who we are. It makes us strong enough to endure this life and good enough for the Celestial Kingdom in the life to come. We can become so like God that we will “see as (we) are seen, and know as (we) are known, having received of his fullness and of his grace” (D&C 76:94). Like my son, in order to be saved, we simply need to accept the gift of grace.
1 Dieter F. Uchtdorf “The Gift of Grace”, General Conference 2015
4 “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul,” LDS Text: Orson F. Whitney, Music: Harry A. Dean, 1948
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Understanding What Is Real, Sarah Street
“…there’s this expectation that you have to get married and you have a family in order to be like Heavenly Father, and all that made me wonder why He even created me then, because I don’t have that. Because I’m not dating, because I’m not getting married, the ultimate end of my salvation is at stake, where I don’t have the ability to make it to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. So that was very difficult for a long, long time. But the good thing that came out of all of that is that it forced me to develop my own relationship with Heavenly Father. It forced me to ask Him myself. Because I was mad at Him for a long time. You know, why am I like this? If you made this whole plan so that I can be like you, and yet I don’t even have the desire to do the main thing, which is going to make me like you, then why did you create me like this? But then through lots of prayer and lots of pondering and lots of visits to the temple, what ultimately I realized is that He loves me exactly how I am, and He’s going to figure out a way to help me. Whatever the end goal is, He’s going to find a way to get me there. That’s how Heavenly Father works. He loves His children so much no matter who we are. Eternity is a long time for Him to work with us. What exactly it looks like on the other side is still pretty ambiguous. So that’s been the good thing about all of that.”
Coded In The DNA, Suzi Fei
“We all have different strengths and different temperaments. No woman wants to be put in a box and told she must do this and be this, or else she is failing to live up to her eternal potential. That leads to a toxic and depressing culture of comparison rampant with feelings of inadequacy. Instead we should be celebrating each other’s strengths and capitalizing on the breadth of wisdom, experiences, and talents we share amongst us. The Celestial Kingdom I envision is full of glorious diversity—many different types of beings doing many different types of things, all working and growing together in beautiful harmony.”