great reward
Week 28 is scheduled for study July 5-11, 2021. “The Vision” defines the great reward all are entitled to through obedience to the laws God has given us. Even the lowest of rewards are greater than we can imagine.

Day 1

Doctrine and Covenants 76 – Salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In section 76, the Lord expressed how much He wants to reveal truth to us. Read the scriptures with faith that He can and will reveal to you “the things of God” that you need to know. Then record the insights you receive “while [you are] yet in the Spirit.”

I don’t want to sound sacrilegious, it can be very easy to downplay and take for granted Christ’s role in our personal salvation. It is so easy to limit his part in our salvation to the Luke 2 account of his mortal birth, followed by the 4 gospels’ accounts of his life, death, and resurrection. What more could there possibly be? Isn’t that enough? Even all of this is just a small peek at our Redeemer’s role as the Son of God. By no means does it even give us the smallest clue as to how grand his role really is in the whole scheme of the plan of salvation.

Before we were even spirit children of our Father in Heaven, Jesus was already beginning the work that would someday qualify him for the role of our Savior. Remember how it says in the scriptures that in “my Father’s house are many mansions?” Who do you think built all those mansions? And by mansions, do you think they are homes? No, they are whole worlds and realms. And yes, they are already made and waiting for us. Jesus made them all, and he did it before the earth was even populated.

John 1:1-3 says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus is the Word spoken of here. He made all that exists in this universe, under the direction of our Father. That means that he also created not only all that populates the universe, but all the inhabited planets, and both heaven and hell. All that section 76 talks about in the degrees of glory have already been readied by Christ for habitation. All things have been prepared for the children of God to inhabit and make use of them. And all of this was done before Adam and Eve were created. In other words, Jesus wasn’t just sitting around being a figurehead while in the premortal life, he was preparing our homes for us in preparation for the great day of judgment. The Godhead’s foreknowledge allowed them to prepare all things and make all things ready for use when they are needed in the not too distant future. It is important to remember that the actual peopling of the earth is the tail end of this process we are engaged in. This is the intermediate stage between having kept our first estate and qualifying to receive the reward for whether we keep our second estate, which is a much shorter period of time than that of the first estate.

Here are just a few verses that demonstrate that Christ was preparing the full physical plan for our salvation and judgment long before he came and wrought his infinite atoning sacrifice, which completed all the necessary preparations for the rest of God’s plan for our salvation to play itself out.

Matthew 25:34, 41 tells us that both our reward and the punishment kingdoms were prepared before any of us came to earth.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fireprepared for the devil and his angels:

Note that these things are already in existence. The Lord doesn’t say, this is where you will go, but you’ll have to wait until we can make those places ready for you. No, everything was prepared and readied long ago for that judgment day to come.

1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us that none of us can imagine what God has already prepared for those that love him.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Alma 13:3, 7 tells us that even the priesthood was prepared to reward those of great faith in the pre-existence. It was given to us and is used to prepare us for the redemption of those who choose to exercise enough faith to live with God eternally. All of this is after the order of the Son of God, even Christ.

And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.

This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things

These are just three sets of verses that demonstrate that Christ has been actively working for our salvation since before we even became spirit children of God. He has tirelessly labored in our behalf for our salvation. The part we have “seen” of what he has done is only the culminating experiences of his long and illustrious efforts to help us return home to God.

And lest we are tricked into believing that there might be some other way to receive salvation, here are a handful of verses from the Book of Mormon that make it crystal clear that Christ is the only path back to the Father.

Mosiah 3:17-18

17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

18 For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

Mosiah 16:13

13 And now, ought ye not to tremble and repent of your sins, and remember that only in and through Christ ye can be saved?

Alma 38:9

And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

And finally, to drive home the point that we don’t just look to Jesus for our salvation because Jesus said so, look back at all the times the Father has spoken to people in mortality. He only does so to testify of Christ’s role as our Savior. Aren’t all of His declarations ones that tell us to listen to Christ, to hear him? Look up the words “beloved son” or “hear him” and see what comes up.

Day 2

Doctrine and Covenants 76:39-44, 50-112 – God desires to save “all the works of his hands.”

In section 76, the Lord expressed how much He wants to reveal truth to us. Read the scriptures with faith that He can and will reveal to you “the things of God” that you need to know. Then record the insights you receive “while [you are] yet in the Spirit.”

This lesson is difficult. It is both simple and honest, and complicated and difficult to understand. I hope I am the only one who feels this way, though I fear I am not alone. The topic of this lesson is God’s desire to save “all the works of his hands.” Let’s look at how this is brought about, and also take a peek, and only a peek, at those who slip through His fingers and simply cannot be saved, though through no fault of His own.

Turn your mind back to our first estate. We are told that we all kept our first estate. The evidence that we did is that we are here in mortality. Exactly what we had to do to keep that estate we don’t fully understand, nor do we fully grasp the rewards for having kept our first estate. Please allow me to explain.

I have written whole articles on this subject before, but I will try to be brief here. Abraham was told in Abraham 3:26 that those who kept their first estate would be added upon. I’ll come back to this in just a moment. This verse covers three categories of people – those who only keep their first estate, those who didn’t keep their first estate, and those who keep their first AND second estates.

26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.

(Orange text) What does the term “added upon” mean? One part of its meaning is that they would be allowed to come to mortality and receive a physical body. The other part that isn’t mentioned is that part of receiving a physical body in mortality includes the promise of a resurrected body for all eternity. In this way, anyone who kept their first estate is guaranteed a resurrected and glorified body for eternity, for we cannot be judged of God until we have been resurrected so we can return to His presence for judgment. Us requiring a physical body in order to be judged is a rule God made as part of the plan for our salvation. Thank heavens He did.

This also means that because we kept our first estate and qualified for a mortal body, we can come here and totally reject God and Christ, be as evil as we could ever desire, and we will still be saved through the salvation promised us through the merits of Jesus Christ. (I also need to include here that those who do this will have to spend time in hell before they are forgiven of those sins. But they will be released before they are judged.) It is through Christ’s grace that we are resurrected and glorified. By God’s standards, the glory won’t be great – like the glory of the stars in heaven compared to the glory of the sun – but it will still be glory beyond anything we can imagine here.

The green text refers to those who followed Satan and were never allowed to come to earth. These will be cast down to a permanent hell called perdition. Their punishment will last forever. The only ones who kept their first estate who will also partake of this punishment are those who become sons of perdition through their aspiring to great righteousness then turning on the Savior and desiring his destruction. For these there can be no forgiveness. Fortunately, who becomes a son of perdition is up to Christ, not us, but we are told there won’t be that many of them, for the requirements to qualify for this punishment are stiff and not easily accomplished.

The dark blue text refers to those who accept Christ’s gospel when they hear it in mortality, or heard it in the postmortal world and accepted it with all their heart. These are the covenant makers and covenant keepers who embrace Christ’s gospel with all their heart and soul before the day of judgment. These are they who become the children of God and members of the church of the First Born who will be able to walk back into the presence of the Father and live with Him and Christ forever.

That is a lot of information in one little verse. This is what we know about our first estate and its relationship to our second estate (mortality). I haven’t heard anyone else say this outloud, but something whispers to me that by keeping our first estate we all embraced Christ as our Savior and covenanted with God (because God does everything through covenants) to come to earth and accept the gospel when it was presented to us at some point before the resurrection. Personally, I believe “mortality” includes the postmortal world as well as what happens to us when we are in a living mortal body. It can only be this way, because otherwise how could we be gathering Israel on both sides of the veil if that was a completely different estate? I think these two periods (mortality and post mortality) are closely linked, for we are still progressing there from where we left off when we leave here. This would explain why there is so much help being received from beyond the veil from those who have already gone before us. We don’t get that kind of help (at least I am not aware of that kind of help being given) from the premortal world, just the postmortal world.

Okay, let’s move on. By defining “being saved” as being resurrected and receiving eternal glory through Christ’s suffering and his grace, there are very few of God’s children who will not be saved. Those of us who are striving to obtain the ultimate blessing of celestial glory consider that the definition of being saved. Both are correct. It all depends on your perspective. But by any standard, the plan of salvation shows us in graphic relief God’s love and concern for the welfare of His children, and the lengths to which Jesus has always been prepared, and willing to go to, to help us return home to our Father.

Day 3

Doctrine and Covenants 76:50-70, 92-95 – My Heavenly Father wants me to receive eternal life in the celestial kingdom.

In section 76, the Lord expressed how much He wants to reveal truth to us. Read the scriptures with faith that He can and will reveal to you “the things of God” that you need to know. Then record the insights you receive “while [you are] yet in the Spirit.”

After having read the verses for today’s lesson, I challenge you to think really hard and try to come up with one statement, just one, where God gives us any excuse to NOT do what is needed to come back into His presence. We already know that by just keeping our first estate guarantees us a resurrected and glorified body, but everything we read, listen to, see, and experience in this life from the prophets is about returning home to the celestial kingdom. This is the measure of God’s love for His children. Even talking about something less than the very best is distasteful to God, and is only scantily mentioned in the scriptures. The whole focus for every prophet to ever live is to bring us all to Christ, who will bring us to God. God’s standard for our behavior is always set at the very highest degree possible. We don’t have to live up to it, but He would be derelict as our Father if He excused any behavior less than that which will bring us the greatest amount of joy.

We need to remember that returning to God is a process of becoming like Him. There is no one path back. Some need to learn patience, others more tolerance. Still others need to become more charitable, or kind, or humble, or all of the above. We all have different lessons to learn. For this reason the Lord teaches us about the covenants that are mandatory, but revelation and living the gospel are things we have to discover and learn on our own. This is partly why we are told to be so tolerant with one another. Each of us has our own lessons to learn and our own growth that only the Spirit can reveal to us. And that can only happen as we deliberately seek to be taught and directed by the Spirit. As we practice what we are learning, the godly character gradually grows within us, and we begin to think, feel, and act more godly. This is what it means to become justified and sanctified – to become holy. It is all a process, and we have to seek it out, for it will never happen by accident. This is why we should be grateful for the ability to repent.

FHE/Personal Study

Doctrine and Covenants 76:24 – I am a child of God.

There are two definitions of what it means to be a child of God. The most common, and the only universal meaning of being a child of God, is based on the biological fact that He gave us our spirit bodies. In this regard we are all His children, and He is our Father. There isn’t a soul alive or who has ever lived who cannot claim God as their parent.

Knowing that we are all of “one blood” here in mortality, and knowing that we are all God’s spirit children, should help us feel a greater sense of duty toward caring for one another. No one we meet is a true stranger, for all of us come from the same family, and God expects us to care for our family members appropriately and tenderly.

The second definition of becoming a son or daughter of God comes only through obedience. We are all spiritual sons and daughters, but none of us are heirs to His eternal power and blessings unless we are obedient in this life (including our postmortal time) to His commandments. To become an heir to all that Christ will be given by the Father at the day of judgment requires us to be obedient and faithful to all of God’s commandments. Through faithful living we become His heirs, and members of the church of the First Born, those who have been promised to Christ as part of his reward for all of his sacrifices on our behalf.

Christ alone merits the blessings of eternity from our Father, because only he has lived a perfect life. But in exchange for our obedience and faithful living, Christ has promised to share fully all that he receives from the Father. Even the blessings of godhood is a gift, if you will, from Christ to us. Again, it is because of the grace of God that we will receive all things.

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Great Shall Be Their Reward

Week 28