The Premise for the Mortal Experience
The gospel of Christ contains all the laws and ordinances needed for us to return to our Heavenly Father. It also contains within it all the laws used for judging us at the last day. One of the decrees of God is that man will be judged based on his desires, whether those desires lead to His everlasting punishment or his everlasting glory (Alma 29:4).
4 I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction.
It is important to note in this verse that God has issued unalterable decrees (more than one) that the reward given to us will be allotted to us based on our own will or desire, whether it is unto salvation or unto destruction. This means that a big part of the reason for earth life is to properly determine what our true desires are. We are not here just to get a body, but to show our Father where our heart truly lies.
For some, this is a difficult concept. We don’t seem to have a problem with accepting eternal blessings, joy, and rewards that last forever, but we struggle with the idea that if we don’t qualify for the best of blessings by the time judgment comes, we will have to suffer the penalties for not having repented earlier—forever and ever. People mistakenly believe that good can and should be able to last forever, but punishment (or lack of blessings) should not be allowed to last forever. This, for some, is a great stumbling block.
According to the law of opposition in all things, all that exists has an opposite. If one thing lasts forever, so too does its opposite. If there is the possibility of eternal joy and reward, there must also exist its opposite, the possibility of eternal sorrow and lack of reward. It is all part of the laws of nature that we cannot have joy unless we also have sorrow. And this sad truth includes God, Himself. We cannot enjoy health if there is no sickness, or life without death, etc. It is the whole Yin/Yang, light/dark idea. Until we accept that this is a reality and that we will be judged on this basis, we are deluding or fooling ourselves into thinking that we can mess up all we want now, then somehow change the laws of God in the hereafter and still get what we want. It just doesn’t work that way.
Competition for Our Attention
This life is the continuation of the war we fought in heaven before we came here. Our Father, Christ, and the Holy Ghost are on one side telling us what the laws are, what the blessings are for obeying those laws, and encouraging us to live by those laws. In them is our only hope and possibility for eternal happiness and joy. Everything they do is to try to convince us that this is what we really want.
On the other hand, Satan, who wants us to be miserable like he is, tries to convince us that God’s laws are restrictive and will suffocate us. He wants us to believe that we cannot be free unless we are able to do whatever we want. He uses the desires of our flesh—those desires that are natural and native to having a body—to entice us and encourage us to be rebellious to God’s laws and follow a baser nature. All of his arguments are lies. Everything Satan tells us leads to bondage and spiritual and physical slavery. All of his promises are eventually broken, and we are left in the end to be judged by the very laws God tried to get us to obey from the start, for our own safety
But it isn’t too late to change our mind. As long as we do it in this life, things will be well with us come Judgment Day. Alma 41:6 tells us that even if we have chosen evil, we can repent and still receive a reward of righteousness. But note the caveat: we have to continue faithful to the “end of [our] days.”
6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.
The Choices We Make
One of the truths some have difficulty with is that if we choose evil over good, God actually lets us have what we want. This goes back to His promises never to violate our agency. If we really want evil, He steps back and lets us have it. There is no interference. We never have to answer to the eternal laws for our actions until it is actually time to “pay the piper.” He gives us every opportunity to repent so we don’t have to pay for our sins in full measure. That is what the Atonement of Christ is there for: to help us take care of that needed payment for our folly.
Just look at Jacob 4:14. This comment is talking about the foolishness of the ancient Jews. Even though they were given the plain and simple truth, they refused to accept it for what it was. They insisted on making it more difficult than it was, and fell into sin because of it.
14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.
We cannot blame our Father in Heaven if we choose to look “beyond the mark” He has given us. We are taught truth in plain and simple ways, yet so often we try to make more of it than we need to and, in doing so, miss the mark completely, causing our own downfall. Evidently this is a habit that is inherent to the house of Israel. We have to actually work at believing the Lord when we are told that this is not complicated.
Desire Changes Things
When it comes to developing faith, we do not have to have any proofs or special degrees of intelligence to begin to exercise faith. The Lord tells us that even just a desire to believe is enough for Him to show us what He can do for us. But it is important to remember that it is WE who have to produce the desire. God’s hands are tied until we ask for it. Here is what He says through the prophet Alma in Alma 32:27 about planting the seed of faith.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
Remember the laws of agency. One of them states that God will never force His goodness upon us. We must seek His goodness. We must want it. Only then can He freely share with us what makes Him so special. The Lord doesn’t need much from us in order to work with us, but we have to take the first step. Once we do that, He can provide all the proof we need to convince us of the truth. But we have to at least desire to know the truth before this can happen.
In Alma 41:1-8, you can read about the law of restoration. I don’t have room to include it all in this article, but when you read it, notice in verse 7 that it says we are our own judges. According to the law of restoration, we are only going to be restored to that which we have already chosen, according to the desires of our hearts. If we desire evil, we will be restored to a reward of evil. If we have desired good all our days, then we will be restored to a reward of good—the reward being a body that reflects the glory of the kind of life we led during mortality, whether that is a celestial body or a telestial/terrestrial body.
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