In the article entitled, Of Judgment and Choices – Part 1, I approached just the fairness aspect of how we are judged. Now I would like to look at personal examples many of us might be facing and talk about some ways to approach our feelings at the loss of loved ones, because of their own choices in life.
The prospect of being judged
The idea that someone is going to judge me because of my choices can be enough for anyone to feel a little paranoid. Every choice I have to make becomes an ordeal. Am I right? Is this what I am supposed to do? Could I have done or chosen better? It is enough to drive one to the proverbial drink.
When we focus on just the act of being judged we miss the other half of our judgment. What we choose to do and how we choose to live from moment to moment all has to do with justice. Make no mistake about it, justice will have its day and will get its due. God cannot make laws then just dismiss them if they seem inconvenient in a particular situation. Everything, as it says in Alma 41, must be restored to its rightful place before all is said and done in the plan of salvation.
There is a way to look at judgment and actually look forward to that day, instead of looking at the event with dread. To be able to look forward to our judgment day with anticipation and delight requires that “other half” I mentioned above. We must include in our thinking the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Because Christ paid for our sins, meaning he has already settled our account with God, our Father, we no longer have to worry that we will all be automatically condemned by God’s laws come judgment day.
Christ’s atoning sacrifice, his payment of our sins, doesn’t automatically remove any of the threat of impending punishment for those sins. Because he purchased our souls with his payment, we now owe him everything – literally everything. Our burden of debt created by our sins has been transferred from our Father in Heaven to our Savior. Now Jesus will be our judge.
As the lawgiver, God cannot show us direct mercy, for He must uphold the justice His own laws demand. But God showed us the magnitude of His mercy by giving us His perfect son to pay for our sins, and in so doing, offer us the mercy He could not. Mercy could only be given by someone who could come into mortality and pay for our sins. God has already been through mortality, so He is not able to return here to do what must be done in mortality alone. This is why He gave us His perfect son, Jesus.
As a mortal, Jesus was able to learn for himself what we all go through. He suffered temptations of every kind, suffering, sorrow, tribulation, rejection, all of the things we experience ourselves in mortality. As a God, Jesus was also able to reconcile us with God, our Father. It is because Jesus paid a debt he didn’t owe that he can set conditions upon which we can be forgiven for the sins we commit. He sets those conditions so that no matter what our mental or spiritual capacity we can all be forgiven for the sins we have committed, but only if we are willing to accept Jesus as the guarantor for the payment of our sins. When we are willing to do whatever he requires of us then he will personally see that our sins are forgiven and the debt for them erased in his books. He even says in the Doctrine and Covenants 58:42 that once we have repented it is as though the sin “magically” vanishes (my words, not his).
42 Behold, he who has of his , the same is , and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
Rejoice in the judgment
This repentance process is what enables us to rejoice in the prospect of coming to the judgment bar of God and answering for our sins. If we have repented consistently throughout our life, there won’t be anything left to condemn us on the day of judgment. We will be able to look forward to standing before God with the feeling of a squeaky clean soul. When we have been forgiven for our sins we are told that we become justified before God. We are justified in our behavior because we are now living in harmony with God’s laws. They have no claim on our soul because we have not violated those laws. We are at peace with the universe and the great Creator.
This is how we can personally come to terms with the judgment that will come to all of us. But what about our spouse? What about our family member or friend who is making choices we see will lead them away from God, that will only bring them sorrow on the day of judgment? How do we deal with that?
The prospect that we will lose someone we dearly love in the hereafter, because their choices are counter to the way of happiness, can be quite distressing. But there are some scriptures that can give us rays of hope to cling to. One thing we all need to come to terms with is the fact that I cannot save my spouse any more than my spouse can save me. We are each saved based on our own merits. Going to the celestial kingdom is an individual choice. Accepting Christ and his atoning sacrifice is an individual matter between Christ and each person. Just as none of us will be judged based on the actions of another person, so too will none of us be saved because of the personal righteousness of another person. Christ is the only one who is able to offer salvation for something he did on our behalf. And that is only possible because he is a God and was able to do something no mortal was capable of doing when he paid for our sins.
Let’s look at an example from the Book of Mormon. Alma (Alma 8) was going throughout the land preaching to all the people to convert those whom he could reach, ordaining priests and teachers, and establishing and bringing order to the church once again. He arrived at the city of Ammonihah and preached to them, but they rejected his words, because they had hardened their hearts. They cast Alma out of the city.
The part I want you to notice here is how hard Alma worked to bring someone, anyone in Ammonihah to repentance. He understood what it would mean to their happiness to repent, but they had embraced the teachings of the world/Satan, and would not listen to him.
10 Nevertheless Alma much in the spirit, with God in , that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.
11 Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts …
13 … and withstood all his words, and him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be of their city, he departed thence and took his journey towards the city which was called Aaron.
How many of us have a loved one we have labored over, served, loved, and prayed for, yet they just seem to have no interest in the mercy Christ’s atonement has to offer them? This was the very position Alma’s father was in. Alma, the one who was converted by Abinadi when Alma was a priest for wicked king Noah, repented and was converted. His own son, also named Alma, went about destroying the church of God. Alma the elder fasted and prayed mightily that the Lord would open his son’s eyes. That is why Alma the younger was finally visited by an angel when he and the sons of Mosiah were traveling about seeking to damage the church in any way they could.
I think it is important here to state that having an angel appear to a loved one to call them to repentance is so rare an event that to even hope for it to happen to our loved one is a fool’s errand. Examples such as Alma the younger are in the scriptures to show us how rapidly people can change. They are not recorded as an example of what we should all expect to happen.
Back to our story. Alma the younger was thrown out of Ammonihah and left the city with the assumption that he would never again see the people of that place because they were so set against the message he had been sent to deliver. He set his sights on the city of Aaron and off he walked.
14 And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an of the Lord appeared unto him, saying:
15 Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that it unto you.
Verse 15 was an unexpected twist for me. He was just thrown out of the city of Ammonihah, a total failure of a missionary to convert the people. Yet here is the angel telling him to lift up his head and rejoice. Huh? Why? The message here is that Alma had cause to personally rejoice, not because his efforts to save others was successful, because in the case of Ammonihah his efforts definitely weren’t successful. The message here is that he had cause to lift up his head and rejoice because of his own standing before God. He had been faithful in keeping the commandments.
I find it interesting that in a number of cases throughout the scriptures when the prophet is mourning for their trials and tribulations or the state of hard heartedness of the people, the Lord comes to them and tells them to lift up their head and rejoice, because they have personally been faithful, and have therefore secured their own salvation and position with God. Salvation is a personal thing that we can only achieve for our self. Everyone has to answer for their own self. It is all about the personal choices we each make.
Finding strength to go on
How do you think Alma felt when he was told that his life was acceptable to God? Do you think he gloated over the people in Ammonihah that he had been accepted, but they weren’t? Do you think he felt better than they and figured they would get what was coming to them? Of course not. Alma love those people. That is why he had been “weighed down with sorrow, wading through much and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people.”
The angel told Alma to return to the city and warn them of their impending destruction. Alma immediately turned around and headed back to the city to warn the people. When our loved ones reject the word of God as we understand it, and live lives that lead to sad ends, we don’t just give up on them saying, “Well, it was their own choice, so they will just have to suffer for it.” We don’t abandon those we love. Instead, we draw closer to God in our efforts to seek ways to influence our loved ones and help them see that they need the Savior and what he has to offer them. What we live through in the course of that effort is all counted to our own benefit as we seek to save the souls of God’s other children. All our sacrifices will be rewarded in the day of judgment.
Things can get messy
Another source of hope we can draw upon when seeking to bring others to Christ is our trust that God will make all things right for us by the time our day of judgment arrives. This life is just messy. That is the nature of mortality. I can’t even imagine how God is going to judge us all. We are all running around exercising our moral agency. Many of us mess up our choices, infringe on the happiness of others, offend God by our behavior, and sometimes openly reject all that Christ has to offer us.
It takes real faith to look at all this chaos and accept that Christ is up to the challenge of setting it all straight. He will reward us so that we each agree in the end that his judgments are just. We will acknowledge that he has been merciful to each of us, for none of us, no matter how wickedly we behave, will be made to suffer as much as Christ suffered for us. None of us will have to pay the full extent of the debt we would owe God had Christ not been in the picture. In mortality those who rebel reject Christ’s atoning sacrifice, but the day will come when all will bend the knee and acknowledge him as their Savior. And they will mean what they say.
We must each find it in our heart to trust that Christ will give us every benefit of the doubt, that he will save all whom it is possible to save, and that he will see to it that we are as happy as we can be for the rest of eternity. He cannot show us all the details to come in the judgment. This is something we must find strength in during the here and now. We just can’t see how it will turn out in the end if our spouse doesn’t join the church. We can’t tell what the fate of our wayward child will be. But we can trust in Christ and our Father in Heaven that they have seen the end from the beginning, that they love us with a perfect love, they they love our unrepentant family members just as much as they love us, and that all they want is for everyone to be as happy as they are willing to be in the eternities to come.
Christ has taught us that our first and foremost responsibility is to seek the kingdom of God for our self. Once we have found his kingdom it becomes our responsibility to seek for the salvation of all those around us. Personal salvation first then the salvation of our loved ones. Sometimes we get so caught up in our efforts to steer others to Christ that we forget to seek for him our self.
It is such a privilege to be engaged in the process of saving souls with Christ and our Father in Heaven. As we continue to pray and secure our own salvation, we can work to include others in our journey home. Afterall, don’t we all want to be surrounded by our family and friends on the other side of the veil? We are engaged in a great and glorious cause, and God will not leave us alone in our efforts to help Him in His efforts to save every member of the family.
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