If you’ve read several of my posts, you’ve probably noticed that I have several “favorite” scriptures (okay, I actually have a LOT of “favorite” scriptures). I’ve said before that my very, very favorite is 2 Ne. 2:6 — 9, and I’m sticking to my guns on that one. But Ether 12 probably comes in a close second.
Ether 12 is a masterful treatise on true Christian faith. As with many of the great treatises of the Book of Mormon, it comes from an aside that the abridger inserts to comment on the story he is telling. Mormon did this quite a bit in the portion of the Book of Mormon that he abridged, and when you see those fateful words, “And thus we see…”, you know it’s time to take notice, becaue Mormon is telling you why he shared the preceding story.
Moroni abridged only one book; the Book of Ether, which covers probably well over 1,000 years. For context, remember that it was approximately 1,000 years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 b.c. to the time the Nephites were destroyed in 385 a.d. So Moroni abridges a history somewhat longer than the entire rest of the Book of Mormon in 15 ordinary-size chapters. But what’s more remarkable is that of those 15 chapters, at least three and a half are basically soliloquies by Moroni. This says something about the selectiveness of what Moroni wrote, and what his purpose was. If you get more out of a generation than “King A was succeeded by King B,” it’s probably because Moroni thought it was really, really important.
And then we get to Chapter 12. Moroni starts out, apparently with the best intention to describe how Ether preached to the people and was rejected. He quotes a marvelous teaching of the Brother of Jared in v. 4:
4 Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with asurety bhope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which chope cometh of dfaith, maketh an eanchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in fgood works, being led to gglorify God.
Moroni quotes Ether, and then mentions that the people rejected Ether because they could not see the marvelous thing he taught. This seems to frustrate Moroni. Clearly these people had no clue what faith was. If they just understood what Ether was trying to teach them, they would know what they needed to do.
You have to read the passage about a dozen times for all the little nuances sink in (at least I did; you may be smarter than I). He might with surety hope for a better world. And this surety, which Ether calls “hope” cometh of faith. And faith makes an anchor to our souls. And then we are sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works. And that leads us to glorify God (and if you gloss over this last part, think intently about what it means to “glorify God.” Think about how Christ glorified the Fahter. Think about how we, puny mortals that we are, could actually glorify—or add to the glory of—God).
It all seems rather bold. Can we really with surety hope for a better world? Does that mean that there is a way to know for sure where you will be in the eternities. Can we get a sneak peak at Judgment Day and know how things will go?
Absolutely. You can know with a surety what Kingdom you will inherit. Or more precisely, you can know with surety that you will inherit “a better world,” the highest Kingdom (there is less specific instruction on getting to the others, because we’re not supposed to be striving for those anyway).
51 They are they who received the atestimony of Jesus, and bbelieved on his name and were cbaptized after the dmanner of his burial, being eburied in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—52 That by akeeping the commandments they might be bwashed and ccleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the dhands of him who is eordained and sealed unto this power;53 And who aovercome by faith, and are bsealed by the Holy Spirit of cpromise, which the Father dsheds forth upon all those who are just and true. …
Those are the requirements, no more, no less (verses 54 — 69 list some more of the blessings and characteristics of those blessed souls). Joseph Smith beautifully and succinctly summarized these same requirements in the Wentworth letter. Faith. Repentance. Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. Laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Those are the principles and ordinances necessary to inherit the Celestial Kingdom. But the outward performance alone is not sufficient. They are necessary, but not alone sufficient. Many have been baptized and fallen away from the truth. We must also “be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.”
The nice thing about this last requirement is that the Holy Spirit of Promise, that which seals our necessary ordinances and makes them effective, is not something that is handed out capriciously, perhaps based on whether the Father thinks you will be a hit at His parties. You don’t have to sit around thinking “I sure hope God gives me that.” It is given to “all those who are just and true.” If you are true to the covenants that always attend ordinances, you will receive the Holy Spirit of Promise, that ratifying power that makes ordinances effective.
That is why we can, with surety, hope for a better world. Do not expect a surprise on Judgment Day. I suspect that you will already know exactly what you are prepared for before you ever stand before the Lord. Were you baptized by proper, authorized Priesthood authority? Did you receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands? Did you do these things with faith in Christ? Did you keep the covenants attendant to those ordinances, and when you failed, did you repent of your sins? If so, the Holy Spirit of Promise will ratify the ordinance, it will be accepted of God, and you will inherit the Celestial Kingdom.
But wait (as they say on TV), there’s more! If you order now, you will get the Super Ultra Deluxe Celestial Kingdom. But not for $19.95 plus shipping and handling.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an aincrease.
As with everything in the Lord’s plan, there is a cost; a necessary performance. And what is that price? You must enter into the most satisfying, sanctifying, enduring, and beautiful of human relationships. You must be married. Oh, but just being married is not enough. You must enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage by God’s own sealing power. With this marriage, when you die, the companion of your soul is not lost to you forever. You are entitled to spend eternity with him or her (see how onerous the conditions are that the Lord places on entering His Kingdom—I can only imagine what awful stipulations He would place if there were a fourth degree; perhaps that you must be willing to eat gourmet chocolate).
Okay, it’s late and I’m rambling incoherently. But there is a point to this. God loves us. He loves me and He loves you, individually, personally, and intensely. He has a plan for us, and there are great blessings attendant to fulfilling that plan. But He does not leave us casting about in the dark, wondering if we measure up. There are specific requirements for His Kingdom, and they are so great, they are things you’d want to do anyway, without the extra blessings, if you understood just the mortal joy of keeping His commandments. And you know if you have done them. You know if you have received the necessary ordinances. You know if you are striving to keep the covenants attendant to those ordinances. If you don’t know, ask God for a witness of the Spirit. If you are keeping those covenants, you will receive that Holy Spirit of Promise, by which you may know that your ordinances have been accepted. If you do not receive it, ask Him to show you where you fall short (you probably already know anyway), and then do whatever it takes to make course corrections and get back on the path. Even if external circumstances have prevented you from receiving certain ordinances (like marriage), ask the Lord if you are truly keeping the spirit of those ordinances in your heart. If you are, you will not be denied the opportunity, in this world or the next, to in fact receive those ordinances you have already received in your heart.
And this is important to me, because God has mercifully taught me by the Spirit all that I might become through faithfulness. He has shown me how even my terrible gender confusion plays a role. He has turned my greatest challenge to sanctifying instruction in the nature and purposes of God. He has shown me that I must inherit His Kingdom and become as He is if I hope to receive those promised blessings.
I have received the ordinances. I strive to keep my covenants, though I too often fall short. Necessarily, I repent frequently. I am often tempted to despair, and sometimes, even when I don’t despair, I just don’t know how I will make it through the next day, or week or month. But the Spirit testifies to me that the Lord has accepted those covenants and ordinances of me, not because I am perfect, but because I repent, and that if I continue faithful to the end, they will continue to be effective for me, until at the last, I am everlastingly sealed His.
And so I have hope.