A Meditation on God’s Exalting Power Through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ
By Ken K. Gourdin
A fellow poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion expressed angst at the fate of her Eternal Soul, as well as those of her family members. In essence, she wrote, I don’t think that I (or that we) will ever be good enough. I replied:
Are you any better than the average Latter-day Saint? Maybe, maybe not. I couldn’t say, because I don’t know you. Are you any worse? Again, I don’t know you, so I couldn’t say for sure, but based solely on my interactions with you here, I have to say that I seriously doubt it. That makes you … pretty much the same as any Latter-day Saint who posts here (more or less), and pretty much the same as any Latter-day Saint you see in the pews of your local chapel every week.
I’m not sure if you saw my response to your recent my-family-probably won’t-be-exalted-and-I’m-OK-with-that post on another thread, but here it is again (not completely verbatim, and with some additional embellishment, but as best as I can reconstruct it):
You’re not finished. Members of your family are not finished. Yes, mortal life is important. Yes, it should be used wisely. Yes, some of us are going to use it more wisely than others. But the work of salvation and exaltation doesn’t end, for you, for me, or for anyone else, just because mortal life ends. This is only the Second Act. There was a premortal First Act, and there will be a post-mortal (eternal!) Third Act.
God exalts people. It’s what He does. Pretty much, it’s all He does. (See Moses 1:39). He’s very good at it. He’s been doing it for a long time. He’ll be doing it for a long time yet. He has a long time (Eternity!) to do it. God’s only real limitation is that He can’t make someone into something s/he doesn’t want to become. That’s it. (Maybe that’s what you’re worried about, but the good news is, He’s also very persuasive. )
The only real questions, then, are “Do you want to be exalted?” and “Do you want your family to be exalted?” That’s 99% of the battle right there, and if the answers are “Yes,” then you’re already up on most of the people in this world. Again, God’s only real limitation is that He can’t make someone into something that person doesn’t want to become. Stephen E. Robinson (God rest his soul), told the Parable of the Bicycle. His daughter wanted a bicycle. He encouraged her to save her pennies, nickels, and dimes, and eventually, she would have enough for a bicycle. She did odd jobs for a little here and a little there for quite awhile, finally going to her father in tears and lamenting the (very real, in her tender little heart) fact that she would never have enough for a bicycle. Her daddy asked her, “How much do you have?” She said something like, “Sixty cents.” So they made a deal: Brother Robinson said that since she was his daughter and he loved her, she could give her father the sixty cents, a hug and a kiss, and in return, she got the bicycle (which, although it wasn’t very expensive, still was something she was unlikely, at that rate, ever to be able to afford on her own).
Well, that “sixty cents, a hug and a kiss” is the equivalent of what God wants from us, and the bicycle is the equivalent of what He gives to us in return: Something which, no matter how much we might try, and work, and scrimp, and save, comparatively speaking, we’ll be unable to get on our own. The Atonement isn’t about what you do, or what anyone in your family does (or doesn’t do): God neither wants nor needs our piddly little sixty cents; He simply wants us to show Him that we want what He wants to give us. The Atonement is about what Christ did for us. As Jim’s wife, Joann, told him in the Church of Jesus Christ production The Prodigal Son, “None of us can make it halfway through this life or into the next without the Savior.”
Someone, Brad Wilcox, I think, once wrote (paraphrasing) that we all have this image of God as a Stern Task Master who will be the one explaining all of the reasons why we won’t be allowed to stay when we return to Him, while we plead to be allowed to stay. In reality, he says, we have that exactly backward: God is the one who pleads with us to do what’s necessary to be allowed to stay in His presence, while we, when we do return to His presence, will be the ones who (since we feel so uncomfortable and awkward) will be the ones saying, “Get me outta here!”
If you’re finally waking up to the fact that you and those around you are imperfect, mortal, fallible human beings, welcome to the club! “Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said (paraphrasing), imperfect, fallible, mortal human beings are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to him, but He deals with it.
So I guess the bottom line is, “Do you want it?” Again, God’s only real limitation is that even He, powerful as He is, cannot exalt someone against her will. (But again, even given that, He’s very persuasive, and He has Eternity). Just as with the parable of the bicycle, Brother Robinson didn’t take his daughter’s sixty cents because he needed it to pay for the bicycle. He could have bought the bicycle with his own money, period. It was simply his daughter’s opportunity to show her daddy what she wanted. God is like that. Comparatively speaking, He doesn’t need our piddly little sixty cents. He just wants to know that we want what He already wants to give us in return for those sixty cents.
Later on, she wrote, “I did not fulfill my calling as mother. We did all the activities [that the Church of Jesus Christ and its leaders recommend for strengthening families, such as attending Church, holding Family Home Evening, studying the scriptures as a family, praying as a family, and so on], but missed the [Holy S]pirit. I know my original error but could not have seen it when I was 23 and setting my course.”
Did not? You’re finished? Gave it your best shot, but, “Shut ‘er down, Clancy! She’s pumpin’ mud!”? I got news for ya. I know mothers on the other side [i.e., those who have exited mortality] who ain’t finished. They still got the job, and they’re still on the job. One of those is my grandmother. (We only “met” once before she passed away, and I was only a few weeks old at the time: I’ve heard all of the stories. She was (is!) quite a lady, and I’m told we have quite a bit in common. Of all of the “reunions” I’m looking forward to, that’s one of the ones I anticipate the most.) My father had an interesting experience in the Temple, once. He got some information that he would not have been able to get otherwise that averted a family tragedy.