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While we don’t know if we will be around when the Second Coming takes place, nevertheless, the question posed as the title of this chapter is relevant to all of us. If we are dead already, we will want to be worthy to be resurrected and join Him as He descends upon the earth to start the Millennium. If we are still alive, we will want to be worthy to be taken up off the earth to meet Him and then, likewise, descend with Him.
Over many years of teaching and hearing students ask and answer this question in class discussions, it seems that a second question can be asked that will help lead to the answer to the first. The question is this. “In order to be in the presence of God, do you need to be perfect, or do you need to be spotless?”
Before we answer this second question, perhaps we should ask which of the following statements is correct:
There are many scriptural references that will provide the correct answer for us, for example:
1 Nephi 10:21 - Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgmentseat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.
Helaman 8:25 - But behold, ye have rejected the truth, and rebelled against your holy God; and even at this time, instead of laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where nothing doth corrupt, and where nothing can come which is unclean, ye are heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment.
The answer, repeated over and over again in the scriptures is that no “unclean” thing can return into the presence of God. In other words, we must be “spotless,” not “perfect.” This is very good news! It is summarized by Nephi as follows:
2 Nephi 33:7 - I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat.
If we get mixed up in our thinking between “spotless” and “perfect,” and decide that we have to be perfect, it can lead to much discouragement and can lead some members to the point where they quit trying to live the gospel. With the help of the Savior and the Atonement, we can all get to the point where we can be made clean, or spotless, and thus qualify to enter back into the presence of God. Perfection will come along in due time after we have passed through the veil, but Christ was the only one who was perfect during mortality.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave some powerful advice, which helps us understand that we are not expected to become perfect in all things in this life:
Another idea that is powerful to lift us from discouragement is that the work of the Church . . . is an eternal work. Not all problems . . . are fixed in mortality. The work of salvation goes on beyond the veil of death, and we should not be too apprehensive about incompleteness within the limits of mortality. (“Powerful Ideas,” Ensign, November 1995)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that there is much progress to be made after we pass through the veil:
When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 348)
Now, having been taught by the scriptures and the living prophets that we do not have to be perfect, but rather, spotless or clean, one major question remains: What must we do to enable the Savior to make us clean?
We could go on for some time giving many correct answers, including, “keep the commandments,” “follow the Brethren,” “read the scriptures,” “say our prayers,” “serve one another,” “keep the Sabbath Day holy,” and on and on. And each answer would be correct as a part of a wonderful body of commandments and teachings designed to lead us back into the presence of God. Since all faithful Saints and all who desire to become faithful are striving constantly to do these and many other good things, there must be some simple, basic answer that provides encouragement for the honest in heart, without being overwhelming. There must be some simple principle that gives us confidence that we can qualify to have the Savior make us clean. There is. It is found in the Book of Mormon as follows.
Alma 34:33 and 36 - And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
The word “improve” in verse 33, above, becomes a key word. If we “do not improve,” we are in trouble. On the other hand, if we do improve, sincerely, we enable the Savior to make us clean through His Atonement (verse 36). Being made clean, we are spotless.
Being spotless, we are allowed to be in the presence of God, where, as Joseph Smith pointed out in the previous quote, we can continue to progress until we become perfect. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve taught that the emphasis in the gospel of Christ is on direction and diligence, not necessarily on speed. He taught the importance of continuing improvement. In an address in general conference of April 1989, he said the following:
I am also convinced of the fact that the speed with which we head along the straight and narrow path isn’t as important as the direction in which we are traveling. That direction, if it is leading toward eternal goals, is the all-important factor.
How good do we have to be in order to have a pleasant Second Coming? Or a pleasant Judgment Day? Or a pleasant meeting of the Savior when we die? Answer: We have to be honestly striving to be righteous. No matter where we are along the path that leads to the presence of the Father, if we desire to be good, and we are sincerely improving, then we enable the Savior to make us clean. And thus, we can meet Christ humbly and comfortably, and be welcomed into the presence of the Father (D&C 45:3–5).
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!
** The following was taken from 100 Signs of the Times. The opinions and views expressed herein belong solely to David Ridges and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of Cedar Fort, Inc.