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Joseph Smith said that it is necessary to have a correct idea of the character of God before eternal life becomes possible.
If we don’t understand godly attributes, it’s easy to make mistakes about what is right in their eyes and what is not. Obedience is, of course, the primary evidence of our desire to live again with God, who cannot look at sin with the least degree of allowance. We are not being honest with ourselves if we think we want to live again with God but don’t want to live in His way.
So what all of this means is that seeking eternal life is to reach toward knowledge of Christ, which is also seeking knowledge of God the Father. (They are one in character after all.) The knowledge necessary to make the choice requires a desire to know the law for the purpose of knowing Christ. The law is a means, not an end.
Therefore, if we are to choose to seek eternal life, we must follow the advice of the Prophet Joseph Smith and correctly understand godly character for the purpose of working toward ultimately having that same character ourselves. Because that’s what eternal life is. It is to be given a perfection of love, charity, and pure white fruit forever. And that is what we came here to decide: Do we want it or not?
The character of Christ is not easy to develop.
Maybe we’ll want to choose otherwise. Christ’s character, after all, led Him to be crucified for sins that others committed. And He did it because it was the will of His Father and His own divine loving desire as well. WOW! No wonder the path is narrow, and no wonder few there be that find it. We came here to an opposition-filled, fallen world to have the opportunity to prove that we want to be like Him.
Unlike Christ, we can’t atone for the sins of others, but we can show our trust that Christ will do it and work at loving our enemies. Unlike Christ, we cannot be perfect in mortality, but we can, through submission to Him, make ourselves perfectible by Him. That’s the possibility for us. He only awaits our firm decision to choose Him.
A variety of decisions happen on our way through a fallen world. Many of them can stand as barriers to knowing and emulating the character of Christ and our Father in Heaven. Our inadequate knowledge doesn’t always see our choices for what they are. Remember it is rarely one big choice but a series of little ones that show our preference. Our small decisions to act can still constitute a negative choice whether we think so or not.
Change of path can happen to anyone along the way. Even people whose early choices are for a celestial goal do sometimes change. Those seekers can end up not enduring. Enduring in love, it turns out, is a sizable challenge. In the face of opposition, it can be so much more pleasing to seek one’s own. It’s not unusual to choose to turn away from following the simple, but sacrificing, method of gaining godly knowledge. At every stage of life, enticements come. Fortunately, just as we can change to leave the path, we can change to get onto it. The gracious Atonement of Christ is the enabling ordinance.
Many dip their toe into the lake of knowledge (myself among them). They may even wade a bit. No mortal can swim in it eternally without the perfection offered by Christ through His Atonement. What we are free to choose is whether or not to become perfectible by going deeper and deeper into the living water of love. More often than not, I fear, if we stay in the shallow water, some choice comes along that makes us at least consider turning back to seek the dry land of worldly self-fulfillment.
We stay in the shallow water when we live the gospel as a checklist instead of the love list. We stay in the shallow water whenever we focus on a sense of entitlement instead of on sharing the Lord’s mission of sacrifice.
At some point in the shallow water, we shiver with cold, because only by going into the deeper water of love is there warmth. Standing there shivering, the self-focused comfort of dry land is indeed tempting, even if we know it is not eternal. That may be what we want to choose.
We came here to make that decision.Going to church, having the fellowship of the Saints, and daily scripture reading will help in the decision process, but those righteous activities are not the big decision itself. The choice is made by the aggregate of our behavior that shows reaching to fulfill our roles to love in the Lord’s way and on the Lord’s mission. It’s a matter of what comes first to us, a matter of trusting the Lord, who gives us our roles in the plan of salvation. Trusting with fulness of heart or not. Only love and desire will lead us to obedient discipleship.