Perfection, pt. 4: The Strait Gate

In order to enjoy the glory that Christ enjoys, we must live the law that Christ lives. There is no other way. Heaven is a lifestyle, the same way a healthy diet is; those who eat healthy are naturally going to feel better than those who do not. The order of heaven is no different; those who live the way Christ lived are going to have greater peace, joy, and fulfillment than those who do not. The question, in both cases, is whether you trust the higher path will actually be better than the lower one.

You would think the answer obvious—and yet because of the fall, we are continually enticed by lower paths and ways of being.

According to Our Desires

God respects our agency enough to not interfere, and will grant us according to our desires, “whether it be unto death or unto life… whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction.” (Alma 29:4). In other words, if you want to go on consuming nothing but Ramen, Reese’s, and Red Bull, He’ll let you. You may feel awful as a consequence, but He has no intention of overriding your choice.

As the common adage goes: “you are free to choose your actions, but you are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.” It would therefore be a good idea to want the consequences of whatever you want.

This is why we’ll ultimately be judged “according to the desire of [our] hearts” (D&C 137:9) As Alma said of those in the resurrection, “The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh” (Alma 41:5).

Hell is the natural consequence of what most of us want, by default. Being carnal, sensual, and devilish, if our desires were left unchecked we would act in a way that would create hell—not only for ourselves, but for the world around us.

The only remedy is to transform our desires so that what we want will bring true happiness. Even knowing the correct path alone is not enough; we must know the path and desire it. A child can know vegetables are “healthy,” but if they don’t want vegetables, they’re not going to enjoy eating them. Again, the same is true for the order of heaven; if you do not want to live like Christ, you’re going to be miserable trying to do so. The commandments will seem like a burden that are constantly restraining you, keeping you from doing what you actually want to do.

Being saved is a matter of being changed. It’s a matter of purifying your desires so that you want what is best, and can then be truly happy.

The Doctrine of Christ

The doctrine of Christ, at its most fundamental level, is the transformational process whereby we lose the desire for sin and are made pure. Though we typically think of it in terms of a 5-point checklist (faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost, endure to the end), I think focusing on the outward “steps” without an understanding of what ought to be taking place inwardly misses the mark. It’s going through the motions without heart, “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5).

This process is described in many ways, though I believe the best way to start thinking about it is in Christ’s own words: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

In order to be transformed from our carnal and fallen state to a state of righteousness, we must abide in Christ (like a branch abides in a vine), until we are perfect in Christ (bringing forth much fruit).

By default, we are cut off from the tree of life (Alma 42:6). The first step in the process, then, is to graft ourselves into Christ so that His life-giving grace can begin flowing to us. What does this mean?

In Lehi’s analogy, it’s to take hold upon the rod of iron; in Alma’s analogy, it’s to plant the seed in your heart. Both the rod of iron and the seed represent the same thing: the word of God (1 Nephi 11:25; Alma 32:8).

This is where our journey must begin.

The Word of God

Given its centrality to the process, one of the most important details to understand is what is meant by “the word of God.”

Culturally, a lot of Christians have come to talk about the word of God in reference to the Bible. However, this is a rather narrow definition. Ultimately, the word of God is anything that God says. The Bible (and all scripture) constitutes the word of God inasmuch as it contains the word of God, but it surely isn’t exhaustive. Imagine if someone limited everything they thought you could say to a few emails you sent last year.

Christ is also called the Word of God because He embodies God’s living word (John 1:14; John 5:39-40). His words and actions always reflected the Father’s will. Christ is a living person; He is active, dynamic, and contextual. What He says or does will change based on circumstance—there’s no laundry list that can be memorized. He is the light of the world, and the truth of God.

The light of Christ is the means by which Jesus Christ communicates His words to mankind. It forms the light of our understanding, and the source of our conscience:

“For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” (Moroni 7:15-16).

Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, every single person born into this world is given a gift of light. This light is commonly referred to as our conscience, and is experienced by all. Like the sun, Christ’s light shines on each of us at all times. We can choose, by our agency, to turn towards this light and receive more of it, or block it out and diminish its influence. The voice of your conscience is the light and word of Christ, and is revelation as surely as if He appeared and spoke to you directly. It is your connection to God.

If you feel that still small voice tell you to stop what you’re doing and call someone, or check on something, or to hold your tongue, that is revelation. That is the word of Christ being communicated to you. If you follow that voice every time you hear it, it will lead you back to God.

“For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ. And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father” (D&C 84:44-47; emphasis added).

Following Christ is a matter of following His voice, which begins in your conscience. That is the word which we must take hold of; that is the word we must plant in our hearts. We must learn to yield ourselves to Him in all things, trusting that whatever path He prompts us to walk will lead to our greatest joy. This is where faith comes into the equation.


Joseph Smith defined faith as “the principle of action in all intelligent beings” (Lectures on Faith 1:9). Faith is essentially the trust or belief that a certain course of action is going to bring about the greatest outcome—therefore, the moving force behind every action is faith in something. If you indulge in a half gallon of chocolate ice cream, you’re expressing faith that that is the optimal path to happiness. If after some research you instead decide to try a more balanced diet, you’re exercising faith in that approach.

Faith requires an initial proposition, which comes from a proposer. In order to exercise faith in God, we must first hear His word. As Paul said, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?… So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:13-14, 17; emphasis added). This word can be delivered by a preacher sent by God, anyone who speaks under inspiration, or can be transmitted through the unseen network we call the Spirit. In either case, you must first hear the word, and then act on it.

Faith in God is more than a belief that He exists; it’s a an abiding trust that whatever course of action He proposes will lead to the greatest happiness. Similarly, faith in Christ (among other things) is to believe that His character and lifestyle reflects the order of heaven—that He is the Word of God made flesh.

Experimenting on that proposition will then have consequences, which will tell you something about its value. Alma put it this way:

“Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:26-28).

Alma asks you to observe what kind of effect it has on you. Does it swell within you? Does it enlarge your soul? Does it enlighten your understanding? Is it delicious to the light within you?

With every action, we are exercising faith in something. Faith in the word of God is what marks the path that leads to eternal life; faith in anything else will take us down the broad way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). For this reason, faith is the first principle of the gospel.

Exercising faith in God will first lead to repentance. When you recognize that the life you are living is contrary to His voice, the first thing faith will require you to do is change course. Because repentance is how you begin walking the path, it is correctly called “the gate by which ye should enter” (2 Nephi 31:17). However, this too needs qualifying.


Much of modern Christianity has come to think of repentance as fixing our mistakes. We use terms like “daily repentance,” believing daily transgression is inevitable, and so daily repentance shows our efforts to be a good person who’s trying their best. However, Joseph Smith taught, “Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God” (TPJS p. 148). In order to understand this, we’ll need to reframe our understanding of repentance.

Because we’ve so long considered perfection to be a matter of doing, our understanding of the purpose and function of repentance has been distorted. When we think of perfection as, “don’t make any mistakes,” repentance becomes, “I’m sorry I messed up, I’ll try to do better next time.” However, when we shift our paradigm from the goal of doing perfect to being perfect, repentance becomes less about willpower and more about the condition of our heart.

We have to begin by recognizing that sin (or rebelling against the voice of our conscience) is a symptom of the natural man. It tells us something about our state of being. Therefore, repentance has to be a change that is at the being level; not just in our actions, but in our very hearts and desires. We must pull the weeds out at the root.

In the scriptures, we never read of someone repenting of a sin because it’s impossible to repent of a sin. Repentance is an attitude, and can only be done in the context of all of your sins. An example in the Book of Mormon perfectly illustrates this principle:

“And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

“But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.

“And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying: O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day” (Alma 22:15-18; emphasis added).

I believe C.S. Lewis understood this concept when he wrote, “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who needs to lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the right one—that is the only way out of our ‘hole.’ This process of surrender is what Christians call ‘repentance.’ Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves in for thousands of years. It means killing a part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; emphasis added).

Consider what Paul meant when he said, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25). Repentance is more than fixing one’s mistakes and committing to not make them again; repentance is to crucify the flesh. It’s to recognize that sin is the fruit of a heart turned from God, and to then offer up a “broken heart and contrite spirit” as an offering in the similitude of Christ’s total sacrifice (3 Nephi 9:20).

This is the inward truth that the outward symbol of baptism is intended to reflect: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

Christ taught, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). We commit to yield to every prompting from the Spirit—in all times, and in all things, and in all places. When we reach the point where we stop living for ourselves, but for God, we can say with Paul: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).

When we make of ourselves a consummate offering, no only do we give our time, talents, and efforts, but we give ourselves—all of our desires—in total surrender. We no longer inconvenience ourselves to do His will, because His will becomes our will.

You Cannot Serve Two Masters

Total surrender is a condition, or state of being. As such, you are either living in it, or you’re withholding part of your heart—there is no in between. Christ asks for our whole hearts because He knows anything less will take us down a different path. This is why it is called “the straight gate.”

C.S. Lewis said, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.'” (C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity)

As a matter of fact, trying to live the gospel without giving over your whole heart is actually much harder than total surrender, because it it begins to feel like a burden. The commandments become the inconvenient obstacle in the way of doing what we want to do. The greater the sacrifice, the greater we come to resent it for getting in the way. Christ noted that, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24).

Trying to serve Him while also pursuing your own ends (like riches, video games, vanity, or other idols you “live” for) will inevitably lead to internal conflict. C.S. Lewis further wrote,

“As long as we are thinking that way, one or other of two results is likely to follow. Either we give up trying to be good, or else we become very unhappy indeed. For, make no mistake: if you are really going to try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, it will not have enough left over to live on. The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier. In the end you will either give up trying to be good, or else become one of those people who, as they say, ‘live for others’ but always in a discontented, grumbling way—always wondering why the others do not notice it more and always making a martyr of yourself” (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis).

Insightfully, Joseph Smith taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith 6:7).

Lastly, here’s the kicker: For all the good works we might muster up, for all the time we sacrifice, for all the inconveniences we put ourselves through to serve God, if we withhold our hearts from the altar of sacrifice, it is meaningless. If we strive to serve God but do so begrudgingly, it’s worth just as much as if we didn’t serve Him at all. Mormon wrote:

“God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing. For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness. For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God. And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such. Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift” (Moroni 7:6-10).

Why does God seem so strict on this point? If you’re still thinking about things from a “doing” perfect perspective, this may seem harsh—as if God is looking at the offering and saying,”not good enough.” However, God’s purpose in sending His Word in the first place is to change our hearts, or state of being. If our heart is missing from the equation, anything we do will miss the point.

True repentance is a lot like passing through an hour glass. As we move towards total submission, putting everything on the altar might at first seem to be increasingly restricive. However, when we finally exercise the faith necessary to live only for Christ, a new world opens up to us which we couldn’t before see. We learn that, ironically, true freedom is found in submission to God’s voice.

We enter in at the straight gate when we offer everything to God.

When we fundamentally shift the direction we are facing—desiring only to do God’s will and nothing else—we open a conduit from heaven through which we receive the divine fire the scriptures call the Holy Ghost.

In reality, because God’s light is always shining, it may be more accurate to imagine that you are aligning yourself to that celestial conduit. You’re turning your whole body to the light, Spirit, and glory of Christ. This is what it means to graft ourselves into the true vine—to abide Christ, and He in us. This is what it means to receive grace. This is what it means to enter in at the straight gate; to be born of God; to plant the seed in our hearts.; to take hold of the iron rod. You cannot do any of these things half way; it is the immersive commitment that allows the process of sanctification to begin.

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).

“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:6-9).

Fire and the Holy Ghost

Anciently, the Lord asked for animal sacrifices as an offering to teach the pattern of the future sacrifice Christ would make (Moses 5:6-7). Once that sacrifice had been made, Christ asked us to follow His example: “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:20).

All those who make this sacrifice unto death, burying the old self entirely to walk in new life, will be baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost. “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24).

Similarly, Nephi taught “the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:17-18; emphasis added). Only when we enter into this condition of total surrender, having been baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost, have we passed through the straight gate and begin our journey on the narrow way. Merely going through the physical ordinance of baptism, being an active member of the Church, or progressing through ordinances on “the covenant path” does not guarantee you have entered through the gate and are on the strait and narrow path. One of these deals in certain outward standards, the other is an inward state of being.

In order to walk down the path that leads to perfection, we must be in a condition of being immersed in Holy Ghost. What role does the Holy Ghost play in salvation?

While most Latter-day Saints typically describe it in the way we defined the light of Christ, the function of the gift of Holy Ghost is actually much more central to the role of transformation. Joseph Smith said that the “Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence” (TPJS p. 149). The Father and the Son are of one heart and one mind; the Holy Ghost is the shared mind (or oneness) between them. Because Christ intends to make us one with Him, even as He is one with the Father (John 17:21), He sends the Holy Ghost upon all those who repent and come unto Him.

“[The] Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one” (Lectures on Faith 5:2).

This change comes as a result of abiding in Christ’s word, yielding to it unconditionally: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19; emphasis added).

Instead of thinking you’re supposed to go through and acquire these attributes one at a time through your own willpower, consider that in the context of what we’ve discussed so far, the attributes of a saint (literally “holy one”) come as the natural consequence of yielding “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.” As you yield your will to the Spirit, it will fill you with God’s character and likeness.

In other words, repenting and receiving the Holy Ghost is the means whereby our heart and mind is brought into tune with Christ’s heart and mind. To the extent that we have the Holy Ghost, we are one with Christ. This is what allows for fundamental spiritual transformation.

As C.S. Lewis put it: “Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good… Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

At the end of King Benjamin’s speech, the people declared, “we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).

The people took the mighty change the Spirit wrought upon them as a witness that King Benjamin’s words were true; their desires had in fact been purified and made like God’s, so they knew the message He was delivering was in accordance with His mind and word. This is why the Holy Ghost is said to bear record of the Father and the Son—because they are one, sharing the same mind: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one” (3 Nephi 11:35-36).

Transformation by fire and the Holy Ghost is how the Father bears record of the Son. Possession of the Holy Ghost is how we know we are abiding in Him, and He in us: “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24).

The Spirit bears witness, by fire and the Holy Ghost, to all those who enter in at the gate. If we are unsure whether or not we have entered in at the gate, it is likely that we have not.

From Lectures on Faith: “Those, then, who make the sacrifice [of all things] will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ… But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind” (Lectures on Faith 6:10-12).

Alma asked some poignant question to those of the church in his day. We would do well to consider these questions as if they were being asked of us, and reflect on whether or not we have entered in at the straight gate: Alma 5:14-36.

What if you allowed this very moment to be the moment where you exercised the faith necessary to surrender all things to the Lord—both your carnal desires and the ones you think are good? What if you let Him dictate what your life should be? What if instead of waiting to be 1% better every day until you obey Him in all things, you abandon your summer home in Babylon and follow the Son with full purpose of heart? What if you came before Him as you are, and exposed every part yourself to Him, that He might heal you?

If you will bring yourself into His light and truth, even those parts of yourself you’re scared to bring into the light, He will transform you into something holy. That is what His grace is sufficient to do.

Is All Done?

It takes a great deal of faith to enter in at the straight gate. It is analogous to the faith the children of Israel exercised when they fled Egypt, or Lehi and his family when they left their homes in a wicked Jerusalem, to begin a journey to a land of promise. Leaving behind all you know to follow God’s command requires total commitment. You must walk away from your old life to follow Him (Mark 10:17-21).

However, walking away from spiritual Babylon is only the beginning of the journey. Ironically, most of us treat this level of faith as the end-goal of a lifetime of discipline. In Lehi’s context, we struggle to even leave Jerusalem. We like our sports, our fashion, our money—our vain things—too much. Many of us are comfortable where we are, thinking that some day in the future we’ll manage to leave Jerusalem.

Contrary to the desires and expectations of a wicked heart, leaving Jerusalem behind is only the first step. Then the journey begins.

“For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (2 Nephi 31:17-19).

We have begun our journey by yielding our hearts to the word of Christ; it is the word of Christ that will continue to guide us until we reach our destination. As Alma taught his son Helaman: “For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass [the Liahona], which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land. And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise” (Alma 37:44-45; emphasis added).

What does the remainder of our journey look like, and how do the words of Christ play a role, as Alma indicates?

You are one with Christ proportional to the degree of His Spirit that you have received. As you repent of all your sins, He will “pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon you” (Mosiah 18:10). This is justification. As you maintain that Spirit and state of oneness, you will receive it in greater degrees through obedience to a greater portion of Christ’s word, until you at last obtain a “fulness of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 109:15). This process, called sanctification, will be the topic of the next post in this series.

Perfection, pt. 3: The Order of Heaven

After finishing my last post, I couldn’t help but feel something was left unfinished. As I pondered on it for a few days, I realized I needed to make an interjection here before diving any further into the actual process of becoming heavenly.

Previously, we defined perfection as full maturity (like a tree bearing fruit). Consequently, to be perfect in Christ means we abide in Christ and bring forth the fruit thereof (John 15:5), which is charity (1 John 2:5; Colossians 3:14; 1 Nephi 11:22).

Being full of charity is not something you do, but something you are; it is a state or condition of being. To have charity is to be perfect. Why? Jesus taught, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40; emphasis added). As every whit of the law points to love of God and man, any sin is a sin against the nature of charity—to be full of love.

As Paul wrote, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10)—because charity “suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

King Benjamin similarly taught that if you are full of love you will “always retain a remission of your sins” (Mosiah 4:12); you will “not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably,” raise your children in righteousness, “succor those that stand in need of your succor,” and minister to the poor (Mosiah 4:13-16).

The gospel is designed to transform you into a being full of love. Why? Because this is the nature of heaven. When you are made perfect in Christ, the fruit you bear is the love of God, which is sweet above all that is sweet, white above all that is white, and pure above all that is pure (Alma 32:42). As Nephi learned in vision, this is “the most desirable above all things,” and “most joyous to the soul” (1 Nephi 11:22-23). Nothing will bring you greater happiness, meaning, and fulfillment than to be full of the love of God.

Love, law, happiness—these things are all connected. Love fulfills the law, and the law is the manner of happiness (2 Nephi 5:27). Joseph Smith taught, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (TPJS p. 255).

Instead of thinking of heaven as the reward for keeping certain rules, giving an adequate performance, or confessing a belief, we ought to think of it as a condition or state of being. It is a lifestyle.

The eternal peace and joy of heaven is the natural consequence of living the law that is kept in heaven. God is no respecter of persons, and all blessings and glory are enjoyed on the same conditions; namely, by keeping the law associated with them. “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:20-21).

Every kingdom has a law given, and the blessings and glory associated with each kingdom are a consequence of the law that is kept there (D&C 88:38). “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory” (D&C 88:22-24).

The law of the celestial kingdom is the law of Christ (D&C 88:21), and the law of Zion (D&C 105:5). Those who abide that law in the flesh establish Zion—heaven on earth. They enjoy open communion with angels—the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn—Jesus Christ, and God the Father. They are partakers of the joy and peace of heaven (both individually and collectively), and experience an abundance of the gifts and power of heaven in their lives. All of these blessings are as readily available to you or me as they were to Enoch, Moses, Moroni, the brother of Jared, and many more.

The law was made for man, and not man for the law. It is given as a blessing to show us the way to a fuller life. We should want to keep all of the commandments, not because it’s just a high standard we must meet to avoid suffering in the afterlife, but because it is the optimal way of living.

When we are at last resurrected, we will be restored to whatever law and glory we attained here. Those like Enoch’s city, who enjoyed the law, blessings, and glory of Zion in their lifetime, will receive a celestial body (D&C 76:54-69). These are also the same who obtain charity (Moroni 10:21; Ether 12:34).

Those who persist in sin will persist in misery, because they are in a state that is contrary to the nature of happiness. As Alma taught, “Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness. And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness” (Alma 41:10-11).

Aren’t those without love the most miserable and bitter people you know?

Conformed to the Image of Christ

In order to receive a place with Christ in the resurrection, enjoying the same glory and blessing, we must keep the law He kept. If we want to be “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), experiencing the same joy and satisfaction that He does, we must become like Him. There is no other way.

The nature of God is the nature of happiness. He is the law (3 Nephi 15:9), which is the manner of happiness (2 Nephi 5:27); He is love (1 John 4:8), which love is most joyous to the soul (1 Nephi 11:22-23). Therefore, it is in becoming like Him—living, seeing, understanding and loving the way He does—that we find eternal joy and happiness. This is why Paul bids us to be “conformed to the image of [the] Son” (Romans 8:29), and Alma asks, “can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?” (Alma 5:19). This is the same thing as saying, “except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God” (Moroni 10:21). In order to share in Christ’s inheritance, we must be like His is.

On this wise, Joseph Smith taught: “But to be a little more particular, let us ask, where shall we find a prototype into whose likeness we may be assimilated, in order that we may be made partakers of life and salvation? or in other words, where shall we find a saved being? for if we can find a saved being, we may ascertain, without much difficulty, what all others must be, in order to be saved—they must be like that individual or they cannot be saved: we think, that it will not be a matter of dispute, that two beings, who are unlike each other, cannot both be saved; for whatever constitutes the salvation of one, will constitute the salvation of every creature which will be saved: and if we find one saved being in all existence, we may see what all others must be, or else not be saved. We ask, then, where is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude as to the answer of this question there will be no dispute among those who believe the bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this that he is the prototype or standard of salvation, or in other words, that he is a saved being. And if we should continue our interrogation, and ask how it is that he is saved, the answer would be, because he is a just and holy being; and if he were any thing different from what he is he would not be saved; for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else; for if it were possible for him to change in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority and glory, which constitutes salvation; for salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses, and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him: Thus says John, in his first epistle, 3:2 and 3: Behold, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And any man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.—Why purify himself as he is pure? because, if they do not they cannot be like him.

“The Lord said unto Moses, Leviticus 19:2:—Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy. And Peter says, first epistle, 1:15 and 16: But as he who has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And the Savior says, Matthew 5:48: Be ye perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect. If any should ask why all these sayings? the answer is to be found from what is before quoted from John’s epistle, that when he (the Lord) shall appear, the saints will be like him: and if they are not holy, as he is holy, and perfect as he is perfect, they cannot be like him; for no being can enjoy his glory without possessing his perfections and holiness, no more than they could reign in his kingdom without his power.

“… He had said, in another part of his prayer, that he desired of his Father, that those who believed on him should be one in him, as he, and the Father were one in each other: Neither pray I for these (the apostles) alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their words; that they all may be one: that is, they who believe on him through the apostles’ words, as well as the apostles themselves: that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee: that they also may be one in us.

“What language can be plainer than this? The Savior surely intended to be understood by his disciples: and he so spake that they might understand him; for he declares to his Father, in language not to be easily mistaken, that he wanted his disciples, even all of them, to be as himself and the Father: for as he and the Father were one, so they might be one with them. And what is said in the 22nd verse is calculated to more firmly establish this belief, if it needs any thing to establish it. He says, And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one. As much as to say, that unless they have the glory which the Father had given him, they could not be one with them: For he says he had given them the glory that the Father had given him, that they might be one; or in other words, to make them one.

“This fills up the measure of information on this subject, and shows most clearly, that the Savior wished his disciples to understand, that they were to be partakers with him in all things: not even his glory excepted.

“It is scarcely necessary here to observe what we have previously noticed: That the glory which the Father and the Son have, is because they are just and holy beings; and that if they were lacking in one attribute or perfection which they have, the glory which they have, never could be enjoyed by them; for it requires them to be precisely what they are in order to enjoy it: and if the Savior gives this glory to any others, he must do it in the very way set forth in his prayer to his Father: by making them one with him, as he and the Father are one.—In so doing he would give them the glory which the Father has given him; and when his disciples are made one with the Father and the Son, as the Father and the Son are one, who cannot see the propriety of the Savior’s saying, The works which I do, shall they do; and greater works than these shall they do, because I go to the Father?

“These teachings of the Savior must clearly show unto us the nature of salvation; and what he proposed unto the human family when he proposed to save them—That he proposed to make them like unto himself; and he was like the Father, the great prototype of all saved beings: And for any portion of the human family to be assimilated into their likeness is to be saved; and to be unlike them is to be destroyed: and on this hinge turns the door of salvation.” (Lectures on Faith 7:9-10, 12-16).

Christ is the Being of greatest joy; therefore, the greatest joy is found in being like Christ. When we are filled with the pure love of Christ, then we are like Him:

“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:47-48).


We are powerless to do this on our own; for that, we will need a Savior. “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26).

This is what His grace is sufficient to do—and nothing is sweeter.

Now, we will address how this is done.