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).

Conclusion

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.

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