Imagine a friend invited you to a party with the words: “Yeah, I guess we’re having a party at our house and…uh… you can come…if you want to. I mean, you don’t have to but it’s okay if you want to.”
The invitation does not sound very inviting. It may really be a condescension or a social concession. It is not a real invitation. Anyone who invited us to a party with such a weak invitation really doesn’t want us there.
I would like to talk about God’s invitations in The Vision, Doctrine and Covenants section 76. Is His invitation to be with Him a tepid, reluctant one? Is He saying that we may come to heaven if we really want to—but He is quite indifferent? Let’s see what He says through His servants Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon who delivered this great revelation to us.
There are some people we expect God might exclude from His heavenly celebration: the telestials—those who qualify for the lowest of all glories. This revelation teaches us what qualifies a person for telestial glory.
These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. (D&C 76:103)
These are not amateur or hobby sinners; these are career sinners! These are committed sinners. Think of the worst people in the history of this world. These are the telestials. What will God do with them? Will God consign them to hell for their sinfulness? What will their eternity be like?
And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding; (D&C 76:89, emphasis added)
The glory of the telestial surpasses all understanding! Think about that! We could get pumped up on Crumbl cookies, Cold Stone Creamery, and our favorite Mexican food and we still couldn’t imagine what God will give telestials! Their glory is beyond our mortal comprehension!
Sometimes with our puny vision and vengeful spirits we try to turn the telestial kingdom into a lesser hell. God describes it as a glorious heaven.
Brigham Young taught that many were offended and apostatized when Joseph gave this revelation to the Church. There were people the saints wanted roasted in hell. There are people they wanted in endless suffering. God’s plan was just too gracious, and merciful for their tastes.
What does the God’s great plan of redemption tell us about Him, His heart, His love, His redemptiveness, His graciousness? He intends to bless His children far beyond our comprehension!
All of us fall short of the glory of God. When we make stupid and repeated mistakes, do we recognize that God, our Heavenly Father, is the most patient teacher in the universe? When we are stupid and foolish, God is the loving teacher who helps us find a way forward.
Let’s compare our mortal journeys with getting an education in this life. Here on earth, we go through elementary and secondary education. The time comes when we are ready to leave home and go to college or get a job. We may have some trepidations about leaving home. Our wise parents anticipate that we will have plenty of challenges away from home. They know we will get homesick, forget homework, fail tests, and maybe even burn down the dorm. Yet they know that our growth requires us to leave home and learn from our experiences.
The same is true in our heavenly journeys. We learned many vital lessons living with our heavenly parents. The time came that we needed to leave that home on high to learn from earthly experience. They knew we would make lots of mistakes in the process of learning. We get confused, hurt each other, forget our purpose, and do a lot of self-destructive things.
But here is the key. God provided a Savior for us who stands ready and able to pay an infinite and eternal price so that all our debts can be paid while we get our education. God asks that we call earnestly on the Son and that we help fellow students get through this education.
We have talked primarily about the telestial kingdom. Of course, we do not study the telestial path because we choose it. We study it because of what it teaches us about God. God takes the worst of His children, cleans them up, and gives them a glory beyond comprehension!
We may be perfectly peaceful knowing that we are in the hands of such a God and such a Father! He is a faithful Friend!
Let’s turn our attention to the qualification for the celestial kingdom.
These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood. (D&C 76:69)
Made perfect through Jesus! Our success in life depends not on our brilliance and perfect performance or our perfect obedience but on our willingness to call on Jesus!
Verse 79 tells us that Celestials are those who are “valiant in the testimony of Jesus.” I have pondered that pivotal phrase, “valiant in the testimony of Jesus.” Does it mean to be brave and courageous in following Jesus? I think it can mean several things.
When we have made utter fools of ourselves as Alma did, we call on Him:
“O Jesus, thou son of God, have mercy on me!” (Alma 36:18)
I think it means that, when we are discouraged as Nephi described in his great psalm, we turn to Him: “Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted,” (2 Nephi 4:19) Nephi declared.
I think it means that, in times of great challenge, we recognize our need for Him: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phillippians 4:13).
Being valiant in Jesus means recognizing we can do nothing spiritually important without Him. God uses the story of the fiery flying serpents to teach us that we often make salvation too complicated. There really is only one thing—one Person—who can save us!
He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished. (1 Nephi 17:41, emphasis added)
It is in turning to Jesus and calling on His goodness that we are saved.
There is far more detail in section 76. Yet the invitation is clear. God is saying: I want you home. I want you with me. I want you to rejoice at my glorious feast! I want to provide a mansion for you! Please come! I am sending my Son to get you.
Do you feel that invitation? Are you touched by His love? Are you anxious to renew covenants with Him?
Harry Emerson Fosdick, the great early-20th century pastor, made a glorious observation: “What a King stoops to pick up from the mire cannot be a brass farthing, but must be a pearl of great price.” We are those pearls whom God has stooped to pick up from the mire. (Meaning of Faith, p.269)
God’s invitation is astonishing. It is not a weak or tepid or half-hearted request. God sent His beloved and cherished Son to come and get us while He arranged all of creation to make it possible! He wants us Home! When we are discouraged, when we want to give up, we can call on our faithful Friend.
What is God’s message to us as He prepares His heavenly party? When we protest at the judgment bar that we have made too many mistakes and are just not good enough to enter the presence of God, He says, “I have missed you while you have been away. The Savior has paid your debts because you called on His name. I have prepared a glorious feast to welcome you home. All the inhabitants of heaven rejoice to have you back! Welcome home!” And He embraces us!
That is an invitation and a welcome! And the message is clear: God loves us!!! And He gladly organizes all the powers of heaven to welcome us back to His presence.
I honor the God who created this brilliant plan and delivered this whole-hearted invitation to each of us—every one of us! He says: Please come be with me and enjoy celestial glory.
I praise His name.