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I was preparing to go on a mission when my brother who was serving in Holland wrote a letter to me. Among other things he said, “There is no magic in a mission call.” That was a revelation to me. Silly as it seems now, 50 years later, I think I then believed that a large white envelope and a prophet’s invitation would make of me something that I had never been. I have since learned better, and not just about missions. There is no magic in marriage. There is no magic in death. What you are as you commence those new experiences is exactly what you were when you left the old experiences.
The sons of Mosiah must be among the best missionaries that ever put on a dark suit and a name tag, but they paid a price for it. They had waxed strong in their knowledge of the truth, and they were men of a sound understanding, for they had searched the scriptures diligently. They fasted and prayed a lot, and after fourteen years had become the men they were when Alma met them on his way to Manti (see Alma 17:1-4). Their willingness to teach the Lamanites did not change them. The angel did not change them. These things were catalysts of change, but the changes came from repentance and hard work. They always do, except in our hearts when the Lord causes a mighty change. But even that change is a catalyst, and comes as a result of diligence and desire. The highway to heaven begins with that change and it does not end even there. We must keep pressing forward and becoming and enduring.
I think I am a decent husband. If I am, it did not happen at the altar in the temple. It happened in the trenches and foxholes of the home.
The Book of Mormon certifies that death will not make of us something we are not. This was one of Corianton’s concerns. He could not understand the justice of the law of restoration. The law of course, is one of the fundamental laws of nature and the universe. ADo men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Matthew 7:16). If you plant rutabagas, you must expect to harvest rutabagas.
And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the restoration of which has been spoken; for behold, some have wrested the scriptures, and have gone far astray because of this thing. And I perceive that thy mind has been worried also concerning this thing. But behold, I will explain it unto thee (Alma 41:1).
And he does.
And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.
And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frameCmortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruptionCraised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—
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. And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness (Alma 41:3-6).
As I studied the Book of Mormon, I found a number of passages that affirm this principle. What you are is . . . what you are. And it is also what you will be, unless you decide to change. And the invitation to repent is an invitation to change your direction and destiny, to abandon the habits that become chains, and transform yourself into something more eternally inviting.
This is how Nephi discussed the lack of magic in death:
Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be judged of their works; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also (1 Nephi 15:33).
Jacob said it this way:
And it shall come to pass that when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God.
And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still (2 Nephi 9:15-16).
Alma, who, like the sons of Mosiah, had a remarkable change in himself, spoke of this concept more than anyone else in the Book of Mormon.
And he doth not dwell in unholy temples; neither can filthiness or anything which is unclean be received into the kingdom of God; therefore I say unto you the time shall come, yea, and it shall be at the last day, that he who is filthy shall remain in his filthiness (Alma 7:21).
Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world (Alma 34:34).
And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilishCgood for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again (Alma 41:12-14).
Moroni adds this dramatic conclusion to the powerful statements noted above.
And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them; and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still (Mormon 9:14).
If we are not happy now, what can we anticipate when we slip through the veil? If our marriages are crippled by contention, what can we expect from those relationships in the next world? If the desires of our hearts are not divine, the judgment will not make us divine.
God is not trying to force us to be good. He is trying to help us to want to be good. He wants us to come back and live in heaven, but more than that, He wants us to be heavenly. We look forward to Celestial glory, but need to understand that unless we are Celestial people, the glory of that kingdom will not warm us, it will incinerate us.
If I decide to drive to Albuquerque and get on the highway to that city and do not depart from that road, even though I change my mind about where I want to go, I will arrive in Albuquerque. This is the great truth: “If we do not change directions, we will end up where we were going” (see “Changing Directions” at SpiralRelease.com”).