A friend of mine asked a question that burdened her. “The scriptures line out the key choice we need to make—to live righteously which will result in our eternal happiness. But, how do we know when we are righteous enough to qualify to return home with Our Father? I am aware of all the ways I fall short and it always seems more is being asked of us. How do I know if my efforts will be sufficient in the end?”
I have heard variations of this question a number of times during church classes. In one case, a teacher even staged a mock “final judgement”. He placed a table in the middle of the room and asked us to imagine ourselves at the final judgement on one side of the table, with the Savior on the other side. He posed the question, “How would you feel watching the Savior review your life as He determines your eternal future, shaking His head in disappointment because you didn’t do enough to earn your way back into Father’s presence?”
Whenever these types of questions come up, I am reminded of an experience that occurred a few years ago.
I once visited my brother-in-law in Washington D.C. while he was serving as a U.S. Congressman. At that time, a special joint meeting of Congress was being convened. Soldiers from Russia had invaded territory in the Ukraine and the Ukrainian president had come to give a speech to Congress to garner U.S. support in the event of further military force by Russia. My brother-in-law invited me to accompany him to watch the speech.
As we were driven to the Capitol, my brother-in-law explained that because of the visit of President Poroshenko and the tensions in the Ukraine, security at the Capitol had been elevated. Visitors were barred. Even Congressional staffers were restricted in where they could go. When we pulled up to guard gate there was an armed SWAT team in place. Everyone’s credentials were being carefully checked.
My brother-in-law held out his Congressional credentials and we were waved through to be dropped off. We climbed the steps leading into the Capitol.
When anyone enters the Capitol, they must go through a security screening process. Everyone passes through a metal detector and all bags are screened by an X-ray device. However, members of Congress may enter through a separate door without passing through security screening. As the two of us approached the separate entrance, I wondered, “How am I going to get in—especially with the heightened security? I don’t have any kind of special identification that would allow me through.”
At the entrance my brother-in-law displayed his Congressional credentials and he was admitted. To my great surprise, I was waved through as well with no questions and no screening. Walking in the direction of the Congressional floor, surrounded by both U.S Congressional members and Ukrainian officials, I asked my brother-in-law why I was admitted into their presence in spite of the high security precautions.
He explained that as a member of Congress, His credentials allowed him to vouch for me as his family member. I was admitted based upon his credentials simply because I was with him.
While waiting for the speech to begin, I reflected upon what had just taken place. It suddenly struck me that what had just happened was a foreshadowing of what will happen for each of us at the final judgment because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
His Credentials on Our Behalf
In Doctrine and Covenants 45:4-5, we listen to what Jesus will say as our Advocate, pleading our cause with the Father as we appear before Him to be judged. Let’s amend His words slightly to personalize His pleading. As He pushes you forward towards the Father, He will say:
Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
Wherefore, Father, spare [insert your name] that [believes] on my name, that [insert your name] may come unto me and have everlasting life.
Just like my brother-in-law did for me that day at the Capitol, the Savior will present His credentials on our behalf. He is the only one who possesses the appropriate credentials because He is the only one who did no sin. His atonement for our sins enables Him to represent us as worthy and celestial. We will be allowed home into the presence of the Father because we are with Jesus as His family member.
“This One is Mine”
Does that mean that we have no responsibility? Of course not. Certainly if we are sincere about coming unto Him as a member of His family, we will strive to abandon sin and change our character. Being in relationship with Him makes us want to be like Him.
But we do not have to fret over whether we can ever be righteous enough to make the cut. We must not discount the Savior’s Atonement.
Unfortunately there are many members of the Church… [who] believe that… Jesus is the Christ, while at the same time refusing to accept the possibility of their own complete forgiveness and eventual exaltation in the kingdom of God. They believe in Christ, but they do not believe Christ. He says…, “I can make you pure and worthy and celestial,” and they answer back, “No you can’t. The gospel only works for other people; it won’t work for me.” (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ, 1992, p. 9)
The reality is that none of us get ourselves into heaven based upon our own merits. We cannot save ourselves. Fortunately, as Brad Wilcox points out in his marvelous talk, “His Grace is Sufficient”, (BYU Devotional, July 12, 2011), our job is not to “earn heaven”. Our job is to “learn heaven”—to practice and prepare for heaven. Our job is to deepen our relationship with the Savior. Part of deepening that relationship is working to forsake sin and striving to become more Christlike.
As we implement those changes, we will continue to fall short. We will make mistakes we regret. There might be times when we feel it is just too difficult and will be tempted to give up. But during those times, “We must not succumb to the false doctrine that our ability to sin exceeds His ability to redeem. We must not tell ourselves that we have fallen so badly that He can’t pick us up—or doesn’t want to pick us up.” (Wallace Goddard, Modern Myths & Latter-day Truths, p. 57)
We can trust that at the final judgement the Savior will not be across from us looking over our credentials, shaking His head in disappointment at our failings and lack of progress.
[The Savior] has answered the demands of justice… This gives him the right to claim those who enter into his covenant, to bring each one of us under his wing and say, “I’ve paid for this one, this one is mine. …. Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.” (D&C 45:5) (Stephen Robinson, Believing Christ, p. 125)
If we seek to be in relationship with Him and follow Him, at the final judgement the Savior will be at our side presenting His own credentials on our behalf. We will rejoice at the words: “She’s with me.”