Mosiah 16:11 -15 — LeGrand Baker — ‘The qualities of mercy’

Mosiah 16:11 -15 — LeGrand Baker — ‘The qualities of mercy’

Mosiah 16:11 -15.
11    If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation—
12    Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent.
13    And now, ought ye not to tremble and repent of your sins, and remember that only in and through Christ ye can be saved?
14 Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come—
15 Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

The dilemma is this: Can God be perfectly merciful and also perfectly just. A masterful explanation of that dilemma is found in Alma chapters 41 and 42. (If they are not fresh in your mind, this would be a good time to read them.) Alma tells his son why it must be so, but what I was trying to explain to Kris and I, and what I would like to explore here, is the question of how it works. I am not going to try to explain how the atonement works – I know that it does, but my knowing that brings me to the very edge of my understanding, and I cannot begin to comprehend how the atonement works.

I will try to express my opinions here as clearly as I can because I don’t want to be misunderstood, but when I do that, it tends to sound a bit dogmatic; so please remember, the things I am about to write are only my opinions, and I am not presenting them as anything other than that.

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The laws of Justice

Justice, without mercy, has the same rules as a chess game – except if one’s opponent were “eternal justice” one would be playing against a power that has an unlimited number of queens – and the game is stacked against any player who makes any mistakes. By that, I do not mean to imply that justice is inherently unfair, if it were, it would not be justice. But I am suggesting that it is just too big for us to cope with, and always has been. The reality is that throughout the whole process of our eternal growth, salvation without the intercession of the Saviour has been absolutely impossible. So, let’s see why that is so.

In chess, if one loses a pawn, the pawn is not recoverable, and all future good moves which would involve that pawn are forever lost. As one loses his bishops, or knights, or rooks, one’s possibilities for success become increasingly more restricted. That pattern continues until there is no option except checkmate.

Justice is like that. It not only closes doors, but it also acts immediately. The very nature of justice insists on immediacy. That relationship between justice and time is something people understand intuitively. There is an axiom in our legal system – “justice delayed is justice denied” – that almost codifies our understanding. There is a very sound reason behind the axiom: delay implies that time can insert ameliorating factors that would divert or cripple justice. In our legal system “justice” is often delayed, but after the delay, when it is exacted, it might be more accurately described as “revenge” rather than as “justice.” For in order for pure justice to be executed, the retribution must not only be immediate but also precisely calibrated to the law that was broken. Otherwise it is not pure justice, but something else.

If we lived in a world controlled by justice, and if we were immediately punished every time we did something bad, our capacity to succeed would be reduced with every punishment. Consequently, every time we sinned we would limit our future opportunities to do good. With each mistake, we would become more restricted until eventually we would have expend all our options except the invitation to go to hell.

Or else the opposite would happen.

If we were also immediately blessed for all we did that was good, we would recognize that doing good brought us treats and doing bad brought us a kick in the rear. Under those circumstances, we, like Pavlov’s dog, would soon become conditioned to respond to the treats, and try to do only good. In which case we would expect to go to heaven.

But in both cases – whether one goes to hell or to heaven – that final judgement would be imposed upon one based on one’s response to the conditioning. Life would not be a learning experience, and though the choices would seem to have been our own, conditioned responses would have determined our actions. Consequently, even though our exercise of agency would be apparent, it would not be real. That can’t happen. Such a principle of existence would be so utterly incompatible with eternal law that we would cease to be anything at all, and God would cease to be God – so that system is not – never has been – an option.

Justice demands that only celestial people inhabit the Celestial Kingdom. People are able to achieve that end because of the mercy afforded them by the atonement, but that mercy does not – cannot – let people into the Celestial Kingdom who are not celestial people.

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The ancient Babylonian version of mercy

Mercy is probably more misunderstood than Justice – and apparently always has been. The idea that through mercy God will somehow “make up the difference” is at least as old as ancient Babylon. In Budge’s Babylonian Life and History, {2} he published the translations of many cuneiform tablets that contain the prayers of the ancient Babylonians to their gods. The striking thing about these prayers is that they reflect no notion of anything like repentance. They do not pray for the forgiveness of their sins, but remind the god that they have made many sacrifices to him, and request that in return for their devotion and temple worship, that the god divert the consequences of their misdeeds so that the devotee will not be hurt by his own deliberate or inadvertent wrongdoings. Their system of religion precluded justice, but relied entirely upon a whimsical mercy purchased through bribery. The bribery was sacrifice, or adoration, or temple building and attendance. Many modern-day “Christians” (and even some Mormons) worship God in a way that is not entirely dissimilar from that, except they call their attempt at bribery “good works,” rather than “burnt offerings.”

Another only apparent difference is that in modern Christianity, one asks God to forgive one’s sins, rather than to divert its consequences. Forgiveness presupposes repentance, and repentance is often equated with remorse, but they are not the same thing. Remorse can only be “I’m sorry you got mad” or “I’m sorry I got caught.” In those context’s “repentance” becomes, “so let’s just go on as though nothing ever happened.” That language is different from what the Babylonians would have used, but the principle is the same. In each, one is only trying to duck the consequences.

Real repentance is not that. Repentance is more than just an earthly provision that makes it possible to avoid justice by overlooking previous problems. If it were only that, our experience here would be an exercise in self deceit that would permit us to neither fail nor succeed. If one lives life that way, there can be no salvation at the end of the road, because that road leads nowhere. Just pretending nothing happened and going on from there is not progression, it is only the accumulation of heavy baggage. A system that would permit that kind of repeated repentance, but require no real progress, would rob both mercy and justice, and would violate the very nature of all eternal law. As the Book of Mormon prophets repeatedly explained, the Lord did not come “… to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.”(Helaman 5:10. see also, Alma 11:32-44, 2 Nephi 9:38, Mosiah 15:26.)

If repentance and mercy do not work like that – if God cannot be cajoled into seeing things our way, and doing what we think is best – or if he doesn’t ignore our sinfulness and “make up the difference” with mercy – then how does mercy work, and what does it accomplish if it cannot save us in our sins?

Alma explained that God is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful, but he also insists that mercy cannot rob justice. Dan taught me that inasmuch as God is a just God, then in the end, salvation must be merited and awarded according to the laws of justice, through the atonement. If one tries to square what they said with the Babylonian concept of mercy, it just won’t work, and the dilemma seems impossible to reconcile.

But the dilemma may not be real. The apparent contradiction may not stem from what the prophets have said, but from what we have interpreted the prophets as having said. That misinterpretation, I believe, comes from our imposing a different meaning on “mercy” from the one the prophets intended. A usual way of understanding mercy is that if we do our best, that will be good enough for God, and he will make up the difference and save us anyway. But that idea either overlooks such obvious contradictions as the law that only celestial people can live in the Celestial Kingdom. Or else the idea requires one to believe that through mercy God somehow artificially restructures the fundamental nature of people, and makes them into something they are not, because he thinks they will be more happy that way. That isn’t reasonable unless we redefine the purposes of God or the nature of the Celestial Kingdom. We can’t do that, so what we have to do is redefine the meaning of “mercy.” I would like to try to do that in a way that I believe solves the dilemma.

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God does not artificially transform us into celestial people because he wants us to be saved, but rather that the transformation is something each of us has to do by ourselves – enabled bythegraceofGod-butotherwisebyourselves. Andthatmercyissomethingdifferentfrom God’s inclination to overlook sin, make up for our shortcomings by pretending they are not real, and then let us get into heaven anyway; and I think the scriptures are clear on that point:

33    … 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.
34    But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God.” (1 Nephi 15: 33b – 34a)

The Protestant teaching that God lets imperfect people get into heaven because Christ’s mercy “makes up the difference” is not true. Rather, I believe that because of the atonement, mercy removes the impediments and restraints that would otherwise make it impossible for people to become perfect, thereby enabling them to qualify to get into heaven – but only if they choose to do so.

My understandings of mercy is very different from the Babylonian version. Both insist that we are saved by “grace”; but for them “grace” meant that the god will look the other way, knowing “it is only human to error.” But to me, “grace” means God will enable one to become all that one is willing to be. I think the scriptures justify that position as well. (I have longsince loved this scripture because of its juxtaposition of the words “will” and “may.”)

8    Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved. (Alma 41:8.)

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Redemption through the Atonement

The Saviour conquered the great chaotic monster, death and hell. The idea of this dual monster that presides over chaos pops up everywhere in ancient myth and religion, but nowhere is its meaning better explained than in the Book of Mormon by Jacob.

10    O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
11    And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave.
12    And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.
13    O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.
14    Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness.
15 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 (2 Nephi 9:10-15).

The Saviour can save us from spiritual death, because he has paid for every sin ever committed – not just in this world, but in all his creations. The Prophet Joseph testified,

And I heard a great voice bearing record from heav’n,
He’s the Saviour and only begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad.
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons
By the very same truths and the very same powers. {3}

The atonement guarantees a resurrection to everyone, but it does not promise permanent redemption to everyone. It enables everyone to return to the presence of God to be judged, but leaves it entirely to the person to choose whether that redemption will be eternal.

Again we turn to Abinadi for instruction.

4    Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.
5    But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore, he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God  (Mosiah 16: 4-5).

The purest kind of love is expressed in the willingness of a parent to help the child be all that it chooses to be – rather than insist that the child become what that the parent believes will make the child most successful. That kind of love is epitomized by the Saviour whose atonement paid the penalty for all our sins, but who does not insist that any of us accept the pain that he suffered on our behalf. He lets one be what one chooses to be – at whatever level of good or bad one finds most satisfying.

Thus, in his mercy, the Saviour guarantees that all people will receive a resurrected body, and that the glory of that body will be consistent with the eternal law the person has chosen to enjoy. One does not usually think that it is by his mercy that we are permitted to choose a lower degree of glory, even though the Saviour has already paid for us to get into the highest. But it is by mercy that we are permitted to choose. Notwithstanding the pain with which he has already paid to take away our sins, the Saviour lets one keep all the sins one does not want to give to him. Because of his mercy, he takes nothing that is not earnestly given, so that in the end, it is justice, not mercy, that codifies one’s choices.

The Saviour’s mercy acts on a very different principle from the one taught by the ancient Babylonians and modern “Christians.” People are not saved by mercy. Mercy is the enabling power. People are saved by grace – and that salvation is a process as one grows from grace to grace. Mercy makes that growth possible, but does not make it unnecessary. The Saviour has accepted the punishment for all of our sins, but he does not deny anyone the right or the power to refuse to avail one’s Self the blessings of his grace.

By his mercy, the Saviour enables one to receive maximum glory in this world and in the world to come – and the glory is always consistent with the law one lives. If it is the same law God lives, then the glory will be consistent with that law. Otherwise, one’s glory will be compatible with the sins one wishes to keep and has chosen to make an eternal part of one’s Self.

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Repentance and the laws of justice

To understand mercy, it seems to me that one must first examine the relationship between justice and repentance. While there are many scriptures that teach us about one’s need to repent, there are two that contain the key ideas that seem to pull all the rest into focus.

7    Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.
8    And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—
9    Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice. (Mosiah 15: 7-9)

The key words here are “standing betwixt them and justice.” The implication being that people are able to repent because justice cannot immediately execute its consequences upon them.

The other one is from the story of Aaron, the Nephite prince. We do not know all that Aaron taught the aged Lamanite king about the atonement, but the king’s prayer gives us a remarkable insight. Earlier he had promised Aaron, “I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.” (Alma 22:1-35) But in his prayer he did not echo that sentiment. He did not use the phrase “give up”; in the prayer he said “I will give away…”

17    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:
18    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. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead. (Alma 22:16-18)

If one can apply the king’s words to the meaning of repentance, “repentance” is not giving up something (as one might do if one were going on a diet, or keeping a New Year’s resolution); “repentance” is giving the ownership of one’s sin to the Saviour. That requires covenants, ratifying ordinances, and changes in the very nature of the repentant. Ezekiel understood that principle in terms of a promise from the Lord.

19    And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: (Ezekiel 11:19.)

“Repentance” is the process of evaluating one’s feelings, rejecting the actions and attitudes that stimulate those feelings that are incompatible with one’s happiness, and giving those sins to the Saviour.

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Mercy makes repentance possible

As I understand it, this is how mercy enables repentance without imposing more salvation on one than one wishes to receive.

What Alma calls our “probationary state” is a kind of suspension – a state of being that is not unlike the one in which Job’s great leviathan moved without restraint in an ocean without walls. In this suspended state, the laws of justice are not obliterated, only the immediacy of their execution is postponed. Here we may make mistakes, but because we do not always instantaneously suffer the consequences of those mistakes, they can become a learning experience rather than a sure source of punishment and debilitation. If one does not like the way such actions make one feel, one can repent – give the sin to the Saviour – and continue the experimentation by which he can come to know good from evil without being burdened by that rejected sin anymore. Under these circumstances, the past sin is not baggage one continues to carry, because it is no longer there. It is not an impediment to one’s progress, because it does not belong to the person any longer, and so is not a viable part of one’s past (except it may continue to have great value as a learning experience).

Here, in this world, we may also do good things. But because we are usually not immediately blessed in a tangible way, we have the opportunity to learn the true nature of goodness and how we wish to respond to it, without the artificial gratification of an immediate and predictable reward. In both cases, this “probationary state” is a learning experience designed to help one define who and what one really is, and who and what one is trying to become, rather than a time of conditioning that molds one into what one “ought to be.”

Because we have physical bodies and live in a physical world, even in this suspended state we have an opportunity to experience the retributive power of a broken law. Physical law teaches us that there are unavoidable consequences which result from incorrect actions. (If you touch a hot stove, you get burned; if you put salt in your eye, your eye hurts) And those same laws teach us that there are unavoidable consequences to correct actions. (If you light a fire, you can get warm; if you put chocolate in your mouth, your mouth likes that a lot.) In those things the laws of justice are immediately applicable. From that we can extrapolate an understanding of the principle that there is a necessary relationship between actions and consequences. However, our responses to those kinds of wise or unwise actions are not the criteria that determine whether we will go to heaven or to hell.

Moral judgements (whether correct or incorrect) are like that in that they have consequences, but are unlike that because the consequences may be a long time coming – so long, in fact, that one may be able to believe the consequences will never come at all. Because there is usually no immediate tangible blessing for goodness, and no immediate spanking for badness, one is not conditioned by their consequences. Therefore, one is able to judge them on their own merits.

To do that, every person has the light of Christ (one’s conscience) that teaches one consequences – discourages bad, and encourages good. Unlike the consequences that always follow when one breaks a physical law, the “response” of one’s conscience can actually come before – as well as after – one does something wrong, and can therefore be a protection against sin. But its power to protect is balanced by the titillation that invites one to do the sin and to receive its consequences. Titillations often have a marked advantage over conscience, because titillations are able to promise immediate gratification. (Money can buy almost anything is this world.) Thus, one’s conscience does not have the power to dictate one’s actions, but only the power to direct one’s inclinations.

One’s conscience may create a tentative desire to avoid the thing that titillates, but ultimately, the bases of the power one exercises to make the final decision is not one’s conscience, but one’s attitude. Attitude overrides “good intentions,” just as it overrides bad intentions, and whether for good or for evil, it is one’s attitude that dictates what one actually does.

I can understand the power of attitude better when I acknowledge that its relevant extremes are not love and hate, but rather they are reverence and contempt. I suspect that one’s revering another person is the essence of true charity, just as it is the source of true joy. And, in contrast, to contemptuously disregard another person’s worth, happiness, or security is at the core of every evil. When contempt is focused, it is hate.

In this physical world, because people are free to act out their attitudes, they can treat others with kindness, or cruelty, or simply not consider them at all. Thus, this earthly environment creates an optimal situation in which one can experiment with one’s own feelings, discover what causes them, and seek to perfect the attitudes and actions that stimulate the gratification one most enjoys. It gives bad people an opportunity to enjoy the sensations of power that come through hurting others; and it gives good people the opportunity to love good people because they are good – and also to be kind to bad people anyway. It gives all people an opportunity to be kind and empathetic – to feel the hurt that others feel, and to rejoice because others rejoice. However, the product of that relative freedom in this world is that innocent people may suffer (and frequently do), and guilty people may not suffer (and frequently don’t). Because mercy prevents the immediate exercise of justice, this world is not a just place – but that was the way it was planned. Its injustice is one of its surest and most powerful teaching tools. People who suffer may be hardened and seek revenge; or they may learn to know empathy and compassion – to transcend pain to embrace peace. For, because of the atonement, whatever evil happens to the people who are wronged in this world, the consequence need not be a canker to the soul. The atonement not only has the power to take away our sins, but it also has the power to alleviate the pain of those whom we have sinned against – and to remove the scars of the sins that others have committed against us.

11    And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me. (Alma 7:11-13.)

But that is not all. In order to make mercy work, the system must guarantee that every person has a full and absolute opportunity to have enough experiences outside the presence of God, that each individual can determine for one’s Self who and what one really is, and what one truly seeks to become.

To pursue the question of how that is done, it seems to me that a little speculation about the nature of the post-earth-life spirit world might be in order. For it is clearly in that spirit world that the great majority of people will finally have sufficient occasion to make up for whatever opportunities they lacked here. Our “probationary state” which leads one to the final judgement must include both one’s experiences in this physical life, and one’s choices and experiences in the spirit world that follows: otherwise the decisions of a final judgement would make no sense whatever.

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Agency in the post-earth-life spirit world.

There is an important reason why this world and the next must be considered as a single unit. In this world we are not always able to do what we want to do. So if God were going to judge us on this world’s worthiness only, then he would have to either judge us on what we did, or on what we wanted to do – but not both. However, justice insists that our judgement be based on what we do and are, rather than what we wish to do and want to be. If we were going to be judged only by our intentions, then there was really no good purpose for our coming here except to get a body. I have no doubt that God knows us well enough that he already perceives our intentions. But that is not sufficient. The whole system of eternal progression requires that every individual be free to be what he or she chooses to be. Choice cannot be defined as intent. “Intent”may simply be the conscience prick or the titillation that precedes what one does. One must perform an action to be judged by the deed. I believe it is because of that law that one is judged according to formal ordinances and the covenants one makes – and according to the way one honors those ordinances and keeps those covenants – rather than just according to one’s “good intentions.”

For a small minority of people, there is sufficient freedom in this world that they are prepared for an eternal judgement when they leave here. But for the vast majority of people, that freedom will never come in this world, so must wait until the next.

In order to be free, three conditions must be present:

  1. 1)  One must not be bribed or be bribable. The price for one’s integrity might be money, or power, or prestige, or anything else, but if anyone or any thing can meet that price, then one becomes subject to that person or system, and is not free in that particular – if not in one particular, then not in total.
  2. 2)  One must not be intimidated or intimidatable. Because if someone or some thing can expose or threaten to expose one’s vulnerability, then one becomes subject to that person or system, and is not free within its restraint.

Both of those conditions are matters of integrity. However, integrity and righteousness are not necessarily the same thing. One can be taught to support a wrong, even an evil cause, and become so completely converted to it that one is willing to expend one’s money and time, or even give one’s life for it. But the intensity of one’s devotion to a cause says nothing at all about the worthiness or unworthiness of the cause itself.

3)     Therefore, if one is to be really free, one must have sufficient truthful and correct information so that one can make an intelligent and considered judgement about what to believe and how to act.

Those first two conditions may be achieved by any dedicated person in this world. However, our human situation makes that last condition virtually impossible without personal revelation. Consequently relatively few persons achieve true freedom in this life. To be free, one must know one’s Self. To know one’s Self, one must be able to define that Self in terms of the Saviour and his love. To do that, one must know Him, and have a testimony that he is divine. Because, ultimately, “…this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.)

For those reasons, a post-earth-life spirit world is necessarily a place where one can be free from all forms of physical intimidation, and where one can receive sufficient information to accept or reject the vicarious ordinances performed in his or her behalf. That spirit world must be a “physical” (as in “all spirit is matter”), cultural, and educational environment, where one is actually as free as one chooses to be – and where the restraints on one’s freedom will be only those which one chooses to impose upon one’s Self.

Thus, by the time this full probationary state is completed, each person will have been fully responsible and entirely capable of defining himself or herself in terms of what gives joy – or if joy is not what one seeks – then in terms of what gives the satisfactions one has chosen to cherish rather than joy.

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Conclusion

If what I have suggested here is correct, it is apparent that the time will come, when mercy no longer prevents the consequences of either good or bad, and justice will have claim on its own; but that justice cannot come into full play and claim its own until one has fully defined one’s Self. Then, because of the atonement, the “own” that justice will claim will be only what is left over after mercy has done its all – that is, justice may claim only the eternal part of one’s person and personality that remains after one has either repented, or chosen not to repent. Thus it will be by the laws of justice that one goes to the Celestial Kingdom, or else goes to some other place.

At the conclusion of this “probationary state” each individual will regain his or her permanent, physical, resurrected body – and the glory of that body will be the same as the law that person lives. Let me suggest how that works:

All matter is energy, and energy is light – the light from which all created things are made is the light of Christ. Which means that our spirit and physical bodies are made of Christ’s light – his aura, as I understand it. I take John’s testimony literally that the Saviour is:

9    The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10    The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.

I read “of” to mean of : “all things were made … of him.” I believe that means our resurrected bodies will be made of his light also. If one’s light is pure, like His, then one will be like Him. If it is partly or entirely dark, then one will be different from him.

But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23.)

I also believe that light, and love, and the power that seals us together eternally are all the same kinds of energy – are actually the same thing. That is, I believe that love is tangible in the same way light is tangible. If one is a person of charity, then the light which constitutes that person’s resurrected body must be compatible with that light which emanates from his own intelligence. If one’s love / light is pure, then one’s body will be pure also.  (D&C 88:14-41.)

Christ’s mercy holds the consequences imposed by justice in abeyance until one has made those decisions for oneself. By his mercy, the Saviour stands between us and justice during our probationary state, withholding from each of us the sure punishments for one’s sins, as well as many immediate blessings for the good things that one does, until one has decided for oneself which sins he wants to keep and which ones he wants to let the Saviour have. After that decision is made, the Saviour no longer stands “betwixt them and justice,” but steps aside, as it were, and lets justice have its full effect – saving all who will be saved – and in precisely the way they have chosen to be saved. Some to one degree of glory, and some to another, but all to be saved according to their own wills, and in accordance to the glory that best express their eternal nature.

Earlier I wrote that delayed justice is not justice but revenge, but that is not true of our final judgement when we stand before the Saviour clothed with resurrected bodies that personify the light – or the darkness – that is in us. The reason the final judgement is not an act of God’s revenge is because the justice meted out there is not a punishment wielded by God, but it is only a final actualization – a formal acknowledgment – of what one really is.

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ENDNOTES

{1} Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975), 357.

{2} Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, Babylonian Life and History (London, The Religious Tract Society, 1925) The “Sir” is because he was knighted in recognition of his being one of England’s greatest biblical scholars. I mention that because of the name of the publishing company. “The Religious Tract Society” published some very scholarly works in its time, but nowadays, if one did not know better, one would question the credibility of a publisher with a name like that.

{3} In February 1843, the Prophet re-wrote the vision that is the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants in poetry form. It was published in the Times and Seasons, February 1, 1843, and republished in the Millennial Star, August, 1843.

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