Alma 11:45, LeGrand Baker, ‘they can no more see corruption’
45 Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption. (Alma 11:45)
Near the end of my comments last week, I wrote, “I believe that truth, light, and love (charity) are equivalents. If one is full of light, then one’s defining quality is love.” To that it is also necessary to add that if one is full of light, he recognizes truth, and will ultimately have access to all truth.
That is very different from this world. In this world one’s life is confined to a short movement within linear time where “truth” is transient and it changes virtually every instant. By “transient” I mean that most things that are considered to be true now, were not, and will not again be true. I can give you two simple examples: “Napoleon is emperor of France.” That was “true” in the past, is not true now, and will not be true in the future. Similarly, a statement like, “His car is the latest model on the market,” was not true in the past because his car did not exist. It will not be “true” in the future because the car will be outdated just as soon a new model comes out next year.
But in the sacred time of the celestial world, transient things are not called “truth.” Rather “truth” is that which consists with eternal reality. The Lord explained,
24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
He further explained,
6 The angels [resurrected beings] do not reside on a planet like this earth;
7 But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord. (D&C 130:6-7)
This promise is found repeatedly in the scriptures, and is always contingent on one’s righteousness, for example in his discussion of the priesthood, the Lord said,
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. (D&C 84:16-22)
The priesthood ordinances have always been the necessary keys that permits us to be where God is, and righteousness is the criterion that enables one to use those keys. When Alma was discussing the qualifications of those who were with God back in the Council of Heaven, he said.
7 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—
8 Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—
9 Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen. (Alma 13:7-9)
The prophets have never made a distinction between the quality of righteousness requisite to be with our Father in Heaven before we were born, and the quality of righteousness requisite to our being with him after we are resurrected. For example, while speaking at the funeral of his dear friend King Follett, the Prophet Joseph taught,
Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. …
When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph, 346 and 348. Italics are in original.)
On another occasion, when George Laub heard the Prophet Joseph speak, he recorded the following in his journal:
… God dwells in flaming flames and he is a consuming fire. He will consume all that is unclean and unholy, and we could not abide his presents unless pure Spirits in us. For the Blood is the corruptible part of the tabernacles. For the resurrection is devised to take away corruption and make Man perfect or in the glory which he was created for. (Eugene England, ed., “George Laub’s Nauvoo Journal,” BYU Studies, vol. 18 (1977-1978), Number 2 – Winter 1978, 174. Original of George Laub’s Autobiography is in BYU Special Collections.)
Brigham Young was concerned that the Saints understand that principle. He said,
I would like to have all understand that the Lord has sent forth the plan of salvation expressly to enable mankind to overcome the sin sown in the flesh, and exalt themselves with the faithful who have gone before to dwell with angels and Gods. Mankind have the privilege of eternal life—the privilege to prepare themselves to dwell in the presence of the Father and Son—to dwell in eternal burnings, where all is pure and holy. No sin—no corruption can dwell there. (Journal of Discourses, 8: 127 – 128)
“Everlasting burnings,” “consuming fire,” “everlasting power.” Those were the words used to describe the light, love, and truth that is concentrated where God is, and that emanates from there throughout the immensity of space. Not only can I not comprehend, but I can hardly begin to even wonder about the quality of life in the power of that environment— the conditions of life that those in the celestial kingdom will enjoy eternally. The prophets have tried to tell us, but they cannot. The Lord explained to Edward Partridge why that is so. “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.” Then he added this note of encouragement: “Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me.” (D&C 50:40-41) Later, he promised another of the brethren, “Continue in these things even unto the end, and you shall have a crown of eternal life at the right hand of my Father, who is full of grace and truth.” (D&C 66:12)
Just because we have been with God in the pre-mortal world, that is not a guarantee what we will all be with him again. We came to this world of forgetfulness in linear time to discover who we really are— to learn if, in this environment, we can retain the integrity of the law of our eternal being as we projected it then, or if what we were then was only pretense, and our real intent is to find a satisfaction that is different from the charity that is the necessary fruit of knowing in sacred time.
So we are here in this mortal world, confronted on every side by artificial, ephemeral, glittering things: power, prestige, money, fancy toys—confronted also by the need to serve others and to do the things we covenanted in the pre-mortal world to do while we are here. In this world, we can no longer remember those covenants or the glory of the blessings promised (for that information we must rely on the Holy Ghost), but we can see the advantages of acquiring the things that titillate and seem to satisfy. So we are now in a perfect situation to be our own judge about what we truly desire. In his kindness, God put us here so we can make that decision, unencumbered by the overriding influence of the power and glory of his immediate presence, but near enough to him and the Spirit to recall his love if we choose to.
And if we do choose to, we can return to the celestial world where God is. But to do that requires a clearly defined desire on our part, and it takes a great deal of effort. In one of the most profound revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord explained those requirements.
18 Therefore, it [the earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.
21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
24 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 88:14-24)
So, as far as I can tell, the primary qualities (not the personalities) of all persons who inherit the celestial Kingdom are the same: they love with a radiant love—which is charity: the pure love of Christ. That is a beautiful definition. Especially so, because one cannot tie it down to a single meaning. Does it mean the love that the Saviour has for us – yes. Does it mean the love that we have for him – yes. Does it mean that we love our Father’s children as he loves them and us – yes. It means all of those things because they are all the same. If we love the Lord as he loves, and that love permeates and defines our whole being, then our resurrected bodies will be of the same quality as his— celestial in its attributes and its glory.
Modern prophets have tried to teach us how to achieve that end. Brigham Young was especially concerned that the rigors of turning a mountainous desert into a flowering garden would not divert the Saints from their real and ultimate purpose, which was to create a Zion community comprised of Zion individuals. He urged them to be true to their own identities by living to be worthy of a celestial life.
This intelligence must endure. We must preserve our identity before the Lord, who has sent his Son and angels, and is sending the Holy Ghost, and his ministers, and revelations, to comfort, cheer, guide, and direct the affairs of his kingdom on the earth. Shall we dwindle out in our faith, and in those blessings God bestows on us at this time? No. Let us live to increase them. Let us so live, that when we receive our bodies in the resurrection, we will be received in the presence of the Father and the Son. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 8: 155)
On another occasion he reminded the Saints,
The Saviour sought continually to impress upon the minds of his disciples that a perfect oneness reigned among all celestial beings—that the Father and the Son and their minister, the Holy Ghost, were one in their administration in heaven and among the people pertaining to this earth….If the heavenly hosts were not one, they would be entirely unfit to dwell in eternal burnings with the Father and Ruler of the universe…. Only the line of truth and righteousness can secure to any kingdom or people, either of earthly or heavenly existence, an eternal continuation of perfect union; for only truth and those who are sanctified by it can dwell in celestial glory. (JD 7: 277-78)
Five years after Brigham Young died, Orson F. Whitney taught that the way to the celestial kingdom was well defined, but that it would take constant devotion to follow it. He described the power of the Saviour’s atonement, then added.
Thus it is that we are gradually freed from sin, slowly burnished by the friction of experience, and surely and eternally saved in the celestial kingdom of our Father. It is only by gradually approaching that kingdom that we are able to withstand its otherwise intolerable glory. Sin cannot inherit the kingdom of God. It would consume like chaff in a devouring flame. Heaven would be a literal hell to the wicked, and even the most righteous, without a lifetime of preparation, would be utterly unable to endure the presence of the Lord….The opening words of that beautiful and stirring hymn, “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning,” are no idle simile or vain hyperbole. They speak a literal, living fact. And fortunate indeed are we, who have received the imposition of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, that only a limited portion of it was bestowed, that by degrees we might become familiar with its influence, and in due time be qualified to receive and endure a fulness. Even Christ did not possess a fulness at the first, but by faith and good works gradually became entitled to it, till finally it pleased God that in Him should all fulness dwell. It is in this fulness that He will come to reign as King of kings….Let none deceive themselves, but let the whole world prepare to be tried and proven. For it is written in the archives of heaven, and decreed in the bosom of the Eternal, that none save the meek and righteous shall inherit the earth, and none but the pure in heart can look upon God’s face and live. (Contributor, vol. 3, August, 1882, 336 – 337)
Much more recently, President Marion G. Romney was even more specific.
Tithing is a part of the celestial law referred to in this revelation. Obedience to it is a prerequisite to being quickened in the resurrection by the fulness of the celestial glory. Without such fulness one coming into the presence of the Lord would be consumed, for God dwells in “everlasting burnings. (Marion G. Romney, Look to God and Live [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 1971], 153)
The goal—the blessings for steadfastness in keeping our covenants—is described by the Prophet in Section 76, but I frankly admit that I can grasp only part of what it means.
50 And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
60 And they shall overcome all things.
61 Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.
62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
63 These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people.
64 These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.
65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.
66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.
67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.
68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.
69 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.
70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.
92 And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;
93 Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever.
94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion. (D&C 76:50-95)
Given the glorious promises made to us about the opportunities of the celestial world, perhaps Brigham Young’s words are the most appropriate conclusion to the idea that Amulek planted in Zeezrom’s heart.
Those who acknowledge the hand of God in all things, and abide in his commandments, are the only ones who will sustain the principles of truth and purity. If their influence upon the character is not good and pure, how will they produce that pure feeling, pure faith, and pure godliness which prepare a person to dwell in eternal burnings? Should we not abide in and be influenced by the commandments of God? We should; for, without the spirit of revelation, no man can understand the things of God, nor his dealings and designs in relation to the inhabitants of the earth. (JD 8: 115)
To that celestial environment— where the light is a consuming, everlasting burnings, and the burnings are a flood of truth— to such a place my imagination cannot reach, but the experiences I have had with the power of the Holy Ghost, and the taste of my Savior’s love, teaches me that above all else, I do long to be there.