Alma 33: 22, LeGrand Baker, judged “according to their works”

Alma 33: 22, LeGrand Baker, judged “according to their works”

Very often in the scriptures, what appears to the casual reader as a simple list, is, in fact, a carefully structured sequence. The Beatitudes are an example; so are the gifts mentioned in Moroni 10. Today’s verse is another example of that.

22 If so, wo shall come upon you; but if not so, then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God,
that he will come to redeem his people, and
that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and
that he shall rise again from the dead,
which shall bring to pass the resurrection,
that all men shall stand before him,
to be judged at the last and judgment day,
according to their works (Alma 33: 22).

Evidence that it is a sequence, rather than a list is that it is repeated several times in the Book of Mormon. Other examples are:

Jacob’s explanation:

22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that [in order that] all might stand before him at the great and judgment day. (2 Nephi 9:22)

When Zeezrom asks Alma, “What does this mean which Amulek hath spoken concerning the resurrection of the dead, that all shall rise from the dead, both the just and the unjust, and are brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works? (Alma 12:8),” Alma seems not to have answered him directly. Rather, Mormon explains,

9 And now Alma began to expound these things [In the Book of Mormon, “these things” is often code for the temple rites and ordinances.] unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God [As in the New Testament, “mysteries” is a clear reference to the ancient temple drama]; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

After that explanation, Alma repeats the sequence as it is always given:

12 And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works (Alma 12:9-12).

While talking with his son Corianton, Alma repeated that sequence twice more:

21 But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works (Alma 40:21).

The second time was even more explicit:

23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice (Alma 42:23).

When Moroni bore testimony of the Saviour, he did it by stressing that same sequence:

6 And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby [that word asserts that the resurrection enables the judgment] man must be raised to stand before his judgment-seat.
7 And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end. (Mormon 7:5-7)

This oft-repeated doctrine of the Book of Mormon is that the final judgment will come to each of us AFTER we have been resurrected. That is, we will stand before the Saviour to be judged having already received our celestial, terrestial, or telestial bodies.

It is apparent that the resurrection is also based on a judgement, otherwise the nature of the bodies we receive would be based on an arbitrary decision. But it is not arbitrary in any sense. One of the most enlightening statements in the Doctrine and Covenants is very clear about that:

17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.
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.
25 And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—
26 Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it.
27 For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual [resurrected] body.
28 They who are [present tense] of a celestial spirit shall receive [future tense] the same body which was [past tense— but past from the future, so it brings us back to the present] a natural body; even ye shall receive [future tense] your bodies, and your glory shall be [future tense] that glory by which your bodies are [present tense] quickened.
29 Ye who are [present tense] quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness (D&C 88:17-31).

It is apparent that there are people in this world who are presently quickened (made alive) “by a portion of the celestial glory.” That is, they have a celestial nature even in this world. The conditions of such a nature are the quality of one’s truth, light, love, and joy. {1} In other words, their life is an expression of highest values: the law of consecration (in the D&C) and charity (in the Book of Mormon). Living the law of consecration in a very private way is what one does when charity is what one is.

Now the question is, if the quality of one’s light, love, truth, joy determines one’s resurrection, and the resurrection enables us to stand before the Saviour at the last judgment to be judged according to our works, then what does “works” mean. It cannot mean goodness, kindness, or generosity because those things (or the lack of them) is what determines the quality of our resurrection. So “works” must mean something different from living law of consecration or being charity.

Alma uses the phrase “holy works” in conjunction with his discussion of the ancient temple drama (Alma 12:30) {2}, and thereby we have the definition we seek. It is the same as used in the New Testament. James juxtapositions his discussion of faith (pistis— conditions and evidences of a covenant) with “works,” Thus the famous statement, “Faith [pistis (the covenant)] without works [the enabling ordinances] is dead.” In that context and elsewhere in the New Testament “works” is a reference to the ordinances that were received in conjunction with the covenants in the ancient temples.

The Prophet Joseph clarified the question. When speaking of baptism, he said:

“Those who seek to enter in any other way will seek in vain; for God will not receive them, neither will the angels acknowledge their works as accepted, for they have not obeyed the ordinances, nor attended to the signs which God ordained for the salvation of man, to prepare him for, and give him a title to, a celestial glory; and God had decreed that all who will not obey His voice shall not escape the damnation of hell. What is the damnation of hell? To go with that society who have not obeyed His commands” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 197).

So it appears there are two “final” judgments. The first is at the time of our resurrection and is based upon the conditions of our spirit— light, truth, love, joy— which is basically determined by our living the law of consecration and being charity. The second follows the resurrection and is called the “last judgment,” and appears to be a necessary formality after the resurrection, or perhaps a concluding ceremony. It is based on our works— the ordinances we have received in conjunction with the covenants— and the way we have honored those ordinances. Joseph mentions baptism as the first of those, but concludes with “the ordinances, [and] signs which God ordained for the salvation of man.

One can draw only one conclusion from the juxtaposition in which the Book of Mormon prophets place resurrection and the last judgment “according to our works.” That conclusion is this: What happened in their temples was of the utmost, eternal significance. So it should be with us.

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ENDNOTES:

{1} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, 802.

{2} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, 790-92.

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