1 Nephi 15:32-36 — LeGrand Baker — The final judgment

1 Nephi 15:32-36  

32 And it came to pass that I said unto them that it was a representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation.

“Works,” in many places in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, refers to ordinances.{1} That should come as no surprise, because that is always the criterion God uses for our entering into his presence. Nephi clarifies that meaning when he adds:

33 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.

Righteousness is zedek, that is, correctness in priesthood and temple ordinances and covenants. While it is certainly true that we will be judge according to all the things we do and are, it is also true that there must be order in all things. No one can take priesthood honor to himself. What we do in the kingdom must be sanctioned in advance by calling, ordinance, and covenant, and then sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise or it has no validity.

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; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy.
35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.
36 Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God. And thus I spake unto my brethren. Amen.

We wonder, if the words had not been dictated to him by the Holy Ghost, how differently Nephi might have written Doctrine and Covenants 76. The words in that revelation, as Joseph wrote them, are a celebration of God’s love for all of his children and the assurance that each person will inherit that degree of glory that is most consistent with his nature as he has defined his own nature. However, while Nephi’s message does not deny that, it completely redirects its focus. To Nephi, Alma, Mormon, and all the prophets in the Book of Mormon, salvation is being where God is. Anything that is different from that is different from salvation.

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FOOTNOTE

{1} Some scriptures where “works” refer to ordinances are: Psalms 145:17-18; all of the book of James; Alma 5:54, 11:44, 12:30, Alma 13:3, Moroni 8:23.

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