“Who shall be our judge?” is only the beginning of the question. The other parts of the question are: when? by which of our works? and upon what criteria? The answer to these last questions determine the answer to the first. The Savior declared,
46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (John 12:46-48).
In the course of our past, present, and future history there have been and will be many judgments. The two most important premortal ones happened when we were born as spirits and when we left the spirit world to come here as innocent babies. The Lord explained that very succinctly.
38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning [when we were born as spirits]; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state [as babies], innocent before God (D&C 93:38).
Those two judgments made us innocent but they did not take away our personalities. We come into this world with three things: our agency, our personality, and our integrity. It is our integrity that is tested here.
When we die and go into the spirit world, someone will have to decide whether our destination is spirit prison or paradise. My understanding is that we will make that decision by simply joining the people with whom are we are most comfortable, wherever they may be. In the spirit world we will still be the same person who left our body and will still have the same family and friends, and will still have to confront the same questions, if we did not answer them while we were here: Are you kind? Do you accept the covenants and ordinances of the gospel? Do you love the Lord and his children? Those questions all have to be answered between our mortal birth and our physical resurrection. Just as in mortality, in the spirit world there will be a continuum, some formal, some not, of judgments as each question is answered in part or in full and as we move on to higher ones until we are ready for our own resurrection.
The first resurrection began with the Savior and at about the same time when multitudes of the righteous on both continents were also resurrected. As I understand it, the first resurrection will continue until all persons qualified to receive a celestial body have completed their postmortal assignments.
Then there will be a second and different resurrection when all other persons will receive an eternal body that will be perfectly compatible with whatever quality of truth/light/love they have defined themselves.
When the scriptures say we will be judged by our “works” the word “works” seems to have two different meanings (or at least two different connotations) depending on whether the scripture is talking about the judgment that precedes our resurrection or the final judgment that follows it. For example, when Alma was talking with his son Corianton, he was talking about the judgment that preceded the resurrection. The “good works” he described are the ones that determine which resurrection we merit. Then, it will not be the Savior, but ourselves who will be our judge, as he said, “for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.”
2 I say unto thee, my son, that the plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just, according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every part of the body should be restored to itself.
3 And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.
4 And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—
5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.
6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.
7 These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.
8 Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved (Alma 41:1-15).
At the time we are resurrected it will be us, ourselves who will decide whether we get a celestial, terrestrial, or telestial body. If we are our own judges, we may try to excuse or justify ourselves, but we can no more deny who and what we are than we can deny that it is ourselves we see when we look into a mirror. The Lord explained,
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.
29 Ye who are 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 132:21-24, 29-31).
After we are resurrected, we will stand before the Savior to be judged “according to our works.” These works seem not to be the good or bad deeds we had done before our resurrection, because those works had already determined which glory we inherited when we were resurrected. The works by which we will finally be judged by the Savior will be what Alma calls our “holy works,” that is, by the ordinances that were necessary to confirm and validate the covenants we made (Alma 12:30).
Nephi described this judgment as “pertaining to righteousness [zedek – absolute correctness in priesthood and temple things].”
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.
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.
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 (1 Nephi 15:32-34).
The filthy works seem to be the same counterfeit ordinances about which Moroni warmed us in his last review of the Nephite temple drama as he closed the Book of Mormon.
30 And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing (Moroni 10:30).
The secret combinations with their dark works and signs were the downfall of the Nephite civilization. Moroni is contrasting those with the truly holy works, and warning us to stay away from the counterfeits.
Nephi turned that plea into an even more severe warning.
21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
22 And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.
23 Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment (2 Nephi 28:23).
Mormon describes the final judgment when we all will be redeemed and brought before the Savior to determine whether we have accepted and honored those covenants and ordinances that validate the righteous. This redemption will not only bring the righteous into the Savior’s presence, but its judgment will also enable them to remain forever where he is.
13 And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death.
14 And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them; and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still (Mormon 9:13-14).
Everything must be done in zedek – righteousness – in perfect order just as the Lord explains. At the final judgment when we stand before the Savior, there will be no question about who or what we are, or by what criteria we have previously been judged. We will already be resurrected so we will have nothing to hide. My understanding is that the final judgement for the righteous will be more like an affirmation and validation ceremony than an actual judgment.
However, for the unrighteous, it will probably be quite different from that.
The scripture with which we conclude this discussion is in the Doctrine and Covenants 132. It states that all things must be done in perfect order and according to eternal law. Verse 7 is a bit long, so to make it easier to follow I will skip over the part in parenthesis that affirms that only the living prophet holds all the priesthood keys.
7 And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power…. are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.
8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
9 Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name?
10 Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?
11 And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was?
12 I am the Lord thy God; and I give unto you this commandment—that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord.
13 And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.
14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed (D&C 132:7-14).