This is 'a dispensation of warning, not peace'
-Joseph Fielding Smith.
Peace begins within each person, which requires becoming “right” or square with God. This requires repentance. We are called to repent with the sole purpose of being ready for a celestial glory. In preparing ourselves for final judgment it is important to remember that it is the nature of love to be gentle and caring, so any negative judgment will be given with sorrow and sadness, not stern retribution.
“Remember, everyone has weaknesses, and there are at least two sides to every story. If you err in judgment, be sure you err on the side of love and mercy.”
The first principle of the gospel or good news is faith in Christ. The principle of faith is what creates the power within us to increase in good and become the kind of person we need to become to return to the presence of God. Our faith must be centered on Christ or we will not return home. We demonstrate our faith in our Father in Heaven by following His Son.
Christ came into the world to perform a two-fold mission. He came to pay for then die for our sins, so He could forgive our sins based on our repentance. He came to die for us, so he could resurrect himself and provide all of us life eternal with a physical body. Without His resurrection we would be left with no place to go, remaining as spirits with Satan forever. Because of the resurrection we will receive an immortal body which, if we are repentant, will be able to become perfect and be exalted, like our heavenly parents.
President Smith makes an important point. Without faith in our Father in Heaven and in His Son, Jesus Christ, we will not have sufficient faith to follow Christ’s representatives, the prophets and apostles, and all His other ordained servants. Having faith in the perfection of God and His Son helps us exercise faith in, and obey their mortal servants.
“ ... if we have faith in God the Father and the Son and are guided, as we ought to be, by the Holy Ghost, we will have faith in the servants of the Lord through whom He has spoken.”
Faith is a principle that creates power only because it is based on action. When we believe in something that is true, and act on that belief, that action generates power to grow and change. Faith has two parts, it must be based on truth, and there must be action or behavior involved. No amount of verbal profession of belief can make up for lack of doing the will of God. Only doing the Lord’s will builds the character of a righteous individual.
The result of doing the Lord’s will is a change in our own behavior and attitudes. This needs to be done deliberately. We need to choose to change through the act of repenting of our old ways and adopting the life that God wants us to live. Changing our habits is only part of the process of repenting. It is important for us to recognize why our old ways were ineffective and counterproductive, and offensive to the Lord. We must feel genuine sorrow for the things we have done that have offended Him, whether it was because it broke His commandments or because it hurt one or more of His children. The change has to grow from a desire to be like Christ, and to please God.
“There is no place in Zion for the wilful sinner. There is a place for the repentant sinner …”
We are a Church of sinners who want to be better than we currently are. There is all the room in the world for those who want to repent. There is no “place in Zion” for those who have no desire to repent. Exaltation is only for the righteous. The righteous are defined by the Lord as those who repent and make covenants with Him. The emphasis here is having a desire to repent, a desire to be obedient. None of us has already completed all the repenting that needs to be done, so none of us has a right to judge someone else for not being righteous “enough.” Part of our learning and growing experience is to learn to love and have patience with each other and ourselves as the Lord has shown love for each of us.
As one who sins, each of us tend to concentrate on how hard the justice of God will be on us at the last day. What we need to be focusing on is all the mercy God wants to show us in the meantime. As we repent it is Christ’s mercy that forgives our trespasses and sins, cleanses our souls of guilt, changes our heart, our disposition, so we no longer have a desire to break the commandments. It is the law of mercy that frees us from the punishing effects of the law of justice, and let’s us grow and change to become better today than we were yesterday.
Just as sin creates a vicious cycle of sorrow and defeat, faith has a redemptive or saving cycle which creates joy and strength. This is the cycle of faith. We choose to believe in something that is true then act on that belief. Christ rewards that action with knowledge and a small change of heart. Because of our action, mercy is applied and sins are forgiven. Joy and additional freedom to act is the result, and more repentance follows.
Now is the Time
Repentance is not designed to be an activity enjoyed in the afterlife. It is designed to be done here and now. After this life it is very difficult to repent. The prophets continually remind us that this life is the day for repenting. Whatever level of repentance we achieve in this life is what we carry with us into the judgment. Whatever level of mercy we experience in this life is what we will carry with us into the judgment. If we have experienced no mercy in this life, why should we expect it in the next? Mercy is something we can get anytime we want it. Repentance and obedience is the price of mercy. Now is the time to get as much of it as we can, for now is the time when we are committing all of our sins. We can erase those sins and replace them with joy and rejoicing by demonstrating true sorrow for those sins and seeking the Lord’s help in changing our ways.
This is a dispensation of warning that the Lord’s return is near and that we all need to prepare ourselves for His return. If we want peace in this life, only Christ can offer it. It must start within each of us then, when we have been warned, we must go and warn our neighbor that they may find peace as well.
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Kelly Merrill of www.mormonbasics.com