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English, Opinión y estudio del evangelio

Am I moving towards exaltation? 

Am I moving towards exaltation?

In D&C 76 the Lord teaches us what is necessary to obtain either celestial, terrestrial or telestial glory. Although the words “salvation” and “exaltation” are often used interchangeably, here we will speak of exaltation as defined by then Elder Russell M. Nelson in the April 2008 General Conference, Salvation and Exaltation: “To be exalted–or to gain exaltation–refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm.”

Have you ever wondered if you were talking the necessary steps to be exalted someday? This is a question I have pondered many times.

We must ask the right question, however. For example, it would not be of great advantage to ask, “Will I be exalted?” The answer to that question is, “It depends.” Depends on what? Well, of many things as we see in D&C 76 and in the teachings of our Church leaders. Among them it is necessary to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, turn our lives towards God, be valiant in our testimonies of Christ, receive the ordinances of salvation and endure until the end.

Thanks to the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, there are three principles or factors, that will work to help us achieve that goal, namely: justification, sanctification, and grace. (On another occasion I shared some preliminary thoughts regarding these, and their importance now, while we are on the earth, and not only after our death.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses. . . . Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God” (History of the Church, 3:379-381, also see BYU notes on this topic).

When a person has shown, then, that they will follow the Savior without counting the cost, the Holy Spirit of Promise will seal up this individual during mortality (D&C 131:5–6), having his calling and election made sure (2 Peter 1:10).

Elder McConkie, speaking of Revelation 3:21 taught that “To have one’s calling and election made sure is to be sealed up unto eternal life; it is to have the unconditional guarantee of exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world; it is to receive the assurance of godhood; it is, in effect, to have the day of judgment advanced, so that an inheritance of all the glory and honor of the Father’s kingdom is assured prior to the day when the faithful actually enter into the divine presence to sit with Christ in his throne, even as he is ‘set down’ with his ‘Father in his throne.’ (Rev. 3:21.) (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Bookcraft, 1973, 3:330–31, quoted in the Ensign)

Likewise, we see in D&C 131:5: “The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood.” Even these individuals, however, may fall under certain circumstances. So, they also must endure to the end.

While we live upon the earth, then, there is no such thing as an assured exaltation. That is only obtained after we cross the veil–or after a person is translated as were the three Nephites and John the beloved (see 3 Nephi 28).

Earnest money

Paul, in the books of Ephesians and Corinthians, explains that the Lord has given the Spirit as an “earnest of our inheritance,” speaking of those individuals who have had their calling and election made sure through the Holy Spirit of Promise. Although these Scriptures refer to those who have obtained these exalted promises here upon the earth, we shall see some points that would be of interest to every saint (disciple of Jesus Christ) in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   

In these Scriptures the expressions used are “earnest of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13–14) or “the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). The expression “earnest” is of great interest. It was at one time also called an “earnest penny.”

These three Scriptures in their context are: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14); “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:22); and “Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 5:5).

The term “earnest money” is often used when purchasing real estate property and shows the sincerity of intent on the part of the purchaser. So much so that if the buyer backs down on the purchase, the seller keeps that money.

In these Scriptures in Ephesians and Corinthians, this good-will deposit is made by the Lord and consists of the Holy Ghost in its function as the Holy Spirit of Promise. He who “purchases,” then, is our Savior. And what is He purchasing? The redemption of His followers, who could never be redeemed on their own.  

In reality, we know that Jesus Christ, as our Redeemer, already paid the price in full (“For ye are bought with a price,” 1 Corinthians 6:20) through His Infinite Atonement. This earnest deposit, then, is to show His disciples that they are walking in the right path and that their exaltations are secured.  

As we have mentioned, the purpose of this article is not the study related to having ones calling and election made sure, as interesting as that topic is. This long introduction is necessary so that we can better discuss the main topic of this article.

Words of Comfort

Returning to our opening question. Have you ever wished to know that you were walking in the path towards exaltation? That you were acceptable towards the Lord? Once again, I wish to underscore that we are not speaking of having our election and calling made sure, but rather to know we are moving in the right direction.

President George Q. Cannon said, “The Apostle Paul, in writings to the Ephesians upon this subject, says: ‘. . . ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. . . .» [Eph. 1:13-14.] That is, God had given his Spirit to the Saints in that age [that is, the meridian of time], in confirmation of the truth of the words of his servants, and to assure them that the inheritance which had already been purchased by Jesus for all those who would obey the Gospel … [and who would thus receive] the gift of eternal life to enable us to enjoy it.”

Mark the following from President Cannon, when he adds: “… have received the ‘earnest,’ or assurance of the Spirit that we shall yet possess it if we endure to the end. It is for want of this living faith, this positive assurance, that so many have fainted and fallen by the wayside. They have begun to doubt the Lord’s promise, and to fear that their labor will be in vain …” (MS, September 19, 1863, 25:600-601, Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, by Roy W. Doxey, emphasis added).

A confirmation that we are walking in the path toward exaltation can certainly give us the confidence and added desire to keep improving our lives. Robert L. Millet is a professor of ancient scripture and emeritus Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University in Provo suggested: “That same Holy Spirit of Promise that searches the hearts of men and women, that ratifies and approves and seals ordinances and lives, that same Holy Spirit serves, as Paul indicates, as the ‘earnest of our inheritance’ (Ephesians 1:14). Though this passage refers specifically to being sealed up unto eternal life, I believe the principle is also true in regard to our qualifying for and cultivating the gift and influence of the Holy Ghost” (emphasis added).

Professor Millet further explains, “We know that we are on course when we have the companionship of the Spirit. We know that our lives are approved of God when we have the companionship of the Spirit…” (Robert Millet on Grace Bundle by Robert L. Millet, emphasis added).

Millet opines, then, that the companionship of the Holy Ghost is an indication on the part of the Lord that we are going in the right direction. I felt the confirmation of these comforting words through the Spirit. I needed to hear that.  

In addition, we can inquire of the Father as to whether we are walking in the right path and are acceptable before the Him. Elder J. Devn Cornish of the Seventy invites: “The only opinion of us that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks of us. Please sincerely ask Him what He thinks of you. He will love and correct but never discourage us …”. (Am I Good Enough? Will I Make It? General Conference, October 2016).

Some years ago, one of my daughters-in-law had a beautiful experience as she renewed her temple recommend. The member of the stake presidency who interviewed her, when asking her the final question (as to whether she felt worthy to enter the temple), suggested that before answering she should inquire of God. That was such a spiritual experience for my daughter-in-law, who felt of the beautiful and comforting reassurance of the Spirit, permitting her to answer that question in the affirmative, despite her imperfections.

Is this not related to what we have been talking about? The Holy Spirit permitted my daughter-in-law know that she was worthy for that temple recommend. If the Holy Ghost is our constant companion, if the Spirit reassures us that we are worthy of our temple recommend, and if we feel joy in our lives, are these then not proofs of our Father’s acceptance? That indeed we are walking in the right path?  

Connect them to the Spirit

When I had the privilege of being the branch president for a Hispanic branch while I lived in California, I felt an overwhelming responsibility to make sure each member was walking circumspectly before the Lord. Despite my considerable study of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, at that time, I did not have a very correct understanding regarding justification, sanctification and grace, topics intimately connected to the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ and of the topic discussed in this paper.

Now, I believe I better understand the whisperings of the Spirit which I had received as a branch president. The Holy Ghost, in response to my anxiety, had manifested something like, “Connect them to the Spirit and I will do the rest.” In other words, my responsibility was principally to (1) teach correct principles and (2) help the members feel of the Spirit. The Spirit would teach them the right way.  

Who knows us better than the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? No one. If we are connected to the Spirit, He will show us the way when we are prepared and will also prepare us. In Isaiah 30:21 we read these beautiful words: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”  

If we delight in the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, we truly will be able to walk in the right path. The Prophet Joseph Smith explains that this Mesenger is an “infallible director” sent by the Lord (see TPJS, pp. 26–27). Beside the teachings of the Spirit, we also have the Scriptures, and the instructions of the living prophet and those leaders who work under him. They are ready to show us the path we should walk in. Additionally, my patriarchal blessing has been of great comfort and direction in my life.

Summary

Even though it is not the same as being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise or make our calling and election sure, we have several ways of knowing that we are walking in the right path: the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, joy, holding a temple recommend, and receiving an affirmative answer to a question addressed to the Father as to whether we are acceptable to Him. Just as it was mentioned by President George Q. Cannon, these things can give us the added motivation to keep improving our lives.

Photography

Photo by Caleb Jones in Unsplash

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