“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32).
Have you ever wondered what the purpose of life is, or question what it is exactly that we are supposed to do or get out of this life? Well, that’s a pretty broad question, and I don’t know if it would be possible to write all the things that coincide in the answer to that question. But looking at it from an eternal, or spiritual perspective the previously quoted scripture gives us a decent answer; to prepare ourselves to meet God. Here are a couple of other supporting scriptures that give us a lens into this particular perspective:
“And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.
For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated (Alma 42:4-5).
And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents” (2 Nephi 2:21).
Some people blame Adam and Eve for all the evil in the world, or use them as an indirect excuse for sinful behavior. Yet if we are honest with ourselves we know and understand that free will, or freedom of choice is given to every individual. We first individually and then collectively as families, societies, nations, and race determine the existence of both good and evil in our actions, lives, and ultimately in the world. The blatant reality is that at some point in the end we will each stand before Jehovah to be judged, and depending on if we have fully prepared ourselves, that day will be either great or dreadful.
The thought of that inevitable reality, at least to me, is sufficient motivation to continually strive to become more Christlike day to day, month to month, and year to year. How can we guarantee our readiness and preparation for that day?
I would say that a good indicator of our preparedness would be to have a conscience void of offense. This idea has come to me as I have studied and pondered upon the reactions of many of the prophets and apostles, both ancient and modern, to life vs. death situations. Two examples that have made a strong impression on my mind are those of Paul, the apostle, and of Joseph Smith, the prophet.
We read in The Acts, twenty first chapter, that Paul is called by the Lord to return to Jerusalem after many journeys to church members (or believers) in other countries. There was apparent danger in this return, particularly because the Jews at Jerusalem were angry with him for teaching “to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs” (Acts 21:21). And when Paul’s friends forbade him to go he solemnly responded: “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). Although Paul’s life was miraculously spared in this instance at Jerusalem, his attitude and preparation to die for Jesus’ sake remained until his time eventually did come to do even as he said.
Likewise, the prophet Joseph Smith was a martyr in his time. In 1843 to a congregation of saints he declared: “I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield, and what can man do if God is my friend. I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes. Then I shall be offered freely.” Not long after this Joseph felt and told his fellow twelve apostles that something was going to happen, although he admits that he did not know what; only that he needed to hasten their training in their responsibilities and duties.
During the next year, 1844, Joseph’s life was threatened, and the governor demanded that he should go to Carthage for trial of accusations against him. After considering and attempting to make an escape to the western frontier he received news that if he did not submit to going to Carthage the surrounding citizens would drive out the saints at Nauvoo by force. In response to this news he said: “If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself.” He and his fellow escapees returned to Nauvoo and surrendered themselves to go to Carthage. Shortly before he left, he told another group of saints: “If I do not go there [to Carthage], the result will be the destruction of this city and its inhabitants; and I cannot think of my dear brothers and sisters and their children suffering the scenes of Missouri again in Nauvoo; no, it is better for your brother, Joseph, to die for his brothers and sisters, for I am willing to die for them. My work is finished.”
Despite the grim moments going to Carthage he declared this surprising statement:
“I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer’s morning. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men. If they take my life I shall die an innocent man, and my blood shall cry from the ground for vengeance, and it shall be said of me ‘He was murdered in cold blood!'”
Within the next two days, Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, were murdered by an angry mob that broke into the jail.
Now, when I read, or echo in my mind Joseph’s statement previously quoted, I cannot help but wonder how he had such peace and comfort in that moment of seeming despair. Yet he tells us how; he had a conscience void of offense towards God and all men. In other words, he did not have any ill feelings nor evil desires towards God or any man, friend or foe, nor did he take offense from or condemn those who did injustice to him. Instead, he had learned perfect love, which enabled him to have a conscience completely and utterly void of offense.
Most significantly, the Lord Jesus, our perfect exemplar showed perfect love to all throughout His earthly ministry. Consider how He had love enough to heal one of the men who came to capture Him when Peter cut off the man’s ear. Just before He allowed Himself to die on the cross He had love enough to make the plea “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” I would say that Jesus also had a conscience void of offense as a result of His perfect love.
So, it is this perfect love, or charity that we must learn and it will enable each of us to also obtain, like Paul, Joseph, and Jesus a clear conscience void of offense. Said Joseph himself of this love:
Until we have perfect love we are liable to fall and when we have a testimony that our names are sealed in the Lamb’s book of life we have perfect love and then it is impossible for false Christs to deceive us;
—FWR, p. 16. (Oct. 25, 1831.)
Learning perfect love, or rather, gaining the gift of charity is a long waited result of our diligence in sanctifying our hearts and developing other Christlike attributes. Said Paul to the Corinthians:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1Cor 1:1-3, 13)
Growing and nurturing these attributes, especially charity, becomes much clearer and easier as we understand that we (every human being) are all children of heavenly parents, making us brothers and sisters. The truth that is masked by human institutions and hid by Satan’s earthly deceptions is that every person that is born on this earth chose to follow God’s plan in the pre-existence before the earth was created. In this context we are all on the same team; together we are all struggling travelers in this journey of mortality.
Joseph Smith shows us the key to learning perfect love, or gaining charity:
And now what remains to be done, under circumstances like these? I will proceed to tell you what the Lord requires of all people, high and low, rich and poor, male and female, ministers and people, professors of religion and non-professors, in order that they may enjoy the Holy Spirit of God to a fullness, and escape the judgments of God, which are almost ready to burst upon the nations of the earth. Repent of all your sins, and be baptized in water for the remission of them, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and receive the ordinance of the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power, that ye may receive the Holy Spirit of God; and this is according to the Holy Scriptures, and the Book of Mormon; and the only way that man can enter into the celestial kingdom. These are the requirements of the new covenant, or first principles of the Gospel of Christ: then “Add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity [or love]; for if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful, in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).
As we learn and develop these attributes in this pattern, line upon line, precept upon precept, we become them, and they become and define us; we become as Christ is — Christlike. Then we too, like Paul and Joseph, will have learned perfect love and will have received a conscience void of offense to the point where we will be ready to meet God; a love of which Christ describes, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).