"Just Men Made Perfect" (Celestial Beings)
A Moment To Ponder
(Reflective Questions and Self Evaluation)
*These questions should be answered a second time after reading this chapter.
- How are just men made perfect?
- Am I choosing a celestial glory?
- What are the characteristics of a celestial being?
- What behaviors are typical of a celestial being?
- What are the greater sacrifices that I could make?
- What one thing could I do different today to become better?
- How can I prove to the Lord my love?
- How could I treat may fellowmen differently?
- How well do I keep my temple covenants?
Con Lewis was never mentioned in U.S. history, yet his history will always be a part of mine. I never knew my grandfather, only of him. He had passed on Christmas day ten years before I was born. Those who loved and respected him, passed on this story about a good deed recorded in heaven.
Those were dark and difficult days in the Great Depression. Men's souls were tested in ways unknown to generations that would follow. The bounty of the earth was no longer found on dusty farms abandoned in the midwest. Most took their families to the cities seeking food and shelter, hoping and praying for the best. There often was no housing, no jobs, and no money. The banks closed. For those who put their trust in banks, they lost everything. There was no money. It was gone; the banks had lost it. It was unfair; but sometimes, such are the trials of life.
Walking down the broken paved road, Con was on his way home from a job. He felt lucky. He had a meager amount of change in his pocket. To him it was a lot. His family could be fed for a little while longer. Still, he was wandering how he would take care of his wife and two daughters in the coming weeks.
His wife, Clara, was one of the prettiest girls this side of Missouri. She had crossed the plains in a covered wagon as a child without a mother. But, she had her father a traveling Methodist minister. When she was older, she used to cook for a hundred loggers in the Rockies of Colorado. She was acquainted with exhausting work and hardship.
Connie with her long blonde curled hair was about five years old. Little Barbara, her sister with brunette hair and blue almond shaped eyes, was about three. Con never had boys so he nicknamed his girls, Fred and George. These two darlings were his treasure.
Con grew up on the farm in Nebraska. Nobody could teach him about the hard life. He and Clara married in Montrose, Colorado in 1915. Later they moved to southern California, where they started their family.
Con and Clara could not remember things being more difficult. When the banks shut their doors, their life savings was unavailable to them. It is ironic that they lost their home, because they could not get to their money. The mortgage company took their house when they could not make their loan payment. The bank had lost every penny they had in their savings account. Pretty much penniless, the future was uncertain.
Con had experienced many sad times, but today he was happy and thankful for his family. He was grateful he had found a little work. While in path to his quaint rented two bedroom home, a neighbor approached him. "Con." "Can you help me?" The man was somewhat desperate. "I have no money and I do not know how I am going to feed my family. Could you lend me some money?" Con had two quarters in his pocket. He responded without a second thought; "All I have is two quarters. You can have half." How easy it could have been to tell a small white lie, or to think of himself and family first. Con didn't. He showed compassion. For that moment, he loved his neighbor as himself.
"Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
As we read this story of Con Lewis, so many well known scriptures speak out.
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink, I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Our capacity to love is reflected in the service we give to others. Service is a celestial act that brings light into our being. The glory or light associated with the celestial kingdom is brighter and more powerful. In the Doctrine and Covenants it is compared to that of the sun:
Read: D&C 76:70, 92, 96
In this miraculous and sobering vision to Joseph Smith and Signey Rigon, an eternal vision is unfolded to mankind. It was true light hidden in the darkness of apostasy, coming forth through revelation to a living prophet in this the last dispensation of the fulness of times. This was possibly the greatest vision to be revealed to the prophet about the final destiny of man. In it's importance, it stands right behind the actual visitations preceding it: the First Vision, Moroni's Visitation, and the visitations of the prophets of old restoring all priesthood keys, powers, and authorities.
In this section of the Doctrine and Covenants, celestial beings are described as good honest men and women who worked to become perfect. They qualified themselves by accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. They were of a contrite heart and humble spirit. This allowed them to be born again and have a mighty change of heart. Because they devoted their lives to Christ, they would one day share in his glory.
Read: D&C 76:69, D&C 76:51-53
These would be the most valiant in the testimony of Christ. They would hold, honor, administer, and magnify the Holy Priesthood given to them by those who held the only true and valid authority. They would not only receive baptism by immersion, but the sacred temple ordinances of washings, anointings, endowments, eternal marriage, and sealings. Their covenants and promises they would hold sacred each and everyday.
They would do "all that God commanded." They would not only receive the testimony of Christ, but the fullness of the Father. In chapter seven, "Great Shall Be Your Reward," we shall further study the celestial reward reserved for the most righteous.
Much has been said about this period of time known as mortal life. This book continues to examine the human experience through a gospel perspective. We have discussed the "Road to Exaltation." The ingredients to be successful on this road are faith, hope, and charity.
The Book of Mormon prophet Alma defines faith in a scripture. And in the New Testament, the apostle James supplements that definition with its importance to our earthly labor.
Read: Alma 32:21 A definition of faith is given.
James 2:20, 26
"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
To know what we have faith in, is critical to this earthly experience. From the Pearl of Great Price, I have borrowed the "Articles of Faith." This slight alteration may strengthen your faith as it has mine. Can you feel the power and influence of each declaration as you rephrase the articles in the first person?
- I believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
- I believe that I will be punished for my own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
- I believe that through the Atonement of Christ, I may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
- I believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- I believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
- I believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
- I believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
- I believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; I also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
- I believe all that God had revealed, all that He does now reveal, and I believe He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
- I believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
- I claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of my conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
- I believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
- I believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed I may say that I follow the admonition of Paul -- I believe all things, I hope all things, I have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, I seek after these things.
A number of times I have read those words during the sacrament ordinance just before a fast and testimony meeting. The power of those words has penetrated deep into my soul. How truly magnificent are those articles that express the foundation of our faith! It is a restatement of all that we should believe in.
This exercise was meant to test your personal commitment to these principles. The very truths expressed in those articles are essential to our faith. Without them, there is no true church on the earth.
Increasing one's faith through obedience to God's laws leads to a perfect knowledge of God and His plan. By faith, miracles are performed. As Christ taught his disciples, "if you had the faith of a mustard seed you could move mountains (Matthew 17:20)." Faith is a manifestation of total trust in God. Enduring faith is what leads men back to the presence of God. Faith fosters hope.
Hope, the second ingredient, is; "the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness." The anticipation that one day we will see God and return to His presence, should be our greatest hope. Faith, hope, and love of God motivate us to do good works.
"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is."
Read: 2 Nephi 31:20 "A brightness of hope."
The final and most important ingredient of celestial success is charity. Pay very close attention to the definitions given below. When one practices charity at its highest level, they are one with God.
I Corinthians 13:1-2
"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."
Read: Moroni 7:42-47 "A beautiful definition of charity!"
Faith, hope, and charity are the ingredients of celestial success needed to return to our Father in Heaven.
The apostle Paul suggested putting on the Armour of God while journeying upon this earth. Knowing that on the battlefield of mortality the righteous would combat the adversary, he gives this advise on how to protect themselves from evil.
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole Armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole Armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; Praying always. . ."
It is important to remember that God has not sent His children into battle without protection. His armor guarantees victory.
This time of education on earth promises great learning and development of eternal importance. These experiences are essential to our growth and progression.
What are the characteristics of a celestial being?
They have unyielding faith, a brightness of hope, and a love for God and their fellowmen. They are clothed in compassion and charity towards all. They are determined and diligent in keeping the commandments of God. They are led by the promptings of the Spirit, and not led by man. They are not selfish or self-centered. They are not puffed up in pride, but meek and humble.
My wife, Elaine, one of those mortal angels placed on the earth, has always been a great example of many of these traits. So often she will find herself on her knees in prayer, asking one simple question: "Heavenly Father, who should I help today?" Much like the hymn, "I'll go where you want me to go dear Lord, I'll do what you want me to do," she will approach the day with an open heart and an open mind.
She has had countless experiences just by listening and being guided by the Spirit. Without forewarning, she once found herself on an inactive sister's doorstep in the early afternoon. She had been driving past the house, and felt prompted to stop.
The sister was in distress as her baby had fallen out of its highchair. The infant had hit its head on the kitchen floor and was hurt and bleeding. The sister had said a quick prayer, and was on the phone desperately seeking help.
My wife knocked on the door, not knowing why. She only knew she needed to be there. Because the Spirit was heeded, three lives were blessed; the mother, the infant, and Elaine. This answer to prayer nudged that sister to reconsider her involvement and activity in the Church.
A similar experience, which was rather bold and daring, happened to Elaine in that same neighborhood. Being prompted and praying for a missionary experience, she found herself at the front door of a complete stranger. My wife was unsure and frightened. Still she followed the prompting. The neighbor opened her door. Elaine saw her children and told her of the blessings her two little children would have if they could learn of God. She invited her to go to the Easter Pageant. The stranger attended the pageant and later joined the Church. In fact, it came in a period when she was separated from her husband and wondering about the challenges of life. Soon after her baptism, he received the missionary discussions and joined the Church. Their marriage and family was saved by learning the Savior's gospel, and applying those gospel principles and teachings in their home.
In both these experiences, my wife was about her Father's business. In her efforts to please Him, she brought peace to others. She also felt the joy of seeing a sister and daughter of God, come unto Christ.
Read: D&C 18:13, 15, 18
This scripture summarizes Elaine's experience. Crying repentance was merely an act of praying and then following the promptings of the Spirit. So often missionary work is manifested as an invitation after an admonition. Celestial beings seek to bring glory to God by helping his children to come home.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ highlighted many of the traits of those who would be celestial.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. . ."
Christ goes on to describe them as the "salt of the earth" and "a light to the world." Such would be the example of those who would inherit celestial glory.
The covenant that celestial heirs live by is the same as those baptized in the "Waters of Mormon" during the prophet Mosiah's time. The desire of their hearts is expressed in this scripture.
Read: Mosiah 18:8-11
Alma the prophet asks many questions of his people in Chapter 5 of Alma in the Book of Mormon: "Have ye spiritually been born of God?. . . Have ye received His image in your countenance? . . Have you experienced this mighty change in your hearts?. . . Can you look up to God in that day with a pure heart and clean hands?. . . Have ye kept yourselves blameless before God?. . . Have ye been sufficiently humble?. . . Are ye stripped of pride?. . ."
A celestial being could answer all of these questions in the affirmative: "Yes! Yes! Yes!" The reader could refer to Chapter 2 of this book, and then choose the opposite of every telestial behavior described, and then accurately define a celestial being. Here are some celestial behaviors for you to consider:
- Celestial beings administer as Christ would administer.
- They are abundantly generous to the poor.
- They render their time freely to the needy.
- Without hesitation and filled with compassion, they attend to the sick and afflicted.
- Their wealth is used to further the kingdom of God and assist His children.
- They live more than the law of tithing; they live the "law of consecration."
- The vain things of the world have no place in their lives.
- They are glad and content to have sufficient for their needs.
- Their excess is used to help those in need.
- They are selfless, humble, meek, long suffering, patient, and virtuous.
- They listen to and follow the Holy Ghost.
- They are happy, and radiate the light of Christ.
- Their faith is uncompromising. Their hope is bright. They are full of charity and daily exercise the pure love of Christ.
- They are one with God and Christ in purpose, thought, and action.
- Their love is perfect and without conditions.
- Through obedience to the commandments, they learn perfect love.
These are all the behaviors that we are here on earth to learn. When lived, our quality of life improves one hundred fold.
How are they learned?
By following the commandments given to us by the Savior. Celestial beings are made perfect by practicing, "obedience." Telestial and terrestrial beings struggle with obedience. It is quite simple; if we keep all of God's commandments, we will be perfected.
The blessings that refine, purify, and perfect us are found in obedience to God, and His commandments.
Read: D&C 130:20-21 How blessings are received.
I believe one of the most beautiful promises to those who reach this standard of excellence through obedience is found in the Doctrine & Covenants.
Read: D&C 88:67-68 "The greatest promise!"
We have discussed how "light cleaves to light," growing brighter and brighter unto a perfect day. Through obedience we accumulate light. In mortal life and in the spirit world, one can advance forward and upward from being washed clean (through baptism and repentance), to being purified and sanctified (through temple ordinances), and finally exalted (once tested and proven). The scriptures portray it as moving from the glory of the stars, to the glory of the moon, to the glory of the sun. Moving from the telestial, to the terrestrial, to the celestial is the same process. The scripture above speaks of the spiritual light that brings perfection. The ultimate promise of the Father is to be received by Him into His presence, then crowned with His glory.
The best learning center for these blessings, is the sacred "House of the Lord." The temples are truly God's gift to those who would be perfected. A wonderful poem correlates the spiritual light and majesty found in the temple experience, with the living waters that the Savior offered the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. First let's read and try to understand the message delivered by the Messiah at Jacob's well, and then let us contemplate the poem about the experience that can be savored in the same promise to be found in the House of the Lord.
John 4:10, 14
"Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water . . . But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
"A Fountain of Living Water"
A fountain of living water hides within these hallowed walls,
Too often it's unnoticed, yet quietly it calls.
To those prepared on reverent paths which lead them to a shore,
Where peace and refuge can be found from pre-existent wars.
And there I rest, to gain my strength, pondering in prayer,
The warmth of light, revealed truths, and visions in the air.
The fountain whispers of His love and gift from Calvary,
Just one sip, my soul is free, Atonement's victory!
If one would know the Savior, this would be the place to be,
I humbly bow my head again, and thank Him graciously.
Another taste and then one more, the veil becomes so thin,
A glimpse into eternity, exaltation lies within.
"Oh Father thanks for promised gifts, to one as low as me,
For soon in glory I shall rise, to dwell again with Thee."
Within the temple, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, can have their hunger satisfied and their thirst quenched. It is in the temple where mortals are tutored, guided, and molded into heirs of celestial glory.
While on the earth, celestial heirs are they who pick up the cross and continue on Christ's mission. The Atonement to them is as real as life itself. Their relationship with God and the Savior is sacred, reverent, and intimately familiar.
These are they who will rise in the first resurrection. These are they that one day will claim their birthright, and sit on the right hand of God, inheriting all that God would give them as a royal son or daughter. For as God himself has proclaimed:
Read: Moses 1:39 God's purpose should be man's purpose.
It is clear by covenant that celestial beings acknowledge that all that they have been blessed with belongs to the God that created them. Their purpose in life is to love and serve God and none else. They are devoted to Him in every way. Their heart's desire is to bring Him glory.
In each of the prior chapters we have suggested how different beings would utilize their earthly wealth. In considering the nature of celestial beings, how would they employ the abundance that God has so richly blessed them with?
The answer is simple. "They would use their wealth to build His kingdom and to bring Him glory!"
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