If we are not being saved by grace here, then what makes us think we will be saved by grace at the judgment bar.
If we are not finding ourselves connected with the powers of heaven here, what makes us think we will find ourselves connected with them at the judgment bar?
If we find our dealings with the Holy Ghost limited here, what makes us think that we will prepared to dwell with God the Father eternally in everlasting burnings at the judgment bar?
It is true that we must be saved by grace, but we haven’t the faintest idea what that means. We think it means that we will gain blessings above and beyond the righteousness we live up to.
And if that is true, then we ought to find ourselves being saved by grace here as well. Whatever saving grace will bring us into the presence of the Father and the Son in eternity should be sufficient to do so as well here in mortality. Whatever saving grace is sufficient to bring us into exaltation should certainly be sufficient to bring us all the dreams and visions eternity has to offer and the fullest measure of the holy ghost man can endure or enjoy here in mortality.
If our plan is to be saved by that grace in eternity, then we should find ourselves being saved by that same grace in mortality.
And if the deal is simply that we are supposed to sit back and enjoy how we are now, thinking we are good enough for exaltation by grace at the judgement bar, then we should also be good enough for exaltation by grace now. We should be enjoying the spiritual manifestations that would enjoin here, as well as in eternity. After all, if Abraham has entered into his exaltation already why can’t we do so as well?
We are saved by grace, but we haven’t the faintest idea what that means. It means we are saved by God’s gracious and loving gifts. It means we are saved by the very things described in D&C 76. We must progress from grace to grace. That grace which can save us there, can also save us here. That grace which cannot save us here, can have no power to save us there. If we are not trodding a path that could, in time, redeem us to the presence of God here, then we are not trodding a path that will redeem us to God’s presence there.
We read the words of D&C 76 concerning the telestial and the terrestrial and we know that we are reading a description of the characteristics of men that brought them to such places.
But when we read the words of D&C 76, we read it like a list of honors that God will bestow upon us later, not in mortality. We should be more consistent. If we are not trodding a path that has power to bring us to these things, if we do not find ourselves growing more and more into the power of God, if we do not find our connection with the powers of heaven strengthened year by year, then we are not treading the path of exaltation.
I am not saying that we need to receive all of these things at once. It takes a Joseph Smith to be worthy of so much at once. But we are to be moving forward along the path that leads to them, and we should know that they will not be bestowed for taking our covenants lightly or “letting Christ make up the difference” or any other such worldly deceptions by which the adversary gains power over men and robs them of their inheritance.
D&C 76:51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
To receive the Holy Spirit is to receive a grace of God. It is a merciful gift that has saving power. We are saved by receiving such graces, but they are given to us only on condition of righteous works. We are saved by them because they have power to transform our works.
53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
To be sealed by the Holy Spirit is not something we can do for ourselves. It is a merciful gift, a grace of God, given on condition of our works. And it is a saving grace.
54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
To have the Father give all things into the hands of a man is something that man cannot do for himself. It is a merciful and loving gift given by god. It is a grace of God. It is a saving grace of God which brings us closer to salvation. We must progress from grace to grace to be saved.
56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
We cannot receive of God’s fulness, and of his glory by our own power. What man has power to grant such things to himself? None. But god can grant such things to man. To do so is a merciful and loving gift from God to man. It is a grace of God. And we must progress from grace to grace until we receive a fulness as the Son himself did according to D&C 93.
Read the rest of this description. If we think we are being saved by grace when we are not pursuing a path which could bring these things to us in mortality we are deceiving ourselves. That grace which can save us hereafter is that grace which can save us now, for this is the day of our probation.
57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
60 And they shall overcome all things.
61 Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.
62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
63 These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people.
64 These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.
65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.
66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.
67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.
68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.
69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.
Shall we be made perfect without striving for perfection? No. For that would be to mock God. We have a long list of graces given here in the description of those who will be celestial. We must progress from one to another, from one grace to another grace until we receive a fullness.
How far do we need to progress in mortality to gain exaltation? How much do we have to receive here? The answer to that is far more than I know. It is plain enough that at least the intention is that we become pure in heart. There would be no point in calling the church to build Zion if God did not expect us to become pure in heart, “for this is Zion- the pure in heart”. And if we are pure in heart then God will manifest himself to us.
D&C 97:16 Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.
If we read the list in the description of the celestial as a list of honors God grants us then we are missing the point entirely. He lays out the graces we should be progressing toward here in mortality. These all are outside our power to grant to ourselves. They are all granted to us as merciful and loving gifts granted on condition of our obedience. They have tremendous power to transform our works. They constitute salvation itself. And these graces which constitute salvation are, by and large, available to us here in mortality. That grace which can save us there, can save us here. And grace which has no power to bring us into the presence of God here and now in mortality has no power to do so in eternity either.