- Not every one that saith
unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
into the kingdom of heaven; but
he that doeth the will of my
Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 25: 31-46
- When the Son of man
shall come in his glory, and all
the holy angels with him, then
shall he sit upon the throne of
- And before him shall be
gathered all nations: and he
shall separate them one from
another, as a shepherd divideth
his sheep from the goats:
- And he shall set the sheep
on his right hand, but the goats
on the left.
- 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
- For I was an hungred ,and
you 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
- Then shall the righteous
answer him, saying, Lord, when
saw we thee an hungred, and fed
thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
- When saw we thee a stranger,
and took the in? or naked, and
- 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.
- Then shall he say also unto
them on the left hand, Depart from
me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,
prepared for the devil and his angels:
- For I was an hungred, and ye
gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and
ye gave me no drink:
- I was a stranger and ye took
me not in: naked and ye clothed
me not: sick, and in prison, and
ye visited me not.
- Then shall they also answer
him, saying Lord, when saw we
thee an hungred, or athirst, or a
stranger, or naked, or sick, or in
prison, and did not minister unto
- Then shall he answer them,
saying, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye did it not to one
of the least of these, ye did it
not to me.
- And then these shall go away
unto everlasting punishment,
but the righteous into life eternal.
A clear reading of the scripture is that Christ will judge us not by whether we have recognized him or whether we call upon his correct name, but by whether or not we fed him, gave him drink, clothed him, visited him, came unto him.
Not our doctrine — our calling Lord, Lord — but our love and kindness, our Christlike Charity, reveal whose children we are. Thus “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,” not “blessed are the scribes and pharisees, who stand in Moses’ gate.”
For those who disagree, and who feel it is what we say, what we profess with our lips, I only quote Christ’s rebuttal:
“Not every one who saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord … 23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
But none of the tasks you have listed are on the covenant path.
It’s interesting that none of the things we are to be evaluated on are in the worthiness interview.
Steven R is absolutely correct. We will be judged in whether we led a life that helped and benefited those in need.
In other words, did we live a selfish life playing violent video games in our parents basements? Or did we get out of the basements and serve in the soup kitchens?
Did we spend our money flying ti Río to watch a Dua Lipa concert? Or did we donate money to the food bank?
Did we spend our time in endless administrative meetings planning future meetings? Or did we get out of the office and visit those in need in their homes, on the streets, or wherever else they might be?
Living a moral life requires giving up selfish pursuits and self aggrandizement. That is what every one of these scriptures is about. .
#6 of the recommend interview questions
“Do you follow the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ in your private and public behavior with members of your family and others?”
Absolutely – It is not “what and who you care about” as much as it is “about what and who you care for.”
Thank you for this great post.
Meadow, a quick question. Are you saying this in an affirming manner related to the quotes from Matthew? That we are in fact evaluated during worthiness interviews on how we follow the Savior? This is how I see the question. “Do you follow the teachings of the CHURCH of Jesus Christ in your private and public behavior with members of your family and others?” Thus, the question during worthiness interviews focuses on how we follow the CHURCH. The question should in reality be, “Do you follow the teachings of JESUS CHRIST in your private and public behavior with members of your family and others?”
Yes, we are evaluated on how we follow the Savior. The teachings of the Church are the teachings of Jesus Christ.
We evaluate ourselves beforehand to prepare for the interview.
Is my behavior Christlike?
The honest answer to that question comes in searching my soul.
The honest answer to that question is often, I am trying and I have the courage to keep trying.
What a great reminder. It reminds me of the wonderful new book “The Law of Love” by Steve Young (which transformed the way I looked at obedience and love). The way we become like Jesus Christ is to learn to love like He does– without condition, non-transactionally, expecting nothing in return, especially when serving the “least” among us. It is actually simple, but the work of a lifetime. Any teaching, practice, policy, organization, or culture that hinders us from loving that way is not of God, in my opinion.
I love this post. It’s what I needed today…this is what really matters. Do this and you’ll be alright in the end – whether you’re Mormon or anything else.
NIce blog artice Stephen R, very nice.
In Matthew 25 Christ tells us how He will be judging us on the criteria of entering Heaven.
He says nothing of secret passwords or secret handshakes that must be memorized to pass by the some kind of Guards.
Just that the Second Greates Commandment will be very very important.
If these scriptures were indeed the true focus of the church along with the scriptures telling us to do our Christlike deeds in secret I might actually consider returning to church activity. As it now stands I regret that I cannot although I pray that such a time will come in the future.
A while back my spouse and I began attending a small congregation of another Christian faith because we no longer feel welcome in our own ward due to the same clique of wealthy members who live in a small gated community apart from the rest of the ward always being called to the leadership positions and setting the ward agenda which neither meets the needs of our ward and community members or remotely follows Christ’s teachings found in the above scriptures. The prosperity gospel reigns supreme in our ward and stake. Were we ever surprised to see other members of our ward and people from neighboring wards who also attend this small church! To a one we all feel the same way about our ward(s) and stake losing sight of what living Christ’s gospel actually means. Plus we love that only Christ is preached and that the pastor doesn’t ask us to blindly follow him nor is he considered to be the one and only fount of spiritual knowledge.
This church congregation actually follows what Christ taught. We have a prayer concerns roll where members can put the names of their loved ones (regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof) and themselves onto it and we pray for them BY NAME during worship service and during the week. If any other church members have resources and/or contacts that could help the individuals in need they put them at the pastor and church secretary’s disposal. The pastor and his secretary call weekly to see how things are going for the folks we pray for. When prayers are answered in whatever manner members share their stories in worship service. A baker in town donates baked goods that weren’t sold that day to be distributed to people in need that very evening. During the growing season produce from members’ gardens and trees are donated, cleaned and given to the food pantry that the congregation runs for all community members.
Members of the congregation volunteer to visit kids in the nearby youth offender facility just to let the kids know that they haven’t been forgotten. There is no effort to convert these teens, although these kids (almost exclusively Mormon where we live) will often say that their families, bishops and wards have completely forgotten them-which the guards and head of the facility attest to. (I also know about this personally because I worked in a branch at a mental health care facility where the boys who’d been incarcerated went before they were released from the juvenile offender system. Their stories about being kicked out of their families and being shunned by their bishops and wards were harrowing.) After these kids are released they often have no place to go, so the congregation members try to help them find a place to live along with access to food and clothing and continue to stay in contact with them. Some of these teens have joined the congregation as a result of the love and care that they have received.
When I compare what this little congregation accomplishes without the large financial resources than my wealthy ward and stake have in order to be the Savior’s hands, mouths and feet to live His injunction to love and care for others, especially those who have serious struggles, I know which group more closely follows Him. Best of all, the Savior’s work is done quietly and discreetly, known only by those involved along with the pastor and his secretary plus the Savior and our Heavenly Parents. If my ward and stake in particular and the church in general would live the gospel this way (plus preach Jesus only over the pulpit and in our classes) we could be an unstoppable force for good in making a huge difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters not only where we live but throughout the world. By our fruits we are and shall be known.
Of course, in today’s parlance, “righteous” = “worthy.” As in “Then shall the worthy say…”
Sooooo, do you really think you can commit adultery and the Lord will be fine with it as long as you shovel the snow of your widowed neighbor’s yard? Take a break from your porn to deliver a meal, and everything’s ok?
It is refreshing to be reminded of the goodness inherent in the pure teachings of Christ. The elegant and easily understood messages beg the question of understanding what value organized religion adds to our spirituality. The notion that we need an authoritarian group to intercede contradicts the simplicity of Christ’s teachings and quite honestly insults our intelligence. Perhaps the true lazy learners are those who rely on the arm of flesh to tell us how to interpret the words of Christ.
I am reminded of two quotes:
“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” (Napoleon)
“Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.” (Jon Stewart)
@A Poor Wayfaring Stranger
I’m genuinely happy to hear you’ve found a community like that. My LDS ward growing up very much had that same sort of feel and I miss it dearly. That ward and stake had a series of kind, inviting, and pragmatic leaders. There was camaraderie rather than competition with the Lutheran church up the street. The people in the community, Mormon or not, were the focus…it was a sad day when I moved away and realized it wasn’t like that everywhere.
I remember a large event for the Boy Scouts of America in Utah where the majority of attendees were from LDS units; it quickly became obvious that the troop from a local Methodist church had the best-run and best-organized scouting program by far. They met at the Methodist church but had scouts of all denominations in their troop. They were so willing to share their knowledge and their attempts help find ways their successful ideas could be implemented in the very idiosyncratic LDS approach to Scouting. There was no preaching or arguing…just genuine kindness and care.
While I was a missionary there was a devout Catholic man that had wanted to become a priest but was unable to join for reasons I forget. Every day he would go visit several widows in his apartment building to check on them and keep them company. Then he’d go walk around town to find the “troublemaker” kid who was living on the streets and take him lunch. He loved meeting with the missionaries. He said bluntly that he had “no interest in converting faiths, but loved meeting to talk about God and how we can help the community.”
Hopefully, there’s no surprise after this life when people like that are at the front of the line…ahead of many with others that may a complete covenant checklist in their hand.
Wow that last sentence was atrocious. Edit:
Hopefully, there’s no surprise after this life when people like that are at the front of the line…ahead of many others that may a complete covenant checklist in their hand.
@Lily – come on now…this is just kind of silly. And yes, it’s totally possible to have vices (big or small) and still do good things. “Cast the first stone” and all that.
I will say that it’s probably a positive thing when someone decides to take a break from watching porn to deliver a meal to someone in need. 🤣
So which is in a worse situation, a porn viewer who helps his poor and needy neighbors or a recommend holder who ignores or condemns his neighbors? I can’t say for sure, but I’ve heard that selfishness, pride and self-righteousness are more addictive than porn.
I love that parable. It’s a solemn reminder to all of us of where our hearts should be. But let’s not forget all of the other wonderful teachings of the Savior: the Sermon on the Mount; the Bread of Life Sermon; the great high priestly prayer, and so forth. All of these taken together create a rather robust model of what a true disciple looks like. Not only is she compassionate toward others, she follows a strict code of conduct as becometh a saint. She also seeks to be one with the community of the saints–who seek to be one with the Savior–who is one with the Father.
I was in a conversation the other day and someone said, “I can’t think of any other group that is more like the pharisees and scribes from the bible, than current members of the church, can you?” And honestly, I couldn’t, unless maybe I confined it to church leaders. There are many good members of the church, just as I assume there were many good pharisees. But the overall framework of obedience and following a certain prescribed path, rather than caring for people seems to be a hallmark of both the pharisees and current church leaders (and many members).
Lily, I think the Lord would prefer if I took a break from my porn (now accessed with a VPN outside of Utah), washed my hands, and then delivered a meal.
“But the overall framework of obedience and following a certain prescribed path, rather than caring for people seems to be a hallmark of both the pharisees and current church leaders (and many members).”
Obedience and caring for people need not be mutually exclusive. Most of the active Latter-day Saints I know try to do both. In fact, I don’t think they separate the two into distinct categories. It’s all just sort one thing as they — these good salt of the earth kind of people — strive to live the gospel on a daily basis.
@Jack, I agree with you. You can do both, and many members do both.
It is also possible to do one or the other without doing both. (You can love and care for others without following other commandments, or follow other commandments without loving and caring for others).
My reading of the New Testament suggests that the problem of the pharisees wasn’t that they followed the commandments, it was that they found fault with others who didn’t follow the commandments with exactness. My experience with church members is that they, like the pharisees, find fault with others who don’t follow the commandments. Members of our church are not the only ones who do this. But I don’t know of any other group that finds fault for not following the commandments with exactness, more than church members do. Can you point me to a group that finds fault with people for not keeping the commandments more than church members do? There probably is one, I just can’t think of who they are.
(To be fair to Jack, I don’t think that the church teaches us to be like the pharisees. Church teachings tell us that we should not be like the pharisees. But I’ve never had a lesson where someone acknowledged that we are like the Pharisees. Someone could correctly say, “Hey. That’s us! We do what they did, and we shouldn’t!”)
Thanks for your response, aporetic1.
You raise some good questions. I think what happens is–because we’re a praxis oriented religion we can get a little fussy about everything that needs to be done and loose our focus on the “weightier things.” And so a little counsel on occasion to simplify and refocus goes a long way–IMO. And you’re correct (IMO) in pointing out that we do tend to find fault for not following the commandments. But my sense is–that sort of criticism tends to be dispersed more generally rather than targeted at specific individuals. Of course, that’s not to say that pointing out the failures of individuals doesn’t happen in the church–it does. But my experience is that members–leaders in particular–try to be more careful when talking about individuals rather than when they’re speaking of the membership in general.
And I agree with your parenthetical–at least as it relates to the reminders that I need personally. 😀
The quickest way to lose sight of the weightier matties of the law (e.g., judgment, mercy, and faith) is to focus on exact obedience. To demand exact obedience is to count the number of steps taken on the Sabbath day, for example. To focus on exact obedience is to make obedience measurable and quantifiable, so that 90% is 90% from zero, which is good; it is 10% from 100, and therefore worthless because it isn’t exact. Somethings should be done with exactness, but some things, like judgment, mercy, and faith, aren’t quantifiable in my mind, and I do not think that mortals can ever be 100% in these weightier matters. Isn’t there always something more that one can do? During His mortal ministry, Jesus sometimes stopped doing good (healing, teaching) to find time alone, and we do not find fault with Him.
My problem with exact obedience is, especially in Utah and environs, people want to bring up exact obedience with reference to their neighbors, leaders, colleagues, and companions. They want to use it has a cudgel to shame and embarrass others. It becomes a tool of unrighteous judgment. If someone wanted to increase his obedience to exactitude, and he did so quietly and internally, no problem: I wish him well on his journey. But don’t demand it of others, some of whom are drowning and afflicted and burdened in ways others cannot know. For such a person, maybe 20% or 40% or 60% is as close to “perfection” as he or she can get, when compared to someone else’s 95% or 100%. Didn’t Elder Holland at one point tell us that it didn’t matter how many steps we took forward, so long as we were facing the right direction and trying our best? Is that what it means that His grace is sufficient for us, and He saves us after all we can do? My “all we can do” might be less than your “all we can do,” and I don’t think that this matters.
The phrase “exact obedience” may have its place, for example with full-time missionaries following the rules on getting up and going to bed, study time, work time, meal length, etc. But for most contexts, seeking exact obedience from others (and it is always about what others should do, isn’t it? if we’re being honest and particularly in Utah) is to place a very heavy yoke on people, and the Lord said that His burden should be light.
If we preach exactitude in obedience, then most of us will fail, particularly in what the Lord identified as the weightier matters, namely judgment, mercy, and faith. And if we’re going to fail at exactness, as measured by others or by ourselves, then why would one start? We want to succeed. Your 20% is 20 points better than zero, and that is a success. His 80% is 20 points less than perfection–is he a failure? Her 30% might be absolutely all that she can do, given her situation: in the Lord’s measurement, her 30% might be 100%: Reminds me of words that we don’t hear much about in Mark 14: “Let her alone. Why trouble ye her? … She hath done what she could.” If it can be said of me that I have done that I could, even if what I did was different from others, then I think that all will be well. Am I misinterpreting this important story? Where else do we read, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”
My point is you have to do both. The Lord never gave anyone a pass on keeping the commandments. Pure religion is defined as “visiting the fatherless and widows” AND “keeping oneself unspotted from the world.” And what he says about the two great commandments is “upon these hang all the law and the prophets.” In other words, all the other commandments are derived from the first two.
What if keeping ourselves unspotted from the world doesn’t mean what we often assume it to mean? What if it means something entirely different, such as avoiding the materialism that can be so pervasive in society?
What if it means keeping our wants simpler so that we free up resources to help the poor?
What if keeping ourselves unspotted from the world means avoiding exploiting others. What if it means paying our employees a living wage.
What if it means avoiding titles and hierarchies that cause divisions between us. What if it means really focusing on New Testament teachings that we are all one. What if it means treating every encounter with another human being as an encounter between equals.
A lot of people who pass their temple recommend interviews with flying colors may not be keeping themselves unspotted from the world when we think about the phrase in the context of the sermon on the mount and other teachings of Jesus (and also plenty of teachings in the Old Testament, as well, that focus on social justice issues).
@Lily I do understand that you were trying to say that it’s best to follow the rules AND do good – in principle, I agree that we can be good and do good…the world is also a big, complicated, difficult place. None of us are remotely close to the perfection ideal, and that’s totally ok.
Thanks @Georgis for the reference to Mark 14. “Let her alone. Why trouble ye her? …She hath done what she could.” This is my point here (Admittedly, while I gave you a bit of trouble for the sake of discussion – mea culpa). The woman did her best and it was enough for Jesus himself.
Pure religion is an impossible ideal. Exact obedience is a dangerous road to travel…exact obedience to whom exactly? Definitely not to any mortal human, whether they have “prophet” in their title or not. They’re just human too after all that can (and do) get things wrong.
@Georgis you nailed it. Another of my mentors was an extremely talented engineer. He would often say, “direction is more important than position, in engineering and in life.” Get pointed in the right direction, and you’ll get there.
Madi: I absolutely agree. Pirate Priest: I agree. Its an impossible standard. That’s why we have the atonement. But I think “love thy neighbor as thyself” is an impossible standard. Don’t think so: Ted Bundy. How about now? My point is just this: just because you are a nice person, you aren’t justified in cheating on your spouse.
Lily, you wrote above: “And what he says about the two great commandments is ‘upon these hang all the law and the prophets.’ In other words, all the other commandments are derived from the first two.”
That is absolutely a legitimate reading, and might even be what the Lord intended. But kindly allow me to suggest another reading. Instead of all other commandments are derived from the first two, what if we read it so say that all other commandments must be interpreted (or applied or obeyed) with reference to the first two. Maybe there is a difference between the two. I go to Paul, 1 Corinthians 13, where all kinds of obedience don’t count for much without faith, hope, and charity. There might be some commandments that don’t derive from the two great commandments, but all should probably be applied with respect to, or in consideration, or one or both of them.
Strict obedience can sometimes be particularly cold, but it can be obedient, at least to the letter of the law. And obedience to the spirit of the law might sometimes leave some details undone. Even Jesus broke a commandment on one occasion, but it certainly wasn’t counted as sin. His charge, as He frequently said, was to take the gospel to Israel; his apostles would take the gospel to the Gentiles. The Syro-phoenician woman sought a favor, and Jesus declined because His commandment was to give to the Jews, and not to the Gentiles. He and she spoke about it, and He was filled with compassion by her faith, and He gave her the blessing that she had sought. Maybe he violated the commandment that He had been given to go ONLY to the house of Israel, but He acted with love and compassion. Maybe Jesus interpreted His commandment (to give only to the House of Israel) in light of the two great commandments, as opposed to His commandment deriving from them. Maybe both “derived from” and “interpreted in light of” mean the same thing, in which case I am saying nothing.
I think that Jesus got a pass from ministering to a Gentile, contrary to what He described as His commandment. In fact, I am supremely confident that He gets a pass for that. Do we sometimes get a pass, too, when we act out of love, but do something wrong (or fail to do something right)? Maybe the answer is, it depends, and I am glad that the Lord will be my judge, and not my fellowmen. I will continue to focus on increasing my faith, hope, and charity, and others will continue to focus on their exact obedience. One difference between the two is that the latter usually judges his neighbors for their failures in exact obedience, whereas the former more easily forgives, or doesn’t notice in the first place.
I agree with Lily–we have to do both. It’s the compass *and* the square. While the compass serves to circumscribe the commandments into a larger more complete understanding of why we do what we do–the square serves to ground us by flagging our “inexactness” in a way that enables us to determine whether or not our actions are justifiable or a product of sin.
I once heard a Catholic say that the problem with Protestants is they assume that Jesus was speaking metaphorically whenever what he said conflicts with what they believe or what they do.