As demonstrated by today’s Sunday School lesson (D&C Lesson 7) exaltation can be attained through 5 simple steps on our part — all the rest of the work is taken care of by the atonement of Jesus Christ. You know the steps already:
1.) Exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
3.) Be baptized
4.) Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost
5.) Endure to the end.
(See references here, here, here, and here)
But the problem with this list is that we have a huge amount of scriptural detail on steps 1-4 and nearly no scriptural detail on step 5. To make things worse, one can accomplish steps 1-4 by the age of 8. We have been instructed that Step 5 generally includes keeping baptismal covenants and making and keeping of temple covenants, but why is there so little other specific instruction from God and the prophets on the step that will take the next 92 year of life to accomplish? Read on gentle friend, I think I’ve discovered the answer…
I believe the answer comes from a study of the natural progression in the first four steps. Once a person follows Alma’s steps to developing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the result is always a change in that person for the better. Their behavior changes, their desires change, they change. This change is known as repentance. The new person often has a desire and meets the requirements to be become a disciple if Christ through baptism:
All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church. (D&C 20:37)
After baptism the new disciple is given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which allows her to have the Holy Spirit a constant and ever-present influence in her life.
So what is the result of the presence of the Holy Ghost in the convert’s life? Greater light and knowledge and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. What does true faith always generate? Change for the better – also known as repentance. But this time the new convert cannot be baptized, so what does she do? She attends sacrament meeting the following Sabbath and partakes in the beautiful sacrament ordinances as a renewal of her baptismal covenants. What does the renewal of that covenant do for her? It allows her to always have Christ’s spirit to be with her. So she has the Holy Ghost as a continued and constant companion.
So what is the result of the continued presence of the Holy Ghost in the convert’s life? Greater light and knowledge and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. What does true faith always generate? Change for the better – also known as repentance… (Is this starting to sound familiar yet?)
So you get the picture. Step 5, or Endure to the End, is another way of saying: “Repeat steps 1-4″. It turns our we have been given specific instructions on how to accomplish #5 after all!
Because of the great atonement of Jesus Christ, exaltation is indeed achieved on our part one step after another, line upon line, precept upon precept. And as this upward spiral to perfection once again shows, the course of the Lord is indeed One Eternal Round.
Epilogue: Some may wonder where temple ordinances fall into this pattern. I suggest that they fall under step 2 – change, repent, obey. Our own temple ordinances are a step in our changing process through Christ. Also, someday I may show here how the same spiral can be a downward one in our lives and how step 2 is the key element to it all.
So what do you think? Is this true doctrine or not?