Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Question Asked: What does it mean to be "worthy"... for God's presence?

The full question went as follows (this question was asked in a comment on this blog):

"OK, so what does it mean to be "worthy" and to "qualify" for God's presence in the life of an LDS church member?

What about the grace of God? None of us are worthy, doesn't the Bible say that we all fall short?"

My answer would not fit as a comment so I decided to post the answer here for the commenter and all to read. Please feel free to add to the conversation and to assist in answering these questions. Thank You.

I appreciate your question. It is a very valid question. It was interesting to read portions of a few talks and scriptures about your thoughts. It was a learning experience.

First, to answer your last question, we all, of course, fall short. None of us are perfect, but we can be worthy. I think that the confusion here may lie in our definitions of the word ‘worthy’. I loved this quote that I found by Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy that clears up the confusion of our view of being worthy.

He said, “Occasionally, for well-motivated and highly devoted Latter-day Saints, confusion occurs about the differences between worthiness and perfection. Worthiness and perfection don’t mean the same thing! All of us are “works in process.” We can be worthy while still needing improvement.”

So basically our view of being worthy or qualifying to be in the presence of God does not mean perfection it simply means that we are doing our best and are repenting and using the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. You mentioned grace. And yes, we believe that the grace of God is crucial.

In the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2:6–8) it states,

“6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

A further description on our belief of the need for grace I found under Gospel Topics on LDS.org and it shares this:

“Grace is a gift from Heavenly Father given through His Son, Jesus Christ. The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

Everyone on earth experiences physical death. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, all will be resurrected and will live forever (see 1 Corinthians 15:20–22; 2 Nephi 9:6–13).

Because of personal choices, everyone also experiences the effects of sin (see 1 John 1:8–10; Mosiah 16:4). These effects are called spiritual death. No one can return to the presence of God without divine grace. Through the Atonement, we all can be forgiven of our sins; we can become clean before God. To receive this enabling power, we must obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and trying to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives (see Ephesians 2:8–9; James 2:17–22; 2 Nephi 25:23; 31:20).

The grace of God helps us every day. It strengthens us to do good works we could not do on our own. The Lord promised that if we humble ourselves before Him and have faith in Him, His grace will help us overcome all our personal weaknesses (see Ether 12:27).”

So as it stated in bold, “No one can return to the presence of God without divine grace.” We all must do our part to be “worthy” and the Lord’s grace will fill the void. We must be obedient. We must have faith in Christ. We must repent of our sins. We must be baptized. We must receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. And then we must endure and follow the commandments, the teachings of Christ, for the rest of our lives.

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency said, “So, the great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage. And the tragedy of life is to fail in that test and so fail to qualify to return in glory to our heavenly home.

I pray that we will choose to obey the Lord quickly, always, in quiet times and in storms. As we do, our faith will be strengthened, we will find peace in this life, and we will gain the assurance that we and our families can qualify for eternal life in the world to come.”

So in conclusion, we believe that we all can be worthy and qualify to be in the presence of God if we do our part by doing our very best “in the midst of the storms of life”. Our worthiness may not mean perfection but it is what we should be seeking for. But even after we have done our best we believe and know that we must rely on the mercy and grace of God. We are imperfect and carnal people and the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the only way that we can be forgiven of our sins and make it back to and qualify to be in the presence of God.

I know that God loves us. I know that he wants all of us to return to Him and to dwell in His presence. I know that there has been a Way provided for us all to return to Him and that is through our individual obedience and continual repentance and more profoundly through the grace of God granted by the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I hope this has answered your question. Feel free to ask for clarification if my words were confusing in any way.


Dianna said...

This was a great question, and a great answer. I so often forget that I don't have to be perfect, I just have to do my best.

Stephanie said...

Well researched and some great references. I guess the only thing I would add is that "worthy," in very simple terms, means doing the things Jesus Christ himself told us had to be done to get into heaven, like repent and be baptised and then continue to live your life according to that repentance and those promises. Doing so qualifies us for His grace that we simply could not be saved without.

Pokemon said...

Steph, thanks for clarifying that in such simple terms. I bolded those things in the post but maybe I didn't so concisely point them out as steps of action that lead to our personal worthiness.


Unknown said...


breanna said...

I believe this is still a very confusing topic. As a Latter day saint our language still tends to focus on God's grace being a function of my deeds. In other words, I have to earn his grace by living worthily. This is doctrinally incorrect. Being obedient to his gospel is not the price of his gift. Being obedient is the effect of the gratitude I feel when I begin to understand that he paid the price for me. Grace by definition is "completely underserved". Worthiness is an outgrowth of acceptance of Jesus Christ's atonement. It is NOT my efforts in order to deserve his gift. I don't deserve his gift that is why it's called GRACE. Nothing I ever do will ever deserve his sacrifice. Wothiness is really more about becoming authentic and coming out of hiding. Being honest with myself, the lord and my fellow saints. Learning to embrace my imperfections and realizing they are what drives me to the Atonement. Our present language often leads us to put on our "best face", appear to be better than we are, and to live lives that are not authentic at all. Our trying to live worthy so we can deserve his grace becomes exhausting and sometimes hopeless. Accepting his gift and developing gratitude will lead to following him. As with Adam and Eve, only the lord could provide the converings that would ultimately heal their transgression.