I recently reread 2 Nephi 31 in order to prepare for a lesson that I am teaching in Sunday School next week. As I did so, it struck me that Nephi was well aware of the danger that when people feel that they have reached their goal, they will then avoid putting in additional effort. This was why he cautioned he readers against thinking “all is done.” He realized that baptism was the gate, but that the individual then had to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” in order to reach her eternal destination. If one erroneously believed that baptism was the end goal, one could make no additional progress.
In the Church today, few of us think baptism is the ultimate destination. But in the April 1972 conference, Elder Marvin J. Ashton pointed out that sometimes we get caught up in similar thinking today as well.
Elder Ashton noted that he had heard many youth state “I want to make the temple. A temple marriage is my goal.” But a temple marriage truly isn’t a destination but another stop on a journey back to our father in heaven.
“To qualify one’s self to go to the temple is a lofty ambition, a worthy achievement. We need to remind ourselves of its eternal purposes. However, we have not arrived when we share the blessings of the temple. Oftentimes there are real dangers in our lives when we allow lofty ideals and goals, such as temple marriage, to become an end instead of a means. All of our priorities must be properly placed within the framework of eternity if we are to avoid the stagnations of arriving.”
There are other events that sometimes are treated as destinations. Mission service, gaining a testimony, service in a particular calling, having children etc. These are important “signal accomplishments along life’s journey.” They should provide “fortification for greater personal service and strength. They should help us “more firmly entrench” ourselves “in the paths that continue onward and upward to eternal happiness.” They should held “prepare [us] for the enjoyment of pure religion.” But they should not be seen as destinations in and of themselves.
Convincing us that we have reached our destination is one of Satan’s most pernicious tactics because it is “[o]ne of the most subtle and effective.” I have had several friends in recent months leave the Church and say that they have gotten everything they could get out of the Church and that now is time for them to move on to another phase in their life. Satan has deceived them and convinced them “that they have arrived, they have reached their destination, they have earned a rest, they aren’t needed anymore, they are out of danger, they are beyond temptation, and they can take pride of their accomplishments.”
But this simply isn’t the way it works. The goal of the gospel is not to allow us to make arbitrary spiritual milestones. It is instead to allow us to return to our father in heaven together with those we love most dearly. The gospel is meant to transform us into beings worthy of returning to live in his presence. And it is only upon the straight and narrow path that the transformation is possible. It is when we are renewing our sacramental covenant and partaking in temple worship that we are slowly and almost imperceptibly purified and sanctified.
I join with Elder Ashton and “pray our Heavenly Father to help each one of us realize [our destination] is eternal life, exaltation in our Father’s kingdom.” And I likewise “bear you my witness that the gift of salvation is possible through this, the gospel of Jesus Christ, as we continue faithful . . .”
Other posts from this session
- We Cannot See What Is In The Heart by Nathaniel Givens at Difficult Run
- Gospel Parallels by G at Junior Ganymede
- Our Eternal Destination by Daniel Ortner at Symphony of Dissent
- Faith, Works, and Prayer by Ralph Hancock at The Soul and The City
- Enduring in Faith by Michelle Linford Mormon Women
- When You Have No Friend to Phone by SilverRain at The Rains Came Down
- How to Commence, Catch Hold, Cling, Continue by Jan Tolman at LDS Women of God