Live in strict obedience to the commandments of God, and walk humbly before Him, and He will exalt thee in His own due time. -Joseph Smith ((HC 1:408.))
Last week was the Joseph Smith manual chapter 13 lesson for Priesthood and Relief Society entitled, “Obedience: ‘When the Lord Commands, Do It.'” This was an excellent lesson, and I particularly liked the the last section. Unfortunately, if most wards’ lessons are like my own, you may not have got to that point in the manual by the end of class. In my own Elder’s quorum we only made it through the first 3-4 pages of the lesson. But I believe there are some powerful messages from Joseph in the last 5 pages that could easily be missed. I’m glad that my wife and I read the whole lesson before attending church, or we too would have missed this.
The section that I want to call our attention to is called “Those who are faithful to the end will receive a crown of righteousness.” Most of this section is taken from a letter that was dictated from the Prophet Joseph in Kirtland, Ohio, on January 22, 1834 that is entitled, “The Elders of the Church in Kirtland, to Their Brethren Abroad” or who were scattered from their homes in Missouri. It was originally published in the Evening and Morning Star in Mar. 1834. B.H. Roberts thought that this document was “of such doctrinal importance” that he included it in the History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 4-24.
The thing that caught my attention was the way in which Joseph taught about promises or assurances, promises of eternal reward, that could be gained by the faithful while still in this life. Between pages 166-167 Joseph mentions these promises 10 times:
- Have you a promise of receiving a crown of righteousness from the hand of the Lord, with the Church of the First Born?
- …and from His hand he had a promise of receiving a crown of righteousness…
- …The ancients, though persecuted and afflicted by men, obtained from God promises of such weight and glory…
- …be free from every affliction, and reign with Christ on the earth, where, according to the ancient promise, they will partake of the fruit of the vine new…
- …at least we find that such promises were made to the ancient Saints.
- And though we cannot claim these promises which were made to the ancients…yet if we are the children of the Most High, and are called with the same calling…
- …and for ourselves obtain the same promises.
- These promises, when obtained, if ever by us, will not be because Peter, John, and the other Apostles … walked in the fear of God and had power and faith to prevail and obtain them; but it will be because we, ourselves, have faith and approach God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, even as they did; …
- …and when these promises are obtained, they will be promises directly to us…communicated for our benefit… (through the gift of God)…
Most of Joseph’s expansion on this idea started by first quoting a scripture by Paul in 2 Timothy:
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Joseph added this commentary:
No one who believes the account, will doubt for a moment this assertion of Paul which was made, as he knew, just before he was to take his leave of this world.
Joseph believed that if the ancient Saints could obtain such exquisite promises of exaltation from the Lord, from His hand, even while still in mortal life, then why couldn’t the Latter-day Saints. This is the meaning of making one’s calling and election sure. It is to receive the promise from the Lord that you will receive a crown in His kingdom, to inherit a seat at the marriage supper, and this is available even while still in our mortal probation.
Joseph alludes to several prerequisites in order to obtain these promises:
- Strict obedience to the commandments
- Walk in the Lord’s statutes
- Endure to the end
- Unceasing missionary work
- Hard work
- Seek no personal honor or gain of earthly goods
- Hope in Christ
- Fear God
- Work righteousness
- Faithful to the testimony of the Lord
- Approach the Father in the name of Jesus Christ
- Walking uprightly
- Sacrifice present honors and pleasures of the world
- Be like Him in purity
- Wise, holy, chaste, perfect, like Him
- Improve upon all things committed to your charge
If we do these things, such a promise will come by a sealing ordinance in the House of the Lord, whether in this life or in the life to come.