Have you ever wondered, “Will I ever be good enough to be exalted?” After all, I am not an ordained prophet. I am just an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Such a thought gives rise to these comforting words attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “God must love the common man, he made so many of them.”
This observation might remind us of Lazarus, not a member of the Twelve, but a “friend” of Jesus of whom the Jews noted, “Behold how he [the Savior] loved him!” (John 11: 11, 36).
That raises the question, “Is the common man eligible for exaltation, and if so, what does exaltation require?”
Fortunately, such a blessed state of affairs is not based on ecclesiastical position or wealth or fame or one’s IQ. The scriptures and prophets have made it clear that exaltation is based on the Savior’s Atonement and two conditions required of us: (1) keeping God’s commandments and related covenants, and (2) enduring to the end.
The Lord summarized it this way, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). And on another occasion the Lord said, “If you keep my commandments you shall receive of his [the Father’s] fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:20).
And perhaps, added to those criteria is whether or not we keep God’s commandments with a smile. The Savior taught, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
President Gordon B. Hinckley addressed this issue in another way: “Don’t be a ‘pickle sucker.’”
In other words, it would be hard to imagine pessimists in the highest degree of glory. To the contrary, it is the ultimate place of optimism. Submission to God’s will should be a joy, not a burden.
President George Albert Smith addressed the divine potential of the common man: “One of the beautiful things to me in the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it brings us all to a common level. It is not necessary for a man to be a president of a stake, or a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, in order to attain a high place in the celestial kingdom. The humblest member of the Church, if he keeps the commandments of God, will obtain an exaltation just as much as any other man in the celestial kingdom. The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it makes us all equal in as far as we keep the commandments of the Lord.”
King Benjamin taught this same principle: “All that he [God] requires of you is to keep his commandments.” He then added, “And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are” (Mosiah 2:22, 26). It was a reminder of the great truth that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles similarly addressed this issue: “You don’t have to be perfect to be saved. … What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church — keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you’re on that path when death comes … for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure.”
Sometimes I think we are too hard on ourselves. We often demand immediate perfection when the Lord is satisfied with steady progress. That is what the law of repentance is all about.
At some point each of us will face our Maker at the final judgment when we will report on our probationary experience. I doubt the line of questioning will be along the following lines: “What was your net worth when you died? What was your highest three-year average salary? What was your occupational title? How many times did you appear on cable news? How many followers did you have on Twitter?”
Perhaps, instead, the line of questioning will be more along the following lines: “Did you honestly seek God’s will and strive to follow it, even when it was not popular to do so? Did you live a morally clean life? Did you magnify your callings in the Church, whatever they may have been? If given the opportunity, did you honor your most important callings as a spouse and parent? Did you serve your fellow man even without a formal calling? Did you strive to be obedient to all God’s commandments and honor your covenants with a cheerful countenance?” As distant as that day may seem, it will come with certainty to us all.
To those who keep the commandments and honor their temple covenants, the Lord has promised, “Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20). Then the “common man and woman,” the ones who have kept the commandments and endured to the end will be exalted, worlds without end.
That is the hope and promise for all of us who are common men and women.
— Tad R. Callister is an emeritus General Authority Seventy and former Sunday School general president.