In a recent post, there was a bit of a debate about what we are or aren’t allowed to be judged for. For example, suppose I honestly don’t believe the Church to be true. I even pray about it. To what extent can I be punished for my lack of faith?
In one sense, this is moot as a judgment tool for us because we never observe others’ sincerity and it is not for us to judge other’s eventual salvation or lack thereof. But we do need to know where we stand, so the the question may be worth thinking about.
I would claim that we cannot rightly be blamed for anything that is done to us, only for what we do. Further, that we can only be blamed for something to the extent that it is of our own accord. To the extent that we are behaving as we have been conditioned by others, then that can’t be our fault. We also cannot be punished for failure to have gifts or abilities (such as faith) when we were not given the opportunity to have those gifts.
So it should not be the case that I am punished for being what God (or other people) made me. I am only responsible for that part of me that is eternally me. And what is that? What is something so essential that to change it is to alter me into someone that is not me? I believe it is the part of me way deep down inside that chooses to follow and seek truth or to reject truth. I, as an eternal being, am defined by, and judged by, my desire to love that which is good.
This is different than my actual knowledge of truth or my ability to love others. It is the primal desire I have, independent of my current knowledge or obedience, to seek out and embrace true principles. It is my ability to actualize a love of truth and the good. Hence the first commandment is to Love God. And Charity never faileth. And those that seek out light (because they love it), get more light. While those that turn from light and truth end up in hell.
What matters, in the end, is not our faith or our reasons for believing God. God gives faith as a gift. There could be no better example than the closing testimony of Elder McConkie. His faith in God was not the result of logical deduction. It was a primal gift from God, given in response to his obedience to the commandments, which obedience came because Elder McConkie loved truth and the good, even if he didn’t know eactly what those things were. Knowledge is a result of our love, but our love is who we are. I think this is what Paul was saying.
What matters is that when faced with the choice, we gravitate towards the good, whether we can articulate what is the good or not. Everything else about us can be fixed by the atonement. But a fundamental failure of love of truth cannot. Because to change that would be to make us someone else. Now all of this is about how we are deep inside, not how we appear to ourselves or others now. We may appear to be jerks or rude or nice or spiritual or carnal. But some of that is conditioning, some is genetics, some is a gift from God. Only after this life, at the judgment bar, do we see which choices we were truly in charge of and how well we did. Thus we are not even fit to judge ourselves, “until we know as we are known”. God, mercifully, reveals to us when we are on the right track, but this is revealed to us though Him, not something we can conclude of our own accord.
So, how do I know what is right, that I might love it?. This is relevant on a day to day basis as we try to do the good. But in some grand sense it is not so important to the question at hand. You, at your essence, love certain things, even if you don’t always know it. Knowledge is secondary to that primal love. If that thing is truth, then we will find our way back to God who will fix our errors and show us the truth and make us like Him through the atonement.
I believe that God knows who will return to Him and who will not. When the scriptures speak of Him looking upon the heart, I think this means He knows our essence. Our testing on earth is part of the process of revealing our heart to ourselves, so we know what we most want. The process may not even be over in this life. But at some point we will know what it is we most desire, and that is exactly what we will get.
These ideas are incomplete and perhaps wrong in important ways. But I am not very good at being clear. So if you disagree, it may be because I am wrong or it may just be that I phrased it badly. I am open to both possibilities. I am also interested in scriptures that help me understand or correct my view.