Of all the depictions of the final judgment in scripture, three resonate most with me. I love the absoluteness of grace in Doctrine and Covenants 45:3-5. I think I used to imagine standing before the judgment bar of God with Jesus pleading my case, saying something like, “Look, Father, at all the good Robbie has done. He was baptized and served a mission and married in the temple and . . . .” And I would stand there, feeling proud and pretty cool, trying not to blush as the Savior sang my praises. But the scene portrayed in this Second Coming section shows that there will be no place for pride in that day: “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified.” He will not point to me at all. He will, in fact, ask the Father not to look at me. I have no merits on that day. Nothing I can or will do on this lovely green planet will qualify me for salvation—only the sufferings and death of Him who did no sin. “Wherefore [because of me, Jesus], Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.” My greatest commendation, if indeed it can be honestly said of me, will be my friendship with the Light of the World. If that doesn’t urge a certain doctrinal humility, I don’t know what does.
The second judgment scene that captivates my imagination also appears in the Doctrine and Covenants, this time in section 88. It essentially shows judgment as a non-issue. There will be no adversarial banging of a gavel, proclaiming my ultimate fate. Instead, I will receive what I have become, what I have developed the capacity to receive: “They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened. Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness” (verses 28-29, italics added). What I have persistently chosen will be what I have become. Dallin H. Oaks puts it this way: “The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become.” Joseph Fielding Smith writes that the difference in bodies will be literal—if you are resurrected with a Celestial body, you will glow like the sun; God will need only to look at you, nod, and say, “Well done. Enter.” President Smith says, “In the resurrection there will be different kinds of bodies; they will not all be alike. The body a man receives will determine his place hereafter. There will be celestial bodies, terrestrial bodies, and telestial bodies, and these bodies will differ as distinctly as do bodies here. . . . Some will gain celestial bodies with all the powers of exaltation and eternal increase . These bodies will shine like the sun as our Savior’s does, as described by John. Those who enter the terrestrial kingdom will have terrestrial bodies, and they will not shine like the sun, but they will be more glorious than the bodies of those who receive the telestial glory.” I like the thought of luminosity as the determining factor at that day.
The final scene of judgment I like best comes from the mortal lips of Jesus. This last one does seem to imply merit of a sort, but perhaps only that which proves that I am indeed the friend of the dusty, compassionate God incarnate, and that I have actually become godlike. In Matthew 25, the evangelist records Jesus as saying,
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (verses 31-40)
This seems to make the incarnation universal. Everyone we meet is Christ. Which is another way of saying that everyone we meet matters to God, is godly and holy. The determining factor on judgment day will be the way I cared for the people around me—the poor and the needy, the vulnerable and the lonely. I love the way C.S. Lewis puts it: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship . . . . It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
I have felt the holiness of the people around me. I remember walking down the sidewalk in college when I looked into someone’s eyes and realized there was a depth and strength and probably sorrow and fear and loneliness I would never comprehend. And I felt a lot of love that day. I began to choose person after person and to look into their eyes and to love them. My wife tells me that the more she gets to know people, the more she loves them. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”
I know I run a risk bringing politics into, well into anything, but Lewis brought it up first. He said that in light of the divinity inherent in every person we should conduct our politics. I don’t want to say much, but just this: I am glad the Supreme Court ruled the way it did on immigration and the Affordable Care Act these last couple of weeks. God seems to have a lot to say about caring for the stranger among us. And I know some people use the word “entitlement” when speaking of the health care reform, but I like to think of it as compassion. I recognize that am not the most politically-informed person, and it is okay to disagree with me, but I like what King Benjamin said about succoring those who stand in need of succor and administering of my substance to those who stand in need, no matter how "deserving" they might or might not be. And I like Moses’s injunction to “open wide thy hand” and to give liberally. I really am alright, even happy and perhaps grateful, if I end up sacrificing a little so that someone else gets the care they need. I hope I’m not just saying that. I hope when it comes down to it I really do believe in generosity and kindness and charity. I guess all I’m saying is that every person is holy, and I’m okay letting that be the guiding principle for my politics. I’d better end this one “with love.” It really is.
(Photo by Kyle Poulter)