Dear Critic and Former Member
Answering “Why Am I Worthy”
I took some time reading your letter. It prompted me to consider some things regarding your question about my worthiness. There appears to be some concern for the welfare of my soul and where I may find myself in the eternal life that is beyond this. There is great appreciation for such a concern, and it is something all of us ought to take a moment to consider.
As you pointed out in your letter Why Am I Worthy? You appear to hint at the idea that I may never have the assurance of faith that I am good enough to be in the presence of our Heavenly Father. It is a valid question and one that ought not to be taken lightly by any person. Regardless of their faith and background.
Per your concern:
Dear friend, can I ask you a question? You’ve told me in the past that you’re comfortable with “just going to the terrestrial kingdom.” Do you know what that means? It means that you feel unworthy to come into the presence of God the Father because, deep on the inside, you know that “your iniquities have separated between you and your God”, (Isaiah 59:2) and that you are uncomfortable dwelling in the presence of Heavenly Father based on your own merits.
Now, I personally am not sure as to whether or not there is some misunderstandings regarding my statement. For me and based on my own personal understanding of the scriptures and the teachings, my desire is to be with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Whatever capacity that looks like, I may not truly know until I am on the other side of the veil. And I do know what it means if I am found worthy of the Terrestrial kingdom. It means that I may miss out on the greater rewards and inheritance. However, what I do know and understand is that the Terrestrial kingdom is reserved for those who lived valiant and honorable lives – however, were succumbed to the craftiness of men, who were not able to fully endure and overcome faithfully as Christ endured and overcame (Revelation 3:21), and that I had not remained faithful and true in my own personal testimony of Jesus Christ (see Doctrine and Covenants 76: 72-74, 79; D&C 132:17; and D&C 76:77-78).
Given this fact, one thing that is typically missed in these types of conversations is the reality of truth on how we personally view ourselves. A close mentor and friend of mine recently shared that if we were to ask (and it is a question he asks individuals whom he may potentially represent in a court of law) that if they are truly guilty – what type of sentence they would impose on themselves. Take a moment and think about this when we are considering the question of whether or not we are worthy to abide in God’s presence. Of course, our answer may fall back on the reality that we are not worthy. This is evidenced in the many appearances of God to those who are the patriarchs of our faith.
I do not believe I have met any person of any Christian faith who does not have moments of doubts as to their own worthiness when it comes to eternity and our potential immortality. Because, let’s face it, even the most faithful of all people succumbed to their own doubts – and these are great individuals of faith that we read about in Scripture. Elijah, Moses, Peter, the other Disciples, and even the Apostle Paul himself appeared to have some doubts of worthiness.
So, I believe that it is a healthy human trait to question whether or not we are worthy – and I believe it is a way for us to remain humble and faithful. Not that it has anything to do with my own merits – or faithfulness and devotion to living out the principle of the Gospel. Being obedient to the will of the Father and doing all that I am empowered and capable of doing. Nor does it have anything to do with any sense of hidden sin or iniquity that has gone unconfessed and without any sense of repentance.
Sure, I, among many others, struggle with confession, seeking forgiveness, and repenting. However, it is an ongoing spiritual discipline. Repentance is not a one and done deal. It is not something we do at the point of conversion. It is something we engage in on a consistent basis. We all fall short to some degree. Even as Christians, we do things that are contrary to what we value. And therefore, stand in need of confessing our sins. This is what James instructs us to do (James 5:16). Throughout scripture, we are counseled to confess our sins, to admit to our shortcomings, address our weaknesses, and seek forgiveness, reconciliation, and strengthen ourselves in the bounds of mutual fellowship. Speaking truth in love one toward another. Correcting and holding one another accountable.
As for Isaiah 59:2, I take this in its appropriate context and see that it is speaking to the Israelites and how they have become a corrupt people in allowing sin to be deeply rooted in their society and culture. Such that it caused a significant strain and separation between them and God. Given this – there is the messianic promise towards the end of Isaiah 59 and therefore this passage speaks to the redemption of Israel in the coming Messiah that is promised to bring justice, salvation, and healing. It also speaks to us today as we see similar traits of how influential certain evil ways and thoughts have become deeply rooted in our society and culture.
On a more personal level – it applies to those who have been completed separated for our Heavenly Father because of their own transgressions and disobedience. Attached is the promise of restoration, healing, forgiveness, mercy, and grace if one is willing to turn and seek after God and repent for the forgiveness of their sins.
With that said, I do not personally see how appropriate Isaiah 59:2 is with regards to questioning one’s own personal worthiness. It does not seem to be congruent with how the passage is properly understood.
The next point of your letter appears to stand on the assumption that no one is good enough on their own to enter into Heaven. To an extent, I do not refute this idea. Because I do agree that there is nothing, I am able to do personally to provide the necessary sacrifice needed to bring about my own redemption, eternal life, and immortality of my own soul. This includes taking up my life in a resurrection. Only Christ has done this. However, this appears not to be the case with what you appear to assume:
The truth is, you can never be good enough on your own to go to heaven. In Isaiah 57:12, the Lord says, “I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee,” and in Isaiah 64:6 it says “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Even your very best is filthy in comparison to God’s pure, holy goodness. In order to live with God, we’d have to be perfect, because he is perfect. Sin must be punished, and, as sinners, all of us deserve separation from God.
Again, I do agree that we are not able to do anything of ourselves to bring about our own salvation, redemption, and immortality – to include the necessary sacrifice needed and the power to rise up from the grave as a resurrected individual. This is the reason we need Christ and the power of his Infinite Atonement.
Given that understanding – it appears that you are coming from a different theological frame of reference. Perchance it is from a reformed theological perspective – based on the idea of Augustine of Hippo’s construct of Original Sin and the Calvinistic notion of Total Depravity of human will and volition. That I am not sure of yet.
Regardless, you quoted two passages of Isaiah. The first one that of Isaiah 57:12. In this passage, we look at what Isaiah is saying in its proper context. And that context is considering Isaiah 56-57. It appears to be a contrast between the righteous (Isaiah 56:1-8) to those who are wicked and walking in iniquity (Isaiah 56:9-57:12), and then seems to move toward an understanding that there will come a healing of those who put their trust in Him and that they shall find peace and be lifted up. Unlike the wicked who will perish.
What this means is that Isaiah is speaking out against those who work through disobedience and transgression – thinking they are righteous in their own mindset. Instead, they will be exposed and there will be nothing such individuals are able to gain. Therefore, it is not to all people since the context appears that those who abide in righteousness, faithfully obey God, and keep the commandments are granted salvation and redemption.
It appears you couple Isaiah 57:12 with that of Isaiah 64:6. Unlike Isaiah 57:12, this passage appears to be a lamentation of Isaiah. It is a prayer of seeking restoration and healing. And it coincides because Isaiah 63 is about God’s judgment against Israel and the forthcoming Messianic Promise of Christ’s righteousness that will bring healing and salvation unto His people. And the connotation of filthy rags (as the King James renders the passage) is reference to the cloth used by women to clean themselves of their menstrual cycle. Such imagery is pervasive of the sinfulness of Israel and her transgression that caused the judgement of God to come upon her. Therefore, this has nothing to do with human moral implications. It has everything to do with God’s justice and judgment upon the Nation of Israel and how depraved and deplorable they had become in violating their covenant with God.
Thus, to conclude that a person’s very best is as that of a stained menstrual pad is literally irresponsible and false. And I do agree that when we are walking in disobedience – we are to experience the punishment and justice of God. Much of it is to bring us back to remembrance and back into a place where we are able to find forgiveness of sin and taste of His mercy and goodness.
I further agree that in order to live with our Heavenly Father, we need to be perfect as He is perfect. This is what Christ said while preaching his sermon on the mount. What people miss though is that we are to be complete and full as our Heavenly Father is complete and full. Does not mean we live a perfect and clean righteous life. No one can. This is the reason we ought to strive to conform our thoughts, our minds, and our spirit to the image of Christ. To walk in obedience to the things he has taught and command of us to do. I am only truly worthy when I am doing all that I am empowered to do to take up my cross every day and follow after Christ. To deny myself each day and live out the truths of the Gospel. Being a living sacrifice by the transformation of my mind and not by being conformed to this world (Matthew 16:24-26, Romans 12:1-3).
What you offer, then, is some sense of hope:
And yet, despite all this, God does want you to be there, in his presence, as his child. He wants you to smile up into his face and call him “Abba”. In Isaiah 55:3, the Lord offers an invitation to “Come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live.” The same God that “meted out the heaven with a span and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure,” (Isaiah 40:12) is asking you to come to him. And while our iniquities do separate us from God, he offers us the promise that if we will just accept his invitation, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
I agree because it is through the power, gift, and purpose of the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ that we are able to receive the gift of eternal life and immortality. I go further and say that this is the heart of God’s divine work, glory, and will – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of humanity (Moses 1:39).
And it is the very reason I prefer to refer to him as My Heavenly Father because I hold to the reality and truth that I am a child of God. Both in the pre-existence, and in this mortal state of existence, and going forward throughout all of eternity. I am his son who is worthy of His love, grace, and mercy. It is also the reason we preach that one truly comes to know the gift of God by coming unto Christ and following after Christ.
Furthermore, it is much more than an invitation to come unto Him and receive grace and mercy through Christ. It is to come unto Him, through Jesus Christ, and make sacred covenants through baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, to receive upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit as a constant companion and guide throughout the remainder of our mortal existence, and to endure and overcome as Christ has endured and overcame himself. That we live, no longer unto the desires of the flesh, that we are to live unto Christ and live in a way that is righteous and holy (Romans 6:1-13).
You continue with your invitation:
This cleansing is possible only through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son. Like the innocent animals sacrificed under the Judaic law to pay the penalty of sin, Jesus Christ was “brought as a lamb to the slaughter”. He “hath poured out his soul unto death” as “an offering for sin.” (Isaiah 53). In the hours that Jesus Christ hung on the cross, He became to God the sin of all mankind. And “it pleased the Lord to bruise him,” because “he shall see the travail of his soul and be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” (53:11) Friend, you can be one of those many justified if you so desire. The penalty for your sin has already been paid, and if you will trust wholly in that assurance, He will wash you whiter than snow, and the Father will adopt you as His child.
And you are absolutely correct. There is nothing here that I disagree with. Nor would I attempt to disagree with what you have shared here. I appreciate this as it is a reminder of the great cost to our Savior and our Heavenly Father. It is not something we ought to make light of. I appreciate the reality and truth that the invitation is for us to come unto Christ and live a true and powerful and meaningful crucified Life (to borrow from A.W. Tozer’s book – the Crucified Life).
I am quite grateful of the sacrifice and the atonement of Christ. The blessings and promises by which I receive. The sense of peace in my heart and mind. The joy I experience. The empowerment it gives me to face my own personal struggles, to overcome my own doubts, and to come to awareness of my own weakness so that I am able to grow and mature in Christ. And there is no one else whom I am able to put my trust in.
And as for your concluding remarks, recommendations, and observations:
You see, when we accept Jesus Christ’s atonement as the ultimate and complete payment for our sins, not only does Jesus Christ becomes our sin, but we also become Jesus Christ’s perfect righteousness to God the Father. Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels.” In plain words, once you put all your trust in Jesus Christ to save you, He covers you with His righteousness. You are no longer covered in the filthy rags of your works, but rather dressed up cleaner and purer and whiter than a bride on her wedding day. It’s no longer about you anymore! There’s no more self-loathing when you fail, no more stress about whether or not you measured up to the standard that day or not, and no more comparing yourself to others. Friend, give yourself totally and completely into His care. Believe that He loves you. Believe that He paid for your sins and will cover you with His righteousness. Because Jesus is enough.
I also stand in agreement to what you have said here. The only thing that I am in disagreement on is the presumption that I personally lack any faith, confidence, and true assurance of faith that I am saved and that I am redeemed and that I am made clean. And that yes, Jesus is enough – however, I also am required of Christ to participate and do my part. And that is to follow Him. To be a true disciple. To walk faithfully in all that he has taught and commanded.
And I have truly given myself over to him, and trust in my savior for eternal life. That does not mean I still will have my own doubts to wrestle with. That I still question my own sense of worthiness. That I still do struggle and fall short some days. However, the only difference now is that I know who to turn to, who to seek after, and who to ask for guidance, support and encouragement.
My own personal faith and testimony in who Christ is grows every day that I am living according to the principle truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not because I am doing all that I can to be saved by God’s divine grace. No, that I do it because it costs me to be a true disciple of Christ, that I become a living sacrifice unto Him and walk in those works and deeds that he has prepared for me to walk in.
Again, I appreciate the letter of concern and the reminder to always stay vigilant and know of assurance that I am worthy of my Heavenly Father’s love, mercy, and grace – and to know that through Christ I am able to endure and overcome as he has endured and overcame. Through Him, I receive those inherit blessings of glory and eternal life.