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Monday, December 22, 2014

03. The Characteristics of Spiritual Ascension

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the third examining the phrase "keepeth my commandments".

The (Apparent) Arrogance of Thinking We Can Keep God's Commandments

"What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:27 also see 3 Nephi 12:48).
That's a bold statement -- and one we often tend to discredit. After all, success is often not what we envision it to be. The path that we imperfect, error-prone, sinful, spiritually dirty, condemned, telestial beings take to God is littered with pitfalls, trials and challenges.

Fortunately, God doesn't look at you in terms of just one frame in the motion picture of your life. He who sees all things past, present and future before Him knows that
"It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things, and receive all things, even the fulness of the Father's glory. I believe the Lord meant just what he said: that we should be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. That will not come all at once, but line upon line, and precept upon precept, example upon example, and even then not as long as we live in this mortal life, for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God. 
But here we lay the foundation. Here is where we are taught these simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this probationary state, to prepare us for that perfection. It is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today. Why? Because we are on that road, if we are keeping the commandments of the Lord, we are on that road to perfection, and that can only come through obedience and the desire in our hearts to overcome the world." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, pp.18-19)

The Ingredients for Perfectly Keeping God's Commandments

Throughout the scriptures, the Lord describes the process of achieving perfection in different ways.
  • It's line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little (2 Nephi 28:30; also see D&C 98:12).  In fact, in keeping with what I explained in my previous post, 2 Nephi 28:30 goes on to say that
"blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have."
  • It's "grace to grace" and "grace for grace"
"And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16
"And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace." (D&C 93:11-13, 20)
"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God." (Moroni 10:32
Now, let's combine those two concepts for a minute. Could it be that when you recognize and gratefully receive (2 Nephi 28:30) the grace (divine goodness and power) God has bestowed on you in your life, you're more motivated to give grace (perhaps via kindness and forgiveness) to others? And because you have freely done so, God blesses you with a greater abundance of His divine grace?

Is that what is means to go "from grace to grace" (D&C 93:11-13, 20) until you receive "a fulness"?

Could it be that going "from grace to grace" ensures that in the eternal scheme of things, there is no shortcut, no piecemeal approach, no faking or pretending genuine character growth?
  • It's "strength to strength"
"They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God." (Psalms 84:7)
  • It's "faith to faith"
"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17)
  • It's "glory to glory"
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Let's examine these three bullet points. Could an organization or individual, who shares their strength (for example, financial strength) with those who have limited or no strength, be blessed with greater strength? When an individual or organization exhibits real faith in God on behalf of another, their own faith is strengthened? When you share the light (or glory) of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you are blessed with greater light?
  • "His paths are straight"
Even Dorothy stepped off the yellow brick road with the best of intentions; yet in doing so, her path to the Emerald City assumed predicted consequences. We're no different; all too often, our paths to God include precarious pit stops to wallow in our will, not God's. When we do so, we discover the still, small voice of the spirit is silent, and we're left alone to ponder the consequences of our divergent direction. Thus, staying on the path straight to God -- without any tangents -- is the safest and wisest course of action. 
"And it may suffice if I only say they are preserved for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God; for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (Alma 37:12)\ 
"For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (D&C 3:2
"For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land." (Alma 37:44
"Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face." (Psalms 5:8
"O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name." (2 Nephi 9:41
  • His course is "one eternal round"
"For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round." (1 Nephi 10:19
"Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever." (D&C 35:1
  • It's ever-expanding
As mentioned above, the Lord says

"blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more..." (2 Nephi 28:30)

Thus, it stands to reason that if one has faithfully received a few things, then they shall be given more things. If this continues ad infinitum, then the Lord's statement, "Endless is my name" (D&C 19:4,10; see also Moses 1:37:35) is accurate. His glory, dominion and kingdom endlessly expands.

"Of the increase of government and peace there is no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this." (2 Nephi 19:7

The Process of Ascension

Review those bullet points above for a minute.

Embedded within all these quotes is the process of ascension, and ultimately, achieving perfection.

Now, in 1982, author Stephen R. Covey published what I consider to be one of the most underrated, little-known LDS-aligned books ever: "The Divine Center." Aside from the Holy Scriptures, no other book has transformed my life as much as this book. I highly recommend you buy it.

Once you have it, skip ahead to chapters 7-9, which detail some interdependent actions which spiral us to God.

Personally, I've slightly modified Covey's diagram of these processes (found on pages 226-227 in Covey's first edition book). And in my next blog post, we'll examine how these interdependent actions mesh everything discussed in these posts on ascension -- as well as D&C 93 -- into one nice, neat pattern...

...a pattern which is replicated from the smallest to the grandest structures in the cosmos.


  1. Thank you for this series. I am taking it to heart.

    Looking foreward to the next post you mentioned above.

    I needed those questions that were posted above the 3 bullet points.
    Your sister in Christ-Sally

  2. Thank you. This is all very helpful to me overcoming my own personal obstacles. I am grateful.