To love God with all your heart, soul, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being – physically, mentally, emotionally – to a love of the Lord. We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives. He must come first. When we put God f irst, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.
Assuming that we have committed ourselves to putting God “first” in our lives, there will be choices – sometimes difficult ones to be made; for each of us must decide, not only what we think about Christ, but whether or not we are really willing to walk with Him, because the costs of discipleship are real and even harsh in some respects. Christ gives us meaningful but uncomfortable choices.
When Joseph was in Egypt, what came first in his life – God, his job, the lust of the flesh, or Potiphor’s wife? When she tried to seduce him, he responded by saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God.” Joseph was put into prison because he put God first.
If we were faced with a similar choice, where would we place our first loyalty? Can we put God ahead of security, peace, passions, fears, attachments, selfishness, wealth, traditions, and honors of men? When Joseph was forced to choose, he was more anxious to please God than to please his employer’s wife or the lusts of the flesh . When we are required to choose, are we anxious to please God more than our boss, our teacher, our neighbor, or our mate, our family, our friends?
One of the most difficult tests of all is when you have to choose between pleasing God or pleasing someone you love or respect – particularly a family member. Yet Christ has laid clearly the sacrifice that must be made in that regard:
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:37
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes [shall be] they of his own household. Matthew 10:34-36
The scriptures advise us to “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12; Mosiah 13:20). Sometimes one must choose a Heavenly Father over a mortal father. We should give God, the Father of our spirits, an exclusive preeminence in our lives. He has a prior parental claim on our eternal welfare, ahead of all other ties that may bind us here or here-after.
THE CHOICES WE MAKE SOMETIMES CAUSE SEPARATION –
EVEN AMONG FAMILIES
By way of final preparation for their mission, the twelve Apostles of Christ were specifically and solemnly charged that the gospel would bring strife, whereby households would be disrupted; for the doctrine the Lord had taught would be as a sword to cut and divide. They were not to trust even the claims of kinship for protection, for families would be divided over the truth, brother against brother, children against parents and the resulting strife would be deadly.
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: Luke 12:51
For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. Luke 12:52-53
This same division or “separation” occurred among families in the early part of this gospel dispensation, as people often had to choose between gospel truths and family associations.
… So likewise when the Son of God shall burn up the wicked and consume their bodies to ashes, both root and branch, leaving no remnants of them among all people, nations and tongues, the righteous will be prepared to enter into the midst of this flaming fire without receiving any harm; indeed they will be caught up into the very presence of God, and they will be surrounded with a pillar of fire as Moses was when he came down from Mount Sinai, only to a far greater extent; but it will have no power over them, in fact it will be their protection and salvation, their glory, happiness and joy. To prepare the people for that great day it is necessary that the Saints should be gathered together, as predicted in the 5th verse, when he should give this great and grand revelation in the last days, when the mighty God, even the Lord, shall speak. He will call to the heavens to assist in the great latter-day work; and all the angels and the heavenly host, who do his bidding, will go forth as swift messengers to execute his decrees and fulfill his purposes in bringing about this grand gathering of his elect from the four quarters of the earth. Who will they be? Those who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. What kind of a sacrifice? The sacrifice of every earthly thing required, their native countries, their fathers and mothers, for in many instances those who obey the Gospel are compelled to sever the nearest earthly ties–parents from their children, children from their parents and kindred from their kin, in order that they may come forth and be gathered into one grand body preparatory to the coming of the Son of God in flaming fire. Journal of Discourses, Vol.15, p.55-.56, Orson Pratt
He (Joseph Smith) never at any time led those who received the Gospel to anticipate that their fate would be any better than his, for every man and woman was taught that if the principles were what we believed them to be, that which he testified they were, it was worthy of their lives, and of every other sacrifice they might be called to make. Men, therefore, in espousing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these last days, espouse it, as a general rule, with a full knowledge of the consequences involved therein. …. the sacrifice of earthly ties, the sacrifice of homes, of friends, of old associations, of kindred, of native land–these sacrifices have been made by all who have connected themselves and remained connected with the Zion of our God… Journal of Discourses, Vol.25, p.276-277, George Q. Cannon
Brigham Young, commenting on this point explained:
… When the people first receive the Spirit you may ask what you will of them, and they will yield it in a moment; their submission to God and the counsels of His servants is almost complete. They are ready to give their substance, their houses and lands, they are ready to leave all and follow Christ; they are ready to leave their good, comfortable, happy homes, their fathers and their mothers, and their friends; and some have left their companions and their children for the gospels’ sake, and all this because of the vision of eternity–which has been opened to their minds so that they beheld the beauty of Zion, and they sacrifice all to gather to the home of the Saints. J. of D., Vol.12, p.153 – 154, Brigham Young
This people will be tried more or less while they remain in the flesh; they may even be called as Abraham of old was to offer up that which is the most dear to them of all earthly objects for the Gospel’s sake. Some have already forsaken all and followed Christ; they have left their children, their husbands, their wives, their brothers and sisters and dear friends, some hoping again to see them, and many never expecting to see them again in this life… Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12, p.163 – p.164, Brigham Young
.. By our acts, by our coming together, by our leaving our homes, our friends, and our birthplaces that were dear to us according to the customs and belief of the world, we have declared our desire to serve the Lord. … many have left fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters; and some have left husbands and some have left wives and children: what for? Because they believed in the words of Jesus and His Apostles, as well as in the Prophets and in the testimony of the Prophet Joseph and the Elders who have been sent unto them. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12, p.227 – p.228, Brigham Young
If in our time, we find that choosing to put God ahead of EVERYONE ELSE in our lives results on occasion in having to choose God over “family members,” or “mortal father,” we may perhaps take comfort in how Christ defined His family, and be ourselves moved to more closely identify with Him:
While he yet talked to the people, behold, [his] mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Matthew 12:46-50
FORMS OF SEPARATION THAT RESULT FROM OUR CHOICE TO PUT GOD FIRST IN OUR LIVES:
Since choosing to put God first in our lives requires that we keep all of his commandments, many of our patterns of living must change in order to conform our lives to God’s standards instead of our own. These requirements fall into physical as well as spiritual categories. As a people approach a Zion Society, more and more “separation” from past habits, traditions, concepts, expectations, and ideologies may be required.
PHYSICAL SEPARATIONS: Our choice to follow God may result in the need for an actual physical separation from others.
SEPARATION THROUGH GATHERING
Total commitment to God requires physically gathering to a central location that Zion may be built.
O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.
3 Nephi 10:6
And then will I gather them in from the four quarters of the earth; and then will I fulfill the covenant which the Father hath made unto all the people of the house of Israel. 3 Nephi 16:5
And even so will I gather mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, even as many as will believe in me, and hearken unto my voice. D&C 33:6
On the subject of the gathering of the house of Israel, rests the matter relative to the latter day glory of the church of Christ, and the veracity of those writers called prophets and apostles; for if the house of Israel is not gathered, there will be no millennium; and if the seed of Jacob does not possess the land of Palestine in peace in the last days, down must come the bible, and down must come the system of the religion of Christ forever; for the writers of it have testified that this should be the case, if they have spoken any thing. Evening and Morning Star (Apr 1834) Oliver Cowdery p.149
SEPARATING THOUGH DISSOLVING DESTRUCTIVE FRIENDSHIPS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Often we must abandon the people with whom sin was committed or where beliefs vary. We may not hate the persons involved, but we must limit our dealings with them. We must forget addresses, telephone numbers, people, places and situations and build a new life. We must move away from or dissolve friendships with companions who may continue to fortify us in rationalizations of sin and destruction or pull us away from God.
And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do. Ezra 10:10-12
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company], and shall reproach [you], and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Luke 6:22
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
…what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you, …. 2 Corinthians 6:16-18
And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things; and behold, their names shall be blotted out, that the names of the wicked shall not be numbered among the names of the righteous, that the word of God may be fulfilled, which saith: The names of the wicked shall not be mingled with the names of my people. Alma 5:57
CONSEQUENCES OF FAILING TO SEPARATE OURSELVES FROM THOSE WHO ARE IN REBELLION AGAINST GOD
Sometimes we may err by being remiss in duty–too lenient in our families, and some of us may be under condemnation by being too careless about transgressors in our families; for if we hold fellowship with transgressors and spirits that are in rebellion against God and that will not repent and humble themselves,–if we close our ears to it and go to sleep while wickedness is stalking unrebuked through our habitations, we become partakers in that transgression, and the consequences thereof will stick to us. Journal of Discourses, Vol.5, p.289, Erastus Snow
Sometimes, for the sake of their very lives, those who have chosen to serve God have had to physically separate from those who would not. An excellent example of this is given in the Book of Mormon wherein Nephi writes: Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren. But behold, their anger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life. Yea, they did murmur against me, saying: Our younger brother thinks to rule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words. For behold, we will not have him to be our ruler; for it belongs unto us, who are the elder brethren, to rule over this people. Now I do not write upon these plates all the words which they murmured against me. But it sufficeth me to say, that they did seek to take away my life. And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me. 2 Nephi 5:1-5
There are instances where God has had to SEPARATE the righteous from the wicked in order to preserve the righteous and grant favored blessings to them. This is the very reason Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. (See 1 Nephi 1, 2:1-5). Another remarkable example from the Book of Mormon is found in third Nephi:
And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends;…. 3 Nephi 7:2
And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land. And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder. And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land. And the city of Zarahemla did take fire. And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned. And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, that in the place of the city there became a great mountain….And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate. 3 Nephi 8:5-10,14
And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared– 3 Nephi 10:12
As a result of these destructions and the separation that occurred, a Zion society was formed and wickedness eliminated.
AND it came to pass that the thirty and fourth year passed away, and also the thirty and fifth, and behold the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about. And as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. And it came to pass that the thirty and seventh year passed away also, and there still continued to be peace in the land. And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus. 4 Nephi 1:1-5
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. 4 Nephi 1:16
The City of Enoch, its inhabitants, and the time in which they lived, provides still another excellent illustration of this very point: “We are told that “Enoch walked with God, and was not, for God took him.” But there was more about it than that. Enoch preached the Gospel to the people, and so did hundreds of Elders as they are doing to-day; and they gathered the people together and built up a Zion to the Lord, and when Enoch was not, but was caught up, Enoch’s city was not, but was caught up, and there were certain things associated therewith that are very peculiar. Why were they taken away from the earth? Because of the corruptions of men, because of the wickedness of men, because mankind had forsaken God, and become as broken cisterns that could hold no water, because they were not fulfilling the measure of their creation, and because it was not proper that they should live and perpetuate a race that was so corrupt and abominable. But before this was done, the righteous, the virtuous, the honorable, the pure, the upright were gathered together, and taught and instructed in the things of God. And what came next? Why, the destruction of the world. J of D, Vol.26, p.35-36, John Taylor
SEPARATING THROUGH CLOTHING AND APPAREL
Historically clothing has been used as a mark or means of recognition. One of the most visible indicators of the attitudes and attributes of a person and most often the first to change when a person changes is his dress.
The first sign of the unrighteousness of the Nephites was their dawning of “costly apparel”. Men as well as women fall prey to this vice.
And he (Nehor) began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching. Alma 1:6
For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible. Alma 1:32
…. can ye withstand these sayings; yea, can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet; yea, can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches? Alma 5:53
.. in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world. 4 Nephi 1:24
But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock [is] a doctrine of vanities. Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple [is] their clothing: they [are] all the work of cunning [men]. Jeremiah 10:8-9
And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. Zephaniah 1:8
Counsel regarding clothing has been given from the early history of the world. In our Unisex world, the particular counsel to avoid men’s clothing for women and women’s clothing for men goes unheeded.
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so [are] abomination unto the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 22:5
Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, [as] of woolen and linen together. Deuteronomy 22:11
“It is impossible for a girl to be feminine in men’s clothing.” James D. Harmston
Counsel regarding what should be worn is even more frequent:
For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel. And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands; And let all things be done in cleanliness before me. D&C 42:39 – 41
Create your own fashions, and make your clothing to please yourselves, independent of outside influences; …. I wish you, sisters, to listen to these counsels, and place yourselves in a condition to administer to the poor. Get your husbands to provide you with a little of this and a little of that of which you can make something by adding your own labor. … manufacture something that will be useful as well as beautiful and comely. Discourses of Brigham Young, p.214 -.215
The Lord instructs us in a revelation, to let our clothing be plain: “Let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands.” He never said to us, “Do not make a silk or satin ribbon, or fine broadcloth,” but he has said to us, “Make the articles of clothing that you wear;” if we do not, we shall find by and by that we shall not be able to get them. Discourses of Brigham Young, p.215
And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely. Alma 1:27
SEPARATING THOUGH DIET:
One of the most obvious and clearly declared requirements of given scripture requires that we remove from our lives certain foods. Commandments regarding foods go back into the Old Testament times, and is brought forward again in this dispensation through the word of wisdom.
He shall separate [himself] from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. Numbers 6:3
That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good….. And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, …And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly…And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly….all wholesome herbs .. Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof;.. ..Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air…; All grain … the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground–..Nevertheless, wheat for man,.. and barley .. for mild drinks, as also other grain. D&C 89:5-18
SEPARATING FROM IDOLS
Do we separate from things (idols) that take us away from focus on God or work in the Kingdom? It has been said that the last thing we are willing to give up is our God. To the extent that we are willing to give up our duties and responsibilities toward God before we are willing to give up our TV shows, video games, movies, music, sports, toys, hobbies, our pursuit for wealth, etc.; to this extent these things become our idol Gods. When we choose to put God first, we must forsake the idols of the world.
And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, …. touch not their unclean things; …… Alma 5:57
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:16-18
Behold, I, the Lord, who was crucified for the sins of the world, give unto you a commandment that you shall forsake the world. D&C 53:2
Therefore, forsake the world, and save your souls; for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? JST Matthew 16:29
And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which [were] among them:) Deuteronomy 29:17
But behold, I trust that ye are not in a state of so much unbelief as were your brethren; I trust that ye are not lifted up in the pride of your hearts; yea, I trust that ye have not set your hearts upon riches and the vain things of the world; yea, I trust that you do not worship idols, but that ye do worship the true and the living God, and that ye look forward for the remission of your sins, with an everlasting faith, which is to come. Alma 7:6
Wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached, either in these or former days, it has met with a class of men to whom the truth looked lovely and God-like, and the spirit within would prompt them to embrace it; but they find themselves so advantageously connected in the world, and have so many interests at stake if they should embrace it, they conclude that it will not do, and here comes the warfare again. Some few will overcome the reasonings of the flesh, and follow the dictates of the spirit; while the great majority of this class of persons are won over by sordid considerations and cleave to their idols. Discourses of Brigham Young, p.434
… Yes; because we are so liable to forget–so prone to wander, that we need to have the Gospel sounded in our ears as much as once, twice, or thrice a week, or, behold, we will turn again to our idols. It is immaterial what the idol is, whether it is what the Californians call a slug, or whether it is a twenty-dollar gold piece, or an eagle, or half-eagle, or whether our affections and attention fasten upon our farms, horses, and other worldly goods,–if we are not constantly exhorting the people and setting before them the necessity of living their religion, calling back their minds that have been wandering, and preaching and praying with them, behold, they would turn to their idols. Journal of Discourses, Vol.6, p.195, Brigham Young
SEPARATION THROUGH DEDICATION AND DILIGENCE
On some occasions the separation that results from our choices is mostly one of dedication and diligence while we continue to lie among those who choose to be more slothful. Our diligent heed to the council of heaven prepares us to “meet the bridegroom” with oil in our lamps. Instead of waiting to be told (“commanded”) what to do by their leaders, those who become a Zion Society are able to commune with the heavens and obtain from the Lord their errand, performing it with diligence and under the light of revelation.
Wherefore, let them bring their families to this land, as they shall counsel between themselves and me. For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. D&C 58:25-28
This is illustrated in the Book of Mormon :
Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord. For I, Jacob, and my brother Joseph had been consecrated priests and teachers of this people, by the hand of Nephi. Jacob 1:17-18
Some in the gathering are busily engaged in the work, obtaining revelation daily to guide them in finding and performing their duties. The Master was undoubtedly speaking of this group as he taught us with the parable of the ten virgins. Here were ten believing members of the Church. They believed enough that they were going, as a body, to meet the bridegroom. It appears that they were not wicked, as we think of that descriptive term. Perhaps they spent their lives, to that point, in “church activity”; however, as in the parable, five had been doing things more important than had the other five. Half of them had been doing things that mattered most – in preparing oil for their lamps – those things they received to do under the light of revelation.
And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire. D&C 63:54
The scriptures are clear that diligent effort brings forth increased blessing and knowledge:
And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which He doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. Alma 12:9
We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed in the government and laws of that kingdom by proper degrees, until his mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice, equality, and consistency of the same. For further instruction we refer you to Deut. 32, where the Lord says, that Jacob is the lot of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye, etc.; which will show the force of the last item advanced, that it is necessary for men to receive an understanding concerning the laws of the heavenly kingdom, before they are permitted to enter it: we mean the celestial glory. So dissimilar are the governments of men, and so divers are their laws, from the government and laws of heaven, that a man, for instance, hearing that there was a country on this globe called the United States of North America, could take his journey to this place without first learning the laws of governments; but the conditions of God’s kingdom are such, that all who are made partakers of that glory, are under the necessity of learning something respecting it previous to their entering into it. But the foreigner can come to this country without knowing a syllable of its laws, or even subscribing to obey them after he arrives. Why? Because the government of the United States does not require it: it only requires an obedience to its laws after the individual has arrived within its jurisdiction. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Two 1834–37, p.51
If we expect to enjoy the blessings of a Terrestrial World, we must learn to obey the laws that govern it. What are they? How will we find them out? These are questions that can only be answered by the revelation of Heaven.
SEPARATING THE RIGHTEOUS FROM THE WICKED
THE RIGHTEOUS DEFINED. No work on searching out the righteousness from unrighteousness, and making the choices which SEPARATE the righteous from the wicked, would be complete without noting the Lord’s definition of who the righteous are and how we may recognize them.
The scriptures and the Prophets describe the righteous as those who hear the voice of God and have thus taken the Holy Spirit as their guide. Consider the following:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I who speak even by the voice of my Spirit, even Alpha and Omega, your Lord and your God. D&C 75:1
And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive. Mosiah 26:21
And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me. And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now. D&C 84:52-53
It is important that we keep in mind that the choices we make as we decide what is good and what is evil are the most important decisions we will ever make. Upon them depend our happiness or misery throughout time and eternity. Our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ would not put us in this position without giving us the means with which we can distinguish good from evil. The means he has given us IS THE VOICE OF THE SPIRIT, and we shall be held responsible for the way in which we heed it.
The importance of obtaining and following the guidance of the Spirit cannot be over-emphasized, for IT IS THE ISSUE WHICH SEPARATES THE RIGHTEOUS FROM THE WICKED.
For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin……And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now. D&C 84:51, 53
This doctrine is repeated in the scriptures over and over again.
And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. D&C 93:32
Such teachings clearly establish the fact that the spiritual guidance received by each individual is strictly up to the individual. Each is enlightened by the Spirit when he comes into the world, given his free agency, and held responsible for his exercise thereof. There seems to be no middle ground. When men reject the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they are left to their own wisdom and to the promptings of evil spirits.
But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, (Use TOP and be guided by His Holy Spirit) who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils. D&C 46:7
And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom. 2 Nephi 2:28-29
Yea, come unto me and bring forth works of righteousness, and ye shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire–For behold, the time is at hand that whosoever bringeth forth not good fruit, or whosoever doeth not the works of righteousness, the same have cause to wail and mourn. O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!
Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil. For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.
Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him. And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death, as to things pertaining unto righteousness, being dead unto all good works. And now, my brethren, I would that ye should hear me, for I speak in the energy of my soul; for behold, I have spoken unto you plainly that ye cannot err, or have spoken according to the commandments of God. Alma 5:35-43
As to the righteous who will abide the day of the Lord’s coming, He Himself has said:
And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins. For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived–verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day. And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation. For the Lord shall be in their midst, and his glory shall be upon them, and he will be their king and their lawgiver. D&C 45:56-59
THE RIGHTEOUS ARE TO BE COMPLETELY SEPARATED FROM THE WICKED AT CHRIST’S COMING (MILLENNIAL PREPARATION)
And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire. D&C 63:54
For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire. 2 Nephi 30:10
But behold, in the last days, even now while the Lord is beginning to bring forth the word, and the blade is springing up and is yet tender–Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields; But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also. Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned. D&C 86:4 -7
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. Matthew 13:27 – 30
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:47-50
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. Matthew 25:31-33
We know not the day nor the hour of His coming, but of this we may feel assured: We stand very close to the great day of the Lord! In the words of modern revelation, He implores, ‘SEEK the face of the Lord always’. D&C 101:38 If we now anticipate his coming to us or our coming to Him, we are obligated to separate ourselves completely from the wicked and make sure that every association, every activity, every entertainment, every work, every labor, every friendship, every fellowship, is guided by and sanctioned by Him. Let us judge ourselves, our actions and activities by the Spirit of God and not by our own emotions or traditions lest we fail to have the necessary oil in our lamps to measure up to the standards of Zion and allow Babylon’s tentacles to choke us out of the blessings of deliverance and the establishment of Zion.