Parable of the Talents

Summary: We are very familiar with the parable of the talents, where one servant was given five talents, a second servant was given two talents, and a third servant was given just one talent. Yet for many people, they tend to see only the superficial meaning behind this story, but there is a profound message that Jesus was trying to teach by telling it  . This article takes an in-depth look at this famous parable to discover what that message is.  

In the 25th chapter of Matthew we read of a parable that Jesus told where he likened the kingdom of heaven to a man who was going to travel to a faraway country, but before he left he called his servants together “and delivered unto them his goods.” To one he gave five talents, to another he gave two talents and to another he gave one talent. Also in this parable we are told that each servant was given only that which they were able to manage. In other words, no one was given a responsibility that was beyond their ability to handle.

When the master returned, he required an accounting from each servant of how well they had cared for their owner’s property and he discovered that two of the three servants had been faithful to the charge given them. In fact, their master praised them saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

However, the third servant was not as diligent in caring for his master’s property and gave as his excuse, “I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed, and I was afraid.” And indeed, the master was very hard on this servant for his lack of faithfulness and had no mercy on him as he took away all that the servant had and cast him out.

We are very familiar with this parable and yet we tend to see only the superficial meaning behind its story, but there is a profound message that Jesus was trying to teach that is often over looked. To understand what that message is we need to take a closer look at what is going on in this story.

At the very beginning, Jesus tells us that the story he’s about to tell is to help us better understand what the kingdom of heaven is like, which means Jesus wants us to relate what he’s about to say to what heaven’s expectations are for us. Therefore, as we read this parable, that is the perspective we need to keep in mind.

In the story it’s clear that Jesus is the man who is going to travel to a faraway country and that we, as believers in him, are his servants, and in the story the man gathers his servants together just before he departs on his journey and gives each of them a task, assignment, or a work to do while he is gone. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints each member is likewise given a task, assignment or work to do, which we refer to as a calling, that comes from the Lord by revelation through his appointed leaders. The purpose of every calling in the church, in one way or another, is meant to help build up Christ’s kingdom here on the earth.

In the parable we notice that each servant was not only given charge over of a specific portion of their master’s property, but we learn that as they carried out their duties they increased the portion they had been given. In fact, as we read of the master’s reaction when he returned, we see that this is what he expected them to do and apparently they understood this to be the reason why they were put in charge of his property.

We also see that Jesus gave each servant only that which they had the ability to manage. For example, the servant who was given charge over two talents was only given that much responsibility because they didn’t have the skill, ability, or talent to handle any more than this. On the other hand, the servant who was given five talents was capable of handling a larger task.

We see this same situation in the callings members of the LDS Church receive. When a person first joins the church they are given simple assignments to fulfill that are suited to their level of spiritual abilities, but as they grow in the church and show their willingness to take on more responsibilities, they are given opportunities to serve in greater capacities.

But, whatever talents we have, what the Lord looks for isn’t how much we do but how much effort we are willing to put forth in serving him. In the parable, the master’s praise of the servant who doubled his two talents was exactly same as that of the servant who double his five talents, and it would have been the same towards the servant who had one talent if he had doubled it. But, instead of increasing his master’s wealth, this servant was “slothful” in the performance of his duties.

God’s purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man and to make this possible he has established a church whose purpose is to allow each member to participate in helping God save his children. For this reason, we have been called upon to preach the gospel, redeem the dead, help perfect the saints, and care for the poor, needy, sick, and afflicted. Every calling in the church falls under one or more of these four categories.

It doesn’t matter whether we are called to serve as an usher, a ward librarian, a Primary secretary, a bishop, stake president, or an apostle, what God expects is that whatever duty or assignment he gives us, we will perform it in a way that helps people move closer towards Christ and become more like him, which will then assist them in gaining eternal life. And it is in this way that we help increase God’s kingdom.

But there is a crucial aspect in the parable of the talents that is often not recognized. That aspect has to do with the reason why each servant behaved as they did, but to better understand this principle, it might be helpful to look at a more modern situation.

In order to survive in the world, we need to earn money, and for most of us that means doing some kind of labor for someone. Whether it’s working for a large corporation or a small business, most people get paid for performing certain duties. However, whether we dread what we do or like it, for most people a job is just a job. It’s something we do to earn money so that we can afford to buy the things we need and want. In many cases it is also how we are able to obtain health insurance and other benefits that helps make life a little easier for us. For most employees, they look forward to their days off, vacation time, and holidays, and this is true even of people who are proud of the company they work for.

But then there is another group of people – a smaller group – who work for someone out of loyalty. In other words, the salary and benefits they receive are of secondary importance. What is most important to them is making sure that either the business itself or their boss succeeds. These kinds of people are dedicated and committed to doing whatever they can to help support those they work for, regardless of any personal sacrifice they may have to make.

One such example were the soldiers who fought under the leadership of Alexander the Great. He had a dream to unite the entire known world under his rule and to accomplish this dream he assembled a massive army where, for ten years, he led them into one battle after another. Back in those days soldiers fought for the wealth they could plunder from their vanquished enemies, and Alexander’s men certainly did that, but it is said that Alexander himself was so beloved and admired by his men that they would do anything he asked of them, and every one of them would have gladly given their life to save his. That kind of dedication and commitment comes from an unwavering loyalty to a leader or a cause.

Today we see men and women in the United States military who are willing to risk their lives in order to protect their country from those who seek to do us harm. Of course, they want to get paid for the work they do, and of course they want to come back safely from battle so they can be with their families, but they are willing to sacrifice all of that, if necessary, in order to defend our nation and its people.

In the parable of the talents, we get a sense of this kind of attitude with the first two servants. They were tasked with doing a job while their master was away, and the implication is that they did it, not just for the pay, or out of fear of being punished, but out of loyalty to their master.  When their master returned they were happy to show him what they had done, not because they were expecting a reward but from the satisfaction of hearing the joy it brought to their master. And we know how joyous the master was over what they had done because of the generous gift he bestowed upon each of them.

On the other hand, the third servant only did what he had to. Notice he said when asked why he didn’t increase his talents, “I was afraid.” Instead of trying to please his master, this servant was thinking only of his own situation. He was just doing a job for what was in it for him and felt no sense of loyalty to his employer. It didn’t bother him that his master’s wealth wasn’t increased. His fear was about being punished, not about disappointing his employer.

If Jesus is our master and we are his servants, then the message of this story is that Christ expects us to be loyal to him and commit ourselves to serving him out of a sense of love, adoration, and respect we have for him rather than because of the blessings we can get from him in payment for our labors. When we receive an assignment, calling, duty, or task from the Lord, what he expects is for us to increase his wealth (and it is the worth of souls that is most precious to him). The term the Lord uses that expresses this idea, and which is represented in the parable of the talents, is for us to magnify our calling, and it is those who do this who shall receive all that the Father has (D&C 84:33-38).

Furthermore, in the LDS Church when each person receives a calling, their name is presented before the congregation, who are then asked to “sustain” the person in their new calling. To sustain someone means to support and uphold them in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities. It is a pledge on our part that we will do whatever we can to help them be successful in the performance of their calling. But, Jesus also expects us to sustain him as he seeks to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. That means, whatever calling he gives us, he expects us to perform it in a way that shows our commitment and loyalty to him and his cause.

The scriptures are full of this message.  When asked what the greatest commandment was in the law, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). To love the Lord with all of our heart means giving everything we have to serving God. It means being dedicated in committing ourselves to fully doing whatever he asks of us.

Jesus told his disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The reason why Jesus wants us to keep his commandments is not out of fear of being punished or because of the blessings we get from being obedient, but simply because of our great love for him. At another time Jesus made a similar statement when he said, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say” (Luke 6:46). No one forces us to believe in Christ. The only reason why we would want to acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, thereby making him our master, is because we desire to be his servants. We serve him, not because we have to but because we want to. Thus, we keep his commandments gladly – not grudgingly – for no other reason than simply because of our love for him.

In our day Jesus has said, that it doesn’t matter what we do as long as what we do is done with an eye single to his glory (see D&C 27:2). To have an eye single to the glory of God means that everything we do should have one single purpose and that is to glorify God. Jesus expressed this same idea when he said “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). But to glorify God requires us to have such awe and reverence for Christ and feel so proud of him that we want everyone to know how glorious and wonderful he is, and it is only in this way that everything we do then becomes an expression of our love for him.

In the sacrament prayer (as well as at the time of our baptism) we commit to taking upon ourselves the name of Christ. When a woman marries a man, she willing takes upon herself the family name of her husband, thereby signifying that she belongs to him, and from then on she proudly identifies herself with her husband. In the same way, when we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, we are signifying to the world that we belong to him. And just as a wife is to be in subjection to her husband, not out of fear or a sense of duty, but out of love and respect for him, so also we are to be obedient to Christ, not because we have to but because we want to out of the love, respect, and admiration we have for him (Ephesians 5:23,24).

Throughout all the scriptures we repeatedly see the injunction to sing praises unto God, and we learn that this is what the angles in heaven do. The only servants who sing praises to their master are those who have a deep sense of reverence for those whom they serve and who want to honor them by giving them their complete loyalty and whole-hearted devotion.

As we see, the idea of serving Christ out of a deep sense of love, admiration, and gratitude rather than out of a sense of duty, is found all throughout the scriptures. We are not merely indentured servants, paying back a debt we owe Christ, nor are we paid employees who are working for the blessings we can get from heaven, but rather Christ expects us to serve him with loyalty, commitment, and dedication out of a deep sense of adoration.

This is the true meaning of worship.  It’s where we feel it an absolute privilege for him to consider us to be one of his servants and we want to do everything we can to please him. And to hear him say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” would be the greatest thrill of our life.

But, unfortunately, too often – far too often – we accept callings from the Lord with the attitude that it’s just a job for us to perform and we feel that the Lord will be pleased with whatever little effort we give him. Sometimes we behave as though we’re doing Christ a huge favor just by showing up to church every Sunday, and sometimes we feel that serving the Lord is an inconvenience, and so we grumble and complain about how much he asks of us. This was the attitude of the third servant in Christ’s parable, who only had to worry about taking care of one tiny small talent but who felt that was asking too much of him.

But there is still a further profound meaning in this parable. If it was meant to illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like then it gives us a deeper insight into what kind of people will inherit God’s kingdom. In the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants we’re told that those who are not valiant in the testimony of Christ will not inherit the celestial kingdom.

To be valiant means more than just gritting our teeth and enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God. As we have seen, being valiant means being faithful in our commitment and loyalty to Christ and in serving him with all of our heart, mind, and soul, with a single purpose of seeking to glorify him, and helping increase his glory and honor, not out of a sense of duty but out of the abundance of our love for him.

Yet our worship of Christ will not end once we enter into the celestial kingdom. Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Clearly, in heaven God’s will is done instantly, fully, gladly, and without complaining. In heaven the angles are constantly singing praises to Christ. If we cannot learn how to do that now, we will not find living in the celestial kingdom to be very pleasant. Instead of seeing the face of a joyous master, who is well pleased with us, we may find that Jesus is a very hard master who will view slothfulness as being wickedness and reward us by taking from us what we have and casting us out.

 

Related articles found at Nature of Salvation

 

Belonging to the church of Christ

Summary: In the not too distant past it was taught that unless a person belonged to a particular church, they would not go to heaven when they died. However, today most Protestant religions teach that Jesus did not establish a formal organization known as a “church.” Instead they say that it is the entire “body of believers” throughout the world that constitutes “the church.” According to this belief, our salvation doesn’t depend on which religious denomination we belong to. This article examines what the church of Christ is and its relationship to our salvation.    

One day, as the disciples of Jesus were talking with him, he told them, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).   

 In the not too distant past it was taught that unless a person belonged to a particular church, they would not go to heaven when they died. In fact, even today, the Catholic Church teaches that unless someone has been baptized into their church by one of their authorized priests, when they die they will go to hell. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century the Church of England taught that anyone who was not a member of that religious organization was likewise destined for hell. Therefore, if a person was excommunicated from one of these churches it was felt that their soul was being condemned to spend eternity with the devil and his angels in a lake of fire and brimstone where they would face a life of endless torment. In other words, salvation only came through being a member of a particular church.      

 However, modern-day Protestants point to the verse just quoted as biblical evidence that Jesus did not establish a formal organization known as a “church.” It is their understanding that when someone accepts Christ as their personal Savior, he accepts them as his children and they automatically become sons and daughters of God. According to this doctrine, belonging to the family of God is the same as belonging to the church of God. Therefore, when two or three Christians meet together to have a Bible study, or simply sit around talking with one another about the gospel, they are having “church.”   

 The Greek word that is translated as church is ekklesia, which is defined as “a company of Christians; those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body; the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth” (Strong’s Concordance). From this, modern Protestants teach that it is the entire “body of believers” throughout the world that constitutes “the church,” and not a particular formal religious organization.   

 This idea is further reinforced when Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God is not something that is observable but “is within you” (Luke 17:20,21). In other words, it is said that the kingdom or church of God is not something tangible or physical that is found in a specific location that can be seen and touched with human senses but is something spiritual that resides within the heart of every believer.  For this reason, Protestants teach that belonging to a specific religious denomination has no effect upon a person’s salvation. The only thing that matters is our faith and belief in Jesus Christ.  

 From this they conclude that it doesn’t matter to God if someone is a Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, or any other Christian believing faith. Instead, what matters to him is whether or not they believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, that he is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for their sins, and that he rose from the dead.   

 In fact, many people say that belonging to an organized church is the opposite of what Jesus and the apostles taught. They say that in the earliest days of the Christian faith, the believers met together as small groups in the home of an individual where they informally shared their faith with one another. Then, as persecution increased and being a Christian became a crime, they would secretly meet in underground caves known as catacombs.   

 Furthermore, it is said that instead of religious organizations bringing people closer to God, they force people to follow man-made rules, dogmas, and ceremonial requirements, that only turn people into hypocrites who are intolerant of others. Others believe that organized religions act more as a middle man between us and God thereby preventing us from interacting directly with God. Still others contend that those believers in Christ who don’t adhere to a particular faith with its mandatory creeds, codes, and philosophies, actually become better Christians.   

 In contrast, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that not only did Jesus establish a formal church organization with apostles at its head, who guided and led the church, but it also consisted of officers known as bishops who did the same in their particular city under the direction of the apostles. Under their supervision were other offices known as elders, deacons, and teachers, all of whom were priests which gave them the divine authority to act in behalf of Christ.   

 In the New Testament the term “kingdom of God” is used eight-five times and while most people think this is referring to heaven, the LDS Church declares that their organization is that kingdom here on earth. To understand why we need to understand what a kingdom is.  

 First and foremost, a kingdom is a form of government that is ruled over by a king who reigns supreme over all things that are contained within his area of control. For example, the King of England only rules over the land known as England. However, he has no power or authority over the area of France, Italy, Spain, or any other nation. Furthermore, everyone who lives in the area over which the king rules is subject to his laws, decrees, and pronouncements.   

 In heaven, God is the king and all those who live there are likewise subject to his laws, decrees, and pronouncements. As Christians we believe that Jesus is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22) and as his obedient servants we are to be in subjection to his laws, commandments, and pronouncements. In addition to this, as Christians we believe that Jesus is directing, controlling, and guiding his church. Furthermore, we believe that Jesus is the king of kings. Thus, his church fits the definition of a kingdom.  

 But a kingdom is made up of more than just a king. In fact, the larger the kingdom, the more bureaucracy is needed to administer it, meaning there is a hierarchy of people who oversee the functioning of the kingdom. For example, in the kingdom of England there were Lords, Dukes, Earls, and other titles conferred upon people for the purpose of giving them authority to manage various estates or lands that belonged to the king.   

 In heaven we read about archangels and angles, who are further divided into various responsibilities such as ministering angels, guardian angels, and warrior angels, all of whom do the will of God, their king, As we have already seen, in the earliest Christian church we find a hierarchy of apostles, prophets,  bishops, elders, deacons, and teachers. As the church grew in population it became necessary for further layers of supervision to be added, and as this happened we see the formation of what has come to be known as the Catholic, or universal church. In that organization we have at its head the Pope, and under him the college of Cardinals, then archbishops, bishops, and priests. Likewise, in the LDS Church there is a President at its head, with a quorum of twelve apostles. Under them is a quorum of general authorities, then regional authorities, stake presidents, and bishops, all of who follow the chain of command that comes from of Jesus Christ, their king.  

 The apostle Paul wrote that the purpose for having a church organization that is made up of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12,13).   

 The same apostle wrote that there is to be “one faith [and] one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). But it is impossible for believers everywhere to come to a unity of the faith and for the entire body of Christ to be edified in a way that we can become perfect if every Christian is working independently from all other Christians with no one guiding or supervising their spiritual growth. That is not how the early Christian church operated as evidenced by the epistles the apostles wrote that were meant to give guidance, direction, and clarification on what Christians were to believe. In fact, the very reason why today there are literally tens of thousands of different Christians churches with each one teaching different doctrines about salvation is precisely because there is no organizational structure that unites them into one faith.   

 In order for there to be a unity of the faith whereby we can all come to a correct knowledge of the Son of God and a means by which we can be helped to measure up to the full stature of Christ, there has to be some sort of governing body that unites all believers into one collective, cohesive community where they can be spiritually cared for, watched over, taught the correct doctrines of Christ, and helped in their spiritual growth. Clearly, this is not happening among today’s fractured and disjointed Christian community where each religious faith seeks to gain converts to their own particular belief.  

 Therefore, it is evident how vitally important it is that people belong to Christ’s one true church if they expect to inherit the kingdom of God in heaven, otherwise it doesn’t matter what someone believes about Jesus and his teachings. For example, Jesus taught “except a man be born of the water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:5). Obviously, our salvation is dependent on following this injunction but there is much disagreement among Christians as to exactly what Jesus meant by this statement.   

 Some say being born of the water means we need to be baptized in order to be saved, while others say this merely refers to our physical birth. Among those who say it means being baptized, some say that it doesn’t matter who does the baptizing and others say it does. Some say that the way we are born of the Spirit is by having a priest confer the Holy Ghost on us through a ritual known as an ordinance, while others say it means that God’s Spirit descends upon us automatically the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior, while others say it comes after we have been baptized, while others say that it comes as we yield our heart to Christ.  As we have already seen, Christians can’t even agree upon the definition of what constitutes Christ’s church, let alone what Christ taught about salvation. 

 Some people say that the Jehovah Witness and the Mormon churches aren’t really Christian because of what they believe about who Jesus is and yet both of these faiths strongly proclaim that they are teaching the correct message of salvation that Jesus proclaimed. If it doesn’t matter what church we belong to then it doesn’t matter what we believe about being born of the water and of the Spirit, keeping the commandments, repenting, or any other of the many doctrines being taught about salvation. In other words, if we believe that belonging to a church isn’t necessary for salvation then we are forced to conclude that Jesus will let us into heaven no matter what we believe about him or his message.    

 But if we say that what we believe about salvation has to be correct in order to inherit eternal life, then it must be equally true that we must belong to that faith which teaches the same doctrines that Jesus proclaimed. And if that is true, then our salvation has to be dependent on us belonging to the one true church of Christ, according to the correct meaning of the word “church.”    

 And, in fact, this was what the apostles themselves taught. As we read their epistles we find that most of them were written to correct false teachings about salvation that were infecting the church. If it wasn’t for the apostles, the early Christian church would have splintered into many different sects and, in fact, that is exactly what happened after the apostles ceased to exist. If this is not true then the Catholic Church has to be Christ’s true church. To say that it isn’t is to admit that it has strayed from the teachings of Christ, which is exactly what started the Protestant reformation movement.  And even today, many Protestants churches believe that most of the other Christian churches have strayed from the truth except their own.   

 This is why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints boldly declares that Jesus has restored his church organization in these latter days, with living apostles and prophets who are able to keep his followers united in the faith and help perfect the saints so they can be helped to eventually measure up to the full stature of Christ. This is why they can confidently declare that it is only through belonging to Christ’s true church that salvation is possible.  

 However, there is a more profound reason why our salvation is dependent upon us belonging to the right church than just believing in the right things about how to be saved.   

 In the kingdom of God, there is a king who rules over all of those who accept him as their king. This is not only true in heaven, but it is just as true on earth. The reason why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth is because it is ruled over by the very same king who rules in heaven and those who accept Jesus as not only their Savior but their Lord and Master have willingly submitted themselves to his authority to rule over them.   

Thus, those who have become part of Christ’s church aren’t merely members of a religious organization but are citizens of the kingdom of God (Ephesian 2:19). As such, they are not only entitled to certain rights and privileges but as loyal citizens they have also taken upon themselves the obligation to fulfill certain duties and responsibilities. However, those responsibilities don’t go away once we have died.  

What that means is, if the LDS church is the kingdom of God here on earth and when we die we hope to go to heaven, then when we get there we will continue to be part of the same kingdom of God as we belonged to here on earth. However, if we don’t become part of that kingdom while we are alive in mortality we will not belong to it when we die. In other words, to be part of the kingdom of God in heaven, Jesus calls us to voluntarily and willingly join his kingdom now by pledging our allegiance and obedience to him. If we refuse to accept his offer or we are not faithful in living up to the promises we made to him, then we are refusing to become part of his kingdom in heaven. In that case, we cannot live in heaven where Christ reigns as king because we rejected him as our king here on earth (see Luke 19-14). 

The key to understanding this concept is to realize that the kingdom of God and the Church of Christ are not two separate and distinct organizations. Rather, they are one and the same. A kingdom and a church both have the same objective, which is to govern a large number of people. For example, as Moses lead the children of Israel through the wilderness, he soon discovered that he could not manage that many people by himself so he organized them into small groups with a hierarchy of judges to watch over them, with himself being the chief judge and ruler.  

The scriptures tell us that in heaven there are an innumerable company of angels and the only way God can govern that many beings is through some kind of an organized structure such as what Moses had and, in fact, as we have already seen, in heaven there is a hierarchy of ranks among the angels. We also see that same kind of organizational structure in the Church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, whether we refer to that organization as a kingdom, church, divine government, or by some other name to describe it, we are still referring to the same institution where God reigns as king and everyone else in it are his obedient servants.  

The scriptures further tell us that those who are saved in heaven are “just men [who have been] made perfect” and who belong “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23). Since Jesus is God’s firstborn, therefore, all those who inherit eternal life will belong to the church of the firstborn or, in other words, the church of Jesus Christ. As Paul has said, the purpose of the church that Jesus established on earth is for the “perfecting of the saints,” but once we become perfect we will continue to be part of that same church forever in heaven. Furthermore, it is doubtful that the eternal church of Jesus Christ will be divided into competing denominations as we see today among the thousands of Protestant organizations, therefore it is obvious that there can only be one true such church. 

But, as citizens of the Church of Jesus Christ, what will we be doing in heaven? In other words, what kind of duties and responsibilities will we have? Most Christians answer by saying that all we will be doing in heaven is singing praises to God throughout all eternity as we express our unbounded gratitude for him allowing us the undeserved privilege of living with him.  

However, Jesus told us to lay up our treasures in heaven where rust and moth can’t corrupt (Matthew 6:20). But what kind of treasure are we storing in heaven ahead of our arrival there if all we will be doing is singing praises to God? The scriptures also tell us that we have a great reward waiting for us in heaven (Matthew 5:12; Luke 6:23), but what is that reward? Is it just the fact that we made it to heaven so we can spend eternity singing? Yet the scriptures tell us that God will reward everyone according to their work (Matthew 16:27). Clearly that implies that some people will receive a greater reward than others. And since a reward is something we get for something we’ve done or earned, what works must we do to receive a better reward than someone else? Most Christians don’t have even an inkling how to answer these questions. 

The scriptures tell us that Jesus was exalted to sit on the right hand of God (Acts 5:31; Philippians 2:9), and yet they also tell us that he who humbles himself shall also be exalted (Luke 18:14; 1 Peter 5:6). Does that mean we too shall become as exalted as Jesus and sit on the right hand of God?  

The Protestant world denies this interpretation but they have no explanation for what it means for us to become exalted, Yet, there are numerous places in the New Testament where it talks about those going to heaven as receiving a crown, but the only people who wear a crown are kings and their queens. And, in fact, the scriptures tell us that those who inherit eternal life will be made “kings and priests unto God” (Revelation 1:6 – and surely women will become queens and priestesses) and that they will sit on thrones (Matthew 19:28; Revelation 3:21). Is that what our reward will be, and if so, does that mean some kings will have more power and authority than other kings?  

The Protestant world has no answer to these questions but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does because God has revealed that knowledge to his church. In our day he has said, “This…is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom; which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son” (D&C 88:4,5). “Verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same and are the church of the Firstborn (D&C 93:21,22). 

What this revelation tells us is that those who belong to the church of the Firstborn and have been faithful to him will become partakers of the same glory that Christ and his Father have and will sit on thrones and reign with them (Revelation 5:10). The apostle Paul similarly wrote that “if [we are] children [of God], then [we are] heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17).  

To be “joint-heirs with Christ” means that we jointly inherit everything that Jesus has inherited, which is the full glory of the Father. And when that happens then we will all be “glorified together.” This is what the apostle John meant when he wrote, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doeth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).

An entire book could be written about what that means and what we will be doing in heaven as glorified kings and priests unto God, but the short answer is that what we are doing here on earth is merely building the foundation for what we will be doing in heaven. Since a foundation is not the structure itself but is what the structure is built upon, what we as members of Christ’s true church are doing now is preparing ourselves to do something in the future that is far grander and much more magnificent than anything we can presently comprehend.   

It is by serving in Christ’s church while here in mortality that allows us to learn the rudimentary principles of godliness that we will build upon when we become heavenly kings and queens, priests and priestesses unto Christ where we will spend our time assisting him in building his eternal kingdom that will continue to grow and expand throughout the rest of eternity. This is what all the covenants we make in the temples of the Lord are all about.   

But without our membership in Christ’s true church and our commitment to serving him while here in mortality there can be no foundation on which to build such a glorious future. As such, our salvation truly does depend on us belonging to the Church of Christ.  

 

Related articles can be found at The Nature of Salvation