In my scripture study and as a member of the Church for many years, I have noticed a marked difference between valiant service and honorable service among the members. I have come to realize that the distinction between the two is an important and crucial one for the eternities.
In speaking of those who will occupy the terrestrial kingdom, the Lord said:
These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.
These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.
These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.
Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.
These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God” (D&C 76:75-79).
These verses include members of the Church who had a testimony of Jesus given to them by the Holy Ghost. President Benson said, “Not to be valiant in one’s testimony is a tragedy of eternal consequence. These are members who know that this latter-day work is true but who fail to endure to the end. Some may even hold temple recommends, but they do not magnify their callings in the Church. Without valor, they do not take an affirmative stand for the kingdom of God. Some seek the praise, adulation, and honors of men; others attempt to conceal their sins; and a few criticize those who preside over them” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Bookcraft, 1988, 392-393).
The parable of the ten virgins found in Matthew 25 also refers to the Latter-day Saints. Half of the membership of the Church will not be prepared when they meet the Savior. All ten of the virgins had their lamp of testimony, but only five had the oil of conversion acquired through daily valiant faith and obedience. Half of the members of the Church will not have their lamps filled with the oil of faith and obedience. Half will not have the power to abide His presence.
Matthew 7:22-23 says, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? [and been stake presidents, bishops, Relief Society presidents, teachers, etc.] and in thy name done many wonderful works?” Yet to all such He will say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” The Prophet Joseph Smith changed that to read, “Ye never knew me; depart from me ye that work iniquity” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 7:33).
President John Taylor in commenting on this declaration from the Lord said, “You say that means the outsiders? No, it does not. Do they do many wonderful works in the name of Jesus? No; . . . This means you, Latter-day Saints, who heal the sick, cast out devils [and take casseroles, do visiting or home teaching, or go on missions] and do many wonderful things in the name of Jesus. And yet how many we see among this people of this class, that become careless, and treat lightly the ordinances of God’s house and the Priesthood of the Son of God” (Salt Lake Stake Conference, January 6, 1879, as cited in The Doctrine and Covenants, by Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, Revised Edition, Deseret Book, 1978, 462).
Religion Lived as a Tradition
For many years, our family lived in the Middle East, at the heart of three of the world’s great religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. During that time, we began to realize that a religion can be lived as a tradition rather than a vibrant faith. Millions are born to a religious way of life that means little more to them than a social culture.
We began to see how our own religion could also be lived as a tradition, a cultural experience rather than a deeply religious and faithful one. We began to recognize the difference between traditional, honorable service in the Church, and faithful, valiant service.
The distinguishing characteristic between the two seems to lie in a person’s motives and desires. Our reasons for being members of this Church mark us as valiant or honorable.
Why do we do what we do in the Church? Do we have a “club” mentality? Do we belong because this is a great family Church? Do we admire it for its remarkable health laws? Do we carry out our callings to show our loyalty, or for a perfect record? Do we go on missions because it is the tradition?
Maybe the commonly-pronounced testimonial, “I know that this Church is true,” is not such a significant statement. Even the devils can say that, as well as the original Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon who never denied their testimonies, yet they spent much of the latter part of their lives outside the Church. Perhaps knowing, loving, and appreciating all the programs of the Church is not so essential to our salvation. Why? Because membership and “activity” in the Church itself does not sanctify, redeem, or save anyone. Mosiah 3:17 tells us that there is only one name under heaven whereby salvation can come to the children of men, and that is the name of Jesus Christ.
Cain, in the family of Adam and Eve, was an “active” member of the Church. He made sacrifices in keeping with the traditions of the time. His mistake was that he did not bring the required sacrifice; he did not sacrifice out of a love for the Savior. He was just fulfilling his dutiful tradition. He had no faith that giving up something would lead to greater knowledge of the Savior. Cain did not care about the Savior.
At the core of all we do within this Church, must be a great desire to gain knowledge about the Savior, to want to be like He is, and to have His transforming power in our lives. In the absence of such love, we are merely following traditions, perhaps too secure in our “activity” in the Church.
This is not to say that the Church isn’t necessary.