Definition #1: Do we have "value?" Are we "worthy" in the sense that "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" (D&C 18:10)?
Yes! Our worth is not measured in dollars but in the blood price paid by Christ for our ransom, which was infinite and eternal.
Under #1, when we're asked if we are "worthy," the answer is an unequivocal, "Christ showed me I sure am!"
Definition of "Worthy" #2:
On the other hand, if we mean we are "worthy" because of our righteousness, then we might have missed the entire point of the gospel.
Are we worthy of adulation and praise? Are we holy and honorable?
Well, let's make a guess as to who is "worthy" according to the scriptures:
Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book.
And I heard the voice . . . Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.
(Revelation 5:2-5, 11-12)
Under Definition #2, none of us is "worthy" (except for Christ).
In fact, Alma commanded his son, "Acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times" (Alma 38:14).
So if someone asks us if we're "worthy" under #2, the answer is an unequivocal "Hell no!"
What Should a "Worthiness Interview Look Like?
Imagine being welcomed into the bishop's office and he says:
Bishop: [Definition #1] I want to tell you how valuable you are, both to the Lord and to your brothers and sisters in the ward. Your worth is great. You are "worthy." We love you. How can I help? [End of Interview]
Bishop: [Definition #2] As you know, we are all unworthy in comparison to our Lord's remarkable righteousness and virtue. I say with Paul, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Tim. 1:15).But I am so glad you have chosen to follow our Savior, and I want to bear your burdens with you. How can I help? [End of Interview]
What Does It Mean to be "Temple-Worthy?"
Of all people, Latter-day Saints seem obsessed with the idea of personal "worthiness" (which is likely an indication of how worthy we really are).
There is actually a third definition of "worthy":
3. Something fit for a specific purpose.
For example, a ship is "seaworthy" when it is constructed, outfitted, manned and ready for a voyage at sea.
But remember, a vessel is not required to be in perfect condition in order to be "seaworthy."
(Maybe the interviewer for temple worthiness is applying this definition?)
Judges in Israel Bishops are called "judges in Israel."
In American Jurisprudence, the three pillars of the judiciary are:
2. Impartiality; and
What did Jesus mean when He said, "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man" (John 8:15)?
And when Jesus said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24)?
Ummm. Aren't most of our "judgments" based on mortal appearances?
How Do We Judge Something "Eternal?"
Are we capable of judging that which is infinite and eternal (by which I mean, each other)?
Usually we think of "eternal" as endlessness.
After all, eternal means to "exist forever; without beginning or end."
But there is another aspect of "eternal" which I think is equally important: "something valid for all time; essentially unchanging."
So we're looking for something that (1) exists forever; and (2) is unchanging.
Do we qualify?
Here's a list I came up with of things that appear to be eternal (maybe you can add to it):
1. God and His word (Moses 1:4).
2. Intelligence, or light and truth (D&C 93:29).
3. Priesthood (Alma 13:7).
4. Christ's atonement and pure love (Alma 34:10).
. Our spirits (D&C 93:23).
. The elements (D&C 93:33).
I wasn't too sure about #5 and #6 because although we exist forever, we seem to "change."
But didn't Christ "change" when he took a mortal body?
How can something be unchanging, and yet change?
D&C 93:33 says:
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy.
Do the elements change when they combine with other elements (like Hydrogen when combined with Oxygen)?
In chemical reactions, atoms are rearranged into different molecules but they do not change their essential properties.
Are we like atoms (our eternal intelligences) who, through the process of being "added upon" (Abraham 3:26), can create new "molecules?"
The Celestial Law
In temple worthiness interviews we are dealing with each other's eternal spirits.
But aren't we also dealing with eternal laws?
What if being "judges in Israel" was less about judging people as it was judging whether something is eternal?
Hmmm. Let's pause for a second because this is sort of a big deal.
1. Celestial laws are by nature eternal. This means they are (1) valid across time and space; and (2) are unchanging. (Think of "they have changed mine everlasting ordinance.")
2. Is there any reason why, to qualify to enter the temple, we would need to follow anything other than the Celestial law?
3. Christ said:
I give unto you this commandment that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord.
[What is the "law" of Christ?]
And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection.
4. Let's consider the Celestial law of sacrifice.
5. This can be confusing because there is also a law of sacrifice associated with the Terrestial and Telestial kingdoms.
6. If each kingdom has a "law of sacrifice" that is different, then how do we know which law of sacrifice we're talking about?
7. In order to be exalted, do we have to live the Celestial law of sacrifice, or can we be exalted by following one of the lesser laws of sacrifice?
What is the Celestial Law of Sacrifice?
What are we taught in Sunday School lessons on the law of sacrifice?
Pay tithing? Serve others? Adam sacrificing a lamb obediently?
But what is the Celestial law of sacrifice?
Adam and Moses sacrificed animals in similitude (or as a type) of the Celestial law, sure, but the Celestial law of sacrifice requires something more than animal sacrifice, right?
For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
Christ showed us what it means to live the law of sacrifice on a Celestial-level.
He said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
(Is He referring to his death or his birth?)
Jesus also said, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25).
I think this shows that the laws of the Celestial Kingdom relate to Condescension.
Covenants are Not Cumulative
Perhaps we should remember that covenants are not cumulative ― they are cyclical.
Because, you know, God's course is "one eternal round." So the "covenant path" is not linear.
(Think of birth and rebirth . . . worlds without end.)
To put the law of the Celestial Kingdom in context, we're talking about the path that the Gods themselves walk, the ordinances which They keep.
They are gods, even the sons of God -- Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come.
The Lectures on Faith say something about Christ being the prototype of an exalted Man.
What does that mean for us, and the Celestial law of sacrifice?
Would Christ pass the current temple recommend interview?
In the temple, we covenant to live:
1. The Law of Sacrifice
2. The Law of the Gospel
3. The Law of Consecration
These laws (dare I repeat myself) are not chronological; they do not stack on top of each other as if one is greater than the other.
When Nephi beheld the Condescension of God, he finally understood, "it is the love of God" (1 Nephi 11:22).
Charity is the "greatest of all."
In other words, love is condescension.
We covenant to love others through lowering ourselves to lift them up.
The Lamb is Worthy
The Lion of Judah was worthy to open the seals because he chose to become a Lamb.
All of the covenants we make are intended to cause us to descend beneath all things so we may ascend up.
What does all of this have to do with Temple Recommends?
Well, remember what we said about the Celestial law being that which is by God's word, or eternal?
Is Tithing eternal? (See my Series, "Thou Hast Made an End of Tithing" for an in-depth discussion of Tithing).
Is the Word of Wisdom eternal?
Objection, Your Honor!
Someone might say, "But Tim, can't Christ command us through his prophet to live a lesser law? President Heber J. Grant had good cause, I am sure, to make the Word of Wisdom a formal commandment."
Sure He can. But what if God only gave "lesser" laws to his children to their condemnation?
Rather than a "pass," what if it were actually a "curse?"
We labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.
I mean, the Law of Moses was a step backwards. It was not what Moses wanted. He wanted to bring his people into the presence of God (the celestial law).
But the Israelites refused, so they ended up with a lesser law and its incumbent lesser blessings.
But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
And the lesser priesthood continued, which [was] . . . the law of carnal commandments.
(D&C 84:24, 27)
So the real question is, Why would "carnal commandments" be the standard for granting entry into the Lord's House?