At some point, for all true believers in Christ, the most pressing religious question that emerges is whether or not one’s spiritual or religious efforts are acceptable to God. It seems, also, that those having fallen prey to false and vain religious practices consistently develop an answer to that question which relies on their own assessment of their efforts, rather than pressing forward for a more objective, meaningful response from God.
A couple of weeks ago in Church, our Priesthood instructor asked if it was fair to assume that we were all headed to the celestial kingdom even though none of us had gone through trials anything like what other known recipients of exaltation (like Abraham or Joseph Smith, for example) had been required to pass through. The reaction was strong and indignant. One brother postulated that we had not been called to pass through such hardships, while others had, because others (like Abraham and Joseph Smith) had needed to go through such trials, while we do not. This orientation hearkens back to the Gospel of Blessings, which is linked closely to the Gospel of Cushiness, in which the ease of a soft life is desired above all (i.e. prayed for, hoped for, and even expected among the devout), and generally seen as a sign of God’s validation among the religiously ineffective.
That’s why Mormon’s words at the end of the Book of Mormon are so valuable:
“it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” (Moroni 7:37; see verses 35-38)
Angels serve as a clear, objective way to know whether one’s religion is active or inert. If there are angels involved in your life, your religion is working. If there are no angels, there is no faith, your religion is broken, and you are deluding yourself to believe otherwise. That’s why this blog carries the name it does. If we as Latter-day Saints are so dang holy then how come there are no angels showing up any more? I am not a holy person. My religion is, so far, vain and ineffective. But at least I recognize it. At least I hope and long for more. At least I recognize my nothingness before God and hope and pray that one day He will help me overcome my faithlessness.
There is a way out. It was made clear under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Lectures on Faith:
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. … It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain a knowledge that they are accepted of him…From the days of righteous Able to the present time, the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God is obtained by offering sacrifice…Those, then, who make this sacrifice, will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God; and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and through the knowledge thus obtained their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible;…But those who have not made this sacrifice to God do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty to their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty are there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. (see Lectures, Sixth Lecture, paragraphs 7-12, pp. 58-59).