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May 5, 2013

Worthiness and Recovery

How does worthiness fit into recovery? What is worthiness? Is there a difference between being worthy to take the sacrament and worthy to go to heaven if I died today?

I have talked with men that are going to the PASG program and are finding abstinence and sobriety from their addiction, but they are still not authorized to go to the temple, or perhaps to take the sacrament. There are others who have been excommunicated from the church, but are now striving as hard as they can to become re-baptized. I'm sure they have asked themselves: "if I'm not currently authorized to go to the temple, am I still worthy to go to heaven if I died today?"

I suppose the answer to the question comes down to the heart of the individual. Could I go to heaven if I were called to die today?  Can we accurately judge peoples hearts? To attempt to make a final judgement about a persons heart is a privilege set aside only for God. Can I judge the current condition of my own heart? Perhaps, but, I am often far too critical of myself, and I'm not always in a position to determine my desires. I am certainly not in a position to determine if I am worthy all by myself. If I am fresh in recovery, then I am really not able to clearly see anything. 

Marvin J Ashton said on this topic:

"We do not have to be hindered by self-judgment. All of us have the benefit and added wisdom of a bishop and a stake president to help us determine our worthiness and, if necessary, to assist us to begin the process of becoming worthy to accomplish whatever goal we wish to achieve. When we take it upon ourselves to pass self-judgment and simply declare, “I am not worthy,” we build a barrier to progress and erect blockades that prevent our moving forward. We are not being fair when we judge ourselves. A second and third opinion will always be helpful and proper.
It occurs to me that there are probably hundreds or even thousands who do not understand what worthiness is. Worthiness is a process, and perfection is an eternal trek. We can be worthy to enjoy certain privileges without being perfect."

Dallin H Oaks said:

"From all of this we see that the final judgment is the Lord’s and that mortals must refrain from judging any human being in the final sense of concluding or proclaiming that he or she is irretrievably bound for hell or has lost all hope of exaltation."

It appears that there is a difference between intermediate judgement and final judgement. When a bishop tells you that you are not worthy to take the sacrament, it is because he is making an authorized intermediate judgement that is intended to help you return to the path of complete fellowship. The same goes for excommunication. These are all intermediate judgements that are made by authorized priesthood leaders. They are not final judgements and we should never take them as such. Nothing is final in this life, and we cannot make final judgements about our own personal worthiness to enter the celestial kingdom. 

I don't think that I should be quick to make final judgements in any sense, of myself or of others. 

"In the past I had a picture in my mind of what the final judgment would be like, and it went something like this: Jesus standing there with a clipboard and Brad standing on the other side of the room nervously looking at Jesus.
Jesus checks His clipboard and says, “Oh, shoot, Brad. You missed it by two points.”
Brad begs Jesus, “Please, check the essay question one more time! There have to be two points you can squeeze out of that essay.” That’s how I always saw it.
But the older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.”
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. "

Marvin J Ashton also said:

"When we dwell on our own weaknesses, it is easy to dwell on the feelings that we are unworthy. Somehow we need to bridge the gap between continually striving to improve and yet not feeling defeated when our actions aren’t perfect all the time. We need to remove unworthy from our vocabulary and replace it with hope and work. This we can do if we turn to quieter, deeper, surer guidelines—the words of our prophets and leaders, past and present.

As we measure our worthiness, let us no longer put limitations upon ourselves. Rather, let us use those strengths and powers that are available to make us worthy to gain great heights in personal development. Thus we will reap the joy that comes to those who desire to improve and move forward with determination and effectiveness as they practice self-discipline and refuse to judge themselves as unworthy."

Worthiness is something that I should work towards, but it is not something that I can judge in myself. God is the only one who can allow me to enter heaven. He makes final judgements. Humans (including priesthood leaders) are only authorized to make intermediate judgements. It is how I react to the intermediate judgements that will ultimately demonstrate my willingness. If my heart is humble and accepting of the Lords will and the counsel of his authorized servants, then I will be back on the pathway that will lead to God's Kingdom. As I become more comfortable with God and less comfortable with sin, I will be able to have the confidence and assurance that I will be saved by his matchless mercy and love. 

The way for me to assess my current spiritual situation is to ask myself the soul searching questions. Depending on the answer, I should reaffirm my dedication to the Lord. The answers to these questions are simply for spot checking my spiritual condition. Much the same as when someone checks their heart rate during a workout. Their heart rate cannot indicate their overall health condition. Judgement about physical health conditions are made by a doctor. In the same way, I should allow God (the ultimate doctor) to make the prognosis about my spiritual health. He will make a fair and final judgement in his own time and in his own way. Until then, I should continue to check my simple vital signs by asking myself the questions in Alma 5. Meantime, I just need to keep doing the best that I can and not worry too much about questions that I cannot fully answer at this time. 

I believe that it is very possible to not have a temple recommend and/or not be taking the sacrament, but still be in a position to be saved in the kingdom of God if you were to die during the "process" of repentance. If you are trying your very best to return to full spiritual health, and you desire recovery more than anything else, then you can have trust in the Lord that he will make a perfect judgement that you will both agree on at the day. Recovery is simple if you will keep it that way. I hope that this study about worthiness can help other addicts as it has helped me.