Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen – Chapter 3
THE DIVINE LAW OF RESTORATION
By defining freedom as the power and opportunity to affect the freedom of others, we are able to see the necessity of the existence of that fundamental law of intelligent existence which decrees that those who would deny freedom to others shall lose their own, and those who seek to increase the freedom of others shall have their own increased.
The punitive side of this law was recognized by Abraham Lincoln in the following statement.
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and under a just God, cannot long retain it.
The complete statement of the law was given by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount:
The prophet Alma explained this divine law of restoration to his son, Corianton, in some detail. Let us consider some of his words:
And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good. And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil…the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful…. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all. (Alma 41:3, 4, 13, 15)
Why is it that the justice of God demands that those who have committed evil must have evil restored to them? Or, defining evil as the destruction of freedom, why is it that those who have undertaken to destroy the freedom of others must lose their own? Is this merely an act of divine revenge, or is there some fundamental reason which requires the execution of this law?
Let us first consider the problem from the viewpoint of those who would be the victims. If those who desire to use their freedom to destroy the freedom of others were to have their powers and opportunities to do so continually increased, then joy, the object of existence, would be unattainable. In its place misery would prevail because, as we have seen above, the denial of freedom is the very essence of unhappiness.
Now let us consider the matter from the viewpoint of those who are punished with a loss of their freedom. Are their interests best served by having their freedom taken from them? Or must we conclude that the interests of men are basically antagonistic so that the evil-doer must be harmed to prevent unjust suffering by those whose freedom he would destroy?
In trying to answer this question, let us first recall that we have defined evil as the motivating force which causes people to destroy freedom. But those motivated by evil are themselves miserable. No one has ever seen a person motivated exclusively by hate, envy, lust, etc. who was happy. The more intense the hate and the desire to destroy others, the greater the misery. Wickedness never was happiness. (Alma 41:10) For the good of such a person, his capacity to destroy freedom should be decreased.
Thus it is seen that men’s interests are harmonious. It is for the benefit of everyone concerned that those who seek to destroy freedom shall have their power and opportunity to do so diminished. Furthermore, where repentance is possible, there is an additional reason for taking freedom from those who abuse it. The loss of any of the elements of freedom is painful to bear and one who is called upon to suffer such a loss may come to recognize the error of his ways and repent of his evil desires.
In contrast to that part of the law of restoration which requires a diminution of the freedom of the evil doer, let us observe the operation of the law on behalf of those who work only righteousness. One who would act only to increase freedom may safely have his powers to do so increased without limit.
Having in mind the divine law of restoration, let us re-examine the definition of good and evil given above which labels as evil acts which destroy the elements of freedom, and as good, those acts which provide or protect them. It is immediately apparent that such a definition is incomplete as it stands. Someone must enforce the law of retribution and, in doing so, must destroy the elements of freedom in the process. To preserve freedom it is imperative that those who act with the purpose of destroying it should have their power and opportunity to do so curtailed. Thus, it is justifiable and proper to destroy another’s freedom under this circumstance—to execute the law of retribution.
In commanding man to utilize the police power to punish criminals, the Lord directed him to learn His law of justice and co-operate with Him in executing it here on earth. When a person breaks a criminal law by destroying life, liberty, property, or knowledge, the Lord wants us to punish such a person by depriving him of one or more of these elements of freedom.
If we destroy these elements for any other reason, the law of retribution operates on us to cause a loss of our own freedom. This, then, is the answer to the great problem of government: under what circumstances does a group have the moral right to deprive their fellow man of his life, liberty, or property?
We desire to more fully discuss the Lord’s answer to this question but before doing so, let us take a more comprehensive view of the operation of the law of retribution. Let us note its enforcement in both the pre-mortal and the post-mortal life, as it applies to the right to exercise the power of the Priesthood.
THE DIVINE LAW OF RETRIBUTION AND THE EXERCISE OF PRIESTHOOD POWER
In the pre-earth life, God offered His children His divine power, the Priesthood. (Alma 13:3–4). This power has been described by President Brigham Young in these words:
The Priesthood of the Son of God is the law by which the worlds are, were and will continue forever and ever. It is that system which brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their seasons and times by which they…go into a higher state of existence. (John A. Widstoe, Priesthood and Church Government, p. 33, Deseret Book Co. 1939).
One in full possession of such a power would be able to accomplish any and every righteous desire. He would have complete and absolute freedom. No one can imagine greater power and freedom than this. It is the supreme power of the universe.
Some to whom this power was offered in the pre-earth life used it for proper purposes, and were permitted to continue to exercise it here. Others sought to abuse it and lost it. It appears that Satan was one of those to whom God offered His power for we are told he was:
An angel of God, who was in authority in the presence of God. (D&C 76:25)
However, because he sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down. (Moses 4:3)
God’s authority was thus denied Satan and the one-third of the hosts of heaven who followed him because of their desire to destroy free agency. They were also separated from the other two-thirds whose freedom they sought to destroy. Of course, they are here on earth as spirits, enticing man to murder, to enslave, to steal and otherwise destroy freedom, but they are powerless to do these things themselves. Neither can they have children, organize the earth’s raw materials, or otherwise increase freedom. This is the first instance of which we have record where the Lord’s divine law of retribution was made effective.
Though the other two-thirds of God’s children rejected the doctrine of compulsion and elected to follow Christ, the danger that we will even yet subject ourselves to the penalty of the law of retribution is extremely great, because the scriptures tell us:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (D&C 121:39)
From this we learn that almost all men are still afflicted with a tendency to destroy one another’s freedom. Unless we overcome this weakness, it is inevitable that the Lord will find it necessary to withhold from us His power for the simple reason that we cannot be relied upon to use it exclusively for righteous purposes.
It is observed that Latter-day Saint doctrine teaches that there are three degrees of glory in the hereafter with subdivisions within these different degrees and that man, if he lives worthy, may inherit the highest, or celestial degree where God and Christ dwell. But our doctrine also teaches that relatively few Church members will merit such an exalted state. Christ told both the Jews and the Nephites that but few of them would enter in at the strait gate. (Matt. 7:13, 14; 3 Ne. 14:13, 14). A similar warning has been issued to members of His Church in these latter days:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this (the highest) glory. for strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me. (D&C 132:21–22)
If it be true, as appears to be the case, that the group to which this revelation is addressed are the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is certain that only a few of this membership will prove worthy of exaltation and continuation of lives.
Perhaps the most explicit confirmation of the fact that only a few of the members of Christ’s Church will inherit the highest degree of glory, is provided by those scriptures which discuss the fate of the majority of those who hold the Priesthood and the requirement that those who enter that highest degree be worthy to exercise this power.
Doctrine and Covenants 76:56–57 states that those who inherit the highest glory will hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. However, certain other revelations seem to declare that only a few of the many upon whom such Priesthood is conferred in this life will be chosen to continue in their callings in the next. If this be true, then the many will not only forfeit their rights to the Priesthood, but to a place in this highest degree of glory as well.
Those scriptural statements which most fully discuss the condemnation of the majority of the priesthood are found in D&C, Sec. 121.
This section says not just once, but twice that many are called but few are chosen. In each case, the passages are referring to those who hold the Priesthood. Does this mean that the great majority of those upon whom the Priesthood is conferred in this life will have it taken from them in the next? Is this what is meant by not being chosen?
It is difficult to place any other interpretation upon the language used. It is incontestable that the Lord in speaking of the many who are called is referring to bearers of the Priesthood. It is from this body of men that only a few will be chosen.
There is this much which is certain about the statement: the many are going to be denied some privilege or blessing which only the few will enjoy. That this privilege is the right to hold the Priesthood seems to be indicated by other verses in this section.
Verse 37 states that even though the rights of the Priesthood may be conferred upon one, he may lose them again. The words which state that a man’s Priesthood may terminate are these: Amen to the Priesthood or the authority of that man. One of the ways in which one may lose his power is by using compulsion unrighteously upon his fellow men. Part of verse 37 reads as follows:
When we undertake to…exercise control, dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness…Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
Then verse 39 tells us that almost all men have a disposition which causes them to do this very thing. The conclusion drawn in verse 40— Hence many are called but few are chosen—seems to have only one meaning; amen to the priesthood of almost all men.
Verse 36 supports this interpretation. It says that the rights of the Priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven and that the powers of heaven cannot be handled only upon principles of righteousness.
Thus, while we are permitted to exercise the Priesthood here on earth, though still afflicted with a weakness to abuse authority, the powers of heaven and the Priesthood which is inseparably connected therewith, cannot be controlled by one with such a disposition.
If, at the end of this life, we are still inclined to exercise unrighteous dominion and thereby deny others that freedom to which they are entitled, the divine law of retribution will demand that our power and opportunity to affect the freedom of others be restricted. The Lord will have no alternative but to assign us a place in the hereafter with that great majority who cannot be trusted to use authority only for the increase of freedom. God’s power cannot be used to defeat God’s purposes.
It may seem strange that although we have made a decision in favor of freedom and against compulsion in the pre-earth life, we should be called upon to make it once again. The reason is, of course, that almost all of us are still disposed to exercise unrighteous dominion. By our decision there we gave ourselves a second chance to completely overcome this satanic tendency.
But the only way we can do this, it seems, is to be subjected to Satan’s teachings once again. This time, however, we must make our choice under different conditions. Having been rejected by us once, Satan must present his plan in this world in disguise and under circumstances where our physical appetites and desires tempt us to accept and believe it. We must walk by faith and experience a trial of that faith. Only with such tests facing us is it possible to completely reject his philosophy and rid ourselves of this weakness.
SPENCER W. KIMBALL
…Assume that you become the world leader of Socialism and in it have marked success, but through your devotion to it you fail to live the gospel. Where are you then? Is anything worthwhile which will estrange you from your friends, your Church membership, your family, your eternal promises, your faith? You might say that such estrangement is not necessarily a result of your political views, but truthfully hasn’t your overpowering interest in your present views already started driving a wedge? (0/0/45) (Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings, pp. 408-409)
HOWARD W. HUNTER
…we know from both ancient and modern revelation that Satan wished to deny us our independence and agency in that now forgotten moment long ago, even as he wishes to deny them this very hour. Indeed, Satan violently opposed the freedom of choice offered by the Father, so violently that John in the Revelation described “war in heaven” over the matter. (Rev.12:7) Satan would have coerced us, and he would have robbed us of that most precious of gifts if he could: our freedom to choose a divine future and the exaltation we all hope to obtain….
To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation…. (Howard W. Hunter, That We Might Have Joy, pp. 77-78)
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Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen Chapters: