Written by Emilia Julian | January 14, 2019
I remember my high school years very well. Four years of learning and growing, and my experiences taught me many personal lessons that would help shape my future. One of my most rewarding experiences began when I was in grade 10. English was not an easy subject for me since it wasn’t my first language. I was born in Italy, and when my family immigrated to Canada, I didn’t comprehend a word of English, and neither did my parents or extended relatives. I was enrolled in an elementary school at the age of five not being able to communicate and was learning little by little how to speak. In the meantime, while I was struggling to learn how to speak a second language, I fell behind in proper grammar, or how to write a simple short story and so forth. Not being able to keep up with the language was the reason I continued to fall behind in my other courses as well. When I began high school, my language had improved significantly but certainly wasn’t exceptional. I continued to struggle and could say that I was happy just to receive a passing grade.
When I received my grade 10 school schedule, I noticed that for my first semester English class I was assigned a teacher whose reputation was to be tough. It intimidated me a little but I decided that I would judge him for myself. His name was Mr. Fearnside and all I could say was that his reputation was in harmony with the opinions of many others. He definitely was tough and could be very unpleasant to the students he felt deserved a little kick in the pants. I suppose I was one of those students. I detested that class and disliked the teacher so much that I tried to avoid him at all costs outside of class. Needless to say, it was a painful semester and I barely passed with 55%. I was glad to be done with Mr. Fearnside.
Fast forward a couple of years to my graduating year. That summer I received my grade 12 schedule and who did I notice was my second-semester English teacher? You got it…Mr. Fearnside! I seriously went into panic mode! I couldn’t believe I had to endure yet another semester with a teacher I disliked and who enjoyed making my life difficult. At least that was how I felt. And what was worse was that this was the final semester before my graduation. I was very aware that if I did not pass his English class, I would not graduate. I felt defeated, and I hadn’t even begun. After reviewing all my options, there was only one thing to do. I had to work harder than I ever had before, put my feelings about Mr. Fearnside aside, and do all that I can to be sure that I passed that class. I needed this class…I wanted most to graduate.
One thing I could say about that semester that was different from the grade 10 semester I had with Mr. Fearnside, was that he had mellowed out…with me at least.
I can recall at the end of the semester, just before the final exam, I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled out. The doctor told me to stay home for a few days, but he assured me that I would be OK by the time final exams approached. As much as I was terrified of missing so many days of my English class, I did the best I could to catch up and study at home. My focus was entirely on my studies. The day before my exam, I came down with a fever. I felt lifeless, but there was no way I was going to miss my in-class English review. Sick as I was, I went to my class and then home to study. The next day, I returned back to school to take my exam.
All I knew at that point was that I passed my exam and my English class. I didn’t know what my grade was other than that I passed. I was graduating, and that’s all that mattered to me.
It wasn’t until I attended the graduation ceremony that I received the surprise of my life. When they called my name to walk up and receive my diploma, they had also announced that I had won the Grade 12 English Award. Needless to say, I was stunned…shocked! I even believed it must have been a mistake, but there it was…my name on the award.
I learned from that experience that the things that are important to me can be easily attainable if I do my part and put my focus where it needs to be. Back then, my focus was on graduating. Now it is securing a place for myself in the celestial kingdom. Just like then, I must not lose my focus, and I must continue to work hard, doing everything I can to reach my destination. I am the only one that can keep myself from earning my place in the celestial kingdom. Not the people around me, not my circumstances…just me!
I am so thankful for the knowledge of Jesus Christ’s Atonement. It fills me with joy knowing that we will all be resurrected and that life just doesn’t end at death. Having this knowledge also makes me very aware of the fact that after our resurrection also comes the time we will have to stand before the Lord to be judged. We will be held accountable for the desires of our hearts and our actions during our mortality. With that, depending upon the outcome of our judgment, each of us will receive an eternal residency in a specific kingdom of glory. The Lord taught this principle in John 14:2 when He said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” The glory we inherit will depend on the extent of our conversion as expressed by our actions and our obedience to the commandments of God. There are three kingdoms of glory. The celestial kingdom, terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom. Although all kingdoms are glorious in their own magnitude, the kingdom that most members of the Church desire to acquire is the celestial kingdom, where we can dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ forever.
I am the only one that can keep myself from earning my place in the celestial kingdom. Not the people around me, not my circumstances…just me!
It was while I was studying the Doctrine and Covenants that I learned in more detail what is required of me to inherit my desired kingdom of glory, in particular, section 76:50-53 where it clearly describes those who will obtain the celestial kingdom. I felt overwhelmed at first, but then, by the time that I completed the section, a sense of ease and comfort came over me, realizing that it’s not as difficult to secure my inheritance as I first imagined it might be. The celestial kingdom will be populated with faithful members of Christ’s Church who have been baptized by immersion and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. These are people who utilize the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repent of their sins, striving daily to better themselves, and whose testimonies are actively growing by receiving the gospel and living it by following the commandments and abiding by all the covenants. And also, those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.
Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints.
Most likely, many of us are already striving to live in this manner. To make it more visual, let’s break this down into 8 points based on what we learn in Doctrine and Covenants 76:50-53. Those that will qualify to receive their inheritance in the celestial kingdom are the following people:
- Those who “received a testimony of Jesus.”
- “Receive” is an action word which means that we will have had to receive the gospel into our lives and living it actively doing everything we can to live a Christ-like life while following the commandments and living by the covenants we have made at our baptism and at the temple. Upon receiving a testimony of Jesus Christ, a person is more inclined to strengthen themselves by living accordingly.
- Those who “believed on his name”.
- “Believing” is also an action word and it is more than just acknowledging that we believe. We need to be actively living the gospel daily and believing that as we do so, we will be lead to salvation because of the Atonement of Christ. This took a weight off my shoulders to know that when I stumble, I can repent and carry on knowing that my Saviour is bearing me up and helping through my challenges.
- Those who “were baptized.”
- As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we were all baptized by immersion by those who had the priesthood authority to do so as Jesus Christ himself did. We are already heading in the right direction by having taken this step! It means that we have walked into the waters of baptism having faith in Jesus Christ, having repented of our sins, and having taken upon us His name.
- Those who are “keeping the commandments.”
- This doesn’t only mean following the Ten Commandments of which many are familiar with. That is just a start. It means to abide by the covenants we have made, being honest in all our dealings, paying a full tithe, observing the Sabbath Day, repentance, and so forth. It includes the Law of Chastity and keeping ourselves respectably pure and clean. Following the Word of Wisdom is also vital as it keeps our body, mind, and spirit clean and free from influences that can be harmful.
- Those who are “washed and cleansed from all their sins”.
- One thing that is crucial for us to remember is that, while there may be areas in our lives that we may have perfected (such as attending and participating in all our Sunday meetings each week as an example), we will never reach full perfection in this life. Recognizing this will help us to avoid being disappointed each time we stumble or fall back. However, as we sincerely strive to keep the commandments, and participate in the sacred ordinance of the Sacrament each week, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we are entitled to have our sins forgiven and made pure again, and worthy to enter into the presence of God in the celestial kingdom.
- Those who “receive the Holy Spirit”.
- The gift of the Holy Ghost is given to all members after they have been baptized. However, we need to be active in receiving the Holy Ghost into our lives daily for us to be blessed with His guidance. By becoming sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we can be led to a much deeper understanding of the gospel. Inviting the Holy Ghost to abide with us daily can bless our lives and others around us. He can comfort us when we are down, and lift us when we require the strength to carry on. This will enable us to have the Atonement of Jesus Christ active in our daily lives.
- Those who are “overcome by faith”.
- As we search for guidance, choosing to have faith in what we already know about the gospel helps us to commit to living the commandments, as well as developing a habit of scripture study and constant prayer. Our testimonies and faith are strengthened when we do these things. When we neglect our spiritual needs, we deprive ourselves of the light we require that will allow us to see through the mists of darkness, and therefore, expose ourselves to be led away by Satan.
- Those who are “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise”.
- The Holy Ghost has several roles, but this role relates to the sealing ordinances performed in mortality. This is a necessary role since what the Holy Ghost seals in this life becomes binding in heaven also. When a worthy member of the Church is “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise,” it essentially means that he or she has proven worthy of exaltation and that blessing is sealed.
There have been numerous times in my life where I have thought to myself that “This is so hard”, “I can’t do this”, or get discouraged because I feel that I can never measure up to the next person. I use to torture myself with the latter…sometimes I still do. It’s exactly how Satan wants us to feel. We falsely attack our self-worth by comparing ourselves to others or worry about the opinions of others. I did this exact thing with my English teacher. I allowed myself to believe that Mr. Fearnside’s toughness was going to bring me down before I even allowed myself to give it my best shot and to give him a chance. And since I originally chose to listen to the opinions of others about Mr. Fearnside, I nearly failed my grade 10 class. I didn’t believe I was good enough to achieve the high marks others received in my class, so I never tried.
If we must compare, we should examine how we were in the past to how we are today. Hopefully, we will see a more positive difference in ourselves. If I compare what I accomplished in my grade 10 English class, to what I accomplished in the graduating year of English class, there is a stark difference! Perhaps not perfect, but clearly and satisfyingly better. As a result of my renewed commitment, hard work, and positive outlook, I passed with amazing marks in my graduating year and even won an award I wasn’t expecting. Were my marks superior to the other students in my class? I don’t know…probably not. But that doesn’t matter because when I look back from where I was to what I had accomplished when I had a second chance, I felt pleased, satisfied, and grateful. I felt fulfilled.
By the way, as a side note, Mr. Fearnside turned out to be my most favourite and influential teacher of all my other high school instructors. He was as tough as others described him to be but with good reason….because he was a great teacher. He helped me to reach my potential by expecting only the best from me. He was only tough on those he knew were not reaching their full potential. He hadn’t changed as a teacher from grade 10 to grade 12, but I did as a student and as an individual. Thank you Mr. Fearnside!
As I looked back at the points made above based on Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, I noticed that I’m already headed in the right direction. You’ll probably be relieved to notice this for yourselves too! I believe that sometimes we have the assumption that being a faithful and active member of the Church is too complicated and challenging. As a matter of fact, being faithful to God is one of the simplest of all lifestyles if we allow it to be. When we live according to the example Jesus Christ has exemplified, we are essentially living a higher standard. When our focus is targeted on these things, we will have joy as we endure. The challenge arises when we sin and try to hide it or rationalize it.
President Gordon B. Hinckley once said: “Brothers and sisters, all the Lord expects of us is to try, but you have to really try!” He also said: “Please don’t nag yourself with thoughts of failure. Do not set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. Simply do what you can do, in the best way you know, and the Lord will accept of your effort” (“Rise to the Stature of the Divine within You,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 96). I invested minimal effort into my English class in grade 10, and therefore achieved very little. That changed in my graduating year. It was a sharp contrast. Really trying means doing the best we know how, and when we recognize that there is room for improvement, we keep trying until we achieve the pleasing results we seek for. As we do this, we draw closer to God and feel His Spirit more and more. With that, we receive more of His grace and help we need to get us through. The Lord is there for us…we are not alone in this. He wants us to succeed!
As a matter of fact, being faithful to God is one of the simplest of all lifestyles if we allow it to be. When we live according to the example Jesus Christ has exemplified, we are essentially living a higher standard. When our focus is targeted on these things, we will have joy as we endure. The challenge arises when we sin and try to hide it or rationalize it.
David A. Bednar stated: “Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints. …
“… The Atonement provides help for us to overcome and avoid bad and to do and become good. …
“’… It is … through the grace of the Lord that individuals … receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to [do]. … This grace is an enabling power …’ or heavenly help each of us desperately needs to qualify for the celestial kingdom” (David A. Bednar, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign, Apr. 2012, 42; Liahona, Apr. 2012, 14).
I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for about 30 years now. I’m certainly not perfect, but I know what direction I am heading, and I am determined to hang on to the iron rod as I endure my journey toward my home on high with. When I look back to who I was 30 years ago to who I am now, I could honestly say that I am a completely different person as a result of living the gospel. The gospel has not changed…but I have as an individual and as a daughter of God. And I will continue to change and be a different person yet again by the time I reach my celestial destination.
You are on your way…don’t quit now!