Hey everyone, so throughout this series we’ve done a lot of episodes about what Latter-day Saints call the Plan of Salvation. In these two episodes, we gave you sort of a birds-eye view of this plan, but then we’ve also taken some time to go more in-depth on a variety of subjects, such as premortality, the Spirit World, the Second Coming, the resurrection, the Millennium, Heaven and Hell, etc. Today, we’re going to dive a little deeper into the Final Judgment.
Alright, so while Latter-day Saints believe in a Final Judgment, we really don’t think that the outcome of your judgment is going to be much of a surprise to you. It’s not going to be this anticipatory situation where you’re crossing your fingers, hoping for a good grade. It won’t be surprising because before the final judgment, there will be a couple of mini-judgments, so to speak, that are going to clue you in to what your final judgment is going to look like.
For example, Latter-day Saints believe that when mortals die, their physical bodies of course go into the ground, but their spirits continue to live on in what we simply call the “spirit world”. As Alma chapter 40 in the Book of Mormon explains, the righteous will be received into a state of paradisiacal happiness in the spirit world, while the wicked will be received into a state of — for lack of a better word — Hell (which we talk more about in this episode). There is obviously a form of judgment going on here.
Now, when Christ comes again, we believe he will reign personally on earth for a thousand-year period known as the Millennium, which we talked about in this episode. Eventually, we believe that every single person who has lived and died, righteous or wicked, will be resurrected. But as we talked about in this episode, not everyone will be resurrected at the same time. People will be resurrected at different periods throughout the Millennium. And the order in which you are resurrected correlates with the degree of heaven you have prepared yourself to receive through your choices in mortality. Thus, your resurrection will also be a mini-judgment, of sorts.
Those resurrected at the beginning of the Millennium will be those prepared to inherit the Celestial Kingdom. In mortality, they strove to live according to celestial law: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those resurrected later on during the Millennium will have lived according to Terrestrial law, and those resurrected at the end of the Millennium, Telestial law. If you lived according to a lower law, you cannot receive a higher kingdom.
But the final, official judgment won’t happen until the Millennium has ended. On our Church’s website we read, “God [the Father], through Jesus Christ, will judge each person to determine the eternal glory he will receive. This judgment will be based on each person’s obedience to God’s commands, including his acceptance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.” Remember that at the end of the day, it is Christ’s grace that makes all of this possible for us.
In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism we read that at this final point of eternal accountability, “Each individual is to be judged according to the degree of knowledge and opportunity available during mortal probation (2 Ne. 2:10). On the basis of records kept both on earth and in heaven … each individual will be judged according to works, desires, and intent of the heart….
Russell Ballard has taught, “When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth.” Christ will factor everything in, and his judgment will be fair. And please understand that God is not looking for reasons to exclude people from his presence. He wants you with Him.
Some people are worried that their judgment will be totally public and they’ll be embarrassed in front of all of their friends and family as their sins are made known. I can’t find any scriptural support for that, so I personally suspect your judgment won’t be a big public spectacle. But in any case, when you’re looking into the eyes of Christ Himself on the day of judgment, I can’t imagine you’re going to be too concerned about what anyone else thinks of you. The scriptures do delegate some judgment authority to other prophets or righteous disciples, but it’s unclear how exactly that’s all going to look or play out at the final judgment. We’ll find out.
Now, sometimes we can get caught up in “checklist” approaches to repentance. We’ve got a list of steps and we’ve got to go through each step for each sin for repentance to be complete and efficacious. This leads some people to worry, “What if there’s a sin I committed when I was a teenager that I forgot to repent for?” We’re going to talk more about repentance in another episode, but I want you to remember Enos from the Book of Mormon. When Enos was forgiven for his sins, God didn’t say, “Because thou hast followed the steps perfectly for each of your sins thou art made whole.” Instead, we read that forgiveness came, “Because of thy faith in Christ . . . thy faith hath made thee whole.” A list of steps of how to repent can be helpful, but don’t let a dogmatic adherence to a checklist crowd out the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ.
Dallin H. Oaks has taught, “…the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts – what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts – what we have become.”
As 2 Nephi 9 teaches, when you appear before Christ, you will have a perfect knowledge of your wickedness or your righteousness. You will recognize the judge as your Messiah. You will know what He has done for you, and He will judge you with perfect justice and perfect mercy. There’s a lot we don’t know about how the final judgment is going to work, but we do know enough to adequately prepare ourselves for that day. Turn to Christ, become more like Him, and strive to live as He did. For more on this topic check out the resources in the YouTube description. Watch some of our other videos while you’re here, and have a great day.
- “Judgment Day, Final” via the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3cH9zQi
- A collection of scriptures and quote about the Final Judgment, via BYU-I: https://bit.ly/31fzbSa
- “The Final Judgment” by Terry B. Ball (BYU Studies): https://bit.ly/3cNwYzz
- “Judgment, the Last” via Guide to the Scriptures: https://bit.ly/3r314r7
- “Chapter 46: The Final Judgment” via the Gospel Principles manual: https://bit.ly/3l8fH8J
- “Christ, Our Advocate and High Priest” by John S. Tanner (BYU Studies): https://bit.ly/3xm4jev
- “The Challenge to Become” by Dallin H. Oaks (Oct. 2000): https://bit.ly/3Ed2dQK
- “Faith Unto Repentance” by Brent L. Top (BYU Studies): https://bit.ly/3roeGNG