“Why should I strive to enter the celestial kingdom?” New Era, Feb. 1974, 39
Answer/Brother John Covey
Because the Lord himself said so; because our love and faith is first in the Lord and in his counsel. He said, “… Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33; 3 Ne. 13:33.) What a promise! To have faith in the Lord is to hear his word, believe his word, and do his word. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s rule of life was simply, “When the Lord commands it, do it!” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 170.)
Why do we trust the Lord? Because the Lord is God, our perfect, loving, all-knowing, all powerful, merciful, just Father in heaven, who desires to bless his children and bring to them all the joy and glory they are willing to receive. We trust his voice, his words, and his prophets above all other voices that may speak to our heads and minds.
The story is told of a young lad standing on the cattle range with his father, looking into the distance to locate their cattle. The keen-eyed father said, “I see cattle over there in the far north field.” The young son’s eyes were not as good as his father’s and he could not see them for himself, but the boy said to himself, “I know that those cattle are there, because my father said so.”
Why did the Lord tell us to seek first the celestial kingdom? May I share with you one reason why I believe he said we should do this? I think of the celestial kingdom not only as a place to enter but also as a quality and condition of the soul. Celestial people with Christlike attributes and characters will enter the celestial kingdom. (D&C 88:20–41.) Rephrasing the first part of the question, why shouldn’t I strive to be a celestial person with a divine, Christlike character? President Lee’s inspired opening address at the October 1973 general conference helps me to know that you and I are children of God with divine potential for growth. Our patriarchal blessings, the living prophets, the scriptures, and the Holy Spirit testify to us that we can become more than we appear to be—that through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and by obedience to his gospel we can become partakers of the divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:1–11.)
We mortals are somewhat like the blind man who experiences only a world of darkness yet has a hope of one day experiencing sight. So, like the blind man, we may not have experienced celestial life (that we can remember), but we may have and can obtain glimpses of it (reflected in the light of the lives of great men, or in a precious moment of service, etc.), and we may feel the witness of the Spirit and of its reality, which causes us to hope, to strive for that which we do not fully know. You may ask, “Why should I strive for something I haven’t really known, like the celestial kingdom?” The passage from 1 Corinthians 2:9 [1 Cor. 2:9] reads, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” You see, others have known and have testified that celestial, Christlike living is everything that the Lord says it is.
Who would be satisfied with the reflected light of the moon if he knew he could have the glory of the sun? (D&C 76:70.) Who would be satisfied with the condition of being separate and single for all eternity if he knew he could live in eternal love and glory with his companion, his family and loved ones, and have eternal increase? (D&C 132:22.) Who would be satisfied with a personality and character that knew only limited capacity to serve others if he knew he could have a Christlike character with divine power to help, to lift, to bring joy into the lives of others—many, many others—eternally?
The key, then, is to strive to know what President Lee knows, what the prophets before him have known, and what Jesus himself taught: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.) Why? Because he said so, and we trust and love him and keep his commandments.