It was noted in yesterday’s devotional that Rebecca, the mother of the twins Jacob and Esau, learned of the differing merits of her children’s spirits before they were born, citing Paul’s analysis in Romans:
“Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’
“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion'” (Rom 9:10 – 15, NIV).
What does Paul mean when he says that God’s revelation of the twins’ nature was consistent his ‘purpose in election’? To understand this, let us turn to other writings of Paul about the topic of election:
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son” (Eph. 1:4 – 6, NLT).
This passage refers to the time before the world was created when “man was also in the beginning with God” (D&C 93:23). Whatever transpired in the unknown times before, some individuals were called and elected to become heirs of salvation in this world. Christ calls them those whom the Father “hast given me”:
“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine…. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:9, 13 – 16).
But the promise of salvation is not for those who obtained their election before this world, but, as Christ continues in his prayer, it is also for those who in this probation will also accept and believe yet who did not previously obtain the election:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (Ibid., v. 20).
These then obtain their calling and election while in this world, while others who obtained their election before this world awaken to the truth and make their calling sure. The pathway is the same, before God, but some spirits obtained to the covenant before birth on this world. Peter says that it is goal of all true Christians to obtain this promise from God—be it a reassurance of the prior election or a new calling to it:
“Brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble: for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ….
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: and this voice we ourselves heard come out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount.
“And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:10 – 11, 16 – 19, ERV).
Joseph Smith, commenting on this passage, saw how that Peter considered the knowledge of one’s own calling and election being ‘made more sure’ to be a greater spirit of prophecy than even hearing the voice of God the Father declare that Jesus is the Christ, just as Peter had experienced on the mount of transfiguration. Simply that knowing Jesus is the Christ is the foundation of all righteousness, but what is its end? To know that you yourself are among the saved, among those the Father “hast given” to Jesus. To quote Joseph Smith directly:
“Though they might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint heirs with Him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promise sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast” (STPJS, p. 298).
This is the goal of every saint. As it states in the Doctrine and Covenants:
“The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood. It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:5 – 6).