Every person on Earth has a “special occasion” ahead, one that our Heavenly Parents wish us to be ready for. Much like a child who wants to play until then, we find ourselves having run out into the world and dirtied our hands, stained our clothes, and messed up our hair. In other words, we’ve picked up some sins, faults, and bad habits that make us less than suitable company for Deity and angels. Nor will we feel comfortable at the table if everyone else there is prepared and we aren’t.
To some extent, we may have engaged in some of these behaviors while not entirely understanding the consequences that would face us down the road. But often there is some sort of warning called out, whether it was from a parent, friend, mentor, our conscience, or the Holy Ghost.
And feeling uncomfortable were we to sit down at God’s table without tidying ourselves up isn’t an issue of being looked at with judging eyes. Rather, it’s a recognition of our own unfitness; taught the prophet Alma, “For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; … and our thoughts will condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide from his presence” (Alma 12:14). We can’t bring the dirt and stains we’ve accumulated into God’s heavenly kingdom with us because the two are by their nature incongruous.
In the Parable of Guests at Dinner, at first the child is responding to external direction to tidy up, but after a time she recognizes that she needs to prepare herself and rise to the occasion.
Of course, the answer for us regarding our Special Occasion is to get that dirt, those stains, removed while we can, and we do so by following the call of Jesus Christ and His prophets and apostles to repent, or in other words, to change our thoughts and behavior to align with God’s standards.
Before she really begins to understand, the child in the parable makes some perfunctory attempts at cleaning herself up. But as her understanding increases, her motivation and likewise her efforts improve. The Lord desires that we repent in the sincerity of our hearts (Mosiah 26:29). Halfhearted attempts to reform our walk before God are insufficient; in this as in other aspects of our discipleship, He “requireth the heart and a willing mind” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:34).
Lest we misunderstand: it’s not the behavior that must be perfect, because we’re incapable of that in mortality; it’s our sincerity and willingness that must be.
Because of His atoning sacrifice wherein He paid the penalty for our sins, we can obtain fulfillment of Jesus Christ’s promise that “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42). When the child arrived fully prepared for this special dinner, her parents didn’t dwell on the condition she was in when she came into the house. They smiled happily at her readiness to join them following her conscientious preparation. Her earnest desire to stand approved with her parents drove her to become clean and brought about that approval. It bears acknowledging that in our case, our most intense strivings to become clean are fruitless without Christ’s applying His balm, His mercy, His power to us. But nothing less than our sincere, and by necessity repeated, repentance will enable the kind of change He is looking for in us—the kind that will allow us to share glory with Him.
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