Weeks before his birthday, Niall decided he wanted a pair of new shoes for football. But not just any pair. He wanted the ones that he’d seen his favorite star player talk about in a TV commercial. That made them the best shoes, right? The design and colors made them just that much more awesome.
Niall made sure to tell his mother that’s what he wanted for his birthday and that it was the only thing he wanted. And then he waited.
If you live in a house or apartment with multiple rooms, have you ever gone into a room and forgot why you went there? If I were a betting man, I would wager it has happened.
Not only is this an experience common to millions of people reaching back decades if not centuries, but it also typifies another experience, this one universal to humankind.
It has been said that death is like stepping from one room into another. Then why would birth not be the same? Many ask, “What happens after I die?” Couldn’t we complete the symmetry of our existence by asking, “What happened before I was born? Where did I come from?”
A certain family had some work being done in their basement, which had no windows. An interior door led to the stairs that descended to the basement. The parents warned their kids multiple times not to go down there because most of the electricity had been disconnected and the fixtures had no light bulbs; it was dark, and they could easily get hurt fumbling around among the equipment.
One day, the teenage son became angry at his parents and felt the urge to run away. He didn’t really have the nerve, though, so instead he decided to hide out in the basement. He grabbed some snacks and slipped through the door that led to the stairs.
A certain man owned a bicycle repair shop in a busy city. Business was good because many people in his tropical country couldn’t afford automobiles, so if they had their own vehicles at all, they were bikes. At the same time, expenses were plentiful, limiting his prosperity—he just made his way in life a day at a time like pretty much everyone else.
That said, this man had one thing that made him feel rich: a small, golden statue of an ancient king that had been handed down in his family from father to son for generations stretching across several centuries. He kept it locked in a cabinet in the apartment over his shop where he lived.
Because we place importance on keeping commandments and covenants, Latter-day Saints have been accused of believing in salvation by works. Do we really believe in earning our way to heaven?
No. We believe that we must become qualified for eternal life, for what the Father has in store, and Jesus’s grace is vital in that process.
The difference between earning and qualifying is the difference between, say, wages and promotions. Earning is based on time served, on merit, on what one deserves. That sounds like justice, which is what will condemn us at the Judgment—unless mercy intervenes. Qualification is about development, about what a person has gained in knowledge, attributes, and capability.