By David Armstrong
In the Parable of the Mansion, Jack and Francine face a most bizarre and unlikely scenario. Their house hunt looks hopeless until their real estate agent shows them a magnificent mansion and presents them with a “once in a lifetime” deal. If they can come up with a down payment, the agent will pay the balance of the cost of the house. In other words, the agent will buy the fabulous mansion for the young couple, provided they can come up with a reasonable down payment. Unbelievable, right?
But wait, there’s more!
The couple don’t have the required down payment, so the agent offers to hire them to run errands for him, for which he will pay them until they have earned enough to make the down. The condition is that they must quit their regular jobs and work exclusively for the agent.
The day finally comes when they have the sum for the down in their bank account. To their surprise, the agent tears up their check and hands them the deed to their mansion, paid in full. He points out to them one tiny little clause at the end of the contract they signed, which the couple had forgotten about. The final condition to taking possession of their mansion is that they must now become real estate agents in their own right and find other people to whom mansions can be given.
A completely impossible proposition, right? I mean, nobody gives away mansions for free. In the world in which we live, such a thing is totally impossible! In the mortal world, on this telestial sphere where you can buy anything with money, that is true.
But Jesus invites us to a different kind of experience. He urges us to follow Him into a world of miracles. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2–3).
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).
“Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price” (2 Nephi 26:25).
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith” (Ether 12:9).
“Believe in Christ, and … be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
“Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely” (Alma 42:27).
The miracle of Christ’s Atonement is that it is free. He ransomed us from the death and hell that we justly deserve. He paid our mortgage in full, and He holds out the deed to our heavenly mansions. In exchange for this supernal gift of eternal life and exaltation, He asks relatively little of us in return.
First, He asks that we believe in Him. Second, He asks that we consider our ways, repent, and give up the sins that separate us from Him. Third, He asks us to make a covenant with Him and His Father—sign a contract, if you will. Fourth, He asks us to serve with Him to bless the lives of others. Finally, He asks us to witness for Him and bring others to Him.
The down payment the agent asked of Jack and Francine wasn’t about money. He simply wanted them to learn to serve and to obey. He didn’t need their money. He had already settled the debt. But he wanted them to become different people, not the self-centered, worldly people they started out to be, but the loving, charitable people who could join his agency and represent him properly.
Our charitable works are likewise not a down payment on our salvation. We cannot buy our way into heaven. In King Benjamin’s famous sermon from the tower of the temple, he taught his people:
I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?—Mosiah 2:20-24
A free mansion? Maybe not in this world, but in the next, absolutely! The Father offers us all He has—immortality, eternal life, exaltation, and eternal increase. The Son has paid the price in full. And He is willing, even anxious, to help us qualify for this most magnificent and magnanimous of gifts. All He asks in return is our gratitude and our whole heart, might, mind, and strength. They seem such small sacrifices to receive so much.
“Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Laborers in the Vineyard”).
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