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Making Your Calling and Election Sure

By Lisa Meadows Garfield

I’ve been stewing about this blog post for weeks, because I mean it to be provocative. I want to write about one of our most important Mormon doctrines, but it’s a topic that seems to be shrouded in a cultural taboo, like Heavenly Mother or polygamy. They used to sermonize about having your calling and election made sure a lot more than they do now. “They” being our church leaders. It was a naturally accepted piece of doctrine back in the days of Joseph Smith and the early saints. I imagine that every alert saint was keenly aware of whether or not they had personally been sealed up into eternal life by the Holy Spirit of Promise. I don’t know that we later latter-day saints give it much thought or attention anymore. But maybe we should.

If you search for “calling and election made sure” on lds.org, you’ll pull up some juicy tidbits. Like this great Conference talk from April 1977 by Marion G. Romney which he entitled The Light of Christ: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1977/04/the-light-of-christ?lang=eng

In it, he speaks of three phases of spiritual experience or development. The first is the “light of Christ” which everyone has. The second is “the gift of the Holy Ghost” which confirmed members of the Church receive. And Elder Romney identifies the third phase as “the more sure word of prophecy.” Every one of us comes to earth gifted with the light of Christ, and as we listen and learn to obey our conscience, we are led to receive the Holy Ghost. As we continue to do our best to obey the Spirit’s counsel, we are eventually led to receive that more sure word of prophecy, that unconditional promise from God that our calling and our election to His kingdom have been made sure.

Doesn’t that just tug at your heart? Are you ever so homesick for Home that you know you will do anything, sacrifice everything to get back? Sometimes I just miss Father and Mother and Jesus with such a fierce ache that I don’t know how I can continue living here. What if, as the Lord promises, we can know with a surety that we will one day return Home, that our place in the highest celestial place is assured? Can you feel, even in anticipation, the unspeakable awe and gratitude and all-consuming love that such an assurance would engender in your soul? I forget to breathe when I think of it.

Here’s another great article on this vital doctrine by Roy W. Doxey, written for Ensign magazine in 1976: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1976/07/accepted-of-the-lord-the-doctrine-of-making-your-calling-and-election-sure?lang=eng

Or you may prefer listening to a discussion of the topic on Mormon Channel: http://www.mormonchannel.org/listen/series/the-mormon-channel-qa-audio/calling-and-election-part-1-episode-39. Listen to Part 2, as well.

Or head straight to the scriptures. Peter is the most direct in the first chapter of his second epistle. . .

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.

I know I’m sounding  preachy today. But this isn’t a topic you can easily offer anecdotal stories about. It’s one of those deep doctrines of the gospel that we find on our own, one by one, under the tutelage of the Holy Ghost. You won’t hear people at the pulpit sharing their personal experiences of having their calling and election made sure. But you will hear, if you listen carefully, a personal call to come to your own assurance. No matter where we are on our spiritual path, no matter which “phase” we are in, if we’re paying attention, we’ll feel the call — always — the pull and tug of our highest selves, the empowering love and vision that our Heavenly Parents have for each one of us. Will you answer the call?

What do you think? Does it help to talk about this with each other? How do you best learn the deep doctrines of the gospel?

About Lisa Meadows Garfield

Lisa Meadows Garfield is an award-winning poet and author of “For Love of a Child: Stories of Adoption.“ An avid traveler, she is generally away from her homebase in Vancouver, Washington 9 months of the year, exploring the wide, wonderful world. Mother of 6 and Nonnie to 11, Lisa loves sunshine, words, good friends, and especially, Jesus.

22 thoughts on “Making Your Calling and Election Sure”

  1. I think this 3rd step comes because of who we've become.
    Boyd K Packer said he doesn't understand why we worry about having so much to do when we have so much to become.
    Maybe we're so wrapped up in the "to-do's" because we'reneglecting the use of the best gift, which is the Holy Ghost to help us decide which are the best decisions for the best and highest use of our time. We'll find, I think, it's not choosing the "good" and "better" that takes us to the 3rd level.
    It's becoming the best (i.e. Like Christ). And that will always be seeing and loving our brothers and sisters as Christ does and wanting our Father's will more than our own.
    Pretty tough stuff to become in this material saturated society, even in our wards and stakes. Maybe that's why most of our leaders' counsel to us is still so much on the "doing level".
    The path to the 3rd level will always go through the 1st 2 and greatest commandments – IF we become, not only do, but become what we were designed to become by living those commandments at the level Father hopes and intended us to live.

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  2. The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of her sins, and is baptized for the remission of her sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let her continue to humble herself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto her, Daughter, thou shalt be exalted.

    When the Lord has thoroughly proved her, and finds that the woman is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the woman will find her calling and her election made sure, then it will be her privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses.

    (Note the 16th, 17th, 18th, 21st, and 23rd verses)

    "16. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;
    "17. Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
    "18. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.* *
    "21. She that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, she it is that loveth me: and she that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love her, and will manifest myself to her.
    "23. If a woman love me, she will keep my word: and my Father will love her, and we will come unto her, and make our abode with her."

    Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any woman obtains this last Comforter, she will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend her, or appear unto her from time to time, and even He will manifest the heavenly Father and the heavenly Mother unto her, and they will take up their abode with her, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto her, and the Lord will teach her face to face, and she may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. This is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions, all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.

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  3. This is very interesting and I have always been fascinated by this subject. I am a convert of only 8 years. During my first 2-3 years in the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS, I was told a lot of things, I read everything I could get my hands on concerning the doctrine of this Church. But I always found that when "calling and election; made sure" was brought up in any conversation, this was definitely a tension filled conversation. I divide them into two primary groups, Old Guard and New school. The Old guard seem to be those with long historical ties to the church, and their great great's were amazing pioneers, who were so pious that they did make their calling and election sure and were given a golden ticket, that was passed down to their descendants. So they are set and smug too. The New School seems to comprise a younger age group, who are mostly intellectual, and well read on the subject, but don't believe it because they say that no one can attain their callings or elections because they have to have a "stamp of approval" so to speak from the Father himself and that means a visit like Joseph Smith or something close. Seriously.
    I am not making fun, but maybe the reason no one talks about this subject is because it is not being taught. It certainly not being taught in our ward, even in Sunday School and I am the Gospel Doctrine Teacher.(not that this qualifies me in any way). I can say that in my ward, a majority of people are not motivated to read their scriptures , or even claim any of the wonderful spiritual gifts that are available to us/them. Those who know about this doctrine, don't talk about it, except among themselves or in High Priest quorum, etc.
    I love what you have written here, have you considered a short mini-series to shed some light on it for those of us who want to know more.

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  4. I think this is a rarity and not something we even need to worry about–very few, if any, will achieve such a state while in this life. Otherwise what is the point–you can't keep living and doing things if none of it matters, if your place is already 'made sure.' Just my two cents.

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  5. After my great-grandfather died, we found among his things a letter from the temple presidency inviting him to attend the temple for his "second endowment". He never spoke to any of us about it. I suspect that's why there's not much talk; it is a very personal and sacred thing.

    Also, I had a Young Women's leader help me understand that when we are baptized, we become part of the Kingdom of God. You're in, you've made it. The rest is staying in and moving forward (enduring to the end). For some reason I thought that I was still trying to get in, when I basically was already. I think that we're harder on ourselves than Heavenly Father will be because we judge ourselves against a standard, while He is judging our potential.

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  6. This is great stuff to chew on. I am a lifelong member and although I have heard this phrase before I have never, to my recollection, heard it discussed, and I have never really thought about it, particularly as it could apply to me. But as I read your words they rang true. I am certainly nowhere near this point. For the most part I am overwhelmed by, and caught up in, just trying to meet the to-do's. But, there have been brief periods in my life when Imy heart is turned just right and I want nothing more than to do everything and only those things that please my Heavenly Father. And it is those moments that tell me it could be possible to make my election sure.

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  7. The Book of Mormon (if we take it seriously) seems to say that making your calling and election sure is very important.

    Alma 41: 10 Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness. 11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.12 And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature? 13 O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.

    It seems to say if you are without God in the world then you can expect to be without Him in the next. That is if you are unredeemed in this life then you can expect to be unredeemed in the next.

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  8. Yes, great points. We are a culture intent on "doing" good, which is important, because doing good (with the right heart) leads to being good. But Jesus Christ identified himself as "I AM." That's the ultimate goal, and that's the thing I think we've lost sight of. I, for one, do best when I keep the end clearly in sight, so that all my doing is meaningful and progressive.

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  9. Stacey, I appreciate your female edition of these quotes. I usually edit as I read, but it gets tiresome. Would you go back and cite your sources here? It will help people in their study of this topic. Joseph Smith was quite clear about much of this.

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  10. Ramona, here's a link to a gospel doctrine lesson all about this topic:
    https://www.lds.org/manual/doctrines-of-the-gospel-teacher-manual/chapter-19-eternal-life?lang=eng

    Notably, it begins with this introduction:
    Introduction
    Caution: Exercise caution while discussing the doctrine of having our calling and election made sure. Avoid speculation. Use only the sources given here and in the student manual. Do not attempt in any way to discuss or answer questions about the second anointing.

    I'm not sure I agree that the New School and the Old Guard are divided on this subject, though as a convert myself, I certainly note many differences. My experience is that any saint that's paying attention, whether convert or lifer, who has a heart intent on learning to know God, is interested in this — or becomes interested as they progress.

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  11. Eliana, I believe this is common thought, but it isn't accurate. God wants every one of us to make our calling and election sure, not just the rare one or two. This becomes clear as you study the subject. And as I think about the Three Nephites, for instance, who I presume have made their calling and election sure, I doubt they are simply twiddling their translated thumbs, just waiting around for their assured place in the kingdom. No, at this level, all our energy becomes focused on doing the will of the Lord precisely, trusting that whatever we are led to say or do is to further his work and his glory, which is to save and exalt all of humankind, one precious soul at a time. We become less "servants" and more "partners" (or "friends" as Jesus said) with God. The only rest, at this point, is in the "rest of the Lord" or the peace that pervades our lives, no matter what happens. This is the level of spiritual knowledge and power that is required to control the elements, move mountains, raise the dead. And though few may achieve it, we are each called and elected to such. To make that calling and election sure is our task.

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  12. This is one of the reasons it bothers me that women don't have any new class to "advance" to after entering RS. The men can move from EQ to HP and it seems like that's where all the good stuff gets talked about. They have meaningful discussions about deep doctrine… and we can't ever have that in RS because not everyone attending is necessarily prepared for that type of discussion. We need a place for moving beyond the basics, too.

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  13. Yes, it is very sacred and personal, which is why you won't hear people talk of it in personal terms or large group settings. But as doctrine, it's vital to understand. And you're right, if you're on the right path and moving forward, the end is already given. In fact, I've heard of (and from) many who have come to a gradual realization that their calling and election has been made sure. It wasn't a one-time glorious event, but a slow progression to enlightenment. As I understand it, the Second Comforter (a personal visit from Jesus Christ) is received AFTER our calling and election is made sure. Anyone seriously interested in this should read Journey to the Veil by John Pontius: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1462113893/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=53941207358&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=9210978738289258342&hvpone=15.36&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_4utz8qcv70_b

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  14. Yes, I've often wished we could have a Gospel Doctrine 201 class. But you can imagine the kind of divisive pride that could easily engender. I am not so sure (according to my husband's reports) that the High Priest group is delving any deeper into doctrine than any other class or quorum. The obvious public setting would be Gospel Doctrine class. Presumably, those not ready are in the Gospel Essentials class. But in reality, the mysteries of God are only learned by the personal tutelage of the Spirit. It happens in your private devotions – in your scripture study, prayers, temple attendance. That's why we keep being admonished to do those things, because our leaders know what will happen as we consistently, whole-heartedly do them. And the promises are ALL completely available to both genders.

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  15. Hebrews 5 and 6 seem to imply that the idea of making your calling and election sure is what Paul considers the milk of the gospel. Specifically, Paul says at the end of Chapter 5 that he has to revert to the milk and then spends chapter 6 discussing obtaining a promise from the Lord. 2 Nephi 32:5-6 says that the doctrine of Christ is Faith, Repentance, Baptism, endure to the goal of Christ manifesting Himself unto you. These scriptures have led me to conclude that a milk gospel discussion should at least include the "end" or "goal" namely being redeemed from the fall.

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  16. This is an actual ordinance that happens at the temple. One man shared his experience after he (sadly) left the church. I believe his story is an honest depiction of the ordinance and I don't feel that it is wrong to read about it.

    Receiving the second anointing is by invitation from church leaders.

    Of course we should all keep striving to become like Christ.

    We deserve to know that this doctrine involves an actual invitation/appointment to go into the temple and receive an actual ordinance.

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  17. I believe that the "second anointing" IS a secret temple ordinance, but it is not the same thing as receiving the second comforter. And while the second anointing is said to include calling and election, I don't believe it is the only place to receive ones calling and election.

    I do feel that the scriptures are clearly encouraging all to seek their own personal and real witness of Jesus Christ, known as the second comforter.

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  18. I don't think moving from EQ to HP is an advance in this sense. My husband has been a HP for about ten years and from what I gather, their discussions on Sunday are actually LESS doctrinal than the RS ones I experience, not to mention that a lot of them are old and sleepy. 🙂

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  19. Oh please. My husband is in the HP group and was glad to get a calling in Young Men's because of the really tedious and sometimes questionable things the group would discuss, like their ancient beliefs about mental illnesses. There's no "beyond the basics". The basics are what we still need to be working on!

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  20. Perhaps members would know more about making their calling and election sure, if we hadn't taken the Lectures on Faith out of our scriptures almost a century ago.

    Though the actual words "calling and election" aren't used, the lectures themselves dwell entirely on what it takes for men and women to obtain salvation by obtaining a promise from God, which is what the calling and election is.

    That is the primary focus of the 7 lectures. But ask your next gospel doctrine class how many people are even aware of the Lectures on Faith or that they used to be included in our scriptures….and you'll get very few people who even know they exist. Hence, very few are aware that Joseph diligently taught the importance of obtaining a promise from God that you would be saved.

    Sad.

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