Question: How should we understand the concept of worthiness?

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Question: How should we understand the concept of worthiness?

Introduction to Question

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others have been troubled at times with the concept of “worthiness.” This since the word seems to make reference to someone’s worth.

This may be an important question to answer since the scriptures and other Church practices frequently refer to or make mention of worthiness. How should we understand it?

This article seeks to answer this question.

Response to Question

All Humans are of Infinite, Intrinsic, and Absolute Worth

Latter-day Saint theology holds that all human beings are of infinite, intrinsic (and not merely instrumental) worth. This because it is believed that they have 1) always existed and 2) with human like intelligence.[1] All humans are believed to be sons or daughters of Heavenly Parents and thus have a potential to become divinized like them and hold dominion over the universe.[2] Thus, along with being of infinite, intrinsic worth, humans are also believed to always of absolute worth. Nothing conditions their worth because they are, inherently, of the highest worth being gods in embryo. Humans are also the only creatures capable of having dominion over the earth and replenishing it.[3] They have the power to access other ecosystems and bring balance to them. A human can enter an ocean and bring balance to the habitat of fishes. A fish can't enter the habitat of a human and bring balance to it. They don't (and indeed can't without some form of miraculous technological intervention perhaps) have that type of intelligence.

This worth can never be stripped from anyone regardless of their circumstance. We should always remember this whenever we are thinking about worth.

The Definition of Worthiness

In may be instructive to note how the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defines “worthy” to get a sense of what Joseph Smith and King James Bible translators refer to when speaking about “worthiness.” It states:

1. Deserving; such as merits; having worth or excellence; equivalent; with of, before the thing deserved. She has married a man worthy of her.[4]

One will notice that part of this definition is the word “deserving; such as merits.” This is instructive as will be illustrated now.

Deserving to Enter the Temple

Deservingness to receive some sort of award or privilege is what the Church and its scriptures refer to when speaking about worthiness. There are some things that, no matter the circumstances and because of our intrinsic and absolute worth, we will always be worthy of such as love. There are times, though, where we do forfeit our privileges for something of worldly worth. Some of us, for instance, break the Word of Wisdom even when we have covenanted with God at baptism to keep all of his commandments and to receive all the words and commandments of prophets in all patience and faith.[5] Breaking our promises with God is an unloving thing to do.

The Gospel offers us a beautiful promise though. It teaches that we can repent and be forgiven by God. He stands with outstretched arms waiting for us to do so. He loves you with a perfect love. His nature is love.[6] The Apostle Paul was "persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, [n]or height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."[7]

Conclusion

Confusion on different Gospel principles can arise from time to time. It is the author’s hope that this article will serve productively to give all of us hope and an added measure of unity in mind.

Notes

  1. Abraham 3:18
  2. Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20
  3. Genesis 1:26, 28; Moses 2:26-28; Abraham 4:26-28
  4. “Worthy,” Webster’s Dictionary 1828, accessed October 4, 2021, http://www.webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/worthy
  5. Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5
  6. 1 John 4:8
  7. Romans 8:38-39