April 27th, 2007

Eternal Entitlements

photo credit: Megan Troyer

While reading The Peacegiver by James L. Ferrell, I was impressed by part of an insightful conversation between two main characters in the book. They were discussing the topic of entitlements, as one of the characters, Ricky, felt he deserved to be loved and supported by his wife with whom he had been having marital troubles. The other character, Ricky’s grandfather, commented:

It is true that we are commanded to love and honor others, and it is likely true that Carol fails always to do that—just as you and I fail. But what’s false is this idea that you or I deserve that love and devotion—that we are somehow entitled to it. The truth is that there is only one thing we truly deserve, and that’s to be sent to hell—you, Carol, me, Jonah, Nineveh, all of us. Love and salvation are gifts. How grateful we should be to receive them in any measure!

Hell is all we could ever hope for, Ricky, if it weren’t for the redeeming power of the Savior’s atonement. It is only his love, offered not because we deserve it but even though we do not, that saves us. We don’t want what we deserve, believe me…. Our only hope is to receive what we don’t deserve—the mercy that brings the gift of eternal life. (The Peacegiver, pp. 96-7)

That passage reminded me of the following powerful verses:

And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. (2 Ne. 2:5-8)

What do we deserve? Hell. Eternal punishment. Expulsion from God’s presence.

But praise be to the Lord that because of the Savior’s atonement, we can receive mercy—a gift. That mercy doesn’t rob justice, yet it satisfies the demand of law and brings us back into God’s presence.

Without the atonement, our eternal entitlement would be everlasting punishment, having been exposed to justice. With it, our entitlement is glory, peace, everlasting dominion, and eternal lives. The latter sounds far better, if you ask me.

As Ricky’s grandfather said, we don’t want what we truly deserve. Thankfully, it is by Christ’s grace that we are saved, after and despite all we can do. Our charge is to be perfect in Him, not like Him. Only then will our true entitlement be changed in our favor. Thank the heavens for that.

8 Responses to “Eternal Entitlements”

  1. Naiah
    April 27, 2007 at 4:12 pm #


  2. Holly
    April 28, 2007 at 10:26 pm #

    Wow, this is a really good reminder.


  3. Aaron
    April 30, 2007 at 4:09 pm #

    I don’t like the word “deserve” It carries an interesting and powerful connotation in our language, and I don’t think it’s a helpful word while discussing the atonement. A quick search of the online scriptures reveals that this word only appears twice in the scriptures (both in the old testament). In one of those instances, I admit it is used within the same context as the above post.
    I like the teachings in Alma, when the prophet is teaching his son about the concept of restoration. Essentially, we will inherit what we want! How wonderful.
    It’s not a matter of “deserving” something or not. We will inherit the desires of our heart.

    It’s hard for me to explain my aversion to the word “deserve”. I will have to give it some thought. Along this topic of mercy and grade, I envision a concept that synthesizes the atonement, restoration as explained by Alma, and the scripture found in Doctrine and Covenants 45_3-5:

    3 Listen to him who is the aadvocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
    4 Saying: Father, behold the asufferings and bdeath of him who did no csin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be dglorified;
    5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my abrethren that bbelieve on my name, that they may come unto me and have ceverlasting life.

    I see it all in a more simplistic manner: God loves us as our father. The Savior atoned for our sins. He will save us all, if that is what we want. (I might go so far as to say “He will save us all, when we want it”, but I’m not sure on that one–and that’s a different topic.) I think too often we focus on our actions, deserving or not. The scripture above reminds us that it is all about Christ.

    I don’t write this to argue–as I do agree with your thoughts on the matter. It’s just that I am thinking about that particular word choice.

  4. Connor
    April 30, 2007 at 4:16 pm #


    I think I understand your hesitancy to accept the word “deserve” in relation to the point of this post. Deserving something equates to justice—in other words, we are getting exactly what we have “earned”. As the verses cited above show, that would be eternal banishment. But instead, we are able to receive mercy and forgo what we truly deserve (or have earned on our own merits), choosing instead to “[rely] wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (2 Ne. 31:19).

  5. Aaron
    May 1, 2007 at 10:17 am #

    Yes, partly that is the reason for my hesitancy. In addition, I don’t always think we have the correct perspective on what people might “deserve”. And example:
    So my son talks back to me, then hits his sister, then cusses, breaks the window, and walks off down the street. What does he “deserve”? Some parenting “experts” might say he deserves “x” punishment (they sugar-coat it by using the word consequence). There is a widely-accepted notion that when somebody does something bad, something bad must happen to them (because they deserve it). Continuing with the above example, I am not sure that my son would deserve any punishment. I would need to look at all the factors involved. Why did he do what he did? Most importantly, what course of action would give him the greatest opportunity of repenting and moving forward? A punishment (in the classic sense) might not be the solution (and rarely is it a solution).

    Does this make any sense?

    I understand that justice keeps us sinners from the presence of God. This is taught clearly in the scriptures. I don’t think God ever has the intention of punishing us, though. All of Jesus’ actions teach us otherwise.

    I am great at nit-picking with semantics. In this case, I think it’s important, though. Our Mormon culture (not to be confused with Mormon doctrine) has a pervasive paranoia that revolves around weighing/judging our actions to determine our worthiness. This is a harmful mindset, and I’ve seen too many people worry too much about being deserving of God’s grace.

    Great conversation. Thanks for the response.

  6. shestalou
    May 1, 2007 at 10:57 am #

    Well said Aaron I agree totally with your perspective after all the world was created for his greatest love of all, his children.

  7. Richard K Miller
    May 7, 2007 at 12:34 pm #

    I listened to The Peacegiver on tape and liked it a lot. One of my favorite points was that Christ forgives the people who offend and hurt us, so we can’t withhold our forgiveness from them.

  8. Aaron
    May 7, 2007 at 3:52 pm #

    Just started the book yesterday. It had been sitting on my shelf for some time, and Connor’s post reminded me to pick it up. I found the author’s perspective on the Atonement very helpful and enlightening. I loved his use of the story of David, Nabal and Abigail–this story truly helps us understand another important component in the atonement. I look forward to finishing the book.

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