“The first shall be last and the last shall be first” — here is a link to what I think is a pretty good explanation of this scripture.
I struggled with the meaning of this verse when I first heard it. In my mind’s eye, I can remember approaching my father when I was very young having read this scripture and wondering “How could this be?” It didn’t sound right to my young ears. I saw in my mind a line of people, and those at the end of the line would move in front of those standing at the head of the line. I thought, “That’s not fair.” I lamented, “What is this all about?” The words he shared with me that day though comforting have slipped into history, but the life he lived will forever stand as an example.
Though I can’t always explain why things happen the way that they do, I know that all things work together for good to them that love and serve God. This realization has been affirmed time and again. As an adult, I have come to realize that there is nothing fair about my salvation. Fair would be justice for my foolish actions and punishment for my thoughtless mistakes—chastisement for my shortcomings and penalty for the bad choices made. That is what I merit.
Yet instead of getting what we deserve, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, when we try and follow Him, repent often, and participate in the saving ordinances of the gospel, we do not have to receive what is justly ours when we make mistakes that hurt others and fail our families. We can be forgiven and follow the commandments afresh bringing more joy, hope, and ecstasy than we ever thought possible. Instead of being paid what I deserve, I instead receive kindness, opportunity, and mercy. Getting what I deserve is not the result I want and it isn’t the gift Jesus Christ is offering me. That is the beautiful truth of mercy. I didn’t realize this as a boy, yet I understand it much better now as a man.
But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my spirit.
Gratefully, I remembered this teaching and applied it on faith when I first heard it. It wasn’t until many years later that I have come to understand this principle more fully and see it manifest for myself regularly with my family and friends—all those I really care about. True, life will throw us curve balls, but even then, the great plan of happiness works for all situations and will not rob us of mercy.
When we are eager to work out a problem or deal with a complaint, we need not fear the outcome. Because the ultimate outcome is assured, even when we don’t see its resolution or understand why, we can face each day with hope and enthusiasm, faith, and integrity.
Do you remember the incident covered in the Book of Mormon that had to do with the Rameumptom? Pride and wickedness were rampant among these people whose strange behavior astounded Alma and his companions. Their choice to refuse God’s help and let pride govern their lives was a great stumbling block to them and others.
“Many are called, but few are chosen.” We are all familiar with this scripture, but perhaps we are less aware of the following verses.
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
We see the same behavior spill over into sports, politics, media, and our very own neighborhoods. The Lord told this to Joseph Smith, but he wasn’t the only one that wrote about the last days. Paul discussed many of the situations and attitudes of the last days as well. The outcome was also revealed.
Even amid the challenges of our day, we have hope in the peace we can have through Jesus Christ, especially in the midst of tragedy and chaos. We have heard about and experienced these challenges before. We are dealing again with them now.
In the midst of our challenges, we must look out to help others. That is a lesson I have learned from people everywhere who are setting an example for me. And that is just the beginning of the message of hope and love for all men.
We need to continue to follow the example of Jesus Christ, which lightens our burdens all along the way.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.