We know from various scriptures that we will stand one day before God to be judged. In order to better prepare for this important event, we must understand how the judgment will take place.
The scriptures teach that everyone will be judged according to our works: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12; see also Doctrine and Covenants 76:111; 1 Nephi 15:32; Abraham 3:25-28). Doctrine and Covenants 137:9 teaches that we will also be judged “according to the desire of [our] hearts.” (See also Alma 41:3.)
Judgments are made here on earth as to our worthiness to receive opportunities in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first judgment is made when the bishop determines we are worthy to receive the ordinance of baptism. Whenever we are interviewed for priesthood advancement or asked to serve in the Church, we are being judged. Another judgment will take place when we die. According to Alma, when we die our spirits will be assigned to either a state of happiness or a state of misery. (See Alma 40:11-15.)
The prophet Alma told us that we will be judged for our actions as well as for our thoughts and words: “Our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; … and our thoughts will also condemn us” (Alma 12:14).
Alma is not the only one to warn us about our words. The Lord said, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).
We can prepare for the Final Judgment by exercising faith in Jesus Christ. By following Him faithfully and by repenting of all our sins, we can receive forgiveness and become pure and holy so that we are worthy to enter the presence of God. As we become aware of our sins and give away every impure thought, word and action, the Holy Ghost will help us in the purification process. He will change our hearts so that we no longer desire to sin (see Mosiah 5:2). With the help of the Holy Ghost, we will be judged worthy to enter God’s presence.
According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we will be judged from the records being kept on earth and out of the “book of life,” which is kept in heaven (see Doctrine and Covenants 128:6-8).
President Harold B. Lee taught: “Every one of you … must stand before `the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel … and then must … be judged according to the holy judgment of God.’ (II Nephi 9:15.) And according to the vision of John, `The books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ (Rev. 20:12.) The `books’ spoken of refer to the `records [of your works] which are kept on the earth. … The book of life is the record which is kept in heaven.’ (Doc. And Cov. 128:7.)” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee , 226-227).
Besides the records kept in books on earth and in heaven, there is another record by which we will be judged. According to the Apostle Paul, we ourselves are a record of our life (see Romans 2:15). There is a complete history of everything we have thought, said, and done stored in our body and mind. President John Taylor taught: “[The individual] tells the story himself, and bears witness against himself. … That record that is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind, that record that cannot lie will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who shall sit as judges” (Deseret News, Mar. 8, 1865, 179).
The Final Judgment will be conducted by Jesus Christ and others that He will call to assist in the Judgment. The Apostle John taught that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). The Twelve Apostles who helped Christ in His ministry on earth will judge the twelve tribes of Israel (see Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). Under the direction of the Twelve Apostles, the twelve Nephite disciples will judge the Nephites and Lamanites (see 1 Nephi 12:9-10; Mormon 3:18-19).
At the time of the Final Judgment, we will receive a place for which we have prepared. We learn from the scriptures that there are three kingdoms of glory – the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:20-32).
We prepare for our eternal inheritance by the choices we make in our mortal lives. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 76 that our choices here will determine our eternal inheritance. He described the ways we can live in mortality in order to inherit the kingdom of our choice.
In describing those who will receive the celestial kingdom, the Lord said: “They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized, … that by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit.” He also taught that they include those who overcome the world by their faith and who are just and true. The Holy Ghost will seal blessings upon all those who meet these requirements. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:51-53.) All those who wish to inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom and to become gods must also be married for eternity in the temple (see Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4). All those who are judged worthy to inherit the celestial kingdom will have the opportunity to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for all eternity (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:62).
Because He loves all of His children, Heavenly Father has revealed the way by which all of us can inherit a place in the highest degree of celestial glory. Through the work done in our temples, everyone who has ever lived on earth can enjoy an equal opportunity to receive the fullness of the gospel and the ordinances of salvation.
The Lord described those who will receive the terrestrial kingdom as those who rejected the gospel on earth but afterward received it in the spirit world. These are the honorable people on earth who were blinded to the gospel of Jesus Christ by the craftiness of men. These people also include those who received the gospel and a testimony of Jesus but were not valiant. The people who inherit the terrestrial kingdom will be visited by Jesus Christ but not by our Heavenly Father. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:73-79.)
The Lord described those who will receive the telestial kingdom as those who did not receive the gospel or the testimony of Jesus either on earth or in the spirit world. They will suffer for their own sins in hell until they are resurrected after the Millennium. “These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.” These people are as numerous as the stars in heaven and the sand on the seashore. They will be visited by the Holy Ghost but not by the Father or the Son. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:81-88, 103-6, 109.)
Those who will be cast into outer darkness include those who had testimonies of Jesus through the Holy Ghost and knew the power of the Lord but gave away their agency to Satan. They denied the truth and defied the power of the Lord. There is no forgiveness for them, for they denied the Holy Spirit after having received it. They will not have a kingdom of glory. Because they chose to follow Satan, they will spend eternity in darkness, torment, and misery with Satan and his followers. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:28-35, 44-48.)
We face judgment day every day by the way we speak, think, and act. We live our lives by the laws of whatever kingdom we wish to inherit. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the law of the celestial kingdom. God has revealed every priesthood ordinance that is required for our progression. Once we have entered the waters of baptism and made a covenant to live Christlike lives, we are on the path to the celestial kingdom. If we are faithful and keep all the covenants we make with God, we are worthy to hear Him say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world” (Matthew 25:34).