But God doesn’t want to condemn us to endless torment. (See John 3:17.) We are His children,(Psalm 82:6; Romans 8:16-17, 21) and more than anything else He wants us to come home. (D&C 18:10-13). But if He simply threw open the gates of heaven and let everyone come in as a gesture of His divine mercy, justice would not be satisfied. And mercy cannot rob justice. (Alma 42:25.)
However, there is a way for justice to be satisfied and for mercy to claim us. But it requires someone to stand between justice and mercy, even a Mediator. Jesus Christ came, satisfied the demands of justice, and paid the price of sin as He bled from every pore in Gethsamane and as He hung upon the cross of Calvary. (See Isaiah 53; Matthew 26:36-46, 27:46-50; Luke 22:42-44; 2 Nephi 2:6-10; Mosiah 3:3-10.) Because He suffered the punishment which justice demands for a broken law, Jesus can extend mercy to all of us so that we need not suffer the demands of justice. (Alma 42:21-23.)
Still, we must merit mercy. In the beginning, God gave us our agency—the ability to choose and act for ourselves—and He will never force us into heaven. He wants us to come willingly. (Alma 42:27).
There are many men and women who have merited mercy because they "offered sacrifice in similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name." (D&C 138:13.) To say they offered a sacrifice of the same magnitude of the Savior would be blasphemous, but the personal magnitude of each’s sacrifice had similar eternal significance.
Speaking in the broadest terms, Jesus’ sacrifice was that of His will. By allowing His will to be "swallowed up in the will of the Father" (Mosiah 15:7), Jesus shrunk beneath the burden of sin, death, and sorrow but finally overcame them. Thus descending below all things, Jesus can lift us above all things. And as He lifts us, we will become "even as [He] is." (3 Nephi 27:27.) Yet during the exalting process of redemption, Jesus requires us to give Him our hearts, even our whole souls, just as He gave His Father everything as He prayed, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39. See also 3 Nephi 9:20; Omni 1:26.)
But giving our whole souls to the Lord isn’t easy. All of us have our favorite sins, and we aren’t quick to let go of them. The fact is, it feels good to sin. At times, we value our sinful appetites more than our eternal birthright. That’s why Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage. (Genesis 25:29-34). Such Esau-like lack of perspective will keep us from meriting mercy. As pleasurable as our favorite sins may be, they’re not worth our eternal birthright. (See Romans 8:16-17.) We must let go of our respective messes of pottage.
Yet to succeed to our eternal inheritance, the cost is much more than pottage. God wants our everything. But what do we really have to give when even the air we breath is on loan? (Mosiah 2:21.) "[O]ur wills constitute all we really have to give God anyway. The usual gifts and their derivatives we give to Him could be stamped justifiably ‘Return to Sender’ with a capital S." (Neal A. Maxwell, "Consecrate Thy Performance," Ensign, May 2002, 38.)
Yielding our agency to the will of the Father means loving Him with all our "heart, might, mind, and strength." (D&C 59:5.) For if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. (John 14:15.) Thus, those who offered sacrifice in similitude of the sacrifice of the Son of God simply obeyed God’s commandments, even if that meant letting go of their lives or the life of a beloved son. (Genesis 22:2.) Still, even as they let go, they trusted Jesus’ promise: "every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall inherit everlasting life." (Matthew 19:29.)
And inasmuch as everlasting life means knowing God and Jesus Christ, our submission to God’s will acquaints us with Them. For we are doing exactly what They have done. Our Heavenly Father gave His only begotten Son for our salvation; Jesus gave His life, thus showing us there is nothing more important to Them than our eternal salvation and joy.
How is it that we cannot give away all our sins, including our favorite sins, so that we can receive the blessings they most earnestly want us to have? If we let go of our sins and cling to the commandments—even until our wills are swallowed up in the will of the Father—when Jesus comes to take us home, "we will be like him, . . . purified even as he is pure." (Moroni 7:48.) And we will know Them, "the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He] has sent." (John 17:3.)
And we will merit mercy.