Selected Teachings on
We Will Be Judged According
to Our Works and Desires

D&C 137:9

9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

Alma 41:3-5

3 And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.

4 And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame – mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption – raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other–

5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.

Brigham Young (President)

This is a subject I have reflected upon a great deal, and I have come to the conclusion that we shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body and according to the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.382)

Dallin H. Oaks (Quorum of the Twelve)

God judges us not only for our acts, but also for the desires of our hearts. He has said so again and again. This is a challenging reality, but it is not surprising. Agency and accountability are eternal principles. We exercise our free agency not only by what we do, but also by what we decide, or will, or desire. Restrictions on freedom can deprive us of the power to do, but no one can deprive us of the power to will or desire. Accountability must therefore reach and attach consequences to the desires of our hearts.

This principle applies both in a negative way – making us guilty of sin for evil thoughts and desires – and in a positive way – promising us blessings for righteous desires. . . .

The desires of our hearts will be an important consideration in the final judgment. Alma taught that God “granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; … according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. Yea, … he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires.” (Alma 29:4–5.)

That is a sobering teaching, but it is also a gratifying one. It means that when we have done all that we can, our desires will carry us the rest of the way. It also means that if our desires are right, we can be forgiven for the mistakes we will inevitably make as we try to carry those desires into effect. What a comfort for our feelings of inadequacy! As Alma said:

“It is requisite with the justice of God that … if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good. …

“If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.” (Alma 41:3, 5–6.)

Similarly, in this dispensation the Lord has revealed that he “will judge all men according to their works, according to the desires of their hearts.” (D&C 137:9.) I caution against two possible misunderstandings: First, we must remember that desire is a substitute only when action is truly impossible. If we attempt to use impossibility of action as a cover for our lack of true desire and therefore do not do all that we can to perform the acts that have been commanded, we may deceive ourselves, but we will not deceive the Righteous Judge.

In order to serve as a substitute for action, desire cannot be superficial, impulsive, or temporary. It must be heartfelt, through and through. To be efficacious for blessings, the desires of our hearts must be so genuine that they can be called godly.

Second, we should not assume that the desires of our hearts can serve as a substitute for an ordinance of the gospel. Consider the words of the Lord in commanding two gospel ordinances: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5.) And in respect to the three degrees in the celestial glory, modern revelation states, “In order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage].” (D&C 131:2.) No exception is implied in these commands or authorized elsewhere in the scriptures.

In the justice and mercy of God, these rigid commands pertaining to essential ordinances are tempered by divine authorization to perform those ordinances by proxy for those who did not have them performed in this life. Thus, a person in the spirit world who so desires is credited with participating in the ordinance just as if he or she had done so personally. In this manner, through the loving service of living proxies, departed spirits are also rewarded for the desires of their hearts.

In summary, under the law of God we are accountable for our feelings and desires as well as our acts. Evil thoughts and desires will be punished. Acts that seem to be good bring blessings only when they are done with real and righteous intent. On the positive side, we will be blessed for the righteous desires of our hearts even though some outside circumstance has made it impossible for us to carry those desires into action.

To paraphrase Paul’s teaching in Romans 2:29, he is a true Latter-day Saint who is one inwardly, whose conversion is that of the spirit, in the heart, whose praise is not of men for outward acts, but of God, for the inward desires of the heart. (“The Desires of Our Hearts,” Ensign, June 1986, pp.64-67)

Neal A. Maxwell (Quorum of the Twelve)

Whether in their conception or expression, our desires profoundly affect the use of our moral agency. Desires thus become real determinants, even when, with pitiful naivete, we do not really want the consequences of our desires.

Desire denotes a real longing or craving. Hence righteous desires are much more than passive preferences or fleeting feelings. Of course our genes, circumstances, and environments matter very much, and they shape us significantly. Yet there remains an inner zone in which we are sovereign, unless we abdicate. In this zone lies the essence of our individuality and our personal accountability.

Therefore, what we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity. “For I [said the Lord] will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:9; see also Jer. 17:10). Alma said, “I know that [God] granteth unto men according to their desire, … I know that he allotteth unto men … according to their wills” (Alma 29:4). To reach this equitable end, God’s canopy of mercy is stretched out, including “all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of [the gospel], who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;

“For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:8–9).

God thus takes into merciful account not only our desires and our performance, but also the degrees of difficulty which our varied circumstances impose upon us. No wonder we will not complain at the final judgment, especially since even the telestial kingdom’s glory “surpasses all understanding” (D&C 76:89). God delights in blessing us, especially when we realize “joy in that which [we] have desired” (D&C 7:8). ( “According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, p. 21)                   

Actually, everything depends – initially and finally – on our desires. These shape our thought patterns. Our desires thus precede our deeds and lie at the very cores of our souls, tilting us toward or away from God (see D&C 4:3). God can “educate our desires” (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 297). Others seek to manipulate our desires. But it is we who form the desires, the “thoughts and intents of [our] hearts” (Mosiah 5:13).

The end rule is “according to [our] desires … shall it be done unto [us]” (D&C 11:17), “for I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:9; see also Alma 41:5; D&C 6:20, 27). One’s individual will thus remains uniquely his. God will not override it nor overwhelm it. Hence we’d better want the consequences of what we want! (“Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 23)

Russell M. Nelson (Quorum of the Twelve)

Another unchanging principle, brothers and sisters, is that of your eventual judgment. Each of you will be judged according to your individual works and the desires of your hearts (see D&C 137:9). You will not be required to pay the debt of any other. Your eventual placement in the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial kingdom will not be determined by chance. The Lord has prescribed unchanging requirements for each. You can know what the scriptures teach, and pattern your lives accordingly (see John 14:2; 1 Cor. 15:40–41; D&C 76:50–119; D&C 98:18). [“Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 35]

This question reminds us that eventually you (and I) are going to die, be resurrected, be judged, and be awarded a place in eternal realms. (See 1 Cor. 15:22; Alma 12:24; Alma 21:9; Hel. 14:16–17; D&C 138:19.) With each passing sunset, you are closer to that inevitable day of judgment. Then you will be asked to account for your faith, your hopes, and your works. The Lord said:

“Every man may act in doctrine and principle … according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” (D&C 101:78; see also Mosiah 3:24.)

As all will be resurrected, your physical body will then be restored to its proper and perfect frame. (See Alma 11:43; Alma 40:23.) The day of your resurrection will be a day of judgment that will determine the kind of life you shall have hereafter.

That judgment will consider not only your actions, but also your innermost intent and heartfelt desires. Your everyday thoughts have not been lost. Scriptures speak of the “bright recollection” (Alma 11:43) and “perfect remembrance” (Alma 5:18) that your mind will provide in times of divine judgment.

The Lord knows the desires of our hearts. At the time of judgment, surely the special yearnings of single sisters and childless couples, for example, will be given compassionate consideration by Him who said:

“I, the Lord, will judge all … according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” (D&C 137:9; see also Heb. 4:12; Alma 18:32; D&C 6:16; D&C 33:1; D&C 88:109.) [“Choices,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, p. 75]

Marvin J. Ashton (Quorum of the Twelve)

When the Lord measures an individual, He does not take a tape measure around the person’s head to determine his mental capacity, nor his chest to determine his manliness, but He measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others.

Why the heart? Because the heart is a synonym for one’s entire makeup. We often use phrases about the heart to describe the total person. Thus, we describe people as being “big-hearted” or “goodhearted” or having a “heart of gold.” Or we speak of people with faint hearts, wise hearts, pure hearts, willing hearts, deceitful hearts, conniving hearts, courageous hearts, cold hearts, hearts of stone, or selfish hearts.

The measure of our hearts is the measure of our total performance. As used by the Lord, the “heart” of a person describes his effort to better self, or others, or the conditions he confronts.

A question I suggest to you is this: How do you measure up? Ultimately you and I will be judged not only for our actions, but also for the desires of our hearts. This truth was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith at a time when he was shown in vision the celestial kingdom. The revelation is recorded in section 137 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph marveled when he saw his deceased brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom, for Alvin had died before the gospel was restored. Joseph then received this great truth:

“All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; …

“For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” (D&C 137:7, 9.)

If our works and the desires of our hearts are the ultimate criteria of our character, how do we measure up? What kind of heart should we seek? For what kind of heart should we pray? How should we measure the worth of other people? (“The Measure of Our Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 15)