33 Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be judged of their works; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also.
34 But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy.
(1 Nephi 15:33-34)
After Nephi reproved his brothers for failing to turn to God for answers, and after he explained to them the meaning of the olive tree from their father’s teachings, the brothers became teachable. They began to ask a series of questions, apparently sincerely wanting to know the answer: “What meaneth the tree which [our father] saw?” (v. 21) “What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?” (v. 23) “What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?” (v. 26)
In answer to this last question, Nephi explained that an “awful gulf” separates the wicked from the righteous so that the wicked cannot partake of the tree of life. When his brothers ask whether this is an temporal (earthly) or a spiritual (heavenly) reality, he answers that it is both. And then, he teaches them this fundamental principle: The choices we make every day determine what we will become, and what we become determines our ultimate fate. No unclean thing can dwell in God’s kingdom, so we must become clean in order to dwell with him. The choices we are making right now will determine our future state because they determine what we are becoming.
After quoting part of the passage above and several other Book of Mormon passages, Dallin H. Oaks explained:
From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become (“The Challenge to Become,” General Conference, October 2000).
Today, I will remember this principle. My decisions today determine what I am becoming, and what I become will determine the outcome of the Final Judgment for me. I will strive to act in a way that will help me become what Heavenly Father wants me to become, so that I can be worthy to return to His presence and inherit eternal life.