2 But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.
3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger, and fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts.
(3 Nephi 24:2-5, Malachi 3:2-5)
On the second day of the Savior’s visit to the American continent, He quoted two chapters from the book of Malachi, a book which they didn’t have, because it had been written after their ancestors left Jerusalem. The first few verses of Malachi 3 must have instantly resonated with them, based on their recent experiences. It talks about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, including the destruction which will precede it. “Who may abide the day of his coming?” Malachi asks, explaining that “he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap.” He talks about two groups of people who will come into contact with the Savior’s power:
- Those who are intentionally wicked will not survive. In particular, I notice that he includes people who are unkind to those less fortunate than themselves: “the hireling,” “the widow and the fatherless,” and “the stranger.” To the degree that they cling to these impurities, they will be removed from this earth to eliminate the impure actions they have embraced.
- The “sons of Levi,” and more broadly, “Judah and Jerusalem,” or the Lord’s covenant people, will be purified and purged, “that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
Note that both groups of people were impure. The sons of Levi were not spared the refiner’s fire because they didn’t need to be purified. But they were not destroyed because they were willing to be purified. This is an important point. The difference between the people who are destroyed by the Savior’s purifying power and those who are cleansed by it comes down to a simple question: are you willing to let go of the impurities He is destroying?
After the destruction which preceded the Savior’s visit to the Nephites, the survivors heard the voice of the Savior. He listed all of the cities which had been destroyed, and he repeatedly explained why the destruction had taken place: “to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them” (3 Nephi 9:5-11). Then, He extended an invitation to these survivors: “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:12). They had seen how the Savior could purify the earth by removing the wicked, and they had also been invited to experience His power to remove the impurities from their own souls.
I think the message is pretty clear: We don’t have to cleanse ourselves; in fact, we can’t do it. But we have to be willing to be cleansed. The impurities in our lives will be washed away. The question is whether we are willing to let go of them.
In the words of Sister Linda S. Reeves:
Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. Because of His atoning sacrifice, we can be washed clean weekly as we worthily partake of His sacrament. As we renew and honor our covenants, our burdens can be lightened and we can continually become purified and strengthened so that at the end of our lives we will be counted worthy to receive exaltation and eternal life (“Claim the Blessings of Your Covenants,” General Conference, October 2013).
Today, I will choose to receive the purifying power of the Atonement in my life. As I identify and recognize my sins and impurities, I will plead for the power of God to cleanse me, and I will be willing to let those things go, so that I can be purified.