Twice in the Gospel of Matthew, the Savior makes a distinction between being called or invited (kletoi in Greek) and being chosen or selected (eklektoi). “Many are called,” He says, “but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; see also Matthew 22:16).
Several Book of Mormon passages emphasize the principle that a person can be called without being chosen. After Amulek’s conversion, he laments his prior state: “I was called many times,” he said, “and I would not hear” (Alma 10:6). And his missionary companion, Alma, explains that many people were “called and prepared from the foundation of the world,” but were first “left to choose good and evil” before being called in this life (Alma 13:3).
Nephi explains that one key to being chosen is to exercise faith:
I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.1 Nephi 1:20
While imprisoned in Liberty Jail in 1839, Joseph Smith learned a lot about what it takes to be chosen. “Behold, there are many called,” he wrote, “but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?” Here are some of his answers:
- They “aspire to the honors of men.”
- They “cover their sins.”
- They seek to “gratify their pride, their vain ambition.”
- They strive to “exercise control…or compulsion” over other people.
In other words, their goals are short-term. They prioritize transitory rewards over eternal things.
Elder David A. Bednar emphasized that we can choose to be chosen:
To be or to become chosen is not an exclusive status conferred upon us. Rather, you and I ultimately determine if we are chosen….
God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit “the chosen” to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.“The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” General Conference, April 2005
In the Book of Revelation, John describes those who will be with the Savior in the end as “called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). That sequence rings true to me. First, we are invited (called). Then, we accept the invitation (chosen). Finally, we remain true to it over time (faithful).
Today, I will strive to accept the invitations God has given to me. I will remember that I will be chosen if I choose to humble myself and exercise faith in God.