When God begins to work with a people, the group becomes “chosen” and, therefore, the focus of His continuing efforts to save mankind. Although “chosen people” do not always remain faithful to Him, they do remain the center of His work.1 When a people are “chosen” by the Lord, He generally endows them with specific gifts or blessings. Whether they are ancient or modern, in the Old World or New, they are almost always given a specific set of gifts as part of a covenant. These covenant-based gifts generally include the following, in no particular order: a promised land, self-government, sacred space with sacred artifacts, angelic visitors, “signs” of His presence, sacred records which expand through a growing body of revelation, and ordinances.2
What about the question of chosenness of the Gods’ special people? Israel was, after all, at one point chosen by the Gods as Their special people. But that does not mean what most people think it means. Being chosen means someone/some people are put on display as either the faithful servant (elevating others) or the unwise steward (who is condemned, beaten with a rod, and made the display of Divine ire).3 “Chosenness does not mean what we oftentimes think chosenness means. We tend to view that as something laudable, and it means that we’re better than someone else because God’s focused attention on us, and therefore, since we get his attention, there is something great about us…. If you go through and read the scriptures about the concept of chosenness, almost always you run into words about forging in a fire the product that God regards as His people, which means that God has a fairly realistic assessment of what people are like, and choosing them doesn’t mean He’s found a finished product. Choosing them means He’s found something with which He’s determined to work. High carbon steel requires iron, and it requires a matrix of that carbon to be within the element. Life — all life — is based on carbon. We breathe oxygen. We are carbon based, all of us. In a very real sense, every breath we take, we take and burn it in our furnace. The way that we convey that oxygen throughout the body is by oxidizing iron in our blood. That’s why our blood cells turn red when exposed to oxygen, because the iron element fused with the oxygen oxidizes, or rusts, and so it looks red. And then, when it drops the oxygen off where it’s going to be consumed in the limbs, it loses that element, and it returns, and it’s blue. Forging us in the fire of affliction, breathing into us the breath of life, talking about being chosen, the example of what it takes in order to fashion something that will withstand and hold an edge, all of these things are types and shadows of what it means to be chosen. Chosenness puts you on display in order for the Lord to either prove what foolishness is in the person chosen, or if they succeed, to put them through an ordeal that demonstrates faithfulness and commitment, desire, and earnestness, so that everyone stands back and says: This people represented God, either by the shabby performance and the persecution and the failure and the folly; or it represents God by the diligence and the effort and the faithfulness…. Within every group of chosen people there are always those who are resilient and faithful enough to pass the test, to hold the edge, to survive when the difficulties come. And when the Lord puts us through the furnace of affliction, our burdens are designed to get us to be able to qualify. Our burdens are designed to make us a little more realistic about our own limitations.”4 When the Lord came to Bountiful, why were the twenty-five hundred witnesses of Christ chosen (see 3 Nephi 5)? The answer is they were where they should be (in Bountiful, near a surviving temple), doing what they should be doing (preparing to celebrate the year-end festivals). They chose themselves by doing what they should be doing, where they should be doing it. It is not the Lord who makes arbitrary choices. It is His children who elect to be and do what they are asked and thereby, qualify themselves. All are alike to God. But some abide the conditions, and the rest do not. Anyone could abide the conditions. Only a few decide to do so. Those who do are self-selecting themselves to receive the things being offered to all.5See also COVENANT.
1 “God’s People,” June 20, 2012, blog post.
2 Come, Let Us Adore Him(Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2009), 40–41. (See Ch. 3 for a complete explanation of this topic).
3 “Other Sheep Indeed,” expanded paper of address given at Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, UT, July 19, 2017, 15–16.
4 Address at the Unity in Christ Regional Conference, Spanish Fork, July 30, 2017, 1–3, transcript of talk.
5 The Second Comforter, 171.