Every now and then I sit through a discussion in priesthood meeting that practically causes me to have a brain hemorrhage, and, unfortunately, yesterday's lesson in the high priests group fit into that category. The topic of the lesson was the three degrees of glory and, specifically, what the requirements are for someone to reach the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. The instructor used a "basketball" analogy, suggesting that perhaps those who attain that level of glory are like NBA all-stars -- veritable Kobe Bryants and LeBron Jameses of the spiritual realm! Curiously, at no point did the Atonement of Jesus Christ enter the discussion, notwithstanding the fact that King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon (see the stock illustration with my...ahem... modifications) assures us that we're all "unprofitable servants" and cannot abide a celestial glory absent the grace of Christ. Nor did the Parable of the Talents come up in the discussion, in which Christ plainly taught that each person can receive the greatest reward based on what he does with the natural gifts that are bestowed on him. Finally, one might have thought to bring up the example of the Widow's Mite (or, rather, two mites), in which Christ made clear that the magnitude, in absolute terms, of a person's contributions in the kingdom isn't nearly so important as what those contributions represent relative to the person's means and resources.
If one injects the foregoing into the instructor's "basketball" analogy, it seems the following is true. One, that no one attains "NBA all-star" status based wholly on his own natural gifts or even his long years of practicing his "spin move." Two, that one may not require great natural gifts to tie into that great "$100 million contract with the Lakers" in the sky. And three, that it's conceivable that a relatively small contribution on the part of the lowliest of church members may well secure that person a spot in God's "starting lineup," ahead of people whose gaudy "scoring averages" bespeak much-greater abilities in an absolute sense -- it may all depend on circumstances and what's in the person's heart.
I have to believe all this is true, for otherwise I'm wasting my time, my substance, and what little remains of my self-esteem after a lifetime of attending church, and otherwise associating, with other LDS church members who seem all too eager to deny the efficacy of the Atonement and the scope of its effect on the poor in spirit (who, after all, are supposed to be the ones inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven at some point). Does a person have a chance who pays his tithes and offerings, obeys the Word of Wisdom, lives the Law of Chastity, attends the temple once in a while, helps out on the occasional service project, sings in the ward choir, and loves his wife and family so much that he continues to attend church, week in and week out, with people whom he doesn't particularly care for (and vice versa)? Does it matter that he simply doesn't have the emotional resources to do much more than that?
I can't say, except that I'm glad God's ways are not man's ways and that, presumably, his judgments are wiser than those of most people I know.