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There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure


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It is quite obvious to me that, if I am wrong about spiritual matters, then I am not going to be in Heaven. And since I doubt that there even is an afterlife (more or less), even if I am right, then I'm not going to be in Heaven anyway.

Obviously I'm okay with this and willing to take my chances. I didn't always feel this way. It wasn't ever a Big Issue for me, just one that sort of stayed in the background as a persistent "what if."

I'm glad I don't have to believe in an afterlife that separates the good from the evil. I'm highly sympathetic to those that find the proposition of Everlasting Punishment abhorrent. Especially if we're supposed to believe that God is Merciful. ["Mercy can't rob justice." Yeah...why exactly? Never understood this. Why is/should justice be the ultimate divine virtue?]

(And if "God" really is assigning people to Everlasting Punishment, I'm not sure that "God" deserves worship. He/It definitely doesn't need it.)

One of the things I like about the Church's doctrine is its de-emphasis on this harsh dichotomy. Instead of having "good / evil," the Church uses the three tiered "good / better / best." I like this, it makes more sense--but I'm not entirely sure it isn't just a trick of rhetoric. (I think it's clear that Traditional Christian Hell =/ Telestial Kingdom, but I don't think there's enough revealed evidence to say much more than that. Plenty of speculation, though.)

But still, at best, I'm getting into the terrestrial kingdom after doing some repentance in Hell (or Spirit Prison). Hopefully all your righteous people out there will be kickin' it in the Celestial Kingdom. I wish you the best.

I'm not trying to be tongue-in-cheek here (it might sound that way from above). So here's my question: why don't you (singular and/or plural) believe in an egalitarian afterlife? Or: why (hypothetically) shouldn't there be an egalitarian afterlife?


28 Responses to “There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure”

  1. Anonymous Kristian 

    An old pal of mine says this:

    "Hell is the man you are one day meeting the man you could have been"

    I think this idea equally works for both ours and the traditional Christian doctrine.

    For me that is more motivation for choosing a higher path than the thought of some fire and brimstone place.

  2. Anonymous Hannah G 

    A few ideas I have (that will undoubtedly come out in a garbled fashion): I don't think that mercy and justice are opposing/competing forces or motivations for how God acts or makes decisions. While the scriptures tell us that mercy can't rob justice, I think it's clear that justice will not rob mercy either. I believe that God's actions will be perfect because they will be both just and merciful. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone outside of my own head because there is a lot more I could say on it, but on to my next thought...
    I've always felt strongly that we, ourselves, will have a large (and perhaps the ultimate) say in where we end up. Obviously, God will also have a say--and he will know perfectly not only what we did in mortality, but why we did it, and what we thought we were doing at the time. I think our desires are what we will most be judged upon. I also think it's not a matter of separating the good from the evil or even the best from the good, but it's a matter of people being ready/desirous for a certain existence. Our lives here are to prepare us to meet God (and hopefully live with Him). I take this to mean that there is (or are) a (some) certain way(s) of being that will help us get to that point and that if, when we die, we are not at that point, not only would we not *want* to live with God, but it would just somehow be impossible.
    Since nobody here knows very much about the afterlife nor the kingdoms of glory, I am pretty sure that when (or if, I suppose) we get there, we will all find things that we never could have/would have imagined now. I mean that any theories we have now are severely limited and probably have flat-out wrong components. Personally, I'm hoping that my reaction to is, "But of course!"

  3. Anonymous Dave 

    What you have to remember, Pris, is that sometimes words have two meanings. "Telestial kingdom" might be loosely equated with Christian hell, but it is actually described as a kingdom of glory. The only place that is described like hell is "outer darkness," with weeping, gnashing of teeth, etc., and there are apparently few souls who will be consigned to such a fate. It seems like in the last few years there has been a lot less use of the traditional telestial/terrestrial/celestial terminology for the afterlife, replaced by just talking favorably about the celestial kingdom and its association with temple marriage and eternal families. Personally, I like the pleasantly non-sectarian dictum that no harm can come to a good man or woman.

  4. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Pris,

    Thanks for this peak into your soul. I feel much the same as you, and this spawned a few thoughts:

    In an infinite realm, what's the difference between 3 kingdoms + outer-darkness and heaven+hell? I say...basically nothing. I recall being taught that, though any kingdom will be a paradise for its inhabitants who will also not be truly happy anywhere else, ...that from God's perspective anything short of Exaltation is hell...and this is how we should see it too. So Mormons do teach what appears to be a different doctrine, but it's very much the same; if not more condemnatory. We're not consuming vast quantities of food, television, and anti-depressants for nothing.

    But as long as there's really no proof of an afterlife...no verifiable, reproducible proof...then I'm with you. And why not make heaven on earth? At least that's something we can live for now.

    Thank you again for your thoughts. Beautiful.

  5. Anonymous Geoff J 

    why don't you (singular and/or plural) believe in an egalitarian afterlife?

    I don't really understand your question Pris. Are you asking why we don't go for the heaven/hell dichotomy? (I'm confused because that isn't really egalitarian anyway...)

  6. Anonymous Geoff J 

    By the way, this is a subject I have spent gret deal of time discussing at the Thang. There are more than 20 posts on the general topic of eternal progression up to date there.

    In short, my opinion is that is that eternal progression is probably best described in the multiple mortal probations model and that the three kingdoms are actually symbolic of a smooth continuum of light and glory among spirits from least to greatest (God). (I get that from Abraham 3. There is still a spirit world (and presumably a kind of temporary hell therein) but the kingdoms describe generally the character of people rather than the place they are. I suspect that outer darkness is another word for the destruction of a soul.

    My admittedly speculative conclusions are not mainstream, but they are also not without apostolic support (albeit mostly 19th century in terms of open teaching).

    Check out the posts is you are interested in actually digging in to this subject.

  7. Anonymous Andermom/Starfoxy 

    I think that the afterlife won't be too much different than life is now, except without injustice, and death and stuff. There are people who make themselves miserable, and there are people who make themselves happy. The thing that determines your 'degree of glory' isn't being good so you can have the key's to a locked gate that says 'celestial kingdom.' It is how you act, and who you choose to associate with, and that pattern will continue. Basically I don't really believe in three degrees of glory, I believe in as many degrees of glory as there are individuals.

  8. Anonymous D-Train 

    Pris, this is an excellent post. Truth is, I don't really know what I think. I definitely don't believe in an afterlife with equality of outcomes (simply put, because not everyone deserves the same thing in the same way). I do, however, believe in a truly eternal progression that doesn't cut us off at some judgment day in the distant future. In other words, I think the afterlife is different than this one, but that we'll be able to progress as long as we're willing to do so and as long as there's progress to be made.

  9. Anonymous Tom 

    Pris: "why don't you (singular and/or plural) believe in an egalitarian afterlife?"

    This is probably not a very satisfying answer, but it's honest. I don't believe in an egalitarian afterlife because the prophets have taught something different. Plus, an afterlife in which each person receives a reward proportional to his effort makes a lot of sense to me. It satisfies my desire to have everything made right. It also meshes well with my conception of God as a loving Father who desires for all of His children to have what He has, knows that not all of his children are willing to put in the work that this requires, and wants to reward all of them as much as He can.

    Pris: "Why is/should justice be the ultimate divine virtue?"

    Justice is another one of those words that is used in two different ways.

    1) To say that God is just is to say that He treats each individual fairly; He loves each of His children equally and unconditionally; as a judge He takes into account each person's unique circumstances and challenges and looks on the heart. In this sense, perfect justice (fairness) is one of the virtues that makes God God.

    2) I believe there is a law by which God is bound, which is called the law of justice, which holds that no sin can go unpunished. When it is said that mercy cannot rob justice I think this means that God's mercy can't circumvent the demands of the law. In this sense, justice is neither a part of God's character nor is it a divine virtue.

    The demands of justice were met when Christ suffered the punishment for the sins of all mankind. Making and keeping the baptismal and sacramental covenants are the means by which we make Christ's atonement effective for us.

    Watt (#4): "We're not consuming vast quantities of food, television, and anti-depressants for nothing."

    Whatever.

  10. Anonymous Arwyn 

    I'm going to sneak in here and throw out something that I've been pondering posting about (if y'all haven't kicked me off the blog yet ;), which is, I'm not really sure I do believe in a three-tiered afterlife. The prophets have taught it, I've read about it, I've learned about and heard about it, but it doesn't quite sit well in my stomach these days.

    On the other hand, I won't deny tiers entirely. I'm fully in the belief that the afterlife is tiered, after one manner or another -- but I'm leaning more and more toward a reincarnation model, wherein every man and woman achieves a place in the afterlife (or the next life, as while it's after this mortal life, it's not after life itself since life continues after death, if you want to be semantic) based on his or her actions in this life according to his or her understanding of what's good/true/right...

    ...but also, to toss an absolute out there, according to a strict standard of what is good/true/right.

    What I don't really condone is ignoring making the best out of this life in pursuit of the best in the afterlife. I hate the idea that I should be miserable here so that I can reach the top there. So, to a certain extent, I'm with you, Pris -- and yet, to another extent, I'm very much not.

  11. Anonymous D-Train 

    Arwyn, that's interesting. Can you explain a little more? Do you see it as continuing to be reincarnated after various periods of this (similar to the MMP idea that Geoff proposes above) or just one time?

  12. Anonymous Arwyn 

    I see it rather similarly to Geoff's MMP proposal, though with some differences (at least, on the surface -- I haven't read his posts on Thang in depth on the subject yet).

    Basically, imagine that thereis a standard of right and wrong that hinges on more universal questions, such as "Is this action hurting me/other people/things/creatures? Or is it helping" Any action that you take that that requires an answer of "hurting" will earn you negative points; any action that requires an answer of "helping" will earn you positive points. Karma, if you will.

    As you move into the next phase of life -- from here to what comes next, from what comes next to what's after that, rather like Geoff's progression -- how far you progress is somewhat based on how many "points" you rack up (positive or negative).

    Of course, one incomplete point in all this is, "What about God and obedience to specific commandments?" I haven't worked that out yet, nor am I willing to claim I understand things perfectly. But this model makes more sense to my mind than three or four places where we're assigned to sit out the rest of eternity. One could say that specific commandments generally fall into the "help, don't hurt yourself andt others" categories, but some (polygamy, for example?) really don't seem to.

    Hmm. This doesn't sound as profound at 1 in the morning as it seems when I'm actually coherent...

  13. Anonymous annegb 

    I am frankly sick and tired of hearing about the celestial kingdom. I not only don't think I qualify, I don't even want to qualify.

    If I do my best to be good and follow God, I'm going to go where I'm most happy. And that means a hot tub and color TV and a good computer. Not that sterile soft cloudy forever after with kids and husband.

  14. Anonymous D-Train 

    Anne,

    I sure as heck hope that stuff is in the actual celestial kingdom......

    And I think the concept of celestial living just has to be a bit more lively than the LDS imagination would generally produce.

  15. Anonymous Geoff J 

    Watt (#4): "We're not consuming vast quantities of food, television, and anti-depressants for nothing."

    Well if you replace "We're" with "I'm" then things start making some real sense...

  16. Anonymous Andermom/Starfoxy 

    Annegb you very much remind me of someone my Dad told me about (though I'm certain you're not her, because I'm pretty sure she's dead by now). He was a bishop having an interview with a widow who had recently joined the church. He was telling her that she could attend the Temple in a year or so if she wanted to, and at that time she could be sealed to her dead husband so that they could be together forever. Her response to that was "I certainly hope not!"

  17. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Geoff wrote:
    "Well if you replace "We're" with "I'm" then things start making some real sense..."

    Well then it wouldn't be true. For me it would have to be: "I'm not spending vast amounts of time reading and posting on the internet for nothing."

    There's clearly a great deal of dissatisfaction with this life, even among Mormons. Heck, I don't think you'd be writing so extensively of theories and postulations regarding the afterlife if the orthodox doctrine were satisfying. You clearly have your own anti-depressant. :-)

  18. Anonymous Geoff J 

    Truth is a great anti-depressant. I'm drawn to it. That's why I am a devout participant in the true church. Plus sharing truth is another great anti-depressant.

    Now trolling around and parasitically attacking those who have faith in Christ -- that must be depressing. I feel sorry for those types of people. (You know -- the angry exmos that stalk the Web looking for believers to ambush...) Thankfully there are very few of those in our bloggernacle community though. We are usually pretty good at sniffing them out.

  19. Anonymous Geoff J 

    Alright... After re-reading that last comment let me add that I hope the description in the second paragraph does not apple to Watt (implications notwithstanding).

  20. Anonymous Geoff J 

    Make that "apply"

  21. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Geoff, ...while I have not seen much trolling of the type you describe either, I have seen sporadic outbreaks of condescention coming from the more "orthodox" members of the 'nacle towards its less "orthodox" participants.

    Agree, disagree. But to suggest that a person is an anti-mormon troll because you don't agree with the ideas...because you hold your own extra-gospel meanderings as truth and those of others as, as... what ever you hold them as. This is unfortunate from a community perspective.

    Thanks for at least trying to rectify the original statement.

  22. Anonymous NFlanders 

    Watt--

    Very well-stated.

  23. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    BTW...Arwyn, D-Train, Mike, and Pris,

    I really like your site design and find it important to the mood. I'd be sad to see it go. Maybe, before making a change, consider adding a secondary CSS and a link that toggles? Just an idea.

  24. Anonymous Geoff J 

    Watt,

    The type of people I described (anti-Mormon trolls) do exist. I don't doubt the people you described (people who falsely identify anti-Mormon trolls) exist too . Let's hope we avoid both in our time in the 'nacle, eh?

  25. Anonymous NFlanders 

    A toggle-switch would be nice. Every time I leave this site and go back to LDSBlogs.org (with a white background) I scorch my retinas.

  26. Anonymous Psychic Head 

    I've come to the conclusion we will all be pleasantly surprised. I remember reading somewhere in the BOM to not lose sight of the goal because of the easiness of the way. There are no differences between members of the Church and non-members except we are held to a higher standard and therefore a higher degree of accountability. A friend here in Houston and I discussed there is rape, incest, money-laundering, murder, thievery, adultery, and everything else among the Membership as well as outside. Therefore, who are we as individuals to judge? Being subject to a human body leads inevitably to crazy, sinful things; some more than others. D-Train, I hope you don't sense any hostility in Mormon Mommy Wars blog about politics. To tell you the truth, I feel the two-party system we have (Rep-Dem) is just two heads of the same beast. However, as you said, in order to effect change, the populace has to demand it. Then where does that lead us? We may disagree, but we do our part, or at least I do. I can't speak for you, I don't know you. As the late Tupac said, I ain't mad at ya...

  27. Anonymous Psychic Head 

    D-Train, do you like the Flaming Lips?

  28. Anonymous D-Train 

    Watt and Ned,

    We're talking about some potential font changes and redesigning. I'm not honestly sure how we'll move with that, but I'd like to do something and I'm sure that our more technically literate bloggers can fix something up. I like the black too, but we're getting a number of people that are having trouble reading it.

    Psychic,

    No hard feelings whatsoever. It's just politics and will never be as important as a good burger (or the Sooner victory from which I just returned!). As for the Flaming Lips....I know it's heresy as a Normanite, but I'm not really sold. I've liked some of their stuff OK, but they're not my favorites. It seems like there's kind of a love/hate divide with them, but I've parked myself squarely in the middle.

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