In the gospel, direction matters more than distance. Consider, for instance, the parable of the laborers. In this parable, the lord of the vineyard negotiates in the morning with a group of day laborers, saying he’ll pay them a penny. Later, he hires some more dudes. Still later, some more. Finally, with one hour of work left, he hires another group. At the end of the day, he pays the men, starting with those who worked least. He gives them a penny. Those who had been working all day assume that they will get more (they put in more work, after all). But when their time to get paid comes, they also get a penny.
And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Matt 20:11-16)
I’ve on occasion heard people complain about folks with mental disabilities or missionaries who die on their missions, arguing that they get the easy way out. Aside from there being something supremely crass about that sort of outlook, it completely misses God’s point. He wants as many of us back as He can get. Salvation simply isn’t something we earn.
That said, we must repent. We must submit (to whatever degree it is possible) to His will. It will be hard work, because we are willful and prideful, but once we start, he will change us, not making it easier, but making us desire it more. Like Alma 32 suggests, the key to submitting our will to God is wanting to.
Yesterday, I suggested that when we die the veil is taken away. I think that this is done to make the choice to submit easier. A reminder of how we wasted our mortal existence will, I think, inspire us to repent. I also see all of this occurring prior to the final judgment, so one need not be concerned with being resurrected in the wrong sort of body.
Now it may be that some people will feel cheated, thinking that their devotion in life makes them deserving of a higher reward in their afterlife. I refer them to the above parable or the parable of the prodigal. The reward is the same for all: everything. It may well be that this is unfair, but God doesn’t care. The Atonement is a great injustice, the innocent paying for the guilty. What makes it fair is that the innocent pays willingly. Why should we behave differently?
That said, we know from prophecy that some folks will not return to God. They will look at the injustice of the Atonement or at mortal suffering or at something else and decide that God is not love. They will separate themselves from him. They will choose to keep this separation. There is no amount of pressure or love that God can apply, because all things that He does will simply further convince them that He is not love. They can’t repent, because they won’t turn to him. These, who separate themselves from God by their own pride and stubbornness, will be the children of perdition.
Why do I think that the veil is lifted in the afterlife? Because there will be children of perdition. And they have to know that they are rejecting God in order to reject God. I do think that they will find reasons and that they will feel these reasons compelling. For instance, the third who feel knew God without the veil, but were still willing to commit to Lucifer’s cause. Knowing all isn’t inherently convincing.
But doesn’t that encourage us to postpone repentance? God forbid. The purpose of repentance is to make us Godlike now. To fill our hearts with charity and joy. To serve one another in love and humility. Commandments exist to grant us joy, peace, and the Spirit in mortality. Their usefulness in the afterlife is unclear. All our commandments are temporal; it is remembering this that makes them simultaneously spiritual.
One consequence of this belief is that it is possible that Hitler (or some such) becomes exalted. Many people find the idea abhorrent. All I can say is that I think that repentance is sufficient for even the greatest of sinners, if it is done sincerely and in accord with God’s will. Crime and punishment are ultimately Earthly problems and I think God would prefer it if we confined our notions regarding them to this life. When we want eternal torment or punishment for one sin or another, that’s our mortal concern speaking. The blood of the prophets may cry to heaven, but I’m skeptical that their souls care all that much.
However, I realize that I am ignoring scripture. There are numerous verses indicating that few will be chosen. I have a tendency to read them as pertaining strictly to mortality. Few find the Gospel in this life; few ever will. But we don’t let that stop us from doing temple work.
So, ultimately, whether or not we return to God is our choice. We decide if we are willing to humble ourselves before God, seeking to know and do His will. A child of perdition isn’t cursed by God; they are cursed by self-denial. It is our job to work out our salvation, with fear and trembling, before God. We may not get what we deserve, but we will get what we want. That’s probably close enough.