My Little Heresies, Part Four: Final Destination

[The post is a part of a series. Here links to the first, second, and third posts in the series]

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.

Comments

  1. The main question I’d have regarding the veil being lifted in the spirit world is: Why teach faith, repentance… and all other principles of the gospel to spirits if the removal of the veil allows them to remember the entire plan from the pre-mortal life? How do you understand that seeming conflict?

  2. I don’t, geoffsn. Knowing something is different than believing it and I think that an awful lot of people will have to be persuaded that repentance is possible for them. I think that post-mortal missionary work primarily consists of convincing people that God’s mercy applies to them.

  3. Fair enough. For what it’s worth I’ve enjoyed your series and don’t find them that heretical (probably because I buy most of what you’re selling).

  4. well, I did say they were little heresies…:)

  5. This is the all or nothing setup. There is also the parable of the talents to consider for example.

  6. How do you think the parable of the talents is relevant? If I recall correctly, both of the folks who pass it are made rulers over many things. I would tend to think that it dovetails nicely with the prodigal and the laborers in proving my theory.

  7. The amount of talents varied in the final state.

    This theory of yours also reduces the atonement to a one time event other than a process.

  8. The two good servants receive identical rewards in Matthew. Are you using a different version?
    I don’t know what you mean in your second statement.

  9. This is basically how I see it, John – not that it makes it any more or less accurate.

    I just think we have such a limited understanding when it comes to the future and that we (humans) tend to limit God by what we think it “just and proper”. I think sometimes we lose sight of the idea that the Atonement allows what is “just and proper” to NOT be what actually is done. I appreciate that greatly.

    I’ve always defined Sons of Perdition as those who look God in the eye and swing their fists – but I like adding those who simply say, “No.” I think almost all of those people did that already in their first estate – that, when all of the garbage that makes us see darkly in mortality is removed, almost all of those who accepted and followed the first time will accept and follow the second time. I also think they will see how merciful God has been to them during their second estate and love Him despite how they might have felt during mortality when the veil clouded their vision. (and I think the second estate is longer than just mortality)

  10. The talent that the one servant buried was given to the one with the most talents and doubled them.

    This all or nothing heaven and hell idea you have, leads to an all or nothing one time born again atonement experience. It puts things back to a grace alone all or nothing salvation scheme. I knew where this was going from a mile away, and it is a major reason I find the degrees of glory with an atonement as a process idea far superior to a one time born again atonement with an all or nothing heaven or hell result.

  11. Eric, fwiw, I don’t get that result at all from reading the post – the one time event vs. process. I see the Atonement as a process, as well (and have argued against a one-time event interpretation that I personally believe is the view of most LDS members) – but I see no conflict between that and what John wrote.

    Oh, and I hate the idea of easy grace.

  12. What I find interesting is when you consider this statement:

    “He wants as many of us back as He can get.”

    in the light of our goal to become like Him, does it not seem logical that our desires should become the same and that we would rejoice at the repentance of *anyone* who will repent?

    I really like your heresies John – they work well for me.

  13. To echo my comment about Nibley’s observation that we are either repenting or not repenting, I think that may be where Eric is getting the idea of a one-time atonement event, and equating that with the evangelical moment of grace. I view repentance as a simple (not really) either turning towards God, or turning away from him, a process that most of us do all too frequently. The hope, and I believe where the real grace of the Atonement lies, is in spending more time moving towards God, and fewer times moving away from him, so that we are progressing, albeit in fits and starts, towards him. No easy grace here, staying turned towards God continually is a very difficult task, perhaps even impossible in mortality. For various reasons, I find your “little heresies” very comfortable.

  14. “I realize that I am ignoring scripture.”

    Yes, yes you are. The Holy Ghost does not confirm your words in my heart.

    Are you really willing to teach us that the following is just a well-meaning deception, intended to spur us more rapidly on a course we will in all likelihood be following anyway?

    “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
    And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
    Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”

  15. Tertium,
    I’m not encouraging anyone to disregard that scripture. I think that ‘our time while in this world’ extends into the afterlife (otherwise there wouldn’t be a point to the post-mortal ministry). I’ve taken pains to make clear that I don’t think anyone should put off repentance and that it is key both to living a joyful life now and that it is absolutely necessary to achieve exaltation. If that’s what you got from my posts, then I am a poor writer indeed.

    Eric,
    I don’t really understand your point. You seem to be arguing against something that I don’t think I’m saying. Can you explain what exactly you find objectionable. Note: infinity + 1 = infinity.

  16. John,

    At times I think you are just being difficult. I don’t think either of our positions here are all that complicated.

    In your first post of this series you did away with degrees of glory, you yourself saying that we are either in or out. I have been using all or nothing, but this is just two ways of saying the same thing.

    Now you are saying that we either submit or turn away from God. Either – or.

    So to summarize, your position seems to be:
    No degrees of glory – heaven/hell – in/out
    and, you either submit or turn away from God.

    In contrast, mo position is more:
    Degrees of glory, and degrees within degrees – practically individualized glory
    and, the atonement is a long complicated process, with various levels of success and stages of progress. Like a ladder.

    Note: 1 + 1 = 2

  17. I just read back through this series, and it seems that you can get this same doctrine from the New Testament alone. Repent, be humble, WWJD?, and it’s all good. So we can throw out the Book of Mormon, Joseph’s further revelations in the D&C ( like degrees of glory ), the temple, etc. Maybe I’m missing something here.
    While I agree with a lot of what you say– I’ve always had a soft spot for the idea of submission to God’s will, and don’t think we talk about it nearly enough– I don’t see where you really leave much room for Mormonism’s distinct beliefs. So yep- heresy. Even if it is nice and warm and fuzzy.
    And as for Hitler, et al. — BRM says that hell is the gateway to the telestial kingdom. Works for me.

  18. Eric,
    Are you advocating for MMP? Progression between kingdoms? Something else? Honestly, I am not sure what you are envisioning. You say individualized glory, but I’ve no idea what that is supposed to mean. How do you envision an individualize telestial glory vs. a terrestrial or celestial one? Am I making my question clearer?

    And I agree that the atonement is a long and complicated process with various levels of success and stages of progress. That is why I’m confused by your objection. Submission, repentance, faith, and such are simple ideas, but living them is incredibly complicated and imperfect (especially in mortality, I think). Although I think the basic choice is easily described, making it over and over again and getting it right over and over again is a lifelong process (possibly longer).

    CJones,
    I’m throwing out the three kingdoms. I’m not throwing out the notion of degrees, becoming Gods, eternal progression, anything to do with the temple (aside from the kingdoms), or any other unique LDS doctrine that I am aware of. I’m drawing heavily on the Book of Mormon to make my point. I’m definitely not advocating for Protestant notions of Christianity. So I’m feeling mischaracterized by you.

  19. “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.”

    What an amazing statement. I have regularly heard it is the opposite – repentance is much more difficult when we are disembodied and the flesh cannot be conquered.

    I don’t know of any scripture (even from “non-scriptural” sources like the D&C) that indicates we will have the veil removed from our minds right after we die. Am I missing it? Obviously some things that are currently hidden from us will not be – we will be living in that unseen world, after all. But the glory of God and his powerful presence, and our premortal memories of being with him and what we promised to him and what our relationship is to him and how guilty we really are? Those are what would make “the choice to submit easier” – so much easier in fact that it is no choice at all, hence the veil in the first place. That is why I believe that after we have the veil removed and receive the fullness of our previous understanding, no further repentance will be possible. I think 2 Ne 9:46 is how the wicked react to having the veil removed.

    I don’t think this is a trivial distinction. Very many of us know we need to repent, but find repentance very difficult. Sin, sloth and selfishness can be fun and there is no shortage of people willing to love sin more than the Lord, no matter how miserable it makes them. It would be a tremendous relief for a sinner to hear that “the choice to submit [will be made] easier” in the eternal world than it is now, so that none but the grossest of the self-deluders is lost. Well then, if doing it now is too hard then I can do it later!

    Your argument seems to be that the worst thing about not repenting, apart from some transitory unhappiness, is that it is inefficient. “we wasted our mortal existence”…”[seeking] sin…would be wasted effort”

    Peculiar then, that you believe our eternal trip back to be with (and like) God, has no finite limit:

    “I have a feeling that God can delay the judgement as long as necessary.”

    Efficiency is about preserving resources. As a principle it has no meaning when nothing is being lost.

    I do agree that we’ll get as long as it takes so long as we are going the right direction. But either our choices matter or they don’t matter. Anyone who hears the warning that this life is the time to prepare to meet God (and has it confirmed by the Spirit) and does not take it seriously is giving up something that they won’t get back.

    Does it mean they won’t gain their exaltation? Only God is in a position to judge. But it does show the person they are choosing to become, and those that don’t want what God has to offer now are going to have a hard time wanting it under different circumstances.

  20. C Jones says:

    Fair enough. Thanks for the clarification.
    I’m just wondering what to do with all those Plan of Salvation flannelboard cutouts of the sun, moon & stars.

  21. Tertium,
    You’re misreading my intent and my statements. I’ll get into how tonight. That said, I do appreciate your taking the time to really consider what I’m saying. It’s all to the good.

  22. Little typo that I was having a hard time with at first:
    For instance, the third who feel knew God without the veil, but were still willing to commit to Lucifer’s cause

    (feel >> fell)
    I was thinking who feel they knew God…

    So, I think what you’re trying to say, with all of this (Let me sum up) is… Repent? Repent and become more like God?

    good message!

  23. Maybe I am grossly misreading your statements, but I don’t think I misunderstand your intent. You are not preaching “Eat, drink and be merry, nevertheless fear God etc.” I recognize that. But I think you may not be appreciating some of the implications of what you are preaching.

    You do seem to care a lot about efficiency. It apparently even justifies chucking out the Three Kingdom paradigm:

    “If we, as a church, regard the stereotypical Protestant or Catholic heaven as a bunch of people wasting a bunch of time, why is the way we envision the Terrestrial and Telestial kingdom superior? Although I tend to not think of God as an economist, it seems an awful lot of waste.”

    I think you are treading dangerously here. The efficiency argument has been used before:

    “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.”

    However abhorrent waste may be, in that argument moral agency mattered more. You would say you agree: “… whether or not we return to God is our choice” but your overall argument rests on an awkward criteria: that it is impossible to submit partially, to master one principle but not another, to “Eat, drink and be merry, nevertheless fear God etc.” Thus we are either all in or all out.

    I am not comfortable with this. I believe that every good thing we do matters in the end. If we could find one of the 1/3 who followed Lucifer, that was not so committed to destroying and enslaving humanity as are his brothers, I don’t doubt that his eternal reward would be better.

    By the same token, every bad thing we do matters, and will do so eternally if we don’t repent. However, to break one commandment does not automatically make us guilty of all of them. Justice condemns us all, but it does not condemn everything about us. Justice rewards a poor effort better than no effort. Our goal in life may be to avoid justice via the atonement, but that does not make Justice unjust.

    Anyway, God’s mission is a hard one. Many people will not aspire to it. God will suit for them the pleasantest existence that they will allow him to, and whether it is in His presence or out of it depends on whether they can bear that presence.

  24. John,

    ‘Are you advocating for MMP?’

    No. Of course not.

    ‘Progression between kingdoms?’

    Not necessarily. Some progress at lease within kingdoms.

    ‘Something else?’

    Yes. Degrees of glory, with a complex atonement that helps all kinds of people – with mileage that varies per individual.

    ‘How do you envision an individualize telestial glory vs. a terrestrial or celestial one?’

    A kingdom(s) with many mansions, and a place prepared for all of us that suits who we have become. Very basically a place that suits everyone according to the judgments of God. These places appear to have some types of categories associated with them via section 76.

    Am I making my question clearer?

    The questions have been clear all along. So have the answers. Of course there is a great lack of detail.

    ‘And I agree that the atonement is a long and complicated process with various levels of success and stages of progress.’

    Which is why there is a need for degrees of glory rather than a heaven/hell. And why these will be based on more than grace alone.

  25. “why these will be based on more than grace alone.”
    What do you mean by this? Are you arguing that we earn our afterlife?

    Also, I’m really getting a vibe that you’re angry with me. I’m sorry for having offended you. I’m genuinely surprised at your reaction so far, because it has felt belligerent, which isn’t the way you normally behave. Of course, it could just be the vagaries of internet discourse.

    My impression of your understanding is that we will be assigned to a kingdom and, although we may rise within that kingdom, we will not progress to another. So Telestial folk will become really good telestial folk and that’s it, correct? I think that I’ve explained why I don’t find that a very satisfying notion of an afterlife, but it is certainly reasonable in our church.

    Tertium,
    I tend to think that most people will aspire to do God’s work (every knee bowing and all that). Nor do I think that I am advocating Satan’s plan (if for no other reason than I think we need to really, really rely on Christ). I think that you are extrapolating valid points though. I’m not certain that the potentially bad outcomes of this outlook are worse than the potentially bad outcomes of our current standard belief (which I think leads to a different sort of dithering and, frequently, people self-selecting themselves out of the process because they understand God as all justice, no mercy). If I’m to err, I’d rather do it on the side of mercy than justice myself, but erring on either side is sufficient to screw us up. God is, obviously, the one we should listen to.

  26. ‘What do you mean by this? Are you arguing that we earn our afterlife?’

    No, I am arguing against grace alone.

    I am not angry, just a little frustrated. I am simply supporting basic plan of salvation stuff as found in Gospel Principles or any Primary manual. You are of course very familiar with all of this, but seem to be trying to make it look like I am just making stuff up, typing in a different language or have completely lost my mind. It has felt to me that you have been deliberately playing dumb to make me look incoherent. I think if you read your comments to me you will see that they could be taken as belligerent as well.

    I am agnostic when it comes to progressing from one kingdom to another. The standard line seems to be ‘no’ but I do not know why that is.

  27. Eric,
    I am not arguing for grace alone. I am saying that you have to repent, which to me an essential work that must be done to become exalted.

    The standard line is ‘no’ on progression between kingdoms because Elder McConkie, in particular, came down hard against it and because Elder Talmage’s endorsement of it was edited out of some versions of his work.

  28. Does mileage vary with repentance? Variations in sincerity, in intent, in completeness, for some sins and not others, etc? I would assume that the answer would be yes. And if yes then degrees makes the most sense.

    If the answer is no, then it seems that repentance must be an all or nothing absolute. If so then heaven/hell would make the most sense.

  29. If the variations in repentance, sincerity, etc. are sufficient to prevent large numbers from reaching God’s presence, how can we really be joint-heirs? None of us will undergo what Christ underwent (except in the very general submission manner I’ve described). How could any of us fairly receive a like inheritance?

    If nothing unclean can dwell with God, then it seems to me that total repentance is necessary. But nobody achieves total repentance, because nobody achieves perfection. Having only minor sins or having only major sins leaves you equally outside of the Father’s presence. Our repentance is individual, as is our submission, but it is all to the same end goal (I think). But, I’m happy for there to be degrees in the Celestial Kingdom. I just want all the repentant to have a chance to become like God.

    My biggest problem with the traditional set up is a failure of imagination. I can’t imagine anyone being happy in the telestial or terrestrial kingdom. You are as much a victim of the second death there as you are as a child of perdition. But offering many mansions and a chance to progress in the celestial kingdom, I can get on board with that.

    But we do have to repent. What that means is between the individual and God, of course.

  30. Many will not be joint heirs. Those that are meet the requirements Christ has set. Those who do not, do so in degrees, and receive a lesser inheritance.

  31. Just a reminder since the discussion still seems a bit tense and several absolute statements are being posted: When God spoke of perdition and telestial persons, he said “behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they should return… But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men

    So lets not forget that whatever we think the story is, we don’t have the full picture, and believe that “many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God” will “yet be revealed.”

  32. #31 – Amen.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    It’s amazing to me how bold and certain some of us are in our pronouncements regarding the afterlife, when none of us have been there and when scripture itself is not very precise at all. God has an immense capacity to surprise us — I hate to set limits on that.

  34. I have always assumed that we come to earth to learn the unteachable. If it could be taught, God would teach it to us and we would not have cause to do the hard work.

    If we have not learned the unteachable by the time we die, we have to learn it in a different environment. Apparently just having a minimal experience in the body allows us to understand enough to learn the lessons if we are so inclined. If we are not, then the game is up and we get what we get, never able to learn the unteachable things. There will be people here who live long lives who do not learn the important unteachables and may never learn them in the eternities. (Or maybe they only learn them very slowly…) If we love someone there, who is trapped, that love can be a bridge, I hope, for them when we meet them. Maybe love is another unteachable, there are so many of them.

    One of the unteachables may be the acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice. By that acceptance we become clean in his blood. It may be that this one-time awakening is sufficient. Can you go back to sleep after that? That acceptance covers our many failings caused by our sinful and weak humanity, which we cannot fix by ourselves. Perfection is not an obvious quality in people because it can only be perceived by perfection.

    I favor a heaven of perfect freedom where we look into our urim and thumims and see what there is to see and go and do what has to be done. It is a grand cooperative society governed by love, primarily, and priesthood secondarily. The boundaries between kingdoms are permeable because there are no coercive forces between good people.

  35. Eric, how can anyone be a joint heir? Nobody can do what Christ did (or what His Father did before Him).

  36. Would you care to elaborate?

  37. Given Steve’s 33, I feel like stating that I am simply defending ideas about the afterlife that I prefer. So while I am uncertain about what the afterlife is, I am certain about which ideas about the afterlife that I prefer.

  38. Eric,
    I wish you didn’t feel threatened. I certainly don’t mean to threaten you or your faith. But obviously I’m doing it. So I’ma just let it go. We disagree; fair enough.

  39. I do not feel threatened at all. Not in the least. I only felt at times that you were being difficult – that is all.

  40. Uncertain says:

    “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 am usually a lurker but wanted to comment briefly on this idea. There is I think much to recommend such a view it deals quite well with some of the issues raised by the divine hiddenness problem but there are also in my opinion some thorny questions that need to be worked out. Under this model if I understand correctly a person could obtain exaltation without the need for faith. At least without the need for faith in teachings or ideas LDS hold to by faith here on earth. For example, take a committed atheist a person with absolutely no faith that God exists. Such a person dies enters the afterlife the veil is removed and immediately she is presented with overwhelming evidence that God exists. If I understand John C’s model correctly such a person could then progress to exaltation in the afterlife. This is all fine and good but my atheists at no point has to have faith God exists in order to achieve exaltation. She goes from a state of no faith in God to a state of absolute evidence God exists after which she progresses to exaltation all the while knowing absolutely God exists at no point does she every have faith in Gods existence.

    Faith, that God exists is simply one of the many ideas we have to take on faith here on earth that presumably my atheist would also never experience, things like faith the LDS church truly has saving ordinances, or that Christ really is the son of God. In none of these things would my atheist ever have faith she would go from a state of no faith to a state of absolute evidence they are true. If this then is the case it presents two different paths to achieve exaltation one path which requires faith in certain key ideas and another path whereby faith in those same ideas is entirely unneeded to achieve exaltation. Perhaps this is the correct picture of how the afterlife really works but I am not sure a model that does away entirely with the need for faith in the divinity of Christ or faith God exists is completely compatible with normative LDS teachings.

    Now you could always argue the “principle” of faith is still in operation for my atheist. In the afterlife she still needs faith just what she needs to have faith in changes. Although, what exactly my atheist is required to have faith in would have to be spelled out explicitly to build a convincing model. But even taking this route, this throws things like faith in the divinity of Christ or faith that God exists under the bus. It is stating faith in such things is not a necessary component to achieve exaltation. And it raises the question if faith in such things is not needed, why in the world are we required to live by faith in such things here on earth?

    Best,

  41. @#41: That’s a good question. My understanding is that even when we have knowledge there will still be faith. The way I read 1 Cor. 13:8-13 is that most spiritual gifts are only needed for mortality. Tongues, prophesies, etc. will be unnecessary when the veil is gone (when we’re not looking through glass darkly, when it’s not in part) but faith, hope and charity will still abide, even when the veil is gone, we see clearly, etc.

    This calls into question the idea of what faith is. Is it simply “not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Then you get the very question you posed. However, in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance (Gr: assurance, basis, foundation) of things hoped for, the evidence (Gr: proof) of things not seen.” Faith is the assurance of what you hope for and proof of unseen things. If faith is something that remains even after the veil is removed, then either there is more to faith than just those definitions, or it’s like you described: unnecessary post-veil.

    The lectures on faith say that faith is a “principle of action” and a “principle of power.” The argument is made that Hebrews 11:3 doesn’t mean that through our faith we gain an understanding that God did in fact create the world, etc., but that in fact it means that we understand God used faith as the principle of power to create the world.

    This understanding of faith indicates that it is a principle of power used by God and that we use currently to do anything that we do. Additionally we understand it to be a gift of the spirit.

    In any case, I think that hopefully shines some light on your question about faith and atheists after this life.

  42. #40 – Uncertain, to add my own view about faith and the after-life:

    I believe that there is an element of faith within Mormonism that is completely absent from most of the rest of Christianity – the idea that we literally have the potential to become like God. it’s one thing to believe in God – and even to have “faith” in God; it’s quite another thing to have faith in what I believe the Bible actually teaches about our relationship to God, the Father, and God, the Son.

    The capstone condemnation in JSH 1:19 is that people can have a form of godliness but deny the power of God – and I believe the element of faith that can be missing even in the very presence of God is not that God exists but that God can and will take us from our imperfect, ungodly state and change us into His perfect, godly state. According to most of the rest of Christianity, that is Mormonism’s central heresy – while I believe its lack is the central abomination of their theologies, since it eliminates the Biblical concept that requires the deepest, most empowering faith.

    To apply that to the after-life, I look at the pre-mortal life and see, perhaps, that aspect of faith as the great divider of those who accepted the Father’s plan and those who didn’t. Perhaps the 1/3 said, in essence, “We are scared to take the chance you outline in mortality, since we can’t believe it will work out as you say it will. We will accept Lucifer’s plan, since he has an obvious guarantee – even if it means we will return in the exact same condition as we leave.” Perhaps the 2/3 said, “We don’t understand what we can’t see, but we believe, nonetheless.”

    I know this is reading our theology into a parable that might not have been meant to convey this message, but it’s interesting to look at the parable of the talents in that light. Two (of three) servants took what was presented to them and acted in confidence, while the other one (of three) was too scared of what he couldn’t conceive to act as he was required to act. Two had “active faith” – but all three knew the Master and what kind of man he was. That applied to when they were away from the Master’s presence, but it could apply just as easily to tasks given in his presence. In that regard, knowledge of one thing (the Master’s existence AND his demands of them) didn’t eliminate the need for faith in other things – especially in the fundamental nature and potential result of their relationship with the Master.

    I don’t know if that is accurate in any way, but it works for me right now.

  43. Uncertain,
    It’s an interesting question. I will answer it (really) tonight, as well as Tertium’s from yesterday. I’m quite busy at work right now.

  44. Uncertain says:

    #42 -geoffsn

    I agree faith is much more than belief without a perfect knowledge. But whatever else faith may include, hope or belief in the absence of overwhelming evidence appears to be a key component as your quote of Alma 32:21 demonstrates. The problem I see with John C’s model is not that faith is not necessary in the afterlife it is that faith is not necessary at all. At least faith in things like Jesus is the Christ or the LDS church contains saving ordinances. Now I am certainly open to this idea I am simply raising what could be viewed as a potential weakness of the presented model.

  45. Uncertain says:

    #43 -Ray

    I appreciate your thoughts, if I understand correctly you more or less take one of the options I outline in post 41 (last paragraph). That is my atheist still needs to exercise the principle of faith. Just what she is exercising faith in is not things like the existence of God or that the LDS church provides essential saving ordinances. My former atheist already knows with a perfect knowledge these things are true and hence is not exercising faith in them. Instead the important and saving exercise of faith is to believe without overwhelming evidence that God can change us into a perfected state.

    Fair enough, that is one potential solution. As I mention in post 41 this does seem to throw many things we have faith in on earth under the bus things like faith in the divinity of Christ or faith that God exists. It is stating faith in such things is not a necessary component to achieve exaltation. Since a person can entirely do without them while still achieving exaltation.

  46. @Uncertain: Faith as hope in unseen things is a key component of faith, but I’d say it’s a temporary one. I imagine that aspect of it can fall away just like most of the gifts of the spirit. It still leaves other aspects of faith, aspects that would remain necessary to salvation.

    It still seems like your potential problem is largely one of assuming Alma 32 is pretty much all there is to faith. The idea that faith ends when you have a knowledge of something, even though that’s what it says in Alma, isn’t a complete view of faith scripturally speaking (see the references I used in #42). I would take Alma’s description of faith to only be a description of the temporary mortal aspect of faith. Additionally I think Ray made an excellent point that even if you know God exists, doesn’t mean you have faith that he can/will save you. Lucifer and his followers didn’t seem to have faith in the plan.

    Also, FWIW, as I noted in the first comment, I doubt that the veil will be gone in the spirit world for several reasons, one of which being that the missionaries in the spirit world will teach “faith in God” and “make known among the dead” “that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross.” That all seems a bit unnecessary to me if there’s no veil.

    But who knows? None of us.

  47. “It is stating faith in such things is not a necessary component to achieve exaltation.”

    Yes, imo – modified to read:

    “Faith in such things **in this life** is not a necessary component to achieve exaltation.”

    I think that’s a very orthodox Mormon view, as worded – as it is the foundation of our vicarious temple theology.

  48. Uncertain says:

    Ray and geoffsn,

    I appreciate your thoughts. It is always fun to discuss such things. Have a great weekend!

    Best

  49. Tertium,
    “repentance is much more difficult when we are disembodied and the flesh cannot be conquered.”
    I have also heard this said. I’m not certain that “flesh conquering” is an necessary aspect of repentance. Certainly we should keep the commandments, but sometimes folks have thorns in their side for a while. In any case, just because a choice seems obvious, making that choice isn’t necessarily easy. Certainly there are a lot of people in this life who have an intellectual understanding of who God is and why they ought to listen. But many don’t (myself included, more frequently than I’d like).

    Certainly knowledge isn’t inherently sufficient to cause or to prevent repentance. The third in the pre-mortal realm knew more than we do about the nature of God and they still rebelled. Laman and Lemuel heard his voice. On the other hand, Paul and Alma the Younger encountered Him or His messengers in the midst of their sins and changed their direction. Knowledge, in those cases, precipitated repentance. It doesn’t guarantee repentance of course (Alma said he had to fast and pray for his conversion). So, I am not overly concerned about throwing a wrench in someone’s approach to faith.

    In addition, it is inescapable that, veil or no, knowledge will affect our understanding in the afterlife. For instance, we will still be alive after we are dead. This is going to move several things from the realm of faith into the realm of knowledge. Then we will have Mormon missionaries wandering around. I’m assuming that it will be just Mormon missionaries, of course; perhaps they could be representing other churches, but I’m skeptical. Assuming that the veil is gone is, to my mind, only one or two steps further along the path.

    “It would be a tremendous relief for a sinner to hear that “the choice to submit [will be made] easier” in the eternal world than it is now”
    You are conflating the choice to submit with the ability to submit, which is a distinction that I actually make. I don’t expect repentance and submission to ever be easy (it certainly wasn’t for Christ). Knowing that it is necessary doesn’t make it easier, only necessary. For that matter, if you are convinced that God could never love you, after seeing how badly you behaved, you may not even want to put in the effort.

    I tend to focus on the temporal benefits of keeping the commandments because I think it helps motivate us better than pointing to the nebulous future. Of course, one shouldn’t guarantee flying cars and money trees, but it seems reasonable to pointing to the gift of the Holy Ghost as a guide and comfort. That is a substantial benefit of righteous living. Avoiding most addictive substances, having a ready made peer group, being able to actively engage in good works are all useful motivators. Of course, I genuinely think that there are some people so wrapped up in sin that it may not be possible for them to find it within themselves to turn to God in this life. I don’t like to think that there is no hope for them. You may believe as you choose, of course.

    “that it is inefficient. “we wasted our mortal existence”…”[seeking] sin…would be wasted effort””
    There is probably more truth to this than I thought initially, but inefficiency isn’t the problem. It is that we spend our time and effort on that which is of no worth. Being inefficient in the name of the Lord is no crime (heck, the Lord doesn’t appear terribly efficient to me); efficiency in the name of satisfying one’s own natural man is a crying shame. If we waste our mortal life, I think it will be because we failed to make and keep the relationships that give life meaning. Those relationships are best formed according to the principles of charity laid out by Jesus. It is a waste because we won’t have become what we need to become and we’ll have a lot of repenting to do in the afterlife if we are so inclined.

    Also, I do think that there is a final judgment. And I do think that we will have children of perdition. But I also think that God knows his children and that he will be able to judge who will stubbornly cling to their own will and sins and who will allow themselves to be swallowed up in him. So, I really just imagine he will time the judgment to coincide with that point.

    “But it does show the person they are choosing to become, and those that don’t want what God has to offer now are going to have a hard time wanting it under different circumstances.”
    We agree on this.

    “You would say you agree: “… whether or not we return to God is our choice” but your overall argument rests on an awkward criteria: that it is impossible to submit partially, to master one principle but not another, to “Eat, drink and be merry, nevertheless fear God etc.” Thus we are either all in or all out.”
    Isn’t that what “no unclean thing” implies? Are you arguing that we get to sin a little, beat our neighbors with a few stripes, and so forth?

    “God’s mission is a hard one. Many people will not aspire to it.”
    I don’t believe this even a little bit. That may be the ultimate cause of our disagreement.

    Uncertain,
    “She goes from a state of no faith in God to a state of absolute evidence God exists after which she progresses to exaltation all the while knowing absolutely God exists at no point does she every have faith in Gods existence.”
    I think that I addressed this above, Uncertain. Having an afterlife at all will be pretty convincing to your average atheist of something. Of course, knowledge and faith aren’t the same thing. Knowledge is empirical; faith is subjective (setting aside revealed knowledge, which doesn’t seem relevant to the question). If our agnostic doesn’t cease to exist when she dies, she certainly is no longer agnostic on that issue. However, as Alma notes, one bit of knowledge doesn’t equate to all knowledge. Even if you understood the grand scheme of things intellectually, I tend to think that we would still be hung up on our past sins, our notions of how things could have been done better, our wishes to have a second chance, etc. Knowledge is good, but it is what we do with it that demonstrates faith.

    “But even taking this route, this throws things like faith in the divinity of Christ or faith that God exists under the bus. It is stating faith in such things is not a necessary component to achieve exaltation.”
    I’m not following you at all here. Could you clarify?

    “And it raises the question if faith in such things is not needed, why in the world are we required to live by faith in such things here on earth?”
    Here and there we need faith for the same reason: so that we will turn to God and submit ourselves to Him so that he can make us more like Him. That’s not a principle that I think changes on the other side of the veil.

    “At least faith in things like Jesus is the Christ or the LDS church contains saving ordinances. Now I am certainly open to this idea I am simply raising what could be viewed as a potential weakness of the presented model.”
    As the author of the model, I disagree. Christ is the vehicle of the Atonement. Without him, no repentance. If I agreed with your interpretation, I’d drop this thing like a spiky rock. If you can prove to me that this is a necessary outcome, I will. Same for the saving ordinances. They have to be done, in my opinion. I really don’t know where you got this from.

  50. Uncertain says:

    Hi John C.

    “But even taking this route, this throws things like faith in the divinity of Christ or faith that God exists under the bus. It is stating faith in such things is not a necessary component to achieve exaltation.”

    “I’m not following you at all here. Could you clarify?”

    Sorry for the delay in response. I had guests this weekend and have not been online. To clarify here on earth believers live by faith with regards to things like God exists and the divinity of Jesus. Believers hope such things are true they believe such things are true but as Alma teach’s we by and large don’t have a perfect knowledge proving these things. To put it another way believers have faith Jesus is the Christ, God exists or the LDS church is the only authorized vehicle for saving ordinances. LDS believers don’t have overwhelming evidence these things are true they act by an imperfect knowledge or to put it another way they act by faith. There are of course some exceptions to this rule but by and large we live by faith here on earth and not a perfect knowledge. If the veil is lifted right after death a person could go from a state with no faith whatsoever in the divinity of Jesus or the existence of God to a state of perfect knowledge these things are true. If this person can still become exalted then clearly and unmistakably faith in things like the divinity of Jesus and that God exists are not necessary components to achieve exaltation. Now I 100% agree a perfect knowledge does not remove free agency or mean there are not lots of other ways we could exercise faith as you discuss in post 50 but I am unsure how this affects the point I am making. I am simply saying if a person goes from a state of no faith to a state of perfect knowledge concerning the truth of principle or fact X. And this person can still become exalted then clearly faith in principle X is not necessary to achieve exaltation sure there may be lots of other principles A, B, C and D this person could still exercise faith in but this does not change the fact faith in principle X is straightforwardly not a necessary component to achieve exaltation.

    In any case I am up against a deadline I will be interested in reading your reply but will probably not respond.

  51. I’m usually a lurker here by default: I come to the conversation late, and anything I might have said has been said by the time I read to the end of the comments. But, today is different.

    I’m wondering about “children of perdition.” I was in a religion class at BYU once where the teacher was of the opinion that “sons” was chosen intentionally because no females would ever become children of perdition. I think the females were supposed to be flattered or relieved or something. I wasn’t. Anyway, I was wondering what your reasoning was behind choosing to say “children.”

  52. Recently, someone told me that they had a dream some years ago and learned that God created equal numbers of male and female spirits but that the third that rebelled were all male. Hence there are more women in the church and in the celestial kingdom and so that is one reason why polygamy is permissable.

    Any guess as to the gender of the person that told me that?

    Private dreams don’t determine doctrine and neither to exclusive readings of scriptural phrases. What do we make of the reference to ‘sons of God’ as used in the scriptures? Is that similarly exclusive?

  53. MJ, I personally don’t think that it is that exclusive. However, sons/children of perdition aren’t something that I’ve heard a lot about or spent a lot of time studying. The one time I’d heard someone talk specifically about gender in reference to perdition was this one guy at BYU I mentioned earlier, until John C. seemed to make a point of saying “children.” So, I was curious to know what John or anyone else thought about the idea.

  54. Becca,
    I don’t see any reason to exclude women from perdition. When women are excluded, it seems to me that the reason is to justify the position of women with respect to the priesthood in this life (either by making them too spiritual to require it (and the atonement) or too morally stupid to be capable of sinning against the Holy Ghost). So, yeah, that’s why I chose that term.

  55. I think the only rationalization for there being no daughters of perdition is that women cant have the Priesthood, so they cant sin as badly as a man who has the Priesthood.

    I think its silly, all in all.

  56. To 53: I have had dreams wherein I was able to fly like a bird. Our unconcious mind creates all kinds of ficticious dreams. Your friend certainly had one. I am surprised that she would even share it with you. You might remind her that all references to heavenly beings in the scriptures use the male tense. Shall we therefore conclude that only males will get to heaven? Of course not.
    Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Nauvoo pagent and see the new film in the Visitors Center. They were a very enlightening exposition of the gospel. Some of that is now available on the internet, so others can also share in it.

  57. Bruce G. Rogers,

    I was surprised too!

    Of course, obviously ‘she’ didn’t think I would share it here!

    I think we need to stick with the scriptures on this one.

    As for flying like birds, I recognise that Christ ascended into heaven in such a way as to cause amazement to those who had witnessed numerous miracles performed by him. Maybe it not flying like a bird but it is still a promise that we might get to feel a little like superman (or superwoman!) one day!

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