God the Father vs The Godfather: When Forever Families become Eternal Hostages

 

In “The Problem of Pain,” CS Lewis famously says that many people mistake the Father in Heaven for the Grandfather in Heaven—”a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all.”

The Grandfather in Heaven is a perversion of the Christian doctrine of God because he does not ask anything of his followers. He doesn’t care if they eat ice cream for breakfast, or if they do their homework, or if they progress in any way into adulthood. He doesn’t have to deal with them when they are the spiritual equivalent of 30 years old and failing to launch. He just wants to make sure that everybody has a good time on his watch.

There is another common perversion of God the Father that rears its head from time to time in both Christian and Latter-day Saint circles. Let’s call him “The Godfather.” Unlike God the Father, the Godfather works through fear and intimidation. He gives us presents and helps us find our car keys, of course. And we may, from time, discreetly ask him to whack an enemy or two and make it looks like an accident. But, in exchange he demands our absolute loyalty. And if we fail him, we may end up sleeping with the fishes.

Like all masters of manipulation, The Godfather knows how to use a person’s family as a lever. This is how trials get tampered with: the star witness will get a picture of their children playing at school, along with a subtle hint that playgrounds can be dangerous, and all of a sudden they can’t remember ever seeing the defendant carrying a body-sized gunny sack down eighty flights of stairs.

There is a spiritual equivalent to this kind of manipulation. When a religious figure or ecclesiastical institution claims to control somebody’s access to their family in the afterlife, they often end up–often not intending to–creating an eternal hostage situation in an effort to compel some sort of earthly behavior–invoking a God who says to us, in effect, “Nice family you got there. Sure be a shame if you was never to see them again when you died because you couldn’t find it in your heart to buy me an airplane.”

Latter-day Saints, I think, are more likely to talk this way than other religions because eternal families are such a key part of our religious understanding. Mormons have a long tradition of replacing “‘till death us do part” with “for time and all eternity” in the wedding ceremony. We have deep doctrines to support this change. And we sometime imagine that we are the only ones who believe this.

We are not. I have found this to be a nearly universal belief among people who believe in an afterlife at all. People of other faiths don’t come to this through a set of ordinance, however, but through their understanding that a God who is all good things would not create a heaven that separated them from the people they loved. People often hold this belief deeply and intuitively, regardless of what may be said by the theologians of the institutions that they are affiliated with–most of which are also not as hostile to the idea of eternal families as Mormons sometimes imagine them to be.

I believe that we should all have enough epistemic humility to grant that we don’t understand the afterlife well enough to say whose families will and will not be there together. There is a whole lot about Mormon Heaven that doesn’t make much sense if you think about it for very long. In our minds, we imagine spending eternity with our children and, perhaps, our parents. But if everybody does this, there is going to have to be a really big house–since the “family” will necessarily include everybody who ever lived. And if “our eternal family” means “everybody,” then it isn’t going to matter much who got picked by the right team in the great gym class of life.

When I was a missionary, I always felt a little bit icky teaching about the Plan of Salvation in a way that, I can see now, often had the effect of telling people “join our church or you won’t see your family again when you die.” And I have always had a really big problem with LDS funerals, where speakers are directly instructed to tell non-members in the audience that they can see their departed loved one again, but only if they join the Church and go to the Temple.

I understand that, when Latter-day Saints talk like this, they are doing so in a spirit of hope. They want to share the good news that families can be forever. But most people already think that families can be forever–and that the love and devotion that they feel for their family will survive into whatever kind of existence comes after this life. So statements like, “you can see your family again if you get baptized and married in the temple” mean exactly the same thing as, “you will never see your family again if you don’t get baptized and married in the temple.” The threat is simply the flip side of the promise–and the promise is a subtle way to deliver the threat.

I am convinced that God doesn’t talk that way. But I know that Marlon Brando does. And when people hear things like this from a pulpit, they need to be very clear who is being quoted.

Comments

  1. This is how President Nelson’s talk was for me in the Sunday afternoon session. I’ve cried ever since.

  2. Largely, largely agree. Amen. Thank you for forcing these thoughts for those that haven’t thought them yet.

    Just wondering where you got the funeral instruction bit? Is that in a handbook or something? I’ve spoken at several funerals, including my own father’s and at no point was this instruction given to/or followed by me or any of the other speakers. Or is this a tradition that is often upheld in Utah? That could be why I’m missing it?

  3. “I am convinced that God doesn’t talk that way.” I am, too! Problem is, our canon (I’m looking at you Section 132), speaks precisely in these terms. It’s not that we believe families can be forever, we assert that no family can be without temple marriage. It’s sort baked in the cake.

  4. You have to remember that Russle M Nelson was the kid breaking his parents liqueur bottles in his parents basement. He is a Orthodox fundamentalist Latter-day Saint/Mormon from birth.
    I have met many deeply faithful Latter-day Saints – even high ranking leaders – that don’t believe in the all-or-nothing heaven that Russle believes in.
    I think Russle’s honeymoon new-prophet phase is wearing off and everyone will see who he really is. Religious extremists take many forms – in this case it is a 94 year old man.
    Does anyone else notice how he scowls with is eyes and eyebrows. It makes me cringe.

  5. Jenny H. says:

    To comment about Mormon funerals in my Utah area, yes they do just that. It becomes a “missionary tool” in their mind. As for myself, I no longer believe in the truth claims of the ‘church’ and find it awful that they turn a funeral service into a sacrament meeting, without the sacrament. Interestingly enough, my Mom who is in her 80’s and lives in Seattle just recently remarked how she hates the funerals she has been to for this very reason. My Mother is very much a TBM.

  6. I’m with Meg. I live outside Utah. I’ve never heard anything said at an LDS funeral like that. Just that we take comfort in a hereafter knowing we will see our deceased loved ones again. No mention one has to be LDS or they won’t see them in the next life. Who on earth would say that at a funeral??
    Families can be forever but we don’t know now who and won’t know until after the Millennium and Final Judgment. And that doesn’t apply to the hereafter.

  7. Hunter,
    Parts of D&C 132 are so gross to me I just don’t know how this was canonized as scripture.
    Russell M Nelson interprets D&C scripture literally. That is why he is such a stick in the mud about the “Thus shall my church be called ….” drama from the last conference.
    I guess he forgot to read the first D&C (cough… Book of Comandments). There are many changes in the written verse from the first version to the second. It is not the literal word of God. Russell believes it is.

  8. Annon, put down the coffee and the viatrol.

    Section 132 was never in the Book of Commandments.

    What are you smoking?

  9. Eric Facer says:

    Thanks, Michael this is good. My only point of disagreement is with the the following sentence from the 5th paragraph: “When a religious figure or ecclesiastical institution claims to control somebody’s access to their family in the afterlife, they often end up–often not intending to–creating an eternal hostage situation in an effort to compel some sort of earthly behavior:”

    This is fine, except for the em-dash phrase: “—often not intending—”. I believe that, in most instances, that is precisely the institution or leader’s intent.

  10. You know the Church’s name will change at some point, right? In the Millennium and certainly eternally, I think it’s to be called the Church of the Firstborn or Jesus Christ.It does change. It makes sense as early day saints and most members of the eternal church won’t identify with being “Mormon”. There’s no reason to keep the nickname. I’m fine with changing now.

  11. SG,
    That is how I heard that talk this afternoon. The only thing missing from it is a horse head.
    In seriousness, given some of the talks by Holland and Uchtdorf (sp?) RMN’s concluding talk struck me as really discordant and to a lesser extent, threatening. It put a real downer on what I thought was a good conference.

  12. Billy Possum says:

    Thanks, Michael – a perfect response to some abrasive rhetoric today. I think one comfort is to recognize that only God will determine the point at which the proverbial cement shoes are poured. Before that point, second (third, nth) chances abound – including, I believe, after death. There is plenty of time and space and mercy for all people to convert their sincere desire and belief of eternal life into an assurance of the real thing. At least I hope that’s true – I’ve got a long way to go.

  13. Jpv,
    I never said D&C 132 was in the Book of Commandments. Silly you, I was relying to Hunter.
    My reference to the Book of Commandments was to point out RMN irrational hang-up on the “correct” name of the church, when the “correct” name of the church used to be different in the Book of Commandments.
    He believes in D&C literally. This is why his talk at the end of conference makes sense (to him), due to his literal belief in the D&C as the literal word of God. This is worth mentioning since the OP is about RMN.
    I don’t drink coffee! Sorry your feathers were ruffled by my post! Have a nice day!

  14. Once upon a time I could hear “you must repent” and feel motivated.
    But now I also hear “damned if you don’t” and feel the despair of being unloved and unknown.

    Once upon a time I could hear “they blessed her and the next day the cancer was gone” and feel a thrill at miracles.
    But now I also also hear “they also blessed him and he died” and fear a capricious universe.

    Once upon a time I could hear “you can see your family again if you get baptized and married in the temple” and feel solace and confidence for the future.
    But now I also hear ““you will never see your family again if you don’t get baptized and married in the temple” and feel like a hostage.

    The magic is gone. The naive presentation doesn’t work. The flip side is always present. I need a much more nuanced presentation or else it is all bitter ash.

  15. I felt the same way when I heard the quote below from Eyring. I turned to my husband and said, “those are nice legs, it would sure be a shame if something happened to them….what is this, a mob threat??!!”

    “By raising your hand to sustain, you make a promise. You make a promise with God, who’s servants these are, that you will sustain them. Now these are imperfect human beings, as are you. Keeping your promise will take unshakeable faith that the Lord called them. Keeping that promise will bring eternal happiness. Not keeping it, will bring sorrow to you and to those you love and even losses beyond your power to imagine.”

    I am in shock. And like SG, I too have been crying ever since. So what now?

  16. lehcarjt says:

    I’ve never understood the logic. I mean the whole point of temple work is that every single person who ever lived will receive every ordinance and sealing. So every single person WILL be tied to their families. Whether or not they accept that in the after life is up to them, but I’ve never heard that there is some eternal benefit to the live ordinances that the work for the dead is missing. So using it at a threat is kind of meaningless…

    Under our own doctrine, how we live our lives and the purity of our hearts seems way more important than whether we get the right ordinances while living.

  17. Annon,

    What’s with all the vitriol? And are you aware of something presented as revelation to call the Church something other than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (with variations for capitalization and hyphenation)? Do you really think that “Russle” [what an odd mistake to make multiple times] Nelson doesn’t know the history of the name of the church?

    With respect to the OP. Some of that is inherent in truth claims generally. If i think I’m right, and your beliefs are inconsistent with mine, then that means I think you’re wrong. When the relevant beliefs deal with salvation, we get this Godfather tendency. But I think there are ways to phrase things to minimize offense. When I was a teenager, I had an evangelical friend tell me that she was worried about me going to hell. Before that conversation, I knew and understood the implications of her particular beliefs. I was actually also ok with her pastor using the threat of hell-fire to motivate people to spread the message. But the direct “I just don’t want you to go to hell” was somewhat less than effective messaging.

  18. kimberlycarlile says:

    I love Brad Kramer’s take, from a Mormon Stories podcast:

    “Mormonism isn’t unique for the believing it’s possible to be with your family forever. Mormonism is unique in thinking it’s possible NOT to, and that something else has to be added to the equation in order for that family to stay intact. Think about how your childhood friendships slowly faded – these relationships that meant more to you than anything in the world – slowly receded in importance and then your high school relationships slowly became irrelevant to you as you moved on to college. It wasn’t that those relationships disappeared; it was that your worldview shifted so dramatically that you just stopped caring about them. You moved beyond them. One of the terrifying claims that Mormonism implicitly makes about the universe is that there is an eternal world that is so vast you can find yourself on the other side and your relationships could be meaningless–your relationships can just not matter to you anymore because of the vastness of that chasm, as a vast as the difference between childhood and adulthood. You can make these relationships here in this world that in the next world may not feel meaningful or relevant at all in the eternities. Mormonism provides a solution to that that says look, we can make kinship a different way. We can use sacramental and priesthood authority in a different way. Prophets can collaborate with representatives of the gods and develop a way of making kinship relations that have the ability to retain something in the transition to the eternal world. Or some kernal of your relationship will remain vital enough that you can build on it in the eternities, and the relationships that you make here can continue to matter there.”

    Brad continues, “I am far from certain that Mormonism is framing the question correctly or providing a reliable solution, but if eternity exists, I think there’s a good chance that that framework is correct. That the things that matter so much to us here in a world where we are bound to our loved ones by death–we love the people that we love so much because we are constantly aware that they are going to die–is it possible to love someone the way you do in this world if you’re not afraid of death, in a world where even in our origin story: Adam and Eve are indifferent to each other when they’re stuck in this eternal paradise. They don’t care about each other, they don’t interact with each other. It’s not until death gets introduced that they cling to each other. So Mormonism is saying: we value relationships in the eternities, but we can’t actually make and sustain relationships there because there is no death. So death is a part of this Plan of Happiness. You have to go somewhere where you can die, so that in this “death world” you can make relationships that are meaningful. Real love can emerge, and if you do it the right way, a kernal of that love can be brought with you into the eternal world and you can have meaningful relationships in a world where nobody dies. If this framework is correct–and again, I’m not sure but I think it is–then there’s a chance that Mormonism DOES make kinship differently. In some sense, anthropologically, Mormonism IS kinship. Mormonism is best understood as a kinship system. And that we do make kinship not just with our families but with each other in a qualitatively different way than other kinship formations. And so, by remaining in the church, we are essentially accepting the terms of the bet. I don’t know that I’m right. But I sincerely believe that there’s a good chance that I am.

    Mormonism is that claim–that we can make something here that will last into the eternities. And I genuinely believe that claim to be highly plausible.” –Brad Kramer, Mormon Stories

  19. Thoroughly unsophisticated teenage me was faced with a choice when my immediate family was coming apart: unbelieving members of my family or my church. Somewhat wiser me realizes my black and white thinking was incorrect. The choice was between my family and literalist simpletons who present blatantly false dichotomies as a loyalty test to an ephemeral institution. It pains me to see thoroughly decent people give thanks to leaders who immediately follow up anything resembling progress with several steps back. It is the gratitude equivalent of thanking your spouse for beating you less.

  20. Dsc,
    Yeah, I wrote Russle when I meant to write Russell.
    Haha.
    But hey, at least I didn’t say gay relationships are apostate, call it “revelation” (RMN 2016), and then *change* it. No big deal, because now it is just a *policy* update.

  21. kimberlycarlile: That’s a thought provoking and even inspiring analysis from Brad Kramer (although I’m not sure I can separate from how highly I like and respect Brad Kramer the person).

    I may not agree with any of Brad’s probability assessments in the end, but to even enter the conversation I would look for the “highly plausible something” that will last into the eternities in Joseph Smith’s expansive vision of kinship and connections (which is much more than plural marriage). Not limiting or defining by the restrictive and exclusive version the Church preaches in 2019.

  22. Excellent post. I was sooooo mad. Better now.

  23. “There is a whole lot about Mormon Heaven that doesn’t make much sense if you think about it for very long. In our minds, we imagine spending eternity with our children and, perhaps, our parents. ”

    Then you haven’t thought long enough, asked the right questions, or waited patiently for the right answers. They will come. From God.

  24. “I am convinced that God doesn’t talk that way. But I know that Marlon Brando does. And when people hear things like this from a pulpit, they need to be very clear who is being quoted.” OP

    “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Jesus

    “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Jesus

    “”There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and -all- the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” Jesus

    God is forgiving. But he doesn’t make us like him if we don’t have any desire to be like him. If you desire, have tried and failed and keep the faith doing your best, even if that means sometimes only a hope and desire to do your best, you’ll be fine. If you did that a bit and gave up, we hope for the best for you, but the surest hope is in keeping the faith.

    “with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.”

    God has put this hand out in eternal patience. That’s great news. But you still need to take hold of it. That’s for us to choose.

    But let’s be clear. You basically made an elaborate dog whistle post inferring President Nelson is channeling satan-esque blackmail without having the nerve to say it.

  25. For scrupulous members this talk is poison. My mom spent the afternoon crying to me that we won’t be with her in the next life. I’m being robbed of my relationship with my mom in this life for some unknown in the next life and I’m angry about that.

  26. “Another point of order: Bishops should not yield the arrangement of meetings to members. They should not yield the arrangement for funerals or missionary farewells to families. It is not the proper order of things for members or families to expect to decide who will speak and for how long. Suggestions are in order, of course, but the bishop should not turn the meeting over to them. We are worried about the drift that is occurring in our meetings.

    Funerals could and should be the most spiritually impressive. They are becoming informal family reunions in front of ward members. Often the Spirit is repulsed by humorous experiences or jokes when the time could be devoted to teaching the things of the Spirit, even the sacred things.

    When the family insists that several family members speak in a funeral, we hear about the deceased instead of about the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the comforting promises revealed in the scriptures. Now it’s all right to have a family member speak at a funeral, but if they do, their remarks should be in keeping with the spirit of the meeting.”
    Said Elder Packer

  27. Kristen says:

    Thank you Micahel Austin. This post helped me process through my anger. Using fear tactics and threats never seems Christlike. And when it comes to threats about a person’s family? That’s just plain cruel. I have always taken comfort in the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
    Shame on you RMN and LDS church for being an institution that uses fear and threats to keep its members in line.

  28. Anna Bananna says:

    I was recently doing Family History work and came across a relative who had been married twice. One of his children had been sealed to the wrong wife. I could not undo the ordinance, so I called to find how to remedy the problem. I was told by a very kind elderly lady who answered the phone “It does not matter who they are sealed to as long as the ordinance has been done, they will get to choose who they want to be with.” This was a Eureka moment for me. If you step back and look at the big picture, we are all brothers and sisters, not parent, child, grandchild. Who are our parents? Adam and Eve. Now, brother Brigham starts to make more sense, We are sealed into the family of Adam, our spiritual and mortal father. Brigham taught it in the temple…was he a fallen prophet? Families can be together forever is more of a marketing slogan than anything else, it is very effective as both a carrot and a stick. Unless you gave spiritual birth to your children in the pre-mortal existence, they are really just your siblings… we all belong to “The” Adam, as part of his exaltation. If and when you are exalted, you become “The” Adam, will give birth to spirits and then create a world for them. You will come with a wife and give them mortal existence, you will beget a savior for your children in the flesh…In the end, through that savior, you will claim them for your own. And so on and so forth. At least this theory makes some sort of cosmic sense.

  29. Brian G says:

    Amen.

  30. Dr Cocoa says:

    I agree with Lc…here’s a few more:

    “Honor thy Father and thy mother that the days may be long upon this land” – Jesus

    “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” – Jesus

    “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell” – Jesus

    “Wo into the liar for he shall be thrust down to hell,” – Jesus

    A loving God has always warned his children of dangers. You can choose to interpret them as threats by applying a mob-boss voice to them, or you can choose to interpret them as a warning from someone who cares. The difference lies solely in how you view the intention and motive of the deliverer.

    I personally don’t buy the “church mob-boss/intentional deceiver” narrative being peddled.

  31. I have to agree with Lc and Dr Cocoa, here. As a fellow member of the Church (from Italy, of all places… I know something about Mafia references, unfortunately), I am honestly perplexed about what you are seeing and what you are trying others to see as well: it looks like you are presenting God’s living prophet on the earth as a mafioso figure, isn’t it? Besides, it appears — to me at least — that what he taught is simply what the Lord Jesus Christ taught: that only through specific (temple) covenants, ordinances performed by proper priesthood authority and power marriages and family relationships can continue after death. No relationship sanctioned by any other authority will be valid or acknowledged by God after this life, because only His authority can bind in heaven what is bound on earth. It does not seem as harsh as you present it. No one will be denied any opportunity to bind his or her loved ones to him or her, forever, either in this life or in the next, through temple ordinances.

    Should Jesus the Christ excuse Himself, too, for saying that if we do not keep His commandments, we will in no way obtain eternal life? Is He a mobster, too, in your eyes, for saying in loving, but unmistakable terms (as I perceived His current prophet do, in fact) that it’s “the Lord’s way, or no way” to heaven and eternal family relationships? Does the Lord use fear and threats to impress upon our soul the requirement to obey, then, when He lists throughout the scriptural canon the eternal consequences of not following Him and His commandments?

    Rather than being threatened by or ashamed of such a clear message, shouldn’t it motivate us to do whatever it takes to abide by the Lord’s terms and conditions of salvation, and to lovingly, but boldly, invite others to do the same? The Father and the Son love us so much, and they want us back home so much, that they cannot be hesitant or shy in inviting us to repent and to abide by Their law, because there is no other way to qualify for a celestial kind of life. Is it a hard saying, or is it a truth as strong and clear as divine love?

  32. Lc,

    Thanks for putting those quotes together. Too often, people selectively quote scripture to paint an incomplete picture of Jesus and His gospel. Part of spiritual maturity is accepting the “hard sayings” along with the comforting good news.

  33. No one will be denied any opportunity to bind his or her loved ones to him or her, forever, either in this life or in the next, through temple ordinances.

    Except that’s not actually what President Nelson said yesterday: “I do question the efficacy of proxy temple work for a man who had the opportunity to be baptized in this life, to be ordained to the priesthood and receive temple blessings here in mortality but made the conscious decision to reject that course.”

    So there you have it—one strike and you’re out. Forever.

  34. I’m being robbed of my relationship with my mom in this life for some unknown in the next life and I’m angry about that.

    I’m sorry to hear this, SHL. If it is true that “that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there,” how are we better served by undermining those relationships in the here and now? If anything, an eternal perspective should imbue our mortal interactions with greater, not less, significance, for they are the foundation upon which the eternities are built.

  35. marcella says:

    Meg – I have been told that there is direction in the handbook about the topics to be spoken about during a funeral. I found this online “The CHI states that ‘each person must experience death in order to receive a perfected, resurrected body. Teaching and testifying about the plan of salvation, particularly the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection, is an essential purpose of the services associated with a Church member’s death.'”

  36. Laurie C. says:

    Andrea said “that what he taught is simply what the Lord Jesus Christ taught: that only through specific (temple) covenants, ordinances performed by proper priesthood authority and power marriages and family relationships can continue after death.” I dare anyone to find a bible verse or a book of mormon verse that says that Jesus taught we need temples marriage, or ordinances to continue family relationships after death. Jesus never taught it.

    Back in the day, it was unheard of to hear threats coming over the pulpit like this. The reason the church is using so many threats is because that is all they have left. They are hemorrhaging members, and in the process hemorrhaging money. They call themselves prophets, seers and revelators. So where is the prophesy? Where is the revelation? (besides the ones that you have to back track on. If RMN was a politician you would call him a flip-flopper) Where is the seership? Where are the healings? Now we are told to have faith NOT to be healed! When do they raise a person from the dead? These men are not apostles of Jesus Christ. They love the high seats and the praise. They are the pharisees that Christ denounced. And if the TBM’s open their eyes for one minute, it would be all over for the LDS leadership. Better to use threats and intimidation to try to keep them in line.

  37. Peterllc,

    I don’t think there’s any conflict or tension between stating that no one will be denied an opportunity and stating that someone who rejects the opportunity has in fact rejected the opportunity.

  38. Dsc, so you are saying that the only choices that matter in an infinite existence are those that are made in one infinitesimally short period under conditions of considerable constraints regarding our ability to discern truth? That’s not a test—that’s a trap.

  39. peterllc, the words you quoted from my post were simply intended as a very brief summary of my subjective doctrinal understanding about this topic. Admittedly, I did not express what I considered an (obviously?) implicit clause: “If we do not reject temple ordinances when given the chance to accept them”.

    Now, I personally do not see President Nelson’s choice of words as definitive and final as you seem to imply. “Question the efficacy” does not necessarily mean “Such proxy temple work is void and useless”, does it? To me, it makes perfect doctrinal sense to say that if you have every chance to receive temple ordinances (or the Gospel, or even Christ, generally speaking) in this life, but wholly reject them (for whatever reason), it won’t be as automatic to receive the blessings of exaltation afterwards. Isn’t this doctrine, too? Or what about divine justice? Mercy will apply, sure, and — as President Nelson implied — only God can judge, but is it right to mock the Atonement and the Lord by wholly rejecting the Gospel and its requirements, ordinances, and covenants in this life and then ask: “Oh, and please remember to complete my temple work when I’m dead, so I can obtain exaltation anyway. I’m just not willing to accept the Gospel, and repent, and obey while I’m here. It’s not worth my time and effort right now, but God will understand and I will easily repent and obey in the spirit world, and then all will be all right”?

  40. Peterllc,

    That’s not what I said at all. But the man in President Nelson’s story claimed or at least implied to have known the truth of the gospel and the importance of temple covenants, and rejected them the same. That kind of attitude Is likely not a temporary condition.

    Also, President Nelson specifically hedged against knowing this man’s heart and passing final judgment. Perhaps there were other circumstances that might affect this and other individuals in similar circumstances. The story is illustrative of a dangerous attitude, not condemnation of a specific person in a specific situation.

  41. “One strike and you’re out. Forever” seems a little exaggerated to me, and it is honestly not what President Nelson said. However, the contrary (“You have unlimited strikes; you can even forgo Gospel requirements and laws as you please: you’ll get exalted anyway”) seems even less in harmony with our doctrine. There’s a balance. Justice is justice. Mercy is mercy. Mercy cannot rob justice, and justice can be satisfied… through the Atonement of Christ, and by our obedience and repentance.

    That’s not a trap at all. The Lord has made abundantly clear that this life is the time given us to prepare to meet Him — and if we have been given knowledge of His plan and of His laws, we are all the more responsible and accountable before Him. There will be mercy, there will be understanding. He knows of our ability to discern truth… but let’s not pass the message that whatever we choose in this life when given the chance to know and accept and live the Gospel — whether we accept it or reject it — it is the same in the end!

  42. “Question the efficacy” does not necessarily mean “Such proxy temple work is void and useless”, does it?

    As a matter of semantics, of course not. However, If we are going to take President Nelson’s words as an expression of uncertainty, then we do not need to be more certain than the prophet about the state of a human’s soul after death. Dsc wants a rejection in mortality to be binding forever; I don’t, and I am happy if your reading of President Nelson suggests that he doesn’t either.

  43. “I dare anyone to find a bible verse or a book of mormon verse that says that Jesus taught we need temples marriage, or ordinances to continue family relationships after death. Jesus never taught it”.

    Well, the voice of the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants would be a starting point. A clear, unmistakable foundation.

    And after all, where in the Bible or in the BoM did Jesus teach that family relationships continue after death — especially without keeping His commandments? Besides, the Bible and the BoM do not explicitly teach about temple marriage… We believe in the Restoration of plain and precious truths in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times. We believe in continuing revelation. So, what’s the point of your criticism against the Lord, His Church, and His anointed on this issue?

  44. The Lord has made abundantly clear that this life is the time given us to prepare to meet Him — and if we have been given knowledge of His plan and of His laws, we are all the more responsible and accountable before Him.

    Um, no. Let’s say your contact with the message was when an awkward missionary who couldn’t articulate himself very well showed up while the baby was sleeping—condemned for eternity? A select few have heard the message, and we go to great lengths to expand the circle of those who might have an opportunity to hear the message in our temples. But let’s not pretend that we have come close to discharging that responsibility in a way that binds those who have heard but not acted upon the message to eternal damnation.

  45. President Nelson specifically hedged against knowing this man’s heart and passing final judgment.

    True. And yet you can’t resist this:

    That kind of attitude Is likely not a temporary condition.

    You too are hedging, but what difference does it make in your daily interactions if this is your default assumption?

  46. Count me among those who thought that what President Nelson taught was no different from what the church has always taught and what is contained in the D&C. If you feel like he was saying that you will never see your family members again in the afterlife, then you and I have very different perspectives on what he taught and on the doctrine of the church.

    I’m am no expert on the doctrines of other religions but having lived my entire life around mostly Protestants, I am aware that they do not believe that family relationships will continue after death. They do believe that we will be with our family after death, but the family relationships will no longer exist. So they do believe that you will not be with your family in the sense that familiar connects will no longer exist but they do believe that you will be with your family in the sense that you will be with the people you cared about on earth, you just won’t have the family connection anymore. LDS doctrine is no different concerning those who are not exalted. The family connections will no longer exist so you will not be with your family (because the family relationship no longer exists) but I’ve never heard any LDS teaching concerning who you do or do not get to be with in the next life because, you know, we’ll still have agency.

  47. Loursat says:

    There is a very strong thread of universalism in Joseph Smith’s revelations. In fact, this aspect of the Prophet’s cosmology is one of the two things I find most compelling about his work. In my opinion, and in my heart, it is what most distinguishes Mormon teachings from other varieties of Christianity. Universal salvation, as a supreme expression of God’s love, is the reason why the temple matters.

    We also have many scriptures that suggest something different from universalism, for example, scriptures that talk about the finality of God’s judgment. The Prophet’s theological genius was in his attempts to reconcile the teachings about divine wrath with his own conviction, more deeply held, of God’s boundless love.

    As practical matter, it is easier for a hierarchical institution to reject universalism. The language of final judgment is always the language of fear, and fear is the tool of power that is easiest to wield. It is easier to claim power and authority than it is to be worthy of respect and love. Sadly, we end up believing that our claim to truth and authority is the reason that people ought to follow us, when in fact the only reason that anyone ever should be with us is because we love them.

    Maybe there is some value in teaching with fear as a way of helping people recognize the undesirable natural consequences of sin. However, that value is surely limited to teaching the ways that loving relationships are damaged by sin. Personally, I’m not convinced that fear is ever a righteous method of teaching. In any case, when fear becomes an instrument of enforcing authority, amen to the priesthood of that man. (I speak here not of any particular person, but collectively of us when we choose authoritarianism instead of love.)

  48. Sorry, Michael, but if you keep writing stuff like this, you’re going to sleep with the fishes, eternally.

  49. I am trying to be open, humble, and receptive to our leaders’ messages. At the same time, I believe what the Givenses wrote in “The Christ Who Heals”:

    “We believe we have a gospel wherein hope shines more brightly than we have fathomed, because we have a Savior whose power we have not fully understood, whose plans to heal and redeem extend beyond our mortal view. … Our Heavenly Parents dwell in everlasting burnings, and we cannot be purified as they are without passing through the refiner’s fire. Christ, however, will be tireless in his efforts to bring us to where the divine family is.”

  50. I’m trying to read this charitably but the logic of this post seems to equate a belief in the salvific efficacy of pretty much any ordinance, in any religion, to the thuggery of Mafia protection rackets. I’m curious why the OP didn’t equate the church’s position on the necessity or ordinances to other more respectable organizations that require adherence to ritual or formalized processes to secure the terms of a contract, such as governments. The idea that individuals must follow certain protocols in order to legitimize an agreement is not a concept unique to the mafia (in fact, the whole point of the mafia and other organized crime syndicates is to function essentially as a shadow government). This seems terribly clumsy and kind of frustrating. I understand that there is a divide between those who believe ordinances to be necessary and those who view them as simply symbolic or psychologically helpful, but this strikes me as a bad faith distortion of the former position (and President Nelson’s talk in general) and kind of torches any attempt at a constructive conversation between the two approaches.

  51. Does this logic make Jesus a mob boss too? John 3 pretty clearly states that except a man be born of water he can no wise enter the kingdom of God. So get baptized or go to hell, I guess, right? Is that also an “offer we can’t refuse”?

  52. ptylerdactyl says:

    It’s sad to see the level of ‘self-righteousness’ on this discussion board. You guys really take the war imagery seriously, don’t you? It always makes me sad when people get all onboard with idea of Jesus representing the old testament’s jealous, harsh, and vengeful God. The fact of the matter is that the Jesus of the new testament was nothing like that. Pay close attention and you’ll find that most (if not all) of the strongly worded statements attributed to him were pointed directly at the religious leaders of his time. These men were recognized as the spiritual leaders in their faith communities when in reality they were the self-righteous, harsh judging people in his midst. In contrast he spent his time serving, showing compassion to, and raising up those who were judged to be in the wrong by said religious leaders. And don’t waste your breath trying to convince anyone that leaders in this church aren’t subject to those same temptations and weaknesses. Because that’s simply not the case.

  53. “Well if we make exaltation sound too easy, who is going to staff the temple, accept callings and run these programs?”

    “Yeah, but if we make it sound too hard, everyone will get discouraged and just throw their hands up in the air.”

    “Alright so who wants to do the good cop this time and who wants to do the bad cop?”

    “I’ll do the bad cop.”

    “No, President Oaks, it’s my turn, I’ll do it.”

  54. it's a series of tubes says:

    Let’s say your contact with the message was when an awkward missionary who couldn’t articulate himself very well showed up while the baby was sleeping—condemned for eternity?

    Peter, you keep making up strawmen and responding to things that DSC did not say. Can we agree on this statement of the principle?

    “At some point, whether in this life or hereafter, every person will have a fully-informed and bona fide opportunity to accept Jesus Christ and his Gospel. How the person responds can have eternal consequences for them.”

  55. Peterllc,

    “Dsc wants a rejection in mortality to be binding forever.” No, I don’t. What I said was: “That kind of attitude Is likely not a temporary condition.” If it wasn’t clear, that was included to imply that rejecting the gospel is more than a single occurrence; it is an attitude.

    President Nelson was citing an example of that attitude, which can keep us from accepting the Atonement and finding grace in the Savior. It’s along the lines of 2 Nephi 28:8. To read it as a condemnation of someone who turns the missionaries away due to a sleeping baby is a serious misreading of the message.

  56. Peter, you keep making up strawmen and responding to things that DSC did not say.

    No, what you quoted was in response to the implication of what Andrea said—namely, that we’ve been warned. I simply reject the notion that our mortal labors to spread the gospel will ever result in anyone’s condemnation.

    Can we agree on this statement of the principle?

    I truly don’t understand the desire for the gospel to feature a point of no return, but I readily acknowledge that your statement reflects Mormon teachings.

    To read it as a condemnation of someone who turns the missionaries away due to a sleeping baby is a serious misreading of the message.

    I wasn’t responding to President Nelson on this point—see above.

  57. Peterllc,

    “No, what you quoted was in response to the implication of what Andrea said”

    Then you’re making up strawmen and responding to things Andrea did not say.

    “I truly don’t understand the desire for the gospel to feature a point of no return, but I readily acknowledge that your statement reflects Mormon teachings.”

    I don’t know how you can read the parable of sheep and goats (not to mention several others), and not conclude that a point of no return is a feature of the gospel that Jesus taught. But to each his own, I suppose.

  58. It is true that many/most denominations believe in family reunification in the afterlife. But it seems we have the most rigorous requirements to experience that.
    In my soul, I just don’t believe that everybody that lives or has ever lived on the earth needs to become a member of one denomination whose roots and center are in the U.S. And, I believe the second most important commandment (after loving God) is to love our fellow neighbor as ourselves. I know many wonderfully generous, kind people who aren’t LDS and likely; will never be LDS while alive.

    Too often, in our church, it is ignorant LDS members who are the impediment to people accepting the Gospel, by their harsh assumptions and judgments.

    Obviously, Pres. Nelson was talking to those who are listening to conference, mostly the faithful and devout. It seems he felt the need to tell the faithful and devout they won’t share eternity with their inactive or nonmember loved ones unless things change here and now.

    So much for hope.